Having just defeated two Chain Devils and an Erinyes, who was presumably posing as Ritz, a Paladin of Helm who had manipulated Mirt into providing children for her sacrifices, the party is now headed back toward Waterdeep on The Long Road, heading south. Along the way, a bend in the road leads to a side path; not far down the path the party is ambushed by a pair of Athachs who had hoped to catch them unawares, but were noticed by our intrepid heroes before their onslaught of stones could take anyone by surprise.
Charging straight into the fray, Arius hurls himself at the male Athach, and the rest of the party charges in immediately after to support him. Hanging back, Pippy hurls fireball after fireball back behind the female, who is further back from the road than the male, while Faenor‘s bluffs keep the male Athach off balance (though he can’t seem to follow through with a stab), Arius hacks away with his halberd, and Talbot spends the battle feverishly healing his compatriots, as the blows of the Athachs are many and brutal. Moving to engage in melee, the female nearly tips the balance in the favor of the hideous abberations for a moment, but the male at that point had taken too much damage already and was felled, and the female followed suit shortly thereafter. The party searches their bodies and finds several treasures, including some rare and powerful weapons.
Moving on from the scene, the party is well on its way back to Waterdeep when, about midday, a strange glinting something is seen approaching skyward, from the direction of The City of Splendors. Soon it is revealed to be a Silver Raven, which swoops in low over the party, drops a scroll-case amongst them, then turns back to the city. Talbot reaches down for the case, and removes a sealed letter from within, which reads:
“Terribly tidings friends, Mirt the Moneylender has been taken captive! No one seems to know who did it, but you were the last people he was seen speaking with. Return to Waterdeep immediately; investigate Mirt’s Mansion and then meet me at the Titty and Whistle in the evening to discuss your findings. Signed, Larion Shadowfriend.”
Without a moment to lose, the party rushes onward, doubling their pace. However, they soon find that the bridge crossing The Dessarin River at the base of the valley has been destroyed! It must have happened very recently, as only a day before they had crossed it on their way to the hilltop where they fought the devils. Thinking for a moment, Talbot tells the party that the river should be shallow enough to ford a few miles west up the valley. A few hours into this detour, the party is attacked by a hunting pride of Chimera, though their attempt at an ambush fails.
Though it could have been a pretty tough fight under the right circumstances, Pippy charms one of the Chimera very early on in the battle, and though he cannot seem to convince it to attack its pride-mates, neither does it join the fray or intervene on their behalf. Tiarmus and Arius charge the one with a White Dragon head, and with several acrobatic tumbles, flying kicks, and a whirling blade, it is quickly dispatched. Meanwhile, Talbot, Pippy and Faenor are caught between the Black Dragon and Blue Dragon Chimaera on the ground, both of whom unleash their respective breath-weapons of Acid and Lightning in a vicious crossfire on our heroes. Though badly hurt, the two Chimera remaining in the fight are nothing a few scorching rays and a determined rogue with a potent magical blade can’t handle, and once that work is done, the party mercifully puts down the charmed beast and the fight is over. Nearby our heroes find a shallow cave network hidden in a thicket, and inside is a small hoard of treasure. Taking everything, the party finally manages to ford the river and make it the rest of the way back to Waterdeep.
Exhausted and badly bloodied from the rigors of the day, the party agrees it would be best to head to the Church of Selune before investigating Mirt’s Mansion, so as to heal, rest, and find a place to keep their prisoner until something could be arranged for him. Naneatha is overjoyed to see them as always, even Talbot, and agrees to keep the prisoner safe for them for a day or two until they can sort their business with Mirt’s disappearance. Healing their wounds, she invites the party to rest in the hostel of the church for the night.
The next morning, after fortifying themselves with a hearty breakfast at the Titty, the party heads to the Castle Ward to investigate Mirt’s home. Upon arriving in the courtyard outside, the party sees nothing particularly amiss, but as soon as they cross the thresh-hold into the entrance of the Mansion, it is clear that there was a major struggle inside. Carpets are slashed, tapestries ripped and burned, there are charred and scorched parts of the walls, floor, and ceiling, plants are overturned and their pots shattered….it appears as though Mirt put up quite a fight before being taken. Searching the premises thoroughly, they find nothing else of particular interest, so everyone decides to head back to the Titty for lunch and to arrange a meeting with Larion. As they step outside, they see three figures in the courtyard: the two on the ground look an awful lot like a certain Skullcrusher Ogre the party had tangled with a few days prior, clad from head to two in Spiked Plate and wielding massive, deadly greatswords. Floating in the air about 30 feet above them, a figure with much lighter-armor but every bit the musculature of its comrades on the ground sneers down at our heroes and shouts,
““Hey, there they is! You! Yeah, you guys! My name Dorrk. Gorrk my brother. This Spork, and this Frank (he points to the two Skullcrushers, who awkwardly greet the party in confusion thinking they are being politely introduced), cousins of Gorrk. We pissed at you, you kill Gorrk. Boss, he take Mirt, gots lots o’questions fer’im. We stay behind, kill you. You…you die now!!!”
The ogres launch a ferocious offensive against the party! Charging in with greatswords swinging wide, Frank and Spork land nasty early blows on Arius and Tiarmus, and even worse, Dorrk points a finger at Faenor and utters a command, and Faenor begins attacking his friends! Arius brings his mighty adamantine halberd to bear, and believing he will succeed in sundering his enemy’s weapon with ease as he has done so many times before, swings away at Spork’s blade; no stranger to combat and built like an oak tree, Spork swats Arius’s blows aside with ease, at which point Arius realizes he may be overmatched. In an odd stroke of good fortune, however, Faenor can’t seem to land a blow against his friends, and Talbot is able to cast some of his strongest protective spells on Pippy and Tiarmus, while Pippy hammers away at Dorrk with Lightning Bolt after Lightning Bolt, though some cannot overcome the ogre mage spell resistance. Spork and Arius enact a blow for blow, blood for blood battle to the death, muscle, steel and will colliding as halberd and greatsword land again and again, and Frank finds himself in a frustrating close-quarters fight with his much more agile opponent Tiarmus, whose blows though light are many and telling. Finally the party’s combined efforts bring Frank to his knees, as Dorrk cast invisibility and disappears, and Tiarmus charges over to help the flagging Arius with his mighty opponent; as the monk engages, Dorrk reappears from above and blasts the party with a Cone of Cold, then closes in with his greatsword to lock in melee with Talbot from above. Arius finally lands the killing blow on Spork, but hits the ground himself soon after, bleeding from many wounds, and Talbot finally ends the struggle with a spell of Inflict wounds landed on Dorrk’s boot as he descends to attack.
Battered nearly to death and terribly confused, our heroes nonetheless maintain the presence of mind to loot their fallen enemies, and soon at least part of the riddle is solved; on Dorrk’s corpse, they find a Figurine of Wondrous Power Silver Raven, and it becomes clear that the letter from Larian was a trap set by Dorrk to lure the party to Mirt’s home for a showdown. Nonetheless, Dorrk had alluded to a “Boss” who had taken Mirt, and that was at least something to go one. Sending the newly gained Silver Raven to Larian with a message, our heroes arrange a meeting later that night at The Titty and Whistle.
Several hours and more than a few heals later, the party meets up with Larian at the Titty. By this time the staff of the inn have gotten very used to our heroes’ twice daily visits and cater to our wearied adventurers’ every need most expertly. In a rush, everyone tells Larian about the fight with Dorrk earlier in the day, and the faked letter; he reads it, and shakes his head, then thanks the party for the information about the “Boss” character and Mirt’s disappearance. He then informs everyone that Peirgiron and Khelben caught word that Xale was a “guest” of Melegost, and payed him a visit…Xale is now recovering at the home of Peirgiron himself, having been cured of his ailment by Khelben. He has fallen into a deep sleep, but Larian assures everyone that as soon as he is able, they will be taken to speak with him, or he will come to them, whichever may present itself first. He also says the Lords of Waterdeep have been informed of the connection between The Xanathar Guild and the Church of Shar, and that all of the forces of the City are at their highest alert, and the Grey Hands are every busy behind the scenes. He also mentions that he is following up another lead regarding agents of Shar and Vanrak Moonstar working together; if and when he learns more, he may have a mission for them, but in the meantime he suggests continuing to follow the trail of Mirt and his captors while it’s fresh. Larian then excuses himself.
Faenor leaves soon after, on a mission of his own. With only an hour or so of questioning, he soon finds his way to The Keelhauled Dwarf, a seedy establishment he had previously visited. Finding a drunk human at the bar and expertly plying him with questions and drink, he soon discovers that the fellow had earlier that day been drinking at the Yawning Portal, and seen two very large gents dragging a fat, well-dressed fellow through the bar and into the back room. Said it seemed peculiar ‘cause only people who have business with the boss go back there, and he didn’t see what some fat drunk guy had to do with the boss, but figured it wasn’t any of his business anyway.
Meanwhile, Talbot heads back to his private sanctum and prepares everything required for a Divination. Seeking answers from Mystra herself, Talbot asks his Lady of the Weave for aid in finding Mirt the Moneylender. A voice comes to him, as if on the wind and from far away, but somehow with perfect clarity and great power:
“Arius the mighty, was here brought low, but the answers you seek, will be found down below….where the fighters were weak and the Innkeep’s a ho.”
Innkeep’s a ho….? Really Mystra? Really???
Anyway, bolstered with a night’s rest and this new information, the party heads to the Yawning Portal. Moving inside, they question the bartender, but through his abject terror at the sight of so many powerful and good people, all he can do is stutter and point at the door to the back. They head downstairs and into the room where previously several thugs had been playing at dice; it was still wrecked from the beating Larian had laid on them. Moving through this room and the now deactivated trap-room beyond, our heroes head through the portal into the Undermountain. Stopping by Pokey Bitz for a chat, they sell off all of their excess weapons and armor and enjoy a brief chat with the eccentric little guy, then move on to the Dirty Hole to plumb Anise with questions. As they enter most of the patrons scurry for the door, and Anise Fuxby groans and rolls her eyes.
“What do YOU all want? Make it quick, I don’t have all day!”
Trying a new approach, Talbot informs her that they just want some information, and will be on their way and out of her hair with haste if she can provide it. He asks her if she knows anything about a person called “The Boss.” Her eyes widen, but Talbot’s persuasive manner seems to sway her, and she says that there were several of The Boss’s men in earlier drinking, and after several were overheard to mention a great fat man The Boss had recently captured. Apparently he had been “detained for questioning,” which Anise tells them The Boss would be doing personally, as he had a taste for such things, so wherever The Boss is, Mirt could likely be found. At this point, Anise seems too frightened to say more, but Talbot once again assures her that if they find the boss, he’ll be nothing for her to worry about any longer….for whatever reason, she seems to believe him, and so shaking, tells him that though she doesn’t know where The Boss can be found, several of his closest men are known to frequent the pubs down in Skullport, and likely one of them could be “persuaded” to talk. Talbot pays her a token sum and thanks her, and the adventurers leave The Dirty Hole, bound for Skullport.