Adventurer's Beware

12 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – Escaping the Intrigue of Waterdeep

The following morning, the group immediately set about business always keeping an eye over their shoulder. While eating breakfast, they noticed a group of Zhentarim in the inn obviously watching them. After deciding to liquidate some of the wealth they had obtained, the group split into three pairs. Aelith and Dyan’ette stayed at the Inn to ascertain the Zhents while Tamnai and Carden would travel back to the Temple of Sune to purchase some healing potions and for Tamnai to tithe. After a persuasive discussion, Rhogar and Yeshua were to go to the Order of the Gauntlet and return the stolen sword that had Carden marked for a warrant.

Tamnai and Carden were able to purchase the few potions desired and she provided a tithe to the church to assist those in need. Rhogar and Yeshua were able to persuade Onthar to accept the blade and lift the warrant, though they were not able to extract who had placed the warrant in the first place. Onthar agreed to remove the posters and retract the warrant. He would then assure the sword was returned and still seemed indecisive on allowing a known thief to be pardoned without any other form of punishment.

Aelith and Dyan’ette were able to hear a few rumors in the Blushing Mermaid while waiting the others return.

- Laeral Silverhand replaced Dagult Neverember as Open Lord of Waterdeep last year (1489 DR). Dagult, after losing Waterdeep, consolidates his power by concentrating his efforts as Lord-Protector of Neverwinter.

- Many nobles and guildmasters of the city are vying for the attention of or conspire against the new Open Lord Laeral Silverhand, while trying to use the transition to get rid of rivals This political chaos, many of the city’s residents consider it as ‘business as usual’.

- Laeral Silverhand recently gathered enough support to restore noble titles and property to noble families who lost them through misfortune or folly and took them from those who bought them over the past years (1490 DR).

Prior to noon, everyone returned and the group enjoyed a final meal in Waterdeep before saddling their horses and leaving the city. Their trip through the busy streets was uneventful and they soon found themselves beyond the walls on the Trade Way heading south to Daggerford.

The group made good time in the clear weather and passed several groups along the road. After passing Zundbridge and the Dessarin River, they continued until dust. Likely a half dozen miles before the Ardeep River, everyone set to task of preparing camp for the night and watch.

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11 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – Split the Party and all hell breaks loose

Before dawn, Zephyros joined the group and announced that it was time for them to depart. The group gathered their items and horses and slowly winded down the cloud ramp some 500ft above the ground below. Back on dry land, they looked up to barley glimpse the cloud tower rising back into the dark sky. A quick discussion between the party revealed that they were likely north of Waterdeep and east of the High Road. This proved true as the group traveled southwest and reached the High Road as dawn started to light the sky.

The group traveled less than an hour to reach the outer walls of Waterdeep. They immediately noticed a large encampment just north of the wall comprised of numerous tents and wagons with visible tools reminiscent of mining. While passing through the awakening camp, the party queried a few of the dingy folk to learn that most of the Waterdeep mines in the Sword Mountains north of the city collapsed few days back from a sudden earthquake. The group assessed this information and realized that this quake must have been a few days after the one triggered near them in the Forlorn Hills. The miners seemed downtrodden and voiced their sorrow at many of their companions that lost their life in the earthquake.

Entering the North Gate, the party quickly announced their intentions and stated that they should meet later at an inn. Tamnai offered the Blushing Mermaid as the closest inn to her shop in Dock Ward near the southern gate of the city. All agreed to meet there after their business was conducted.

Tamnai stated she would go to the House of Healing, the Guild of Apothecaries and Physicians in North Ward to pay her dues and then on to the Temple of Beauty in Sea Ward to tithe and pray to Sune.

Rhogar and Yeshua intended to find the Order of the Gauntlet’s office in Waterdeep and look at the admission requirements.

Aelith asked Carden to take his warhorse to the inn since he wanted to deliver Zi Liang’s message to the Thann estate in North Ward. The ranger stated he would join Carden at the inn as soon as he finished his task.

Carden agreed to secure rooms and stabling at the Blushing Mermaid and to wait for the others there. After Tamnai asked him, he also agreed to deliver Naxene’s letter to the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors Guild in Castle Ward on his way.

Dyan’ette under his typical elven disguise announced that he was going to visit The House of Wonder, temple to Mystra and would join the others later.

Tamnai’s Story:
Tamnai concluded her business at the Guildhall and was pleased to be at the Temple of Beauty again. After discovering that Sarita, her sponsor, was in Neverwinter, Tamnai encountered a rival in the form of Vain Selariss, a Heartguard in the Order of the Ruby Rose. His pleasant, yet suspicious nature of Tamnai, released memories of her early difficulty within the temple. Vain, though admired and swooned upon by many, had always been colder to Tamnai and she was certain it was his jealousy over her blessings from Sune. Rumors suggested that Vain, regardless of his devotion, had never been granted spells from Lady Firehair and Tamnai had received the Lady’s blessings almost immediately. Vain also revealed that a Mulan man had asked for her and he directed the man to her shop since he was not aware that she had returned. Tamnai was stunned to realize that the Untherites were using her rareness to follow the group. She was also informed that the High Priestess wanted to speak with her after her prayers. Nervous and uncertain, Tamnai finished her prayers and rejoined Vain in the courtyard to be escorted to the High Priestess’ chambers. Once there, Vain scowled at her as she walked forward to the doors opened by the Heartwarder’s aid. Heartwarder Annalah Brightstar, High Priestess of the House of Beauty, welcomed Tamnai and asked her to sit with her on the open balcony looking at the sea beyond. A feeling of grace and acceptance washed over Tamnai and she freely revealed her experiences since she left Waterdeep with her High Priestess. Neither judgmental or aloof, Annalah listened to all and offered advice and comfort to Tamnai. She further suggested that Tamnai remains blessed by Sune and that alone should remove the doubt she commonly carries. The conversation ended after Annalah informed Tamnai of the lore and beliefs that surround a revenant. Reassured by her discussion, Tamnai left to join the others at the Blushing Mermaid to share some of her conversation.

Rhogar’s story:
Rhogar and Yeshua discovered that the Order of the Gauntlet operated from Vigilance Hall, a stone militant-looking structure near the Field of Triumph in Sea Ward. Upon their arrival, they were greeted by a few followers of Torm and Tyr before meeting Onthar Frume. The paladin of Torm introduced himself as the Order’s emissary to the Council of Waterdeep and current leader of Vigilance Hall. The boisterous and gregarious paladin asked Rhogar to relay his tales of adventure and the good that he has spread in the realms. The two exchanged tales for nearly an hour and Rhogar described both the Black Earth Cult menace and the recent giant encounters. Onthar relayed that the recent earthquake in the Sword Mountains may be related to the recent Earth Cult removal by Rhogar and his fellow adventurers. Yeshua spoke little but agreed with the tenets of the Order of the Gauntlet and convinced Onthar that his path was aligned. The Helmite showed them the wall of bounties and reviewed the most dangerous and most wanted. Rhogar discovered Carden’s wanted poster among them. The large bearded man bellowed his approval and provided both small pins with the Order of the Gauntlet’s symbols and challenged them to demonstrate the Order’s tenets in their deeds from this point forward. Rhogar and Yeshua left the Hall amid smiling faces and congratulatory handshakes. They turned their questions toward finding the Blushing Mermaid Inn to reunite with their fellow party members.

Aelith’s brief story:
Aelith concluded his business with Cauldur Marskyl at House Thann as requested by Zi Liang. He delivered an item for her and in exchange received a magical hat of Kara-turan design. The hat was in a large velvet bag and he had to endure the rituals of requesting an audience and the follow-on protocols of actual conversation with one at a noble estate in the North Ward. On foot, he slowly made his way back to the Dock Ward and the Blushing Mermaid Inn

Carden’s story:
Carden easily navigated Waterdeep and delivered the letter from Naxene to the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. The bureaucratic Scrollkeeper Karvin received the missive and provided the rogue with some meager coin assuming he was a messenger. Dismissive, Carden left the guildhouse and headed south when he received a flash similar to the one in the caverns. Through a dark film, he witnessed an armored man kneeling high above the city looking out over the docks and the structures below. The whitehaired man turned to view him through one good eye and another milky eye bisected by an old scar. As the vision diminished, Carden assumed that the location must be the Plinth, an interdenominational temple and one of the tallest buildings in the Trades Ward. Roughly five blocks away, Carden hustled along on the horse to reach the six-storied structure. Once there, he quickly paid a few lads to watch his and Aelith’s mounts and started his ascent. Eventually, he found the kneeling man on the sixth floor still praying it seemed. The isolated room opened to the air and sun at the end where the man knelt. Carden slid quietly to the side to reveal more about this large man. He discovered a longsword laying atop a shield before the man and then the man slowly turned as if waiting for him. It was revealed that the man, Meirson Berekland, was a Doomguide of Kelemvor, the Lord of the Dead and Judge of the Damned. A cryptic conversation between the two continued and Carden revealed his brand. Meirson spoke of the canons of Kelemvor and that undeath could not be tolerated. He offered Carden an alternate path to be rid of the undead mark and its foul master that would certainly doom him and those he cared about. Still confused, Carden listened and believed the paladin’s words. Not fully understanding the situation, Carden repeated the tenets of Kelemvor, recited the Canons of the Judge of the Damned, and pledged to an oath to the Lord of the Dead. He watched as Mierson cut his own hand, then Carden’s and held the brand. A shrouded gray mist consumed Carden and consciousness left him. He awakened to Mierson’s shakes and water upon his face. The paladin smiled and stated that Carden must seal his oath. The doomguide revealed the brand now on his own hand as he raised it over his heart and stated “Undeath cannot be tolerated, it must be banished, it must be destroyed. Without hesitation, Carden understood and drew his shortsword and pierced the brand the hand and the heart beyond. Mierson smiled and simply started to turn to a gray ash that dissolved into the breeze. Carden looked stunned as he kneeled over the paladin’s remains. A quick investigation discovered the paladins’ clothes, old chain mail, his shield, his longsword, a compass with a black scale embedded into its bottom, and a small purse with a written note describing the items other than the compass and a burial slot reserved in the City of the Dead. Carden gathered the items and delivered them to the burial slot in the City of the Dead. The graves keeper stated that the ordered headstone would not be complete for another few days, but the plot was ready. Unsettled, the rogue continued his journey to the Blushing Mermaid.

Dyan’ette’s Story:
The dark elf, under his normal magical disguise headed directly to the Temple of Wonders, the temple and arcane university of Mystra. Once there, he was guided by Viestah, second wand of the third circle to the library after paying the 10-gold coin fee for the day. Hours passed as he researched magical item construction. Trusting he had learned what he could for a day, he decided to go to the Black Network Mercenary Company and pretend to be a wizard for hire looking for some work. He found the Zhentarim’s building in South Ward along Coach Street and entered past the ruffians on the porch to be lead to a manager known as Noreye Daleborn. The bald bearded man stroked the glimmering gem on his ear as he exposed a fortuitous event to Dyan’ette. He unveiled that a mere hour earlier, a report arrived that a dark elf with his companions at the Northfurrow End in Goldenfields was openly speaking about uncovering the Zhentarim’s secrets. That this very drow was working for the shadowy drow group known as Bregan Daerthe and was in Waterdeep under a disguise as a surface elf. He confirmed that the description was exactly a match for what sit before him and that he was elated at such a surprise fortune. Dyan’ette quickly excused himself and Noreye even told him as he left to give greetings to his party when he reached the Mermaid. The dark elf quickly made his way to the Blushing Mermaid uncertain at how the Zhentarim could have gained so much information so quickly.

Carden reached the Mermaid first and paid the steep fee for six private room and stabling for six warhorses. Aelith entered just minutes later and passed Carden who tried to get his attention. Aelith revealed that Carden’s image had changed and the rogue found a mirror that exposed his younger self, regenerated earlobe and an addition of a white streak above that ear. Agitated, Carden started his tale openly in an alcove of the main room. The din of the Blushing Mermaid made it difficult to hear, but Aelith was visibly appalled by the rogue’s actions in an open cell of a temple. The others trickled in causing Carden to retell the story over and over getting further each time. Once all were there, Yeshua suggested that the conversation be taken to one of the private rooms. Once there, everyone revealed their actions since splitting the party that morning. Carden’s murder of a paladin of Kelemvor and subsequent acceptance of the faith, Dyan’ette’s deliberate encounter with the Zhentarim, Rhogar and Yeshua’s joining of the Order of the Gauntlet and witnessing Carden’s wanted poster, and Tamnai’s discovery that the Untherites were asking about her at the temple and her shop. Only Aelith seemed to have had a nondramatic morning.

The group gathered their wits, ate lunch and then decided to visit the dragon scholar with hopes to leave the city before one of their exploits caught up to them. The residence of Chazlauth Yarghorn was found in the North Ward on the corner of Saerdoun Street and Lion’s Street. The group was ushered in by the tall, impatient, and intellectual mage wearing fine green robes with golden trim and jewelry to impress others. His straight brown beard and short hair show a touch of gray, but his energy levels seemed excessive though he yawned frequently and rubbed his eyes as if he had not slept in many hours. After a long discussion, the mage assured the group that he could not ask the Lord’s Alliance to engage dragon’s for aid as they would vehemently refuse due to the recent past with the Cult of the Dragon and their attempt to return Tiamat to Faerun. However, he suggested they seek out draconic help since all dragon’s are known to hate giantkind due to the history between them back before the other races even walked the realms. He recommended the group search out Old Gnawbones, a very large green dragon known to live in the Kryptgarden Forest. She could certainly provide them knowledge and perhaps aid to defeat the giant’s. He was willing to bet his life on it, even though it would really be betting the group’s lives as they would be the ones to visit her. He offered some potions against poison if they do choose to visit her, since the party announced that they would have to return for such an endeavor as their goals were south for now. They did learn that Chazlauth had a silver wyrmling within his home that he considers a friend, even though it terrorizes his cats. Chazlauth identified the symbol that Carden had carried as a brand as that of the Dracolich known as Daurgothoth. He revealed that the entity was not only a dracolich, but also an archmage that warranted Mystra’s attention as he expanded the possibilities of the very weave. It is said that the dragon used the cult of the dragon to attain dracolich status and then betrayed them by twisting their rituals and devoured those that were present. A deep chill gripped Carden as he realized the entity that he was so close to committing his very soul to for powers. The group returned to the Blushing Mermaid before nightfall. A warm bath in scented waters and a soft bed did little to ease their discomfort from the day’s revelations.

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10 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – A Castle in the Clouds (continued)

Zephyros clears his throat to gather the group’s attention as their argument turns toward conversation. “I require your five questions if you still seek my aid?”

The party defers to Carden since he originally sought Zephyros’ aid in helping him understand his brand. The rogue walks toward the cloud giant and speaks, “I have two pressing questions and will leave the others to the group. I have been branded and offered power from an entity that I do not fully understand. Would that Entity’s goals result in harm to my companions? Is the Entity named Tyranthraxus?” The cloud giant smiles widely, almost as if he over exaggerates the expression, the nods his understanding and then looks at Rhogar who steps forward. The dragonborn then asks, “Can the Chalice of Bahamut be found on the Sword Coast?” Zephyros’ eyes lighten as if he likes the question and then nods his understanding. Aelith and Tamnai look at each other as they both take a step toward the giant. Aelith defers to the priestess with a wave of his hand. The tiefling straightens her back as if gathering her resolve and then asks, “Was my father’s death an accident?” The giant then looks toward the ranger. Aelith immediately adds, “Is there another scale similar to the ones Carden and I possess within 50 miles of this location?” Zephyros nods his understanding before continuing, “I shall confer with those beyond the veil. I ask again that you do not ascend my home and confine yourself to this room or the outer clouds, though be careful at their edges. You may wish to bring your mounts inside, though I expect you to clean after them if you do.” The cloud giant looks at the blood stains and soot that still remain on his marble white floors with a frown. “Maybe you can use some of your time here to remove the obvious evidence that you were here. If all goes well with my ritual, I will return in less than an hour. If not, it may be awhile longer.” With that, he levitates back upward through the large opening to the second floor. A few moments later, you here some screeching far above and as you look up into the opening you can see a large creature staring back down at you from another chamber further up the tower over 200 feet above. Its eagle like head screeches and then darts across the opening giving a glance at its feathery neck that leads into a feline like body.

Tamnai sighs and stretches before looking around. “Does anyone know presdigitation or do we have to clean this by hand?”

“Hmm?” Dyan’ette responds, almost as if his mind is elsewhere while he stares at the still unconscious captive. “Oh, yes.” An arcanic phrase here, a wriggling of the fingers there, and suddenly the red lenses in his glasses flash a soft red glow as his arcane focus flares to life with Mystra’s weave. Red blood, wet and dry, becomes waxy as it mingles with itself. The scuffs left behind from well-worn boots, peel from the pristine white tile and begins to float upwards to eye level. After a few moments, blackened feathers begin circling about. The whirlwind of damage grows until all physical traces of battle are chasing one another in a growing ball of mischief, that simultaneously seems to become smaller as it pulsates with a faster rhythm. Just as it seems the spell is about to fail and the ball of gore and filth is going to explode, the dark elf snaps his fingers, and the blackened, pulsating ball instantly vanishes leaving everything as clean and pristine as it was before. “A flare for the dramatic, to be sure. But i do so love that spell,” he says, more to himself than anyone else. Turning to the monk, and casting a glance towards Tamnai and Rhogar, he clears his throat and says, “What do we do about him?” as he points to their newest captive.

Nodding Tamnai moved behind the captive. “We ask him questions of course. His friends were very rude and honestly another elemental cult disturbs me.”

As the group moves toward the bound cultist, Carden speaks up, “Take that armor first. He might feel less confident without his feathery garb. Never hurts to put a prisoner on edge, especially for an interrogation…”

Tamnai chuckled and begin to play with the red of her hair. “Do you have a way to remove full armor without taking off bindings? Because that is quite a trick.” She teased.

“Hold person is just as effective,” quipped Dyan’ette, his nose buried in the giant tome.

Aelith seems nervous. “What, exactly, does ‘interrogation’ entail with this group?”

Rhogar states firmly while making eye contact with Carden and Dyan’ette, “We will not harm a helpless captive. We can handle questioning this one without resorting to violence.” He turns toward Tamnai, “Cleric, I can place him in a zone of truth for 10 minutes if that would be helpful.” To Aelith, “Ranger, would you like to take part in the interrogation to ensure that nothing unsavory is done? You seem like someone skilled with words.”

“Rhogar, my paladin friend, if i wanted him dead, i would not have gone through the trouble of keeping him alive,” Dyan’ette gestured offhandedly, removing his nose from buried the book to make eye contact with the Dragonborn. “He has nothing to fear from me. But i will say this, and it’ll be the last I speak of it, leaving an enemy behind to regroup is folly.” Dyan’ette shrugs, “that seems to be the way of things up here on the surface, and i will abide by those rules for now, even as I disagree with them.”

As an aside to Aelith, Carden mutters, “Usually we just yell at them until they panic and say something. Hopefully this Zone of Truth thing works better, I don’t want to piss off our host with our screaming…”

“Rhogar, if it’s alright, I wanted to try something. You can still cast the zone of truth if you wish.” She smiled, all fangs, her eyes ever so slightly nervous. “Is there any specific questions we want to ask or can I just do this?”

“As you wish. I’m interested to see what you will do.” Rhogar looks at the cultist and smiles a toothy smile.

Tamnai pulled a copper piece out of her bag, tying it back up after. Before she touched the cultist’s head muttering a few words to wake him up. Her hand lighting bright with holy light, and his wounds healing slightly. She tilted his head up to look at her. “Now, I like to think I am a good person, so I’m going to make this as painless as possible.” She took a step back and flipped the coin in her hands muttering softly, dark Sparks spilled from her fingertips and her eyes closed naturally. Her stripes seemed to darken for just a moment, as the copper warbled in the air and then disappeared. As she finished her casting her eyes slid open, no whites remained just the golden color and thin slitted pupils. She crouched down to the captive’s level. “Now tell me what your group’s aims are.” The words lisped slightly behind larger fangs.

The man looks somewhat intimidated at the use of magic and his eyes have a semblance of panic that do not fully understand what is going on. He bumbles a few words, before calming enough to state, “We are the Howling Hatred. We are devoted to Yan-C-Bin, the true lord of air and skies. There is no need to hide our goal. We only sought to offer the giant an alliance. Our mission is to punish those who have wronged against the skies and the giant would have been a great ally.”

Dyan’ette continues scribing, half listening to Tamnai and Rhogar’s questioning. Fanatic, he thinks to himself. They come in all flavors, it seems. With a smirk on his lips, he continues his work, nothing right now is more important that the knowledge in Zephyros’ tome.
She nodded and smirked, “who are those who’ve wronged the sky?”

He looks up at the Sunite, “I would say you at this point since you murdered two of their priests and thrice that in Feathergale Knight escorts.” [His thoughts reveal little more as if he does not know any one individual or group that has wronged the sky. As if he was simply repeating what he has been told.]

The Feathergale Knight looks about at the group as if out of his depth before speaking loudly to let them hear, “Look, I am just a Soldier. I swore an oath to protect my charges, and you killed them. Once battle engaged, I had no choice. It was my duty. What is she doing to me? Why are her eyes all blank and shiny?” [Tamnai sees his surface thoughts as a plea to survive. He obviously thinks the group is going to murder him.]

Dyan’ette sighs inwardly, eyes staring towards the giant’s book. “Same story as the earth cultists,” he whispers. "People throw their lot with organizations they claim to know nothing about. Either they are lying or they are incredibly ignorant. “Even during my tenure with Bregan D’aerthe, I knew who’s company I kept and how my association with them reflected upon me. “They started the battle. Had it gone differently, I doubt they would show us such… mercy.”
She didn’t seem to notice Dyan’ette’s speaking or even the Knight’s plea to the group. “Will you tell your friends about us if we let you go?”

He quickly blurts out, “No, no!” I will keep your secret. [Tamnai easily sees his thoughts confirming the lie. She also sees his doubt of his ability to return as if it could take weeks on foot to return and his worry that most of those he considered friends were among those slain.] His eyes avoid Tamnai’s glare, “I have no means to return to those you call my friends since you likely scared off our mounts.”

Dyan’ette looks up from the tome briefly to watch both Yeshua and Aelith for their reaction, content to sit back and watch this unfold from the corners of his eyes.
She shook her head. “I didn’t plan on killing you, but you lie to me again and I won’t hesitate to push you off this cloud.” She pulled herself up to her full height, “We killed your friends, some here won’t hesitate to kill you. Why should we let you live?”
The words of a spell sits the dark elf’s lips, and his fingers grip quill and parchment aching for movement, as the lens on his glasses begin to glow with magical energy… Please don’t. His thoughts race…

The knight looks confused before answering, “What manner of murderers are you? A admit the priest provoked your man, but then we replied as sworn by our oath. Do you have no honor, no compassion, no morals? If this is the way of your group, perhaps the priests should have enlisted you instead. Any answer I give will not appease you demon-spawn! You are clearly out for my blood or my very soul!” He looks to the others, “What false gods do you follow that allows for blatant murder of an unarmed man?” [The surface thoughts are panicked and jumbled as if this man is truly fearful that his life will end at the hands of a demonic glowing eyed fanged monstrosity]

“You will not be harmed as long as you submit to our questions and swear by your god that you will not harm us in any way,” Rhogar interjects while keeping his tone of voice low and even. “But I would recommend not insulting anyone’s faith if mercy is what you seek.” 
He whispers to Tamnai, “Lets back it off a bit, my friend. He’s not going anywhere.”
Rhogar turns and kneels to speak directly to the cultist. “How are feeling? Are you hungry or thirsty?” Rhogar reaches into his pack and pulls out a ration and his waterskin and offers it to the captive.

“He’s a hired muscle,” Aelith says from his seat against the wall. “No matter how much he buys into their cult, he’s not one of the men making decisions for the cultists.” Aelith looks up as he speaks. “He’s not our enemy. Let him go.” Turning his attention toward the soldier, “do you want to see us again? Especially across the battlefield?”
Tamnai jerks back like she had been slapped, there’s a pause where she doesn’t move, doesn’t breathe, before she turns and runs out of the room, onto the clouds. 
Her eyes fill with tears as she sinks to the ground and hold in her sobs. Images of herself, twisted and evil in her mind.

Sensing the immediate danger pass, Dyan’ette allows the spell to dissipate, his lens returning to their normal shade of dull red. Pushing himself up from the table, he cracks his knuckles, and decides that he likely needs some air. “A man stabbed in the heart cares not if the cutthroat holding the dagger believes in the cause. Dead is dead to the man who died, end effect is the same.” He moves to follow Tamnai out the great doors, “I will see to our Sunite friend.”

The man seems very confused at the sudden outburst before looking at the dragonborn. “I would be grateful for the food and water.” he then looks toward Aelith, “I do not want to cross your path again.”

“When the giant lowers the… cloud… bridge… staircase… whatever we’re calling it, just send him on his way without weapon or armor. Tamnai was the one that said the guards were harmless and not a threat. Might as well believe that, right?”

A few moments after Dyan’ette exits, the group watches as Zephyros floats through the opening above. As the giant’s feet touch the floor, he looks at the group and sees that a couple are missing, “I have successfully contacted one beyond the veil, but this one seemed far too eager to give the information. I do not doubt that is accurate, but am curious as to why its interest in some of the questions.” The giant looks at the knight eating the ration and then suggests, “Perhaps this one would be best placed elsewhere for your revelations.” With that he bellows a deep call, “Garush, Clarost!” A screech from above is heard and then two large griffons dive through the opening and land at the giant’s feet. He points at the knight, “Take that one to your perch and watch it until I come for him.” The Griffons burst into motion and one topples the man over as it passes and the second clutches the man’s shoulders and starts ascending back through the opening above. The pounding of wings lessens as the beasts gain altitude and then Zephyros continues. “I will get straight to your questions. He looks at Carden, you asked if the entity’s goals will result in harm to your companions? The answer was that your companions’ welfare is irrelevant to the entity. When asked if the Entity was named Tyranthraxus? The response was immediately no.” The giant turns toward Rhogar, “You asked if the Chalice of Bahamut could be found on the Sword Coast? After a moment or so, the answer yes was received.” Looking toward Aelith, “Your query if there was another scale similar to the ones Carden and you possess within 50 miles of this location was answered with a sense of anticipation. The answer was much closer.” “I have the tiefling’s answer as well. Should I wait for her return? The dark elf owes me his story as well.”

Makeup smudged and slightly out of place, Tamnai straightened her back as she saw the giant. Prepared for another blow.  “Sorry to keep you waiting. What have I missed?”

“Less another question of peering into the ether and more a question to a scholar,” Aelith begins, pondering the giant’s reply. “Do you have any idea how we might go about searching for another of the scales? They don’t exude any signs of magic, which makes tracking them hard if not nearly impossible.” He glances up at Tamnai’s return. “My answer can wait until you share your scrying with her.”

Dyan’ette enters the great hall on the heels of the Tiefling, attempting but failing to wipe what looks like horse saliva off his palms as he rubs his hands against his robes. Knowing that he’s not part of this conversation, the dark elf continues past the gathered group, and moves to the table to finish the last of his transcribing, all the while, wondering what story to tell that would satisfy Zephyros’ curiosity.

The giant watches as the Sunite and dark elf return. Once Tamnai closes he looks at her, “Priestess of the Firehair, you asked if your father’s death was an accident. The answer came clearly with inflection upon each word, His was.”

She pauses, taking a breath in she nodded slightly. “Thank you for everything.” Her brows pull close as she considers his words.

Zephyros watches her reaction before turning to Aelith to answer his query. I do not know a means to track these scales you possess, though I sense a unique quality about them. They may be the means to finding others or perhaps it is left to simple chance or fate for those that believe such tenets. If you choose to stay, I shall move us higher and closer to Waterdeep. I can descend in the darkness before dawn and place you an hour or less from the north gates. Otherwise I can place you on the surface now. It is your choice. He glances at Carden, "You asked of that mark and I do recognize it as a draconic symbol. Perhaps you can find a dragon scholar in the city to aid you. For now, I am ready for my story. He moves and sits behind his table and looks patiently at Dyan’ette.

The drow tells Zephyros his tale of the underdark and the drow.

The cloud giant ponders the words of Dyan’ette’s recall of his kind and their homes deep beneath the surface as if committing them to memory. “Interesting, but not a site I would wish to visit.” A few screeches come from high above in the tower and Zephyros stands again, “I should feed my pets before they wish to turn their charge into a meal.” He looks at the group and offers, “Continue your rest and I can drop you near Waterdeep under the cover of darkness before dawn. I will offer you a single casting to view beyond the veil again if you have something of value in exchange.” He reaches into a large bag at his side and removes two barrels and a small crate. “One barrel of water and one of a wine produced in the Moonshaes should suffice for you and your mounts until you leave. The crate has a collection of cheeses and a think a few sacks of roasted nuts. I need some rest and will return before dusk. I ask you again to restrict yourself to this chamber and the clouds outside. We are much higher and the winds could prove problematic if you approach the edges. When I return, you can tell me your choices.” He moves beneath the opening and levitates slowly to the next floor some 100 feet higher.

Rhogar thanks the giant as he rises before asking Carden to assist him with the horses. Tamnai and Dyan’ette discuss the ring of spell storing and its replenishment as the rest of the group decides to rest.

When Zephyros returns, the party decides to refrain from further questions. The cloud giant beckons them to sleep and that he will place them north of Waterdeep before dawn under the cover of darkness. The party takes his advice and think of what they need to accomplish in Waterdeep the following day.

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10 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – A Castle in the Clouds

Shortly after dawn, the group is astounded as an enormous tower atop a billowing cloud a thousand feet overhead lowers toward them from the south. The tower appeared hundreds of feet tall and was capped by a spire that looked like a pointy wizard’s hat. As the tower drifted closer, nearly 500 feet above the group, stairs made of clouds began to form and descend to the ground before the party. The group rapidly discussed the anomaly and as soon as the stairs converted into a ramp some 15 feet wide, many urged their mounts up the ramp. As the party circled higher and higher up the ramp, it became apparent that the ramp was dissipating behind them some 50 feet or so. After several minutes climbing the ramp, the party found itself level with the base of the tower and all dismounted. Unnerved by the misty ground beneath them, the group slowly approached two 30-foot-tall doors that opened before them. They found themselves in an open archway beyond the doors leading to an empty vestibule. At its back hung a thin, translucent blue curtain flapping in the breeze. The party made their way beyond the curtain to enter a 100-foot-high hexagonal chamber containing a giant sized wooden table and stone chair. Dangling from the ceiling by iron chains were six crystal spheres with magical blue light flames dancing upon them. A second floor could be seen through a large hole in the soaring ceiling. Through this hole descended a giant nearly 20 feet tall with blue tinged skin, wispy white beard and hair, and dressed in a billowy purple robe with golden stars. As the giant levitated toward the floor, he smiled widely holding his staff firmly. He quickly assured the party that he meant no harm and pleasantly introduced himself as Zephyros, a scholar and friend to the ‘small folk’ of the realms. After introductions, the group quickly realized that the giant was more than eccentric, and likely spent much time alone as he mumbled to himself as spoke to them. He revealed that he has a special interest in the Moonshaes and recognized Yeshua as one of the Ffolk. The party asked why he was there and why they had been invited to his cloud tower. Zephyros considered the questions a few moments and then informed them that he was told to look out for travelers like them. He further informed the group about an issue amongst the giantkind that had recently upset the Ordning and explained that the Ordning was Annam’s law of providing order between the giants. The giants were ordered into a hierarchy from the most revered, the Storm giants, and then downward, Cloud, Fire, Frost, Stone and Hill. Only recently had the giants discovered the All Father’s disfavor and that each must prove themselves to establish a new Ordning. Zephyros seemed uncertain of many details, but stated that much like humans, not all giant races were bound by alignment or purpose. He revealed that his research led him to the village of Nightstone, but was horrified to discover that it had recently been attacked by a cloud castle under the rule of a misguided cloud giant and that the Nightstone that gave the village its name was taken. He believed the stone to be a relic of Ostoria, the ancient giant kingdom when Annam answered his children’s prayers. He spoke of whispers he receives when he pierces the veil of the planes to inquire of planar beings. He must not involve himself with the Ordning upheaval as the whispers warn caution in such direct involvement. He further reveals a tablet with a prophecy or omen that was what urged him to engage the party. Uncertain if their fate will lead to reestablishing the Ordning or of another great event unfolding, Zephyros shows them the tablet. It reads:
Day and night, a path unravels,
Shadows and light, together in travels,
Splendor’s lineage from planar hate,
Gilded scales of an honorable trait,
A secret of the isles released too late,
Faiths that bind the true.
Icy whispers to a mind near broken,
Power unveiled to the dark unspoken,
Revelations of the rarest of tokens,
Promises that bind the few.
He offers his services as a scholar and his ability to look beyond the veils for any knowledge the group seeks that does not involve the Ordning. Aelith quickly steps forward to provide the red dragon scale with the celestial essence. The cloud giant smiles even wider at the chance to discover the unknown and agrees to return with answers to the questions provided. He tells the group to remain in the lower chamber and make themselves at rest while he conducts his research.

After two dozen minutes after Zephyros departs, Tamnai and Dyan’ette hear flapping wings outside and see some large shapes pass by the entrance. The group turns to see what may be out with their mounts when two feathery robed humans with birdlike helms enter the chamber followed by several feathery scaled armored knights with spears. They dismiss the party’s presence and one boldly demands, “Where is the giant? The master of this tower?” The party, never one to accept rudeness or dismissing remarks, answer with sarcastic responses and tones. After asking who enters uninvited and pushing the point, the men named Amarath and N’von callously retort that the Howling Hatred has business with the giant, not his servants or guests if that is their lot. Cooler heads prevail and Rhogar suggests they wait for the giant much like the party. The group accepts the accord and start to spread about the room and inspect the chamber’s furnishings. N’von clearly takes a dislike to Carden who continues to jab at the man with insults. Offended at such disrespect, N’von draws open his backpack and gestures toward Carden. An unseen force slams into the rogue and pummels him severely. Chaos erupts and a battle ensues. The two leaders quickly cast vortexes that bash at Dyan’ette and Tamnai as they call out for the knights to slay the casters first. However, the party is no strangers to battle and counter with quick responses. The next minute ends with the knights and casters slain except for one sleeping knight, the group battered somewhat mostly by the invisible stalker, and Carden dying on the hard floor after being bashed to submission by that elemental force. As the group binds the sleeping knight, Zephyros floats down into the chamber again. Somewhat baffled by the carnage on his clean white floors, the giant asks what happened. After the group tells him, he seems uncaring and asks that the group removes the mess since they made it. The bodies are dragged outside where nine large vultures are perched opposite the groups horses. Upon seeing the party, they screech and shuttle about and only take flight away once Rhogar tries to approach them. A few of the bodies are tossed from the cloud, though Aelith makes it clear that such action is careless as they will become projectiles as they plummet to whatever may be below. The rest are left at the edge of the cloud after the party loots them.

The group returns to find Zephyros sitting at his desk and mumbling, but he quickly turns attention to the party as they return. He is quick to relay his findings about the scale:
• Is a being trapped within it? No
• Is the item a weapon? No
• Are there more than two of these items? Yes
• Are extraplanar beings looking for the scales? Perhaps, in service to others
• Did we find them so they can aid us? Yes, united they may
The cloud giant offers to transport the party to a site of their choice if they so choose. When asked about Waterdeep, Zephyros states to fly the castle above such a large city may be dangerous and will not risk his home for such a trip. He does offer to speak beyond the veil once more if the party wishes him to do so, again stating that it cannot include the Ordning. If the party so chooses to spend the night, he can get them closer to Waterdeep and even offer them a third inquiry beyond the veil, but suggests an offering of wealth equivalent to their inquiries for these additional revelations. The party considers the offer and asks if they could discuss for a time before deciding. Zephyros agrees and states he could also research any questions they may have through his extensive resources overnight if that is also needed.

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09 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – East along the Northfurrow Trail

After breakfast, the group gathers their mounts and travels back through Goldenfields to the entry gate. Zi Liang approaches Aelith alone as the group passes the abbey and asks him to deliver a pendant to Cauldar Marskyl, the head butler of House Thann in Waterdeep, where he will receive a gift in exchange. She thanks him for his aid to Goldenfields and feels he does not share the affinity with the drow that the others do. She asks him to swear that he will not allow the drow to foul her gift. Determined to travel to Waterdeep, the party departs with a clear sky and gentle breeze from the west. The day goes uneventful and a camp is truck just off the trail for the night that also passes without issues.

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07-08 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – Siege and the aftermath

With Aelith still battling the giant atop the 20ft wall and the water elemental now banished, the rest of the party focused their efforts. A sleep spell from Dyan’ette overcome the severely injured hill giant beside Aelith and dropped another goblin that toppled from the wall with a sickening thud. The others focused their assault with ranged weapons and magic on the other giant and remaining goblin. Within moments, the sleeping giant was slain along with the goblin. The remaining giant, having been wounded ferociously and seeing his companion dead, quickly through up his hands and yelled “Render! Render!” aver and over. Most of the party recognized the surrender, however Dyan’ette chose to cast a firebolt upon the surrendering giant and slew it. Yeshua, Rhogar, and Tamnai turned to the dark elf with disgust on their face, but the dark elf simply shrugged and replied, “We don’t leave enemies behind.” Zi Liang clearly saw Dyan’ette’s actions and approached from behind scolding him loudly. “He had surrendered you fool and likely had information that could have helped us determine the strength and reason behind this attack!” As the dark elf turned toward the woman, she immediately recognized his heritage and screamed “Drow! Drow! We have a…”. Her screams were cut short as Tamnai cast a hold person on the ally from Goldenfields. A recent victory was turning into a bad situation fast. Aelith, atop the wall, ignored the confusion below and strained to see beyond the wall. He glimpsed a half dozen goblins scurrying away due south. Below, Yeshua and Rhogar were arguing with Dyan’ette and Tamnai about the situation and called for the release of Zi Liang. The sunite dropped the spell and Zi Liang shot a vehement look at the priestess for robbing her of her free will before returning to the side of her druid ally. Rhogar tried to explain to Zi Liang and the druid that Dyan’ette was not like his kin’s reputation, but Dyan’ette’s impetuous outbursts about leaving Goldenfields to burn and insults about surface dwellers prevented any actual resolution. The residents of Goldenfields left in haste toward the abbey. The group paused long enough to loot the fallen enemies before deciding to return to the abbey.

Upon arriving at the abbey, the group witnessed the half-orc Captain of the Guard, Strog Thunderblade, speaking with the Abbot and others about the attack and sweeping the community to assess damages and casualties. A series of insults were slung about, mostly from Carden, when the captain started asserting his assessment. The captain left and the abbott attempted to refocus on the issue at hand. Rhogar revealed that Dyan’ette was a drow, but vouched for him. The abbot was clearly worried and directed that Dyan’ette’s behavior while in Goldenfields would be a direct reflection of the paladin’s responsibility. Rhogar agreed and the group returned to the Northfurrow’s End to seek sleep to recover. However, only a few hours later, the loud ringing of bells awoke the group and they heard the calls that the town was under attack again. With only a short rest, the group gathered downstairs and exited the inn to see what was happening. They made their way toward the abbey as its bells were ringing loudly and being answered from the bells atop the walls about the community to the south and the west. They witnessed a group heading south that was comprised of Naxene, the mage of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, Zi Liang, the druid they encountered before, and two large hunting cats. A contingent of archers were heading to the west and the party decided to follow them. After jogging for several minutes, they approached the western wall and heard a loud thud as something struck the exterior tower rising before them. Strog was astride a horse and was commanding a lieutenant to man the wall with archers and repel the siege. He claimed that he was heading north to ensure that no other attacks were there while the abbey would handle the southern wall. The lieutenant was clearly confused since the south was certainly under attack as the bells rang there, but none rang in the north. Regardless, the man rallied his troops and set them to return fire toward the direction of what was hurling sporadic rocks at the tower. The group quickly surmised that the true battle was likely in the south and they started to run in that direction. A hardy pace for nearly ten minutes in full gear caused all but Yeshua to become exhausted, but they reached the southern tower under attack.

A quick discussion with the druids gathered there and Naxene revealed that at least three hill giants and a half dozen ogres were pummeling the wall with boulders. The party volunteered to attack the group from their flank or rear and then lure them closer so spells and arrows could be pelted into their ranks. Suddenly an archer was blasted from the wall impelled by a long spike attached to the helm of a goblin wrapped in a harness. Everyone looked in surprise as the projectile goblin was as dead as the archer. Gathering their wits, the group returned to its plan. A dozen or so wasps were called and then the lead druid concentrated upon the staff he carried and several of the wasps grew in size and then picked up the party members to fly them east and over the wall. The wasps circled the enemy position and dropped the party beyond their attention. The group surged forth to surprise the giants, ogres, and at least two dozen spike helmed goblins. The battle raged as the group attempted to consolidate their attacks upon the giants. Several party members took significant hits, but the giants slowly began to fall. Carden’s deadly strikes found vulnerabilities especially within the magical darkness summoned by Dyan’ette. Rhogar circled to take a flank by his own, but most of the enemy did not see him until he was upon them. Aelith and Yeshua struck hard and true anything near them, while Tamnai called forth the flames of Sune to punish the hideous malformed creatures. Abandoning the plan to lure the group to the wall, the party slew every last enemy on the field. An eagle soared by to confirm their victory and the party looted the fallen before returning to the wall to be hefted up by thick ropes.

The group, severely wounded and depleted slowly walked back to the abbey to see the abbot coordinating a damage assessment and casualty report. He thanked the party for their aid and assured them that they were the cause of the victory. He agreed to inform Goldenfields of such and agreed to provide a voucher for Dyan’ette at Carden’s request. He suggested that they get some rest, since it was now dawn and the guard will be able to sweep the community more efficiently in the light of day. Zi Liang spoke with Aelith in private as the group walked back to the inn requesting support in removing Strog as the Captain of the Guard due to his incompetence. Upon their return to the inn, Miros applauded them and stated that he would have a hardy meal and fresh steins of Goldengulp for them when they finished their sleep.

Midafternoon, the party gathered in the common room and Miros, as promised, delivered a hardy spread of food and drink. Many of the residents thanked the group over the next few hours as the party discussed, actually argued, their travel plans forward.
• Oren, the Halfling bard, asked if the group would check on his sister, Lily at the Happy Cow Tavern in Daggerford, and deliver a letter to her.
• Naxene Drathkala expresses her concern over the giant attacks and shares that word must be taken to the Lord’s Alliance as now is not the time for half-measures. Her recollection of history leads her to believe that the ancient conflict between dragons and giants could be used to end the giant’s rising. She asked the group to deliver a message to Chazlauth Yarghorn, a dragon expert in the North Ward of Waterdeep. She suggests they solicit his aid in contacting a powerful good dragon to persuade other good dragons to join in combatting the giant menace.
• Miros suggests the party travel to Amphail and “give his regards” to Arleosa Starhenge, the proprietor of a local tavern called the Stag-Horned Flagon. He admits that they were performers together and to tell her “her love of the whiskers” to prove the message is from Miros.
The group is approached by the abbot who personally thanks them for their aid during the siege. He informs them that Goldenfields suffered nearly two dozen deaths in the assault and siege along with a natural death of Renir Copperbeard. Surprised, the party learn that the ancient dwarf evidently died at peace clutching the coin they gave him. After this exchange, the group quickly discusses the ineffectiveness of Captain Strog Thunderblade and recommend his removal as the Captain for the community’s safety. Dyan’ette openly chastises those that agree and insinuates that they are playing politics and that the surface dwellers should be left to their own devises. The others look at the drow strangely since he has dumped all of the party in the same group he insults. The abbot agrees eventually and asks the group to come to the abbey for his discussion with the captain in an hour’s time.

The party arrives at the abbey and notice the abbot is joined by two other druids and Zi Liang. Shortly after, Captain Strog Thunderblade arrives and immediately is on the defensive. He suggests that the adventurers are there to discredit him and that he has performed his duties for the defense of Goldenfields well. He claims giants are beyond his control and such a threat could not have been avoided and maybe the adventurers were the cause of their arrival. The abbot listens to his argument, but in the end, he dismisses the half-orc of his duties and passes them to the lieutenant the group witnessed at the west wall. Strog storms out and angrily states he will be gone before dawn. Later the group learns he left Goldenfields with four others just before dawn. The group returns to the inn to rest before their departure the next morning.

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07 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – A peaceful day and a violent night

The morning brought a mild hangover to some and pounding head to Carden, who never drank alcohol before. Luckily, a large breakfast helped lighten the mood along with Miros’s cheerful spirit and smile. Tamnai checked on Yeshua, who asked to be left in solitude so he could ponder the information about his wandering friend. Dyan’ette returned to his room to scribe the last scroll into his spellbook as the others travelled to Harvesthome Abbey to speak with Abbot Ellardin Darovik. Upon arrival, the group witnessed a Shou female in simple robes arguing with the Abbot about the half-orc Captain of the Guard and his inability to protect Goldenfields. Seeing the group approach, the Shou left through a side entrance as the group approached the abbot. Aelith took after the Shou while the others spoke to the abbot.

Tamnai, Rhogar, and Carden relayed the destruction of the Black Earth Cult they found in the Forlorn Hills, but also relayed the discovery of the Devastation Orbs and that two others are unaccounted for at this time. The abbot, though a representative of the Emerald Enclave, displayed a passive nature and recommended that the group return to Daggerford with the information. He agreed to review the ledgers found on the cult and would return them on the morrow.

Aelith caught up with the Shou, one Zi Liang, to learn that her frustration is with the gluttonous half-orc captain of the guard who shirks his duties and has completed none of the repairs or reinforcements to Goldenfields since the first giant attack a few weeks back. She asked if Aelith can persuade his party to pressure the abbot in persuading the captain to do his job or replace him as the abbot may respect their opinion more than hers.

The group convened and returned back to Northfurrow Inn for lunch and was joined by Dyan’ette after completing his scribing. The conversation became guarded until Dyan’ette left the table, though none realized that the dark elf left Desdemona beneath the table listening quietly. Some exchange between Carden and Aelith about items of interest were shared with Rhogar and Tamnai. Both carried a dragonscale of different hue with a clear residue encapsulating a liquid that Rhogar determined to be celestial in nature. Dyan’ette listened carefully and pondered how he was to identify Zhenterim agents. As the evening approached, the group shared drinks and food with Dyan’ette, due to having to maintain a disguise, Yeshua, still sulking, and Carden retiring to their rooms.

A few hours after darkness, a commotion erupted as shouting from outside of an attack caused the party to respond. Aelith, Rhogar, and Tamnai erupted from the front doors to hear Oren, the inebriated halfling bard, scream that goblinoids were in the town. He pointed at the direction he came from just as Carden rushed around the corner after dropping through his open window on the second floor. Dyan’ette, made aware by his familiar, banged on Yeshua’s door to gather the monk and they rushed downstairs. Time seemed to speed up as the party jogged through the longhouses toward some distant screams. They collided with a group of attackers chasing locals near the wheat field. Two ogres, four bugbears, and just under a dozen goblins engaged the party. Steel and magic flashed as the party used their powers to make quick work of the marauders with little injury to themselves. Just as they finished, Zi Liang ran from the darkness and informed them that another group was near the livestock fields. She was heading to the Abbey to ring the alarm and asked them to please protect the citizens of Goldenfields.
The party rushed down the road and after several minutes they found themselves in the paddocks under the moonlight. The panicked whinnies of horses drew their attention as two more ogres were corralling the beasts to be slaughtered. Dyan’ette and Tamnai sent fireballs into the group of ogres, bugbears and more goblins. Carden pulled strange fur balls from his bag that turned into animals that fought at his will. Again, the party quickly slew most of the force with only a few goblins escaping into the wheat fields to the south. Most of the group witnessed Dyan’ette raise a bugbear into a shambling zombie and send it forth to slay goblins. However, Tamnai’s spiritual guardians tore into the undead and slew it once again. Realizing that they had taken wounds, the group started to heal when another bell tolled from the southern wall. The abbey bell also started to toll back to the east. Figuring that Zi Liang had reached the abbey, the group began running yet again to the southern wall following the bell there.
As the party appeared from the wheat fields some 80 feet from the wall, they noticed a third group of marauders returning to the wall to escape. The ogres and bugbears flung javelins while the goblins fired arrows as they closed on the wall in hopes to climb to freedom. Yeshua, with Dyan’ette’s spider climb spell rushed the marauders and gained the height of the wall. Aelith’s axes found skulls and spines as did Rhogar’s blade. When Carden called on use his eldritch bolts, they crossed and magic discharged into the ground. Moments later, a water elemental rushed up and sought the closest target, Rhogar. With the fall of the ogres and most of the goblins and bugbears, Yeshua turned to see two hill giants crest the wall. The battle turned as a giant hurled a small boulder to pound Tamnai and another smacked Yeshua decisively. The monk left the wall and Aelith took it with another spider climb from Dyan’ette. Carden, Rhogar, and Yeshua engaged the elemental while Dyan’ette targeted the giants. Tamnai healed as a druid and Zi Liang approached. The druid somehow banished the elemental, but called for the group to hurry as he knew not how long he could keep the elemental banished. The party turned their attention back to the two giants and few goblins still on top of the wall.

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05-06 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – Bargewright Inn and Goldenfields

As the group crosses the Ironford Bridge, they approach the wooden gates. Once a hilltop wayside inn, this site has become a walled community of ramshackle, often-rebuilt wooden towers and buildings now entirely cloaking a hill that overlooks the village of Womford across the river. Bargewright Inn reeks of manure and filthy mud. It houses blacksmiths, dealers who buy and sell horses, mules, and oxen, wheelwrights, coopers, and wagonmakers. It has a few inns, stables, and warehouses, and 2 concentric rings of high protective walls within gates that are firmly closed and barred by night. As the party passes into the thick mud beyond, a guard informs them that individuals can pay stiff fees to be raised and lowered after sunset on rope-slung chairs, but nothing beyond what they can carry can pass once the gates close each night. Desiring to be out of the mud, the group paces up the hill toward the Inn on the hilltop. A teenage pock-marked boy approached the party and took their mounts to the stables as the group entered the Bargewright Inn. The innkeeper, a half-elf named Nalaskur Thaelond quickly arranged private rooms with baths for all and a chambermaid for Rhogar to pamper the paladin. An evening meal of biscuits, pickles, pork roast, potatoes, radishes, and parsnips was accompanied by ale and wine for the group. Ben-Hadad announced his intentions to part ways in the morning so he can head east. His intention was to travel to Proskur in Cprmyr so he can deliver the news of the deaths of Cosima and Gromm along with any personal messages the party wishes to write. The sorcerer convinced Autumn to assist him in travelling swiftly and she asks the party to relay her decision to the abbot in Goldenfields once they return there. Aelith quickly peeled from the group to engage the locals in stories. Yeshua recognized that Nalaskur wore a simple braided bracelet similar to ones made by the monks at his monastery. After a small bribe, Nalaskur revealed he obtained the bracelet from a shepherd in Goldenfields named Shalvus Martholio. A soft bed and warm bath was welcomed by all.
Early morning on 6 Marpenoth, the group said their farewells to Ben-Hadad and Autumn and then settled their stabling fees after a hot breakfast. They retrieved their mounts to travel to Goldenfields and after a discussion, a decision to skirt the Dessarin River south instead of the longer road route was made. During the ride, Dyan’ette discovered a parchment in his pocket which he eventually shared with most of the group. The note was written in undercommon and stated the following according to the dark elf, “This pigsty of a town [Bargewright Inn] is under the influence of the Zhentarim, you are to learn as much as you can about the Zhents and identify any Zhentarim agents or connections you encounter while travelling the surface. You are also ordered to avoid the tunnels of the underdark at any cost, this warning will assure you live long enough to start fulfilling your service.” By noon, the group spied Goldenfields northern walls and quickly traveled to the gates on the southwestern side of the community.
Entering the large stone gatehouse carved with images of a full-bodied depiction of Chauntea and ascending the rise through both the outer and inner gates, the party found themselves in Goldenfields. They continued past both the 20ft tall wooden statue of Chauntea, a plump, smiling woman standing with her hands on her hips in a garden of golden wheat, and the stone building known as the “Earth Mother’s Bounty” seed store. Once past the livestock fields to their south, the group entered the central town of concentric half-rings filled with longhouses about the central plaza. Eventually, the group found itself before Northfurrow’s End, the local three-story stone inn. Tamnai, Rhogar, and Carden decided to visit Renir Copperbeard while Dyan’ette, Yeshua, and Aelith secured rooms.
Aelith quickly learned of Goldengulp, the local brewed beer, from Miros Xelbrin and Dyan’ette even shared some beer as he waited for the delivery of components to transfer spells into his spellbook.
As Carden looked through the ancient dwarf’s window, Tamnai and Rhogar pounded on the door until the dwarf finally heard the banging. A few moments later, Renir finally unlocked the door and ushered the trio into his home. Much emotions flowed as the nearly deaf dwarf was told after many attempts that Glitterhame was found. Rhogar gave the dwarf 50 of the ancient coins and he grasped one with such firmness as he beamed with pride that his research of Delzoun and his very purpose was not a waste. The other coins scattered to the floor and Renir nearly feinted when allowed to hold the elegantly carved statue of a female dwarven princess. Through clear eyes, the ancient dwarf begged the trio to take the items and the knowledge of Glitterhame to ‘one of the kings’. Much time passed as the group finally extracted that the dwarf meant of the kings of the current dwarven holds, whether Mithral Hall, Citadel Felbarr, Citadel Adbar, or Gauntlygrym. The dwarf asked to keep only the one coin and stated he needed to rest. The party let themselves out after Carden locked the door from inside and climbed through the window to the waiting Rhogar. Two farmers watched confused at the scene and hastily retreated once the dragonborn saw them. All three returned to Northfurrow’s End.
Yeshua used time to find the shepherd named by Nalaskur and eventually found the Turami man at the livestock fields watching over some sheep. The monk was not happy with what he discovered after his conversation with Shalvus Martholio. The shepherd described a man that matched the monk Teak, one that left with Killa many years ago. But the rest was disturbing as Shalvus described winning the bracelet almost a year ago from Teak as a wager. The monk was gambling in Red Larch but had lost a significant sum and stated that he was headed to Amphail to change his luck. Yeshua returned to Northfurrow’s End, stormed into his room, and started to meditate in private on the recent discovery.
All gathered for dinner except Yeshua and the discussions quickly turned losses over shared Goldengulp and wine. Oren, the Halfling, performed a sad ballad of lost friends as the group drowned themselves in hopes of better days ahead.

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05 Marpenoth (Leaffall) – Fresh Air and Overturned Earth

The group finally decided to return to the cavern beyond and seek an exit to the dark caverns adjoining the Glitterhame. After discussion, the party decided to follow the natural path of the water slowly winding from the room in favor of risking the climb to the chambers above. Rhogar explained much of previous events since their last long rest to Tamnai, who had obviously suffered a form of amnesia from the concussion she suffered from the dragon’s tail strike. Aelith suggested that the water could lead to the surface, but it could also delve deeper. Ben-Hadad surrounded himself in light and eagerly encouraged the group to travel so that the sun could be seen again. The cold waters brought a chill to the party as they waded above their waists and needed to submerge completely for periods to navigate lower ceilings and connections to the dark passage they traveled. Finally, almost an hour after their start, the group could see a glow from beneath the water ahead as if it opened to a light above. Each eagerly submerged to reach the glow and surfaced in a wide pool at the base of a rocky cliff. Ben-hadad rushed to exit the water and set his feet on solid earth as he looked at the open sky and the early morning beams of the sun’s rise. The party gathered on the pool’s shore and took a moment to wring some of the water from their attire as Aelith studied the surroundings to determine their location. The treasure seeker announced that they would need to travel away from the pool for him to get accurate bearings and so the group agreed. After two dozen minutes or so, the group crested a small wooded hill near the base of the mountain ridge. After a few moments and consultation, it was decided that the group were west of where Aelith had entered the caverns and likely south of where the party had entered above the sunken vale. The group continued circling west of the ridge and eventually came upon the opening to the vale. The orc encampment had been destroyed or evacuated as much of the vale’s far side had collapsed in a landslide of stone rubble and fresh earth. The group decided to continue through the recently upended foothills to wind about fallen trees and fresh rends in the earth from the earthquake’s fury. Dyan’ette asked the group to pause and allow Carden to apply a disguise to conceal his dark elf nature before the group encountered Autumn. The group agreed and after several minutes continued their trek in search of the pixie and their mounts. The whiny of horses caught their attention as they moved along the vale’s northern crest. As the group entered a thick copse of trees encircled by vines intermingled to serve as a fence of sorts. As the group looks at the saddles, barding, and gear piled in the center of the makeshift corral, a familiar voice was heard in the air. “You have returned! But not of the same consistency that you departed. Where are your half breed friends and who are your new companions? Dyan’ette snapped a sharp retort suggesting that Autumn avoid such questions at the time. The fluttering of thin wings darted across the opening and toward the horses before continuing. “There was an earthquake that caused significant damage in the area and I moved the horses here in hopes you would return. Feel free to prepare them for travel and I will return once you are ready to lead you north to the Iron Road. The ford we crossed before is best avoided as it has rained the past two days.” The group starts gathering the gear and saddling the horses as Rhogar starts placing the barding on his horse. Ben-Hadad walks by Dyan’ette and states in a low voice, “Your words to the pixie were much harsher than needed. Your outburst demonstrates your loss and I respect such, but you likely will find few that will accept you on the surface according to what you have said and the others have alluded. Perhaps restraint would serve you better in the future.” After the horses are prepared, Rhogar leads his barded mount to Yeshua and offers the monk the reins. “I have other means, so you may ride him for now.” The monk accepts the reins and mounts while Rhogar starts his summoning of his magical steed. Once the dragon-like steed appears, the group heads north following the voice of Autumn. Through hidden trails and narrow paths, the pixie druid is able to make significant travel initially through the overturned lands and eventually the winding hills. The party uses its time to speak in couples and avoids conversations as a whole due to the trail allowing only a couple of horses to gather close at any one time.

Emerging from the northwestern Forlorn Hills, the group decides to halt for a brief lunch before entering the Iron Road. As the horses graze on the grass nearby, the party gathers to eat their trail rations and drink deeply from their waterskins. A few conversations occur before Autumn’s voice can be heard from between Tamnai’s mount’s ears. “The road west will take us to the Ironford Bridge. It rests between the tiny village of Womford on the eastern bank and the walled community known as Bargewright Inn on the western bank of the Dessarin River. We should make the bridge before darkness if you do not tarry any longer.” Again, the group mounts and makes their way onto the Iron Road and heads west. Nearly 5 hours pass as the group gathers in twos or threes to start or continue their conversations. Ben-Hadad spends much of his time talking with the pixie druid and even shares a few laughs with her over the ride. Those listening catch some talk of questions of the lands of the Coast and those further east.

A few hours before sunset, the group starts to pass some farmsteads and see a handful of granaries as they approach the Dessarin River and what must be the village of Womford. A score of wooden structures gathers near the river and a large gristmill. As the party enters the village, they can see that the residents are winding down and packing their goods for the night to come. A few grizzled faces look upon the party with indifference as they pass and the group soon finds themselves at the Ironford Bridge, a long narrow ramshackle wooden bridge spanning the Dessarin. In the distance across the bridge is Bargewright Inn atop a hill. As the group crosses the river and approaches the walls of Bargewright Inn, the smell of manure and filthy mud fills the air. As the party passes the outer gates, they see that the community has two concentric rings of walls and a number of warehouses, animal pens, corrals, stables, and other small shops litter the inner walls. Chain mailed guards with a rough and tussled look watch the party as they pass, but avoid the group otherwise. The group head toward the hill and the inn for which the community earned its name, the Bargewright Inn.

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04 Marpenoth (Leaffall) cont. – Deeper into Darkness

After much discussion, the party chose to descend into the larger cavern in hopes of finding a way to resurface to the original rope-bridged chasm near the hall the entered. The climb proved nerve-wracking as only 100ft of hemp rope was available and the descent was at least thrice that distance. After knotting the rope for safety purposes and driving two pitons to help secure the grappling hook, the rope was tossed over the side and dropped into the darkness. Dyan’ette placed a spider climb spell upon Carden and the rogue quickly descended in hopes of finding ledges beyond the initial 60ft of smooth dwarven stone. He quickly found a few and called to the others to proceed. The group descended slowly and cautiously. Luckily for Ben-Hadad, Tamnai’s strength and will to hang onto the rope was all that saved the Zakharan as he slipped from the rope after a misstep. Eventually the group traversed the first 80ft onto the small ledges and crags and chose to make a more deliberate order for the second length of their descent. Carden climbed back up, retrieved the rope, and then joined everyone again just as Rhogar finished driving two more pitons into the cavern wall. Carden secured the rope and this time Rhogar decided to descend first. The grappling hook jerked as the cavern wall split and only the pitons prevented the dragonborn from toppling to the ground below. Rhogar bellowed “Carden!” as he retained his grip on the strained rope and then continued to climb downward. Tamnai, Yeshua, Ben-Hadad, and Dyanette anxiously made their way down. Again, waiting on small ledges or jutting cavern rock, the group waited as Rhogar pounded the last two pitons from his climbing kit into the cavern stone. Carden smiled halfheartedly as he secured the grappling hook again and then descended onto the final ledges some 30ft above the cavern floor and the magical light the group dropped from above before their descent. With only a minor slip from Tamnai, who caught herself, each started to descend. Rhogar and Tamnai joined Carden as the rogue whispered that he heard sharp clacking to their right. Rhogar removed his everburning torch and started winding down the narrow ledges with Tamnai and now Yeshua following. As Dyanette and Ben-Hadad finally joined Carden, the random clacking grew louder. Within moments, large carapaced bipedal creatures with long hooks extending from their elbow joints burst from the darkness. The hammer of warning pulsed to alert the group just as two came loping across the floor and another embedded its hooks to swing along the steep Cliffside toward Carden. Dyan’ette called out “Hook Horrors” as Carden dropped below his assailant. Ben-Hadad backed away from the large monstrosity and released a torrent of flames that burned the hook horror on the cliff deeply. The battle ensued. Dyan’ette and Tamnai both released fireballs on the two on the ground while Rhogar and Yeshua engaged in melee. Carden sent eldritch bolts to the one above as it viciously attacked Ben-Hadad and sliced the sorcerer deeply along his chest. Another Hook Horror emerged on the ground and the group intensified their assault. Ben-Hadad’s flames engulfed the one attacking him and it fell to the ground smoldering. As Dyan’ette’s sleep spell dropped the first two on the ground, Carden took advantage to kill the closest to him. A human emerged from the shadows to leap toward the other sleeping one and throw a handaxe into its skull with a sickening crack. The human held his hand aloft and the axe returned. Somewhat startled, the group split focus on the remaining hook horror while watching the recent arrival. Rhogar and Yeshua continued their attack on the large creature, whereas Dyan’ette and Tamnai watched the newcomer’s reaction as the dark elf called out “Are you friend or foe?” The newcomer replied, “Depends if you plan on letting that monstrosity escape!” The last hook horror leaped up the cliff and started climbing swiftly to escape. The newcomer drew a longbow and sent a shaft into the beast as the party now turned their firebolts, eldritch blasts, and sacred flames on the creature. Unable to endure the assault, the hook horror fell and crashed into the floor barely missing Yeshua and Carden as the pair tumbled from beneath it.

With the immediate threat removed, the party started to ask the newcomer questions. After introductions, Aelith explained that he was alone and was separated from his employers during the recent earthquake and subsequent release of orcs upon his charges. He explained that he was hired to lead a group of wealthy clients on an ‘adventure’ for a fair sum of coin. After choosing a safe cavern, he was doing so when the earthquake changed everything. The tremors opened a passage that revealed a group of orcs that chased the group. Further tremors brought a cavern ceiling down upon the orcs and left Aelith alone with no knowledge of whether his charges were buried or sealed like him in the darkness. He happened to see the light fall from above and waited to watch the strange descent to the cavern floor where he waited. Deciding that adding the ‘treasure hunter’ to the group increased the odds of survival, the party revealed their thoughts on the cavern and the possible way to ascend out. Rhogar asked the group to scour for dwarven stone rubble as they headed toward the sound of water in hopes of finding the fate of Gromm. Sadly, Carden found Gromm’s remains or what was left of them. After calling Rhogar over, the rogue reveled the partially devoured corpse of Gromm. A smashed lute, the worn backback, and the lower half pinned beneath heavy stone was all that was found. Tamnai chose to stay away as Dyan’ette and Ben-Hadad closed on the corpse. Rhogar prayed as Ben-Hadad molded the earth to form a flute-like head stone over the bard’s remains. Dyanette etched something on a sheet of paper and placed it at the stone after the others left. Rejoining Tamnai and Aelith, the group continued toward the sound of falling water.

It was not long before the next attack came, this time in the form of a swarm of carrion crawlers, large centipede-like creatures with paralyzing poison upon their tentacles and a maw full of sharp teeth. They emerged from a large hole in the floor and were followed by a huge crawler that towered to twice Rhogar’s height. The group were split somewhat, but the crawlers easily navigated the stalagmites and rough terrain to press the entire group. Rhogar and Yeshua held the front as Tamnai and Ben-Hadad supported with magic. Shatterspike sliced cleanly and Yeshua’s fists and feet rattled the crawlers. Carden and Aelith were left esperated as Dyan’ette retreated toward Ben-Hadad. Carden was overcome by the paralyzing venom on the tentacles and suffered serious wounds, though Aelith resisted the attacks and eventually dispatched the two on them just as Carden overcome the poison. Rhogar was briefly paralyzed but shook off the poison just in time to avoid being swallowed whole by the huge Harvester. The group finally dispatched the Harvester and the last of her kin, when Rhogar heard similar sounds crawling in the hole. Carden quickly gathered some of the thick gel from the tentacles while Rhogar used the decanter of endless water to blast water in the large hole. Realizing that the crawlers were still ascending, the group raced away before they could emerge. Wounded and tired, the group decided to look for a place to rest for a short time and tend to their wounds. Finding a large field of rubble, the party climbed some 20 feet up into the rubble to post a watch for short rest. Binding wounds, offering prayers, and studying spellbooks, the party regained their strength and prepared to finish this treacherous trek through the underdark.

A feeling of unease washed over some in the party as they approached the origin of the water’s sound. A large waterfall toppled from the darkness above into a large dark pool. Another source of water crashed upon the cliffs at various points to join the pool. Darkness seemed to prevail and the group felt as if oppressed by the very darkness. Ben-Hadad became very agitated and visibly showed signs of labored breathing as he clung to the light about him. As Aelith and Carden slipped into the darkness along the left wall, Rhogar slowly progressed attempting to detect any sign of creatures with fiendish or undead origin. The lights the party held diminished as if the darkness was crushing inward and then the slithering voice could be heard. The language was filled with malice as it seemed to slide along the very shadows. Rhogar seemed to understand and started conversing. The group was on edge and watched the darkness with unease. Aelith and Carden felt vibrations along their skin and heard the faintest “shwump….shwump…shwump” as if wings were slowly flapping nearby. The dragonborn paladin angrily thrust his weapon above his head and called upon Bahamut, then it burst into light. A hissing sound akin to acid boring into soft flesh filled the air as a large dragon-like form shifted from the very shadows to take form upon a small elevated mound behind the group. Carden yelled from the shadows “Dragon!”, then jumped behind Yeshua and fired two eldritch bolts at the beast. As one of the bolts struck true, the dragon reared back and its wings seemed to absorb the light. It opened its oily maw to spit a dark inky ball of fluid that erupted in the center of the group sending liquid shadows of frigid cold swirling about Rhogar, Tamnai, Ben-Hadad, Yeshua, and Carden. Both Yeshua and Carden slumped to the ground dying as the cold sunk into their joints and caused them to spasm. Gravely injured, the others squared off against the dragon but were disheartened as the inky cold robbed the light from the cavern leaving only Rhogar’s sword barely visible in the suppressive darkness. As fear started to mount, a burst of raw daylight showered the cavern as Tamnia called upon Sune’s radiance to battle this creature of pure darkness. The shadowy drake hissed vehemently as the light rays pierced its wings and pressed upon its inky scales. The others immediately took advantage and attacked. Ben-Hadad and Dyan’ette assaulted the shadowy creature with flames. It shrieked again as if the flames were adding insult to injury. Aelith embedded his handaxe into the scales, only to call it back to his hand and do so again. The large drake simply fell into a shadow behind the mound and reappeared from a shadow behind a stalagmite near Ben-Hadad. It loomed over the sorcerer, but its fury was on the Sunite and her calling of such a baneful light. The maw snapped for the priestess and bit deeply into her shoulder and torso. As it reared its head back with fresh blood in its mouth, Tamnai slid to a knee holding her shield high. She never saw the tail as it swiped wide and cracked her in the back of the head and sent her flying toward Rhogar. The limp form of Tamnai crashed at the paladin’s feet. With a roar of rage, Rhogar leaped over the fallen cleric and rushed the inky black drake. His faith blazoned his strikes as he ripped into the drake’s scales. It shrieked with a sound of metal slithering across oily chains. The second strike pierced the drake’s chest and Rhogar staggered as the drake’s form simply exploded into inky veins of liquid darkness. The oppressive darkness was no more, but Tamnai, Carden, and Yeshua lay motionless. Rhogar and Dyan’ette rushed to Tamnai. Aelith, seeing Carden’s form breathing steadily wrapped Yeshua in a cloak and started warming the monk. Within moments, all of the party members were conscious but still rattled. Aelith started searching the cavern for any exits. Carden and he realized a strange crack in the cavern wall. Dyan’ette sent Desdemona into the crack and revealed that a horde of treasure was beyond. After encouragement, Ben-Hadad slowly shaped the earth about the crack to allow a crawl space that allowed all to enter, though tightly for Rhogar. It was here, that the group took a much-needed rest over the next 10 hours as they counted and assessed the coin, gems, and items of wealth. A magical bag that calls forth furry allies, a necklace that allows breathing in hostile environments and a magical dwarven handaxe were identified and distributed.

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