Lost Mine of Phandelver

Session 38
Assassin, Monestary, and Lich

<metagame>
This game involved the merging of two teams of players.
</metagame>

Assassin and a Monestary
It had been a few years since out encounter with the drow on the way to Gauntlgrym. In fact, most of our heroes were semi-retired. But when other powerful heroes of the land started turning up dead from assassination, it made it clear that retirement would have to wait. After collecting the details from these deaths and some communications back and forth amongst each other, it appeared the best place to start was the Library of the Dawning Sun, a monastery that had taken in Valin as a youth.

The monastery was located far to the south along the Sword Coast, in the Velen peninsula, about midway between the city of Velen and Murann – both port cities that move most of their cargo by sea. While technically in the human realm of Wealdath’s Noromath duchy, the vast majority of this realm was the large wild Tethir forest with many fey inhabitants (elves, goblins, centaurs, satyrs, hobgoblins, and dragons) who cared little for such human distinctions.

As a result, there was little travel by land and roads were little more than seldom used hunting trails. This isolation made for a near perfect setting for the monks, who were self-sufficient and seldom visited by outsiders. There was nary a pirate that would venture this far inland for wood or supplies, but a few of their order may have been pirates seeking escape from their seafaring life and bounties on their heads.

The schedule was set and travel plans arranged. Each Goblin Stomper set off for the library, some meeting along the way and others arriving at the library itself. With a dangerous assassin on the loose, opinions varied on whether it was safer to travel together or separately.

Upon arriving at the monastery, they noticed there was no one about and the doors were ajar. Moving into the main building, they found all the monks brutally slain. It seems someone beat them to the punch on this one, only these were good guys!

Their research had turned up rumors of a “Sword of True Death” and books at this monastery’s library were to offer some insight into this weapon…one they believed might be used by the assassin.

Knowing the local government weak at best, they decided not to bother notifying any “authorities” as it would likely be pointless. Instead, they would find the culprits and apply some justice, Stomper-style. They searched the library for clues to who killed the monks and for the books about the Sword of True Death.

It took quite some time for the normally impatient team, but they eventually turned up the books they needed. From what they could discern, the sword was buried in a lich’s tomb, not too far from here. Burying the dead monks, they pursued their sole clue.

The Lich Tomb Entrance
It led them to ravine that ended in a cavern with stalagmites and the recently dead body of Brother Nicholas. Further into the cavern were piles and piles of long dead adventurers, something like the picture below…only without the guy standing in the middle.
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Not being the particularly intelligent sorts, the Goblin Stompers headed in with weapons drawn. Some were injured on the supernaturally sharp stalagmites. Hmm…all this armor and a stinking rock cuts them…Klang think’s he’ll need to have a chat with the supplier of this gear as it appears defective.

After traversing the mounds of dead bodies, they came to the door below. Paelius was the first to reach the door and he decided to give it a try. After being knocked on his ass, the others took note and decided that wasn’t a good idea…particularly when they noticed he looked a lot older/weaker all of a sudden.
SCAN0960.JPG

Not to be blocked by a simple door, Paelius set to work to discern the glyphs on the door. He eventually was able to deactivate them and made it clear to the others that the doors were no longer magically enchanted by grabbing and pulling without being zapped.

Orik grabbed a hold of the doors and pulled with his insanely strong arms, literally ripping the doors from their hinges. Interestingly, there was only a solid wall of stone behind the doors. Once gain, defeated by intellect.

Raven and Valin set to work looking for any other traps, hidden doors, or other clues as to what is so damn interesting in this cavern that they had to kill so many. The found recent tracks that led up to, and seemingly through the wall. Finding no traps, Raven set to work on finding the obviously secret door that must be there. It took some time, but they got it open and passed through.

The hallway beyond ran some 50 feet ending in a door. The door was propped open by a rod or bar, it was hard to tell from a distance. So the approached carefully, noting the recent tracks not veering off to one side or another. Then they noticed those tracks encountering some recently triggered traps with fresh blood strewn about, but no bodies. So whoever came this way wasn’t overly bright or sneaky.

It was about then that they heard the sounds of battle from beyond the door that was indeed propped open with some sort of magical rod. Hmm…we may want to retrieve that rod later, but for now it appeared to serve a purpose that was inline with the Goblin Stomper’s desired direction.

An Unexpected Meeting
Passing through the propped open door, they came upon the Reavers, an adventuring group not unlike the Goblin Stompers. The Reavers had (allegedly) an unsavory past that sometimes surfaced in bard ballads along the Sword Coast – something about having stormed a keep and were known to associate with pirates. What they might be doing here was a bit more mysterious.

The Reavers consisted of two paladins – Tavian and Levi (which most were certain was a nickname) – and the life cleric Quinn (who worships the Raven Queen…did someone say irony?). Tavian had a mostly naked “friend” named Torina who turned out to be a dragon in human form.

Since no one had leapt to kill each other yet, perhaps something could be arranged that was mutually beneficial. After the usual introductions, it was clear the Reapers had first dibs on the place, but seemed to need all the help they could get. The traps back in the hallway had taken their toll on them (softened them up?) and both teams wanted to get to the bottom of this unusual dungeon.

When questioned about their murky past, the Reavers noted the keep was now free of bandits and the pirate was “no where to be seen” (which could mean a lot of things), casting a little light on their perhaps not so unsavory past. They also claimed they had everything under control and would “allow” the Goblin Stompers to tag along, suggesting more hubris than the situation warranted.

Some of the Goblin Stompers were concerned they may have killed the monks, but in eying up their weapons, they didn’t quite match up with the monks’ wounds. And they didn’t seem to be evil paladins, so it just didn’t add up. So they got over it and decided to work together.

There was a riddle on the wall and the Reavers were in possession of a shard that was perhaps a piece of this true death sword. The room itself was a cathedral with hundreds of doors all along the walls. Each door had a prophet in front of it. All the doors and prophets looked the same. And while they were doing their meet and greet, the prophets had gradually started chanting the same chant.

Quinn explained that they had tried a few doors, but each led them back to this room. An illusion of an hour glass hung up above and started counting down time each time they entered this cathedral. It had just restarted again.

Valin opened a door and looked beyond, but there was only darkness. Tavian explained that the doors were all magical and that they had tried taking different doors – always as a team through the same door. As the pondered this, Klang suggested they all go through separate doors at the same time.

By this time, the prophets’ chant had become really annoying, the illusion hour glass was running low on time, and they were all eager to get out of the room. So they gave Klang’s idea a try and it worked. The all landed in a different room, or rather a hallway. The Reavers seemed semi-impressed by Klang’s guesswork, mistaking raw luck as wisdom.

Raven set to work searching for traps as the place seemed to be one of those kind of dungeons. As she searched, they heard chanting again, coming from down from the only adjoining hallway. When they looked down this adjoining hallway, they saw what looked like a statue at the distant end that looked a little menacing…like the picture below.

What’s That Smell?
Valin started down the hallway and noticed slightly elevated cobble stones – an obvious trap. Klang tossed him a piton and he wedged a piton to prevent the stones from sinking. Stepping onto the now disabled trap, Valin made his way to it’s edge and was about to take another step when Klang suggested he and Raven check for more traps, noting some easily found traps are just decoys for the real trap.
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Sure enough, a pit trap with some nasty spikes were immediately past the obvious trap. And just past the pit trap was a hallway to the right from which the chanting was emanating. The main hallway of traps continued down to the statue, which was still unmoving. Making their way along the small ledge to one side of the pit trap, Valin and Raven both made it just inside the new hallway.

It was about then that they noticed perfume-like smell and that the walls and floor were damp with small puddles of liquid on the floor. Bending down to examine the liquid, Valin confirmed it was the source of the smell. Orik and Tavian attempted to make it to the side hallway to join Valin and Raven. Tavian lost his footing and Orik was able to grab him and pull him back from falling.

Quinn had moved to follow Orik and Tavian, but then the statue at the end of the hall started moving with a grating noise as it turned slightly so that the blade it was holding now dragged along the wall, throwing off sparks. After only a moment or two, the whole hallway had become a flaming inferno as the liquid stretching most the length of the hall ignited. Quinn fell back and Valin attempted to leap back to the safety of the initial hallway.

Valin landed heavily on the easily found trap, jarring loose the piton and setting off the final trap – a boulder – which clobbered Klang and Levi who had held back along with returning Quinn. Meanwhile, at the far end of the hallway, Raven had moved behind the statue.

Recovering from the boulder trap, Tavian sent his dragon Torina down the hallway using her cold breath and putting out the flames. With the all the traps having been triggered, healing was administered by clerics and then they all maneuvered their way past the pit trap to the side hall in search of the continued chanting.

A door was at the end of the short hallway, so they got into an order that seemed best for a frontal assault with large fighters – Orik and Levi – in the front. As they readied themselves, a few recognized the chant. It was the Litany of Justice, only the words were all wrong, perverted. They definitely seemed to have found the den of evil. Paelius checked for magic and got a reading that was nearly off the scales, confirming this was going to be a serious confrontation.

Lich Inversion
Busting into the room, the heroes were confronted with a terrifying scene of 9 undead “paladin” wights being led in their vile chant by a lich. The lich was the furthest away behind a large black alter. Levi and Orik made a bee-line for the lich, managing to dodge all the wights. Levi went around one side of the alter while Orik just vaulted over it. A black aura covered Orik’s arm that touched the altar, but didn’t seem to adversely affect him and dissipated as quickly as it appeared.
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They both made their attacks, but the lich was still standing. After a few spells were cast, it became clear that something was very wrong. It seemed the alter was inverting the spells where spells intended to harm would heal. While the spell casters were sorting this out, Levi was nearly killed by the lich and wights. Only Orik’s insanely aggressive tactics kept the lich from finishing Levi.

Valin and Raven were keeping the wights busy with their bows. Paelius, Quinn and Klang eventually figured out they needed to destroy that altar. Quinn and Klang channeled all their combined divine power into the altar and managed to destroy it just time to kill the lich and rescue Levi and Orik from certain doom.

<metagame>
The DM decided to give each monster it’s own initiative, which slowed things down a bit with such a large group. But we persevered and finished before it got too late, earning 8500 experience each.
</metagame>

They managed to find another shard to the sword of true death and some plate mail +2 (assigned to Levi). After some that somewhat dangerous encounter, they discussed the implications of a lich’s hand in this menace to heroes across the land. As best as they could reason, they collectively reasoned that the “Elder Eye” is behind the assassinations.

In closely examining the shards shapes and sizes, they reckoned there were probably 5 shards in total. So they had a ways to go to before they’d have all the shards.

<metagame>
I’m not sure how our characters figured this Elder Eye business out, but there wasn’t much time to sort that out.
</metagame>

View
Session 37
Gauntlgrym & Drow

<metagame>
This was a one-shot adventure run by Steve (with his character acting as an NPC) so Bob could have O’Dell revisit the Goblin Stompers for a little flash-from-the-past fun.
</metagame>

It had been almost 2 years since our heroes escaped Yemglav’s clutches when, for mysteriously coincidental reasons, they were drawn together once more.

Raven had been searching for a more refined set of smoked glasses to help her both cope with her new found sensitivity to light and to mask her glowing green eyes from those who might be looking for her. It’s never good to stand out when you’re a member of the Harpers.

O’Dell had been fighting drow elves to retake what was rightfully his clan’s – a place he again wanted to call home. But that effort was far from complete and darkness clung to him and weighed on his shoulders, his skin turning pale. Even his mount reflected his time far from the surface and sunlight, a basilisk with 8 legs and a stare that can turn foes to stone.

Was he becoming what he so hated? His thirst for revenge seemed unquenchable. Inner peace had not been found. Perhaps it was time for a short distraction?

After some contemplation and divine guidance, he decided to take on a mission from the Lord’s Alliance. It wasn’t the best of timing, but he was uniquely qualified for the task – reestablishing ties to Bruenor Battlehammer who had retaken Gauntlgrym.

Bruenor had spent most of his time in Icewind Dale, far to the north, leading a search for Gauntlgrym, so O’Dell had only a few run-ins with Bruenor – mostly during O’Dell’s youth. It wasn’t until later in O’Dell’s life that he first learned that Bruenor had fallen and, about 10 years on, was subsequently reincarnated.

Bruenor eventually found Gauntlgrym, but he could find no one to aid him in retaking the place – it seems there was a dragon cult causing problems for many cities along the sword coast at the time, so his outreach efforts fell on deaf ears.

With the aid of his closest friends, Bruenor was able to retake Gauntlgrym and now looks disapprovingly on establishing relations with those who spurned him in his time of need.

O’Dell’s similar past of being driven from his home and subsequent attempts to reclaim it from the same foes made him uniquely qualified to reach out to Bruenor.

But it was when O’Dell learned that he would again be working with some of his old friends from the Goblin Stompers that he knew this was too good to pass up. Those in the Lord’s Alliance knew how to pull O’Dell’s strings.

The Lord’s Alliance was growing nervous that Bruenor would restart the Gantlgrym mines and the cities along the Sword Coast like Waterdeep and Neverwinter would lose out on the resulting middleman trade.

Klang, financial leader of the Goblin Stompers, had been working hard to develop relationships with leaders all along the coast, setting up connections and understandings between religions, and strengthening the Order of the Gauntlet. For this, he had come into possession of a truly rare artifact – a talisman of pure good.

Being heavily indebted to Connerad Brawnanvil of the Lord’s Alliance for having him apologize for slaying a silver dragon at a dragonmoot, Klang agreed to enlist the aid of his fellow Goblin Stompers to also aid in establishing ties to Bruenor and Gauntlgrym.

Some were willing and others not. Caesare and Rolen opted out – something about getting stuck in snow. Sounded like a weak cover for Zhentarim business, particularly since one underground entrance to Gauntlgrym was only a week’s travel from Neverwinter. Valin and Raven were in. Orik took some more convincing as his tribe was encountering some challenges, but eventually came around.

Knowing they could use a spell caster, they asked around and came up with one of the local magic item peddlars – one Paelius from Cragmaw Keep. Hmm…that sounded distantly familiar…oh yeah, he sold them magic stuff last time we had been together. They also ran into him after that swampy Medusa and were-tiger fiasco. He had teleported the Goblin Stompers to Waterdeep at the behest of the Waterdeep Council so they could be put on the trail of the dragon cultists.

While the Lord’s alliance arranged for horses, they weren’t as inclined to provide healing potions. So Klang tapped the Goblin Stomper’s coffers to ensure everyone was outfitted with 3 potions of greater healing…just in case they were separated.

Traveling by horse helped speed them along, but they still needed to stop occasionally. It was on one of these stops that O’Dell rejoined them. At first, he was a bit distant, almost dark in nature. After a few hours and good drink, he started to warm up to his old comrades. They could see the effects of his chosen path on his health and well being. It seemed he needed a break and some company, and they were willing to give it to him.

That night, O’Dell filled them in on the history of Gantlgrym, how it started as a dwarven mine and, at the urging of humans, became a city with ample trade. It was then lost to denizens of the Underdark. Only after Bruenor’s reincarnation was the place retaken.

It was the next night where they were ambushed by a drow raiding party, including a Quaggoth. O’Dell, knowing their tactics well, quickly dispatched the drow mage first. The others soon felt the sting of Goblin Stompers reunited, being sent to their demon queen in short order.

They manged to keep one alive for questioning. It seems they were on the hunt for magic items, which were aplenty among our heroes. Their plan was to amass a treasure hoarde that would facilitate brining Lolth to the prime materials plane. Why does that sound so familiar?

Their party had thus far mostly “harvested” some magical staves and axes, mostly from Gauntlgrym’s surroundings and travelers.

Searching the lone survivor, they found only 5 platinum on his person.

Paelius found a spell book on the drow mage’s body. O’Dell was insistent that it be destroyed, but Paelius promised to return it to O’Dell once he was done taking notes from it. That seemed to mollify O’Dell for the moment.

Searching the rest of the bodies turned up 700 gold, 35 platinum, and little else of note. When asked about these magical items, he said they had been taken back to their base camp, but that’s where his compliance (and life) ended.

Their drow party’s tracks led in the direction of Gauntlgrym, not a good sign. Following the tracks immediately, just in case one escaped, they followed them back to a cave entrance. Knowing better than to tread at night into a known drow hole, they erected Leomund’s hut and rested. Hunting drow during the day was a much better option than night, even if it was underground.

After their rest, they partook of a heroes feast, and Klang applied a death ward to himself. Then it was into the cave. They were immediately set upon by 5 driders – half drow, half spider. Despite using a wall of force and flame, it still took a long time to kill these vermin.

Knowing the drow to ticksters, O’Dell had them search for magic and used true seeing to survey their surroundings. They came upon a secret door and used it. A tunnel lead for a few dozen feet before opening into a room with another Quaggoth, 2 drow priestesses, and some spiders. This was less of a challenge than the ambush, yet turned up a jackpot of magical items!

  • Robes of the Magi and Staff of the Magi – assigned to Paelius
  • Book of Exalted Deeds (requires attunement, proficient in 1 skill, resist 1 damage type, ability score up 2 w/max of 24, 1d6 HP at start of turn, wisdom goes up 2, any spell slot expended counts as one spell slot of 1 level higher, halo on as bonus action that casts bright light for 10ft and dim for another 10ft that provides advantage on persuasion of good creatures and intimidation of evil creatures and disadvantage on attacks by fiends and undead against you) – assigned to Klang
  • The Cresent Blade (of Eilistraee fame, etched with “Be your heart filled with light and your cause be true; I shall not fail you.”, protection from evil, haste, spouts crimson fire when wielded) – assigned to Raven
  • Twin battle axes (require attunement, 1d6 HP at start of turn, eat 6x more, named “Might” and “Chaos” which are glory and destruction seeking respectively, constantly bicker in wielder’s mind causing disadvantage on intelligence checks, is chaotic neutral by nature, has dwarven thrower trait in that it returns magically to thrower Thor-style, and provides wielder with storm giant strength) – assigned to Orik
  • Axe of the Dwarvish Lords (requires attunement, dwarves gain immunity to poison damage, darkvision increases by 60ft, proficiency with blacksmithing/brewing/stonemasonry, conjure elemental once per day, teleport by touching the axe to dwarven stonework with no risk of error if destination is underground every 3 days) – assigned to O’Dell

<metagame>
It seemed Steve was bulking up the party to make up for Paul’s scrooge-like rewards and/or for some future onslaught of evil. Either way, it was a little “over-the-top” fun.
</metagame>

After oogling the items and verifying they were no illusion, they were set upon by more drow troops. A lightning bolt, a delayed fireball, and guardian of faith spells put a damper on that incursion.

Returning their attention to the horde of magical artifacts, they each explored items that suited them…carefully stowing them away for future use. It didn’t take long and they were heading for the exit. Suddenly, the world disappeared and they stood before a deity-like being who was handsome to a fault.

“I’m Asmodeus and I have a proposition for you…”

With everyone but O’Dell having flashbacks to Yemglav, they all immediately declined, not even wanting to know what he was offering. O’Dell just followed suit, not fully understanding what was happening.

The magnificent being looked hard at those before him, his eyes slowly growing bright red as his body transformed into it’s less handsome and more natural form…which set the Goblin Stompers on their guard. With his true nature and appearance revealed, they were glad they didn’t even consider this devil’s bargain.

Brandishing his fiery weapon in their direction, he spoke again, “So be it mortals. You may live to regret it.” Then they were once again back in the drow treasure room as if nothing had happened.

Not quite sure what just happened, they quickly made their way out of the drow base camp and back into the forest, towards the road where they felt slightly less in peril, and then back to their camp site where the dead drow party still lay.

Stoking the fire, they tossed on the drow bodies, waited for them to thoroughly burn while each tried to get a handle on their fear of what just happened. Maybe the price for those magic items was a little higher than they realized?

Paelius, wanting to put some distance between this place, offered to teleport them to Cragmaw Castle, which everyone readily accepted. There they rested and ruminated over what had befallen them that night. Once they’re nerves were intact a few hours later, they returned to their camp site and continued on to Gauntlgrym. There were no further attacks or ambushes. Just the quiet of a trail and the familiar sounds of horses traveling on it.

Reaching Gauntlgrym, they were offered an opportunity to stay, but with their nerves rattled, most were non-committal in accepting it. O’Dell made his pitch to Bruenor with Klang’s support for developing relations with the nearby cities. Bruenor was a shrewed negotiator and was equally non-committal about his future plans for trade and said he would consider the offer to establish ties to the northern cities of the Sword Coast. That was about as good as they could expect.

O’Dell felt good to be surrounded by hearty dwarves again. Valin and Klang were happy to share their old friend’s company, to see the life restored to his face and the weight lifted from him, even if it was only for a short while.

<metagame>
The DM originally promoted the characters to 17th level, but that was subsequently retracted the following day when it was learned that was not necessary.
</metagame>

View
Session 36
Curses within Curses

Rolen’s Cursed Dagger
After rescuing the prisoners – including Bruw and Rouse – from the giants, our heroes traveled to Clan Hammersfell’s fortress and concluded Sokol’s business deal, then traveled back to Phlan. Upon their return, they learned that Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalog has become quite popular.

After collecting their 5000 gold payment from Sokol in platinum and gems, they headed to the market to spend it and more. It seems fighting giants and a brush or two with death loosened their collective purse strings.

In an unusual turn of events, there were actually three shops that were of interest – the Warriors Rack, the Actor’s Stage, and Paelius’ Magical Emporium. After spending most of their time with in the latter, they ended up with these:

  • Valin: Ten +3 Arrow (very rare) 13000 gold
    Quiver of Ehlonna 500 gold
  • Orik: Cloak of Protection 500 gold
    Pocket sown into his tiger pelt for 4 gold
  • Klang: Ring of Evasion (3 charges per day) 5000 gold
    Portable hole 5000 gold
    3 pinches of stage smoke (requires ½ gallon of water) 25 gold
  • Rolen: Pocket in cloak 4 gold
  • Caesare: Sharpened silverware 2 gold
  • Raven: Gloves of Thieving 500 gold
    Cloak of Elvenkind 500 gold

There were several other items sought, but not found including a ring of animal friendship, treasure maps, items to improve wisdom, and more magical studded leather armor. A few items were just out of their financial reach, or at least that’s what Klang said.

Returning to their quarters in Phlan, they each sat down to assess their individual purchases. Rolen, have received practically nothing, pulled out his dagger of venom…one of his more prized possessions and puzzled over what he could possibly get in this crappy town, beside trouble.

And then he began to feel the pull, like a weird version of teleportation, only it was his dagger that drew him in…or was it out?…or simply elsewhere?…or some other time? Whatever it did, he knew he wasn’t in Phlan anymore. In fact, every hair on his furry body was telling him he was in trouble.

Then there was the voice from a short stature being calling himself Yemglav (?). After lots of words, it seemed he was offering Rolen a choice – stay in this “paradise” with no worries of the flesh, or attempt to leave by way of a series of challenges. He cautioned that the challenges were difficult and that no one had actually finished them all. There was a price for attempting to leave and when you call on Yemglav for help…a fragment of your soul was forfeit.

Rolen, knowing decision making was not his strong suit, asked that his friends be brought here to help him. Yemglav acquiesced and the rest of the Goblin Stompers arrived. There were certainly some cursing going on as they landed in this strange place. Based on their previous experiences, this was probably another plane of existence or maybe a pocket dimension.

Where ever they were now, they knew Rolen and his dagger were to blame. Dirty looks went Rolen’s way. It didn’t take Rolen long to lay the blame on Caseare for giving him a blade from the Zhentarim. Valin and his bow took aim at Rolen and then Caesare.

While most realized laying blame wasn’t going to get them out of this one, it took Yemglav’s voice reiterating their options for Valin to lower his bow and listen. Welcoming them to the domain of Yemglav, they were offered a stay in this “paradise” with no worries of the flesh or to face challenges that no one had yet surmounted that would allow them to leave.

There was some discussion about staying, most decided to accept the challenges and get out of this place. The loss of fragments of Rolen’s soul didn’t seem to bother anyone…in fact, it seemed fitting he should suffer for dragging them all into his curse.

Room 1 – Kobold Replication
With the decision to face the challenges made, they were again subjected to that strange teleport spell. Arriving in an empty room with only one door to exit. After a thorough search for other doors or exits and finding none, Rolen checked the door for traps. Finding none, Klang opened it to find a kobold. It was unmoving and didn’t respond to hails, so a few entered the room to inspect this kobold.

Once everyone entered the room, the kobold sprang to life and started combat. Every successful strike resulted in the kobold replicating. So after two hits, we had three kobolds. Seeing this was going to a bad place fast, they quickly had Rolen call to Yemglav to get them out of this mess.

Being pulled (unteleported?) from that room, Yemglav explained that we just needed to return to the first room and close the door and the kobold would vanish.

<metagame>
As the DM mentioned a few times, this is the classic 1980s style dungeon. Yes indeed, those horror’s thought up to destroy adventurers rather than entertain players. And here we thought those bad ideas had some how died with the end of the 1980s. Not one Google hit on Yemglav.

Nope, we were wrong, they live on through our DM’s arcane adventure modules. Where did we dig up this guy?
</metagame>

Room 2 – Temporal Anomaly
Yemglav then took a little of all their souls (3 HP off our max, like necrotic damage). Then it was off to the next challenge. Across the room was a switch covered in glass with a sign that read, “In case of temporal anomaly, break glass.” After some weak attempts foiled by a time distortion, Raven – the longest lived among those present, managed to survive the time distortion (seeming to age at a breakneck pace while slowly traveling to the switch) and break the glass.

<metagame>
After failing her constitution saving throw, Raven suffered 2 levels of exhaustion.
</metagame>

Room 3 – Aliens
Teleporting into the next room, there were a cluster of 3 humanoids huddled in one part of the room. They were about 4 feet tall and and gray with distorted features. They had bowless crossbows, wore belts, and were not threatening (you know, like all aliens). We attempted communication several times to no avail.

Deciding they could use a long rest, they laid down with the elves on watch. After about an hour, acid rain started falling on everyone in the room. WTF! Valin and Klang cast protection from energy to take half damage, but knew it was just a matter of time. So after one more attempt at communication with the gray creatures, Valin decided it was time to attack them. Taking the usual damage for a minor encounter, plus acid damage, our heroes defeated the three creatures and were whisked away to another room.

Room 4 – Defeat in a Chest
After landing, there was a bright flash of light, a voice announced that their freedom lay in one of the 8 chests before them. Each chest had word on it – honest, compassion, humility, etc. Nothing sounded any more threatening than any other, so they opted for compassion. Opening the chest, Valin found a ring and once picked up, they were all whisked away again.

Only, it was the same room and the chests were gone and two bandits were in the process of killing a little girl. Attacking the bandits, they killed them both. The girl offered Klang her teddy bear, which he accepted despite his better judgment. Nothing untoward happened.

When asked how she came to be here and why she was being attacked by the bandits, the girl said she touched something in a church. A search of the bandits turned up 6 gold. Then an argument ensued about whether to kill the girl or not, since they seemed to be stuck here. Klang raised one of the bandits and they questioned him.

He said they too were stuck in Yemglav’s challenge and knew they needed to kill the girl to proceed. Klang refused to partake in that. Valin was like minded. So Rolen called on Yemglav again and were again retrieved, a fragment of soul extracted from each, and Yemglav explained that she attacked them with sympathy. Then it was on to the next room.

Room 5 – The Cube
They landed in a room where all the air was thick, distorting their vision, and was unyielding to movement. No wait! That’s not air, it was more jelly and goo-like. And damn it hurt, like an acid. They could see objects suspended in the goo, not far from them.

Once they reconciled the searing pain, they figured out they were in a gelatinous cube. The cube itself was similarly stuck in the room as it filled up the entire space. After taking a non-trivial amount damage, they managed to kill the semi-sentient creature and move on to the next room.

Room 6 – The Balancing Pedestal*
*Each of our heroes landed on separate corners of a plateaued area, falling off into a spiked pit on all sides. A grimlock stood at the center of the area. When the first person started towards the grimlock, the whole platform shifted, tilting towards the far side. It didn’t take them long to figure out the balancing act. Then Rolen and Raven killed the grimlock quickly…and teleported again.

Room 7 – The Gray Ooze
This time, they appeared in a empty room. After some glancing around, they noticed a tiny door near the ceiling on one wall. Orik opened it and a gray ooze started to come through. Jumping back, Orik avoided the worst of it. Once the ooze was through, Raven closed the tiny door. Then they proceeded to kill the nasty bugger…and off to the next challenge.

Room 8 – Two Women and a Campsite
Landing on the edge of a forest near a stream, our heroes could see two women around a campfire. One, seeing the Goblin Stompers, called out to them. She explained the forest was never ending and they too were trapped in this challenge, only she was supposed to kill the other woman. Klang asked Raven climb a nearby tree to confirm this and she did – forest for as far as she could see.

The woman explained that she had put the other woman to sleep and was thinking about what to do. She offered them food and drink, which Klang purified, they ate and tried to get some sleep. Once again, the acid rain began about an hour later…revealing the women to be vampires. Chop, chop, they died before Klang could get his holy symbol out.

And they were teleported again.

Room 9 – Two Swords & Statues
Arriving before a pair of statues, one held a magical sword in it hand. The other appeared to have dropped it’s non-magical sword on the ground. The both statues were so detailed that our heroes were fairly certain they were petrified people, not sculptures. Stone rubble lay strewn on the ground.

Orik picked up the sword off the ground and moved back. Confirming it appeared to have no magic, he cast it away in favor of his original weapons. It magically returned to his possession, involuntarily. Hmm…that’s not good.

<metagame>
DM explained this is the Mark of the Craven (i.e. cowardice) and is a curse.
</metagame>

Then it was off to the next room.

Room 10 – Dopplegangers
They landed in a long corridor in front of a small sized door with another normal sized door at the far end. Deciding to head for the distant normal sized door, they started down the corridor. As they went, they realized they were growing taller…or more accurately, the corridor was shrinking and the far door was actually small as well.

Reaching the door, they all decided to squeeze through it. While successful, they found themselves seemingly in the same corridor with a small door behind them and what appeared to be a normal sized door at the far end. Only this time, we saw figures in the corridor who looked awfully familiar – they looked just like the Goblin Stompers!

Once the dopplegangers noticed our heroes, they charged them. Only as they approached, they were actually double the size. It took a while, but these dopplegangers were eventually defeated. Only Orik was quick thinking enough to search and rob one of the dead bodies (Klang) before they were teleported again.

<metagame>
DM will need to assess value of items that Orik retrieved.
</metagame>

Room 11 – The Fountain
The only issue now was their inability to rest for longer than an hour. Spells were nearly depleted, health was getting low, and their patience for this place was gone.

This new large room had a 125-foot diameter fountain in the middle of it. Green, seemingly toxic, water was flowing from it. A gold bell hung above the fountain, just out of reach. On the fountain was written, “Find freedom with the sound of the bell”. Firing an arrow at the bell caused it to ring and then it was teleport time again.

Room 12 – Old Green Eyes
They arrived and were confronted by a goblin with glowing green eyes.

Thoroughly tired of this nonsense, they quickly dispensed with it. Before he died, it mumbled something about “my curse is now your curse”. WTF?!

Then it was Raven, who had dealt the final blow, that had glowing emerald green eyes. A cool effect for a high elf – just enough to have most others keep their distance – so she decided to keep it.

It seemed to force her to squint in normal light, but she could see much better in the dark. Perhaps a trip to the Underdark would be in order?

But before they could talk it through, they were again teleported.

Room 13 – Blue Dragon
Here, they met a Blue Dragon. He quickly assured them he did not want to fight. He knew how this went and grows tired of killing wave after wave of the poor slobs who fall into Yemglav’s clutches and opt for the challenges.

His only warning was to stay clear of his treasure and they could advance to the next room. So they did and were soon teleporting away.

Room 14 – Multicolored Statues
Landing in another long corridor, they were faced with a long series of statues, all slightly different colors and naked. While that wasn’t bothersome, there was unease when they all turned their heads towards the Goblin Stompers.

It seems each represented a different hope and they needed to each touch one. Rolen immediately took an interest in the green statues. All the heroes decided to take a closer look, inspecting them more closely and trying to find insight in the worst of times.

After some theorizing, they agreed that black and gold offered the most likely chance to move on. So they all touched the black statue. Whoosh, they all were teleported to the next room.

Room 15 – A Bucket
Now they were presented with a scale with two buckets. One bucket was full of what appeared to be silver liquid and the scale tilted that way (not balanced). A sign below the scale read, “Balance the scale with blood.”

Picking up the bucket, they tried to pour the silver liquid out of the bucket on the ground, but it didn’t leave the bucket. Raven tried to drink it and was successful…after gagging for several minutes. After which, she appeared slightly refreshed (+2 constitution), but that didn’t seem like a sure thing…in fact, it appeared more like a near death experience.

Placing the now empty bucket back on the scale, it now balanced…and whoosh, they were teleported again.

“Room” 16 – The Meteor
Landing in a clearing, they saw a meteor crash to the ground quite some distance away (26 miles). It ws extremely cold. So healing was dispensed on each other and they set off. After a full day of marching in (and taking damage from) the cold, they arrived at the meteor crash site.

They approached and could see an entrance. It was warmer inside, so they at least would stop taking cold damage. It didn’t take long to find a wizard with an ocular cycle. It seems they found the famous wizard Leomund trapped at the wrist. His body seemed to flash in and out of existence.

Knowing the drill, they simply set off to “defeat” him. Eventually they did and Leomund winks out of view permanently. Then they are once again teleported.

Only this time, it felt different.

Back to Yemglav
They appeared before Yemglav again. He speaks with a certain amount of trepidation, “Never before has any one survived the challenges!” Blah, blah, blah.

Yemglav then tried to strike a deal with the heroes, who were plenty tired of this nonsense. At first, there were some looks between the Goblin Stompers. Did they just want to bother negotiating with this bastard? They were in no condition to pick a fight with a minor deity…but this Yemglav guy was an asshole.

The deal Yemglav was proposing that they he would return them to the prime material plane, but they would have to pass the dagger to another taker, which would pass on its curse, and be his disciples to spread word of his existence and encourage worship to him.

They needed a minute to think about this and he granted it to them. After talking about it some, they decided this was not acceptable and let Yemglav know as much. He seemed dissatisfied, but offered to drop the need to be his disciples…just pass the cursed blade to another.

At this, there was again some looks between them. Rolen nodded to Klang and moved up to Yemglav (passing his deception check) suggesting he might accept the deal. Then Klang held up his hand and spoke, “Eno’f of dis, ye can ret’rn us to da prime mater’l plane with 100,000 gold and we won’t hunt ye down and kill ye.”

Yemglav’s response was one of disbelief and anger, “Nay mortal, tis not an acceptable offer.”

With that, Klang turned his back to Yemglav and said “Kill ‘im”. Rolen got in a sneak attack, while Valin, Raven and Orik took him down. Klang didn’t even have to participate.

With Yemglav gone, they were returned to their quarters mere moments from when they left. The inn was still settling down for dinner and the sun was setting. Klang removed the curse from Orik so he could rid himself of the sword. Raven declined, retaining her green glowing eyes.

<metagame>
Does Rolen still have a Dagger of Venom, or has it lost it’s magic? Is its curse is broken?
</metagame>

View
Session 35
Sokol's Errand

Dealing with Success
We find our Goblin Stompers in the uncomfortable roles of Phlan heroes. After their success in putting an end to both a vampire threat and the Godsickness, the residents of Phlan were viewing them in a positive light and looking at them as role models.

This brought them to the attention of the various politicians looking to use them to their advantage. In finding evidence of claim to the previous monarchy, they already influenced Colvin Doverson’s campaign. And their quashing of the Godsickness did something inadvertent to Greyhawk’s outlook, breaking from Bane’s camp and campaigning more heartily for a parliamentary style government.

<metagame>
The DM reviewed the situation in Phlan, specifically the political factions:
- Colvin Doverson: the monarchy candidate looking to increase treaties for trade with other Moonsea cities.
- Jhessail Greycastle: the Black Fist commander who is seeking not power for herself, but to instate an elected parliamentary government.
- Barrett Sokol: seeks to reinstate the Council of Ten, a group of nobles and guild leaders, who seeks to rebuild the city infrastructure more rapidly.
- Samulkin: priest of Bane seeking to re-establish a theocracy.

There was also a little recent history lesson about how a green dragon and associated cultists brought the city to its knees by infiltrating the Black Fist guards, destroying many of the once proud buildings. Oddly, this kind of destruction has been a common occurrence in Phlan’s recent history…every few decades, the city ends up in ruins and they rebuild it.
</metagame>

So it was only natural that an emissary for Barrett Sokol, one of Phlan’s political candidates, would be seeking them out. The emissary, a blue-eyed half-elf woman, introduced herself as Aveen Seakin and let us know that the heroes are invited guests to Sokol Keep on Thorn Island, a significant landmark of the city. They were to meet with Barrett Sokol as he has something that might interest them.

It was about now that Raven showed up from more of her Harper business. Damn sneaky faction, sometimes as bad as the Zhentarim.

Arriving on the island, they were again greeted by repairs to the buildings and surrounding grounds. Passing through Sokol Keep, they passed by people of wealth who were not afraid to show it. The decorations were lavish and no expense was spared. It was clear that Aveen was not of this sort and must just be a hired hand as servants guided them through the place. Finally reaching the audience chamber, they only had to wait moments before their host burst in, grinning broadly and flush with excitement.

After thanking the heroes for coming, he launched into how he wants to rebuild the city. That’s why he needs materials from the Dragon Spine Mountains. Unfortunately, his emissaries to the dwarven clan of Hammersfell have gone missing. They were sent on a mission to negotiate the acquisition of stone materials needed for rebuilding. He needs someone to find them and broker the deal with the dwarves.

He’s offering 5000 gold (in platinum or gems). The Goblin Stompers accepted the job.

When questioned, Sokol explains that the team left 10 days ago and he last heard from them 6 days ago. The leader of the team was a dwarf named Bruw Clangeddin. He was following a map provided by Aveen who is familiar with the area. Bruw is very easy to recognize as he’s missing his left eye and has lots of other scars. Also on that team was Artora, Sokol’s personal steward. Artora is a silver-tongued (figuratively) woman in her 30s with long dark hair who bears one of Sokol’s signet rings. The rest are servants of House Sokol. They all wear the house colors – green and gold. They had the initial payment to the dwarves with them – platinum with Sokol’s face imprinted on them.

The Clan Hammersfell reside in mountains, just south of the Glacier of Silver Blades. They were to follow the Stojanow River, through the part of the Quivering Forest into the Ticklebelly Hills (that’s where they last sent word). From there, they would take a pass that skirts the Glacier to the dwarven home. Aveen will be the Goblin Stompers’ guide, but she’s no fighter – she’s more of a scout than a ranger with trade guild ties.

After feasting on his offered banquet, they headed back to Phlan where they were received with a parade…making it very clear that Sokol had arranged it. After some discussion, Aveen convinced them that horses and wagons were not a good idea where they were going. Despite this, Caesare still summoned his phantom steed later to ease the load on his feet.

On the Trail
They did some last minute shopping, picking up 19 healing potions, distributing them evenly among the 6 members of the Goblin Stompers, yes including Rolen, so that they each had 3. Klang left a message with the Lord Sage on their whereabouts. Then they headed out following the trail the Aveen indicated, along side the river and into the Quivering Forest. Between Aveen and Valin, they were not hampered by the terrain. Valin even found a deer trail that shaved off some time. Aveen was impressed. They stopped when they had traveled some ways and found a recently abandoned camp site with a few animal gnawed corpses nearby – wolf most likely.

Rolen frisked the bodies and made off with 200 gold. He had Aveen confirm they were not the people Sokol had sent. That made sense, they team had made it to Tickleberry and they had a long ways to go before they reached that. Valin sent a cordon of arrows. Rolen foraged around for poisonous plants and found edible mushrooms instead, which he shared with the team. A few ate them.

Orik asked Aveen about any known thieves of bandits in the area. She replied that there are some rumors of highway men, but nothing concrete. They rested uneventfully and the next day’s travel was similarly quiet, until Caesare noticed brightly covered birds eating flying beetles – both he had never seen before. Yes, it was that uneventful. Other than the wacky dreams and subsequent robust health they felt (at least those who ate the mushrooms), there was nothing notable.

Another quiet night and the next morning after Klang’s prayers, he noticed a thick mist by the river causing him to cough and sneeze. Real danger signals that. Valin and Orik later spotted a unicorn in the distance. It didn’t seem to be interested in getting close to the heroes until Orik managed to coax it to let him approach. It telepathically informed him of the safest path to the mountains and avoid the swamp. Then it just disappeared by teleporting away. What a strange and pleasant land, must be a druid in the area.

When the selected a camp, Orik set animal traps. Valin went foraging and came back with a deer of exceptional quality (endowing them with constitution bonuses). Rolen found the same mushrooms again and all opted to partake. Caesare had his unseen servant setup the camp and cook the food.

Orik struck up a conversation with Aveen. He learned she’s the daughter of a sea elf and a human pirate captain. She currently procures items for the Whole Realm’s Catalog. He wasn’t particularly interested and neither was she in his lame tribal history. So they gave it up and all rested well for another night.

<metagame>
DM informs us that it is common knowledge that the Whole Realm’s Catalog is an organization that collects rare treasures for sale to collectors and adventurers. Like much in this areas, it’s rebuilding itself.
</metagame>

The following day was more of the same, only this time they were dealing with brambles. It was nearing night when a wide-eyed woman, significantly worse for wear, came stumbling out of the trees ahead. She was mumbling something about mountains, frozen giants, and spear of ice before collapsing unconscious. Valin healed her, then gently questioned her, building a small amount of rapport. Her name is Meenar and she is a mercenary in the Razorhand Company in Phlan. The Company was lead by a human warrior named Rouse Blackbrand.

Suspicious, Klang checked her medical status carefully – poorly healed lacerations, signs of frostbite on fingers and toes. She’s not faking it and her hand had a tattoo on it that seemed related to corroborate her membership in mercenary band (something Klang had experienced). She went on talking…their commander ordered them to wear the tabards. They were operating in the Glacier of Silver Blades when a battle with frost giants went badly. She barely escaped and most of her party was killed or captured…and some eaten.

They fed her and kept a close eye on her that night. The next day was more cloudy, foggy, and the bugs set in on them. Mosquitoes were the worst, but the beetles weren’t much better. It got so thick that the droning noise started to induce headaches. It was about then that Valin and Caesare noticed some shadow move to one side by some boulders. Then boulders started to move.

It seems six cyclops decided to try an ambush, but it didn’t work out well for them. Orik proved his weight in gold for that battle, fending off nearly all of them while the rest were picked off by his comrades. Klang learned not to use “run” as a command word. Valin found barage of arrows useful. Unfortunately, the only “treasure” they had was a necklace of hands.

Foraging around, they found the cyclops tracks circling around them. So it was an ambush. The rest of the day and night were restful. The next day was raining and damp. Caesare’s unseen servant was holding an umbrella for him. They heard the roar and then spotted an adult green dragon in the distance. Valin was able to precisely locate it, noting there’s only one to the north.

An argument followed with Valin wanting to see out and kill the dragon, and Aveen noting that is not their mission. Aveen won with, “The longer we tarry, the less likely any will survive.” So we kept trudging along though the rain.

Finding the Sokol Emissaries
Finally, the next day, they arrived at the Quivering Forest. Here they find a devastated campsite with the remains of tents and a smashed wagon. Also laying about are broken pieces of swords and armor. Large deep chunks of sod have been torn up. It’s cooler here, their breath visible.

Two corpses are found – a dwarf and human – both wearing the colors of Sokol. The human body has a bloodless hole through it’s chest. Inspection of the hole suggests a frost weapon. Aveen confirmed both bodies were mercenaries from the team Sokol sent. So we found them, but most are missing.

Moving the tree off the crushed the dwarf corpse, they looked closer at it. For being dead several days, the corpse was well preserved with no animal scavengers marks yet. Strange. It’s almost like the Sokol team was ambushed and overwhelmed quickly, offering little resistance.

Valin found big tracks leading away into the mountains, probably the giants Meenar’s team encountered. Caesare notices a pixie hiding nearby and strikes up a conversation. The pixie says he wants “shiny or shady”. After bribing the little pixie several times, they learned:
blue giants had attacked the campsite, took some big people away, not sure why
Meenar’s previous team had camped here a few times
the dead people here were not the same as Meenar’s previous team, yet wore the same colored clothes
they took the people back to their camp
there were no dragons involved in the attacked

Wasting no time, they set out following the tracks. If what Meenar said about the giants eating people, they didn’t have much time. It didn’t take too long before they spotted a fortress. It didn’t appear to be built by giants, but it was obvious they inhabited the place. The tops of their heads could be seen in both towers.

Caesare sent his owl to scout the fortress, noting the main structures and rough count of giants therein. There was a breached wall on one side, but the ruin spilled around it was difficult terrain. Not a good place to be with boulder throwing giants about. So the heroes settled on a frontal assault, using mostly natural attacks on the guards in the towers – insect plague on one and sleet storm on the other, mostly to obscure their vision and make it hard to throw things.

Caesare and Klang rode the phantom steed to the wall so Klang could stone shape a small passageway through it. Then they rushed in…Rolen kind of stopped half way until Caesare threw some silverware at him. Animating the silverware, Caesare had the forks attack the giants. Rolen, seeing what awaited him in the fortress came back out.

A horn sounded and the element of surprise was gone. Orik rushed through the passage, attacked, then ran back out the passage. Valin sent a barrage of arrows through the passage into the giants fending off the silverware attacks. Looking through the passage, Klang hit one with flame strike. Raven also took a bow shot through the passage. It was complete mayhem inside the fortress.

That’s when the giants opened the fortress door while others ran out of the breached wall to flank whatever was attacking. All it did was slow them down so they could be hit several more times. While the more mobile Goblin Stompers dropped away, Klang healed Rolen and then was cornered and felled by two giants. Valin was felled by boulders. Caesare made good use of his mage hand, having it grab the healing potions of his fallen comrades and dumping it down their throats when the giants weren’t looking.

Valin and Klang played dead for a few rounds until they could get in a surprise attack. Meanwhile, the rest continued to fall back to the giant’s advance, dodging boulders and firing ranged attacks at them. Then it was Valin’s turn to strike back, hitting giants from behind. Klang dropped a fire storm on a group of giants. Then it was mop up time.

All this time, Orik had once again entered the fortress and was single handedly fighting two giants with only sporadic help from his team. Once the mop up started, Klang ran into assist Orik, helping to fell one of the giants.

It was an epic battle, but the 13 (or was it 14?) frost giants eventually were sent to ground.

<metagame>
Total experience = 11051 per character
Since we switched from milestones back to experience gathering, we should all have the same experience points (168285) except for Raven.

Maybe next time, we’ll meet Clan Hammersfell…

</metagame>

View
Session 34
A Jaunt into Limbo

Miltiades’s Mausoleum
Having survived undead ambush at the Fountain of the Crying Angels, our heroes realized that Raven was missing. Not dead, not hacked to death, just gone. Damn Harpers and their intelligence missions!

They gathered their wits and looked at the map with the clerics of Kelemvor. Deciding on the direction and taking the loot from the bench, they set off for Miltiades’s tomb. What they found was darkness. Lots and lots of darkness. Their light sources dimmed as they approached and they were barely able to make out a large mausoleum only 30 feet ahead.

Orik made his usual observation, “Magic!” Lazarus could make out the faint sound of worship. All Rolen could sense was loot. Lots and lots of loot!

They closed in to find large columns, each depicting an armored skeletal warrior with kite shields displaying the holy symbol of Tyr. Not statues, just depictions on columns. No worries!

Into the mausoleum they went. Surprisingly, the door was not locked. Inside was a room full of clutter – nicknacks, trophies, and memorabilia. A large painting was mounted over the only other doors in the room, which were on the far wall. A set of armored skeletal knights (holding kite shields) were positioned before those doors.

Rolen checked around for traps, wanting to steal the painting. At this point with the dim light illuminating more of the room, he noticed the ceiling is also highly decorated and pointed it out to the team. The rest of the party was feeling the sense of urgency and had no patience for Rolen’s nonsense, and headed through the doors. Who knows what this magical darkness is doing to us? It certainly isn’t a good thing.

As they passed between the skeletal knights, one reached out towards the first three in line (Valin, Orik and Rolen) and a black cloud of dark energy comes down over the door. Then a burst of darkness from its hand at the same three. They all were harmed from what appeared to be necrotic magic. Valin and Rolen moved forward through the door, which was also open. Orik fell back with Klang and other clerics.

Knowing time was short, the heroes decided to just take their lumps and press on quickly, each pressing through the darkness and taking the necrotic damage. Entering the next room, they first noticed the three wraiths, one of which started heading through the wall rear wall. Valin was the first to react, firing arrows at the escaping wraith. Rolen was next with his sneak attack, dropping one. Caesare cast a spell, Orik attacked, and Lazarus attacked. Klang, bringing up the rear, killed another. The last wraith made a run for it through the wall.

Rolen set to work on the locked door. Once unlocked, he backed away and Caesare opened it with his mage hand spell. Looking through the door way and barely visible through the dim light were few steps down into a shallow depression. Lazarus, swift on his feet, covered the steps down and then back up to encounter a pile of bodies blocking his way. As light filtered in, he could make out a sarcophagus and a man in gray robes surround in mist. The man was chanting with his arms upraised, blood dripping from his wrists onto a shield.

The man turned towards the intruders, launching into his monologue:
You should not have come my friends. You didn’t kill me when I begged you, when I didn’t know how to deal with the curse, but now I know my purpose. This is the only way we can save Phlan. Kelemvor may have failed to save Phlan, but the voices in the mist will not. They will save you all.

<metagame>
The DM notes that our pokey, meandering trip to get here and stop this guy means the monsters are stronger. Joy.
</metagame>

At first staring at this jabbering fool, Lazarus noticed out of the corner of his eye the pile of bodies started moving. Rolen and Valin moved into bow range while Caesare got into a good angle for spell casting. It was about then that the banshee scream rang out, immediately dropping Valin and Rolen.

Caesare drove a bolt of chain lightning into several of the creatures in the room, killing the banshee and two wraiths. The man, now vampire, leaped over the bodies and attacked Lazarus…what a foolish vampire. Orik dashed into the room and grappled the occupied vampire, searching for him for a stake with which to kill him (don’t all monsters carry the weapon that can defeat them?).

Klang cast healing on his fallen friends.

With the vampire effectively held, the three Kelemvor clerics launched into action. One cleric case sacred flame…at Lazarus?!!! Another cleric stabbed the vampire with a stake, calling out to the Lord of the Crystal Spire, killing the vampire. As the vampire began to dissolve into ash, he whispered, “forgive me” as glowing flames burned away the mists. The last cleric made a break back the way they had come, closing the door behind him.

Never one to hesitate, Valin fired a series of arrows into the cleric that attacked Lazarus, killing him with brutal efficiency.

Rolen, now suspicious of these clerics, dashed after the fleeing cleric. Finding him wrenching the large painting down from above the door (i.e. stealing what Rolen had already claimed, how dare he), Rolen lashed out, greed driving his weapon deep into the cleric’s chest as the cleric screamed, “It must be destroyed!”

Not wanting the Kelemvor order completely pissed off at the Goblin Stompers and not fully knowing what happened in the other room, Caesare cast hold person on Rolen and Valin, full of chaotic rage at the senseless killing, lined the still figure of Rolen with arrows.

Lazarus, keen on what the vampire may have left behind, brushed away the vampire ashes to find some rings, bone fragments, and a diamond necklace (worth 2000 gold). Lene nodded that they could be taken.

Suddenly, the shroud of magic darkness lifted. Klang, seeing the carnage, did a quick sanity check with the others on who should be healed. The consensus was to save the cleric who ran and to stop Rolen from dying. Lene, the cleric still clutching the stake in her hands, seemed indifferent to her fellow Kelemvor clerics’ lives. Klang mumbled, “Damn death worshipers.”

Orik questioned the recovering cleric, Cadeyrn, who ran and was pilfering the painting. He explained that the painting would adversely affect the election in Phlan (meaning it would ruin his preferred candidate’s chances of winning). After examining the painting more closely in the better light, the team noticed there was heredity evidence in the painting that could be what the Lord Sage was looking for.

Peeling the painting out of the frame, they rolled it up for easier and safer transport. Binding Caderyn’s hands and gagging him, they left the mausoleum and headed for the necropolis’ exit. The return trip to the city of Phlan was pleasantly uneventful.

Back at the Library
With the Goblin Stompers returning in less than a day, the Lord Sage’s face seemed surprised and questioning. Handing over the painting, the Lord Sage was quickly able to discern it was exactly the type of evidence he needed to help Colvin. The Lord Sage commented, “This is exactly what she needs to prove her claims to the Cinnabar throne. Thank you.”

Several of the heroes looked at each other, Colvin is a she? This really is a liberal (or is that progressive?) town. Moving on…

The Lord Sage was also pleased that they had ended the threat of Yovir Glandon, paying the heroes the promised amount (3000 gold for helping the clerics and 2000 gold for the heredity evidence). Not a bad haul, but certainly nothing like the Dragon Horde.

<metagame>
DM awarded 8600 experience to each character.

Caesare, Rolen and Lazarus received the barbarian award.
Caesare, Lazarus, Valin, Klang, Orik and Raven received the exposed award.

Downtime was used. All six receive 1 renown point. Valin and Orick receive 1 additional renown point as it was an Emerald Enclave mission.
</metagame>

Taking in Phlan
Klang spoke with Lene about friendship between their orders (Kelemvor and Marthamoor Duin), learning a bit about each others faith (however distasteful).

Valin spoke with Colvin. She is keen to get the ports going and treaties reinvigorated to get Phlan economically strengthened.

Several quizzed the Lord Sage about the “Godstouched” sickness, considering that it seems the Goblin Stompers have been exposed to it in the water/food. He explained that they are still tracking down exactly where it is coming from, but it is wide spread and randomly strikes those who have been exposed to it.

Then it was time for some down time, relaxing and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Or so they thought. It took some work to avoid all the political hyperbole, but after a week, they managed to find a quieter corner of the city. While taking in some of the local customs and socializing in a market plaza, they witnessed another person spontaneously burst apart as a aberrant fiend emerged!

The children that were playing in the yard fell down. An ox started charging into the plaza, knocking over a cart and a big gantry. (A gantry is a like an elevated walkway or sturdy scaffolding, often used as a crane.) Naturally, the gantry was slowly falling into the plaza square as the workers hustled to get down from the collapsing structure. The gantry would likely kill any caught in its fall. And if that doesn’t do them in, the charging ox certainly would.

Our heroes leaped into action, Lazarus’ unnaturally fast reactions had him first to the ox. But it seems his bout of relaxation put him off his normally disciplined strikes (or was that animal handling?), and was knocked out by the rampaging ox.

Quick thinking Caesare teleported 8 people out of the middle of the plaza over to one side, out of harm’s way. Rolen attacked the fiend and ended up grappled by it.

Orik’s strength and way with animals brought the ox under control. Then he turned and threw a javlin at the fiend. Hearing a moaning from under the overturned cart, he investigates and finds a halfling female pinned under it. Lifting the cart off her, she managed to get clear just as the gantry came crashing down. Fortunately, no one was injured by the gantry’s fall.

Valin launched his attack on the fiend, landing several solid arrow strikes. Klang commanded the fiend to drop Rolen, but before it could let him go, Rolen dealt it a death blow. It was a shock to the towns folk, who having heard many rumors, had not witness such a thing themselves.

Many of the parents were showering Caesare with thanks for saving their children. Then the talk turned to the many rumors the locals had heard of such things. What was clear was that the city had doubled patrols before this incident, seemingly to no avail…as they were just now arriving on the scene.

Valin tried casting restoration on himself in the hopes of ridding himself of this Godstouched sickness, with no obvious effect. Lazarus asked if the sickness seemed to affect supporters of a specific candidate, but according to the Black Fist patrol guards, that wasn’t the case. Learning of their heroic deed in the plaza, the guards requested the Goblin Stompers report back to their leader – Knight Commander Jhessail Greycastle – at the city’s Stojanow Gate.

Escort to the Lord Commander
Glad to accommodate the local Phlan constabulary, the heroes allowed the guards to escort them to the gate. Upon their arrival, the Stojanow Gate was in ruins with it’s mangled doors being hoisted by repair crew using wooden cranes. Leading them into a dungeon area beneath the outer bailey (that’s the courtyard outside the main keep, but still within the castle), the heroes reach an iron-bound door. The lead guard stops and cautions them, “What you’re about to see isn’t pleasant. Keep your questions for the Lord Commander. All will become clear.”

Opening the door, they are led through the tunnel with barred dungeon cells on either side in which a litany of civilians are shackled. They call out to the the heroes, crying for mercy, freedom, and even death. This is not good.

After being hustled past the dungeon cells with guards posted at regular intervals, they reach the commander’s office. Klang, wondering if this was a trap, counted 20 guards total in the dungeon. Entering the office, the Goblin Stompers were greeted by a formidably strong woman with her hair tied up in mess. Assessing the heroes with a single glance, she turned to the lead guard asking, “Another outbreak?”

Receiving a nod from the guard, she turned her attention back to the heroes. She leaned forward with her hands on the desk, arms knotted with muscles, started asking them questions about what happened. By the end of the session, they learned:
- those afflicted experience aberrant mutations, with a spasm the only precursor of the change
- as the mutations progress, they tear the victims apart
- those in the dungeon cells have already suffered from minor mutations and are being held to prevent danger to others (effectively quarantining them to avoid mass panic)
- no cure, even divine efforts have proven ineffective
- she is a paladin of Bane
- she suspects it’s something in the water
- the main well/cistern was cracked in a recent assault on the city, with the polluted river water is leaking into it
- history about a silver pyramid that a sorcerer created to experiment on lizard folk, which polluted the river
- more recently, the Lord Sage learned the river was corrupting the local plants and animals
- sending adventurers to investigate, the Lord Sage learned that Slaadi (extra-planar monsters) had opened a gate to Limbo (where Slaadi are natives), and the adventurers managed to close the gate and the pollution eventually was flushed away
- she suspects the Slaadi are back
- she suggests we talk with the local historian (Ser Agin Lamarck) to learn about the pyramid before going to the pyramid; he was the last to visit the pyramid and knows something about its inhabitants

They were escorted back out of the office and dungeon. They all breathed a little easier once back out in the fresh air. They returned to their quarters, equipped themselves, and headed out to meet this historian.

A Little Travel Through History
The historian informed them of:
- mutant lizard folk inhabit the pyramid now
- they don’t really understand common, but have learned a rudimentary sign language with his help
- the lizard folks are dangerous, but not overly aggressive; he suggests negotiating with them

The sign language is:
thump chest = me / us
rub belly = good
slap forehead = bad
hop and wave hands = go
thumb across neck while hissing = kill
hug self = help

Traveling 50 miles up the river on loaned griffins from Greycastle, the heroes came to the silver pyramid. Black birds flock around it while dark moss covers its edges. Orange waste emits from a pyramid pipe into the river. Very small (drinkable) life forms are seen in the river’s water. There is no obvious way to plug up the pipe.

Valin notices clawed tracks in the muck near the pyramid. Moving closer, they hear the sounds of mechanical clanking. Following the tracks, they find themselves approaching the pump room where dozens of creatures (mutated lizard men) are arguing. They didn’t notice the heroes yet, so Valin interrupted them, asking if he could help.

They grunted out enough common to acknowledge that people like the heroes had helped them before and they would be receptive to assistance. After a lengthy discussion in rudimentary common and sign language, the heroes learned:
- Slaadi emerged from the planar gate and fought off the good men back through the gate.
- Nethrex is the Sladdi leader whom they fear will kill them if they disobey.
- They agree to let the heroes go into the room with the planar gate

Entering the planar chamber, they see the gate is open and through it they see a golden chamber. Powerful magics are holding the gate open. An anti-magic field surrounds the gate and most of the room…probably need a wish to close the gate.

Gate to Limbo
Lazarus and Orik go through the gate. Rolen pushes Klang through the gate. Caesare pulls out a tuning fork and uses it to establish an anchor for a plane shift spell. Then Valin and Caesare go through the gate. The stepped into space and floated around for a bit until a Githzerai in a long gray cloak approached them.

The Githzerai explained there’s no gravity in Limbo. You have to think where you want to go. Using very precise wording, he explained they were not safe here. Rolen noticed the electrum bits in his beard. Escorting them to a safer location, he continued explaining that his clan lives here and tried to close the gate. Their leader Najwa, who can create raw matter from the chaos of Limbo and reshape it with her mind, raised a citadel around the gate and sent warriors through it to kill Nethrex. They failed and were driven back through the gate into Limbo. Najwa was mortally injured by Nethrex and the citadel was adversely affected.

His people know a chant that will restore her health, but it must be done slowly. If rushed, the citadel could implode. However, Nethrex is mustering his troops for the final assault on the citadel and the Githzerai therein. He asks the Goblin Stompers to buy them time so they can heal Najwa, noting that she can also cure the “chaos stain” (Godtouched sickness). That was enough for Valin, who quickly offered to help. The others fell into line with Valin.

The Githzerai finished by explaining that the orange sludge leaking into the material plane of Toril comes from a Slaadi which is an experiment by Nethrex to create a new strain of Sladdi. That’s bad. He provides our heroes with a diagram showing the current Slaadi lifecycle that culminates in wizards becoming death Slaadi.

“Before you go, you should have a lesson in movement.” He concentrates, forming a room around the heroes. Things morphing to his will. “Limbo can bend to your will, if you know how.”

They spent awhile practicing movement and, in Rolen’s caese, forming objects from sheer will. For some, it was just frustrating. The Githzerai noted that some had been infected by the chaos stain have slightly stronger than the others in this will Limbo nonsense. Valin and Orik managed to emit a stench, Klang grew thick hair in places even dwarves shouldn’t, and Caesare only moved at half-speed. Eventually, the heroes were able to create a shield as a reaction.

Finally, the Githzerai provided a map that showed a river of fire between the Slaadi and there current location. He pointed at various landmarks – a wrecked ship with blue lizard creatures, a large taloned hand where the ooze was originating, a tower where the gate resides, and a tower that controls the flow of the fire river.

About then, a green slaad approached them from across the river of fire. It held a staff and demands to speak to the Goblin Stompers. It explains that it was sent by its master and it wants to negotiate the Githzerai’s surrender. It promises safe passage to and from their master’s camp. After some discussion, they agree and are escorted to a golden tower to meet his master, Glyx. Inside the tower were huge gears grinding away as they passed through to meet Glyx, a gray slaad wearing a gem necklace. Nearby are large red slaadi guards, eying them closely.

Camp Visits
As they approached Glyx, he speaks to them telepathically, “I have a proposal”…and goes on to explain that he works for Nethrex, but does not share his desire to conquer the prime material plane. Nethrex is dying, but he lies in his rival’s (General Zhote) camp. If he or Zhote eats Nethrex, they transform into a death slaad…something they both desperately want to do. Glyx promises to call of the attack if the heroes help him eat Nethrex before Zhote does.

He goes on to explain that Nethrex gave them both each other’s control gem, gesturing to his necklace, to prevent treachery. Glyx wants the characters to obtain the control necklace from his rival Zhote. If they betray him, he’ll immediately send his army to attack the Githzerai.

Again, there’s a look of uncertainty running between our heroes. Caesare asks for a moment alone for the heroes to discuss the proposal. Glyx waved them away and their was a buzz of discussion. Caesare says he has some ideas how to turn a profit from this. No one was quite sure why, but they all believed him. So they turned to Glyx and said they accepted the deal. He gave them a silver horn shaped like a screaming child and said to blow it once the necklace control gem has been obtained and he’ll rush in with his armies to retrieve them. Otherwise, the heroes are on their own.

They were then escorted back to the lone Githzerai still keeping watch for the attack on their crumbling citadel that was sure to come. At this point, there was some consternation about who would go and who would not. Valin and Lazarus stayed behind in case things fell through and the citadel needed help.

Receiving the same offer to talk with his master, they were again escorted by a green slaad to the wrecked ship where blue slaadi dug through cargo. Oddly, as they neared the ship’s deck, gravity kicked in. A gray slaad introduces himself as Zhote and says, “We can help each other”.

Nearly the exact same conversation took place, only this time there was not hesitation to accept the deal to steal Glyx’s necklace. Caesare did all the talking as all this backstabbery seemed natural for him. The horn Zhote gave them was different – it was an electrum horn shaped like a flayed horse. But then Caesare explained to Zhote that Glyx offered us the same deal and suggested a better option – if he give us Glyx’s control necklace, we can just command Glyx to give us his necklace.

That got Zhote’s attention. Why of course! Then gave Caesare his necklace so we could go back and command Glyx. Again, they were returned to the Githzerai citadel as promised. Klang kept both horns (at 500 gold each) safely hidden, mostly so Rolen wouldn’t “accidentally” blow or “borrow” them. Caesare kept both control gems.

Then it was off to Glyx’s camp again, only this time they went in force and Caesare commanded Glyx to hand over the necklace, which he was unable to resist. With both control gems in hand, Caesare and the team turned to leave, but were stopped by Nethrex himself. Yikes!

Seems he knew what was going on all along and felt the need to test his minions. They both failed miserably. But now things had gone too far and the Goblin Stompers need to leave or die. The heroes asked what he’s planning to do if they leave. He seemed perplexed that it wasn’t obvious to them, so he explained that he wants to create a new slaadi variety, but it’s taking time to get the mixture just right and needs to experiment on prime material creatures.

In an unusual moment of clarity and outspokenness, Klang stopped the exposition there, commanding the Goblin Stompers, “Kill him!”

Nethrex summoned his guard slaadi, consisting of three green slaadi. He himself reverted to his natural state – a death slaad. The battle ran for a few rounds before the scoundrel tried to escape, but the Gobin Stompers managed to kill him and one of his henchmen before they got out of range. Seems Nethrex sensed the Githzerai coming and new it was time to go. With no coherent leadership, both the slaadi armies just started fleeing into Limbo as the Githzerai marched forth from their citadel.

<metagame>
DM awards Caesare a inspiration point for the clever plan.
8634 experience was awarded to each player.
</metagame>

All is Healed
Najwa had been sufficiently healed and the citadel pieces were coming back together – violently. The Githzerai were chanting a hymn of battle. With the slaadi army collapsing, it was a complete route.

Caesare decided he could use a sanctuary in Limbo, especially now that he had two gray sladdi under his control. So he spent some time and formed a wizards tower there.

The Githzerai would have preferred killing the slaadi, but they decided to grant their benefactors this small thing in addition to curing them of the chaos stain. They also teach one of the heroes with how to perform the rituals to cure the chaos stain. As a result, Caesare ended up with a Tomb of Understanding which he later gave to Klang as he knew if offered himself little benefit.

Finally, they offered to send one of their kind back with the Goblin Stompers to help heal those infected, which the Goblin Stompers gratefully accepted.

Upon returning to Phlan and treating the townsfolk, they were awarded 1000 gold. Oddly, Lord Commander Greycastle renounced her deity (Bane) and pledged her undying loyalty to the people of Phlan and to reform the Black Fists. Seems she was a paladin, who knew?

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Session 33
Into the Necropolis

A Long Break
It has been 6 months since the Goblin Stompers thwarted Tiamat’s return to the prime material plane and our heroes have been busy.
Quelline_Alderleaf.png
Valin improved his and Raven’s armor. He also hunted in the areas around Phandalin, returning with game to improve the image of the Goblin Stompers among the locals. Taking up with Qelline Alderleaf and her son Carp again, Valin cemented his on-again, off-again affair with her and started the long romantic fey dance that culminates in an offspring, but takes years to complete.

Klang took up his role as the lead cleric of the All Saints Temple a few miles outside of Phandalin. After instituting some “best practices” to encourage growth among the faithful, he took to the roads (as his deity often demands) to meet and greet with the political elite along the Sword Coast, leveraging the Goblin Stomper’s new found fame to build relationships and help facilitate the reconciliation of the many rebuilding efforts in the cultists wake. Klang certainly needed as many friends he could get after pissing off Ambassador Brawnanvil, a leading figure among the Order of the Gauntlet.

Caesare and Rolen had been kept busy cleaning up a thieves guild in Waterdeep at the bidding of the Zhentarim. Few details were shared, but most understood it was more of a power play among the seedier elements in that city, not out of any noble goodness in their hearts. Though they did mention having to pay their guild dues, so some good must have come of it.

Raven spent far too much time on Harper missions, mostly spying and gathering information while the various cities and kingdoms regrouped after the fall of the cultists. So much so, that she was eager to be out from under their constant supervision and endless errands, and with the free-wheeling Goblin Stompers again.

Orik was busy defending his tribe from an invading force. Mustering a small mercenary group of barbarians, he was able to reestablish order and drive the invaders from their lands. After a few months of relative calm and the addition of some decorative flourishes on the statue of his god Bob, he was summoned by his fellow Goblin Stompers for another adventure far to the east.

Valin had been contacted by the Emerald Enclave to travel to Phlan and help prove (or disprove) that Colvin Doverson has a lineage claim to the Cinnabar throne. It seems the Lord Sage (head of the great and renowned Mantor’s Library in Phlan), requested the Enclave’s assistance to aid Colvin in a struggle for the leadership of Phlan.

The Zhentarim had their own ideas on who should be elected in Phlan and summoned Caesare and Rolen to travel there and see what they can do to ensure the leader of Phlan was to their liking. They would be guided by a monk named Lazarus.

Klang was summoned to Phlan by the Order of the Gauntlet as there was a possibility of government leadership being determined by an election rather than monarchy. With all his recent experience of dealing with nobles and tense situations, the Order thought Klang was the dwarf for the job.

To Mantor’s Library in Phlan
Upon learning of each others’ common destination, the Goblin Stompers knew something (possibly sinister?) was afoot in Phlan and it would probably be best to travel as a group. On their way to Phlan, they learned of various rumors of what was happening there. The closer they got, the stranger the rumors became – four possible rulers all vying for leadership of a city! Haven’t they ever heard of succession planning? Oy, this place must be a real mess of a place.

There were other rumors, like Doomguide Yorvir Glandon – a cleric of Kelemvor – turned into a vampire? These are the guys who can’t become undead! What nonsense!

As they neared the city’s outskirts, they noticed the beautiful lands being well tended. The towers of the city could be seen even from this distance, suggesting an immense size. As they entered the city and approached Mantor’s Library, our heroes noticed a lot of new construction, mostly repairs from what Klang could tell. He commented to the others that there appears to have been a lot of destruction within the past few years.

The city’s population is very diverse with many different races freely mingling. While that suited the Goblin Stompers just fine, it set some on edge when they saw a few less friendly races in the crowds – orcs, drow, even a goblin or two.

Rumors continued to be heard. There was a wizards tower that is warded and that none have successfully entered, even long after the wizard’s death. A previous city leader made a deal with a hag to have fey protect the city, but that deal appears to have fallen through.

Entering the library foyer, they were greeted with the strong smell of drying paint mingled with curing mortar. All around them was a quiet and bustling library, the scrapes of feet and the rustling of papers a constant. Sunlight was streaming in through open windows. Unlit torches and lamps are set about the room.

Approaching the front circulation desk, they are greeted the man who was there, studying a book about birds. The heroes explained they had been summoned by the Lord Sage. The human man introduced himself as Romaolt and asked that they be seated on some long benches to one side of the foyer.

As they waited, the Goblin Stompers noticed two people begin arguing in hushed tones. Soon the whispers escalate to shouting and one (a female drow?!) begins to cough up blood. The other is a man with a widows peak. The woman is arguing in favor of Barett Sokol and the man for Samulkin – two local politicians who are fighting for control over Phlan.

The woman’s flesh begins to melt! And her remains become a pile of goop, which reforms into the shape of an arm that strikes down the man. All are taken aback, most frozen in place by what just happened. Then the Goblin Stompers jumped into action as the goop reforms into the shape of a Yochol demon…or is it an aberration? Whatever it was, it had to be stopped.
Yochol.png
The initial attacks on the Yochol only seemed to piss it off and it turned into a poisonous mist. Klang, seeing things getting lethal fast, started hastening patrons and librarians for the door. Lazarus was quickly closing doors and windows to keep the mist from spreading. So when Klang reached the door, it had been closed. So he opened it and hustled the bystanders out.

Meanwhile, the Goblin Stompers continued their assault on the creature as it reformed in the shape of a large spider. After Valin fell to the poison mist and Raven was nearly felled, they gained the upper hand and Orik killed it. It dissolved, leaving nothing behind but a steaming puddle of goo, which Orik took outside. Rolen tried to harvest some its poison, but was unsuccessful.

Yeah, Phlan has some issues and it’s obvious this place needs help. Healing was dispensed on Valin and Raven, but it was too late for the widow peak guy.

The Lord Sage
So only one person killed, thanks to the Goblin Stompers. It was about then that the Lord Sage showed up, explaining they don’t normally allow fighting in the library. He then guided our heroes to his well appointed office and asked them to be seated. A young librarian arrived with food and drink and the Lord Sage asked that they enjoy this small repast while they speak.
Lord_Sage.png
Some opted to pass on the food and drink. Others indulged. One discreetly checked it for poison, then drank. No one seemed adversely affected. The Lord Sage seemed old, even for one with elven features. He was calm, but nervous. Orik asked who was the woman and Lord Sage explained she was Siria, a supporter of Barrett Sokol and the man was Maelen, a supporter of Samulkin.

He went on to explain there’s a sickness in the city, a Godtouched sickness. It seems to result in strange aberrations with mental powers. It appears the Siria was a victim of this sickness. He hopes this doesn’t deter the Goblin Stompers from the mission he has for them – the vampire Yorvir Glandon, a former Doomguide of Kelemvor.

Some still gasped at this rumor being confirmed. The Lord Sage continued, explaining how a battle that destroyed the Kelemvorite cathedral in Valhingen Graveyard also killed Yorvir. Somehow, Yorvir was returned from the dead as a vampire, even though that’s supposed to be impossible.

Yorvir also managed to convince adventurers to hand over the Gulthias Stake to him, which they were supposed to use to kill him permanently. What were they thinking?! Yorvir was last seen entering the necropolis beneath Valhingen.

The Lord Sage has brokered a deal with the Kelemvor faithful where they send aid to deal with Yorvir and he would get the interim leadership of Phlan (Jhessail Greycastle) to again deed the church of Kelemvor the graveyard. Three clerics of Kelemvor have arrived to assist with putting down this vampire – Zindelo Chegari, Lene Reinhild, and Cadeyrn Solemnstone – and they have been researching in the library. They think they know where the Yorvir is headed and have concocted a plan to defeat him.

The Lord Sage asked that the Goblin Stompers accompany the clerics to help stop Yorvir, offering them 3000 gold. The heroes, after some stern stares and deep thought, agree to this mission. Without their paladin and a monk that follows a darker path, this may not be quite as straight forward as previous missions.

He then explained the political situation. The interim (de facto) ruler, Jhessail Greycastle, is the highest ranking member of the Black Fists and has called for a popular democratic election. She had declared herself a candidate for First Minister. Barrett Sokol, from a wealth family, seeks to be named High Councilor and return power to the noble Council of Ten.

Colvin Doverson claims a tenuous lineage to the original Cinnabar Throne and the Lord Protector. The Lord Sage has been researching his family history and believes he may be related to Anivar Daoran, cousin of the Lord Protector. Colvin would reinstate the old monarchy and renegotiate the treaties with nearby cities to benefit Phlan’s economy. The Lord Sage believes there may be evidence of Colvin’s lineage in the necropolis, and would like the heroes to recover any proof they find. He suggested checking the Tomb of Miltiades, the man who served in the early days of Phlan as a paladin of Tyr and death knight. He offered 2000 gold if they recover such evidence.

Normally, the clerics of Kelemvor would not allow anything be removed, but he has negotiated that they allow one historical artifact be temporarily removed for study and then returned.

The last candidate is Graben Samulkin, a priest of Bane, who seeks to be named Ruin Lord and would make Phlan a theocracy again. He came from Mulmaster a few decades ago, hoping to rebuild the Lyceum. He has won the hearts of many, and with the devastation of Mulmaster, the number of faithful has grown.

After further prodding by Lazarus, the Lord Sage admitted to favoring Colvin as leader as the Black Fists have shown significant corruption. The Council of Ten only seek to profit from the people without regard for their welfare. And the people have long rejected the theocracy of Bane and its ties to Zhentil Keep.

The Kelemvor Clerics
The Lord Sage then escorted them to a reading room where the Kelemvor clerics waited. The three robed clerics of the Master of the Crystal Spire (death worshipers) looked up. Zindelo, a man from Gur, quickly introduces the three, then smiles and asks for introductions. Lene, a Damaran woman, stands silently. Cadeyrn, the male elf, remains seated regarding them passively.

After introductions, Zindelo turns it over to Lene to explain:
they have been dispatched to destroy the vampire
they don’t trust adventurers after the last bunch gave Yorvir the Gulthias Stake
the Lord Sage has provided information Yorvir’s whereabouts, but the necropolis is not mapped
from what they can tell, they think Yorvir is in the area of Miltiades Tomb, and have a rough map using gravestones are markers – it will be slow going
they think the Yorvir seeks something from this tomb
they have prepared a ritual that will allow them to put down the vampire, which will hopefully put its soul to rest
it is not enough to simply kill the vampire as it is unclear if normal methods can permanently kill the beast
for the ritual to work, Yorvir must be immobilized with a specially prepared stake driven into its heart while a special prayer to Kelemvor is intoned – this will be difficult as he can change shape into mist
grave robbing and tomb raiding are strictly forbidden; any such behavior is grounds to abort the mission
any undead encountered must be destroyed; this is part of their faith and do not compromise on it
they must depart now to catch up to the Yorvir the vampire
they will not generally assist in combat other than in minor healing

Into the Necropolis
They offer a pack with 2 bottles of holy water, a Kelemvor holy symbol, and 5 torches. The Goblin Stompers accept it and get moving. The necropolis is below the ruined cathedral. A simple set of stairs leads down ending in a vast cavern, with endless darkness dampening the light from Klang’s mace.

As far as they could see were mausoleums, an entire city of dead that will never see the sun. As they traveled along, the buildings and tombs seemed to get older. The clerics are disagreeing on direction, so they have the heroes spread out to find markers to chart a course.

As they searched, Valin was struck by seemly random necrotic energy. After finding several markers, they set off for the shrine of Tyr based. After an hour of walking, their light filled the area including a sculpture of the Maimed God, Tyr, who judges wrong-doers and furthers the law. Tyr’s faith died out following the Time of Troubles when he lost faith in himself and passed his divinity to Torm. After dying in a demonic invasion, he has been resurrected and is gaining a following once more.

At the base of the sculpture, it reads, “Reveal the truth, punish the guilty, right the wrong, and always be true and just in your actions.” They also notice footprints of medium sized boots shuffling towards the tomb of Radomil the Crafter.

After more arguing, the clerics look to the Goblin Stompers for a decision. Either head to the Grave of Adelajda Salko which might turn up clues to the lineage or head to the tomb of Radomil the Crafter which should take them more directly towards the vampire. They decided on the Grave of Adelajda Salko.

After a little ways, they could smell the smoke before they could see the flickering fire light. Ahead, our destination, the door stands open and a roar of flames can be heard coming from it. As they approached, a large golem attacked. Caesare summoned a water elemental to fight the fire. A crazy fight ensued in which a spell caster was found in the tomb beyond the golem. Once defeated, the golem stopped fighting and took up a stationary position outside the tomb, making no outward sign of ever having moved.

Rolen quickly lifted a spell book and various components from the mage. Klang healed the mage enough to be questioned. It turns out he was thankful for freeing him from the vampires charm. While Klang and Rolen kept a close eye on the mage during the questioning, Valin and Lazarus searched the place for linage proof. While Valin found valuable documents, none were lineage related and he returned them. Lazarus found some evidence, which he took.

They also found a map to Miltiades Tomb. Making a copy of it, the clerics returned the original. They also found linage information on the death knight, but not exactly the info they are looking for and return it.

Interrogation of the mage, named Eihim, they learned that he misses his family and has been under the vampire’s charm for several months. He tells the heroes many things:
Yorvir is headed to Miltiades’s tomb and should be near the Fountain of Crying Angels by now.
Provides directions to the Fountain of Crying Angels.
Yorvir is definitely a vampire, but there’s something odd about him and is often surrounded by bits of mist. He is very powerful.
Yorvir is concerned about the strange corruption spreading through Phlan. He has not learned how it spreads, but it does not seem to affect undead.
Yorvir plans to turn all of Phlan into undead. He seeks the Shield of Miltiades to act as a focus for the ritual that will encase Phlan in endless night where all fall into undeath.
He will not face the vampire again and simply wants to escape the necropolis.

Releasing Eihim, the Goblin Stompers headed for the Fountain of Crying Angels. Upon arriving, they found four low walled pools of water, each with a angelic figure in its center. Two are male and two female. Water pours from each in the pools. Splitting up, they each tried drinking from a pool:
Caesare & Raven drink from female left
Valin drinks from the female right
Lazarus drinks from the male right
Rolen drinks from the male left
Each gain various magical benefits, only differing between male and female.

Then they were set upon by 3 groups of 5 undead. A sculpted fireball kills 4 in two groups. Clerics refuse to turn undead. Klang destroys most of the rest with turn undead. Those that remain are quickly mopped up. Then they were set up by a zombie beholder, five vampire spawn, and six undead ogres!
zombie_beholder.png
Caesare was almost paralyzed by the beholder. While the ogres kept Valin, Caesare, Rolen, Orik and Raven busy, Klang and Lazarus took out the beholder and vampire spawn. Soon, all fell to the mighty Goblin Stompers. When done, the lame Kelemvor clerics did some minor healing. Klang sipped from one of the pools for the magical healing effects.

Searching the area, they found a loose brick on the bottom of a bench with a crude holy symbol of Tyr carved into it. Behind it was a Windwall spell scroll and 1000 gold. Because it wasn’t in a tomb or mausoleum, it was fair game.

<metagame>
Klang gets a point of inspiration for timing the wah-wah trombone at the appropriate time.
</metagame>

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Session 32
Tiamat Interruptus

Tiamat’s Temple
Deciding there was no time to waste, our heroes decided it was time to head up the lava tunnels to the caldera where the odd-shaped temple resides. Marching up the tunnel, they arrived in the temple’s blue tower area. It was about 120ft across with odd angled walls. Other colored areas were visible in the distance. Above them, they could see the planar rift and Tiamat struggling to come through from Hell.

Valin, O’Dell and Caesare cast protection from energy (acid, fire, and lightning) on Orik. O’Dell cast death ward on Klang. O’Dell decided that was enough for the buffs and rushed in, knowing time was short.

Six red wizards were positioned throughout the temple with one floating in the air in the main apex of the temple before the planar rift, wearing the fully assembled mask of the dragon queen. They were all fully engaged in the ritual of Tiamat’s return, and were prime targets for ranged attacks.

There were some who noticed the blue mask was present and questions ran through their minds. Caesare had no such questions as he cast a fire bolt at the nearest red wizard. O’Dell, having rushed ahead, was taking in the scene at close range. Klang and Orik rushed to his side. Klang cast beacon of hope to help the three survive what was about to come.

Rolen moved far ahead along one wall, stopping just short of the next red colored area to use the wall as cover and launched his attack at the flying/floating red wizard with the mask. Valin and Caesare joined Rolen’s position and launched their own attacks.

Then the devils arrived, 10 in all, each of a different variety – barbed, bearded, horned, chain, ice, erinyes, lemure, imp, bone, pit fiend. And for some reason, the pit fiend felt is was necessary to bring his hell hound along for fun. Snosare (the construct Caseare made of himself) was the first attacked by the devils, but he successfully dodged. Valin and Orik were poisoned when struck by the devils. Klang and O’Dell both took hits from the devils as well.

O’Dell reached for Klang, saying “T’is my time good friend to put an end ta dis. Ye are warded from death, so be sure to bring me back.” Then O’Dell misty stepped away to the flying/floating red wizard, who he recognized as Severin – the leader of this insanity. O’Dell knew he had made the right decision coming up here. “Never bother with the minions if the leader is in sight”, his pappy had always said.

Klang meanwhile looked up as O’Dell’s misty form vanished to lock eyes with the pit fiend and his pet hell hound, leaving him and Orik flanked by several devils. Shaking his fist at the pit fiend, Klang shouted, “Ye bastard O’Dell, ye dodgy paladin running from devils, yer gonna o’ me for dis!” Then he pulled out his holy water, but not to throw it. He new the pit fiend was the worst of the bunch, so he clenched it to his breast, the words coming to him as in prayer as he waved his other arm about, and cast banishment on the fiend. The fiend disappeared in a sudden silence followed by a “pop” sound. Then the hell hound was upon him.

Rolen had become engaged in mêlée with the devils and was successfully applying his sneak attacks. Valin, having spotted Rath Modar, successfully targeted him with his arrows and forcing him from participating in the ritual – a seemingly key part of stopping the ritual.
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Snosare moved into position to line up several devils and released a lightning bolt, striking all of them and killing one. Caesare also moved into a similar position, lining up several devils, and released a lightning bolt, killing the imp. The remaining devils attempted to strike down these formidable foes, but the protective magics they had on prevented most of the damage, with one devil dropping his glaive. Caseare took a hit, but it wasn’t fatal.

Other devils picked what seemed to be easier targets. The chain devil grappled Rolen in chains.

O’Dell, recognizing his foe, unloaded on him with a smite of vengeance that won’t soon be forgotten. While Severin had taken a few ranged hits from Rolen and Valin, what O’Dell unleashed crushed him into a bloody pulp; a fleshy mess is all that remained. It was an odd scene as Severin’s body continued to float in the air, his blood falling to the floor below.

An image appeared in O’Dell’s mind of an ornery dwarf wielding two axes, yelling at him, “TAKE THE MASK AND FLEE YOU FOOL!” Never one to ignore divine guidance, O’Dell set to extracting the mask from Severin’s crushed corpse.
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Klang, busy with his own problems, dropped sacred flame on a devil, then cast sanctuary on himself. He needed to keep that banishment spell going for a minute to ensure that pit fiend wasn’t coming back. Orik kept the nearby devils busy, but the hell hound was having none of it.

Right about then, the armies arrived with Raven at their head. So that’s what she’s been doing all this time – Harper’s sneaky business. The giant’s flying castle and the metallic dragons had begun their assault outside on the temple and chromatic dragons. The Order of the Gauntlet was guarding the entrance and laying low those outside with the Emerald Enclave. It seems the Red Wizards would have kept the devils in check, but there was not use worrying about that now.

Now was time for the Arcane Brotherhood to start taking down the red wizards involved in the ritual. And so it went, with red wizard after red wizard falling to Arcane Brotherhood. Not that the brotherhood didn’t suffer losses as well. But the tide of battle had changed and there were now signs of hope that Tiamat may not return.

Rolen attacked the chain devil that had him grappled. Valin attacked several devils. Snosare cast another lightning bolt. Caesare used his staff to cast an ice storm on five of the devils, killing one. Raven joined combat, killing one devil.

<metagame>
The DM blurted, “Wizard bullshit!”
</metagame>

The devils struck back, hitting Orik, Valin, Rolen, Caesare, and Snosare. Having finally extracted the mask from Severin’s remains, O’Dell started flying for an exit…at a poky 25 feet per turn. Seems dwarves don’t fly any faster than they run…must be air resistance.

Valin noticed the planar rift was slowly closing after devils had thrashed him. The red wizards abandoned the ritual and turned to attack the Arcane Brotherhood. Klang cast healing on Valin. Rolen attacked using his feats, dealing continued damage to the devils. Valin got off a good shot on Rath Modar, killing the bastard.
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Then it was Snosare running for the exit. Caesare cast his final lightning bolt on three devils. Then it was a quick death for the remaining devils and hell hound. The Arcane Brotherhood killed the remaining red wizards and the planar rift was gone.

Tiamat’s return had been foiled by the Goblin Stompers.

There was the usual body looting and plundering the remaining lava tunnels, all the treasure of which was turned over to the council to divvy up between the 15 competing interests. While the Goblin Stompers were one of those 15, they were not particularly concerned with money at the moment. In fact, if they had been more concerned, O’Dell would have insisted on returning most of the stolen loot to the rightful owners, effectively pissing off everyone who fought in the battle. No, instead, they were all just thankful to be alive. They remembered to bring out the prisoners from their short stay in the magical mansion with some not wanting to leave.

The dragon cultists and their dragons had been beaten and now they fled from the Well of Dragons. The immediate threat to Faerûn was over. The Goblin Stompers had won the day.

<metagame>
No milestones were technically achieved. No increment in class levels were attained. But the DM was harangued long enough that he conceded to grant some magic items to most involved.
</metagame>

Each received a little something, some (not Valin or O’Dell) gained divine blessings:
O’Dell received a dwarven thrower.
Klang received dwarven plate mail 1 (resists being moved by half).
Orik received a vicious battle ax (
7 damage on critical hits)
Rolen received studded leather armor +1.
Caesare received gray robes of the archmagi.
Raven received as short sword of 9 lives and the silver Horn of Valhalla.
Valin received a ring of protection +1.

Then they took some long overdue downtime.
Orik learned new languages: giant, elven, and draconic. He also started a new barbarian tribe that worships Bob and created a mercenary business.
Valin spent time honing his armor’s features, adding a +1 to it.
Klang traveled (as his deity is fond of doing) to gain political influence among the cities of the Sword Coast, visiting any temples to the dwarven pantheon along the way.
Caesare gained proficiency in religion.
Raven worked with Valin to improve her armor’s features, adding +1 to it.
O’Dell worked on building an army with the Lord’s Alliance for a “drow hunt” in his mountain home.

<metagame>
Just for fun, we duked it out with Tiamat for an hour, just to see how we’d fare. Under ideal conditions, we managed to kill her…but it took several rounds of healing to keep the team on their feet.

With the players needing a little downtime, we agreed to reconvene in a few weeks, leaving it to Paul to put something on the calendar. Perhaps our characters will travel to Phlan yet! Mostly because the Goblin Stompers had seen enough of the Sword Coast…or was that the Sword Coast had seen enough of them?
</metagame>

O’Dell’s epilog:
“Clangeddin don’t go ‘round givin hand outs to jus anybuddy. Ya gotta earn it. Tiamat was jusn peeking her heads out inta this world. She knew better than to try to come in. This was just a side quest for old O’Dell, I gotta mountain fulluv dank drow to exterminate and my family’s honor to restore. My reward comes when I’m feeding da mushrooms under da family garden back home. Then I’ll have time to rest in Clangeddins great battlefields, takin in the glory of honorable conflict. Now dis here throwin hammer is interesting, never thought it was a good idea to throw one’s weapon away, but I guess I’ll try it out onna few drow skulls. Who’s wit ol’ O’Dell?”

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Session 31
Thay and the Well of Dragons

Shopping in Waterdeep
Finally free of the Council’s demanding schedule, the Goblin Stompers finally had time to visit the markets in Waterdeep. While offering some of the finest selections, it didn’t make finding rare items any easier. Haggling with scoundrels, getting wizards and clerics to part with their items, and generally negotiating with slimy characters always make the process more unsavory than it sounds.

Despite the trouble, this day was a good one for the Goblin Stompers, finding bracers of archery for Valin (500 gold), a mace of disruption for Klang (5000 gold), and some throwing stars for Rolen (100 gold). As with any rare items, former owners or religious sects may covet these items. The bracers were once owned by nobility (who may want it back), attune quickly, and make Valin feel self-assured. The mace is of elven make with leaves and vines decorating its length, it is light and floats on water (helping with swimming checks), and was used in religious ceremonies to Silvanus (so his followers may want it back).

<metagame>
DM said to mention page 143 perk #4 when the mace is used. Hmm…
</metagame>

The throwing stars were specially tempered, but otherwise ordinary. However, when launched from his magical metal arm, they are considered a magical attack.

O’Dell was frustrated by the market’s lack of product that would meet his needs. Some might think his smell or paladin nature might put off the Waterdehavian hawkers or something. Or maybe his reluctance to part with his flying boots was a deal breaker. Whatever happened, he left the market empty handed.

Then they got a good night rest in the usual accommodations – the Dragon Flanks Inn – where they specialize in serving rare cuts of meat. The following day, they charge themselves up with a Heroes Feast, an inspiring speech by O’Dell, and then it was off to the teleportation circle.

O’Dell was pulled aside by the Lord’s Alliance and briefed again about how to address the Red Wizards of Thay – titles only, no names, undead everywhere. Always be wary. Blah, blah, blah.

Then it was Nyh Ilmichh teleporting them to Nethwatch Keep, just inside the lands of Thay, to meet with tharchion Eseldra Yeth. They arrived in one piece and stepped out of the teleportation circle into the rather dry air. She led them to a banquet hall where they were greeted with fine food and spirits…not that they were hungry. In fact, most declined to eat, fearing the Thayan bent for undead minions. Speaking of which, no one had seen anything living yet – only the undead servants and staff. Creepy!

When they were done, O’Dell asked about the schedule of events. Nyh explained that they would sleep in their rooms and meet with the tharchion tomorrow. They were led to their separate rooms, which were locked behind them. Seems neither side was a trusting bunch.

Red Wizard Trouble in Thay
That night, they all had similarly bad dreams. Those of good bent tend to fair worse than those less than good. Orik woke with blood running from his nose and mouth. Klang’s had the same mess, but woke screaming and his head ached. When they were released from their rooms, they shared some choice (mostly unhappy) words while being escorted to the banquet hall room again, where fresh food was laid out.

Some nibbled at the food while they exchanged their dream experiences. One consistent theme was a pale red wizard asking the same general questions:
- Why did you come to Thay?
- Do you know Rath Modar?
- What do you know of your peers?
- What’s the party’s attitude towards Szass Tam?

Caesare and O’Dell seemed to have the most accurate recollection, and Caesare was actually able to ward himself to a great degree from their prying questions. Rolen slept fine and remembered nothing. And they all still had yet to spot a living creature since arriving.

At the designated time, they were led from the hall to the audience chamber. It was a large bowl shaped room, much like a Colosseum where those in the stands can see what happens below in the gladiator pit, but have cover should they need it. Those in the gladiator pit had less cover and were easy targets from above.

There they were greeted by tharchion Eseldra Yeth, perched atop the 8-foot wall looking down at them. She was scary looking, and likely undead, human female…much like Nyh. She got down to business quickly:
We find ourselves bound in common cause against common enemies. Those who sought to destroy us in ages past now seek to destroy you. Our thirst for vengeance is strong, as is your thirst for continued life.

Our enemy has become your enemy. We know their weaknesses and the ways of destroying them forever, without destroying their usefulness. You have the opportunity to discover their hiding places in your struggle against their cult allies. Together, we can remove them as a threat to us both.

Our agent, Nyh Ilmichh, will return with you to your city of Waterdeep, there to serve as our liaison to your council. What you learn of the enemy, she will relay to us by means of our own. You need only find the enemy. We will deal with them, as is our custom.
Nyh_Ilmichh.png
I am authorized by our eternal master, Szass Tam, to say these things, for I act in his name.

Klang didn’t miss that “without destroying their usefulness” comment. All those dracolich papers and books still fresh in his memory set him on edge. These Red Wizards were no better than the cultists, worse in fact. They would set each dragon’s dead husk upon the world, only doubly dangerous as undead beasts. He started praying to Marthamoor Duin for guidance.

O’Dell and Valin exchanged a glance. It was now or never. O’Dell responded:
D’archi’on, d’ere be a bit of dis’ent amung’st me Goblin Stompers w’it yer treatment while in yer keep last night. Ye be a prod’in an pok’in our wits ere we slept. T’is not acc’ptable dur’in negosh’e’atins. Yer terms be rejected.

With that, Valin made to fire his bow, but they were teleported away too quickly. His arrow bounced off the wall of a barn. The Goblin Stompers all raged at the quickly timed teleport. Even the usually calm and collected Caseare was irritated enough to teleport them all back in mere seconds.

Only Nyh was in sight, so Valin launched his lightning arrow at her. Rolen launched his throwing stars at her. Both scored excellent hits. Then 5 wights were teleported into their midst. Klang dispatched most of the wights in flash of divine light. Caesare used a sculpted fireball to hit Nyh and a wight. Nyh survived, but the wight was a smoking pile of flesh.

That’s when 4 wizards teleported in and each cast a fireball in the pit where the Goblin Stompers stood. Caesare misty stepped to the top of the 8-foot wall and cast chain-lightning, killing the last wight and hitting several wizards. Nyh simply disappeared into a puff of mist.

Then 10 more wizards teleported into the edges of the room, so this time there were 15 fireballs. Caesare was wise (lucky) enough to teleport the crew back to the brothel (no stinking barn for our heroes).

As they slogged their smoking bodies back to the palace to inform the Council, they discussed surviving 19 fireballs. That seemed like a reason to consider changing the party’s name, but “Fireball Survivors” didn’t have the same ring to it. Maybe “Death Deniers” would work?

<metagame>
I think this summarizes the general feeling at the table after being out gunned by the Red Wizards.
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</metagame>

When the Council was informed, there were many different reactions around the room as everyone started talking amongst themselves. It was nearly a roar of conversations, most arguing over the relative merits of the Goblin Stompers to lead the Sword Coast army against the Well of Dragons. In the end, Lady Silverhand and Lord Neverember got them all to agree that the Goblin Stompers were worthy of the task and were their best shot at preventing Tiamat’s return.

That last bit was accentuated by another magical wave of the Draakhorn, something far more frequent now, reminding them all of their impending doom and lack of options. It seemed the various factions had finally set aside their differences, at least for this desperate task – sending this ragtag group of adventurers with their armies to save the world. What a bunch of nut jobs.

The discussion changed focus to how the Goblin Stompers should approach and assault the Well of Dragons. From various sources and people captured over the past few months, the Council has learned that the area is now a wasteland and the cultist’s preparations are nearly complete. Local animals have fled, villagers in the area left or are quickly leaving, and every farmstead is a charred ruin. Flight is all but impossible for the chromatic dragons patrol the skies and strike at any ground force.

With advice from the assembled leaders, the Goblin Stompers agreed to have the armies travel through forests and ravines to avoid detection. Once near the Well of Dragons, the Goblin Stompers will approach and infiltrate the inactive volcano where it is rumored the Temple of Tiamat has been brought forth from some level of the nine hells. Things are escalating fast now and there needs to be a decisive strike to thwart Tiamat’s return.

No one’s quite sure why, but dragons of all types go to the Well of Dragons when they die. So the place is likely littered with dragon bones and carcases. That doesn’t bode well based on the dracolich papers and books found at Xonthal’s tower.

With that quick briefing, they set off for the Well of Dragons.

To the Well of Dragons
Early on, they took to the roads and traveled in wagons, heading south east through Daggerford, over the Boareskyr Bridge, past the southern edge of the Forest of Wyrms, and onto the now deserted town of Triel. It was here they left horses and wagons behind and traveled on foot through the Reaching Woods into the Sunset Mountains. The heat was dry and the weather held steady.

As they marched closer, they confirmed that all the intelligence they had been given was spot on. It was bad and everyone they passed was going the other way with eyes to the sky. It didn’t take a genius to learn why. Soon enough, Klang spotted a chromatic dragon coming their way and the armies went to ground in the forest, using whatever they could to camouflage themselves. They seemed to have got lucky for a change as the dragon did not appear to notice them.

And so it went, armies marching through a now silent and empty forest, ducking and hiding at the slightest sign of winged creature. It was a tiring march, with no fires and only cold rations to eat. O’Dell was as odorous as ever and most gave him a wide berth. So it was that the scouts reported back that the volcano that marked the Well of Dragons was only a few miles ahead and it was time for the Goblin Stompers to venture forth on their own to find the best avenue to assault the place.

After a heroes’ feast and an inspiring speech, they set off for the volcano. It didn’t take long to learn they would not be able to approach the place without some serious stealth. The caldera of the long-dead volcano rose from a field of ashes. Thousands of creatures milled about its slopes in military-like formations. Many dragons circled the place, occasionally roaring to good effect.

The Goblin Stompers are not stealthy. But they were adept at magic. Caesare cast invisibility on O’Dell. Klang cast silence on O’Dell. O’Dell flew a few dozen feet off the ground, enough to clear the trees and creatures, but not so high as to attract the attention of the dragons. It was strictly to survey the landscape and find entrances. One loop around the volcano and back. It went off without a hitch.

Upon returning, O’Dell identified six entrances – north west, 2x north east, south, south east, and east. They appeared to be tubes created when the volcano’s lava was force up through the rock many eons ago. Structurally very sound, so no concerns of collapsing tunnels. Most entrances looked well used, but the south appeared to be completely unused…except may be by bats?

He warned of a structure in the volcano’s caldera (that collapsed section in the middle) that appeared to have risen from below. It was mind-numbingly hard to look at, with chaotic angles and jutting buttresses. Only with his eye for stonework was he able to discern five asymmetric towers – likely one for each chromatic dragon type. Dragons seem to be consistently thematic that way.

He also mentioned that despite not hearing anything, he did feel the thrum of the Draakhorn, even stronger than what they feel here at this close distance. He thinks it is likely any noise we might make would be masked to some degree.

They set off, circling around to the volcano’s south side where the seldom used lava tube entrance lay. The approach was almost too easy. Surely they would be seen by the dragons or some military unit on patrol. Nope, no such problems. Timora surely was smiling upon them today.

They entered, careful not to disturb the bats on the ceiling, and traveled down the lava tube. It was mighty dark for Rolen and Caesare, so Klang used his new mace to light the way. After about 300 feet or so, they came to a pile of rubble along one wall. While Orik and Valin inspected the rubble, O’Dell notice a steady flow of air coming from ahead down the tunnel, suggesting another opening to the outside somewhere ahead.

Yet another stroke of luck – the rubble was easily cleared away to another tunnel. They could see light further down the tunnel, so it seemed like the best route to follow. They wanted to go down and flowing air would not be indicative of that. So they went east through the rubble opening.

They spotted humanoid tracks, probably human, as they approached a 4-way intersection. Options were north, west, and south east. Rolen led the way south east, which went on for 100 feet before coming to a T-intersection. They went right again, which led them down a curving hallway. Rolen spotted a group of guards ahead who didn’t notice him, their attention focused outside the volcano entrance they were guarding.

Making his way back the 20 feet to the team, he motioned for them to halt and turn back. He explained in a hushed whisper what he found – a guarded entrance to the volcano. They must have lucked out finding unguarded entrance. Returning to the T-intersection, they continued straight down the unexplored path.

They soon smelled blood and rotten meat, probably coming from the room ahead. They entered and found 4 guard drakes fighting over some humanoid remains. The room itself was large and diamond shaped, spanning almost 200 feet across. The guard drakes were quickly dispatched and quick search turned up nothing valuable.

There was only one other exit from the room, so they took it going north for about 20 feet and again were presented with a T-intersection. They went right (west), which seemed to go down. Must be following the “always go right” rule to ensure you traverse every path. After about 40 feet, they were at a not-so-square 4-way intersection. Hearing a moaning noise coming from the north and north-east, they took the north east path.

A handful of cultists were holding a group of people prisoner. The Goblin Stompers killed the cultists and were contemplating setting the prisoners free. But they knew that wasn’t a good idea and they could not spare someone to lead them to safety. Caesare offered a better solution, but before he could enact it, there were 8 more cultists rushing into the room.

These cultists were also dispatched quickly. Caesare spent some time to cast Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, which creates a extradimensional dwelling. We shuffled the now free prisoners into the mansion for safe keeping, letting them know we’d come get them when it was time to leave.

Some were a little uncertain, thinking perhaps this was a trap. That is, until they stepped inside and saw the clean, fresh and inviting space along with servants and abundant food and drink. Then it was nearly a bum rush through the door.

When O’Dell stopped one and asked, “D’ye knows what ‘ere mean ta do wit’ ye?” She answered, “De wuz takin us ta be sacraficing. What did ya t’ink de was do’in wit us ya fool dwarf?” before dashing through the extradimensional door.

Turning a little red-faced, O’Dell decided there was better things to be doing. Scouting the rest of the room, they found no other exits in either prisoner room. So it was back across the hallway to another room. These appeared to be Red Wizard quarters with all their gear neatly packed as if ready to leave at a moments notice. The room through the far exit was the same – Red Wizard quarters.

Puzzling over this turn of events, Valin grabbed a set of red robes with a hood and put them on over his leather armor and covered his head. Passable from a distance. Only the the lack of pale death-like skin and bearded chin would give him away up close. Others grabbed robes as well, but the dwarves and halfling were more challenged. O’Dell and Rolen paired up with Rolen on O’Dell’s shoulders, robe covering both. The stilted walk seemed in keeping with the undead the Thay liked so much. Klang considered stilts, but decided he’d act as a prisoner or something instead.

They then moved on through the other exit, heading south east and back to a hallway intersection they already passed through once. They took the north east path back towards the prisoner rooms this time took a right instead of a left to the east and found yet another prisoner room with 5 more dragonclaws (cultists of some rank).

After relieving them of their lives, the Goblin Stompers started to guide them to the extradimensional mansion in the nearby prisoner room. They looked back to see the prisoners taking what they could from the dead bodies – weapons, clothes, and what not. It seems they didn’t quite believe what they were told of the mansion.

Once squirreled safely away in mansion, the heroes headed towards one of the last unexplored lava tunnel rooms. Again, they were greeted by several human cultists in their well lit room – all the better for Caesare to aim his fireball.

Klang and O’Dell noticed that all the paths seemed to lead upwards to the caldera or down to the lava tunnel entrances. They also knew it was unlikely that all the lava tunnels were joined together – that’s not how a volcano explodes. So they had to be nearly done clearing this section of tunnels out and would soon need to get word to their awaiting armies. They also were concerned that someone might notice their prisoner deliveries were stalled and would come to find out why.

Caesare commented that it seemed most of the truly powerful and dangerous were busy with Tiamat’s return – the empty Red Wizard quarters were a sure sign of that. Things really must be nearing completion and they needed to act fast.

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Session 30
A Tower of Trouble

From Hedge to Tower
Stumbling back into the 8-exit maze area and no discernible direction on the compass, our heroes resorted to logic. If every exit does not lead to the tower and the compass isn’t getting us there, there must be an alternate, non-obvious route to the tower. After Valin took a good look around, Klang called Rolen over to the edge of the hedge, pointing at something. When Rolen bent in to look, Klang gave him a shove into the hedge.

Sure enough, Rolen disappeared in magical “pop”. Caesare noted it sound a lot like a teleport spell and in they all went. Anything was better than wandering around this magical hedge maze. So after about 30 minutes after entering the maze, they found themselves outside of the maze and at the foot of the tower near a teleport circle with one path leading back to the maze and the other path leading to the village. Now this is more like it!

Orik was napping in the grass, waking with a start at their arrival. “’Bout time” he said. “I’ve been waiting for y’all to show up. Darned druid’s of this Emerald Enclave got me here, then left saying you’d be along soon.” There was no sign of Raven and no one asked about her, being a sensitive subject and likely only to distract them from their mission. Questions could come later. Most were relieved for the additional help in searching the tower for this defector and the blue dragon mask.

Nearby, there was a dead body crumpled on the ground in black cultist robes. It appeared to be the person who greeted us when we first approached the maze. Rolen confirmed the body held nothing of value, like the body had been picked over.

Moving over to the teleport circle, they stepped into it and, after a few seconds, again vanished with a “pop”. Klang started thinking maybe this was Marthamoor Duin’s way for him get in some practice for future teleportation to other planes. So far, not too bad…

Xonthal’s Tower
They were now in a room with tall walls with balconies at various points higher and another dead body lay sprawled on the floor. Inspecting the body, it was confirmed she was a high level cultist and was killed by a dragon tooth dagger. This sounded a lot like when they found that body back in Diderius’ tomb by the water that temporarily made Klang a gibbering idiot. Hmm…

O’Dell flew up 8-feet to inspect the nearest balcony and saw a teleport circle on the floor, perhaps teleporting those on it elsewhere…likely to the floor below. Others, glancing around, noticed cryptic geometric symbols inscribed on a metal panel on the wall near the floor level teleport circle. There were nine symbols in all – a chair, a double chair, an upside down L, a rectangle, a flame, a star, a square, an hourglass, and a right triangle.

O’Dell flew back down and explained what he found on the balconies. Then, with little else to do, they touched the chair symbol while standing in the circle…and were teleported to the same circle. That wasn’t very useful. Valin touched the double chair symbol and they were teleported to a balcony in the same room. So far, so good.

Hopping down to the main floor again, they touched the upside down L and landed in a different room. It was circular with unpolished steel walls and door. A simple latch opened the door, which swung outward. There were bed rolls scattered about as if this were sleeping quarters. Several other doors were around the room and from one they were greeted by a fanatic cultist and 4 regular cultists. The cultists made a dash for the teleport room, but Valin was quick on the draw, lobbing a volley of arrows on them. None escaped alive.

Searching the entire level turned up the same in four other rooms – sleeping rolls. So it was time to move on, touching the rectangle. Here they found painted dracoliches decorating the walls. A stone alter in the center featured skeletal limbs and claws of a dragon. Six dragon cultists huddled around the alter looked up in surprise. Two were mages and 5 were cultists.

O’Dell dashed into their midst and took the full dodge action. Rolen learned what a cone of cold looks like when it gave him the chills. Orik continued to make good use of his great ax. Right about then, the claws became animated, striking out at the unsuspecting heroes. A few sculpted fireballs from Caesare and soon the fight was over. Searching the corpses turned up a few scrolls about draco liches.

Again at the teleport circle, they touched the flame symbol. Appearing in a room with a large lit fireplace and dragon bones laid out on the floor, they were set upon by 6 black cloaked figures charging into the teleport circle. Caesare let loose a firebolt while Orik felled one by less magical means. Then they were teleported by one of the cultists to the star symbol location, where they were set upon by 5 new foes – four cultists and 1 mage, plus the fellow who teleported them.

It was unpleasantly warm when the mage let loose a fireball on the Goblin Stompers, but Rolen killed the mage quickly. O’Dell defended the teleport circle controls so as not to be teleported again. Caesare killed the last of them. The usual body search turned up an hourglass shaped key. The room itself was an observatory with some astronomy books.

O’Dell wanted to go back to put an end to the previous room’s occupants nefarious dragon ritual nonsense. So back to the flame symbol and there they resumed their fight, quickly putting down all but one cultist. Questioning him, they learned the hourglass key is used on the wall indent of the same shape by the teleport controls. The black dragon bones were for decoration. Nothing further was learned and they let him go.

Back to the teleport circle, they touched the square and found themselves in a bedroom of sorts. The furniture was run down and a hastily erected desk of planks and barrels was covered in more dracolich books and papers, which they collected.

Back to the teleport circle, they touched the right angle symbol and found themselves back in the magical hedge maze with the sundial. Doh! After struggling to remember the sequence of areas that reached the tower (a non-trivial exercise for the players), they returned to the tower’s entrance and inserted the hourglass key into corresponding indent by the teleport circle controls.

They landed in a dungeon, presumably below the tower, where the found 3 dead cultists on the floor and a trail of blood. Following the blood trail, they found a 2nd trail of blood. It seems someone was trying to evade the cultists, but was pursued. The blood trails led to a room with 2 earth elementals and 1 fire elemental. Yikes! Why do the evil wizards always have the best guards?

It took a while to send them back to their own planes, but it was worth it. A shoe box sized chest held 2 scrolls of protection from fire elemental and 1 scroll of protection from earth elemental. Nice, if a bit late.

Continuing along, there was a hallway to the left that led to a door or, alternatively, they could proceed down some steps into a “cosmic walkway”, which appeared to stretch across infinite space. Only arrogant wizards can decorate like that. Hmm…let’s see…we’ll take the normal hallway to a door and consider the cosmic walkway nonsense if necessary.

Opening the door, they encountered a large whirlwind spinning in the middle of the room. There were shiny gems swirling in the whirlwind, there for the taking…or so it seemed. Rolen, ever the optimist, attempted to grab one of them. Instead of grasping it, it fell to the floor where it broke, releasing an air elemental.

Now this is where things got interesting…because Rolen thought the whirlwind was stopping and thought all the gems would fall, he tried to grab them all before they hit the floor. Unfortunately, he failed some kind of intelligence check as the whirlwind did not stop and all the gems fell to the floor because he reached for each of them. Yes, he release 9 elementals all at the same time. And not all were wimpy air elementals, but a nice mix of 3 air, 2 fire, 2 earth, and 2 water. My, they were in for a good time, putting all those area of effect spells to good use.

Klang used his fire storm, Caesare used his ice storm, and Rolen admitted that he sucked. Valen was slammed by an earth elemental. Water hit Rolen. Klang used his magic missile wand. Rolen dropped one. Valin dropped one, then another. Klang issued a mass heal. O’Dell kept up his dance of defense, using up their attacks without doing an real damage.

Rolen got sucked into a water elemental where he died, twice. Caesare learned that his ice storm was effective against the elementals, delivering bludgeoning damage for several rounds. It killed the last of them. Valin again revived Rolen from near death, although Orik wanted to kill him again.

The whirlwind vortex was still spinning and Rolen’s explanation was lacking. Everyone knew it was his greed that almost got them all killed, but they figured his multiple brushes with death would encourage him to change his ways. None were confident of this.

Going back, they headed down the steps to the cosmic walkway. Oy! The floor continued to be solid despite extending into the void. There was no corresponding solidity to the walls or ceiling though.

<metagame>
There was an unexplained saving throw requested by the DM. We all passed. So we never did learn what could have happened.
</metagame>

Just past the base of the stairs was a door on the right framed by…nothingness…while the path continued to an intersection with another door straight ahead. Any door is as good as any other when spelunking the home of a wizard who seemed to muck about with teleportation and planar spaces. So in the door to the right they went, finding a circular room with a dome ceiling. A large map was on the table along with thousands of books and papers…probably a personal library.

With no immediate foes in sight and a quiet area in which to relax, they took a short rest. O’Dell healed Rolen. Valin found one secret door. Behind it was a room with a large desk covered with quill pens and dried up ink pots. Klang pocketed several of beautiful quill pens. Never know when you’ll need a writing utensil. No other secret doors here, so it was back to the main library.

<metagame>
There were so many texts and papers, the DM would not let us take them all. So we were reduced to selective searching.
</metagame>

With so much to look through, each of them went in search of their favorite topics. O’Dell started them off with a book on athletics (worth 100 gold) and then a tome on dwarven porn (worth 200 gold). Valin wondered to himself, aren’t those the same topic? The searching continued with these other finds:
Valin=medicine book (80 gold)
Orik=animal handling book (140 gold)
Rolen=slight of hand book (130 gold)
Klang=religion book (140 gold)

Rolen found another secret door while on the ladder rummaging through books. The opening mechanism itself was 15 feet high with the bottom of the door 10 feet up. It was hidden to look like part of a book shelf. Tricky bastard wizard. Maybe this secret door would hold a more traditional treasure.

Climbing the ladder, they entered the room. It was a mostly empty room, except for a huge 10 foot diameter crystal suspended by chains mounted to the walls, ceiling and floor. A rod was set in the floor before the crystal, almost like a control for viewing something in the crystal. All the Goblin Stompers could see was roiling flames in the crystal. All their attempts to use the rod to alter what was in the crystal had no effect.

So much for traditional treasure. Hope the wizard found his end in those flames, especially if he was in league with this dragon cult.

Back to the library, they took one last look around and decided to take the map that was laid out on the table. From what they could tell, it was the City of Brass in the plane of fire. Caesare commented that he had planned a trip to that plane and could use the map. As they lifted the stones holding it down on the table, a flurry of papers took wind and began slicing at the heroes.

Despite the questionable wisdom of using fire in library, Caesare cast a fireball to quickly dispatch the many, many enchanted attacking papers. Oddly, the map did not catch fire. That’d be handy on the plane of fire – a map that doesn’t burn.

Continuing down the cosmic hallway, they came to the intersection where there was a door ahead of them and to the left, but the right path led down to a room. They opted for the door straight ahead, which was a spell component storage room. Despite many being unusable, all the magic casters were able to load up on non-perishable spell components again.

Returning to the cosmic hallway, they tried the other door. Inside were two huge hourglasses rigged to gears that turned them. A dead cultist lay clutching the blue dragon mask. Valin took the mask. It appears the cultist died from elemental inflicted wounds. The hour glasses were not running and the Goblin Stompers still had the hourglass key. Not wanting to do something completely stupid, they decided to leave this room for later.

Back in the intersection, they took the hallway that opened into a room. The walls became brick and mortar again and light shined from the room ahead. In the room they found many over-sized furnishings and a red-skinned creature. He was seated, wearing what appeared to be flaming armor, staring at a chess board. Looking up and seeing the heroes, he just slowly smiled. Yeah, that’s not creepy…not at all.

He gestured at the blue mask, “I see you brought a trinket with you.”

O’Dell replied, “Aye, at great cost. An’ ye be wise to t’ink on dat.”

“I see, dwarf. I am Taraz the Fair. I would ordinarily be able to grant wishes, but Xonthal trapped me in this chamber, stripped me of my powers, and prevented me from harming anyone within. In fact, I don’t want to hurt you. Rather I want you to free me. Look closely at the floor by the entrance, there’s a line of salt that keeps me trapped here.”, he said, pointing at the floor near the entry way.

Sure enough, there was a line of salt in the joints between the paving bricks that continued along both walls, all the way around the room. Taraz continued, “It has been a long time since I’ve seen Xonthal.”

Valin, ever the opportunist, asked, “So if we free you, would you be willing to grant us a wish?”

The creature, now recognizable as an efreeti, replied, “Perhaps friend, perhaps. Free me of Xonthal’s magic and you shall see.”

Klang asked, “Why would a mage want to keep you here stripped of your powers?”

He replied, “He wanted a challenge in playing this game, promising to release me should I win. He often questioned me about many things, particularly the elemental planes.”

That was enough for Valin, who was already breaking the line of salt with his boot. Caesare and Klang both began to call for him to stop, but it was too late. Taraz was free and sprang to attack the Goblin Stompers. Hasty wood elf.

Caesare called out to Taraz, “Stop! You don’t understand!”

Taraz did not stop, so Caesare cast haste on O’Dell. Klang cast sanctuary on himself. Taraz swung his large scimitar, missing. O’Dell hit with smite. Orik dealt Taraz a death blow and the corpse disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving only the large scimitar behind that Orik stowed away.

A quick glance around the room turned up nothing, so they headed back to the hourglass room. Once there, Valin decided to break one open. Out fell 4 diamond gems (100 gold each). Repeating the process on the other hourglass, he received another 3 diamond gems (100 gold each).

Klang tried to operate the hourglass mechanism, which only made a screeching sound as the very large hourglasses rotated, but nothing else happened. What little sand remained in them trickled down. That was it.

With nothing else to explore, they decided to grab the body of the now dead defector and head back to Waterdeep. Caesare offered to teleport them back to a brothel he regularly frequented, which everyone gratefully to accept. Walking sucks.

Caesare had a special surprise for Rolen…as the party was teleported back to Waterdeep, it appeared to Rolen that he was left behind. A nice illusion was all it took to dupe the assassin into panic mode. Caesare let the illusion last long enough that Rolen had slumped down on his knees in despair. Only when he looked up did he realize that he too was in Waterdeep with his comrades taking great mirth at his expense.

Back in Waterdeep
Caesare’s teleportation spell was not nearly as smooth as those in Xonthal’s tower. In fact, it was rather rough, with a few emptying their stomaches upon arrival. The brothel owner was none too pleased with the unwelcomed guests arrival and subsequent mess making. Klang left a gold piece for their trouble while Caesare hustled everyone out.

They headed straight for the Council of Waterdeep, once again being escorted through a palace to a sitting room. When granted entry, the Goblin Stompers found themselves looking upon an even larger gathering of nobility and likely dragons in human form. It seemed the Council members may have been in discussions before their arrival.

The Goblin Stompers were informed of the 100 chromatic dragons at the Well of Dragons and that the Council was making their final decisions about what to do. Valin presented Elia with the Blue Dragon Mask as promised, which she accepted. O’Dell explained that the corpse was the defector, but he perished defending himself and the mask from the other cultists. He could be raised from the dead should they want more information.

The Council waved to servants to have the corpse taken away. Once the corpse was gone, the Council resumed the meeting. The Council were approached by a Red Wizard named Nyh Ilmichh who extended an invitation to the council to send an envoy to Thay, to discuss ways in which Thay and the Sword Coast might aid each other during the current crisis.

With so much at stake and needing every ally they can get, the Council accepted the offer and want the Goblin Stompers to be that envoy. Never ones to fully trust the Red Wizards, particularly in the lands under Red Wizard control, the Council had Leosin arrange for a meeting place just inside the Thayan border…a supposedly more neutral location – Nethwatch Keep.

Leosin Erlanthar himself explained about the lands of Thay. Led by necromancers, there are ample undead about, making it very dangerous. And while the Lord’s Alliance isn’t keen on the meeting, they along with the Lords of Waterdeep and the Council of Waterdeep have sealed warrants that the Goblin Stompers are acting on their behalf and will be representing the whole of the Sword Coast in their dealings with the Red Wizards.

Leosin advised to always use a person’s title in Thay. It’s an offense not to do so, probably punishable by death. He also explained that the Red Wizards want to punish (aka kill) those of their kind that joined the Dragon Cultists, considering them exiled as they fled the rule of Szass Tam, the Lich Lord of Thay and his council of undead zulkirs. It is believed that Rath Modar leads these exiled Red Wizards.

Thay is an arid place on a plateau, a few thousand miles east of Waterdeep. The skies are kept dark by volcanic ash.

O’Dell was mulling this over, then pulled Valin aside. Klang was nearby and pretended to not hear. They had enough of being the Council’s errand (whipping) boys. Ally with Red Wizards? Are they mad? Certainly the treasure has been meager. Perhaps there’s a better way…and must start with a little shopping the Waterdeep markets.

What will our heroes do? Tow the Council line and strike a deal with the Thayans? Or decline the Council’s request? Or perhaps sabotage the effort? Tune in next time to find out what happens next!

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Session 29
Metallic Dragon Council & Hedge Row

Dragon Soup
Knowing they needed help, Ceasare erected his hut and spent a full day casting spells (ice storm and simulacrum) to create a twin to O’Dell. The others got a few hours down time and prayers were said, but it takes more than a day of dawdling to recover from the hardships of traveling the road.

Exhausted from the many ambushes, the weary heroes were once again set upon the following evening as they made dinner, only this time they didn’t even make to their bed rolls. Heck, they didn’t even get dinner started before an adult green dragon and a young red dragon came to visit with their friends 6-8 humanoid friends. Yes, they were so tired, they didn’t even recognize (nor care) what these foes might look like.

Only when they were dead did they notice some were high powered cultists – dragon fangs and dragon wings. But that comes later…

The battle was only unusual in that they didn’t even try to sneak up on the Goblin Stompers. These evildoers just charged into the small clearing. Surely the gods must be testing them.

Rolen was first to react, taking out the “jazz hands” wizard with his bow in one shot. There’s something to be said for assassins…err…rogues. Not a lot of somethings, but some. As the wizard crumpled, Valin created an arrow barrage upon a group of mooks who were coming in on foot. O’Dell flew up to meet the green dragon head on – dwarf-to-dragon. O’Dell’s twin, Adell, engaged the mooks too.

The green dragon smacked O’Dell off him and tried to maul him. Valin took advantage of the momentary opening and shot the green dragon. Ceasare did likewise, only with chain lightning catching a few mooks in the strike. The red dragon breathed fire on Klang, Ceasare, and Rolen. The field was instantly ash with Ceasare and Rolen dodging the worst of it, but Klang took it full force and standing his ground.

Klang cast Sanctuary on himself and then Beacon of Hope to aid in healing and defense. The battle raged on and the red dragon’s second attack felled Klang. Adell moved to engage the red dragon and was flanked by a mook, attracting all their hits so the ranged attacks could continue. Ceasare lined up a lightening bolt, hitting the red dragon and killing the green dragon.

Rolen rushed to Klang’s aid only to confirm that Klang was beyond his skills. Some later speculated that he was searching him for anything of value. Then it was Valin felling the red dragon with some spectacular marksmanship. The other mooks, seeing the tide of battle turning against them, fled.

O’Dell quickly made his way to Klang, healing him with divine radiant light. Then they just sat down where they stood. There would be plenty of dragon meat to go around tonight with red dragon meat adding a new flavor to the menu…just as soon as they could mustered the will to stand again.

Waterdeep: A Visit Cut Short
The next day, they rolled into Waterdeep and were rushed to the Council of Waterdeep as soon as they near the city gates. No luxuries of food and dining, or shopping, this time.

Giving their full account of what had happened, they noticed a slightly different line up among the council. The main speaker was Lady Laeral Silverhand, not Lord Neverember. It was obvious he was not pleased by this change, but put on a good face. There was also another present, one named Elia (or more accurately, Otaaryliakkarnos, who they later learn is a silver dragon in humanoid form. Ugh, more dragons!

Lady Silverhand relayed the council’s positive impressions of the Goblin Stompers work, fighting off the efforts of the chromatic dragons to stop them. So much are they impressed that they asked (more like politely demanded) that the Goblin Stompers attend the draconic council being called by Protanther. It is the metallic dragon’s custom to include ambassadors from the diminutive humanoid races in this gathering. It seems the Council of Waterdeep felt that, as a group not aligned overall with any specific faction or cause (or more accurately, tied to all of them), the party is deemed to be the best fit.

Klang asked about the change in Council of Waterdeep’s leadership. Lady Silverhand explained it was the council’s opinion that a more diplomatic leadership was needed at this time to unify the various factions and allies against the rise of their growing foes, and show more restraint when on ambassadorial errands.

O’Dell asked about the status of the cultists and their raids. From what the council can tell, it appears the cultists have everything they need as their raids have slackened.

O’Dell also asked what they should and should not do when meeting with the metallic dragons. Several spoke up, but it was Elia who explained that while the metallic dragons are all neutral or good, each dragon kind has their own views on what should be done and when…much like the Council of Waterdeep.

After a brief aside, the Goblin Stompers agreed to meet with the metallic dragons. Given that time is short, Elia revealed her true nature and offered to (OK, insisted) fly the party to the Nether Mountains some 600 miles away in two days. Finally, some real transportation, what at boon! She made it clear that they needed to leave immediately to make it in time.

Flying High to Nether Mountains
And so off they went on the back of a silver dragon, following the Long Road out of Waterdeep to Triboar and then branching north east along the unfamiliar Evermoor Way road. On their flight, the dragon inquired why the heroes were together and what they hoped to achieve. After offering some weak answers about mutual benefit and profitable lifestyles, Elia realized she would not get a solid answers from this loosely allied and diverse band of humanoids.

They asked Elia what behaviors the metallic dragons expected and frowned on. She provide similarly dodgy and vague replies. She commented that some lean towards neutral and some lean towards good, but all have an interest in quelling the rise of Tiamat. Dragons have long memories, so many old grudges may surface, so be wary when negotiating. She noted that each dragon present speaks for all of their color’s kind, including herself.

By the time they landed, the wind had grown cold and it wasn’t their recent jaunt through the jungles that had softened them…there was snow and ice on the ground. Once inside the mountain, they found it comfortably warm and were provided with food and quarters…while O’Dell was escorted to the bathing room.

Then it was time to go before the Dragon Council…

A male gold dragon introduced himself as Protanther. He was gracious enough, but it was clear he was more accommodating of the dwarves and halfling, and less so towards the elves and human. However, he insisted on a apology from the elves, one of standing among them.

A male brass dragon introduced himself as Ileuthra. He was more erudite, well read, and seemed to value knowledge highly.

They were more formally introduced to Elia using her official name of Otaaryliakkarnos. She didn’t care for the dwarves, particularly since O’Dell’s armor was crafted of silver dragon scales.

A male brass dragon introduced himself as Nymmurh. He seemed to favor Klang, saying “I hope we can work together”, which doesn’t always translate well when coming from a dragon. He also commented that there was no representation by the Harpers.

A female copper dragon introduce herself as Tazmikella. She shared Protanther’s position in wanting to act now to deal with the resurrection of Tiamat on the prime material plane.

Valin attempted to win over Otaaryliakkarnos, suggesting the dragon masks should be returned to the dragons or destroyed. Instead, she turned on Klang when his surname was used, reminding him that one of his ancestors was at the dragonmoot.

Klang offered his legendary magical mace Lightbringer as an apology for his ancestors behavior. But that too was not enough. She demanded that Ambassador Connerad Brawnanvil of the Council of Waterdeep offer an apology for slaying one of their number. Klang said he would seek this out in exchange for the dragons’ help.

O’Dell’s efforts at negotiating with dragons was similarly abysmal, having to return his boots of flying to the copper dragon. Each of the metallic dragon colors also demanded an equal share to the hoard of treasure as the humanoid factions – a third of the total.

In exchange, the Dragon Council would make dragons available to us to prevent the rise of Tiamat and to protect the various allied humanoid capital cities. The details are as follows…

Heroes to deliver:
Protanther (gold dragon): Promised 1/15th share of Tiamat’s hoard and an apology from the elves (King Melandrach) for the dracorage mythal.
Nymmurh (brass dragon): Promised 1/15th share of Tiamat’s hoard.
Otaaryliakkarnos (silver dragon): Promised 1/15th share of Tiamat’s hoard, an apology from the dwarves (Ambassador Brawnanvil) for the slaying of a silver dragon during a “dragonmoot” (a dwarven dragon hunt), and given Lightbringer mace.
Bronze Dragon: Promised 1/15th share of Tiamat’s hoard.
Copper Dragon: Return of the Boots of Flying that were stole from her hoard and a promised 1/15th share of Tiamat’s hoard.
Leader of dragon hoard – Severin – dead or alive.

Dragons to provide:
3 arrows of dragon slaying
plate armor of lightning
allow O’Dell to retain boots of flying
dragons to guard capital cities of various territories (Lords’ Alliance)
dragon to help with intelligence gathering (Harpers)
dragon sent to Elturel (Order of the Gauntlet)
guard the ancient treant known as the Grandfather Tree (Emerald Enclave)

Then it was back to Waterdeep astride the silver dragon. This time, the weather was a bit clearer and they could see the small skirmishes below and areas suffering under the cult’s attacks. Villages standing in ruins, smoke lingering in the distance. Not good.

Choices, choices
Once again before the Council of Waterdeep, there was yet another oddity. A tiefling named Rian Nightshade was now present, serving as adviser to Lord Neverember. But that was just a distraction to the level of dissatisfaction the heroes received when delivering the results of the Dragon Council negotiations.

After the yelling and screaming was over, Lord Melandrach and Ambassador Brawnanvil accepted their sacrifices for the greater good of metallic dragon allies. No one really got over the share of treasure the dragons were promised, not even the Goblin Stompers. Just for reference, those present on the Waterdeep Council include:
Lady Laeral Silverhand (Lords Alliance)
Lord Dagult Neverember (Lords Alliance)
Taern Hornblade (Lords Alliance)
Connerad Brawnanvil (Lords Alliance)
Marshall Ulder Ravengard (Lords Alliance)
Sir Isteval (Lords Alliance)
Delaan Winterhound (Emerald Enclave)
Remallia Haventree (Harpers)
King Melandrach (Lords Alliance)
Ontharr Frume (Order of the Gauntlet)
Rian Nightshade (???)

Before the council’s business was over that night, they had two potential missions for the Goblin Stompers – one involved a senior member of the dragon cult that wanted to defect (aka. get out of the cult) and the other involved killing some exiled Red Wizards of Thay who were now dragon cultists. It didn’t take the Goblin Stompers long to select saving the defector, an obvious ambush. At least they knew what they were getting themselves into.

Once again, there was no time to shop in Waterdeep. Oy! So much gold and no where to spend it. No, it was off to Xonthal’s tower. A teleport spell later, the heroes were just inside the town that surrounds the tower. As per the locals, the tower grounds are a magical hedge maze. No flying over or tunneling under it. The tower entrance is actually an inter-planar portal that’s tied to the maze, so the maze is the only way in.

How hard can this be? Weak ass magic slingers visit this place regularly, so there must be an easy way in. Right?

As they approached the edge of the hedge maze, someone called out from a tower balcony. Looking up, they saw someone in black robes waving a blue mask around.

“Heroes,” the figure screamed, “they saw you in the village! I’ve taken the mask, but they’ll realize it’s missing within minutes! Look for me beneath the tower, for it’s the only place I have a chance to hide. This is the key that will let you teleport into the dungeon.” As he spoke, the figure holds aloft a second item— some sort of white, glimmering hourglass. “ I will leave it behind after I use it, but others may find it before you do.”

The speaker looked over his shoulder as another figure suddenly dashed out onto the balcony. A flash of blades and spell-fire erupted. Then the figure who spoke pitched his attacker over the railing before dashing back inside.

Was this the defector that they had come to retrieve? He seemed to meet the description, blue mask and all. But surely it is a trap, right? Something to get us to rush in the hedge maze and get lost. Nothing to do but walk into it.

Rolen reached over the crudely erected fence (the villagers must have built it to keep accidental entry to a minimum) and searched for traps. Nothing. Valin stealthily entered the hedges and the rest followed in the usual trudging fashion. No pomp and flourish here.

After passing through the hedge maze entry, the found themselves entering an area with 8 exits, including the one through which they had entered. At the center of the area stood a sun dial that wasn’t working as expected – it’s shadow was not opposite the sun, instead it pointed towards the tower. Their own shadows were in the right direction, so there must be magic at work. So they left the sun dial alone and moved straight forward towards the tower, exiting on the opposite side from which they entered, just as the sun dial’s shadow indicated.

It only took about a minute to reach the next hedge maze opening. There sat an identical sun dial, only this time it pointed in two different directions. WTF! Looking back from whence they came and then looking for boot prints, they found none. It appears this is the first time they were here. So where to go now?

This time the Goblin Stompers took the path between the two directions. After a minute or so, they came upon another sundial pointing in three directions. Oh screw this, they went back to the previous area…only it wasn’t.

The area they “returned to” had the sundial pointing in four directions, one in each corner like an X. The the sundials shadows spun and disappeared completely. By Clanggedin’s codpiece, they were lost but good this time. Damn magic slingers and their devious, twisted minds!

Rolen approached the sundial, inspecting it. Fining nothing, he decides to turn it, but it doesn’t. He pushes on it and he disappears! Where did he go? Is he still alive? Aw shit!

Keeping a cool head, Caesare figured that Rolen can’t be too far away…at least on the same plane of existence. So he cast his sending spell to contact Rolen and asked about his state and location. They learned he is alive and well, and still in this hedge maze.

So the rest of the Goblin Stompers repeated Rolen’s push on the sundial and were once again reunited. Not knowing how this blasted maze operates, the decided to just head straight for the tower in the distance, taking the exit that led in that direction. About minute later, they reach another area, this time with a large murky pool of water with a small stone in the middle, floating about a foot above the water. There was a gleam from the stone, so it was probably valuable.

Standing near the path entrance, Caesare case mage hand and grabbed the stone, pulling it towards himself. That’s when the water started churning. Now this is more like it – something to take their frustration out on!

Out of the water came the four chuul, crab-like creatures. Rolen, bow at the ready, fired at them first. Caesare took a few steps back down the path, concentrating on retrieving the stone as the mage hand pulled it to him. Klang cast sanctuary on himself and freedom of movement on Valin (in case he gets grappled or pulled into the water).

Valin fell into the water, but O’Dell was standing nearby and quickly pulled him back out. They both took a hit from the nasty creatures for that one.

About then, Caesare had the stone in hand and tried to command the creatures. No luck. It seems it is just a garnet gemstone, which he now dropped into a pocket and cast fireball. Taking two of the chuuls down, he left the other two to the others.

Klang swung an ax and missed. O’Dell’s twin was felled by the chuuls. Valin, Rolen, and O’Dell then polished them off.

Inspecting the gem more closely. Caesare confirmed it was magical, but no idea what it might do. So it was trudging through the maze, taking the only other exit from the area. A minute or so later, they were back in an area with exits in all 8 directions.

Klang decided to call on divine guidance. Using his divination spell, he used his three questions to narrow down which were the wrong paths. But there was no assurance that last path would lead them to the tower. It did not. Instead, it led them to set of flower statues, shimmering in the sunlight with a pearl in the middle of each. Unable to resist, Rolen took a pearl from one and combat began again.

Rolen, dealing what he thought would be a lethal blow, was surprised when it remained very much alive. Klang cast sanctuary on Rolen. Valin launched a lightning attack. Caesare launched a fire bolt. Rolen grabs the pearl they all made a run for it, away from the flowers area to escape.

<metagame>
Will they escape the magical hedge maze? Have our heroes met their match? Tune in next time to see if our bumbling heroes are defeated by magical shrubbery and malfunctioning sundials…or not.
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