Safety First

Session 23: Triboar to Longsaddle
Egotistical Warlocks and Disfigured Townspeople - A Pretty Normal Day Overall

Leaving Triboar

Everyone has completely lost their minds — except for Meowser. In the dark mirror of Triboar in the Shadowfell, Anvrik has become slow and apathetic; Kalesis is crippled by paranoia; and Thorik has gone absolutely insane, unable to determine what’s real and what’s not. Meowser, the only one who was able to stave off the Shadowfell Despair, was relegated to the position of babysitter as he single-handedly dug through the rubble of the destroyed homes to find the final platinum dragon coin.

After dragging (sometimes literally) the party out of the Shadowfell and back to the wagon, the party realized that they themselves have nine coins — the tenth was somewhere on Thorik’s person, and the mad dwarf was not willing to give it up so easily. After knocking him out (multiple times), Meowser finally found the final coin in Thorik’s boot.

When the ten coins were placed together, they melted and reformed into a map of the Sword Coast with a blue coin indicating the location of Soros’ lair: an island in between Luskan and Fireshear. Additionally, spectral coins clattered to the ground in the direction of the lair, providing a metaphorical trail of breadcrumbs to follow in the rough seas ahead. Not like anyone cared — Anvrik was outside hugging Horn Stomper, Kalesis was hiding on the bed along with every dagger she owned, and Thorik was drooling in his unconsciousness.

Eventually, after Dina Brandywood nearly received a concussion (courtesy of a headbutt from Thorik), Isaac was able to use his cattle-handling skills (i.e. the spell Calm Emotions) to cure Thorik of his madness. Thorik, in turn, used his divine gifts to restore Kalesis’ sanity — poor Anvrik would have to remain in apathy until the morning. As the party was recovering, Walter, the halfling weaver and father of the four girls who the Reverend sought to sacrifice, handed the party his family heirloom: a Cloak of Displacement made from the shells of the flail snails that the party had harvested. Finally, through some more careful negotiation, the party was able to coax Snake Eyes out of her Soros-scale bracers, and the party left town in search of the remaining two artifacts.

The Long Road

After much debate, the party decided to pass through Longsaddle on the way north. The Long Road provided a direct (and relatively safe) route to Longsaddle, and the road, though bustling with tradespeople and caravans, was mostly uneventful; finally, the party had a time to rest, pray, and prepare. Over the 100-mile journey, only the sight of a nobleman’s hunting party provided a distraction. Asher Keswick, head of the Keswick noble family of Waterdeep, had recently moved to Longsaddle to escape the bustle of city life; in an attempt to showcase his hunting prowess, he set off to fell two dire minks to make winter coats for his wife and daughter. When the minks escaped into a small nearby wood, his well-trained horses refused to enter; seeing no other recourse, he hired the party to hunt the minks for him. He promised gold and favors from his influential family, and the party accepted — as soon as he raised his price from the laughable 20 gold pieces.

Anvrik had no trouble tracking the giant weasels, and felling the pack of dire wolves that had spooked the nobleman’s horses was effortless. What the party did not expect to find was an infant manticore, his mother slain by a combination of disease and wolf bites. Remembering their previous encounter with a manticore, most of the party pragmatically suggested to put the small beast out of its misery, but Kalesis protected the cub with the ferocity of a mother and the compassion of a tiefling who had suffered a lifetime of undue discrimination. With the promise that the creature would be her responsibility and hers alone, the party set off with the recently-christened Mufasa in tow.

After a long while of careful deliberatoin and prayer, Thorik also took this opportunity to summon his Moradin-granted spiritual mount, a giant mountain goat named Oami Stonecrusher. She was able to communicate telepathically with Thorik and was capable of understanding dwarvish, and despite the fact that her intelligence was double that of Horn Stomper, she was still more than happy to assist the horse by helping pull the wagon.

Longsaddle

At first glance, Longsaddle looked pretty normal — rather wealthy and high-class for a small town, in fact. The Long Road passes straight through a bustling town center reminiscent of Triboar, and acres upon acres of horse ranches surround the downtown area. At second glance, Longsaddle’s uniqueness became immediately apparent: everyone in the town was deformed, and no one seemed to care. The half-orc street sweeper had a donor arm from a dragonborn (and it was unclear whether it was a voluntary donation); various passers-by were emanating various bursts of elemental energy; still more were spasming in and out of phase, blinking to random locations; and then there was Emory.

Emory was the most interesting man in the Gambling Golem, a tavern for well-to-do residents and tourists.The young human teen was pockmarked in patches of etherealness — parts of his body, shifting at random, passed in and out of the ethereal plane, making his organs clearly and uncomfortably visible at times. In spite of this, Emory was quite the showman, regaling tales of his times at Verdigris (the prestigious bard college in the Lurkwood) to a politely interested crowd, including the mayor of Longsaddle. After finishing his story, Emory took immediate interest in the party, and joined them at their table after ordering a round of drinks for everyone. “You’re here because you’re interested in magic, aren’t you?” he asked confidently, all smiles and debonair.

Longsaddle, Emory explained, was founded by the powerful Harpell family about 400 years ago. Each member of the predominantly human family was a remarkably powerful wizard, and they set up a homestead where they could practice magical experiments far enough away from major cities — just in case an experiment went haywire. The Harpells were trying to create new spells, which always carries a modicum of risk. Despite their immense power (or perhaps because of it), the family maintained a policy of strict neutrality; they would not intervene in any political, religious, or familial affair, and were loyal only to themselves and to the pursuit of arcane knowledge. They only rarely left the Ivy Mansion, a sprawling brick complex half a mile from downtown, and instead took in volunteers (or “apprentices”) for their experiments. All apprentices applied voluntarily, and most applied out of sheer need — the half-orc from earlier, for example, had lost his arm in an accident, and knew that the Harpells would certainly be able to help. Others, like Emory, volunteered in the hopes of gaining even a tiny sliver of the family’s arcane abilities. The rest applied because the pay was excellent.

Emory gained his ghostly patches from his time as an apprentice to the Harpells — an occupation he quickly left after the accident, he explained. During his time there, he did manage to sneak some arcane knowledge out with him. There was an artifact hidden in a cave outside of town called the Seal of Eternity, a relic so powerful that even the Harpells willingly forgot their own creation. But Emory knew exactly where it was, and was more than happy to show the party its location – for a slight fee. Emory and his kid sister weren’t powerful enough to approach it, but he knew that this band of adventurers was. To his dismay, they decided to consult the Harpells about it first.

And despite how intriguing this artifact was for the party, the promise of the Bridle of the North was more enticing. Mayor Faramond was in the Gambling Golem with them, and the quiet, thoughtful old elf was happy to tell them about his racehorse Mooncalled, who beat the pegasus a few decades ago in a race. He was even happier that the party believed him — no one else took the old elf seriously when he said that a celestial horse descended from the sky to challenge his very mortal thoroughbred to a race. (Moonshadow was the regional champion, he explained.) Unfortunately, Moonshadow’s descendents, though nearly as fast, lost a race to Firefly, an intimidating bay Arabian owned by Leaner, a black dragonborn who ran Steelshod Constructs, a high-tech blacksmithy down the road.

Leaner was not a genial man. The overweight, surly dragonborn snapped at his young hirelings and Thorik noticed had remarkably average-quality products for an apparently master-level smith. He was indeed crafting golems, which requires a mastery of both arcane and smithing skills, but but his poor artistry seemed to contradict that. And on top of that, he was kind of a jerk, especially to Anvrik.

Through some angry posturing back and forth, Anvrik and Leander first decided on a one-on-one battle between Horn Stomper and his prize-winning Firefly. However, after a brief discussion in horse-speak between Anvrik and Firefly, it was revealed that Firefly was in fact a sentient being held against her will by Leander, though she would not explain exactly what she was, and this made Anvrik hesitant — did he really want to put Horn Stomper though a fight with a mystery beast? Still itching for a fight, Leander suggested instead that he and Anvrik could find in their horses’ stead, and weapons would be allowed. No help from the peanut gallery though — the rest of the party had to stay away.

The fight took place in the horse ring, with Firefly and the rest of the party (and the mildly bemused mayor, to ensure neutrality) standing off to the side. As it turns out, the pudgy Leander was more formidable than expected — the immensely powerful Finger of Death spell nearly one-shotted Anvrik. The situation was looking dire until, on a whim of malice, Leander cast Flame Strike in a radius that hit the entire party, including Faramond, and all bets were off — Kalesis, Thorik, and Meowser immediately jumped into action, with Emory and Faramond taking care of baby Mufasa from the sidelines. Leander called upon his contract with Firefly, and the normal-looking horse abruptly burst into flame, revealing herself to be a Nightmare. After a painful battle, both Leander and the Nightmare were felled, and immediately upon the last breath leaving his body, a spined devil appeared to quickly gather the departing soul; with a polite “don’t mind me,” and fiend disappeared again. Faramond decreed that the party may do with the dishonest man’s remains and home as they wished.

The few scared apprentices were unsure what to do with their lives now that their master had been slain; with a gift of gold from Meowser and the promise of work in Rusthaven, they happily skittered off. The party quickly scoured the place for anything interesting (and Anvrik put up a “FOR SALE” outside sign for good measure). The first thing they found was that the horse-golems had fallen apart, leaving only a faint scent of sulfurous fiendish magic residue — looks like that’s how the sub-par smith was creating such powerful magic items. And while the party didn’t find much gold, they did find Leander’s odd bedroom. The entire place was very sparsely furnished or decorated. Above a “bed” (a pool of acid, the black dragonborn’s chosen element), there hung a large painting of a massive black dragon. A bookshelf and a hidden compartment revealed a book on contacting the Nine Hells and a portrait of a beautiful but harsh-looking human woman, likely a caster of some kind. Those were the only hints to Leander’s life; the rest would be sold off soon enough.

Though the corpse of Firefly turned to ash as soon as she was defeated (save for the spine that Meowser ripped out as a death blow), the Bridle of the North remained. Though intended for equines, Anvrik wasted no time in attuning to it. Turns out that it grants the wearer an ability to fly for a minute at a time, though his legs must be moving at all times in the process. Anvrik may have looked ridiculous, but he would certainly be a formidable force as a flying archer.

Now that the fiendish scourge was cleared, the party made their way to the Ivy Mansion. Emory insisted that they turn back and not ask the Harpells about the Seal of Eternity, but Meowser snapped at him to back off, and the kid ran off, clearly hurt. Once inside the mansion, the party found themselves assaulted by kitchenware, stalked by a roomba-esque creature, and near trapped in a dining room. Hopefully they’ll be granted an audience by the Harpells soon, before the house itself gets too bored of them…

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Session 22: Triboar
Shiny Snails, Rigged Lotteries, and Shadowfell Madness

Where Next?

After slaying the aboleth-infested Dumath, the party set out after the final dragon coin. Vesryn, the high librarian of Silverymoon, cast a scrying spell on the tenth coin, using Thorik’s shield to project it to the party. The spell revealed that the coin was in the possession of Sanja Banner, archaeologist and daughter of guildmaster Teya Banner of Yartar. The librarian recognized the location as Triboar, a small cattle town to the west of Yartar. Triboar was noteworthy for three reasons: first, it was the epicenter of a high desert environment in an otherwise temperate region; second, its residents were rather xenophobic, with its Peacekeeper refusing entry to almost any outsider; and third, the village was one of the territories of old Athalantar that remained loyal to the blue dragon Soros.

Vesryn also detailed the story of the defeat of Soros the Indigo. Per the legend, Soros was not killed, but sealed away by three heroes, who each kept a token of the defeated dragon to help ensure his seal was permanent. The three adventurers were:

  • Ilaria of Sunreach – A lesser Archfey of the Summer Court who fell in love with a mortal advisor in the Kingdom of Athalantar. Her love for the advisor (and, by proxy, his kingdom) led her to rebel against the power-hungry Soros. She used the last of her magic to seal Soros away in his shadow-prison, and she was abruptly snapped back into the Feywild immediately thereafter, never to be seen again. Her legacy survives in the “Peacekeepers” of Triboar, a family of sheriffs who promise to guard the town against “The Storm from the Endless Night,” though the meaning of this has since been lost. No one knows whether the Peacekeepers are directly descended from Ilaria or have simply received spells from her, but they do all wear the Blue Bracers, a set of arm guards made from the hide of Soros himself. Ilaria herself was known for being remarkably gentle despite her power — unless, that is, someone offended her delicate sensibilities.
  • The Maelstrom – A great giant of a tempest cleric who lived in the frozen far north, somewhere between Luskan and Fireshear. He owned a huge fleet of merchant vessels and dozens of warships to protect them. Once the militaristic Soros decided he needed a navy to complete his empire, he attempted to seize the Maelstrom’s fleet, and sank many ships in the attempt. The Maelstrom was known for being ruthless and merciless with his enemies, and he personally declared war against Soros, making his way inland to fell the beast and returning to his arctic homeland afterwards. Besting the dragon wasn’t enough — he wanted to give the dragon a permanent reminder of what it means to sail into his territory uninvited. The Maelstrom tore an eye out of the dragon with his bare hands, which Sorizulac crafted into a macabre pendant that the giant-kin solemnly wore around his neck. Afterwards, “Maelstrom” went from a nickname to a title, which his descendants use to this day. Currently, it’s Orem the Maelstrom, and though he runs the same operation that his precursor did, he focuses especially intensely on sinking as many pirate ships as he can. Pirates know him for his cold, almost unemotional nature — fortunately he doesn’t travel too far south.
  • Sorizulac – Entertainer extraordinaire! This young halfling bard specialized in magic item crafting illusion magic (or, as the Maelstrom first called them, “worthless trinkets ad cheap parlor tricks”). He met the Maelstrom in a tavern along the Long Road, and instantly decided he’d write an epic detailing the mariner’s revenge against the storm dragon. The Maelstrom found the bard incredibly irritating and naive, but could not seem to be rid of him, so Sorizulac ended up participating in the fight against the dragon himself — and it turned out that his “parlor tricks” were actually immense feats of magic. He was known for passionately despising ignorance, believing it to be the most efficient way for dictators like Soros to gain power; conversely, storytelling was the best way to spread knowledge to the layman, thereby combating the pervasive ignorance. Sorizulac thought himself the best man for the job when it came to teaching the next generation of storytellers, and set up a prestigious bard college deep in the Lurkwood in the town of Verdigris. His descendant runs it to this day, and wears a Soros-horn necklace that his precursor crafted.

Welcome to Triboar

Through some careful persuasion, the party managed to gain entry to Triboar, with the one stipulation that Francine “Snake Eyes” Galloway — the “Peacekeeper” of the village — would be allowed to magically brand all of their dozens of weapons. (The brand would alert Snake Eyes if the party used the weapons to spill the blood of a sentient being — they were free to hunt whatever wildlife they chose.) The meeting was not an entirely unproductive one — the party had been looking for the bearer of one of the Indigo Relics (fragments of the dragon fashioned into magical items, helping keep him bound within his prison), and Francine is one of them. She is only the newest in a long line of Peacekeepers descended from Ilaria; though she wears the blue bracers of her predecessors, she mentioned to the party that she thinks her ancestor’s decision to imprison the dragon wasn’t the best one. She did not clarify this statement any further.

Francine reminded the party that Triboar has been the safest town in the region for centuries, thanks to the dragon’s deeds in the past and the reputation that still follows him — no orc invasions, no evil creature invasions, no corrupt politicians from the bigger cities. Everything is good and safe and comfortable here.

Odd Jobs

Due to Triboar’s unique status as a “safe” place in the Sword Coast, the villagers were remarkably trusting, leaving doors unlocked and hearts open. Tasks performed in the village included:

  • Helping out Walter’s Woolen Goods by harvesting four shells from a herd of Flail Snails in the Glass Canyon, in exchange for a custom robe of displacement
  • Mixing some spiced cider (spiked with Anvrik’s myconoid spores, though this was unknown to the party) for old Mrs. Brandywood
  • Rolling some dice at the small shrine to “Lady Luck” — unfortunately it was to Beshaba, the goddess of bad luck, and most of the party rolled poorly
  • Healing cattle infected with naturally-occurring rustrot, which transforms docile herd animals into gorgons

Assassins in the Night

The encounter with Reverend Nora Thornheart, priestess of Beshaba, did not go well. The grotesquely saccharine woman was full of contempt for the party, and had no desire to provide them with any information on Sanja’s whereabouts. Meowser managed to jump up to her home’s second story window, and saw that Sanja was indeed staying in the spare bedroom.

Nora’s behavior left such a sour taste in the party’s mouth that Kalesis slipped off during the night to wreak havoc on the woman’s home, involving a flail snail’s flail, plenty of Horn Stomper’s manure, a darkness spell, and an illusion-assassin. Needless to say, Nora was not amused, but could not definitively blame the tiefling. The villagers’ emotions ranged from terrified to grateful for the horrible woman’s distress — though they’d never tell her that.

Kalesis’s other goals included getting her name entered into the lottery — some sort of sacrificial ritual performed in the village — and finding out more about Sanja. She ended up finding Sanja herself, and the distressed young woman promised to help when the need arose.

The Lottery

The next morning, the lottery took place. Each time the lottery came around, a villager was “rewarded” at random to serve Soros — it turns out that he’s alive after all. After a toast with the myconoid-spiked punch was shared, the “winners” were chosen: the four young daughters of Walter, the wool-weaver. At that point, the spores took affect, and the entire town became simultaneously telepathic. Chaos erupted. The true intent of the reverend was discovered: she was no immensely powerful cleric, but rather a horrible person with an even worse goddess. And the “gifts” to Soros doubled as a sacrifice to the dark goddess, furthering her own goals instead of protecting the town. Other secrets popped up, ranging from infidelity to theft to unrequited love, and the town-turned-mob turned on Nora as the party decided to sneak off with Sanja to enter the dragon’s lair.

The Dragon

Sanja had warned the party repeatedly about her recent gaps in memory (starting after her excavation of the lizardfolk burial ground and subsequent discovery of the dragon coin), but she did remember where she hid the coin: her own room, but mirrored in the dragon’s prison.

The prison’s entrance was in a section of the ruins, and the party immediately recognized that the doorway to the prison had been violently destroyed from the inside out. Murals in the room depicted the three heroes’ imprisoning of the dragon, and the text above the door proclaimed: “So long as he has a kingdom to preside over and subjects to rule, the dragon will be appeased.”

This began to make more sense as the party passed through the ruined doorway. They had reentered the same room, but in a different plane: the Shadowfell. Triboar’s dark duplicate extended before them, surrounded by some sort of mythal that simultaneously kept the inhabitants from exiting and other shadow-creatures from entering. Before Sanja could lead the party to the coin, she remembered what happened during her memory lapses.

Where once was a human archaeologist with an aspiring career now stood a great blue one-eyed dragon. Due to the effects of the myconoid spores, the party was able to glimpse a bit of what had transpired: the real Soros had escaped some time ago, and had somehow managed to curse Sanja with a sort of possession spell that allowed him to transmute her body into a smaller copy of his own. The duplicate possessed the same knowledge and personality of Soros, which tried to reason with the party.

The world, he explained, is corrupt; all Soros wanted to do was provide a single, strong governing voice, which would be a godsend in the current cacophony of corrupt small-town officials. This wasn’t persuasive enough, so battle ensued. The party bested the dragon, coming within inches of their lives to do so — Thorik and Kalesis were nearly crushed in the rubble of the collapsing homes, and all but Anvrik were nearly electrocuted to death from a single breath attack.

Now the dragonling is dead, and the final coin awaits them in the rubble. Unfortunately, the Shadowfell’s darkness worked its way into everyone’s mind but Meowser’s, leaving a sense of dread, hopelessness, and even madness in its wake.

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Part 2: Hellack and Bryntal (Sessions 8 - 11)
Petrifying Chickens, Troll Tolls, and Hellbent Dictators

Hellack

With the new party’s mind set on visiting the agricultural dystopia of Bryntal, the friendly halfling Mazy Wheatberry (the first person they met at the gala, in fact) had previously pursuaded them to visit her hometown Hellack along the way, as it was only half a day of travel out of the way. Hellack, she explained, is a cheerful village of halfling farmers, and was Daggerford’s main source of food since its founding. That is, until Bryntal appeared with its preternaturally abundant produce. Still, the village seemed to be doing fine — until the party stepped up to Hellack’s normally welcome gate, now covered with sign ominously swaying in the wind and proclaiming: “CURSED. TURN BACK NOW.”

After finding the Wheatberry residence in the abandoned-looking place, Mazy quickly let them in, ushering them around a statue of a horrified-looking halfling set awkwardly at the couch, and explained the situation:

“Oh, that’s Jethro. I’m sure he’ll be fine soon enough. It’s the chickens, you see. From what my family tells me, a few weeks ago, something strange started happening to the chickens in town. Now we’re a proud village of chicken ranchers, so it was pretty troubling when almost overnight, the chickens turned anyone to stone who got too close to them. All our prized varieties of fluffy chickens turned monstrous looking, and each time an egg hatches, it’s one of these grotesque creatures. Usually this stone-ification lasts for only 24 hours, but our priestess of Chauntea tried to purify the lot of them once and for all, went out to the feeding ground to do it. We heard her scream, and some sort of very non-chicken roar, and when we came to get her, she was stone and hasn’t turned back to normal in 4 days. Another cleric from Bryntal is supposed to be coming by soon, but he or she must’ve gotten held up somewhere on the road.”

Her brother Jeb confirmed: “There’s a flock of them out in the radish fields, that might give you an idea of what we’re up against. The main horde of ’em seems to be holing up in the barn at the edge of town — we used to keep the oxen there, poor dears.”

The party investigated, and were met with a flock of vicious cockatrice — mutated chickens that can cause petrification with a single bite. Meowser was turned to stone mid-battle, and after the creatures were slain, he was dragged back into the Wheatberry household. The next morning (Meowser still stone-solid), reinforcements arrived. Lillian Norwood, an elderly cleric of Eldath, arrived in from her home of Bryntal to offer her support to the village; she was late, she explained, because her carriage had been attacked by the largest boar she had ever seen, leading the party to believe it may have been a wereboar.

She revived Meowser with greater restoration, but warned the party that Eldath was the goddess of peace and pacifism, and would lose her divine gifts if she were to use any sort of offensive magic. The party was then left to deal with the apparent source of the cockatrices: the barn at the edge of town. Anvrik and Kailesis scouted the area, and discovered that a basilisk had taken the barn as his den and his influence corrupted the poor chickens and turned them into the cockatrices harassing the town. Battle ensued, and the basilisk and his cockatrice army was slain without any petrification on the party’s side this time.

The Wheatberries thanked the party by giving them the family heirloom: a platinum dragon coin. With Eldath accompanying, the party then moved onto their main objective: Bryntal.

Paying the Troll Toll

“Stop! Travelers! Pay your toll to Sligo!”

There were two routes to get from Hellack to Bryntal: trekking through the Locust Waste, or crossing a bridge guarded by a troll. They chose the latter. They could smell the troll before they saw him — a vile, vain creature with a horde of gifts beneath the bridge. Lillian recommended negotiating with him, as the troll could be fairly easily placated, but unfortunately the only thing that Sligo the Troll really wanted was a cat to tear apart — in particular, Meowser. Meowser distracted it by chopping off an arm, giving the party just enough time to clear the bridge, carriage and all, with minimal damage. Much to Meowser’s dismay, the dismembered arm got up and attacked on its own volition, and the party quickly exited before any additional violence ensued.

Bryntal

Bryntal does not allow tourists or general visitors — only new immigrants are allowed, and that is the guise that the party took. Thorik and Kailesis were laborers, Anvrik was a cleric-in-training of Eldath, and Meowser hid in the back of the carriage. With Lillian’s help, the ruse worked, and the party was granted entry. The guards informed them that all residents of the village must sign a fealty agreement to King Solero, and that they would return in the morning with the paperwork.

Housing space was at a premium in the growing village, so Thorik Kailesis, and Anvrik were led to the only household with multiple empty rooms: the only dragonborn family in the village, led by Drin Sternhorn, the father of Eshkis, the cheerful green dragonborn the party met in Daggerford. Drin accepted the newcomers with a depressed apathy — they would be bunking in the rooms that once belonged to his sons. His older son, Eshkis, was executed for practicing forbidden druidic magic; as a preventative and punitive measure, his younger son Ronrik was sent to be an apprentice to the demon-miller; and his wife Drausa died of depression herself shortly thereafter.

He was incredulous at first when the party told him that Eshkis was alive and well in Daggerford (though prudently neglected to explain his new profession), but after recovering from the shock, begged the party to check on the status of Ronrik, who he had also given up hope on. In the night, the party was able to sneak past the curfew guards and entered the lair of the Demon Baker of Bryntal — a mill that seemed to function on its own volition, which the government attributed to demonic forces at work. As it turns out, the “demon” was in fact a tiefling bard named Pyriel, or Pie for short; he was exiled to the mill due to his appearance, and decided to embrace the ridiculous accusations instead of growing depressed from them. Ronrik was alive and well, albeit a bit embarrassed of the master-baker’s attempt at grandiose, prestidigitation-filled drama, and was happy to hear that his older brother was alive too.

Pie showed the party an entrance to a natural tunnel system, and explained that he refused to enter it himself after attempting it once and hearing ghostly voices. The party explored it, and the expansive cave system eventually connected to the castle of King Solero himself. Half the tunnels were teeming with guards, but the other half was sealed off. Immediately upon entering this sealed-off area, the party was attacked by a furious banshee; upon her defeat, the spirit calmed and revealed itself to be a cave druid that had been killed by Solero about 30 years ago. This area was the holy site for druids until Solero realized he could use the natural energies to create an agricultural empire for himself, and killed everyone who got in his way. Now assured that her people would be avenged, the spirit disappeared, and the party began to explore the rest of the caves. Noteworthy incidents include:

  • Meeting Griff Yellowtooth, a mad halfling who considered himself to be the king, and crawled through the caves as easily as a rat. He gave Thorik a marble that always rolls in the direction of the nearest major source of water, which is pretty neat.
  • Almost freeing a chatty, but admittedly creepy, manticore kept in a gladiatorial ring.
  • Finding the party’s first magic weapon: Spite and Malice, a dagger filled with the poison of a green dragon
  • Befriending Iris Lund, a traveler from Stormfjord who was on the way to Daggerford to apply for a loan at the Sword Coast Traders Bank for her family’s mining operation. Iris was captured and imprisoned in the jail located in the guards’ barracks. After Thorik broke her out of the jail via dimension door, she thanked him with her favorite shoes: the Boots of the Winterland.

After ensuring Iris stayed in the druidic sanctuary, the party followed the creek that ran throughout the cave system upstream until they came back up to the surface, apparently in some sort of courtyard. An expansive garden surrounded a pond fed by a natural spring, and in the center of that pond was a prison-like gazebo. Upon further investigation, the party found that imprisoned inside the adamantine structure was a Couatl, a celestial being who originally watched over the sacred site until Solero’s rampage began. Unable to free him from his shackles, the party quickly realized they were being watched: a raven (which was actually an imp in disguise) who had been keeping tabs on them turned out to be a familiar of Solero. The party felled the creature, but did not know what implications that had.

The party then began searching the castle itself. After passing through a number of traps, they eventually reach his private chambers. They found the aforementioned fealty agreements of everyone in town, which stated:

I hereby swear that I shall never bring harm—physical or otherwise—to Solero, King of Bryntal. I swear that I will serve him loyally and do my utmost best to bring honor to our fair city, and will never leave the walls of this town unless ordered to by King Solero or his royal guards. Upon the eventual passing of King Solero, this document is void.

There was a faint fiendish residue on the documents. After some additional investigation, the party summoned the creator of the documents: a powerful Yugoloth named Jarthax. Jarthax was the source of Solero’s power, acting as a warlock patron, but was willing to negotiate with the party to form a pact of their own. Kailesis ended up forming an agreement with him to take out Solero’s demon hirelings that protected him at all times, in exchange for a favor of his choosing — Kailesis had his word that it wouldn’t involve death or souls, hers or otherwise. Meowser and Thorik had less tolerance for the fiend, and Meowser quickly landed an attack on him. Mildly irritated, Jarthax gently reminded the party that he was an Arcanaloth, one of the highest branches of Yugoloth, by dragging Anvrik (who he assumed was Meowser’s “keeper”) through his home plane of Gehenna. Anvrik made it back alive, but only barely, and retains mental scars to this today. Jarthax, citing important business he had to get back to, then disappeared from the scene.

Returning to the mill, the party was greeted by a huge contingent of guards. Battle ensued, and the party defeated the guards with the assistance of the bard Pie and the “spirit” of the self-milling mill, which turned out to be a water weird. Previously, the party had captured the head of the guards to interrogate, and in the process of calming him down, they were interrupted by a knock at the door, with the voice promising no harm. There they met Zero: Solero’s brother, now forced into servitude with the rest of the town thanks to the fiendish contract. He explained Solero’s madness (see his character page for full info), and noted that Solero was currently at the birthday party for Zero’s son Owen. Solero saw Owen as his own son, and had gone nearly mad when Owen became seriously ill about a month ago. No one had seen Owen in weeks; Zero missed his son badly but was forbidden from seeing him.

With Zero in tow, the party investigated the meeting hall where the birthday party was being held. Zero entered first, and the party burst in shortly afterwards after hearing his scream. What was once his son was now a wight, a sentient, powerful zombie; the wight was under Solero’s control, and unceremoniously killed the “traitor.” The room was filled with civilians, so the party was hesitant to engage, but Anvrik managed to summon an illusion of a fire giant from Maggie’s deck of illusions, which scattered the civilians and kept them away from the battle site. Solero immediately brought forth several shadow demons to aid him…who disappeared as quickly as they arrived, thanks to Kailesis’s agreement with Jarthax. The battle was tough, but the party came out on top, with Solero and the wight defeated. He, too, had one of the dragon coins on his person.

They freed the Couatl, who now benevolently presides over the town, and set off towards Stormfjord — the road there contained reports of the wereboar that attacked Lillian, and Thorik received a personal vision in the druidic sanctuary that there was smithing knowledge to be gleaned there.

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Part 1: Daggerford (Sessions 1-7)
Kenku Mercenaries and Myconoid Spores

Set at a crossroads between wilderness and civilization, Daggerford is the financial heart of the Sword Coast and the meetingplace for our adventurers. Anton Maystone, a high official in the Daggerford elite, holds an annual gala for up-and-coming new residents and visitors of the town, and this year four of the esteemed guests were Kailesis, Anvrik, Skreet, and Aerith. The gala was pleasant enough until it was abruptly attacked by a flock of kenku mercenaries who made off with the Sword Coast Traders Bank’s most prized possession: the key to the inter-dimensional bank vault itself.

Anton hired the party to investigate the attack. In the process, the four new coworkers:

  • encountered a roguish dwarf who called himself The Magpie (or Maggie to his friends)
  • explored a forgotten thieves’ den, now populated by friendly sentient fungi called Myconoids, in order to retrieve a set of illusion cards that they (mostly) kept for themselves
  • joined the prestigious Rose Hall society for the Daggerford elite
  • purchased the freedom (thanks to Kailesis) of a dragonborn creature-of-the-night with budding druidic potential who just wanted to see his family again
  • stole the birth certificate of their employer Anton and framed the kenku. They stole a locket with his parents’ photo too, but that one they returned
  • escaped from taxidermy zombies in the aforementioned Rose Hall, and then promptly burned down the building
  • mourned the death of Lady Belinda, a paladin of Waukeen and her horse Ironstrider after she was murdered by her original captor, the human trafficker Thraias Fallkoril
  • defeated a vile Executive Assistant who worked for George Rowley, a cunning, cruel investor who planned to take over the Bank for himself
  • took out nearly an entire flock of kenku mercenaries working for Maggie
  • Avoided the overtly-trapped hunting lodge of Mr. Rowley, taking down him and his hunting dogs and inheriting the lodge from a grateful Lady Morwen

After the final confrontation with Rowley, Aerith and Skreet were called to their respective homes; shortly thereafter, Kailesis and Anvrik met Meowser and Thorik, two travelers from the east who came bearing a couple mysterious dragon-headed platinum coins — identical to the one that the party found amongst Rowley’s possessions.

While receiving honors from Lady Morwen, baroness of Daggerford, the party was interrupted by the frantic psychic yelps of Starling, a pseudodragon familiar of Sir Darshon, an elf older than Daggerford itself. Rushing to his aid, the party fended off a contingent of nothics, the barely-living, secret-hoarding remanants of wizards gone mad. Sir Darshon was not suprrised that the party had intervened when they did, and told them the legend behind the dragon-head coins:

“Many years ago, a blue dragon who called himself Soros the Indigo approached the king of the fledgling empire of Athalantar, offering protection from hobgoblin and orc incursions if they paid him the occasional tribute. He offered to train their soldiers and manage their finances as well — blue dragons are naturally suited to such things. After a time, the dragon became more of a threat than the outside incursions themselves, becoming a mafia-style don of the empire. They say Soro’s guards became immensely loyal to him and became an army in and of itself. But that’s beyond the point. Eventually Soros became so wealthy that his horde became unwieldy. He decided to melt down his supply into coins, stamped with his face on one side and tail on the other. Dragons are rather vain, you know. He hired the treasurer of the Stag King to mint them for him, having already minted the coins of a great kingdom, but this man was greedy himself — on 10 of the coins, he inscribed a piece of a map to the dragon’s hidden horde. This treacherous man gave one coin to 10 friends and relatives to hold onto until he was able to slip away from the dragon, who would undoubtedly kill him, but failed; the dragon found out, and in his rage, destroyed the entirety of the Stag King’s domain. The remains of the kingdom were trapped beneath the rubble, never to be found again, and the coins disappeared into circulation. Strangely, though, these coins seemed to have resurfaced. I picked one up from the dwarven jeweler not two weeks ago, and he told me you lot had one as well. Then these two rolled into town not but a day ago, and they too have one. I believe something has woken up in the ruins and is calling us to it. Who is calling? The stag king himself? The dragon’s ghost? The guards? Your guess is as good as mine. My part of the prophecy was to invite the woodsman, the tiger, the smith, and the sailor to coffee. I’m too old to run around fighting evil; I’ve got my garden to tend, my city to look after, and my patroness to appease.”

After discussing with Sir Darshon, the party left for Bryntal to free the people from its tyrannical king — and find out more about those platinum dragon coins in the process.

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