Outcasts and Refugees

Session 24 - A Pit of Filth
(Strogg's Journal)

The square dwarf, Kelgar, has proved his worth! Though we found him lost and bedraggled, he has somehow regained his sense of direction. He pointed us North, towards the Undermountain, and a few short turns and hallways later we came to the steps of the Citadel of the Bloody Hand! Servants of Shar had defaced the archway, so we knew we were closing in on our quarry.

As is every place in this cursed maze, the steps were entrapped. A hail of boulders nearly crushed us as we started up the stairway. The wizard suggested we wait it out, and the trap reset … stones miraculously sucked back into the ceiling. We cautiously ascended …

A room with a glowing pillar/obelisk sort of thing … I know not its purpose. Though tempted to touch it, my wiser party mates restrained me.

We stumbled into the Shar monks’ quarters. Dozens of them! I thought I had surely, finally met my death day, but the monks fell as quickly as our blades flew. We defeated at least a score, and learned from a sole survivor that we were hot on the heels of party of monks we had been chasing.

A foul smell wafted from one of passages … our prisoner pointed us in that direction. Was it as trap? Yes, it was a trap, and as usual I bore the brunt of it. Filthy spikes penetrated my leathers. And that was only the beginning of the pain I would feel that day.

I scaled the walls of the garbage pit soundlessly, avoiding the filth completely. On the other side of the room I found a door, and called out to the others of my discovery. No sooner had the words left my lips than a slimy tentacled beast rose from the muck and attacked me! I fended it off as best I could, and together we defeated it. But now I am struck with a fever. From good luck to bad … who knows if I will survive another day. All I want is a flagon of wine, a warm bed, and the naked flesh of a harlot pressed up against my sore and broken body. Instead, I have a disease, a backpack filled with gold that does me no good, and a pate as bald as a pig’s buttocks.

Session 23
A day of hidden dangers.

The party peered down the corridor and not 40 feet ahead was a minotaur, bearing a greataxe, outside the door to another hall or chamber. When approached the minotaur took a defensive position and boomed at them to turn back. The group tried to negotiate and reason with him, and while learning his name (Bjorkus) and that he was cursed with unnatural long life by one of Halaster’s sages to gurd this chamber, they were unsuccessful. Bjorkus’ stuborness in his task led to a battle and the group eventually felled the beast. Having restrained the minotaur, Strogg naturally opened the previously guarded door and revealed a huge chamber with a long-dead demon god statue, and several cauldrons of magical flame. Strogg nearly fell into a pool of acid, as a trap opened up a large part of the floor.
Strogg decided to get a running start and leap over the pool, much to the disagreement of the party. Stroggs attempts fell short and he found himself badly burned in the pool. But he swam the few feet ahead and climbed out to find the hair that had covered his body to be mostly burned off.
An investigation of the statue revaled two rubys set into the eyes, which Strogg retreived, and a covered hatch in the rear end of it. Aedric used his brute force to break the panel and revealed a small circular passage leading into the statue’s belly. Kelgar climbed up with quickness and courage, and was rewarded with the sight of mounds of treasure and a magical axe of dwarven make. Blaze baneThe axe was called Blaze-bane, and carried with it properties of cold and protection from fire.
After examining their map and the supposed location of the Citadel (being hidden within Mt. Waterdeep), Kelgar the ranger led the group in getting a better sense of direction. They decided to head Northward.
The hall led north, but opened into two wider chambers. The first of which was lightly illuminated with glowing white balls that floated about like dandelion seeds in the wind. They appeared to be somewhat insubstancial and the group charged through one by one. But no one made it all the way without coming into physical contact with them. Their touch brought on a variety of illnesses, but with some fortitude, all were able to shake the effects.
CloakerThe second chamber was completely dark and contained stacks of wooden crates. When Aedric stepped forward to investigate, he was consumed, as a Cloaker dropped from the darkened ceiling and cocooned the fighter. The group slashed and blasted at the foe, as Aedric struggled to burst loose. Finally the beast was defeated, but not without considerable collateral damage to Aedric.
The group decided to use the crates to block the entryways and mend their wounds here, for as long as it took. A good rest was in order.

Session 22 - All that glitters is not gold
(Strogg's Journal)

As the last drow fell, I turned to Aedric and shouted in victory.

“We prevail again my friend! If only we had whiskey to celebrate …”

Aedric grinned, but his face soon fell. I turned and saw the fallen kobold on the floor, his body cut through by drow steel. Dvallin fell to his knees next to his fallen squire, and gave me a look that chilled me to the bone.

“This is on you Strogg … if not for your avarice my squire would still live.”

I looked down in shame. The dwarf’s words were true; if not for my jewel-lust, fate might have gone a different way.

We covered Skurg with a shroud and I said a few words on his behalf. I know not what I said, so clouded was my mind from grief and guilt. Never had I met a squire so loyal and bold. Truly, he was the only squire I had ever met, but still … he seemed a good one. Perhaps I spoke too long; when my speech was finished, Rivyett had dozed off and Aedric had retreated to a corner to sharpen his blade. Only the other dwarf — the square one — stood by, and gave me a comforting pat on the shoulder (which nearly knocked me down).

We made camp, as best we could in this wretched place, but were soon disturbed by scratching noises from one of the dark hallways that extended from the drow alter room. We soon saw the source of the noise — disembodied hands scratching their way across the floor. What horrors this place holds! Dvallin blasted the first wave to oblivion. We built a crude barricade to stave off the rest, and slept in shifts.

I dreamt of Lady Myrna and awoke feeling renewed (though I do wonder if she will recognize — covered as I am in black fur — I must find a wizard who can fix my condition). Rivyett complained of a nightmare — something about diseased skin. I nodded politely as I always do, in accordance with my policy of staying on the good side of a lady who can explode heads at will. Aedric, too, had dreamed poorly, and seemed truly shaken at a vision of dark helm and a darker voice. Aedric is a good man, but his bloodlust worries me, and now I wonder if it worries him as well. Dvallin also muttered darkly after awakening, though I could not tell if he had also nightmared, or those were his regular dark mutterings.

Resuming our search for the Citadel of the Bloody Hand (but not before I gathered the gemstones I had pried from the spider statue’s eyes), we wandered through a number of hallways. Aedric purports to be keeping a map, but I fear we will never again see the light of day. Even the dwarven ranger was lost when we came upon him. Kelgar has taken some spidery leather from the drow and stretched it around his sturdy frame. It looks quite uncomfortable. Both Kelgar and I took dark cloaks from the drow. The magical material makes me feel as if I could disappear into the wall, but the dark stuff is cold against my skin.

We stumbled across a secret door secured with the most infernal lock — I broke two picks trying to crack it! Aedric and Kelgar tried the brute force approach, but that failed as well, and the three of us ended in a bruised heap. Rivyett laughed heartily, and it was the first time I had seen Dvallin smile since Skurg fell.

As I checked my flask to see if it had, by any chance, magically refilled with whiskey, Kelgar called out from ahead. The hallway had opened up into a massive cavern with rough walls covered in fine ash. Aedric cracked a sunrod, revealing a massive, headless statue in the center of the room.

Does my curiosity sometimes get the better of me? Perhaps it does. I admit I thought this statue of red stone might be the very Citadel we were searching for (Dvallin reminded me later that a magical staircase would take us to the Citadel). In any case, perhaps I should not have attempted to climb the statue. The moment I touched it my body was struck by a powerful blast of electricity, which had the effect of singeing off a good deal of my newly acquired fur. I screamed in pain and ran, as magical bolts shot from the statues hands, attacking us all. Finding myself some small protection in an alcove, I reached into my Bag of Tricks, hoping to find a useful flying animal to investigate the statue. Alas, I drew a scorpion. Kelgar found me and reunited the party, and we crept out of the vast cavern (via the alcove I had inadvertently discovered), closely hugging the wall.

We next came to a wide room containing four pillars. Above each was a hovering object; a golden sceptre, a fine crossbow, a closed plate helm, and a long blade. I chose caution this time, and approached the second pillar carefully. Kelgar was not so wise, and grabbed at the crossbow. To my horror, the crossbow dissolved before the square dwarf could touch it, and in its place stood a dark armored wraith wielding a fearsome greatsword. I spun just in time to see another helmed wraith leap down from the pillar behind me, but I did not dodge in time. His sharp blade bit deep into my arm, and an electric shock coursed through my flesh (yet again!). The wraith moved with blinding swiftness, and had cut me again before I could properly react. My vision narrowed and bile rose in my throat. I wondered if I even deserved to live — what am I but a greedy old thief with no sense, no savings, and a powerful taste for whiskey?

A hand touched my shoulder and life flowed back into me. “Make this one count,” said a gruff voice. It was the thin dwarf, Dvallin, rending his own flesh to heal mine. I cried out and leapt at the armored appiration, tearing into him with my Subtle blade. A ghostly cry emitted from his helmet.

“Your sword is sharp, but you fight without soul!” I yelled, and stabbed him in the face.

Around me, the battle raged. I thanked Dvallin, awkwardly (I cannot look him in the eye), and joined the fray. Aedric’s wicked longsword tore into the wraiths, and Kelgar wildly spun a weapon in each hand and demonstrated a vigorous maneuver he later told me was named “two dog pounce” or some such. The Lady Rivyett hurled her fearsome magic at the wraiths, and soon we were victorious.

Unfortunately, the helmed wraiths left us no treasure. Just another trap set by a mad wizard!

We took a short rest, and continued down a hallway, relying on Aedric’s crude “map.” What a maze we are in. One would not be surprised to turn a corner and see a huge man with the head of a bull, wielding a great axe.

Session 21
Curiouser and curiouser....

After dispatching the foulspawn that seemed to be stationed in the room with two pillars, the group journeyed forth with their “guide” of a half-drow, through the halls of Undermountain. Strange phenomenon seemed to linger everywhere, as Rivyet would often try focus her abilities to detect magic, only to find that the overwhelming presence of magic in this place, made it nearly impossible to pinpoint an origin for the mind-bending oddities that filled this dungeon.
The group looked over the scribblings of a map they had, and decided to go South (at least to the best of their knowledge). A long hall extended on. Beyond another door, the group found a pile of bones, floating atop an ancient throne. A skull floated in a stationary position, but it’s gaze seemed to follow them as they moved. Strogg moved in first and tried striking up conversation with the disassembled humanoid, but the skull just stared. A search of the throne revealed a sort of hidden compartment amongst the ornate carvings in it’s stone exterior, but there seemed no way to access it.
After minutes of silence, examining the bones, Dvallin’s medical mind noticed that every bone was accounted for, among the floating jumble. Furthermore, the feet and shins were intact, as though seated in the great chair. Dvallin then saw it as a puzzle. He began assembling the anatomy of the skeleton from the knees upward. When the final vertebrae was placed at the base of the skull, the skeleton let out a loud yawn, that caused all to reach for the hilts of their weapons.
“That’s much better.” The skeleton moaned. And the compartment at the side of the throne slid outward. Inside they found a valuable garnet and a pouch containing four “Stones of Shielding”.
Continuing down the long hall, the group approached a T in the road. As Aedric and Strogg stepped round the corner, they felt the blows of two clubs strike them. Aedric’s quick reflexes shielded himself from the attack, but Strogg was momentarily winded as the blunt object hit his gut. The entire group was surprised to see a wide-eyed dwarfin combat position. The dwarf was equally surprised to see them, with one of his former adventuring companions, Dusken Lightfall.
The half-drow, in the rear of their ranks, quickly turned and ran. She was out of sight in an instant.
The dwarf relaxed a bit, after the party announced their benevolent intentions. He explained that he was a part of a party that headed into Undermountain, through the Yawning Portal. But he overestimated the party’s experience. They were ambushed, and he was the only survivor, so he’d thought. He’d been wandering the dungeon ever since, but when he found out the date, it turned out to only be a week. The strange magic had clearly distorted his perception of time.
The Dwarf was a ranger, by skill and trade, named Kelgar Ironspine. A guard in Impiltur who’d left long ago to find his own path, he’d since become a sort of man-hunter. Dvallin and Kelgar shared some tales of Impultur, and Kelgar even knew of Strogg, through the heavy price that was on his head. He agreed to acompany the group, on the hopes of eventually finding a way out of Undermountain. Dvallin loaned to him his mighty warhammer and the group set off together.
Winding their way through the halls, the group heard voices from the other side of a curtain of darkness. Once they managed to get through the curtain (Rock? No… Paper? No… Ah, scissors!), they found the body of a recently deceased goblin. Kelgar found two sets of fresh tracks leading further through the hall. They all followed, but found many more paths shooting off in different directions.
Aedric listened carefully at the door ahead of them, and heard two goblins argueing about their percentage of the take. It seems they had killed and robbed the goblin whose corpse lay further back. Strogg took a listen around another corner as they all heard footsteps coming from that direction. Before long another large foulspawn wandered into the hall, and was delivered a few fast and powerful blows from the rogue, accompanied by the ranger wielding Dvallin’s mighty hammer. The foulspawn retreated.
Dvallin and Aedric decided to rush into the room that the goblins were arguing in, and surprise them. Surprised they were, but perhaps not as much as their ambushers. The goblins seemed to think that death would soon come for them, when they heard the sound of battle outside, and decided to act on an “end of the world” pact they’d made long ago. The party had accidentally interupted a less than tender moment of goblin felatio.
Aedric shook off the disgusting sight, and roared out a demand for them to drop their belongings and surrender. They were easily frightened and complied with the demand, but not without attempting an opportunistic back-stab, which ended with a deflected dagger and Kelgar’s heavy foot holding the goblin’s head against the stone floor.
Eventually, the goblins agreed to guide the group to the Sharists they were looking for (though the goblins were quite sure that they were looking for a shark). This, of course, ended in treachery, and the group ran right into a juvenile carrion crawler occupying a dead end. The beast was quickly dispatched though as the goblins ran off, deeper into the maze of tunnels.
The group back-tracked and tried a different direction. They opened a door, only to find themselves in the familiar room with two pillars, where they had encountered the two troublesome foulspawn. They had walked themselves in some kind of elaborate loop, and decided to mark this intersection with a directional marking, as to hopefully not get lost again. A moment was taken to reexamine the map, and they decided to head down the hall leading south, or so they hoped.
A door down the hall opened into a long chamber lined with more elaborate, stone thrones. Glowing lights pulsed in the seat of each one, except for two that had collapsed or been destroyed. In one throne, the body of a half-elf sat sleeping, engulfed in the glow of his seat.
Suddenly a deep voice boomed through the chamber, “DOOM!”
The party readied themselves for an ambush, but none came. Instead, a moment later, the voice bellowed again, “DOOM TAKES US ALL!”
This continued for some time, but eventually died off.
The group decided it was safe to wake the half-elf, in hopes of gaining direction or information. The thin fellow fell out of the seat and awoke with a jolt. His name was Dartwell, and he explained that he was exploring Undermountain when he found this chamber. He thought it would be a good place to rest, after assessing that the voice held an empty threat. He had just sat down a momment ago for a nap, but through the conversation, found that he had been asleep for three years.
The party transcribed their crude map, for which Dartwell was thankful, and he quickly departed.
There were two ways leading out of the chamber, one a thinner hall that stretched into the darkness, the other a shorter passage that glowed with purple light from the distance. The group decided to go toward the latter.
Within the next chamber was the grizzly sight of some kind of ritual, frozen in time. Three drow seemed to be sacrificing an elf at an altar to a long forgotten spider god, one of Lolth’s servants, Selvetarm.
There seemed no threat here, but the jewels set into the eyes were too tempting for Strogg to resist. The rest of the party attempted to restrain him, but the Eel lived up to his name and slipped through their grasps. He climbed the spider altar and pried stone after stone, until one crucial fumble sent a stone flying out and landing smack between the drow priestess’ eyes. Suddenly time was restored to the figures in the room and battle broke out!
The three drow were a formidable force, despite the party’s greater number. Clouds of darkness enveloped all but rivyet, and allowed crucial blows to slice into the heroes. The warlock focused her attacks on the priestess, but the female drow countered with an electric web that covered the party, trapping them in their positions and sending volt after volt of lightning through their bodies.
Eventually the day was won, but just as breathes of relief were let out, everyone turned back to see Skurg’s body spread out on the floor. His body had let out it’s final breath, and horror struck the faces of his companions.

Session 20
(Found in an obscure notebook belonging to a deceased drow, at an estate sale in Luskan)

I was ready to give up. A whole year, gone. In an entire year, my handler hadn’t contacted me. I had given my life to this search. I’d sought the counsel of the wise. I’d sought the counsel of the dregs. I’d gained the same from both. Nothing useful.

I knew I’d be safe. Would that I could say the same for them. They, in their many costumes; robes, armor, weapons of power, great relics, practiced skills, all aided them not. This latest group looked very much more of the same.

..and then..

T’was the kobold that caught my eye. Don’t get me wrong – the oaf looked strong; the rogue’s daggers recently whetted. I certainly wouldn’t have picked the warlock for an adversary. But it was the dwarf – and his kobold pet – that gave me real pause.

Though everyone in the Portal would have gladly slit the throat of the little beast, the dwarf exuded calm; he manifested control. With force of will he gained acceptance for his doubtful companion.

I didn’t think I could pull it off. I felt doubt. I knew I couldn’t follow them undetected. This group had promise.

I decided to act.

I sang Heroes of the Hole to establish my welcome in this place. The joined voices of everyone around them would establish to this party that despite my heritage, I am accepted.

I was about to make the first move, when the best laid plans nearly unraveled. Will my life constantly be soured by these intrusions?

* * *

“Where are we going?”

There was laughter, which was rare. I didn’t have friends to play with. None of the people I remember ever smiled. Bulka was different. Bulka would smile when nobody else was looking. He would wink at me. I winked back. He was so big, and so strong, and so scary! The other men never crossed him. But he wasn’t scary to me. He understood me. He was my friend.

“It’s just around the corner lass.”

“There’s nothing there Bulka, just a pile of old rags.”

“You lie down now wee Duskie, this won’t take long, and you’ll enjoy it. Trust me.”

“Are you .. Bulka .. wait .. no. No Bulka! BULKA! NO! STOP!”

He was almost done. I know that now. I know now that my life could have been different. I could have very easily not seen his dagger, so close to my hand. I could have not grabbed it. I suppose most girls wouldn’t have grabbed it. It could have been less sharp. I just wanted my friend to stop. The hilt felt cold in my hand, the blood – warm.

* * *

As my mothers dagger began to penetrate the cloth of the drunken fool’s leggings, I regained my sense. It was close this time. I almost nicked him. It wouldn’t have been pretty, this party surely would have left without me. Luckily, my would-be suitor wasn’t quite as drunk as he seemed, and made a very sober assessment of my reaction, and of the dagger poised a fingers’ width from his femoral artery.

Wanting to be done with this nonsense, and seeing my opportunity fleeting, I asked the rogue for a bottle of the vaguely grape-flavored vinegar he was hawking. He obliged happily, thinking me to be a customer. As soon as Durnan handed me the bottle, I tossed it down, answering the question unasked by the rest of the party.

How deep is it?

How deep do you want it to be?

Seconds take minutes. Hours pass.


The rest was details. They needed to follow some kind of cultists, connected with Thay. That gave me positivity that my course was correct. This group was not only powerful, but would no doubt keep any agreement we struck. I explained my goal. I explained my lack of a plan. I shared my scribbles. They tried to glean more, but of course that was fruitless. I know the most. None living have returned with so much as scribbles. I know the most; yet I know nothing.

After the descent, it was decided that we would explore areas to which I had not been, since none of my experience belied the merest clue of either destination..

My biggest surprise came in the hall of mirrors. Even after shouting a warning to simply run through, the lady warlock miscalculated the nature of the trap, nearly destroying herself with the effects of her own dark magic.

Beyond the chasm once more, again beyond the predatory oozes. We’ve only faced a single small group of foes, but they were fiercer than those I’ve seen in the past. Fiercer than foes I’ve seen take apart entire cohorts of soldiers. One was a brute of magnificent power, the other a mage of some sort. Both foulspawn. I’d not thought to see such this close to civilization, but the world I live in now is so different from the world I was born to. My expectations are but fleeting.

We must be ready. If these grues are so bold as to venture a mere few minutes from great Waterdeep, what could be deeper?

Then again, maybe they’re not bold after all.

Maybe they’re scared.

Session 19

This was the one where the party traveled North. I think they caught a boat in Baldurs Gate(?) which would carry their horses. They saw a pirate ship being warded off by a pirate-hunting ship. They got to Waterdeep and found a tavern. Strogg payed a bard to go sing a song to his beloved. His beloved’s father had placed a price on Strogg’s head, however. That night Strogg snuck over to the lavish estate to see his beloved. She informed him that the bard was beheaded and her father knew that “The Eel” was back in town. They made nasty(if I remember correctly), and Strogg split.
The next day, bounty hunters attacked Strogg and Rivyet in the market place. A battle broke out and Dvallin and Aedric showed up toward the end.
Oh, also, Strogg had his old buddy Malaggar search for info on Shar, and discovered talks of the “Citadel of the Bloody Hand”, beneath Mt. Waterdeep.
Apparently the only way in, was through a magical stair hidden in Undermountain. So they decided to delve into Undermountain.

Session 18
"The first of many rooftop fights"

If I remember correctly, the party made it the rest of the way towards Athkatla. Some shopping was done and Niren (Rivet’s cousin) was sent to talk to Lady Guanaphel.
Niren reported back that any military strikes were currently in wait and no immediate danger.
Aedric and Strogg spent the day asking everyone and their mother if they knew anything about the Church of Shar. After that proved unsuccessful, they went to a bar and got into a fight. They beat the snot out of the toughest guy there, then administered a healing potion to him, so they could ask him a few questions. He told them something but I don’t quite remember what. Though it was enough information, I guess, that the party decided to go out in the middle of the night to try and find them.
The Dark Moon Monks of Shar’s order found them first though, as they were ambushed from the rooftops, and an awesome battle broke out. Two of the monks were kept alive and the rest were soon just red stains on the cobblestone streets.
The party dragged the two unconscious monks into an alley, some distance away from the bloodbath. But, since they made no attempt to restrain them, one of them made a run for it, but did not get too far. The other one gave the limited information he had, mainly that the ones they were after were headed to Waterdeep, and then begged for them to end his life. Aedric decided to cut out his tongue.
After a short bought of screaming/gargling bloody murder, Dvallin put the last monk out of his misery. Aedric had dishonored his God and his alignment was changed to “Evil”.
In the distance they all heard the city’s watchmen alerted to their presence. Knowing full well that they would rot in a dungeon for the rest of their lives, if caught, the party decided to run as fast as they could out of town and camp outside the city limits.

Session 17
Kicked to the curb

With Lidyat securely sequestered in a holding cell beneath the Murann Manor, Rivyet is free to begin organizing the house affairs. Strogg reveals what he has found in Lidyat’s quarters during the raid; Rivyet suggests he keep the bag of tricks and any jewelry he likes for his efforts, but insists that the crystal remain as an important part of the houses finances. In the meantime, she offers the entire party 200 gold each for their efforts, with a chance for more gold upon recovery of the scroll.

Strogg and Aedric go to town and Strogg immediately begins putting his funds to good use in the form of gold-plated horse shoes for Chester and planning a party for the poorest of the Murandin poor, to be hosted in Murann manor that evening. The ever devote Aedric makes his way to a temple to pray to Tempest.

Meanwhile, with Dvallin at her side, Rivyet openly questions the house advisor, Bornar, to see if he has any knowledge of the scroll or the secret dealings in the woods. He insists he does not, but something about his response smells fishy to Dvallin. They send Strogg, the Eel, to search Bornar’s quarters where he finds plenty of evidence of the covert operations in the woods, including a list of house personnel involved. However, the evidence does seem to support that the whereabouts of the scroll is unknown.

With Dvallin and Aedric along for support, Rivyet descends to the holding cell to confront Lidyat. She questions her about the gathering army in the woods with the papers found in Bornar’s room as evidence. Lidyat admits to gathering the army to defend against the Athkats. She seems genuine in her insistence that she does not know the whereabouts of the scroll and has not had any dealings with the cult of Shar. They also cleared the air of Lidyat’s grievance’s—as Rivyet suspected Lidyat wanted Rivyet arrested out of rage for her interruption of the blood ritual, and possibly to keep her quiet about their highly illegal shared secret.

The three of them are surprised to find a feast beginning in the main hall, with the Murandin poor gathered drinking ale and eating boar. The rabble call out to Rivyet for a few words. Flabbergasted, she says simply that she is honored to serve the people of Murann and bids them well before quickly making her way to her quarters, away from the stench of the unwashed poor. Meanwhile the rest of the team enjoys the party; especially Skurg who gets very d-drunk.

As the party wears on, Strogg notices some suspicious hooded fellows and tries to follow them out. As they begin to mount their horses to depart, he offers to sell them wine in an attempt to stall them. They are unimpressed and cut their horses free for a hasty exit. One flings a necrotic shuriken into Strogg’s shoulder which evaporates into a purple mist as they ride away.

Strogg gathers the team to search the road for traces of the hooded men. Dvallin is able to follow the trail to an alley near a tavern. Our heroes enter the tavern to ask questions and gain a lead, only to find that the hooded men had given a bag full of meat to the tavern men. Could it be a murder victim or one of their horses? Just then a man clamors in announcing another “meat bag” being served up the street, and our heroes hurry to follow the lead. They’ve missed the hooded men again, but they find the trail leads up to a fence, which bloody smudges suggesting they climbed a building. Aedric and Strogg both ascend the building using their climbing gear and find that the trail continues. It seems the hooded strangers leaped from the rooftop to another roof across the street! Aedric and Strogg attempt the jump, but just end up badly bruised in the street.

They return to the manor and call it a night. The following day Rivyet questions Bornar, revealing that they have evidence of the secret plans to gather an army in the woods. Bornar admits to gathering the army, but still seems to know nothing about the scroll. He gives them a good lead on where the cult of the dark moon, a sect devoted to Shar, may have a secret temple in Athkatla drawing a rudimentary map of the area.

Running a high merchant house with all its ledgers, business deals, and politics is not something Rivyet ever aspired to and even just a day of it has her taxed. She sends a letter to the next in line for house leadership—lady Froiyat Murann—explaining the charges against Lidyat and to inquire if she is interested in taking over the house. Foiyat was a peacable woman and was receptive to the idea of burying the hatchet with the Athkat house, and thus seemed and ideal candidate for house rule.

With the house in good hands (probably) our heroes make their way back to Athkala with the dual purpose of escorting Niren who is to deliver a message to Lady Gwanaphel and searching for the dark mooners. Along the way, our heroes spot a burning corpse in the middle of the road. Strogg dismounts to investigate, supposing he can sneak around despite the broad daylight. Of course he is immediately ambushed and finds himself face to face with three large, angry orcs: a berserker, an archer, and a one-eye cleric to Gruumsch. Gasp, could this be the same orc who scared our ranger friend? Nah, there’s gotta be a hundred orcs with one eye out there.

Needless to say, they thoroughly pummel Strogg despite his best efforts to escape up a tree. Meanwhile, closer to the caravan, the Rivyet is pulled from Mykat by a trained wolf and Dvallin and Skurg are assaulted by an orc fighter and an archer. Aedric, up the embankment aways to the side of the caravan, is likewise faced with orc fighters and trained wolves. He makes wide, sweeping attacks with his sword to counter foes on all sides. Dvallin is kept plenty busy with healing as so many of the party are repeatedly stabbed, slashes, bitten, and shot.

Seeing her comrade badly wounded and out of range of Dvallin’s healing power, Rivyet fae switches with Strogg to send him within Dvallin’s abilities and herself into the dreadful arms of the caster and berserker. Seeing how puny Rivyet is, the berserker seeks more enticing prey down by the caravan, leaving the caster and archer trained on Rivyet. She casts Hunger of Hadar to block herself from the archer’s view and envelops the cleric in the terrifying darkness.

One archer now trained on Strogg and Dvallin and another on Aedric, the team takes two shots for every one they dish out. They madly fend off the hoard of raging orcs, everyone, even Skurg (especially Skurg!) putting in a few good blows. Rivyet loses sight of the battle briefly as she struggles up the embankment to escape the cleric. She returns to find all of her companions bleeding and nearly dead, she and Skurg finishing off the last few orcs as they too were on their last legs. Everyone is direly wounded, all healing potions spent except the one Skurg was carrying. Seeing his beloved master Dvallin not breathing, Skurg rushes to him, shaking him and pouring potion down his mouth in an attempt to revive him.

Dvallin is dead. But not yet gone. He sees the black river of death before him, he knows he is dead, but he hears the voice of Kelemvor call out to him. It is not yet his time, he still has much work to do. Dvallin wakes to Skurg’s desperate voice and hands pouring potion down his throat.

The party makes camp for the night, sleeping uncomfortably with their many wounds.

Session 16
Putting the "Manners" back in "Manor House".

Ok, this is the long neglected story of session 16. So, no fancy fiction format, I’m just gonna write what happened.
The guards all jumped the party, at the seedy dive bar in Murann(the town, not the family. I mean, the town named after the family.) and the party promptly handed their asses back to them, in neat little gift bags of holding. Then I think there was a lot of talking and planning. Eventually the party sent Strogg and Skurg into the house, to sneak around and search for any sign of the Athkat family’s missing scroll. Meanwhile, Aedric Swordson and Dvallin Durin posed as sellswords (“posed” is used loosely here.) escorting Rivyet Murann to her Aunt Lidyat for a bounty.
Needless to say, Lidyat wanted Rivyet out of the picture, so all hell broke loose and their was a big fight, which Strogg and Skurg ran back to help finish. The party won and Rivyet took her Aunt’s cool, aberrant-looking, magic rod. I think that’s all.

Session 15
Good thing we bought horses.

That next day’s travel was probably the most difficult that the group had faced together. Sleep deprivation made the constant guard a tricky task. But the well traveled road was merciful, and the caravan made up for their interrupted night with a long rest.
Over the next few days, the group pushed their horses to the peak of their stride and then just past it. A week passed on the road to Baldur’s Gate, but on the morning of the ninth day, Varn Gargengrim awoke to declare that they would reach Baldur’s gate by mid-day.
Sure as he promised, the group cleared a low hill to see the walls of the great city, and the sprawl of merchants and citizens that flooded out into the surrounding plains.
Some provisions were purchased, possibly out of elation, from the merchants that lined the road leading into the city. The dwarves treaded forward the whole time, eager to meet with their contacts and seal the deal of their long trip. But on their trek into the huge city, Varn hopped off of his post at the side of the wagon. He walked over to Dvallin and kept pace with the horses steps.
“I can’t tell you how much I admire the path you’ve taken in your life.”
He went on to explain his admiration for his fellow dwarve’s heavy quest in life, to which Dvallin replied with humble acceptance. In the end, Varn let loose the clasps that held his fur cloak to his person. He folded it twice over his forearm and then extended it up to the cleric.
“I do believe that it will serve you better than it would if I held onto it.”
Dvallin was confused. He knew that the cloak was the kind of thing that grew to define the dwarf’s personality.
“Go on” Varn urged,“I want you to have it. I want the realms to have it.”
The Cleric nodded, as his kobold squire knudged him, and he took the cloak with a deep consideration to it’s power, and what was facing him in the times to come.
After being paid by the Gargengrimm clan, the party made one collective stop: Vernon’s Press & Ink. Where a kindly man, about the age of Strogg, greeted them with a friendly welcome. Dvallin expressed his interest into the local Bullywug population and was met with the reply,
“It’s grown quite civil actually.”
Dvallin, slid a pouch of coins across the counter. The man opened it and counted the coin, with his fingers in the pouch the whole time.
“Actually, It gotten slightly more aggresive, AS OF LATE.” the man peered at all of them with an inviting stare. “It’ll cost ye’ 20 gold more, stranger.” He whispered.
Dvallin didn’t hesitate to collect the payment from his party.
“All’s well then?” He asked.
“Indeed, wait here a momment.” the printer replied.
Soon they had their “official documents” and the party decided to split up and meet at an agreed upon inn at dusk. Dvallin and Aedric set off to the temple district of Twin Songs, to do some detective work. Rivyet decided to do the only thing she enjoys more than causing severe psychological trauma to her enemies, shopping. Strogg decided to shop for some needed supplies as well, equiped with just a few gold and a case of fine whiskey.
In Twin Songs, a trip to the temples of Kelemnvor and Correlon, by Dvallin, proved to give no new major information, but allowed him to establish a line of communication with like-minded folk throughout the temples. Aedric enjoyed a stop to the temple of Tempus, where he prayed, was blessed, and imbibed some ale over great battle stories, all in time to join Dvallin in visiting Correlon’s temple.
Rivyet returned to the inn at dusk, having found nothing of particular interest to buy. Strogg was there, chatting with the bartender, who bought all but one of his remaining bottles of whiskey. Strogg had “negotiated” his way about town, picking up some barding for his mule, Chester, and selling the whiskey at a handsome profit. Dvallin and Aedric returned and shared the outcome of their scholarly efforts in Twin Songs.
It was then that Strogg recalled an isolated keep that he’d heard about, between Baldur’s Gate and the cities of Amn, off the beaten path. A place called Candlekeep, that was said to be a small city that served as a library to all things past and present in Faerun.
This seemed like a worthwhile stop on their trip, so the party rested and set out on the road south, the next morning.
On the fifth day, after leaving Baldur’s Gate, they reached Candlekeep. An ancient Ritual Tome from the catacombs of Spellgard payed for the group’s room and board while Dvallin and Rivyet set to days of painstaking research. Aedric and Strogg went about, enjoying the strange city of scholars as guests, and helping out where they could. Three days there, left Dvallin and Rivyet satisfied that they had learned all they could about the Nai Rutha, the Zinovief family, and other still questionable parts of Lady Saharel’s prophecies. So the next morning, hoof hit road again, as they set off towards Amn, with Athkatla being the first scheduled stop. Rivet was sure that she could obtain a peaceful audience with Lady Guanaphel Athkat.
This proved harder than she’d anticipated. The heat was on, and security at the manor house of the Athkats was thick. It was decided that some quality deception would be needed to speak with the Athkat matriarch. Keen disguises were crafted and several fine desserts were purchased. Combined with Stroggs’ silver tongue at the manor house gates, the two (Rivyet and Strogg) rushed the platter of pastries straight to Lady Guanaphel’s chambers, with everyone convinced that these tiny cakes MUST be delivered before they grew chill. Lady Guanaphel recognized Rivyet immediately and pulled the two “bakers” into her room.
Rivyet discussed the details of the stolen magical scroll, and how recklessly the evidence of a Murann’s involvement was left for their best minds to deduce the family’s involvement. All the while, Strogg stuffed cake after cake in his mouth.
Rivyet agreed to find the magical scroll, in the interest of ending this quarrel between the two merchant houses. They would use her cousin Niren as a messenger, and the password of “hot cakes” would be used for everyone’s security. With that, they were shooed out a window, and made haste back to the safety of their friends, who were deciding if they should storm into the house and rescue them.
Much to their relief, they were not forced on such a suicide mission. Instead, they had a different suicide mission to complete, which quelled their relief. Rivyet needed to go home, to Murann, and try to recover what information she could from her family.
So the party traveled quickly on their steeds, three days, to Murann. In the evening, they arrived at the outlaying orchard that Rivyet and her cousin, Niren, used as a meeting point.
Niren frolicked up, before dusk, and was more delighted than anyone could imagine, to see his cousin. He let his happiness out, shamelessly, as the warlock explained the situation. But the 19 year old boy seemed more interested in playing “footy monster” (much to the group’s confusion) than adventuring in the recent events. His curious ways lead to a simple talk between himself and his cousin, where she withdrew the limited information that he could offer. Mostly, that there were correspondence with creatures that lay within the Muranndir Woods, to and from the house Murann. A most unsettling scenario.
The party finally let Niren leave, on a most unsettling note, about the family’s closeness. But still they decided to go into town. They picked out the roughest, out of the way tavern to grab a drink and settle their curiosities, where Rivyet planned on dying her hair as a disguise. But, before they could even finish their pints, trouble lingered.
A few words and interesting commands drew the attention of the party. Swiftly, several denizens of the tavern moved towards their weapons, trying to conceal their moves. But it did not surpass what the group had learned on the road, or had already been trained to be aware of. Finishing the last drink that they would have that night, the party saw two armored men pick halberds up, leaned against the corner of the walls. Then, a voice from the other end of small watering hole called out:
“For Lady Murann, SEIZE THEM!!!!”


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