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