Jewel of the North

Session 16

Knight Errant
*
*25-26 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

*
*Present

Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Talak

Deciding to trek back to Neverwinter to pursue their various agendas, the party come across a wagon on the road, its wheel broken and guarded by a knight bearing upon his shield the emblem of a yellow skull on a horned. It seems familiar, but refuses to come specifically to mind. A tiefling in loose robes is attempting to repair the wagon, with little success, while a pair of trained drakes laze around nearby.

The knight introduces himself as Sir Tyros Halfhelm, another familiar sounding name, and is glad to see the party. He has been employed to guard Lerix the tiefling, one of Neverember’s tax collectors on his tour, and would welcome some help in fixing the wheel.

Despite this being one of the oldest tricks in the book, the party are only too happy to oblige, when they suddenly find themselves surrounded by bandits – arrows flying – and a leering Sir Tyros demanding their goods or their lives.

Preferring the latter course the party charge into action but soon realise that they might be up against it this time as the arrows find their mark, the tiefling lets fly with his dark magic and the knight proves a vicious and durable adversary. Danforth’s best efforts leave little more than a dent in his opponent’s armour and is soon regretting his failure to find some suitably enchanted armour of his own as he goes down into an oblivion he is becoming all too familiar with. Malus too finds himself dizzied with the knight’s strikes although still manages to trade insults with the bandit leader.

Mani ties up the tiefling and the drakes with her bear, Paelias keeps some semblance of honour with his sword while Talak does his best to keep the party alive but it is with great relief that Kierke finally arrives from his dump in the woods only to get tied up with an unusually resilient minion.

Eventually the crisis passes and the fight begins to go against the ambushers, most of whom flee, apart from sir Tyros who, swearing fealty to the Company of the Fallen, prefers death to the dishonour of the gallows that surely awaits.

The surviving bandits melt away into the woods while the tiefling takes time to grab a book from the wagon before he too makes his escape.

The wagon reveals a great pile of silver and gold coins and a tax ledger and it doesn’t take long for Paelias to grab a useful looking sword. A decent hoard, but there is still feeling that the greatest treasure might have escaped with the tiefling.

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session 15

Sympathy with the Devil
*
*23-25 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Bohdan
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Talak

Weighing up the options it doesn’t take long for Malus to decide that out of weeks of digging, fighting Balol or simply meekly acquiescing to his bizarre request even though it is sure to lead to no end of trouble, he opts for the latter; noting that this is not the first questionable pact he has ever entered into.
One fiery handshake later the party are free and Malus has a strange mark on his palm resembling an incomplete sign of Asmodeus. The question remains if Malus made the deal out a sense of self sacrifice for the good of the party, or whether the promise of arcane knowledge from the Astral Sea, albeit from the home to legions of devils, proved too strong a lure for the warlock.
At last able to breathe the relatively fresh air of above ground the party notice the entrance to cave shows signs of activity, leading to the conclusion that the cave-in that had trapped them had been no accident. Although it s fair to say that advanced detection work really isn’t this lot’s strong point so no further information was gleaned from the site.
Eventually the party arrive back at Helm’s Hold, having found no sign of the poisonous dwarf or her devil-worshipping cohorts. The town appears peaceful and busy, apparently freed from the fear of assault by the werewolves.
With several of the party preferring to sit around drinking in the Hungry Flame it was left to Malus and Danforth to go to the monastery and look up Brother Vartan who confirmed the translation of the ritual in Karadhan’s journal to activate the staff and presumably destroy any tainted crystal such as the one found at the bottom of the chasm.
An audience is found with Brother Satarin, who is pleased to see the party return but is disappointed that no news of his old friend’s fate has come with them. He too confirms the chant but also thinks that the handwriting in the journal seems to be subtly different, and that it is possible the chant was written by a different hand to that responsible for the other journal entries.
Meanwhile, back in the tavern, the drinkers’ sojourn is interrupted by a dark shadow passing over the ground accompanied by a series of oohs and ahhhs from the citizens outside. As the heroes investigate the biggest response to the sight of a green dragon flying rather erratically in the sky comes from Bodahn, who, letting out a fairly appalling roar of anger, runs demented in the direction of the beast’s flightpath, which eventually takes him headlong back into the forest with only around 60 miles to go before reaching the foothills of the crags – the mountain range the dragon appears to be heading towards.
Eventually the rage passes and Bodahn falls to the ground exhausted and lost, or at least he would have been lost, had not Kierke followed his friend form the bar, either from concern over his safety, or for the promise of a fight.
But, as is becoming a pattern for these in-between adventure type sessions, Talak manages to end the day with a song as he performs in return for the party’s stay in the pub’s bunkhouse. This time, as he sings the saga of the party’s adventures, he even has the songwriting help , or at least the ‘I’ll say it but you’d better right it down ‘ songwriting help from Kierke:

There was a half elf called Malus
Who was faced with a devil so callous
His bravery fake
He took the handshake,
To be forever in Hell sucking ph*****

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Session 14

Who’s Laughing Now?
*
*23 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Bohdan
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Rok Alim
Talak

Sweating out their very essence in the oven hot air, the party ignore the rumbling echoes behind them and push on into the depths of the mine. Eventually the heroes discern a red fiery glow in the distance and, creeping up to reconnoitre the source of the light, Danforth discovers both the origin of the tapping and the site of Karadhan’s inspiration.

A vast chamber of Delzoun origin opens up before him – Is this an outpost of fabled Gauntylgrym? There is no time for archaeology, however, as in the distance a team of grey dusty dawarves hammer away at a stone face riven with fissures that open up a view into a great boiling fire beyond.

More jagged echoes of steel on stone ring from various passages extending out from the chamber while between the party and those breaking into the lava flows stands another long dead dwarf, bigger than the rest, and at his side the very same sceptre drawn in Karadhan’s journal.

Despite Paelias’ absence, who, despite his talk, seems to have taken flight at the first sniff of undead opposition, the party take up their standard negotiating stance and charge in for a bloody resolution.

Before long an undead horde surrounds the heroes as dwarves pour in from the side tunnels, to be joined by ferocious flying fiery things belching out from the cracks in the rock opened up by the zombie miners. But fortune favours our brave explorers as enemies are dispatched and the sceptre is retrieved just as the chamber begins to collapse in on itself as lava pours on from the shattered walls.

They can practically taste the first pint waiting for them in either Neverwinter or Helm’s Hold as the party sticks a collective finger up at Balol, who has returned to his post in the gallery of the sacrifices. The devil seems unconcerned at the insolence, and offers only the cryptic response to the taunts, ‘Well I must say, you do have some interesting enemies.’

The party’s demob happy mood soon dissipates however, as at last they discover the source of the rumbling heard earlier – A cave-in that blocks the main exit. The party remember there is another way out – the ventilation shaft taken by the Asmodeus-loving dwarf in her escape – the shaft still guarded by a smirking Balor.

Negotiations ensue that see the devil happy to let the party use the tunnel – as long as they agree to do some unspecified task for him at some point in the next year, or, should they fail, surrender a soul to him. Balol finds it difficult to understand why the party should balk at such a generous offer: giving over a soul and joining him in Asmodeus’ domain is no bad thing – after 500 years of cleaning out the charnel pits the damned are rewarded with a brush – and there is so much to experience in the Nine Hells – it could take an eternity to do all of it . . .

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Session 13

Where There’s Muck, There’s Money
*
*22/23 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Rok Alim
Talak

Flushed with the success of their intervention in the hellish goings on in the abandoned mine, the party feel confident enough to engage in a bit of banter with the bound cambion, Balol – the sort of devil (and devil, mind you – not demon – something completely different) you could imagine being quite a hit at the more sophisticated supper clubs in Neverwinter, had not his origins played quite so heavily against him.

Eventually fatigue and a desire to move things along a bit overcome the thirst for knowledge of Asmodeus and the Nine Hells and the party move off to rest for the night before investigating the strange hammering sounds heard deeper in the mines.

The party awake refreshed and continue to creep down the tunnel, the air becoming hotter with each step while the tapping sounds become clearer. The heated atmosphere also reeks of rot and decomposition, or, to such hardy souls as Kierke and Mani, brought up in less civilised environs – the sweet smell of home cooking.

Frustrated in his hopes to practice his training against undead creatures, Paelias seems to lapse into a strange trance, just as the party enter another dusty gallery, in the centre of which is a deep pit, the source of the stench, where some twenty feet below lies a rippling mass of decomposing bodies, liquefied entrails and some shiny things.

Despite losing his breakfast, Malus is soon shinning down this hellish well to reach the treasure, which turns out to be the rod of some less fortunate soul who had trod a similar path. Before Malus is able to chirp about his gains, however, those above ground are attacked by bloodsucking stirges, followed up by a wave of dustwalking dwarf zombies, one with a bucket obviously keen to pull up some of the nourishment from below.

Faced at last with the undead foes he so craved, Paelias can only stand and stare vacantly, his mind lost in some eladrin time warp, while the undead horrors attempt to drag and throw the heroes into the well to add to the meat store. A few go down for a most disgusting swim while a deep thunderous rumbling sound echoes down the tunnel behind them, but eventually the zombies are pulverised, the bats dispatched and party ready to go on to uncover the secrets of Karadhan’s mine.

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Session 12

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intention
*
*22 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Bohdan
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Rok Alim
Talak

Despite a lack of dwarven speakers, Talak concocts a ritual to decipher the text of Karadhan’s journal.

Soon the party head off to investigate the other building, although the presence of more signs of Asmodeus carved into the trees dictate a cautious approach to the hut, which they soon discover to be empty, but obviously recently occupied. Tanning racks stand in the garden, while the interior hints at a spartan but neat existence – dwarf-sized clothes, neatly made bed, the smouldering remains of a fire and a chest full of sewing equipment.

Close inspection of the ground outside tells a less peaceful story – footprints, lots of them, leading away from the hut, with an indication that at least two of the group did not travel willingly.

The trail is easy for Mani to track and it is soon apparent that it leads in the direction of Karadhan’s mine. A few hours later this is confirmed as the footprints go through a rickety entrance into a cliffside.

The passage down the mineshaft matches the map in Kharadan’s journal, although the tunnels and galleries reveal some odd details – while most of the mineworkings seem soundly constructed, there are areas which have obviously collapsed only to be dug out again – albeit in a somewhat slovenly fashion, and from the inside out. Rok Alim also feels a dim awakening of some ancient elemental juice in his veins.

On reaching a junction the party finally hear something other than the echoes of their own footsteps – an oddly discordant rattle of what sounds like picks on stone to the right, while a muted and undecipherable chanting drifts down the tunnel to the left.

With the fate of whoever has been dragged here in their hands, the party take the left fork and soon come upon a vast mined-out gallery that now hosts an obscene ritual led by a mage and overseen by a female dwarf clothed in a robe of human skin – they are surrounded by obsidian scimitar wielding guards and gibbering cultists drooling over a pair of extremely nervous looking victims, male and female, buff, and tied down to stone tables beneath an obelisk of stone and timber raised to some devilish entity.

It is not long before battle is joined, spells and flaming arrows are flying (much to Talak’s delight as he fixes on the archer who carries such a fine looking weapon) and the ritual is interrupted. It is a tough old struggle as the party fight their way up the gallery towards the victims, but as the battle turns and the mage falls, the dwarf flees for the rear of the gallery, disappearing around a corner and summoning Balol, a nasty looking cambion, to cover her escape.

“Actually, Favria, I was busy you know,’ the somewhat miffed creature shoots at the back of the retreating dwarf, before taking up a position to block any pursuit.

With Malus’ advice ringing in his ears, Kierke rushes at the obelisk hoping to curb the power of the devil, or cancel the ritual or just break something. Crashing into the mound the barbarian sends splinters of wood and lumps of rock flying everywhere. In particular, several heavy and jagged lumps crash into the prone victims still tied to their slabs, much to the delight of the cambion, who found the whole incident very amusing.

There was nothing anyone could have done.

Meanwhile, with Malus’ advice ringing in his ears, Danforth circles around the winged evil one to jump into the ventilation shaft to chase the dwarf, only for the cambion to send a fireball up his arse and the warning shout that if he didn’t come back at once and let her get away, there would be Hell to pay.

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Session 11

“Some people go in through the door, others come in through the window.”
*
*22 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Bohdan
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Rok Alim
Talak

*
*Mushrooms

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room,

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door

Sylvia Plath

We rejoin the party in mid-battle, with Malus isolated and in trouble while the rest of the companions struggle through swampland to get to him. Their number now includes Bodahn, who chose the wrong time to pause for a few prayers to Bahamut and is now hot footing it to the sound of sword on plant as fast as heavy armour and sucking ground allows.

Things only get worse for Malus, as yet another myconid appears from the hut to support the two vicious guards just as they bring the warlock down in a rain of savage cuts from the crystalline spines that extrude from their spongy limbs and send him knocking on Kelemvor’s door, a passage likely to be quickened by the cloud of poisoned spores that infect his wounds.

Help soon arrives in the shape of healing words from Mani and inspiring strikes from the unusually accurate Talak, allowing Malus to stand, albeit as groggy as a githyanki on shore leave. Meanwhile little progress is made by the other warriors as damage to the mushroom men is shared with the purple-headed regenerating thing behind them through some form of silent fungal communication web spreading out beneath the thickly crusted floor. Even the usually lethal Kierke and Danforth have met their match as they both take heavy hits. And still the massive mother shroom at the back of the gang simply waits, occasionally bouncing away the forays of Mani’s bear companion.

Only Paelias sees the merit in avoiding the attrition of this frontal assault as he nips around the back of the building to gain access, only to fall flat on his face as he slips in the swamp.

Inspired by the idea, Rok Alim also attempts a different course, charging at the rickety walls of the hut in the hope of breaking through to a different angle onto the fight, only to come up against the one strong beam in the place as he bounces back and down onto the mud. Angered by such a humiliating bit of slapstick he stands and tries again, with a predictably similar result; exactly the sort of incident that might gain a character a nickname, or at least a mention in one of the comic songs so popular in the taverns of the North.

Paelias finally gets up the back passage where he advances on the fungal phalanx, taking a little time to stamp on the ranks of defenceless baby myconids that cover the floor. His arrival turns the tide as one by one the custodians of the colony fall, with Malus appropriately delivering the final fatal blow.

As the party join Paelias, the eladrin reveals a feeling of guilt at his infant-squishing activities, so, to make him feel better and to share the burden, the rest of the party finish the job off with a crushing jig among the tiny truffles – only Bodahn refusing to join in the massacre on religious grounds, although you could see he was sorely tempted.

A search of the place reveals more scarring from relatively recent assaults of arcane fire and also a cleared area centred upon a journal, which confirms the site as Karadhan’s house. Although written in Dethekian runes, which noone understands, the book is not without translatable material. A series of maps reveal the location of the nearby mines dug by Karadhan and his crew, along with lists of figures seeming to assay the returns of ore from the excavations. At the back of the journal, Malus finds details of an arcane ritual and a drawing of a crystal-topped staff, which matches the description of the divining instrument spoken of by Brother Vartan.

As they move outside to breathe in the spore-free air the party glimpse a wisp of smoke in the distance, drifting up from the roof of the only other building in the village still worthy of the name, while, beneath their feet, tiny ripples drift out from the house of the slaughtered mushrooms, out and out in widening circles carrying their silent and alien messages.

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Session 10

If You Go Down To The Woods Today . . .

20-22 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Danforth
Kierke
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Rok Alim
Talak

Returning to Helm’s Hold clutching their grisly trophies, the heroes find their way barred by an eladrin patrol on the lookout for looters of sacred relics from the ruins of Sharandar, the ancient eladrin city at the heart of Neverwinter Wood. Any hostility is soon assuaged as the eladrin leader Aramil recognises Paelias as a fellow mover and shaker in the Restore Sharandar movement. A sensitive and non-intrusive body search later and the party is soon back on track.

Determined to make the most dramatic entrance possible, the heroes head straight for the Dragon’s Gauntlet to plonk down the severed heads of the lycanthropes in front of Alisara Callum, interrupting a somewhat one-sided conversation she is having with Deloran Bard as the pureblood spokesman continues to badger her about putting the Helm’s Hold leadership behind the campaign to expel the spellscarred from the town.

Impressed is indeed the word as Callum is grateful both for the victory against the werewolf raiders and the relief from the ear-bending she is receiving from Bard. She summons the pair of villagers who survived the attack a few nights earlier – Teolgar and Rannith – in the hope they confirm the heads match those of their assailants.

The pair cannot be sure, claiming that one werewolf looks much like another, and in any case it was dark. But to the more perceptive of the heroes there is something about the men’s reaction that is out of place, as if they are more shocked than joyous and more disappointed than grateful, while Kierke recognises a distinctly Uthgardti lilt to their accents.

Suspicions aroused, several of the heroes follow the pair as they leave the Gauntlet, with Danforth successful in tracking them back to a shack in the seedier part of town, although their muffled conversation within cannot be heard clearly.

The bounty for the werewolves weighing heavy in their pockets, the heroes decide to make a night of it as they go on to the Hungry Flame where Malus continues to impress Meryeth with his sensitive handling of the firebrand Halas, who sees the death of the werewolves as an opportunity to ram the bigoted opinions of the so called purebloods back down their throats.

Meanwhile, Mani returns to the Monastery to seek out Brother Satarin, to glean more information about Karadhan and Thundertrees and a renewed blessing for her dream easing dolly. The ancient dwarf is pleased to hear the name of his old friend again, the two having shared many a mead before the cataclysm that claimed Karadhan’s life, although he does not believe Karadhan and his crew came closer to finding Gauntylgrym than any of the many hundreds of dwarves who continue to spend their lives searching for the fabled Delzoun citadel.

Satarin reveals the location of Karadhan’s house in the logging village, although he counsels against the journey, pointing out the place must be nothing but ruins now, where nothing is to be found but the echoes of death that still reverberate from the appalling events of the eruption of Mount Hotenow. Seeing that the half-elf is not to be turned from her quest, he asks Mani to return with any dwarven remains she might find so that he can give them a proper send-off.

After a couple of days of rest, travel and retail therapy the heroes approach the remains of Thundertees through the swamp on the edge of Neverwinter Wood; difficult terrain created during the cataclysm when the violent shockwaves that ripped through mountain top and forest floor broke the banks of the mighty Neverwinter River.

Despite the bleak outlook of their surroundings, it appears the party are not the only recent explorers of the area, as the more nature savvy spot footprints in the soggy ground and, more disturbing still, the mark of Asmodeus, first seen tattooed into the chest of the desiccated body back in the chasm caves, now carved into several of the trees on the approach to the ruins.

Such mysteries soon cease to be of primary interest when the leaden-footed schlep through the swamp triggers an attack by some tentacled muddy monstrosities that emerge from the bubbling and stinking pools of mulchy swamp water.

The battle is joined and is turning in the party’s favour as Malus gets behind the fight and presses on to Karadhan’s hut. All seems well as he closes in on the objective, noticing only strong growths of fungus all over the rotting building and strange scorch marks on some of the planking – possibly recent, possibly arcane.

But such detective work is short-lived as the warlock is grabbed and encircled by strands of ivy lashed out by a large lump of malevolence that surfaces from a deep pool near the base of the steps into Karahdan’s cabin. With an outrageous flourish, Malus shakes off the attack as if it of no concern as he teleports out of the clinging vines and away from danger, straight on the steps and in sight of the doorway – only to then tread on a patch of pungent fungal growth, triggering the release of a cloud of noxious spores.

Looking up through the stinking mist Malus wishes his companions had managed to keep up with his thrilling advance, or at least that he shouldn’t have listened to Talak singing Lucien in the Sky with Diamonds over the camp fire the night before, as stares at several giant mushroom men advancing towards him, backed up by a massive fungus spreading up the back wall of the shack; a massive fungus with eyes.

Overview

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Session 9

Less Talk, More Action

20 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Bohdan
Danforth
Malus
Mani
Paelias
Rok Alim
Talak

Spiders, schmiders – despite an ambush by a couple of nasty arachnids to join the two deathjumps in front of them followed by a column of cute little spiderlings, the party waste little time in dispatching the close family unit, the quick end guaranteed by the timely arrival of the sluggards who finally get out of bed and follow their comrades’ trail into the forest.

The way through the mess of webs cleared and the tracks of the lycanthropes rejoined, the party soon arrive at a hunting camp set in a clearing surrounded by bent oaks and alders, as if a tornado had created the space.

Four huntsmen greet the heroes with great suspicion, unsurprising when considering Malus’ surly demands to investigate their camp. The inevitable conflict soon follows, as the hunters set a couple of wolves on the advancing heroes, who soon discover the true reason for the crooked trees as their approach is interrupted by the snap of snares around ankles as a couple of the foolhardy find themselves hanging upside down twenty feet above the ground.

Their cover blown, the hunters reveal their true identities as they transform into ghastly human-wolf hybrids, tearing into the party with tooth and claw, while another launches both bolts of primal energy and coils of twisting vines at the adventurers.

The battle is fierce for a while, but the party soon has the measure of the beasts, with their fast evolving group tactics beginning to combine well. The highlights package on this week’s Faerun Fight Night will include a couple of delightful sequences, Bodahn lurching from snare to snare like a plate metalled yoyo as he crashes through the trees to get to the fight and Danforth meting out horrendous damage before taking a quite spectacular lashing himself.

Anyway, all very cinematic, and all over for the werewolves, with two turning into wolf form to scamper away into the forest, while their companions are left to be decapitated as trophies by Slaughter Inc., who are in danger of topping of the charts in Neverwinter and Helms Hold in the same week.

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Session 8

Q&A

19-20 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Present
Malus
Mani
Rok Alim
Talak

Intrigued by the utterances of the mystery woman, Malus abandons his watch to follow her as she accompanies Brother Vartan on their round of the monastery wards. Although no further prophecies escape her lips as Malus watches his mark tuck in the sick and snoring, he does discover something.

An occasional howl drifts up from below the monastery’s ground floor and the two Malus stalks knock on a side door, which opens to reveal some stairs leading down into the depths.

Choosing to rely on his ability to front things out, Malus repeats the knock, only to face a goliath on guard duty who politely but firmly refuses entry, on the grounds that Malus might disturb the more seriously afflicted patients who rest in the rooms below.

The following morning the party awake refreshed, apart from Kierke, who suffers so badly from the nightmares that continue to haunt him he chooses to stay in bed. Danforth, Paelias and Bohdan feel fine, but stay in bed anyway.

It is as well the energy levels are high as the heroes of the chasm are subject to an exhausting series of interviews, as Oghma’s faithful scribes write down every little detail of the party’s experiences in the hope of gaining further insight into the chasm and the effects of the spellplague.

The information flow is not entirely one way, however, as Brother Vartan illuminates the prophecy Malus had overheard.

Karadhan is a name known to him; a dwarf sage, miner and explorer once based in the area in the time before the caraclysm. By all accounts, Vartan explains, he was obsessed with the discovery of Gauntylgrym, the fabled capital of the Delzoun dwarves, lost to legend over a thousand years ago and which, so Karadhan believed, stretched south of the Mount Hotenow ridge deep below Neverwinter Wood. The dwarf and his crew had begun mining operations near the logging village of Thundertrees, but were assumed lost in the cataclysm when Hotenow exploded, burying the village and many others like it under streams of lava and choking ash.

Malus also speaks directly with the woman who made the prophecy, and makes quite an impression as Rohini, for that is her name, coos over his bravery – proving that it is not only Kierke who has a way with the ladies. She reveals she has no idea where the prophecies come from, for she never remembers them, believing them to be the product of some remnant of Helm’s spirit that survived the god’s death. She also confirms the presence of the sanatorium beneath the monastery, where they care for the most deeply afflicted, some of which, Malus sees, are taken out in groups to stroll around the beautifully manicured grounds.

Later, after more interviews, Vartan returns, having further researched Karadhan’s time in the area, saying that apparently the dwarf had a theory that Gauntylgrym was powered and lit by a series of giant crystals that might still be active. Karadhax hoped to create an artefact that could be tuned into these ancient orbs and that, once activated, might lead him to the halls of his ancestors just as a diviner might be led to water by a pointed stick. Of course, if a crystal had been corrupted by the spellplague, then any artifact atuned to its orginal state might become a weapon to use against it.

Unfortunately, Vartan concludes, any such theories must have died with him, as all that remains of Thundertrees is a dustwalker-infested swamp.

Straining under the weight of so much talk, the party decide to spend the evening blowing off steam in the town, to indulge in any random acts of violence that might come their way.

Such ambition seems likely to be fulfilled, as the area outside the Dragon’s Gauntlet is crowded by a baying mob, which the party soon discern is divided into two equally vociferous factions broadly identified as those who think the spellscarred are anathema, responsible for all the ills that have befallen the town and the world beyond, evil, chaotic and less than human; and those that don’t.

The instigators of the disturbance are two heavily scarred men, possibly brothers, who recount the story of their narrow escape from a pack of savage werewolves – surely attracted to the place by the warped power of the spellplague. Their diatribe is supported by the rabble rousing of Deloran Bard, a farmer who claims to be descended from those that built the town, the stout founding fathers who must be turning in their grave at the thought of what has become of the place.

Malus, with the zeal of the newly converted, charges the man with bigotry and irrational hatred and makes an impassioned defence of Helm’s Hold’s reputation for tolerance, an appeal soon backed by the cries of the mob that opposes Bard. Notably, Rok Alim, who knows more than anyone about living with a spellscar, keeps his own counsel.

Before the fists begin to fly, an old woman who stands on the terrace outside the pub, raises her hand and gains some calm as she appeals for a period of reflection.

Talak recognises the frayed purple garment the old woman wears as that belonging to the order of the Purple Dragon Knights of Corymr, and ancient and honoured organisation. She is revealed as Alisara Callum, the Chief Speaker of Helm’s Hold, whose words of reconciliation serve to disperse the grumbling crowd.

Impressed by Malus’ brand of aggressive tolerance, the party is welcomed by the apparent leader of the spellscarred faction, Halas the half-elf, who escorts them to the Hungry Flame, an inn popular with the spellchanged, evidenced by the exotic deformities on show by many of the patrons, and which, the party soon learn is the base of operations for the Heirs of Azure, the radical faction of Spellscarred who believe in direct action to maintain their freedoms in the face of ignorance and bigotry.

As the party get deeper into their cups and Halas’ rhetoric becomes ever more ambitious and flowery with each passing goblet of blue curacao, they realise that there are other voices in the argument, as Malus, ever the searcher for knowledge, speaks to the elf Meryth, who represents a more moderate faction of the spellscarred, and one who would be quite happy with a return to the status quo of tolerance and a degree of anonymity.

One thing they all agree on, however, is that an end to the constant attacks by the lycanthropes and other mysterious disappearances would at least shorten that particular stick the purebloods beat them with.

With the promise of so much potential mayhem and yet still no bloodshed for days, the party tire of talk and with a bellyful of ale decide to patrol the mean streets of Helm’s Hold’s shanty town quarter in the hope of hunting down the beast that attacked Kierke the night before.

It is not long before a scream to wake the dead echoes through the narrow alleys. The party arrive to see the freshly eviscerated carcase of a Mintarn soldier who has made his last patrol. Keen for action, the party try to trace the tracks of the breast responsible.

Removed from the city streets and into the comfortable environment of the forest, Mani is in her element, following the perp’s trail even in the dead of night.

It is slow going, however, and with dawn long past, the tracks lead through a mess of spider webs, both old and newly spun. While thinking about whether to blunder through and stay on the trail, or work around the area and risk losing their quarry, Mani sees movement ahead, about fifty feet away, the dark bulks of a pair of deathjump spiders, and they are not asleep.

At last the time for talking is over as four of our heroes face a danger designed to test the entire party, even though the rest of their comrades are safely tucked up in their beds back at the monastery.

Roll for Initiative!

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Session 7

Pillow Talk

17- 19 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)

Finally back in the comfort of the Protector’s Enclave after their various near-death experiences in chasm, the party are feted by the common soldiery, albeit at a distance, for fear they might have picked up more than just a bit of knowledge on their excursions. Summoned to an audience with the Mayor, the party outline their discoveries.

Admiring of their bravery, and yet somewhat bewildered by their recklessness, Soman Galt is keen for the heroes to share their knowledge with the scholars and priests resident at the monastery of Helm’s Hold, in the hope that the exploration might yield some more clues in finding a method to combat the menace. Although the party are not the mayor’s to command, Galt makes it clear that such a visit will have some benefit in healing the psychological scars inflicted by such close contact with the spellplague.

The mayor seems somewhat reticent in committing support for another expedition into the chasm to face the tribe of plaguechanged monstrosities seen inhabiting the space beneath the great crystal. In defending his lack of derring do, he treats the party to a lesson in the realpolitik that guides the administration’s approach to moulding New Neverwinter. Priority one, states the mayor, is to bring the Blacklake district into line, then the tricky situation with the Many-Arrows orcs in the Northeast quadrant needs to be resolved, only then can the chasm issue be addressed. For the moment, there is not enough manpower, not enough knowledge, and not enough will to attack the depths of the city when so much still needs to be sorted out on its surface level.

The interview with the mayor becomes a bit of a history lesson, as Malus also recalls the complex series of negotiations a century ago which led to the historic treaty between the dwarven citadel of Mithral Hall and the orc tribes united under the original King Obould, which has seen a relatively stable and unprecedented peace, and continues under the present orc king, Obould XVII.

This greater reality puts the administration of Neverwinter in a bit of a bind regarding the orc settlement in the city. At the moment there is no official recognition of the orc holdings as belonging to the Many-Arrows kingdom, and it would be a disaster for the city if such a claim were made. Any action against the orcs, however, could put a strain on the treaty if it was interpreted as a direct act of aggression against Obould. In the meantime, the orcs keep to themselves and do a good job of putting down any vile incursions from the chasm that get across the river, while a neutral meeting ground has been established in the orc quarter where discussions can take place beween Neverember’s court and the orc leaders.

It is this situation, and the continued trouble in establishing Neverember’s right to rule in the face of opposition from some misguided Old Neverwinter factions, which take up most of administration’s attention span. Although that is not to say that a victory against the chasm would not be a great fillip for the city.

This long and somewhat dry exposition on city politics sees some members of the party beginning to nod off, and the thought of a bit of R&R in Helm’s Hold becomes much more attractive, a proposition sweetened by Galt’s offer of payment to escort the pay wagon to Dunfield, the leader of the Mintarn garrison at the monastery town.

The idea of some form of treatment that might ease the recurring nightmares that afflict the party is also welcome, as they all continue to struggle with disturbed sleep patterns and Danforth’s boils of filth fever.

For Mani, there might be other reasons to leave the city for a while, as Liset takes her aside to warn her that a party of elves led by a drow has been asking after someone who matches the shaman’s description. ‘Bounty hunters I reckon, or I’m not half as gorgeous as I obviously am.’

While most of the party retire to wrestle with their inner demons, Talak continues to refine his set of old Mintarn ballads and shanties in the bar. His efforts are rewarded when General Sabine approaches, telling the bard his performances have penetrated beyond the walls of the Moonstone Mask. She extends an invitation from Mordai Vell, a tiefling of high repute, to play at a grand party he is to host at his manor in Blacklake in a fortnight’s time.

The night passes better for some than for others, although the nightmares continue, and the healer sent to Danforth only manages to contain the disease that courses through his veins.

But a new day offers new opportunities and the trip to Helm’s Hold passes off without incident, until the party reaches the busy if ramshackle town that continues to grow around the monastery. Rok Alim, in particular, is struck by the atmosphere of the place, as he finally sees a community that seems to accept those afflicted by the spellplague, rather than treat them as outcasts.

As they enter the market square the party hear a town crier shouting above the noise of the market traders dismantling their stall for the night, ‘The prophet has spoken, the prophet has spoken. One shall come who will banish old evil and open a path to new horizons. The prophet has spoken.’

As the sun sets and the moon rises, the party are also treated to the strange sight of the spectral market, as ghosts of the past continue to puesue their ethereal transactions, heedless of the living around them.

Finally in the great halls of the monastery itself, where the sick and afflicted are treated in a place of calm tranquillity, Brother Vartan introduces himself to the party. It is quickly apparent that the heroes’ reputation had preceded them, with Vartan prepared for their arrival. He is soon grilling them with friendly enthusiasm about their experiences in the hope that their discoveries will add a vital chapter to the growing body of knowledge the brothers are amassing on the chasm and the spellplague.

The interview consists of yet more history, as the party either learn or recall the legend of Helm’s Hold, the last monastery to Helm to be built. The God of law and protection was killed soon after the ground was consecrated and the first stones laid, a year before the death of Mystra unleashed the spellplague that devastated Faerun. This history has a human face, however, as the heroes are introduced to Brother Satarin, an ancient dwarf who made his devotions to Helm shortly before the god’s death and is believed the last surviving priest of Helm in Faerun. The heroes also learn how most of the followers of Oghma, the god of knowledge, have moved here from the original temple in Neverwinter, which is located near the wall facing the chasm and which sustained a great deal of damage in the cataclysm.

With the promise of a day of interviews and treatments on the morrow, Brother Vartan presents the party with a set of corn dream dolls, blessed by Brother Satarin, although he knows not why he has the power to make them work, but believes that perhaps some residue of Helm’s influence remains to fight the good fight. In any case, they are presented as a salve to ease the dreams of those afflicted by the plague. It seems it is true, as indeed the party find they have their first good night’s sleep since arriving in the city, as they drift off to what sounds like an orchestra of quietly discordant lutes, gradually fading away as if pulling down a curtain over the chaos.

All, that is, except Kierke, who, distrustful of such totems, and bored with so little violence, decides to go for a late night tour of the town under the light of the nearly full moon, spurred by the sound of howling wolves in the distance.

He finds the town quiet and dark, the residents withdrawn behind shuttered windows and even the taverns loathe to open their doors to him. His Uthgardt senses are fine tuned, however, and he soon detects someone following him as he investigates the maze of alleys in the seedier part of town. The hunter becomes the hunted as Kierke ambushes his pursuer, only to find himself locked in a desperate struggle with a savage werewolf, who threatens to tear him limb from limb before a few savage blows from the barbarian sends the beast scurrying off, but not before Kierke senses something familiar in his foe’s distorted, bestial and cruel face.

Meanwhile, back in the monastery, those still awake see Brother Vartan accompanied by a beautiful woman, in a falling in love with your first nurse sort of beauty, making their rounds of the wards.

On looking in on the party, her eyes seem to glaze over before she utters the words, ‘Karadhax can search no more, but his knowledge might free us all.’

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