The Shadow of Dragons

Session Six
Covert Operations

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March 27, 1482

During the return trip to Greenest, much effort is put to figuring out a way to pry information from Frulam Mondath, but she is a committed fanatic. All efforts are only turned back on the party as she attempts to convert them.

They also notice she keeps a close eye on the sun, as if waiting for something. At noon while they are stopped for lunch, she seems to go into distress. She pitches forward violently and vomits, expelling a semi-solid mass of lumpy black jelly. Upon investigation, the lumps appear to be similar to frogs eggs – the size of a small pearl, slightly opaque with a black center. She offers no explanation for this, only haranguing the group, “You are as ants before a dragon. Unable to even comprehend what stands before you, much less hope to defeat it. Free me and survive a while longer … or join me and live forever in Her glory.” Gareth collects some of the vile muck and burns the rest.

After reaching Greenest, Escobert imprisons Frulam in the tower. That evening, Governor Nighthill interrogates her and asks the party to delay any travel until the morning and attend the questioning.

Nighthill: Who are you?

Mondath: Why waste time with what you already know? I am Frulam Mondath, Wearer of the Purple, disciple to the Wyrmspeaker Rezmir the Black.

Nighthill: Why did you attack Greenest?

Mondath: Our Lady demands tribute.

Nighthill: Where did your bandits go?

Mondath: Bandits? Bandits he says. Do you see how shortsighted you are? She sighs. My “bandits” left to rejoin our other “bandits”.

Nighthill: Who else is in this cult?

Mondath: Oh, Arendor, Margary, common folks like them. Auberon Lycus tucks us all into bed each night! Look for us everywhere.

Nighthill: What is your goal?

Mondath: Our Lady sings to us from the darkness. Wake, wake my children. Gather, and all will know my terrible beauty, and kneel before the five, for I am the patron saint of their demise.

Suddenly, Escobert, with dawning horror, orders her to name herself and declare her Heritage, to which Frulam smiles darkly, and answers with a short incantation in Draconic – “Horsebiter, Dusteater, Skinchanger”. A Snake clan!

Escobert shouts, “Kill her! Kill her now” as Frulam appears to be torn apart from within. Her head split apart, quivering razor-tipped tentacles emerged, and the body bursts free of its bonds, immediately killing a guard.

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At the same time, her entire abdomen seems to slough off onto the floor, revealing a misshapen, three-foot long ,wingless red worm – a disturbingly malformed monster that seems half snake and half dragon. This creature strikes out at Escobert, latching onto his leg and biting deeply.

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The heroes spring into action, destroying both abominations without further injury.

Although the banished Snake clan is known to be able to take the form of other humanoids, there is no record of this type of transformation, nor for this “parasite” within her.

Nighthill, shocked and traumatized, urges the party on to carry this news to Elturel.

March 28 – April 2

The party travels on horseback for Elturel.

April 2 – 3

When they arrive in Elturel, they are directed to the “headquarters” of the Order of the Gauntlet, a tavern called The Black Antlers. Ontharr Frume is there with Erlanthar, Nesim Waladra and a handful of Erlanthar’s other disciples.

When the characters meet Ontharr Frume, they find him to be a good-natured paladin of Kord, always ready with a drink and a laugh. When he sees Gareth for the first time, he says, “Is that Gareth Elvere? By Kord, my son, what happened? Were you ensorceled with shrinking magics? You’ve grown so small and infirm! Have you fallen ill son?” And then immediately tries to wrestle Gareth to the ground while crashing into tables and laughing.

After the reunion settles down, the party reports their experiences over a few rounds of ale and wine. After, the heroes are shown to rooms with instructions to rest and wash up, and return for dinner. Frume’s squire – a halforc named Zud Doriglar – is put at their disposal.

That evening, Zud welcomes them back to the inn, which has been closed to the public. Waiting for the party are the broad-shouldered human paladin, the monk, and many pitchers of dark red wine. The paladin’s face wears a serious expression, unlike its usual open countenance.

“My friends, we have important business to discuss. At this point, you know almost as much, or more, about the situation as we do, and thanks to you, we already know twice as much today as we did ten days ago. Something rotten is afoot. We have no formal organization to oppose this evil – not yet anyway. We’re working on that. And we need people like you, who know how and when to fight, and how and when to keep their heads down and observe. We can’t promise you anything except long days filled with danger and stress— but what could be better than that?”

Frume asks for the group’s continued help. He has already communicated with Captain Cortes, and the Radiant Servants will allow the party to be assigned an adjunct role to the Order of the Gauntlet.

Meanwhile, Erlanthar reveals himself to be a member of the Dullahan. Some of the party have heard of the Dullahan, but don’t know much about the secretive group beyond what is generally rumored: that the Dullahan are dedicated to furthering equality and justice and to keeping power out of the hands of those who don’t deserve it. Erlanthar explains that the Dullahan are loosely organized; agents are allowed wide freedom of action.

Ontharr Frume himself represents the Order of the Gauntlet. His order shares many of the Dullahan’s principles, but the two organizations are very different. The Order of the Gauntlet emphasizes faith, vigilance, and constant struggle against threats of evil. Many of its members are clerics and paladins, but the order welcomes anyone who shares its ideals. Discipline is key, and the order is distinctly more structured and hierarchical than the Dullahan, as both Gareth and Tarathan can attest.

Frume explains that the top concern of both groups presently is this Cult of the Dragon. In the past, the cult was small and more active far to the to the west. This new focus on Tiamat is a cause for concern. He tells them that the cult is on the move and it’s up to something big – and the Order of the Gauntlet, the Dullahan, and a third allied group known as the Emerald Enclave want to thwart the cult’s plans.

Frume and Erlanthar would like the heroes to go to Varsten, locate the caravans mentioned in Mondath’s recovered note, and accompany it on the journey. They could get themselves hired as guards— not by the cult’s wagon masters, but by other merchants who are traveling in the same direction at the same time. Merchants from different companies commonly join together to form larger trains for protection.

Their goals would be to:

  • Locate the cultists and/or Rezmir
  • Find out what caravan they are joining
  • Hire on to the same caravan
  • Follow the treasure, if possible sending updates to one of the organizations

Timing is an issue. The note from Mondath’s chamber indicates that the wagons of treasure were heading west to Varsten, but not where they were headed from there. Just getting to Varsten from the camp area would take about two weeks, depending on conditions (skirting the Ondo Mountains either way makes the trip much longer). Erlanthar does some quick mental math and says they likely have five days before the cult’s wagons depart Varsten.

The party has been booked passage on the Fishmaid’s Wish, an eastern frigate captained by a man named Yirdpool Yiss. Before they depart, Frume gives them a friendly contact in Varsten, Selebon Hogsbottom, who they should seek out on their arrival. He is the owner of Hogsbottom Freight & Conveyance, located just inside and to the west of the cities’ southern gate.

April 3 – 5

The heroes sail to Varsten aboard the Fishmaid’s Wish.

April 6 – 7

Hogsbottom Freight & Conveyance is located two blocks west inside the southern city gate. There he sells all the material needed for long-distance freight hauling: wagons, rope, netting, grease, chains, wheels, and so on. His shop also repairs wagons. He is not directly involved in the hiring of guards for caravans, but he knows people who are. Hogsbottom offers to vouch for the characters, and they should have no trouble getting hired on as guards for a caravan, but he isn’t aware of the presence of any cultists or half-dragons in town.

Hogsbottom suggests that a good day spent investigating the city might turn up some information. The party splits up and investigates areas of the city most applicable to their skillsets.

Gareth overhears a society woman gossiping – “I saw a palanquin, and one of their bearers slipped and the curtain started to open – a ghastly affair in and of itself, but I would swear to you that the hand that reached from inside to hold it closed was covered in black scales. This was just outside that abhorrent Foxtraveler place.”

Tarathan is spotted by a street urchin making a large donation to the local poorbox, and has an interesting conversation with him – “Where’d you get all that gold? Are you a dragon too? My friend Tomby said he seen a dragon in the city. But all shrunked down to people size! He said he thinks that dragon must be moving to a new cave so shrunk down its horde of treasure and is sneakin it through town. He saw him with his own eyes over at Samar’s place.”

Drianna speaks with an outer city bartender – “That Aravax’s place is strange. It’s supposed to be an outfitter, but it’s more like a hotel. I swear I saw four men with boxes, and I mean crates here, full of gold go in the back door two days ago. Now why would someone with that much loot stay in such a dump?” The Fox Traveler Outfitters, ruled over by Aravax Foxtraveler, a half elf , is protected by a handful of thugs and a hellhound Aravax keeps as an unruly pet. Drianna discovers that Aravax runs the local thieves guild, and pays him an interesting visit.

The party regroups. Although they suspect Rezmir is at, or at least visited, the Fox traveller, they decide not to investigate further at the moment. Instead, they follow Tarathan’s lead on “Samar”, who is a merchant called “Samar the Hope”. The next morning they track Samar down to his hotel, and join him for breakfast under the pretense of hiring on as guards for his caravan. He is sad to say he’s already hired enough guards, and points the heroes to a group of four men at another table. There, Razar-De recognizes one of the men from his half-missing nose as one of the cultists from the camp. Wanting to avoid recognition themselves, the party excuses themselves and leaves.

Having located the correct caravan, they party speaks with Hogsbottom and learns of some other merchants in the same caravan still in need of guards.

Edhelri Lewel is a Moon Elf Merchant, with a load of exotic wood from the Hawkswood in Rulos for the master carpenters and cabinetmakers of Torsuul to turn into exquisite furniture. She is impatient with people but exacting about her wagon and doting on her animals. She turns out to be quite odd, but agrees to pay each of them 25 gold for each of the three expected weeks of the trip.

April 8

The heroes report as instructed to Varsten’s North Gate, and the caravan departs for Torsuul.

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Session Five
The Hatchery, Part 2

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March 26 – 27, 1482

The party rested briefly, then moved into the cavern to the east. They could see that the room that opens at the bottom of the stairs was immense, and at the edge of their vision they could see the fragile curve of an enormous egg. A wide ledge ran along the left wall and dropped away to a pit on the right. Many stalactites and stalagmites filled the room, and the sound of dripping water echoed continuously. Like the other split-level cavern they discovered, this one also had a caged staircase that led to the lower level. Looking closely, they could count three of the great black eggs.

The groups light and movement awakened two guard drakes, who began sniffing and snapping near the gate. As they considered their next move, one of the stalactites began moving – it was actually a roper, and reached out to grab the party with its tentacles. The heroes attacked.

After latching on to Gareth and Tarathan and dragging them into range of the drakes, it surprised them all when it began to speak. “You’re not supposed to be here!” it shouted. It seems the roper had a deal with the cultists to not eat the eggs, but proposed that if the party brought it Frulam Mondath’s corpse, that deal would be ended (and it could eat her corpse).

The heroes decided against this and slew the roper and both drakes. After short deliberation, they also destroyed the eggs – the infant dragons within struggling for breath and squirming for a few minutes before dying.

Retreating back to a more secure room to the north, they took a short rest, then returned to explore a narrow crooked fissure to the west. After a few feet, it opened into a carpeted and well-appointed room, belonging to a very surprised Frulam Mondath. Quickly overwhelmed by the party, she was knocked unconscious and badly wounded, but captured alive.

Binding her mouth and hands, the group easily returned to the caverns’ entrance and snuck out of the deserted camp, intent on bringing their prisoner to Greenest to face justice before they move on to Elturel.

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Session Four
The Hatchery, Part 1

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March 24 – 25, 1482

The group puts a safe distance between themselves and the chaos at the camp, and stops to rest for the night. They set out again in the morning, arrive in Greenest shortly before noon, and hand Leosin over for medical care.

After a short rest and a meal, they meet with Governor Nighthill, Escobert, and a medicated but lucid Leosin. The monk offers the party additional payment to return to the camp and return with any further observations, especially with regards to the “hatchery” cave.

Leosin plans to spend a few days recovering, but then will depart for the city of Elturel to meet with the paladin Ontharr Frume, an ally in his investigation of the Dragon cult. He asks them to meet him, or Ontharr, there when they complete their task.

The heroes accept, and depart immediately.

They take a more circuitous route this time, and arrive at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the camp. It’s immediately obvious most of the raiders have departed, and much of the camp has been abandoned and burned. The only real center of activity continues to be the cave entrance, so the party waits for nightfall, dons their disguises, and heads down into camp.

When challenged by the guards, Drianna lays out a stunningly effective series of bluffs and deceptions that they are allowed to pass without issue, and the heroes move confidently into what turns out to not be just one, but a series of caves and twisting tunnels.

They first discover what appears to be a recently-emptied treasure room, and carefully avoid the sleeping guard. Next, heading down to an eerie farm of giant mushrooms and other fungi, Razar-De springs a trap, and tumbles down into an ambush by several aggressive ambulatory purple mushrooms. A quick and quiet battle ensues before the heroes move on.

Another path leads them down steep stairs to a leather curtain, which Tarathan attempts to push through and discovers is embedded with poisoned barbs. He briefly falls ill, but uses his divine powers to remove the disease. Beyond the curtain is only a naturally cold cavern used to store a large amount of meat.

Backtracking a bit, the group discovers several kobolds in a split-level chamber used for the raising and training of guard drakes. Again, the heroes make quick work of the kobolds, but the activity agitates the drakes, who begin roaring and calling out. Thinking fast, the party tosses the bodies of the slain kobolds to the beasts, who fall silent as they feast on their former masters.

Continuing down the tunnel, the party runs into Langdedrosa Cyanwrath and two human guards in a large cavern that has been decorated as a temple to Tiamat. A brutal battle ensues, but the heroes win through, slaying the half-dragon and his lackeys.

Drianna goes to work on a locked chest, aptly disabling the trap she discovers as well. Inside is a small fortune in gems and jewelry. Further searches of the room discover nothing but the complex carvings in the walls – a five-headed dragon, rising from an erupting volcano while other dragons, dwarfed by the five-headed monstrosity, flock to its side.

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Session Three
Raider's Camp

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March 22 – 23, 1482

The next day, Governor Nighthill requests the party locate the raiders’ camp and find out certain information. He offers to pay them 250 GP apiece. He wants to know where the camp is sited, how many raiders are there, who their leaders are, what’s motivating these attacks, and where they plan to strike next. The heroes conclude that their orders would cover this activity anyway, and accept.

Meanwhile, Razar-De is approached by Nesim Waladra, a fellow monk and disciple of Leosin Erlanthar. He knows Leosin was researching the Tiso clan and their involvement with the Cult of the Dragon, and fears he was discovered and captured by the raiders.

They party departs southwest, easily following the trail left by the departing raiders. As they reach the foothills of the Sunset Mountains, they spot a small squad of stragglers, and ambush them. The group slays a number of kobolds and human cultists, and manage to capture one severely wounded acolyte alive, Dehalac.

After some interrogation, they learn the location and basic layout of the raider’s camp. Unable to justify killing an unarmed captive, Tarathan heals Dehalac, and orders him to report to Greenest and surrender himself. Surprised by their honor, Dehalac tells them how to avoid the raiders’ rear guard.

The group takes a moment to disguise themselves using the robes of the dead cultists and departs. They find that Dehalac’s information was true, avoid the rear guard positions, and blend in with other raiders returning to camp.

A great deal of time is spent exploring the camp, noting the presence of Frulam Mondath and her champion Langdedrosa Cyanwrath. They also learn of something called “the nursery” within the heavily-guarded caves at the edge of camp, and surmise the presence of young dragons or dragon eggs.

They also locate Leosin under guard at the back of the camp, tied to a stake and severely beaten. Using Drianna’s elvish gift of messaging, they have a short mental conversation with him, and let him know to prepare for rescue.

The heroes wait until most of the camp beds down for the night, then unleashes a series of distractions. From a position atop the cliffs, Drianna fires flaming arrows down into the camp, setting alight several tents Gareth and Tarathan had soaked in oil. Razar-De creates the illusionary sound of dragons screaming in pain at the entrance to the nursery, and Gareth plunges Frulam’s tent into magical darkness.

Chaos erupts in the camp, and Gareth and Tarathan take the opportunity to disable Leosin’s guards and free the monk. They throw an acolyte’s robes over him, and make their way out of the camp. The party reassembles at a prearranged location and begins the trip back to Greenest.

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Session Two
Greenest in Flames

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March 14 – 21, 1482

The party returns to Exridge, and is debriefed by Marnius Cortes. Captain Cortes informs them that a sizable force of bandits has gathered near the town of Greenest to the south. Everyone agrees to depart for Greenest after rest and resupply.

At the end of their eighth day of travel, sundown is approaching when the group tops a rise and sees the town of Greenest just a few short miles away. But instead of the pleasant, welcoming town they expected, columns of black smoke rise from burning buildings, and a dark, winged shape wheels low over the keep that rises above the center of the town. Greenest is being attacked by a dragon!

As the party makes their way towards the keep through the burning village, they rescue several small groups of townspeople from packs of marauding kobolds. After reaching the keep, Escobert the Red greets the heroes and hurries them off to meet with Governor Tarbaw Nighthill.

Nighthill is grateful for their arrival, and asks for their assistance in the running battle. The group’s initial excursion – out the front gate, across open ground as a hostile dragon flies overhead – met with overwhelming resistance, but they did manage to capture and interrogate one of the human cult members leading the kobolds. The party set out on another, more successful sortie to save the town’s mill from being burned, and returned to the keep shortly before dawn.

After a brief rest, the party returned to the battlements to see Frulam Mondath, leader of this Cult of the Dragon warparty, meeting with her captains and leaving for the southwest. Her half-dragon champion, Langdedrosa Cyanwrath remained behind to challenge any taker to single combat in exchange for several hostages. Tarathan accepted this challenge, but though he put up a valiant fight, was defeated by the tremendous strength of Cyanwrath.

Satisfied with the combat, Cyanwrath freed the hostages and left to join his mistress while Gareth healed his compatriot. Tarathan and Gareth rejoined Drianna and Razar-De in the keep for some much-needed recuperation.

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Session One
Bones and Arrows

Bones and Arrows

March 11, 1482

Assembled by Marnius Cortes, our heroes set forth south from Exridge along the Uldoon Trail, the main trade route between the capital and the ports at Varsten.

Captain Cortes instructs them to investigate reports of undead activity at a suspected comet impact site. They are to travel a half a day south, locate and follow a smaller path that crosses the Uldoon Trail, and make their way to the crater.

The trip passes without difficulty, and the party has no problem locating the affected site and dispatching the four reanimated skeletons they find roaming the area.

Rather than venture back to the main road, the party takes another side trail that takes them in a more direct route home. They travel for just over an hour, but then as they come around a bend in the trail, they spot two dead horses sprawled out ahead of them, riddled with arrows and blocking the path. Investigating, they find that the saddle bags have been looted, and blood stains the ground.

Without warning, they find themselves under fire from several goblins that were lying in ambush on either side of the road. Several members of the party find themselves badly wounded, but they manage to kill their attackers. After a few minutes of rest, they investigate the area and find signs of two bodies being dragged away from the ambush site.

Concerned for anyone who may have survived the ambush, they follow the trail a short ways to the opening of a small cave system. Bypassing some wolves penned in at the entrance, the group explores a series of empty caves before encountering a small troop of goblins and their leader.

After a short battle, the goblins lie dead, and the party searches the remaining caves. They discover a small cache of treasure, but no sign of survivors. Suspecting that any unfortunate prisoners wound up as meals for the goblins, the group departs the caves and continues their journey home.

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