City of Splendors: Waterdeep

Session XVI
Manshoon's Tower

A sight for sore eyes, the heroes return to Waterdeep after a pair of hard fought battles with the lamia sorceress in the ruins of Hlaungadath. Wasting no time, the battered party makes its way to Piergeiron’s Palace to report victory to their Lord.

The heroes are welcomed by the guards, who have grown to admire the adventurers for their contributions to the city. They find Lord Piergeiron in the garden, along with a warm and welcoming Naneatha. Both congratulate the heroes and tell them that Xale is off researching the location of the fourth and final fragment that will allow them access into Vanrakdoom. Naneatha expects a report from Xale soon.

Speaking grimly and with conviction, Lord Piergeiron tells the heroes that the third fragment is in possession of Manshoon, Archmage of the Zhentarim. He tells the party that retrieving the third fragment will more likely be successful if it is being conducted by someone learned in the arcane. As Piergeiron has little understanding of wizardry, he is turning the operation over to Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun for the time being. Piergeiron warns the heroes that Khelben is a good man, but he is one that feels the ends often justify the means. Khelben is wise and experienced, but does not have the moral compass that Piergeiron and Naneatha draw from their respective faiths. With that Piergeiron allows the heroes to rest. They have a date at Blackstaff Tower in the morning.

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After a much needed night’s rest, the heroes make their way to Blackstaff Tower. They enter without event, observing the many apprentices at work as they ascend the staircase towards Khelben’s office. Atop the tower they find the archmage, wearing his usual dark clothing and carrying his trademark black staff. Next to him is a silver-haired woman with smooth skin and breathtaking features. Pippy recognizes her as Laeral Arunsun, Khelben’s wife and one of the fabled Seven Sisters.

Never one to postpone urgent matters, Khelben begins, “The fragment we seek is in Manshoon’s Tower, far to the east in the Citadel of the Raven. Manshoon is a very powerful and resourceful man. He makes use of a spell called stasis clone, which keeps many ready clones at hand if he is killed. He is the Archmage of the Zhentarim and an ally of many powerful beholders. He will be no victim of a smash and grab crime. I have much that he desires he may take in trade for the fragment, but I will not turn such things over to a man like Manshoon. Let me ask you, did Piergeiron warn you of my methods?”

The heroes retort, noting that Piergeiron noted that Khelben’s methods would differ greatly from his own.

Noting that the tension in the air is thick, Laeral intervenes and tells the heroes that she has heard of their deeds in Skullport, a town in which she is heavily involved. She also pays them the compliment that her sister, Lady Alustriel, has spoken highly of them. Khelben allows the small talk to continue for only a moment.

Nearly jumping out of their boots, the party is startled to see a man appear beside them from seemingly nowhere. He is tall and dark, with sharp features and an array of magical jewelry.

“This is Sememmon,” Khelben says.

Pippy recognizes the name immediately. He tells his friends that Sememmon is the former apprentice of Manshoon and former lord of the Darkhold, a Zhent stronghold to the east.
Khelben continues, “Sememmon’s interests are our own in this endeavor. He is the only man alive that stands a chance of penetrating Manshoon’s Tower to retrieve the fragment. You will accompany him.”

The heroes begin to protest, but the Blackstaff cuts off any retort with a cold gaze and dismissal from Blackstaff Tower.

That evening the heroes return to the Titty & Whistle, where renovations are almost complete. Sememmon casts disguise self before entering, not wanting to draw any unwanted attention. The party is served a fine meal complete with drinks and wenches. They note that a intricate craving is being hoisted above the taproom. It is of them, the Shadowbane Brotherhood.

Sememmon remains polite and answers the heroes’ questions, telling them that he is indebted to Arunsun for helping him escape Fzoul’s clutches. When asked about a plan, Sememmon tells them that he has prepared two customized teleportation spells, one for entry into Manshoon’s Tower and one to exit.

That evening’s rest is plagued with doubt and anxiety for the heroes, untrusting of their new companion and unprepared for the seemingly impossible mission before them…

After breakfast and with no further reason to delay, a disguised Sememmon approaches the party. With a simple nod he casts a spell. A moment later the heroes find themselves in a massive alchemy lab, with a hungry beholder floating before them!

Closing its central eye to employ the rest of its deadly rays, the beholder unleashes a volley of beams at the heroes. Though injured, they bring the monster low quickly, eager to press on toward the third fragment.

“This way,” Semmemon says.

Opening a pair of engraved double doors, Sememmon allows the party to enter the tower’s apex. Inside are countless tomes lining the walls and glyphs adorning the floor. Massive window allow the heroes to look into the sky above the Citadel of the Raven. Violent storms rage above, with the boom of thunder and flashes of lightning illuminating the otherwise dark room. All a sudden Tiarmus’s ion stones drop from above his head, Smiggly’s Vengeance loses its holy glow, and all the mystical shimmer that surrounds the heroes’ fabulous adventuring gear dies down. Then a booming voice echoes through the room, as though the thunder clouds above were crying out.

“You were a fool to come here, Sememmon.”

Lightning flashes again and the room becomes illuminated, revealing a small army of armored trolls, giants, beholders and apprentice spellcasters surrounding the heroes. All bear a blood-thirsty look, ready to rip the intruders to shreds. Lightning flashes once again, this time revealing the legendary Manshoon, Archmage of the Zhentarim. His charismatic voice echoes through his gorget.

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“And what do you come here looking for, my old friend? A text? An artifact? My head? What bootlicking does the Blackstaff you up to now? And what is with you, Sememmon? They have the look of heroes.”

Though reserved, the heroes introduce themselves. Talbot is especially disgusted with the circumstances. Manshoon eludes that the heroes have no idea with whom they work. Not one to mince words, the conversation quickly turns to the fragment, and what Manshoon will take in exchange for it.

“You know what you must do, Sememmon. What you were going to do before you fled. It must happen. They are there. Now. Waiting for him.”

Confused and nervous, the heroes notice that their magical items reenergize. Sememmon’s fingers once again crackle with magical energy. He wastes no time.

“Take hold of my robes! Now!” he cries.

The party clutches at Sememmon, who teleports them away in a flash. A moment later they are standing atop a mighty table, staring down at a very startled group. The seven men at the table wear varying adventuring gear, all of which is dark and bearing the insignia of the Zhentarim. They move to draw their weapons on the intruders standing atop their meeting table.

“All of them,” Sememmon says, motioning with his hands. The lone wizard at the table falls into a state of catatonia, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.

The ensuing battle is anything but. Without much choice, the Shadowbane Brotherhood slaughters the assemblage of Zhentarim agents. Arius shows little remorse as he cuts through them from atop the table. A moment later the blood-soaked party steps down from the table, unsure exactly of what just transpired. Talbot stops Sememmon before he can speak.

“What was that,” Talbot says, “we were to murder Manshoon’s enemies? And how are we supposed to get the fragment now?”

Sememmon pulls the third fragment from his cloak and hands it to Mystra servant.
“We must make our way to the Red Wizard enclave here in Zhentil Keep Semmemon says, “I had only two teleportation spells memorized and have used them both. We must obtain a scroll from the Red Wizard Enclave and get back to Waterdeep before we attract the attention of Fzoul or the rest of the Black Network.”

Throwing his hood over his sharp features, Sememmon leads the heroes out onto the streets of Zhentil Keep.

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Session XV
Showdown in Hlaungadath
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Session XIV
Anauroch

Setting forth from the enchanted city of Silverymoon, center of Magic and Learning in the Silver Marches and home to the powerful and mysterious Lady Alustriel, the Shadowbane Brotherhood takes the High Road east to Anauroch. In their previous meeting with the Lady, she gave them one of the missing fragments they were sent to find, and told them where the next could be located, in the clutches of a wicked Lamia Sorceress named Koreeis, who made her lair in the ruined city of Hlaungadath. This place is known to be overrun by a number of her kind, as well as the evil, dim-witted desert-dwelling Asabi.

The journey begins easily enough, as the weather is fair and the Silver Marches make for beautiful travel. Soon our heroes find themselves passing Sundabar; though no business takes them there at this time, they marvel at it’s stalwart bastions and take note to visit at some point in the future, should they find the time. Continuing onward, they soon find the vales and grasslands of the Marches giving way to a more arid, scrubland terrain. A day or so after gives way to full desert. Passing the ruined city of Ascore, our adventurers are riding down the road about a week outside of Silverymoon when out of nowhere, a huge Dunewinder erupts from the ground directly in front of the party and assaults them! Covered from end to end in vicious, spiny protrusions which glisten with some sort of venom, the pinnacle desert predator unleashes a hellacious line of fire upon our unfortunate heroes in the form of its breath weapon. Pippy and Talbot are both flung to the ground as their horses are nearly incinerated beneath them, and the fight is on!

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Utilizing it’s burrow-speed to frightening effect, the Dunewinder identifies Pippy early on as its primary threat, taking a vicious lightning bolt to the face from the halfling wizard, sprawled though he is on the ground. It drops below ground and reappears seemingly at will, smashing into the wizard for massive damage, grappling him easily, and attempting to poison him in the process. Miraculously, Pippy is not affected. Finally managing to catch up to the beast, Arius engages it and manages to draw its attention with a series of massive blows from Smiggly’s Vengeance. Talbot tears into it with a hammer of righteousness while Faenor and Tiarmus successfully establish the flank and land telling blows of their own. Having met such feeble resistance in it’s first attempt, the Dunewinder goes for the grapple on Arius, attempting to lock down this source of brutal pain. Arius however, is a horse of a different color, ripping into the desert wurm with his halberd and smashing through the grapple attempt as though it were a kitten. Slain, the beast crashes to the ground, but just as our heroes believe the danger is over, it explodes and a massive flurry of guts and poisoned spines! Nearly everyone makes it through the explosion unscathed, except poor Pippy, who is nearly disintegrated by the blast and barely manages to hang on to life as Talbot rushes over to revive him. Shakily,the wizard gets to his feet, and attempting to muster his usual blaise attitude, saunters off down the road as though nothing had happened. Or, almost….the poor halfling wouldn’t stop shaking for some time.

Taking the remainder of the day to rest once a suitable campsite is located, our heroes heal their wounds and tuck in early, exhausted. The next day they continue, and around mid-afternoon the walls of Hlaungadath loom on the horizon. A couple of hours later they are at the ruined city gates, through, and making their way to the temple-heart of the city, where surely the sorceress makes her lair. Wary, Faenor quickly notices and points out to his brothers that they are being shadowed through the city. Indded, it is clear that several score lamia and many more of their Asabi slaves are following the heroes every step through the city, sheparding them on. Though none dare approach, our heroes can feel the press in behind them ever growing, and hurry on to the center of the city to confront the sorceress and be done with this unpleasant business.

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After what seems like hours the party finally approaches the temple at the center of the city. There is a barren field surrounding the structure, separating it from the rest of the ruined buildings. As the adventurers step off the streets into the field and leave the buildings behind, a glance back over their shoulders reveals a veritable hoard hanging back, seemingly unwilling to leave the shadowy safety of the buildings. It seems clear that into the temple is precisely where these creatures want our party to go. Unused to fear and seldom overcautious, the Brotherhood moves forward brazenly into the temple and immediately down. The upper stories are an open cathedral ceiling, though the main body of the temple appears to be subterranean. On the level below, our heroes enter a chamber with five suits of plate armor standing in a row in the middle with a passageway circumnavigating it, opening to the interior and lined with stone columns. Talbot, Faenor and Tiarmus begin walking this corridor, looking for any hidden doors or switches, while Arius and Pippy move toward the center to do the same. Arius steps on a tile in the floor which depresses, activating to the Helmed Horrors in the center of the chamber. The constructs mindlessly attack!

In stark contrast to the vicious if brief combat with the Dunewinder, these silent sentinels are no match for the combined might of the Shadowbane Brotherhood. Though each wields a magical greatsword of a different energy, and they seem impervious to certain of Pippy’s spells, they are nonetheless ill-equipped for the sheer combined damage potential and tactical prowess of Tiarmus and Arius. Faenor and Talbot close in from the far side of the room while Pippy completely melts one of the Horrors with a set of maximized scorching rays, and the fight is over practically before it began. Feeling as though this is the best this sorceress has to offer they will be, “home in time for dinner,” the Brotherhood brazenly presses on into the heart of the temple. Soon they find themselves in the lair of Koreeis herself. Seated on the dais at the far end of the chamber, her feline form in relaxed repose and human half appearing to lean back, the Lamia Noble looks up at our heroes as they enter with an almost bored expression.

“I know why you’re here, heroes,“ she purrs, chuckling to herself, “though I should tell you that you won’t be leaving with this.” She holds up the fragment our heroes have come for, and Arius gasps.

“How did you know we were coming for that,“ he asks, jaw agape, all five synapses firing at full steam.

“Idiot! Do you think you are the first to seek the power of this enchantment? I long ago learned of it’s power to lure adventurers, and I saw you lot coming miles off! You have walked right into my trap, Shadowbane Brotherhood,” she says with a cackle of glee, “and I assure you, you will not be walking out!”

With that, the sandy floor between the party and Koreeis erupts as nearly a hundred Asabi unbury themselves in a fury of poison tales and scimitars. The battle is on!

Before anything else can happen, Koreeis stands up from her throne and takes two steps forward. She stops, raises her hand, and looks directly at our adventurers; calmly, commandingly, she says, “You should not be here….go.” Though Talbot and Pippy are unaffected by the mass suggestion as she predicted they would be, the rest of the Brotherhood cannot fight her compulsion, and immediately turn to leave. In short order, Talbot and Pippy find themselves alone against the Lamia Sorceress and her hoard. Not to be so easily intimidated, they rip into action! Talbot fires a diamond spray into the massed Asabi and at Koreeis herself, destroying nearly half the lizard folk and dazing her in one shot. Though the Asabi have dogpiled onto them en masse, the feeble creatures are simply outclassed, unable to penetrate either Talbot’s armor, or Pippy’s devastating orange veil. Not to be outdone by a cleric, Pippy points imperiously at the sorceress and shouts, “Enough of this, idiot!” casting a feeblemind spell at the lamia. Rising up on her hind paws and smashing back down to the ground in defiant rage, Koreeis shakes off the effects of the spell and points back at Pippy, and in a righteous rage screams, "Turnabout is fair play, bitch!“ Before anyone else can bat an eye, Pippy’s eyes go wide, then utterly vacant, as his intelligence and personality are reduced to that of a turnip. Sensing that this is a battle to be continued another time, Talbot grabs Pippy and dashes for the exit, trailed by a seething mass of infuriated lizard folk and the taunting laughs of the Lamia Sorceress.

“You’ll be back! And I’ll be ready, heroes!’”

The shameful torment of her laughter echoes down the corridors behind our heroes as they flee the temple, and indeed the city of Hlaungadath altogether, as the potency of the sorceress’s suggestion spell would compel them for a full twenty-four hours. Needing magic beyond his own powers to aid Pippy, Talbot suggests backtracking to Sundabar to regroup. Having little choice, the Brotherhood agrees, and flees the city of Hlaungadath in shame, vowing a vengeful and righteous return.

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Session XIII
The Incantation

The heroes leave the Yawning Portal, exhausted and ready to kick back with a drink and a wench at the Titty & Whistle. The sound of screams echo through the street as they walk, people running the opposite direction of the terrible noises. The sounds of battle can be heard as well, and smoke begins to fill the night sky as the heroes realize something is ablaze.

Turning the corner, the heroes find a gruesome scene. The Red Wizard Enclave is on fire, several of it’s members lying dead in the street. Along with their corpses are several of the City Watch, as well as a handful of innocents. Amongst the chaos stands a massive demon, its pincers rending an incapacitated soldier. It looks at the heroes and a calm voice reverberates in their minds.

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You are all that stands between me and my freedom? You will fair no better than the Red Wizards did.

Tiarmus rushes the glabrezu with a flying kick as Talbot casts a ward to protect his friends from its evil. The demon gestures, sending Arius and Faenor into a state of confusion. Despite his ailment Arius charges, slicing a mighty gash in the demon with Smiggly’s Vengeance. Pippy casts dismissal, but the outsider’s spell resistance would not be overcome.

After another flurry from Tiarmus and ward cast by Talbot, the demon uses power word stun on Talbot, preventing him from further helping his comrades. Again, despite the confusion, Arius cleaves into the demon with his holy weapon, gravely injuring the monster. Pippy’s maximized magic missiles finish the outsider off, dropping it into a smoking heap.

Larion shows up as the demon hits the ground, apologizing for his tardiness. With him a a gruff-looking man equipped with several magical trinkets. He introduces himself as Jardwim, leader of the Gray Hands. He thanks the heroes for their service to Waterdeep and tells them that they will inevitably meet again.

Returning the the Titty & Whistle the heroes find Fathead in an unusually good mood. Fathead explains that a very profitable deal may be in his future, but he does not want to speak of it before it bears fruit. They also notice that over the course of their patronage the customers have changed. What was once a oom filled iwth sailors and deadbeats is now filled with aspiring adventurers…

The party also decides on a title for themselves, a handle the group can carry. The Shadowbane Brotherhood is chosen in recognition of their mission against Shar and the forces of darkness that threaten Waterdeep and the Realms.

After a night of festivities Faenor is awoken by a strange noise. He notices the second story window to his room is open, and on the window sill lies a box. Upon opening it he finds a red sash, along with a note.

Only you are suited for this. Be wary of everyone and always look beyond the obvious. We will call upon you from time to time. Stay alive until then.
-TRS

The heroes awake in the morning to the sounds of conversation and pounding hammers. Coming downstairs they find dozens of men carrying planks, taking measurements and driving nails. They also find Fathead, and to their surprise, Mirt.

Mirt finishes his business quickly and wishes the heroes good day. Fathead tells them that Mirt and a “partner” of his have purchased the Titty, and that is it about to undergo serious renovations. Fathead is only staying on as proprietor, and this progression was made possible by the heroes growing reputation.

Around midday a pair of the City Watch arrive and tell the heroes that they have been summoned to Piergeiron’s Palace by the Open Lord, who is in the company of the High Priestess of Selune. Knowing the summons must be important they waste no time.

Waiting at Piergeiron’s Palace the heroes find Naneatha and Larion, as well as Lord Piergeiron himself. He welcomes them warmly and tells them he has several updates they will be interested in.

  • The Red Wizards are currently undergoing a thorough investigation after the demon escaped their control last night and caused senseless destruction. Watch Wizards will be placed in their enclave until further notice, and sanctions will be placed on their practices.
  • Ahmaergo disclosed details of the slave trade going into and out of Skullport, as well as their location and collection methods. Larion will be following up personally.

Lord Piergeiron steps back, allowing Naneatha to speak.

I am pleased to tell you that after more than a century of searching, a divination conducted by myself and Master Ilbrost Mythyl has revealed the location of the Dark Ranger. Sine before my time Vanrak Moonstar has been in hiding in a level of Undermountain known as Vanrakdoom. This level of the dungeon has no physical connection to the other levels, and teleportation an other methods of travel there were warded by Halaster the Mad when he constructed the dungeon.

The only means to access Vanrakdoom is through an incantation that has been torn into fragments and separated across Faerun. The first fragment is in possession of Lady Alustriel of Silverymoon, one of the Seven Sisters and a member of the Lords’ Alliance. She will be expecting you directly. Lady Alustriel will direct you to the second fragment and equip you with more information about the incantation.

Emphasizing the importance of their mission, Piergeiron and Naneatha advise the heores leave for Silverymoon immediately.

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The horses given to them by Durnan serve the party well as they head North. After passing through Red Larch, Triabor and Yartar without incident, the heroes continue up the Evermoor Way toward Silverymoon. Night falls as they spot the High Forest in the distance to the right of the road and the Evermoors on their left. Not far off they hear the galloping of a massive beast, one that sets upon them quickly.

The charnel hound rushes into the heroes from the direction of Waterdeep, biting and clawing with it’s unholy, corpse-grafted bones. Though Arius injures the undead creature gravely, the monster injures him horribly. Pippy and Talbot send a volley of cure and scorching ray spells into it, turning it’s attention to the spellcasters. The beast injures each of them as well, but Pippy puts an end to the creature with a maximized lightning bolt.

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An odd place for a monster such as this…

Pressing on through Everlund, the heroes reach Silverymoon. It is little trouble finding Alustriel’s Court.

Inside the heroes are greeted by Lady Alustriel, the most beautiful and radiant woman they have ever seen. She first introduces them to her friend and bodyguard, Glatius Red Tiger, King of the Red Tiger Tribe and Swordmaster of Silverymoon. He does not speak.

Your quest is a noble one, she says, and I can aid you in finding two of the incantation fragments beyond the one I possess. The second is in the lair of Koreeis, a lamia sorcerer that has claimed the ruins of Hlaungadath in the great desert of Anauroch. He will not give up the fragment without a fight.

The third fragment is in Zhentil Keep, in the hands of the Archmage Manshoon. He will demand a heavy price for it not doubt, and I cannot imagine a way to infiltrate his tower. Perhaps the Blackstaff has something up his sleeve for a bargaining chip.

I know not where the fourth and final fragment is, but I am confident that you will find it once you have the other three. I wish you well on your mission. May Mystra’s blessings be with you.

Lady Alustriel gives the heroes her fragment and the heroes spend a lovely evening in Silverymoon, entertained and well fed. In the morning they take to the road heading west toward Sundabar and Anauroch beyond.

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Session XII
The Xanathar

After a night of fine food, wine and impressions, our heroes depart Mirt‘s house withe the rest of the Moneylender’s guests. Upon exiting Lord Piergeiron stops Aruis, whose face is still swollen and damp from the tears he shed on Smiggly‘s behalf. Naneatha joins the conversation as well, and the telling body language between them indicates they have come to some agreement. Naneatha and Piergeiron begin to lead Arius to the rear of Mirt’s home, into a vast and beautiful garden. She indicates that the rest follow.

Xale urges the rest of the heroes forward into the garden.

In the garden an ivory pedestal sets firmly in the stone walkway near a small brook running through the yard. Piergeiron pulls the white cape he had been wearing from his armor and throws it over the pedestal, the cape coming to a gentle rest atop it.

“Set your halberd on the altar, Arius,” Piergerion tells him, “so that it may be judged by the gods.”

Nervous, Arius does as he is told by Waterdeep’s open lord. Piergeiron the Paladinson draws his shimmering Holy Avenger and holds it skyward.

Tyr, God of Justice, hear me now. Before you lies a weapon of righteousness to defend the weak and strike down those that would do evil. Grant this tool the power to smite the wicked and grant this boy the wisdom to wield it well!

The stars lining the sky begin to shimmer. Naneatha steps forward to the altar and throws a bit of dust it the air above the weapon.

Moonmaiden, hear the pleas of your servant. Under your wondrous light lies a weapon to avenge our loved ones and stay the malevolent hands of our enemies. Our cause is that of all good faiths, that we may show the forces of darkness with whom they deal!

The moon’s light grows suddenly, it’s illumination filling the night sky as though it were the sun. Out of the clear sky a lone bolt of lightning strikes down, engulfing the altar and halberd in a great flash that nearly blinds the onlookers. A thick smoke covers the area, but dissipates as a gentle breeze blows through the garden. Piergeiron lifts the halberd from the altar. The adamantine weapon now glows with a holy light much like the sword the paladin had drawn.

“Arius Arinion, defender of Waterdeep, I present to you now…”

Smiggly’s Vengeance

The following morning at the Titty & Whistle Arius is all smiles, like all the guilt and grief of Smiggly’s death had waned enough that Arius’ boyish charm of old had returned. The topic of conversation over breakfast is the need for a headquarters, as the varied housing the heroes use has quickly become unsatisfactory. Before any decisions are made a familiar face walks through the door.

Simian Wood.

“Good morning, my lords. Lady Naneatha requests your audience at the temple this morning if you please.”

Wasting little time, the heroes finish their breakfasts and make their way toward the Temple of Selune. Inside they find Naneatha speaking to an older, well-groomed cleric of Mystra. Both Pippy and Talbot have seen him around, before the fire destroyed much of the House of Wonder. The man smiles and approaches them casually.

Well met, friends. I am Ilbrost Mythyl, servant of the Weave. I am most pleased to finally meet you all, as word of your heroics has become common place here in the city. You, Master Mercy, I am most pleased to meet…

Ilbrost goes on to tell the heroes that Naneatha made him aware of the exchange they had last night with Meleghost at Mirt’s home…and he is most pleased. There are many in the Church of Mystra that have no taste for Meleghost’s leadership and would like to see a new magister take the church in a fresh direction, especially since much of it is being rebuilt. Ilbrost claims he is too old and not a skilled enough diplomat to cross swords with Meleghost, and many are too afraid to speak against him. Talbot seems to be the exception to that.

Ilbrost takes his leave politely, telling Talbot to think about a leadership position in the House of Wonder. Not for Talbot of course, but to get the organization back on a more noble course.

The day is uneventful. The heroes take care of simple day to day matters and waste time with debauchery and banter. That evening they stand on the deck of the Titty & Whistle enjoying their drink when a familiar figure steps from the the shadows of the alley across the street. It is the woman that had given them a lead to the Xanathar Guild, wearing the unmistakable red sash. She beckons them toward the shadows of the alley. They heroes comply.

“You have been busy, friends, so I forgive you for ignoring our letter. Nonetheless there are goings about this evening not even Lord Piegeiron knows of. The Xanathar move still as they make bigger plans. Are you still small enough to help the commoner?”

She hands Faenor a letter stained in blood. It reads:

We bear information that is imperative for all who are loyal. Our time is coming. The might of our allies grow, and ours in turn. I will bring a fine gift to give to their champion, the one they say will slay the interlopers. It is the monk weapon that matches the monastic array worn by the monk interloper, Tiarmus. Their champion will no doubt take the items from his corpse to sweeten the deal. He is welcome to them.

Be at the cesspool in Dock Ward at midnight. Hear the rest.

-X

When they look up from reading the note the woman is gone.

Approaching the dump near the harbor in Dock Ward, Tiarmus is the only one that spots a floating mass hiding behind a stack of garbage. The drinks a potion of haste and moves quickly around it. As he does, a beholder makes itself known, unleashing a volley of rays from its eyes tentacles at Arius, Talbot and Faenor.

Though the heroes are able to shake off the worst of the rays effects, the beholder floats higher and out of the range of their melee weapons. Arrows and sling bullets fly skyward at the aberration, wounding it. Before it can consider escape Pippy channels a lightning bolt through his metamagic rod, turning the monster into a sizzling corpse. Hidden near the creature they find a gift box containing the Scorpion Kama.

Questioning the nature of this ‘champion’ that has been charged with their deaths, the heroes begin to speculate who it could be. Talbot suggests that perhaps it is the Dark Ranger, whose way they are no doubt in. Faenor suggests that perhaps Lady Alathene Moonstar knows something of it, and so they make their way to the Blushing Mermaid.

Uneasy with revisiting the site of Smiggly’s death, the party nonetheless enter and gain audience with the Lady. She is pleased to see them and offers the tavern’s hospitality. Upon hearing of Shar champion, she suggests that the assassin is a member of the Order of the Dark Moon, a sect of monks in the service of the Lady of Loss. It would only make sense if the assassin is being provided a gift like the Scorpion Kama.

She assures the heroes that if Vanrak came out of hiding after all these years to kill someone in Waterdeep, it would not be them.

After a good night’s rest the heroes again meet in the common room of the Titty & Whistle. A messenger from the Courier’s Guild walks in and tells them that Durnan, owner of the Yawning Portal, has requested their presence with great urgency. He says it is a matter of life and death. As they depart in haste, the courier requests that the group come up with a name for itself, as many parties in Waterdeep are now contacting them regularly.

The heroes make their way to the Yawning Portal quickly. They note that there are five horses in full tack and saddle tethered to the post outside. Upon entering an attendant immediately approaches them.

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“Right this way, sirs.”

Talbot tries to stop the attendant, but the man suggests he knows why they are here and quickly leads them to a private room. Inside a man with gray streaks through his dark hair and a scar across his nose.

“I am Durnan,” he begins, "Keeper of the gate to Undermountain. Twice you have barged into my establishment and forced your way under the mountain. And your dark friend hospitalized a dozen fine guards of mine…but this is for another time.

Durnan stands up straight.

“…a very influential member of the Xanathar Guild named Ahmaergo has been captured by two troll mercenaries employed by the Plague Rats. They are taking him to the Rat Hills, where they will turn him infect him with their sickening lycanthropy and release him as an agent back to the Xanathar. They are less than 5 miles form Waterdeep. There are five horses waiting outside.”

Talbot begins to speak but is cut of quickly by Durnan.

“They are moving now. Time if of the essence. Go.”

Making time across the countryside south of Waterdeep, the heroes begin to soak in the foul smell of the festering garbage that makes up the Rat Hills just a few miles south. It is not long before they see three forms in the distance…

The heroes dismount and engage the trolls, who are dragging a wicked-looking dwarf in platemail across the plain. The fight is short, with a flame strike courtesy of Talbot and a pair of scorching rays from Pippy badly injuring both monsters. Arius removes most of one’s torso with his halberd, Faenor closing in with his flaming sword to finish the job.

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Ahmaergo immediately tries to bribe the heroes, promising gold, gems, magic and the rest if they could see fit to release him back to Skullport. His pleas fall on deaf ears, Faenor telling Ahmaergo he is going to be gagged if he keeps talking.

Unsure if they can trust Durnan, the party releases their silver raven to find Larian Shadowfriend, whom they feel should be conducting an interrogation concerning the Xanathar. Much to their surprise, the raven makes its way to the Yawning Portal.

Walking in the heroes find the patrons a bit different, all of which seem to be getting a good look at Ahmaergo. The attendant leads the heroes with to Durnan, who surprisingly stands beside Larian. Larian pulls a series of metal bars from his pouch that break down into a chair of some kind. Forcing Ahmaergo to sit, Larian locks Ahmaergo’s chains onto the chair, which begin to glow.

It becomes obvious that the chair is forcing the truth from the dwarf as Larian begins to question him. The Xanathar hand tells Larian, Duranan and the party that the guild’s involvement with the Church of Shar is for mutual gain. They will eliminate the Plague Rats, Shadow Thieves, and all other opposition within the city. Shar’s Dark Moon monks have provided an assassin to take care of the heroes, who is in Waterdeep making preparations now. Ahmaergo is no doubt himself on the hit list now that he has disclosed the guild’s secrets…

Satisfied, Larian tells everyone the prisoner is going directly to Lord Piergeiron. He nods at the party and gives an annoyed look to Durnan.

“I don’t know how you knew about this Xanathar/Plague Rats matter without my knowing, but I aim to find out. I’ve got my eyes on you, Durnan.” Larian takes his leave.

“Keep the horses,” Durnan tells the heroes. “Perhaps we’ll meet again.”

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Session XI
Faenor's Past and the Council of Lords

Their conversation abruptly ending, the black dragon and yuan-ti immediately move into combat positions. The party inflicts little damage before most are engulfed in the dragon’s breath weapon, a line of acid that sears them badly. Faenor manages to elude the acid, rolling in front of the yuan-ti. The snake-like creature makes an odd gesture and Faenor’s heart sinks, a feeling of dread washing over him. His arms and legs contort and shift, absorbing into his torso. He moans as the rest of his body deforms horribly, his mind likewise sinking into a horrid, unescapable fate.

His companions watch in astonishment as their roguish friend slithers away in the swampy water covering the massive room.

The battle goes poorly. Arius does his best to keep the dragon from his friends, trying to parry the blows of the monster’s claws, wings, tail and teeth. The yuan-ti cuts into Tiarmus with its flaming scimitar, hungrily pursuing the monk as he tries to evade the serpent’s blows. It’s everything Talbot can do to keep up with the healing needs of the party, preventing him from doing much else to help with the fight, though he refuses to leave the chamber until all make safe retreat. Pippy flees back into the narrow tunnel after exhausting his spells, crying out to his companions that they must retreat. Tiarmus snatches up the small snake that was once Faenor and flees into the tunnel, crying for Arius to follow.

Steadfast and consumed with the thoughts of a dying Smiggly, Arius strikes the dragon again and moves backward toward the tunnel. The desperate cries of his comrades drown out his guilt as he backtracks. The dragon stands down, content to guard its lair.

The yuan-ti, smaller and more maneuverable, pursues the party down the corridor. Pippy unleashes several magic missiles as Arius blocks the snake from pursing his friends. Another breath weapon from the dragon turns the corridor into a river of acid, burning both the party and the yuan-ti. Hurt and alone, the yuan-ti contorts as Arius rams his halberd through the monster’s chin and up through its skull. The broken and battered party flee back into Undermoutain from their goal in Skullport.

Luckily, Pokey Bitz is open to the idea of letting the party stay and rest at his shop. He entertains them with crude jokes as Talbot heals their wounds. He finds a scroll to polymorph Faenor into a dwarf, a confused and very angry dwarf…

Upon rest the party thanks Pokey and moves off back toward the dragon’s lair and their mission of finding, “the Boss,” in Skullport. This time it would go differently.

Determined and absolutely enraged, the party makes short work of the black dragon in the absence of its yuan-ti comrade. Spell, sword, fist and halberd cut the beast down in a volley of attacks, shaving off scales and skin. Tiarmus pulls a tooth from the beast and adds it to his vest.

“On to Skullport.”

Having just vanquished a black dragon and it’s yuan ti cohort, the party continues onward. After a short period of travel through more Underdark tunnels, the path widens out and the ceiling begins to rise, and a faint light can be viewed ahead. Soon they enter the town proper of Skullport itself.

Having been here once before, the party only knows one bar, the place they found Darinian previously. Since Fuxby told them that the Boss’s cronies like to drink in Skullport, it seems logical to check the taverns first. The innkeeper of the Pick & Lantern is a half-orc with a busted tusk named Blusk. In no mood for games, Arius immediately strides over and slams the butt of his halberd down hard, startling Blusk and making clear that talking would be wise. Never one to put ‘is arse on the line for much of anyone, Blusk eagerly spills the beans about where the Boss’s men go to suds up. It’s a rancid craphole called The Extremely Loose and Readily Available Wench, EL RAW, a seedy and dangerous place on the far end of the Port, down by the Slaver’s Bays. The party catches many an inquisitive and less than friendly gaze as they head down that way, but none stand to oppose them.

Once they enter EL RAW, they have no trouble discerning which of the people inside is one of The Boss’s lackey’s; on the far end of the establishment, on a raised dais, there is a lounge area, and seated there are three duergar, each with his arm around a fawning slave girl and a mug in hand. Again wasting no time and bandying only three or so words, the party storms over to the dais and demands information; the duergar bluster briefly and put hands to weapons, but these guys don’t really want to pick a fight with such a formidable team. They quickly crack under the glower of so many good and powerful adventurers, and tell the party the location of the Boss’s Villa, which requires a brief ride by skiff to an island in the lake just out of Slaver’s Bay.

After a short cruise they party lands on the island, and as small as it is, the villa is clearly visible from the small dock they pull up to. Approaching the gate, the party sees what at first appears to be a pair of large, spiky hedges on either side of it, until….one of them moves! Realizing these are guards, our heroes approach and demand entrance. No duergar, the two Braxat mercenaries sneer and refuse. Seeing no other course, the party draws and combat ensues!

As it turns out, the Braxat would have been wise to simply let them through. Though an early attempt at using their inherent psionics to stun the party seemed like it might put the odds in their favor, Faenor’s devastating back-stab nearly single-handedly fells one of them, which is quickly made short work of by the rest of the party. Seeing the writing on the wall, the other uses its dimension door ability to escape with its life. The party finds a gate key on the dead Braxat, along with some loot, and uses it to open the gate and enter the compound.

Inside the mansion, they head straight down the main corridor inside to a massive set of double doors, which Faenor quickly determines are both locked and trapped. With patience and skill, he disarms the Shriek Shocker on the latch, and deftly unlocks the Dwarven Triple Tumbler locking the twin portals. As the party enters the massive dining chamber, they spot a figure on the far end of the chamber, opposite the dais upon which they stand.

“Don’t take a step further! I know who you are. Do you know me?”

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He gets up and walks around to the side of his desk; he has a heavily pronounced limp and drags one of his legs behind him, nearly useless. The figure appears to be dwarven.

“That’s right, I see you remember,” he says, as a look of dawning comprehension begins to creep its way onto Faenor’s face, “I knew you’d come….saw it in a dream. Been waitin. I’m ready; let’s end this.”

Hob reaches into a pouch at his belt, pulls out a large blue mushroom, and stuffs it into his mouth. Seconds later, he begins to grow, and grow, and grow….into a huge Craa’ghoran, an evil earth giant with spikes and fangs pointing every which way. Tearing through the roof before reaching his full size, Hob bellows a war call across the dining chamber, and the battle is on!

The room is long, and the party has to go down a set of stairs either to the right or left to get to the main body where the long feast table runs the length of the hall. Arius and Talbot move down the stairs to the right, while Tiarmus, Pippy and Faenor fan out to the left side of the hall. Not realizing the nature of their foe, the party does not understand their mistake until the giant disappears into the floor, tunneling through the stone as easily as if it were water, and blasting back up right in front of Tiarmus; as though this weren’t bad enough, a massive wall of stone simultaneously erupts forth from the stone floor directly between Arius and Talbot and the rest of the party, smashing the table to match-wood and leaving Pip, Tiarmus and Faenor trapped with Hob on the other side!

Fast on his feet, Tiarmus manages briefly to keep Hob occupied while Pippy lands a direct hit with a lightning bolt, and Faenor attempts to move into position to aid Tiarmus. Casting through the link afforded him by his greater status spell, Talbot shields Tiarmus with a luminous armor, and climbs up and over the wall at the top of the stairs after running back up. Arius, ever direct, simply charges the wall and smashes it a mighty blow with his halberd, nearly cleaving straight through in one round. Hob stays mobile, dropping through the floor again and materializing right behind Pippy, and smashing him once for the trouble. Tiarmus and Faenor charge again, both landing minor blows, and Talbot moves into position just on the other side of the wall, healing through his link; Arius blasts the rest of the way through the wall and steps over, only to have Hob throw up another wall, trapping both him and Talbot between the two walls! Hob moves back over to the other side of the room, which forces Faenor and Tiarmus, as well as Pippy, to move back over to re-engage. Arius climbs the wall this time, easily getting over, while Talbot opts to stay put and attempts to cast hold person on Hob, but fails.

At this point Hob has taken some damage and realizes he needs to stay on the move, so he slides back over to the other side of the room and then uses his stone spikes ability to raise seemingly hundreds of jagged, razor sharp stone barbs and stalagmites form the floor. Every step the party takes is agony, and their movement is drastically slowed. Thinking fast on his feet, Pippy snatches each of his nearby comrades by a sleeve apiece and casts dimension door, neatly circumventing the room full of spikes and planting his friends inside striking distance without provoking any attacks from the giant. A few more furious seconds of combat swing by, but in spite of surprisingly sound tactics, Hob eventually finds himself overmastered by our heroes. Not one to leave this mortal coil without one last act of spite, he smashes Pippy with two devastating blows, clapping his hands down on him with thunderous force, and then gripping down with all his might, rips the poor halfing nearly in two! Screaming like nothing they’ve ever heard, Pippy collapses into a ragged pile of barely breathing bits, just as Arius crashes in to deliver the killing blow. Moving quickly, Talbot rushes to Pippy’s side and brings him back from the brink at what seems the last possible instant.

Taking a moment to gather themselves, and to heal, they find a ring of keys on the body of Hob, which has now returned to its original size and shape. Searching the now ruined far end of the room, they find a corridor winding down and follow it to a stout door. Inside they find what appears to be a treasure room, with a pile of gold and several items. Displayed on the far wall, and obviously intended as the centerpiece of the room, is a beautiful composite bow the likes of which our heroes have never seen. Well, all but one…

Rushing across the room, Faenor halts at the last second and reaches up slowly, with reverence, to remove the bow from the wall. Half again as tall as the dwarf himself, the masterfully crafted longbow appeared to be made of mithral, with sapphire and ruby intricately worked into an intertwining spiral pattern from one end of the bow to the other. It was Rainmaker, his father’s final work and the pinnacle of his craft, finally reunited with its rightful owner.

After pausing a moment to soak in what had just happened, Faenor nods that he’s ready and the party moves through the chamber to the door on the far side. Opening it, they find…

Mirt the Moneylender, reclining easily on a wooden bench, eating a huge turkey leg with a goblet of wine to wash it down.

“I’ve been waiting for you guys….took you long enough! Looks like you’re worthy of a real mission. Good! Glad you passed my test! Now, let’s get out of here shall we? The décor in this pit is depressing.”

After overcoming their initial outrage and shock, the party joins up with Mirt and begins the journey back to his mansion. Along the way, they ply Mirt with a seemingly endless stream of questions. He explains that most of the creatures and circumstances they came across outside the city were easy enough to arrange through agents, but it was trickier to manipulate Dorrk.

“I had to actually be kidnapped you know; all that damage you saw in my mansion was real. They really attacked me, and I really had to put up a good show. They had no idea of course that I manipulated the entire thing. You wouldn’t believe how many people owe me! And yes, this is how I get my jollies these days, don’t judge me.”

After several hours of travel and interrogation, they finally arrive back in Waterdeep. The party decides to head off their own way at this point, and Mirt agrees, but not before saying,

“Thank you for escorting me home, your services are no longer needed for today. However, you should return here in one week, on the night of the half moon, at sundown. There will be a dinner with some very special guests, and you lot will not want to miss out. OH! I nearly forgot, thank you so much for saving me! HA HAHAHAHAH AHA AHHAHA AHAHAHA!!!”

Mirt disappears very quickly, and bewildered, angry, beat up and tired, our brave adventurers move as quickly as their weary bodies will carry them to the Titty and Whistle for some much needed respite. Sensing that much is amiss, Phlagren orders that drinks are on the house for the party and bustles several of his bustiest girls over to the table to serve them.

When they finally get settled, Arius immediately rips into a tirade about how he dislikes and distrusts everyone they work for, and how Mirt is a fat, lying bastard. Taking a somewhat more measured view, Pippy agrees that Mirt’s behavior was less than ideal, but expresses an interest in this dinner he’s planning, and says what everyone is already thinking, which is that surely at least some of the Lords of Waterdeep themselves will likely be there. After all, hadn’t they been getting quite a lot of attention lately? Talbot and Faenor agree; Tiarmus can barely be heard to utter anything other than loud, intermittent inhales as he came up for breath between chugs of beer and moterboating the help.

Regardless, with a week to kill, the party is finally able to set about getting some of their more mundane affairs up to date and in order. Tiarmus finally finished reading the Manual of Health they had found, Arius forged several new works, Talbot did merciful good deeds and Pippy pipped. Indeed, ’twas a fruitful week.

On sundown a week later, they return to Mirt’s mansion. The entire place is lit up with torches, courtyard, stables, everything. Ushers at the gates open the doors and let them into the compound, where they are greeted by the concierge, who snobbily invites them to follow him inside. They are led through the hallway and down a corridor, where the concierge opens a massive mahogany double door and ushers them into an expansive, incredibly opulent dining room. At the head of the table on the far end, several figures are seated:

Laords.jpg“Greetings, greetings my friends! So good of you to join us! Please, have a seat hear at the table, the servants were just about to bring the first course!” says Mirt. “You know my guests I trust?” As the party seats themselves, Piergieron speaks up.

“Indeed, greetings and well met young adventurers! As it happens, your doings of late have come to the attention of the Lords of this city, and in particular when you saved Xale of the Starry Glenn from his terrible fate, you earned my thanks. I have yet to give it to you in person, which I wish to rectify immediately; my deepest gratitude my friends! Xale is a true friend of mine for long years, and I feared for him whilst he was missing. Tonight, we have asked Mirt to invite you here so that we may take measure of you. There are dark days ahead for this city, as you lot are undoubtedly well aware, and it is difficult to know who to trust. Your deeds speak for themselves to a great extent, but now we wish to speak with you face to face and learn more of what there is to know of who you are, and why we should trust you. If we are satisfied with what we find, then we may ask much of you in the days ahead; if you rise to those challenges with the same valor and clarity of purpose which you have shown in your efforts thus far, you will find reward and renown beyond your greatest imaginings.”

He pauses for a moment to let his words sink in, then continues,

“How rude of me though, here….drink, eat, relax a bit. We have plenty of time! Mirt tells us you saved him from his captors, tell us the tale!”

The party hesitantly begins to tell the tale, but soon are asking many questions of their own. The Lords insist there will be time, but ask to hear what happened in the party’s own words. Eventually they get the story across, at which point Xale speaks up.

“Indeed, I owe all of you my thanks for saving my life. To this moment, I still have no memory of what happened. The last I recall, I had slain a beast of fire and shadow in the portal room, which attacked me soon after you all went in. Everything after that is blackness.” He shakes his head. “And though no words of mine can begin to express my gratitude, I am left wondering, what brought you all through such peril to find me? It was my impression that none of you were overfond of me. Arius….in your words, tell me, what brought you and your friends through such risk to save me?”

Arius explains that finding Xale was only incidental, and that what he was doing, he did for Smiggly’s memory, because it was what he would have wanted. Xale drops his head, and apologizes sincerely and profusely for his prior arrogance, and misjudgment of the party. Arius does not seem convinced.

Naneatha speaks up, “I wonder, do any of you have any questions for the Lords of Waterdeep? Surely my Lords, we owe them this much, do we not? For saving Xale, uncovering the plot and collusion between Xanathar and Shar, for the….”

Melegost interrups, “Yes, yes, yes woman, you’re right….so, you lot….what would you ask?”

Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much any of them particularly wants to know, so the Lords move on with their questioning.

At this point, Khelben looks at Pippy and says, “You wizard, nobody ever asked you, what’s your stake in all this?” His voice sounds extremely familiar….it’s Smiggley! Several of our heroes cry out, and a few fire questions, but it becomes clear that Smiggley can only say what he came to say, and no more.

Pippy explains that he was asked by Xale to join the party, and that he has since created a purpose for himself as he goes along. He sees the need for his services and is happy to oblige, and along the way has forged the bonds of brotherhood with his fellow members of the party. Smiggley appears to be satisfied with this, and Khelben returns to his original affect, seeming a bit bemused but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Next, Piergiron looks at Arius. “Arius Arinion, blacksmith’s apprentice, and warrior of great courage, there is a cloud over your heart. You have seen some of the darkness this world has to offer, and it has not handled you kindly. I see in you a recent….break, shall we say, with your previous ideology. Do you believe that your cause is still just, or are the means which you now find yourself willing to employ merely rationalizations for your desire to lash out at a world which has brought you so much pain?”

Arius’s eyes go wide and his jaw hits the floor, working wordlessly for a few moments as he fumbles briefly for an answer. Soon, his shoulders slumping and his head falling to his chest, he shakes his head and says, “I don’t know,” as a groan of deepest anguish escapes his great chest and tears begin to fall from the granite ledges of his cheekbones. Not one to press, Piergiron sits back in his chair and steeples his fingers, appearing thoughtful.

Next, Mirt clears his throat and raises his glass.

“And may I propose a toast, to Hob, without whose paranoia we might not all be sitting here together having this merry feast. May he forever rot in whichever hell he’s earned!”

After a cheer and some drinks, he goes on,

“Faenor, tell me….how does revenge taste? When your family was alive, you did everything you could to be different from them. They honed their skills with blade and hammer, while you learned the inner workings of locks and back alleys. Now, in pursuit of vengeance for their loss, you have taken up armor and blade in the manner of your father and brothers. Was it worth it, losing yourself along with your family?”

Faenor takes a moment before answering, at which time he agrees that indeed he has lost his original way somewhat, but that he believes his family would still be proud of who he is, because in doing so he has found a new path of honor and purpose which he believes he has given his all to. What more could anyone ask? Chuckling uncomfortably to himself, Mirt sits back and nods to Faenor, indicating he is satisfied.

Next, Melegost looks up at Tiarmus. For a moment, he merely stares across the table, looking directly into Tiarmus’s eyes, with a small smile. Then, he turns to Talbot.

“So Mercy, it seems your short time with these fellows has done much for you. Already you…glow, with health and vigor. Like some kind of….adventurer. What happened to your studies? You were beginning to garner no small amount of renown along the Sword Coast as the definitive source of all things Celestial. Will you return to your studies, or do you intend to continue with these others?”

Talbot answers forthrightly, explaining that his time of study was spent looking for what he has now found in the bonds of blood and brotherhood forged with his friends. So indeed, he will be remaining with the party, and will go where they go. Melegost stands up and flies into a tirade, tongue-lashing Talbot in front of the gathered assemblage, calling him out on brazenly ignoring his original orders, flagrantly flouting the rules and hierarchy of the church, and ignoring even the direct orders of the head of the church itself. Talbot jumps to his fight and fires right back, slamming Melegost for putting no thought into his appointment to that task, and for asking him to do something which goes directly against his ethics and character. Further, he presses, Mystra herself is in agreement with the path he is on, and next to that, what authority is Melegost? Sputtering and utterly enraged, Melegost draws up as if to say more. However, Piergieron and the other Lords intervene and insist that Melegost excuse himself from the otherwise polite assemblage. Muttering curses and promising future calamity, Melegost flies form the room like a murder of crows. With much clearing of throats and washing down of wine, the evening continues on.

Lastly, Naneatha looks up at Tiarmus.

“Tiarmus, son of the sea….Smiggley is not the only friend you’ve lost. Somehow, the small act of evil that led to the deaths of your merfolk friends Baleaena and Caeruleus has be lost in the tidal wave of momentous and fell events, but it seems as though everything is connected as well. Your heart is pulled in two…the sea calls you ever back, and yet you seem now to be fated in a different direction. Smiggley’s murder is still at large, and you may play a key role in the salvation of Waterdeep itself. What do you intend to do in the coming days, and do you feel that what you do is in honor or betrayal of the memory of your fallen comrades?”

In an incredibly rare display of give-a-shit, Tiarmus composes himself and launches into a jaw-droppingly eloquent and meticulously thought-out explanation of how in doing what he’s doing. He is advancing himself and the greater good to a point where he may one day have the influence to stand in present company and ask the question he then asks: If he continues as a member of this party, which he does indeed wish strongly to do, will he be given a voice, title, and influence as an Ambassador of Waterdeep’s Ocean-dwelling folk? Specifically, those merfolk and other people of the sea who do commerce with the city through its ports, and many of whom reside there.

Many smiles greet this request, and Piergieron agrees to it nearly without hesitation; indeed, it seems a perfect segue into what he has to say next:

“I am well satisfied with all that I have seen and heard here, as I see are all the other Lords here gathered; Melegost was here merely as an observer and has no say in this matter. So, I have one last question for all of you: Will you swear fealty, here and now, to the Lords and the City of Waterdeep? I understand that up until now you have operated essentially as freelancers, and perhaps you may prefer to keep it that way. I am not opposed to negotiating an arrangement with your party similar to that which we have with the Grey Hands….you would essentially have full autonomy in most cases and at most times, and you may continue to liaise with Larian Shadowfriend if you wish. I would have it known that I for one hope we may look forward to your service, and believe that indeed your reputations are confirmed and honorable! I would have you in the employ of the city. What say you all?”

With glances around the table and the dawning realization that the ranks of Waterdeep’s Champions had just grown by five, our heroes look as one to the open Lord of the City and say,

“Aye my Lord, so swear we all!”

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Session X
The Underdark

Upon being instructed by Anise Fuxby that, “the Boss,” is likely questioning Mirt personally in Skullport, the party heads off further into Undermoutain. Fuxby tells them there is a collapsed wall on the first level of the dungeon leading into the Underdark, and that they can make their way to Skullport from there.

Moving quickly through the massive dungeon, the party hears the sound of gold coins being counted. Pippy taps Faenor and Tiarmus with his wand of invisibility, allowing the pair to scout ahead. They find a fomorian giant in the junction room, along with the collapsed wall and entrance to the Underdark they have been seeking. In the room is a pile of gold and items. The giant has obviously been using the entry as a choke point for creatures coming from the Underdark, taking their riches after crushing them to paste with his spiked club.

Arius charges into the room, taking a nasty blow from the ugly giant. At that point his comrades become visible, unleashing a volley of attacks at the unsuspecting monster. The battle is brutal but short, leaving the giant dead and his treasures ripe for the picking.

Moving from the dungeon down into the Underdark, the party realizes that they have never explored this infamous part of Faerun geography. The underground lakes, slippery and narrow bridges, and dark foreboding landscape make the entirety of the endless caves look the same. After slaughtering a gang of kobolds, the party accepts the fact that they are hopelessly lost. Only by chance do they stumble across a metal door built into the stone. It is the first piece of construction they have seen since entering the blackness.

Faenor instantly notes that the door is armed with a fireball spell triggered when it is opened. He botches an attempt to disable it, causing a fiery explosion. Luckily for the nimble rogue he leaps from the burst undamaged. Picking the door’s lock, the party enters the room beyond it.

There the party is greeted with a scowl and a threat from a dark elf priestess bearing the symbol of Lolth. Acting quickly, Pippy conjures a wall of fire near the alter, sealing the priestess off from the party. Arius rushes her, leaping through the flames to the dark elf’s side. Tiarmus does the same, his quickness allowing him to land a crushing spinning kick to her head before she can react.

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At this point her minions leap from their hiding places, some on screaming and on fire from Pippy’s wall. Several drow close on Talbot and Faenor, stabbing and slashing is desperation with their rapiers. The room’s heat becomes too much, causing some of them to collapse. The drow’s wizard finally makes himself visible, cutting loose with burning hands on Talbot and Pippy at the room’s entrance. Faenor and lays several more of the drow soldiers low. The few remaining lose morale an instant later when Arius removes the priestess’s head from her shoulders with his halberd.

Dispelling his wall of fire, Pippy and the party finish off the lone wizard. The dark elves are covered in valuable magical items, many of which are fine weapons and armor. Most valuable, the party finds a magical map of the Underdark under Sword Coast North, including the route to Skullport and several key locations throughout the caverns and Undermountain. Noting that they are not actually very far from Pokey Bitz, the party journeys there to sell off the drows’ equipment. They had been lost indeed.

Happy to see them and pleased with their goods, Pokey shows the party his new collection of augment crystals. He tells them that he bought the crystals from several drow wearing equipment a lot like what the party was selling… Oh well. After a few purchases they thank Pokey and head back toward Skullport and Mirt, their new map leaving no doubt which direction they should be going in. Pokey points out a large chamber on the map that he notes is a massive cavern, usually housing a monster with some authority over the near Underdark. The party will have to pass right through it to reach Skullport.

Newly equipped and determined to find Mirt, the party makes good time through the dark tunnels. As expected, the path opens up into a towering room containing standing water and dreary-looking plant life. Thinking they hear dialogue, the party takes a few steps into the underground swamp. The dialogue suddenly stops as the talkers make themselves visible.

The first is a yuan-ti cult leader, it’s serpentine tail swimming behind it as it pulls a flaming falchion from its belt.

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The second is a large black dragon, acid dripping from its maw as it stares at our heroes intently.

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Session VIV
Who's the Boss?

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!!!”

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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.

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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.

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Session VIII
Mirt's Folly

As the party enjoys their breakfast at the Titty & Whistle, a dirty street-urchin child approaches their table. He tells the party that Mirt wants to see them, that he has something for them. Without much of an invite, the smelly child finishes the breakfasts of the party.

Making their way across Waterdeep to Mirt’s Mansion, the party finds the courtyard surrounding the residence full with street urchins. Mirt wades through them on his way toward the party, his girth knocking the skinny children out of the way with ease.

ftr_20120907_1.jpg“Well met,” he begins, “I have heard of your exploits and asked that you return when you had gained experience. Now that you are a bit more accomplished, I have a mission taht must remain discreet.”

Mirt leads them away from the ears of the children.

“There has been a paladin of Helm that has offered to take on some of these children. She was extremely convincing that she could offer them a better life, and that she only needed my help in gathering them. After taking several dozen children, I heard of no program that was being run to help them. They were simply gone.”

Mirt sighs loudly.

“I became suspicious, and had the paladin followed. She led one of my agents to an unmarked warehouse in Trades Ward. The warehouse is sealed. I need someone to get inside and find out what has happened to these children. I fear the worst.”

The party accepts Mirt’s mission, adding that he owes them much for taking care of his dirty laundry. Sickened that he may be responsible for dark dealing, Mirt sends the party on their way.

The warehouse itself is nothing special. The windows have been boarded up to prevent prying eyes, and the front door is well-made with an eye slit. Upon knocking, the party is greeted by a pair of beady eyes behind the slit. Tiarmus mutters a nonsensical reason for being there. The slit shuts and latches.

The party finds a small rear entrance to the building. Faenor is able to disarm the spring-loaded poison trap and open the lock without drawing attention from passers by. The party enters the warehouse as quietly as they are capable of.

They are immediately set upon by the fiendish occupants of the building. The first Talbot identifies as a Hellcat, a demon of Baator. Arius is attacked by an enlarged duergar wielding an two-handed axe as a fey’ri encompasses itself in a globe of darkness.

Despite the globe, the fey’ri suffers a mortal wound early in the battle, laying him low to bleed out. Arius sunders the duergar’s axe, leaving the dark dwarf defenseless against his whirling halberd. The Hellcat injures several party members badly, but their combined might kills the creature in spite of its invisibility. The party notes the bloody chains hanging from the ceiling afterward, but no bodies…

Healing the fey’ri enough to prevent its death, Talbot has Faenor bind it with the stone rope, making escape impossible. After a brutal interrogation the fey’ri tells the party that the “paladin” has been taking the children north of Waterdeep, to the edge of Kryptgarden Forest.

Wasting no time, the party throws the bound prisoner in a cart and takes him out the North Gate and down the Long Road toward Kryptgarden Forest. Upon reaching the edge of the forest, Talbot casts a spell on Arius that makes the fighter shed light as the daylight spell. Not caring for their approach, Tiarmus moves outside of the light’s radius and around the hill they are approaching to flank their target.

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Atop the hill is a nightmarish scene of gore and evil. The scattered remains of dozens of children litter the landscape. Two chain devils are there to greet the party, with their leader, an erinye, taking to the air with a bloodthirsty look in her eyes. The devils appear to be sacrificing the children in an attempt to gate in greater devils.

Enraged at the sickening scene, the party rushes in to meet the devils head on. Tiarmus flanks the devils as Faenor and Arius move to meet them in melee. Pippy begins hurling evocation at the airborne erinye, noting its resistance to his spells.

Though bloody, the chain devils fall before the party’s onslaught. Desperate, the erinyes dives downward with her longsword to meet them in melee. She notes her mistake as the party’s blades tear her apart.

Disgusted but victorious, the party finds no survivors. Saddened and frustrated, they move back to the cart with the fey’ri inside, telling him that he is the only creature left to be held accountable for this act of evil. The rest are dead.

The party takes the Long Road south toward Waterdeep, anxious to speak with Mirt.

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Session VII
Undermountain

After a brief series of purchases at Pokey Bitz with it’s self-named proprietor, the party gears up and moves on to the next location on Gorrk’s map, Booze Boobz and Doodz. The journey is short, and they find a very sick ogre outside the establishment vomiting. Passing right by, the party approaches the bar, Faenor hiding behind a booth to get a better vantage point of the room. Arius tells the bartender the party is seeking a dark church…

Booze Boobz and Doodz is filled with unseemly underdark races including orcs, duergar, drow and others. Arius and Pippy order drinks and toast one of the orcs at the bar. A moment later Arius feels his stomach twist…he’s been poisoned.

“What’s the matter dear,” the female human bartender asks, “not feeling so well?” She smirks as several of the bar’s patron draw weapons and attack.

The party makes short work of the bar patrons despite Arius’s ailment. A few injured bar-goers escape as the adventurers close in around the bartender. She drops her weapon in surrender and introduces herself as Anise Fuxby. Talbot demands the antidote for Arius, which she promptly delivers. In accordance with sparing her life, Fuxby informs them that the Church of Shar has made an alliance with the Xanathar Guild, and that one of their agents is hidden within the caverns of Undermountain first level. She adds to Gorrk’s map and ushers the adventurers away. Arius takes back the platinum he had given her for the information. She glares at him.

“What? You poisoned me!”

Moving along for several hours through the dark tunnels, Faenor finally finds a secret door built into the wall. Activating the opening mechanism, the dwarf opens the door to find the unexpected form of…

fddrat.jpgCivilar Hawkwinter?

Hawkwinter turns to meet the astounded looks of the party, “My, what an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events…for you!”

Tearing an amulet from around his neck, the illusionary disguise that covers him drops, revealing the revolting form of an illithid brandishing the holy symbol of Shar. Two minotaurs steps from behind the room’s pillars to guard their dark master.

Quick on his feet, Faenor manages to mortally wound one of the minotaurs before it can act. Tiarmus and Pippy lay on a volley of attacks that kill the monster an instant later. Arius charges the mind flayer in an outrage, slicing a massive gash down the aberration with his halberd. Talbot casts hold person, freezing the other minotaur in place.

The mind flayer unleashes its mind blast, stunning Arius, Pippy and Tiarmus. It is too little too late as Faunor and Talbot move in from the sides and down the already wounded monster. Their comrades snap out of the trance and combined, finish the held minotaur mercifully.

Collecting a fair amount of booty from the corpse of the once-trusted “Civilar Hawkwinter,” the party finds a note. It reads:

Greetings Prar,

Your identity as Civilar Hawkwinter has been most beneficial to the guild. With the help of your church, we have been able to eliminate most of the Shadow Thieves operating in the city, as well as many of the fetid rats. My agents are everywhere. We see all.

As you have been most helpful in our alliance, I will honor our bargain. The concoctions requested to destroy the temples will be delivered in two shipments. The first is in your possession, and the second will be waiting for pickup at Red Sails Warehouse in Dock Ward.

The imbecile warehouse manager thinks the casks are full of fuel for a gnomish steam engine.

We will commune again once the churches of Mystra and Selune are crippled and decide on how to finish them off. Then the Lords. Then the Sword Coast.

X

Taking the note and the amulet the mind flayer used to disguise itself as the Civilar, the party moves the shrine to find a passage leading to several cells. One houses a pair of wererats, no doubt of the Plague Rat gang at war with the Xanathar. Another cell houses half a dozen other rogues, likely affiliated with the Shadow Thieves. The final cell sits back from the rest. A familiar figure lies slumped over inside.

Xale of the Starry Glen.

Xale’s eyes are glazed over in darkness, the black orbs flickering like moving shadows. Catatonic, Tiarmus picks him up and begins to carry him back toward the portal they entered Undermountain through.

114711_CN_GL.jpgUpon reaching the corner before the initial entry room, the adventurers hear monstrous voices speaking in the room where they encounter Gorrk and his minions.

“…must have been powerful indeed to have killed Gorrk. They will no doubt return…”

Tiarmus lies Xale’s form in the tunnel and the party leaps into action before they are discovered. As they rush the room they find two Gauth, minor beholders. Again, Faenor is too quick for the monsters to react, plunging his sword into the first gauth all the way to the hilt. The gauths unleash a volley of damaging eye rays on the party, but after battering the first Arius fells the second with a massive overhead slash, cutting the monster cleanly in half. Tiarmus picks up Xale and they flee back through into the back of the Yawning Portal.

When they arrive back on the Yawning portal side of the gate the party finds the guards, all disabled. None have been killed, but there are broken collar bones, noses, dislocated shoulders, bumps and bruises all over them. In one fluid motion Larion Shadowfriend falls from the ceiling and stands point blank in the party’s faces.

“Been talking toLady Moonstar, have you? I see you have Xale. We should get him Naneatha quickly, this devilry done to him is far beyond any of us. And next time, tell someone where you’re going, especially if you do something foolhardy.”

Larion apologizes for Smiggly’s death, which immediately upsets Arius. He sobs as they make their way toward the church. Larion immediately identifies Talbot as being placed in the party by Meleghost. His undertone is not consenting. He then asks what the party discovered about the Church of Shar while in Undermountain.

When the party tells Larion of the church’s alliance with the Xanathar Guild and the mind flayer Prar’s identity of Civilar Hawkwinter, he asks for proof. When they provide the amulet it used for a disguise, Larion conjures a bird to fly the amulet and information back to Lord Piergeiron. Larion thank s the party and tells them he must follow up elsewhere, but that they will meet again.

At first Naneatha is overjoyed when the adventurers bring Xale in…until she sees the shadowy orbs that were once his eyes. Lying him down and calling upon the power of the Moon Maiden she attempts to free Xale from the dark spell. To no avail. Naneatha throws up her hands in despair. Just then the doors of the temple swing open for the second time in as many days.

Again. Meleghost.

“Word has reached my ears that this fine band has returned victoriously with Xale. And there he lies. Well done, adventurers!”

A dozen of Mystra’s clerics come into the Church of Selune, flanking Meleghost. Several Selunite cleric come from their chambers into the main hall. These “allied,” churches stare at one another, the tension so thick it can be cut with a blade.

“Here is your reward, as promised,” Meleghost says as he enlarges a small chest he pulls from his belt pouch. “Ten thousand gold. And of course the magical item I promised each of you from my personal collection.”

Meleghost leans over to Tiarmus as he hand him his gifts, “You have served me well, monk. You will again."

Meleghost formally welcomes Pippy to the church and congratulates Talbot on a job well done. When Meleghost notices Naneatha cannot help Xale, he grins.

“Well, if you cannot help your knight friend, it looks as though I must return him to my church to seek aid. After all, I am a mage of some renown, and more well-versed than thee in the arcane arts.”

Naneatha begins to protest, but knowing she cannot help Xale, simply says that the Lords of Waterdeep will hear of this. Meleghost bows and leaves the Church of Selune with Xale, his clergy in tow.

Naneatha, depressed and upset, tells the party that they will have to clear Waterdeep of Shar’s influence before they go plunging into the depths of Undermountain looking for the Dark Ranger. They are not yet seasoned enough, and there is enough evil through the city that needs smiting to keep them busy. She wishes them well, saying she must prepare for Smiggly’s funeral.

The next morning at the Titty and Whistle, Fathead approaches the party and gives them a note, telling them that a shadowy patron left it for them last night. The patron gave him a gold piece, so he asked no questions. The note reads:

Dear Roguish Gallery,

Now that Hawkwinter has been revealed as a spy it appears the mission to stop the gangs was a ruse. The Church of Shar’s alliance with the Xanathar Guild will end in the bloodshed of Waterdeep’s people if a stop is not put to it.

The Watch is useless. They are beyond compromised.

The Church of Shar’s headquarters is beyond the reach of even the Lords of Waterdeep and is a cavern of death for those who would enter. There is much to accomplish before you rogues could stand against the combined might of the Dark Ranger and his church.
The Xanathar, however, are far more accessible from our fair city. They now think their enemies in the other guilds are weakened and they have the support of a vastly powerful dark clergy. It will not be long before they make their presence known. Then you will have to find and destroy them.

That will draw their dark brethren to the surface, where they are vulnerable.

Back to the sewers with you. We’ll be watching.

TRS

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