City of Splendors: Waterdeep

Session I
Adventurers Assemble

Civilar Hawkwinter approaches each of the characters separately because of their special interest in the recent emergence of multiple thieves guilds in Waterdeep. The guilds have always been present, but an obvious guild war has begun in Dock Ward. The Watch itself cannot be trusted, as the guilds have agents throughout the Watch, Guard and perhaps even the government.

Tiarmus wished to solve the brutal murders of his merfolk friends in the harbor that he called home.

Smiggly, with the blessing of Highpriestess Naneatha Suaril of Selune, agreed to undertake the mission of ridding Waterdeep of the Plague Rats, a guild of wererat thieves and assassins.

Feanor Firebrand, a guest at the House of Wonder and stranger to Waterdeep, agreed to aid the allied Church of Selune in its quest. Faenor may have his own agenda as well.

Together the assembled party met their last member, Arius Arinion at Whirling Blades, a seedy blacksmith shop in Dock Ward. Unpopular with his mentor, young Arius was excited to take up a life of adventuring with his new comrades.

Hawkwinter promises the party 5 gp for each 30 hours of work on behalf of the Watch. He stresses that he will contact the party when he needs, and not to contact his unless it is an emergency. Their subterfuge is of the utmost importance in uncovering the plots of the guilds.

Rogue zpsea4728f6Feanor gathers information around the streets of Dock Ward, hearing that the Keelhauled Dwarf Tavern is a good source of information relating to the reemergence of the guilds. The party visits the tavern and sits to have a drink when two member of the Watch walk in. The Watch members seem abusive, shoving and threatening the patrons as they make their way to the bar. The bartender subtly slips the Watch members a piece of paper. They take a look at it and grin. The party tails them as they leave.

The party tracks the Watch members through several back alleys of the Docks, finally stopping as the Watch begin speaking to a cloaked man. The cloaked man’s head snaps to attention as he notices the party. He instantly stabs both Watch members in the throat with a pair of daggers and takes off through the alley. The give chase through crowds and onto rooftops, finally stopping in the rear of several shops where the thief’s comrades lay in wait.

Crossbow bolts fly as and battle is underway. The party makes quick work of the thieves, one being knocked out cold. The garrison of the Watch arrives, telling the party to drop their weapons and questioning them about the deaths of the two Watch several streets away. The party is cleared of suspicion and the lone thief is taken into Watch custody.

A member of the infamous Red Sashes appears on the rooftop above the party suddenly, telling them that if they wish to pursue the wererat infestation of Waterdeep they should investigate Deloun Alley. The Red Sash vanishes as quickly as she appeared.

Otyugh
Taking the lead, the party ventures to Deloun Alley and opens the manhole cover leading into the sewer beneath. Crawling down into the waste of the city above, it is not long before they overhear the conversation of three hissing, rodent-like voices.

“Our pet beyond has made a nice meal of the merfolk.”
“Yesssss…their flesh is sweet as that of the humans.”
“What was that?”

Enraged at the slaughter of his friends, Tiarmus jumps from the cover of the sewer walls and unleashes a flurry of blows upon the wererats. The party follows and a difficult fight ensues, the lycanthropes resistant to the weapons of the party. Finally the rats falls, and the party makes its way further into the sewers toward the wererats, “pet.”

In the next junction room they find a pair of lizardfolk and the vile otylugh. After a bloody battle Tiarmus confirms that the monster’s clawed appendages match the marks on the grates that cover the pipes to the harbor. They also match the wounds on his dead friends…

Tired and injured, the party arises from the sewer and rests, taking a fine meal the next morning at the Titty and Whistle.

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Session II
The Church of Shar

Having just fought several difficult battles the day before, the party meets early at the Titty and Whistle for a much needed meal and respite. It appears that the innkeep Fathead has been hiring new help lately, and the adventurers approve, particularly Smigley. As they slog through the first course of fresh-baked crusty bread, creamy butter, and a fine aged gouda, they converse about the battles fought in the sewer the day prior; suddenly, Smigley sits bolt upright in his chair, knocking over his ale and slapping his chest frantically.

“My Holy Symbol! Oh no, I must have lost it during the fighting yesterday. We have to go back for it!”

The others protest, saying that it’s only a holy symbol and surely he can get another, but Smigley insists that this one is special, as it was the first thing he was given by the High Priestess upon his arrival at the church as a young orphan. After much protest and a bit of cajoling, Smigley convinces the rest of the party to accompany him back down into the sewers to retrieve the lost symbol.

After a bit of searching through the rank waters, the symbol is found, but on the way back out a massive insectoid ankheg bursts forth from below the main pipe, appearing to have undermined the section some time prior. It’s a tough fight, Arius and Tiarmus taking some major blows particularly, but after a short time the party successfully defends themselves and the beast is slain. There are a few magical oddments and bits of treasure stuck in its mandibles and between the chitinous plates of its exo-skeleton; the party takes these and exits the sewers. Smigley suggests that they go about their business for the day, then reconvene at The Church of Selune in the evening so that they can all stay at the hostel there; in this way, they can better coordinate their efforts over the coming days to root out the corruption in the watch.

Later that evening as the party reconvenes and arrives at the Church, they are greeted heading through the front door by Simian Wood, Seneschal of the Church, looking quite beside himself.

“Hurry, you must hurry, Lady Naneatha has a visitor and he wishes to speak with all of you at once. You mustn’t keep them waiting, come with me!”

Wood rushes off and the party follows, heading to a rear antechamber of the Church. Once Wood has completed his task, he leaves the party in the company of Lady Naneatha and a tall, imposing Aasimar encased from head to toe in glimmering plate and mail, a mighty bastard sword strapped to his back.

“Greetings, I am Xale, known by many as Xale of the Starry Glenn, Leader and Guide of the Order of the Blue Moon. Your friend Smigley here will know of our organization, but for those who don’t, we represent a collaboration between the churches of Selune and Mystra, and for now that is all you need to know. I have a mission I need undertaken, and find myself short of people in the city right now I trust to undertake it. Naneatha mentioned young Fibliss here and his friends, said you were trustworthy. What do you say, interested?”

The party is indeed, so Xale goes on to inform them that he knows of their involvement with Civilar Hawkwinter and their mission to uncover the corruption in the City Watch, but that it runs deeper than just the Watch itself. Xale believes that the Guard, the Navy, and possibly even the Grey Hands themselves may be compromised, but the Order currently lacks proof. He believes that the Church of Shar is involved somehow, and informs the party of a warehouse in the Trades Ward that is owned by the Church, and where informants for the Order claim to have seen some strange activity of late. It appears they may be smuggling something into the city, but what, no one knows. However, word is that something big will be coming in two nights hence on the night of the crescent moon. If the party is willing, Xale asks that they go there that night and quietly gather information…whatever they can find, some evidence or proof of what the Church is up to.

11Two nights later the party heads down to Spindle Street in the Trades District. On their way, they pass by a City of the Dead they had seen several days prior when heading to Deloun Alley to enter the sewers. On that day, Faenor had spotted a funeral being held; there were few mourners, but of note was the Holy Symbol worn by the cleric performing the ceremony; it was a symbol of the Church of Shar. As the party passes by the site of the burial on this night, they hear a gnawing and crunching of bones coming from the direction of the grave. Peering through the fog, they narrowly avoid being surprised by the fierce onslaught of a Ghast and its two Ghoul thralls. Though Arius is temporarily paralyzed, the party makes fairly short work of the undead. The commotion attracts a crowd, and Faenor and the others hand the situation over to several members of the Watch who approach. The party continues with their mission.

Smigley and Arius, being rather shy in the stealthy skills department, opt to take up guard positions at the ends of the streets approaching the warehouse itself, while Faenor and Tiarmus move ahead quietly to see what may be seen….or, such was the plan. However, two less stealthy rogues one never met, for every attempt either made at approaching the building quietly failed…miserably. Tiarmus was stymied by the same grate twice! Getting frustrated, he approaches the front door of the warehouse and began banging loudly and yelling. After several failed attempts to illicit entrance or information about the goings on inside, he storms off. Meanwhile, Faenor has continued casing the outside of the building and finds a hidden door on the far side. Hearing the commotion and wondering what’s going on, Smigley and Arius approach the far side of the building and find Faenor, who shows them the door. Though all of the windows are boarded and no one can see into the building, Faenor picks the lock (though he springs the trap!) and the party is through the door, minus Tiarmus, who is climbing to the second story on the far side of the building to examine the windows. Entering the warehouse, the party finds a group of people bound and gagged and lined up a long a far wall, with a few roguish looking characters standing along the other walls keeping watch. In the center of the room, there is a man tied to a chair, and a huge, muscular, hairy humanoid standing over him. The party sees the creature rake a claw across the bound man’s chest, and intervenes!

705435286495As it happens, the beast is a wereboar. Tiarmus hears the commotion inside from the window and, though he can’t see what’s happening, surmises his friends are in trouble. Dropping to the ground he lands just in time to see a small figure dash by down the street, robes flapping in the wind. Chasing after the little guy, Tiarmus runs around the building to the door the party entered through. Arius and Faenor are meanwhile going toe to toe with the enraged wereboar inside, while Smigley hangs back behind the crates to deal with the rogues attempting to sneak around the flank of the party. Tiarmus and the small stranger enter just in time to polish the last rogue as the killing blow is delivered to the wereboar, Arius roaring in triumph though heavily wounded himself. The stranger, a halfling, introduces himself as Pippy Potts, a servant of Mystra sent by Xale to “watch the watchers,” as it were, and to intervene should they appear to be in trouble. Though failing their mission of reconnaissance, upon releasing the rest of the captives the party finds out that they were all kidnapped from the Dock Ward at various times late at night in recent weeks, held captive here, and that tonight the Priests of Shar were using the wereboar to infect them all with the Curse of Lycanthropy, whereupon they would be released back into the City, presumably to spread the curse further and sow the seeds of Chaos. The party releases the hostages and takes the injured man with them back to the Church of Selune for healing, and to report. Upon arrival they find that Xale is not currently present in the City, but is expected to return within a few days. Naneatha heals the party and promises to care for the newly made lycanthrope, and suggests the party rests for the next few days until Xale’s return.

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Session III
Skullport

When the party meets at the Titty and Whistle the following morning Arius is quiet and obviously depressed. When Smiggly asks him what is the matter, Arius tells his friends that his mentor at Whirling Blades owes a vast amount of gold to an influential moneylender. Mirt the Moneylender is going to take Whirling Blades as payment if Arius cannot find a way to raise the gold and pay off his mentor’s debt.

After some encouragement from his friends, Arius and the party decide to go and speak to Mirt at his estate at the southern flank of Mount Waterdeep. The fat old rogue is unsympathetic and insists that the debt has gone long unpaid. He admits he has little interest in claiming and running Whirling Blades himself, but cannot overlook the debt. He does, however, offer the party an alternative…

Mirt tells the party that there is a duergar named Darinian that owes him far more gold than Arius’ mentor. Not only that, the duergar is wanted in Waterdeep for a number of crimes including extortion, arson, and murder. While he does not say it outright, Mirt suggests that he doesn’t expect the party to collect the gold from Darinian and that there will undoubtedly be a confrontation with the duergar when they find him, and the evil dwarf will surely be quick to fight. Mirt says the duergar is likely hiding in Skullport, a city that rests in the Underdark below Waterdeep.

Faenor asks around the lowlife and pirating community, learning about a tunnel leading from the sea-facing side of Mount Waterdeep to Skullport. With little difficulty the party finds a pirate captain willing to take them in for a fee. As he has business in Skullport anyway, the fee is negotiated quickly.

As the ship sails through the canal from the sea to the underground city, the party notices several disturbances in the water. Half a dozen water mephits board the ship and attack the party and crew. After a hard-fought battle the ship docks in Skullport. The captain tells the party of his planned departure time and goes about his business as they search for Darinian.

514729167All sorts of unsavory goods and services are offered to the party from sex and drugs to cadavers and assassinations.

It does not take long until the party is pointed in the direction of the Pick & Lantern, a tavern that is frequented by pirates and miners. Upon entry it is evident who Darinian is, the fiendish looking dwarf, or durzagon, surrounded by a gang of battle-tested duergar minions. His hell hound pet growls as the party approaches.

As they draw weapons it is clear that Darinian would rather fight than talk, and battle is underway. Though much blood is shed, it is Darnian and his allies that lie dead on the floor of the Pick & Lantern rather than the party. Injured, Faenor slices the durzagon’s head from its body as the party departs the blood-soaked tavern.

Yuan t10As the party arrives back at the dock for departure they notice a small boat unloading slaves to a pair on yuan-ti. When Arius notices that the slaves include children, he loses his temper and attacks the snake-people. As the leader raises its sword to party, Smiggly’s shatter spell destroys the weapon, allows Arius’ halberd to slice the creature in half.

Along with the eight rescued slaves, the party gets on the ship and departs. The captain insists on being paid a premium, as he will have no doubt made enemies of the yuan-ti by aiding the party in freeing the slaves and helping them escape. Irritated, they pay him.

Upon their return to Mirt the Moneylender the old rogue stops Faenor from pulling Darinian’s severed head out in public, noting that he only needs a glance. He thanks the party and destroys the contract binding Arius’ mentor to his debt. Mirt asks them to see him in the future once they have gained some influence and power…he may have something more lucrative for them in time.

A member of the town watch subtly attracted the party’s attention as they move through the streets. He tells them that the thief that they managed to take alive was poisoned in his cell in the castle. It appears the guilds’ influence is deeper in the watch than Civilar Hawkwinter first thought.

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Session IV
Xale's Test

Upon Mirt‘s suggestion, the players decide it’s time to upgrade their equipment. Arius has forged masterwork weapons for each of the party’s members who care to have one, and they may now be enchanted. Though the Red Wizards will surely use the profits for nefarious purposes, the party reasons that they are still the most reasonably priced game in town, and that they will use what they’ve purchased to do more good than the Wizards can do evil with the gold. Under this flimsy rationale, everyone but Pippy (conscientious objector) visits their enclave in the city and purchases whatever items they deem will aid them further their cause of good.

Over the next several days, the party splits up and pursues their own agendas within the city; Tiarmus returns to the bay to frolic with the merfolk, whilst Arius continues forging equipment, Faenor begins studying the arts of the fighter, Smigley gives alms to the poor in Dock Ward, and Pippy pips along merrily. After nearly a week, each of the party members is visited by a messenger who claims to be sent by Xale of the Starry Glenn; he has returned after his absence from the City and wishes to speak with the party about the results of the warehouse mission. They are to meet him at the Church of Mystra on the night of the Gibbous moon.

Early on that day, Smigley heads out into the city to find everybody, and suggests they all convene at the Titty and Whistle for a meal and to discuss their meeting with Xale. Though distracted by the tavern’s help, particularly a new half-dragon wench with truly fantastical proportions, the party’s members manage a discussion regarding how they feel about their mission. Smigley seems to believe Xale is going to be angry with them for failing to do the mission quietly, while Arius is confident that saving the prisoners and exposing the plot to spread the curse of lycanthropy must surely have been what Xale wanted them to do. Faenor seems indifferent, Tiarmus drinks and ogles the ladies, and Pippy seems to agree with Smigley, though appears optimistic that perhaps Xale won’t be angry with him, as he technically did exactly what he was supposed to do. In the end it’s decided there is nothing for it but to head to the Church and find out for themselves.

Upon arrival, the party is ushered immediately to a back room, where Xale stands waiting for them, hands crossed behind his back and facing at the window on the far side of the well-appointed chamber. As they enter the room he turns and speaks to them.

“Well, it seems you failed. Oh, I know that you saved those people, stopped them being turned into werebeasts and seemingly ended the Church of Shar plot. For that you are to be commended, but that was just one small battle in the larger war. Alas, I’m afraid that your COLOSSAL FAILURE at anything even remotely resembling stealth has caused the Sharites to withdraw their plans further into the shadows. In short, now they know we’re watching them, and it’s all because of you. I believed this to be a simple enough task, but apparently it is beyond your abilities; Naneatha however assures me that you are not useless, and has persuaded me to give you all another chance. Fine, perhaps I thought you lot a scalpel when in fact you are a hammer…let us see how effective you may serve in that role. I wish to test you, a trial to determine if you are worthy of another go. If you pass my test, I will have another mission for you, one for which you will be well-rewarded indeed. What say you?”

After much sputtering about “not my fault” and “you weren’t there,” and “who are you to test me,” the party agrees to Xale’s test.

“Then follow me.”

He immediately spins on his heel and leaves the room at a fast clip, nearly leaving the party behind. Nearly running to keep up with their various versions of short legs (except Arius), the party follows Xale down several corridors, up and down seemingly countless flights of stairs, through chambers and halls and finally, to a door which at first glance seems to be an unremarkable black wood. Upon further inspection, inky black clouds shift constantly on the door. Pippy determines it to be an illusion but keeps this revelation to himself. Xale puts a key into a lock that no one can see, and turning it, enters a long, narrow room. It is unadorned except for a few columns along either side, and at the other end, a large, glowing portal. The portal is arched, and along the arches are several symbols and glyphs which no one in the party can decipher. Xale points at the portal and says simply, “Enter.”

Hesitating at first, the party enters the portal and finds themselves in a pitch black room and under attack! Casting Dancing Lights, Pippy quickly reveals their assailant to be a Bloodhulk Giant, a huge, muscular creature whose skin appears to be near bursting with blood from beneath. Absorbing unbelievable amounts of punishment, dishing it out in kind, and spraying everyone with copious amounts of viscous plasma in the process, the party finally manages to subdue the monster. The room is awash in blood, everyone standing no less than ankle deep in it. The moment the beast is defeated and its treasure taken, a pedestal arises from the center of the room, topped with a glowing white orb. The party is refreshed, a blinding white glow overtakes them, and when it subsides, the room is gone and they are now in a dark, wooded glade.

98670Advancing a few steps into the “forest,” the party is almost immediately attacked by what seems to be the forest itself with vines, roots and plants growing up from the ground to entangle them. Soon, it is revealed that a Briarvex is the source of the spell! Unaffected by the spell, Tiarmus bravely charges forward to engage the enemy, but quickly finds himself against a foe who is nearly unaffected by his fists, and filling him with angry, biting thorns by the minute. Worse, another Briarvex is soon spotted not far to the right and the party now finds itself truly engaged! Though certain of their attacks seem useless, Pippy and Arius are able to do some real harm to the creatures; it seems that Pippy’s fire spells panic them, causing the Briarvexes to make tactical errors which, paired with the brilliant heroism of the adventures leads to their eventual downfall. Once again, immediately upon felling the enemies and claiming their prizes, the pedestal arises, the party is healed, and transported to…..another forest! And this time, before anyone can even move, they find themselves being charged by five jaguars!

As the party engages the fierce felines, and in the ensuing chaos of fangs, fur, and fire, no one notices the wretched Quanlos flying across the forest floor toward their party until Arius is stung. Suddenly, what should have been a fairly rough but straightforward fight has taken on a new dimension. Though he shakes off the initial poison, Arius quickly realizes he’s in trouble as for a moment he felt his will begin to fade. Fighting with renewed desperation, the party scores some telling blows; Tiarmus summons his giant ant to aid against the big cats, and the tide looks like it may be turning, but suddenly Arius takes another stinger and this time….oh no, Arius is mind-controlled! Nobody realizes the danger until he suddenly turns to his left and Tiarmus finds himself dodging a blow from his good friend’s mighty halberd! Some part of Arius’ will must have remained, however, for the next several swings he takes seem guided by a will other than that of the Quanlos and miss wide of their mark, that being Tiarmus’s neck. Finally dispatching most of the cats, the rest of the party is able to focus its attention primarily on the Quanlos, and though it is tougher than it appears and moves very quickly, it is finally dispatched. No one else is poisoned, nor fortunately has any larvae injected into them, and Arius returns to himself immediately upon its death. The remaining jaguars flee and the fight is done. Looting the room, the adventurers await the pedestal; it indeed returns, curing them all, and transporting them….

Temple burn 03Back to the portal chamber. The test is done! But….something is wrong. Tiarmus is missing, and all around them, the Church of Mystra is fully ablaze!

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Session V
Shar's Revenge

The party stands shocked as they come out of Xale’s portal. The House of Wonder is in flames, the inferno engulfing the entire room and who knows how far beyond. They turn in a panic as they realize that Tiramus did not make it out with them, and that he might be trapped in another dimension. Pippy tells everyone that the fire might be tampering with the enchantments around the temple and they had best be on their guard. They have little time to worry about Tiarmus as a group of magmin erupt from the flames and attack them.

Panicking about the state of Tiarmus, Arius cleaves his way through the elementals quickly and presses through the fire. Faenor and Arius quickly become fatigued as their armors weigh them down in the heat.

Not recalling the way they came and having to navigate through debris and smoke, the party arrives at what was once an arcane locked door. The once inscribed glyph of warding had been disabled by the fire, allowing the party to enter.

Pic 7Inside they find a lab equipped with several tank of unknown fluid and a half-disassembled flesh golem. A massive pile of bones adorns the corner. The three-headed Skull Lord guarding the room moved forward to welcome the party to their doom.

The Skull Lord raises a serpentir from the pile of bones and opens the mouths of its three heads, drawing out shards of bones from Arius and Smiggly as the splinters tear through their skin toward the undead’s mouth. Faenor and Pippy engage the summoned serpentir as Arius closes on the Skull Lord, taking several blows from its bone staff. After a very close battle all three of the vile creature’s heads are destroyed. Several of the fluid-filled tanks explode, caving in the ceiling and sending the PCs running for their lives through the burning hallways of the House of Wonder.

Finally seeing the light of day, the party emerges in a panic from the front entrance of the temple. They stand in awe as the towering Walking Statues of Waterdeep douse the burning temple with hundreds of thousands of gallons of collected rain water. Naneatha runs up to Smiggly, wiping the dust and grime from his hair.

“Are you all right?! I feared the worst. Xale did not return and…”

On obviously enraged man wearing elaborate magical robes steps up to the group, his goatee curling in anger as his long finger pokes towards Naneatha’s face.

“Xale? Xale?! This is why we need no affiliation with your church, Selunite! That fool Xale obviously brought your enemies to my doorstep!”

Faenor steps between the irate mage and Naneatha, planting his hand on the man’s chest. Without a word the man grabs Faenor’s wrist and seeps the strength from him, sending the dwarf rolling down the temple stairs to the street. He turns back to Naneatha.

“I want no relations with you or yours. The Church of Mystra was well and good before the Order of the Blue Moon!“

He looks at the party.

“And just who in the Hells are you?!”

After a few snide remarks to Smiggly, the man realized that Pippy is a member of the Church of Mystra. His demeanor lightened ever so lightly as he introduces himself as Meleghost Starseer, Magister of the House of Wonder. He tells the party he much desires to speak with Xale of the Starry Glen, and that he will pay them ten thousand gold and a magic item for each of them if they can find and return him.

Clerics of the House of Wonder revive Faenor and apologize for Meleghost’s actions. They note that they have all lost much in the fire.

At that time both Naneatha and Meleghost note two figures walking through a parting crowd. Smiggly notes to the group that the first is Piergienon the Paladinson, follower of Tyr and Open Lord of Waterdeep. The second is Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun, the most influential mage in the city.

As Naneatha and Meleghost approach the men another figure approaches the party. He is clad in a gray cloak that covers his face and is upon them quickly.

“Well met. I am Larion Shadowfriend of Force Gray. I understand you were the last to see Xale of the Starry Glen.”

When the party confirms this Larion asks them to lead him to the portal. Upon walking back into the temple they watch Khelben say something quick and short to Meleghost, silencing the magister. After blowing through some debris with an explosive device they reach the room. Larion confirms that a battle had taken place in the room, but there we no human fatalities. He tells the party that the portal can be keyed to several different locations, and that Tiarmus must have been caught somewhere else when the fire disrupted the portal. He tells them he will be investigating Xale’s whereabouts himself, and will share the information with them if the Lords see fit.

When the party exits the temple Naneatha is waiting for them once again. She tells them this entire situation is all too familiar, and that they need to speak with Lady Alathene Moonstar at the Blushing Mermaid in Dock Ward tomorrow.

Returning to the Titty and Whistle, Smiggly discovers that Alathene Moonstar is several generations old, too old for any human’s natural lifespan. Nonetheless the party ventures to the Blushing Mermaid.

There they are greeted by a servant who takes them to a private room. Waiting for them is an elderly but very beautiful woman. She greets the party warmly and tells them that she and Naneatha are very close. Bewildered and suspect, Smiggly casts detect alignment. Though good, Lady Alathene admits she is a lich and begins her tale…

Adherents of the Nightmaiden have long been active in the shadow of Mount Waterdeep, and their missions have been quite varied. However, the Waterdhavian Church of Shar traces its origins back to a disastrous expedition into the Black Jungles mounted in the Year of Dark Dawn (1104 DR) by Lord Vanrak Moonstar, a noted explorer in his day. Formerly a charismatic, outgoing swashbuckler, Vanrak was but a pale shadow of his former self when he returned. A scant few tendays later, Lord Andvarran Moonstar, the family patriarch, died of a strange wasting disease that was unknown to Waterdeep’s healers and strangely resistant to their spells.

Upon assuming leadership of House Moonstar, Lord Vanrak publicly broke with the priests of the High House of Stars (the temple of Selûne that preceded the House of the Moon), whom he blamed for his father’s untimely death. Consumed with bitterness, the Dark Ranger, as Vanrak came to be known, secretly embraced Selûne’s ancient enemy, the Lady of Loss.

By the Year of the Howling Moon (1130 DR), House Moonstar was in open schism. Those nobles who still venerated Selûne aligned themselves with Lord Vanrak’s sister, Lady Alathene, and the Moonmaiden’s priests, most of whom had taken refuge in the High House of Stars. Meanwhile, at the Moonstar Villa in Dock Ward (now the Blushing Mermaid Festhall), Lord Vanrak and his followers extended their dark influence over much of the city’s harbor with the aid of a small army of mercenaries and priests of Shar.

On the night of the seventh full moon of the year, Lady Alathene appeared in open court and asked the Lords of Waterdeep to strip her brother of his title and banish him from the city. To demonstrate the need for such drastic action, she presented evidence of her brother’s numerous crimes, including slavery, arson, theft, and murder. The Lords ordered the Dark Ranger’s immediate capture, but by the time the Watch had breached the gates of the Moonstar Villa, Lord Vanrak and his followers had disappeared.

250px wraithDuring their absence from view, the Dark Ranger and his cult established a highly defensible stronghold from which they could launch missions against their ancient enemies. The Church of Shar achieved its most dramatic success in the Year of the Tomb (1182 DR), when Vanrak’s followers managed to infiltrate the High House of Stars through its cellars and slaughter most of the inhabitants before they could raise an alarm. By the time the Watch arrived, the temple was a towering inferno of shadow magic darkfire, which appeared impervious to magic, especially to the ill-prepared firefighters. In recent years, Lord Vanrak’s followers have failed to execute several important plans. In the Year of the Saddle (1345 DR), the Dark Army of the Night tried but failed to set the House of the Moon afire as part of the so-called Night of Temple Fires. In the Year of Shadows (1358 DR), the avatar of Shar attempted to subvert the Moonmaiden’s church by masquerading as the moon goddess and imprisoning the avatar of Selûne. Driven from the city after followers of the Moonmaiden freed Selûne from Shar’s clutches, Shar’s faithful were forced to nurse their bitterness anew in the darkness of Vanrakdoom.

Now it seems that Lord Vanrak has embraced yet another dark mission, but its exact nature remains a mystery. Heroes are needed to locate Vanrak’s hidden cell of Shar worshipers and scour it clean of the Nightmaiden’s taint.

Satisfied with the information and explanation of her undead state, the party stands and leaves the Blushing Mermaid. Night falls shortly after, leaving them in a dark alley in Dock Ward. Suddenly a dark figure rises from the ground, its intangible form passing through Pippy and sapping his strength.

The heroes close around the Greater Shadow, unleashing a volley of attacks that pass through the ethereal form. After draining Arius’ strength, the shadow creature identifies Smiggly as the real threat. Plunging its shadowy hand through the gnome’s heart, he lets out a scream as he falls. In a blind fury Arius and Faenor rip through the shadow, their weapons finally striking too late. Smiggly was dead.

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Session VI
The Yawning Portal

When last we saw our brave adventurers, poor, dear Smigley had just bitten the dust in most unfortunate fashion, having been turned to a Shadow by a Greater version of the same. Moments after the party falls on the vile undead and rips it asunder in grief and rage, and before the shock of loss can take hold, Smigley’s shadow arises and attacks. The party makes short work of this lesser shadow however, and then it hits….Smigley is gone. Arius goes temporarily mad with anguish over the loss of his little buddy, clutching his small body to his chest and sobbing; on the wind, it seems almost as if they could hear the voice of their friend saying, “I’ll miss you guys…”

Though they are all in shock, everyone agrees that they should take Smigley’s corpse back to the Church of Selune, and Naneatha. Once they arrive and enter, they are met by Simeon Wood, who lets out a wail at the site of his fallen friend and flees the room. Heading toward the Private chambers of the church, they are brought to a halt by Naneatha rushing out to see them. She gasps when she sees Smigley and falls to her knees. Arius is overcome by sadness and leaves the church, running back to his home in tears. The rest of the group stands in silence, letting it all sink in. Naneatha gathers herself and tells the party that it will take at least three days to prepare a proper ceremony for Smigley. She suggests that in the meantime perhaps everyone should continue their quest, throw themselves back into it to keep their minds off their loss. She acknowledges that the party cannot do without healing, and begins thinking out loud regarding a solution when…

…a voice that is fast becoming all too familiar can be heard from the doorway saying, Oh, that won’t be a problem. I have brought a replacement for your man there; yes, I was watching, and yes, so will he.

Meleghost.

Standing with him, a human of average height, balding, with brown hair and eyes and a well trimmed goatee. He is dressed well but simply, in scholarly raiment, though he is armed with a mace, crossbow and shield.

This is Talbot Mercy, a cleric of my Church and scholar of some note. He will be my eyes and ears in this group…Pippy you are new to Waterdeep, and I need someone I can trust. We have a vested interest in finding Xale, and I will not be denied!

Naneatha attempts to protest, but her grief combined with Meleghost’s obvious willingness to force the issue makes it a short argument, and he promptly disappears leaving Talbot in his wake. Looking uncomfortable, Mercy again introduces himself and suggests that they get started early on the morrow. Heads still spinning, Pippy and Faenor insist that it be over Breakfast at the Titty and Whistle. They all agree to meet back at the church in the morning.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to our friends, a Portal has re-opened in the basement chamber of The Church of Mystra, and out of it steps a face they might be glad to see: Tiarmus. Dazed and confused, he wanders for a bit before being collected by a repair crew and taken to Meleghost. After dismissing the peon, Meleghost demands to know who he is and what he was doing in the sub-chambers of the church. Being his usual truculent self, Tiarmus refuses to answer, and is subsequently held, and silenced.

Soon, he finds himself in the office of Meleghost, who thanks him for his time and sends him on his way. Confused, Tiarmus makes his way to the Titty, but does not find his friends there. He speaks with Phlagren Fathead about them, who says they were in the day prior, and saw no reason they wouldn’t be back in the morning. Tiarmus heads down to the Bay to be with his underwater friends for an evening, gather his thoughts, and vows to come back to the Titty the following morning to find his friends.

After meeting at the Church of Selune the next morning and communing with Naneatha briefly, Faenor and Pippy leave with Talbot to find Arius. He is not hard to locate, swinging his hammer furiously in the forge at his master’s smithy. Refusing to come at first, Faenor’s faltering but impassioned words finally convince him to rejoin his friends and he once again dons his armor for the cause of good, though tempered now by sorrow and newfound wisdom, hard won. Then have looks at Talbot and says, “Who the hell is this guy???” After a brief explanation, Arius shrugs it off and they all head down to the Titty and Whistle for a bite. When they step inside, imagine their shock and joy to find their friend Tiarmus inside, having a beer and chatting up Fathead like he’d never been gone! After much rejoicing and some swapping of tales, Tiarmus asks after Smigley and a pall descends upon our heroes….the rest of their breakfast they spend in silence, in honor of how little of it there would have been were their friend not gone.

portal_space.jpgResolving that his death be not in vain, and fortified with breasts and victuals, our adventurers once again set forth to the Yawning Portal seeking entrance to Undermountain. This time their path to the Inn is unhindered, and they step inside to a lively scene. As they enter, a shadowy figure at the back of the bar gets off a stool and slinks along the wall to a partially hidden door. Whoever it is attempts to be stealthy, but seems not well-suited to the art; Faenor spots him and follows, as the rest of the party takes up seats at the bar. Several minutes pass before he returns, to everyone’s relief, reporting that there is a long hall and then a stair leading to a room with several loud voices emitting from within. Throwing most caution to the winds, the party brazenly blasts through the door in spite of the strangely half-hearted protestations of the bar staff. Crashing into the room, they find three humans, a gnome, and a half elf sitting around a table playing dice. Asking about the portal and getting no response, everyone heads for the door on the opposite side of the room. The figures at the table stand and put hands to blades, but after taking a better look at our intimidating heroes, think better of it and return to their game.

The party enters a room twice as long as it is wide, and immediately after doing so, a stone door crashes down behind them, sealing them in and activating a trap! The room is a puzzle, and every round our heroes spend trying to solve it, they are in excruciating psychic pain from a bright blue line of magic imbedded in the wall. Reaching the pedestal at the far end, Talbot finds four symbols and some Draconic writing, which he can read. The symbols match those of the four pillars in the corners of the room, and the writing is the order in which the switches at their bases must be depressed. Moving quickly, the party steps in sequence, and then Faenor is able to disarm the trap at the pedestal. When he does, a stone door slides out behind it, revealing the hidden portal.

balsdfna.pngHealing as much as they dare, the party immediately steps through the portal, only to find themselves ambushed by a Skullcrusher Sargeant named Gorrk, along with two of his cohorts! The battle is hard fought and vicious, but brief, and soon Gorrk and his lackeys lie slain. Badly bloodied and spent of magic, the party heals what they can and then risk a night’s rest in the portal chamber itself. Though voices are heard down one corridor in the night, nothing untoward occurs and the party is able to continue. On Gorrk’s corpse they find a silken bag emblazoned with the symbol of Shar, and inside, some gems and a crude map. Talbot is able to discern the scribblings and identifies two locations nearby: Pokey Bitz, and Booze Boobz and Doodz. The party reasons that Pokey Bitz seems closer, so they head there first. After a few uneventful subterranean miles, they arrive upon a door embedded in the stone of the hall, with torches ensconced on either side and a sign that says Pokey Bitz. as it happens, that is both the name of the Goblin proprietor, and the nature of his wares; weapons and armor, and good ones. The party seems to feel this is a good time to shop.

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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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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.

MM35_PG53.jpg

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 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!!!”

2150D53C162150D32EC81E50D32991.jpg
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.

Larion.png
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 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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