Journey to Fate’s doorstep: an unexpected visitor

“She’s back?”…”Yes having tea with Petha, let’s go!”

Seconds later, the Drow’s Bane appear in the Catchbreeze sanctuary dedicated to Tempus feeling excited to see their old friend again. They make their way onto the gardens and toward the house, when the sound of hooves can be heard coming toward them. A familiar large pig comes into view, charging toward them like a dog who has not seen its owner in a long time. Royce and Naismith see Tusker and big smiles come over their faces; they hold out their arms ready to embrace him. Except Tusker halts his trod fifteen feet in front of them and just stares at Nong for a long time; Tusker sniffs the air, looks confused and then a little frightened before quickly turning around and running towards the house. Nong stares back watching the animal who easily showed its affection toward the monk before, now dash away the moment it sees his old friend; Nong grunts in disgust. Royce and Naismith glance at each other, taking in the reality of their situation.

As the open dining room comes into view, the Drow’s Bane see Petha at the table talking and laughing with the ranger, Illian, who turns around to see the party. She smiles, gets up from the table and approaches; she hugs Royce, Naismith and Nong and then greets Mordrock. Petha is up from the table getting drinks and food for the newly returned; “Sirs, there are packages for you from ‘Wizards of the Coast’; I placed them on the small table over there” she points.

Together the old party catch up and share their adventures; Illian explains she is in town to consult with the temple on her mother’s sickness and she is still looking for her father who may have knowledge of a cure. Royce, Mordrock and Naismith share with her about Ft. Morninglord, Skullport and the mind flayer hive. She notices Nong is not present and looks around for him; Royce and Naismith pick up on this and share with her how it is best he stay at least 300 feet away due to the wand’s corruption.

She turns her attention to Mordrock, examines him briefly and begins to inquire how he became part of the Drow’s Bane. “I hear you now have a room here at Catchbreeze, yes?” she says to Mordrock, as she looks away, feeling a little caught up in the moment. Mordrock nods and begins to share with her, how he joined the party and what his calling in life is meant to serve. She listens intently and engages in conversation, after realizing how Mordrock’s character is a good fit for the party.

After lunch is served, Illian, Royce and Naismith take Petri and Tusker for a walk. Away from the others, Naismith talks about Nong and the wand of Orcus, the impact it has had on the party and how they must find a way to destroy it. Illian stops and looks at Royce, “How can you let this happen? I thought you would be the one to protect the group from this evil. And where is Kendall in all of this?”. “You do not understand Illian, the wand killed me when I touched it and it almost took over Naismith. Only Nong has been strong enough to wield it without too much damage” Royce replies. “And as for Kendall we do not know what has happened to him; we think he is still helping King Battlehammer in Gauntlgrym but I am having my doubts now.” Royce and Naismith share how they have become an interest of Glasya, an arch devil from Hell, how the influence of Orcus is growing through demonic cults and how the demon they encountered in Ft. Morninglord, called out to Nong as if it knew him.

“I am sorry and offer my apology, I can see how all of this is taking a toll on you guys.” says Illian as she clasps each of their shoulders with a good squeeze. “I wish I was hear to help you deal with it” she says looking somewhat sad, somewhat guilty. Royce and Naismith both nod in agreement and then embrace her with a big hug.

On the walk back to Catchbreeze, Naismith describes how his brother is now at Catchbreeze under extraordinary circumstances. “AND, Petha shared with me just now before we left, Lulach and Djanni are now an item!”. “An item?” says Royce looking a bit confused. “Yes, Petha has noticed them holding hands and spending a lot of time together.” replies Naismith looking at Royce. “Even with those eyes.” grins Royce. Naismith lets Illian in on the joke about the condition of Lulach’s eyes and how he allegedly got that way. “I hope this is a reflection of my brother turning over a new page in his life” sighs Naismith.

Illian stays for dinner and even gets Nong to spend a few minutes at the table with her before he gets up, tells her good bye and leaves. After dinner, she walks around Catchbreeze saying good bye to the staff and then goes into her old room. Moments later she returns with several scarves. “I made these for each of you while on my travels; each are a gift from me to you” she smiles. Illian hands Royce a vermilion and goldenrod scarf with a tiny motif of swords and axes; then also hands Royce an auburn and cream scarf with an abstract motif of clouds and waves. “Please give that one to Nong when you see him”. She turns to Naismith and selects a black and plum scarf with a motif of keys and lock-picks and hands it to him. “And finally this one is for you Petha” as she hands Petha a cherry and chocolate scarf with a motif of leaves and small flowers. “That is so sweet mistress Illian, thank you so much” replies Petha.

There is an awkward silence as Mordrock looks down and steps back from the group. “I have one for you too Mordrock” says Illian as Mordrock looks up much surprised to hear this. “Yonica is finishing up weaving your scarf for me and she should be done in a few days. It is white with a motif of various multi-colored cats”. Mordrock replies, “Thank you, that is very kind of you to include me”.

“Well I now must go and return to my duties with the Emerald Enclave.” says Illian as she takes several minutes to say her good byes to Royce, Naismith, Petha and Mordrock. She then calls to Tusker who is not far away, who comes running up to the group sniffing everyone before rubbing up against Illian’s leg. Illian gives Tusker a big scratch and together both ranger and pig walk out toward the street. As she leaves Catchbreeze, she turns around one more time, looks at the Drow’s Bane, smiles and gives a hearty wave before disappearing into the night.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: the battle to save Ft. Morninglord

The Drow’s Bane along with Lady Judith Kaladar return to Ft. Morninglord gardens from the Ethereal plane after a much needed rest. The party’s plan this time around, will focus their efforts on taking out the drummers; Naismith noticed previously how Lord Kaladar winced in pain when a drummer died. No one seems to fully understand the relationship between Lord Kaladar and the drummers but this feels like a good plan.

“Mordrock, may I have a word with you please?” says Lady Kaladar. As she watches Nong from afar with slight trepidation. “I have decided not to return with your party to fight my husband but instead, stay here in the greenhouse where I feel safe.” Mordrock looks surprised and begins to speak when Lady Kaladar holds up her hand and says, “It was too much for me to experience that evil being that was once my loving husband who so easily took me down without a second thought, blaming me for the death of our son!”. “Furthermore, I do not feel comfortable in the presence of Nong; I do not trust that Orc especially wielding that evil wand. I know you say he’s ‘fine’ but it is too much for me dealing with him and my husband at the same time while I’m fighting for my life and future”. She hands Mordrock her staff and tries to smile. “Please take my staff, a gift from me to the party to use against my husband. I feel it will do more for you than me right now,” she pauses and walks up to Naismith, and politely takes the obsidian dagger back from him. Then she continues speaking to Mordrock, “I will know if you succeed…and in the event you do not, I know what I must do…again” as she looks down at the dagger in her hand.

Mordrock sadly walks back, explains the news to the party and together the Drow’s Bane and Lady Kaladar, exchange goodbyes. When the party approaches the dining room, they see once again the undead around the table. “Everything is reset again” says Royce nodding to Mordrock, who approaches the door ready to cast. Naismith throws a dagger into the room connecting with one of the undead at the table. As the undead begin to stir, Mordorck unleashes a locust swarm into the dining room, then quickly shuts the door while Royce secures it with the Immovable Rod.

Ten minutes goes by as the party hears screaming from behind the door and then an immediate silence. As they open the door they witness once again, nothing in the room except bits and pieces of chewed wood, bone and metal. The party quickly makes their way through the dining room, into the hallway, through the room with the Bane statue and towards the upside down door. In the hallway, Nong hears a voice in his head, “You have returned…I am waiting…to strike you down and raise you in the service to BANE!!”. Nong turns to the party, “Did you all hear that voice? He knows we are outside so you can forget about the sneaky stuff” and kicks open the upside down door.

The drumming is loud inside the 40 x 40 foot room. Lord Kaladar and his knights are hovering in the air in the middle of the room, chanting. Royce notices all six drummers are back, one on each wall, floor and ceiling. Lord Kaladar’s angry red eyes flash toward the party and then gives a nod causing the room to shift ninety degrees. The gravity on the wall pulls everyone to it from the floor; those unfortunate to not catch their balance in the move suffer significant damage. Naismith runs down the wall that serves as the floor and takes out a drummer; Lord Kaladar flinches in pain. Nong runs along the floor that now serves as a wall and takes out another drummer; Lord Kaladar reacts similarly. Then, Lord Kaladar flies toward Nong and attacks him viciously, while Mordrock causes earth to erupt from the ground rising up to connect with the hovering knights.

The four knights still hovering in a circle turn toward the party; each one raises a hand where an orb of hellish flame appears. One by one, they lob their flaming orbs toward the party. The necrotic flames on impact are enough to take down Royce and Mordrock instantly, immediately shifting the tides of battle toward Lord Kaladar, who bellows in laughter at the sight. Nong, who would have fallen too, draws upon his Orcish strength to last one more round.

Fear washes over Naismith’s face seeing both of his cleric comrades go down seconds after the battle begins. He reaches out to Jimjar to channel a bit of life back into Royce, hopefully with enough time for Royce to get the party back on their feet.

And then something happens…

Nong calms himself giving him time to channel Ki into his fists, then strikes Lord Kaladar causing vibrations to occur all over the undead body; Nong then pulls away and snaps his fingers. Lord Kaladar reverberates from the strike, grabs his chest, gasps and then collapses to the ground, dead; his crown rolls off his head and settles a few feet away. Hope fills the room briefly as everyone takes in what Nong, who is barely alive, just did to turn the tides of battle toward the party’s favor.

Royce seizes the moment and casts Mass Heal, reviving everyone back to health. The knights do not relent as each one flies down to the ground, raises his sword and strikes the ground with it. Thunder and necrotic energy ripples out from the impact cumulatively doing massive damage to everyone after the fourth strike occurs. Mordrock turns two of the knights causing them to flee in fear, but the remaining knights cause destructive waves again, removing fear from their comrades upon impact.

The battle is tough but eventually the Drow’s Bane get the upper hand and succeed in taking down all four knights causing the hateful angry energy of the room to begin to subside; the drummers also lose their strength and eventually fade away. The room returns to its original small size as the party notices a corporeal Lord Kaladar, moving on the ground; he’s coughing up black bile and weeping.

“So…much…pain…I’ve…caused…” cries Lord Kaladar who no longer looks undead but pale and alive. Nong walks up to the prone Lord Kaladar and looks down at him with disdain at the same time a small light falls from the ceiling floating down to the ground next to Lord Kaladar. Everyone watches the small floating light but only Nong can see that the light shines bright with the symbol of Lathander. As the light touches the ground it becomes a child. “Johnny is that you!” proclaims Lord Kaladar as he moves toward the child. “Daddy, daddy!!” the boy cries out; together father and son embrace as tears of joy flow down their faces. Mordrock feels someone run past him and sees Lady Kaladar run into the room toward her family. She’s crying as she embraces her husband and son.

The Drow’s Bane watch as the Kaladar family is reunited after twenty six years of pain and misery. Nong picks up the crown and walks back toward Lord Kaladar. Luther Kaladar looks up and says to Nong, “My life is yours. I offer you my crown. It is the symbol of my station. I know not best how to atone for my sins. Is it my death? Or a life of servitude to a higher power? All of you saved our souls from the clutches of Bane. I leave the choice in your hands but please let the boy live.”

Nong spits on the ground and responds, “You deserve death for all of the pain you brought to this world for the PAST TWENTY SIX YEARS!!! You do not deserve mercy and you must pay for your sins.” Luther takes a gulp of air and sighs as his son hearing Nong, begins to cry harder clutching his parents. Judith looks to the others and says, “please show us mercy, I beg of you. We have endured enough pain to know how to live the rest of our lives in servitude to Lathander.” Royce, Naismith and Mordrock consider the options and then turn to Nong. “Nong, let the family live. They are no use to us dead and we don’t want the crown nor this fortress” says Royce. Naismith turns to the family and says, “as the living you must repent for your sins by dedicating your life to servitude of the light and Lathander. You must smite evil, Bane, Orcus and the undead for the rest of your life.” Nong raises the wand and says, “Fine! but I’ll take his left hand as his punishment.” The other three in unison exclaim, “NO!!! You will do no such thing Nong”. “Fine! then Lord Kaladar you will establish a new order dedicated to Elder Brother Taliq as the protectorate over smiting evil. AND, you will replace that Bane statue with a statue of Taliq” proclaims Nong.

Luther and Judith Kaladar agree to abide by the rules set forth by the Drow’s Bane from this day forward. They also agree to build shrines to Tempus, Kelemvor and Tymora and to honor them in addition to Lathander. Soon after, the party decides to visit the Dawnbreakers to see how Royce’s father is doing. They say farewell to the Kaladars and move on. As they exit the fortress, they see Royce’s father’s ship fully repaired. When they arrive at Omenhale, Elric greats them and tells them it has been a month’s time since they entered the fortress. “I thought you didn’t make it but last week our healing spells began to work again. I then thought you sacrificed your souls to bring us such luck, but thanks to Lathander, you stand before me now!”.

Royce scans the crowd and sees his father, Aldrich, talking with his crew. Royce breathes a sign of relief as he approaches his father. Aldrich turns and smiles when he sees Royce, “you’re alive! You did it son, you saved the people here. You are such a blessed boy”. Father and son spend a long time together as Naismith and Mordrock catch up with paladins and crew; Nong moves 300 feet away to avoid trouble.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Obtaining the first gem

The Drow’s Bane make their way toward the eastern door from the circular room with Bane’s statue. They open the door and can see a long hallway with a blood red rug that runs along the floor all the way to a few steps leading to an upside down door at the other end. Naismith notices a similar blood red rug running along the ceiling of the hallway, a mirror image of the rug along the floor. He steps onto the rug and with his second step, he is yanked up to the ceiling upside down. He takes a third step and comes crashing down to the ground however lands perfectly like a graceful cat; unfortunately, he still feels the impact to his body but not enough to do damage, yet. Nong sees this and leaps up on the wall carrying a rope and runs down it to the upside down door; he arrives, ties the rope to the door’s handle and beckons the others to climb their way down. Naimsith makes it down the hallway and realizes his legs are about to give out on him from the consistent impact, while Mordrock clicks his heels, picks up Royce, and flies down the hallway.

The party passes an adjoining hallway that leads south on their way to the upside down door. No matter what they try, they cannot get the upside down door to open. They give up and make their way down the adjoining south hallway to a door. Behind this door is a room of finely upholstered love seats, chaise lounges and bookshelves, a warm fireplace and 3 figures slumped over in their chairs: one dressed in full plate mail, two others in courtly attire. The one individual dressed in plate mail and looking dead for quite a long time has a book on his lap. Naismith slips the book out of the dead individual’s lap with Mage Hand and brings it to the party; it is the diary of Sir Michael Scott an officer to Lord Kaladar. The journal describes how Lord Kaladar began a descent into wickedness after his son’s death, first cursing Lathander then stabbing a scribe dead with his dagger. Next, strangers arrived at Fort Morninglord to conduct a ritual which appeared to Sir Michael as evil magic; then the diary abruptly ends with the last page covered in blood stains.

Mordrock moves into the room to examine the bookshelf when suddenly the party hears a stir as all 3 dead come alive and attack! The undead in full plate mail, most likely Sir Michael, is tough to take down but eventually the party takes care of them all. The last words out of Sir Michael are, “I am freeeeee”.

Mordrock continues to the bookshelf and examines it; he finds many books on nature, urban policy, religion and rules of the court; nothing appears magical. Nong confirms the dates in the diary match the dates in the cultist journal he found earlier. The party travels back to the statue room and heads west.

Along the west hallway is a similar configuration: a red rug on the floor and ceiling running down to a door; another adjoining hallway mid-way, appears to open up northbound. The door at the end of the west hallway is not upside down, however the gallery of beautifully framed portraits of kings, queens and heads of state along the walls of the hallway are upside down, including the wall sconces. Naismith turns into a bat, Nong runs along the walls and Mordrock and Royce fly down the hallway making their way up the northbound adjoining hallway leading to a massive set of wooden double doors; the cast iron fittings on the doors appear twisted and gnarled.

One of the wooden doors is ajar and Nong peeks into the room. He sees the room is a dining room with four large tables forming a rectangle in the middle. A great feast sits upon the table and numerous dead slouch in various positions around the table; some slumped back, others on the floor holding their throats with one of them, face first in its soup bowl. Nong sees the room contains an exit northbound into a hallway and a set of ascending stairs exiting eastbound. Royce detects these are more undead and cautions the group. Nong opens the door quietly, runs up the wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall towards the northern hallway and then motions the group forward. Naismith in bat form, flies across the room toward Nong while Mordrock and Royce fly into the room, up to the ceiling and across the room toward Nong and Naismith. No undead come to life during the room crossing.

The party makes their way to a door at the end of the northern hallway. Naismith comes out of bat form and opens the door to find a small room containing an obsidian stone platform with a large block of shiny, green glass on top; inside the block of glass sits a bright glistening gem. The party also observes carvings on the stone platform in the form of decorative monster faces that move about and small demons that fly across the bottom. Nong believes the glistening gem is what is mentioned in the cultist’s journal and it needs to be set free. Naismith decides to attack the block of glass and his strike makes contact with it, but not enough to break through cleanly, leaving a large crack. The impact of his dagger with the block of glass emits a loud ringing sound that impacts the party. They grab their ears as the ringing sound fills each of them with exhaustion.

The next attempt leaves Naismith alone in the room while the others wait outside in the hallway, hoping a closed door between them will minimize another ringing of ears. Naismith lights up the cracked glass block with Faerie Fire and strikes again. The glass cracks a second time but not enough to shatter it completely emitting a loud ringing sound filling the small room, the hallway and into the dining room. The party again grabs their ears as some face another bout of exhaustion from the sound. Unfortunately, Mordrock, Royce and Nong hear a stir from the dining room as the loud ringing also awakens the dead.

The undead rise up and quickly move into the hallway and attack the party. Strange enough, multiple undead are able to fit within a five foot space overwhelming the party with attacks. Mordock suffers a fork to the face and feels his life suck away on impact. The party in the hallway battles the undead leaving Naismith in the room with the cracked block of glass that appears to be sealing up each crack as time progresses. Naismith tries again to quickly attack the glass to prevent further cracks from sealing up and his attack again, is not enough to shatter the block. Another ringing emits from the cracked block causing the party to suffer more exhaustion however, the undead are not affected. As Royce, Nong and Mordrock take down the undead in the hallway, Naismith strikes a fourth blow to the glass, shattering it on impact. Naismith breathes a sigh of relief as he grabs the small gem and makes his way out of the room feeling extremely exhausted.

The party decides to take a long rest from the ethereal plane, anchoring themselves to the dining room. Mordrock casts a spell instantly transporting them to the Ethereal plane that borders wherever this fortress exists. After eight hours the party returns to the dining room to see the table, feast and undead have been reset to their original positions. The party quietly moves toward the eastern stairs and ascends.

At the top of the stairs is a long peculiar hallway that appears first to resemble a dessert, followed by a jungle and towards the end, a meadow. The party creatively uses their skills and abilities, including lathering up in mayonnaise, to successfully traverse all three biomes unscathed. After the meadow, they arrive at a door which leads into a large indoor garden. The garden contains three distinct habitats, one of sand that hosts a huge moving cactus; next to the sand is a jungle canopy where a giant Venus flytrap plant exists; and closest to the door is a meadow containing two large rose bushes.

All of the plants seem to agitate, moving their vines and such, in response to when the Drow’s Bane enter the room.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Inside the keep

The Drow’s Bane appear on a fifteen foot by fifteen foot stone platform surrounded by water as far as the eye can see; it is dark except for orange and yellow lights dancing fifty feet out underneath the water. The platform is flush with the endless water and there is no current nor breeze; looking up there is no ceiling just a dense vacuum of darkness. Royce can sense they have traveled by divine power to an alternate dimension.

Naismith flies out over the water toward the dancing lights; when he flies above them he can see into the depths of the water. The orange and yellow lights are emanating from torches that light up a stone hallway, deep under the water. Once Naismith describes the underwater view, the party dives into the water heading straight for the lights. Sixty feet down, they suddenly feel a strong pull as if by a mighty current. Each of them is pulled through the water and into the corridor with torches, falling from the ceiling onto the stone floor cold and wet. The party is confused by what just happened as they realize they were swimming a moment ago and now are prone on a stone floor. Ahead of them the corridor moves into an arched hallway that leads toward a door.

What is interesting about the corridor is it is made of brick that are swiftly changing colors across the spectrum of shimmering tones. The party moves down this corridor towards the door. Nong listens at the door and hears a conversation; he catches every other word of the abyssal language being spoken. “…Orcus…alliance…brethren…stronger….”, then he hears one of the voices pause and say “halt! I sense my brother is near” and then shuffling and movement replace the conversation.

Nong calls to the wand of Orcus to raise zombies and skeletons behind the door, but he fails as the wand refuses to obey his command. The Drow’s Bane decide to kick the door open and attack. As the door swings open, they see several large and medium sized undead guards, behind them a red faced, winged demon in robes of Orcus next to an undead in robes with a black hand symbol. The party attacks the nearest undead. Nong tries to use the wand to cast a spell at the red faced winged demon but the wand refuses to obey again! Instead, the wand flares up in anger and hurts Nong in return. The red faced demon yells to Nong, “do not defy the workings of our master, Nong! Or face the consequences”. The red faced demon, sensing the Drow’s Bane will soon overcome the undead, casts a spell and begins to fade from existence, grinning at Nong as he disappears.

As Nong smashes the killing blow on top of the undead robbed figure, it screams out as it crumbles to the ground; Nong notices a journal has fallen to the ground next to the undead husk. In time the party defeats the remaining undead guards in this circular room. Behind the dead bodies is a fifteen foot bronze statue of a ferocious figure swinging a sword, his mouth agape in a war cry. Nong picks up the journal and skims it; it reveals a journal entry of a Bane cultist, possibly the creature he just fought. The party deduces the statue is of Bane and the symbols on the robe, a black painted hand, is the symbol of Bane, the black lord of tyranny. Mordrock recalls seeing the same symbol in the alter in Selene’s chambers.

The party discusses the overheard conversation and deduces a priest of Orcus was in the middle of negotiating an alliance with a priest of Bane. “Why did that demon call you brother?” says Naismith to Nong. Nong still reading the journal, ignores Naismith, turning his body toward the statue. Nong describes out loud what he reads: twenty six years ago the Tide of Bane cult tricked Lord Kaladar into thinking Bane’s ritual would return his dead son to him; instead Bane’s ritual would seal the Lord’s fate forever, turning him into Bane’s Mourning Lord. The journal makes reference of two gems hidden inside Fort Morninglord that might be keeping the ritual in power.

The party looks around the circular room and notices it is made of the same color changing bricks; there are no doors except for the one they kicked open. They search the room and find no other exits, secret or otherwise. When Nong approaches the statue, he begins to notice the swinging sword move down toward Nong and becomes a pathway leading up to the statue’s head. Nong moves up the pathway, he sees the statue’s head grow in size to where the path leads into the statue’s mouth. The others stare at Nong and wonder why he is climbing onto the statue; they do not see the sword pathway or where it leads.

Nong continues up the pathway toward the hilt of the blade, the statue’s mouth opens to reveal an obsidian skull gleaming with foul energy; the skull contains in each eye socket an impression where a gem could fit. The skull fades away and Nong is back in the room standing next to the statue. The party sees a door on the west and east sides of the room, appear.

“I know where the gems must go once we find them” says Nong, as he moves towards one of the doors.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Fort Morninglord

Swarms of undead circle around the Drow’s Bane as they stand in a protective line surrounding Talestra and the palace guards; she squeaks in fear as she prepares to teleport herself and the guards out of danger. The Drow’s Bane hack, slash and spell the swarms as a flash of light sparkles behind them, sending Talestra and the palace guards home.

The swarms are not your average skeleton or zombie mob but Mordrock and Royce do eventually turn some to flee in fear towards the river. Naismith sees across the field a robed figure kneeling in prayer unaffected by the surrounding undead battling soldiers and paladins. When he focuses on the figure more closely, he sees symbols of Orcus all over the robe causing Naismith to knock an arrow and fire. The arrow flies through the air and perfectly connects with the kneeling figure, who turns his head to the sky, mutters something to far away to hear and then slumps over dead.

The body begins to pulsate, convulse and breakdown. Naismith can hear the bones breaking turning the body from humanoid to black goo in seconds; the goo spreads out across the field in an oval and begins to glow. Just as Nong hacks the last undead of a swarm, a giant black hand emerges from the goo, then a second, followed by a huge head. A creature fifteen feet tall climbs out of the portal; its body a sucking void of blackness consuming everything near it; the undead feel invigorated as the creature comes onto the battlefield, its attention drawn toward the Drow’s Bane.

The party tries to stay a good distance from the huge creature due to its dark aura. They eventually take it down at the cost of its dangerous attacks reducing each of their life, possibly permanently, by the damage each suffers. When the huge creature disintegrates, the remaining undead scatter and flee; the sky that was strangely overcast for mid-day, begins to dissipate allowing rays of sunshine to penetrate through.

The party is relieved the tide has turned for the better and begin to heal themselves, however they realize their healing spells are failing except for Mordrock’s Mass Heal during the battle; even Nong’s ability to heal himself does only a fraction of the true affect. A stout bushy red haired dwarf in full plate mail limps toward them; the symbol of Lathander brightly displayed across his armor. He approaches the Drow’s Bane with a stern look on his face but when he recognizes the symbols of Tempest and Kelemvor, he relaxes a bit. “You are a gift from the gods to have arrived just in time! My name is Elric, the Commander of the Dawnwatchers” he explains. “Please, join me back at Omenhale for drink and conversation on why you are here, now”. Royce describes his father to Elric and asks the dwarf if he’s seen him. “We did our best to rescue crew from that ship over there”, he points toward the river where a ship has run onto the bank; supplies and dead bodies litter the ground around it. “We are tending to many wounded inside Omenhale, maybe your father is inside.” as Elric begins to limp toward Omenhale, an outpost several hundred feet away from Fort Morninglord.

The Drows’ Bane follow Elric into Omenhale; the inside consists of tents and a bonfire with several wounded circling it for warmth. Soldiers tend to the wounded while others drag or carry more in from the field. Elric looks at Royce, points toward the bonfire and then says “I’ll be in here, come in when you are ready to talk” and moves toward the mess tent. Royce inspects the people circling the bonfire looking for a familiar face.

“Mmm..Mordrock, is that you?” a voice calls from the ground. Mordrock looks around and fixes his gaze on a wounded soldier. “Kilven?” says Mordrock surprised and moves toward the voice. “Yes, it’s me old friend from eons ago”, Kilven smiles and reaches up to grasp Mordrock’s hand. Mordrock crouches down and hugs the half-elf. “What brought you to this place from the days of being a Mintarn mercenary sellsword with me?” asks Mordrock. “Lathander called to me and I answered his call…ended up here after I left Mintarn a few years after you departed.” Mordrock can see Kilven is in a lot of pain with bandages covering several deep gashes across his body. Mordrock attempts to heal him but the healing spells do not take. “It’s okay…this is happening all over the place…the wounded are not healing…some are even dying,” whispers Kilven as he shifts his body, grimacing from the pain.

Royce inspects the wounded and sees a familiar face among them. He moves quickly to stand in front of his father. “Thank Tempest you are alive, I came as quickly as possible” as Royce kneels down and cradles his father’s head. Royce examines his father and sees the left foot is missing, several deep wounds appear along his legs and lower torso; his father has lost a lot of blood and is very pale. Royce’s father opens his eyes, recognizes his son and begins to smile as a tear rolls down his eye. “Tempest have faith in me now!” gasps Royce as he lays his father down, stands up and looks to the heavens. He spreads his hands out and casts Mass Heal; rays of light shoot from his hands across the wounded, instantly healing everyone around the bonfire. Royce’s father’s foot grows back as the gashes across his body close up too.

There is a momentary silence in the outpost as bystanders stare in shock as Royce’s healing magic works! Royce looks down and breathes a sigh of relief as he sees his father’s face filled once again, with the color of life.

Nong stares at Royce from the entrance of Omenhale and decides to walk onto the field to avoid the wand messing with the wounded or spoiling the soldier’s food and drink. Royce, Naismith and Mordrock move into the mess tent to speak with Elric. The conversation with Elric reaffirms the Fort Morninglord history that Lady Silverhand described to them as they departed Waterdeep. Elric also describes how a few nights ago, patrolling Dawnwatchers noticed a small group of people somehow entered the boarded up fort, while a few others stayed outside. The patrol did not pursue but continued to observe this strange behavior from a safe distance. The following evening the undead poured out of Fort Morninglord at the same time a cargo ship from Elturel was on the river sailing south; the undead attacked the ship causing the Dawnwatchers to respond. During the battle, the paladins and clerics noticed their healing spells were ineffective and many would not survive the onslaught as a result.

The party can see that Elric is very concerned the undead will return tonight, like they have done the past two nights, and the remaining standing soldiers are not enough to resist the impact. Royce, Naimsith and Mordorck step aside to discuss the situation in private, paying attention to their discovery of a priest of Orcus on the battlefield and the healing issue. They agree the best thing they can do for these people, is to investigate Fort Morninglord the next morning. For tonight’s safety, Royce has an idea.

Royce spends an hour casting Temple of the Gods on the field between Omenhale and Fort Morninglord, in order to provide excellent protection for the evening’s rest. A large temple dedicated to Tempest appears; the temple is a shining beacon of hope for the living! Everyone spends the remainder of the daylight migrating into the temple for the night’s rest. Bowman station themselves across the temple’s elevations ready to decimate anything unliving that spills out of Fort Morninglord. Mordrock and Nong decide to return to the Ethereal plane to rest but spend time examining what the fort looks like from this plane. As they drift around the outside of it, they cannot see into the fort beyond the outer walls; something is blocking their vision to see into the fortress.

In spite of the deathly howls and screams at the temple’s walls all night long, the Dawnwatchers, their wounded guests and the Drow’s Bane do manage to rest and recover. The next day, the party gathers their belongings, says good bye to loved ones and friends and journeys to the entrance of Fort Morninglord; they tread past last night’s scores of undead bodies as they make their way to the front doors.

With an inhale of breadth, Nong grabs the doors and opens them; the doors swing open appearing almost weightless when the party feels a rush of cold air hit their faces and suck them into darkness.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Mission accomplished

The Drow’s Bane back at Catchbreeze settle down for a sweet night’s rest; Nong journey’s onto his boat and sails at least three hundred and one feet away from the party and everyone else in Waterdeep to sleep in peace. He brings with him, in a barrel, the barely conscious Lulach. During the evening, all four members: Mordrock, Naismith, Nong and Royce experience a vivid dream and Lulach falls unconscious unable to recover so close to the wand of Orcus.

The next day over breakfast they decide to contact Laerel Silverhand about completing the mission and ask for help in deciphering the map they found inside the infernal gift box cover. Mordrock restores Lulach once his body returns to Catchbreeze; the party decides to hide him in the cellar away from the staff to avoid problems with his appearance. When Lulach is conscious and fed, he confesses to the party the history of how he came to be.

Lulach explains how the hostile takeover of the Xanathar by a demon and his entourage occurred a few months back. This cult spent months gaining favor with the Xanathar before launching their successful coup attempt. He explains how after the Xanathar fell, the Xanathar lieutenants were forced to drink the demon’s blood until they lost their minds and became tainted individuals; the demon also gave Lulach pact power in order to bind Lulach to his will. The demon’s presence warped nature causing the lieutenants to grow additional appendages, eye stocks, in the case of Lulach, or other abnormalities. The demon “became” the Xanathar by squeezing into the Xanathar’s hide even though it was obvious the demon in his new skin, failed to imitate a beholder.

Now that Lulach is free of the demon’s addiction, he is also bereft of the demon’s pact power. Naismith decides to move Lulach to the basement study until he can figure out a plan for his brother; Naismith knows Lulach cannot go far in normal day light unscathed, with those eye stalks of his. He also does not trust his brother and locks the study behind him too.

The guards at the palace recognize the group and immediately call for Seneschal Talonfeather who appears within minutes. After a short wait, the Drow’s Bane meet with Laeral Silverhand in her private office. She is quite content to hear they completed their mission and she pays them the agreed to amount. She commends them on a job well done and how much this extends their reputation across the Lords of Waterdeep and Lords Alliance buying them time to disrupt the demonic cult incursion into Waterdeep.

As the party begins to discuss the map they discovered, Lady Silverhand’s mood shifts from contentment to concern. She calls for her assistant, Talestra, a high-elf wizard, to examine the map. Talestra senses the infernal properties of the fabric the map is drawn on and frowns at the same time she feels Nong’s strange dark aura emanating all around him. Laeral sensing her wizard’s emotions, nods to her in confidence to continue. Talestra examines the map again and informs the party of the locations drawn on it – the City of Glass and the Citadel of 10,000 Pearls are located in the Elemental Plane of Water.

Royce and Naismith decide to do some shopping in preparation for their trip to the Elemental Plane of Water. They hit two of Kendall’s favorite Waterdhavian magic shops – “How do you Spell it?” and “Wizards of the Coast”. They purchase several things including a Heward’s Handy Haversack and Spice Pouch and commission a few items to assist with underwater breathing. When Royce gets ready to recall them back to Catchbreeze he suddenly stops, grabs Naismith’s shoulder to stabilize himself as he experiences emotions of fear while an image of his father in terror, flashes in his mind. Royce has not seen his father in years giving him pause to reflect on what he just felt and seen. He tries the recall spell again and another image flashes in his mind of his father and crew fighting off undead somewhere on a river.

A third time and Royce successfully recalls both he and Naismith back to Catchbreeze. Using the crystal ball they found in the Xanathar’s lair, Royce scries on his father. Royce sees his father’s ship filled with cargo on a river except the ship is damaged and overrun with undead. There are paladins and solders on shore fighting undead and helping the crew escape. Royce’s father is crawling towards a paladin, wounded and afraid.

Royce relays the images to the party and then sends a message to his father. He learns from his father the location where the undead are attacking – the River Chionthar by Fort Morninglord between Elturel and Baldur’s Gate; the undead are spewing out of Fort Morninglord attacking anything alive. Royce recalls this route is a common and profitable route for his father to transport supplies between Baldur’s Gate and Elturel and beyond. The last words Royce hears from his father’s message are, “I love you son”.

The party decides to support Royce in taking a trip to Fort Morninglord now and postponing their trip to the Elemental Plane of Water. With no Kendall around nor is Kendall responding to Royce’s messages, the party decides to ask Lady Silverhand for help with quick transportation. Lady Silverhand upon hearing the news, explains how twenty six years ago Fort Morninglord had a ruler and royal family that somehow became corrupted leading to everyone mysteriously disappearing from the location – guards, staff, children, everyone. Fort Morninglord has allegedly become haunted ever since this tragedy and the leaders of Elturel sent a group of solders and paladins to guard and protect the river next to it; this group calls themselves the Dawnwatchers and they have erected an outpost near Fort Morninglord called Omenhale.

Lady Silverhand elects Talestra and a few guards to teleport the Drow’s Bane immediately to Fort Morninglord. Talestra is very nervous and fails the first attempt to teleport the party but succeeds the second time as they vanish before Lady Silverhand’s eyes.

They appear next to Fort Morninglord within seconds. As they gather their bearings, swarms of undead and dead bodies litter the landscape. The party draws their weapons and prepares to attack.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: the Xanathar’s lair

Through the golden double doors where the crying was heard, the Drow’s Bane suddenly halt as fifteen feet in front of them the floor lights up in response to Royce’s Detect Magic spell. A familiar abjuration magic glows from a tiny symbol etched on the floor. The party moves back into the hallway allowing Naismith to trigger the trap with Mage Hand. Boom! The familiar light explodes and necrotic energy washes over everyone except Mordrock, who’s position is a tad shy from the blast radius.

The party moves inside and takes in the large room that spans one hundred feet across in both directions and one hundred feet high to the ceiling. In the middle of each wall there is a ten foot protrusion; Naismith flies onto one of these and can see inside, a cubbyhole with a bench and doors on each side opening out onto the room. In the center of the ceiling is a fifteen foot hole that ascends into darkness. The walls are decorated with scenic murals of a valiant beholder in various triumphant victory poses. Pieces of the ceramic designed floor peek through spots of the sticky ichor that covers most of the floor. Broken bits of furniture are strewn about the room primarily cloistered in corners. The stench here is foul.

Naismith flies up to the hole in the ceiling and looks through. He sees a tunnel going up about fifty feet and opening at the top left and right; the tunnel, like the floor, is ceramic designed and also covered in gross ichor.

The party approaches with caution to where a human female is bound in chains across the room. As Royce approaches within thirty feet from her, he notices she lights up with magic. She explains to the party how a gnome mage captured and chained her to this wall. She’s a Skulker bar maid and has no clue where the Xanathar is. The party suspicious of her, spread out across the room. Naismith notices one of the cubby hole doors open and the gnome mage, they fought in the hallway, appears and casts a fireball at the party. The others unable to avoid the blast, are engulfed in flames. Then they attack the mage.

The cubby hole closest to the chained female opens up and a female human in plate mail appears and casts a spell at the party; fire and radiant light pour down all around the party. Nong corners the mage and slams him into the cubby hole, holding the door to prevent the gnome from escaping, however the cleaver gnome opens the opposite cubby hole door and casts more harmful spells.

The female clad in plate mail is now surrounded by Naismith, Cat and Royce’s spiritual weapon. She lets out a curling scream as her ears begin to grow. You can hear the cartilage snapping and watch, as her ears morph into wings and lift her off of the ground. Cat cannot withstand seeing something so unnatural she goes mad and begins uttering nonsense of how hungry she is; she crouches down and begins pulling up the ichor from the floor and stuffing it into her mouth, poisoning her with every bite.

The chained human female suddenly rises up fifteen feet into the air, points her finger and casts a nasty spell at Naismith, causing him to become feebleminded and lose all ability to talk and reason. She then transforms into a robed male human whose eyes extend into eye stalks dangling in front of his face. “What a pity brother”, says Lulach. The other party members withstand the unnatural effect of Lulach’s eyes, thanks to the horrors they endured in the Underdark.

The party hears above them a sound of deep speech with only Nong able to comprehend, “I am the XANATHAR!!!”. A large beholder descends from the hole in the ceiling and spits a foul essence toward Royce and Naismith. The massive glob connects with Royce burning him with acid, as the goo spreads out across the floor in all directions up to twenty feet. Something is odd about the one calling himself the Xanathar. Royce can see that its eye stalks are lifeless and its skin looks stretched over a lumpy, putrid body; as if the beholder’s skin is being worn as a tight t-shirt.

Besides the continuous globs of acidic spit the Xanathar launches at party members, it attacks with long fleshy tendrils that emerge from under its skin and bludgeon any thing that comes in contact with them. Nong is the most familiar with these tendrils, especially when he runs across the ceiling, jumps down and lands onto the Xanathar’s head.

The battle is difficult but the party makes progress defeating the gnome mage first, Lulach next and eventually Nong uses the wand of Orcus to make the killing blow on the Xanathar. Lulach is crushed when Royce calls forth Daern’s instance fortress on top of him. The female in plate mail makes an attempt to flee the room when the Xanathar falls, but the party catches up to her and takes her down too.

Royce and Mordrock have to use strong spells to restore Naismith to an able minded rogue after the battle is won. The curiosity of the party is now what is up the tunnel the Xanathar emerged from. Royce and Nong look at the dead Xanathar together, “Definitely a demon” says Royce. “Looks like Skullport was a victim to demonic incursions too, not just the Underdark”. Nong grunts in agreement and steps away; Royce can see Nong’s dark aura is very bright since the wand of Orcus made the killing blow.

Royce, Naismith and Nong make their way up the tunnel to where it opens into a cavern on one side and another tunnel on the opposite side. They move into the cavern and notice the entranceway floor and cavern walls are tiled in copper, silver and gold in intricate designs; most of it covered in the same ichor as the floor below unfortunately. The cavern looks to have once contained beautiful objects where now only rubble amongst thick ichor remains among the foul stench. Naismith catches a glimpse of a smashed fish bowl in the corner, at the same time Royce’s Detect Magic spell lights up several things under the ichor. They spend time digging out items and coins and uncover a crystal ball, small rod, a ring and some potions.

A large crimson portal begins to form in the cavern behind Royce, Nong and Naismith. As they look up, something large and red emerges from within, a Pit Fiend. The fiend does not look hostile and carries a small red box with a black bow on top. “Well done, well done.” says the Pit Fiend in common in a deep scratchy voice. “The Lady is quite happy with you for your deeds,” he looks at Royce grinning, “this is for you!” and hands the box to Royce. The party steps back, letting the Pit Fiend’s large winged body move fully into the cavern. “This is now property of the Lady’s!” proclaims the Pit Fiend. He raises his clawed hands, casts a spell and beside him an image of a beholder appears. “Not bad for a Xanathar, eh?” he laughs. Royce, Nong and Naismith gather up their treasure and make way to the entrance. The Pit Fiend calls to them, “you better leave some for the Lady!”. “She can have all of the coins, we want the items we found”, says Royce as they quickly exit the cavern and make their way into the opposing tunnel.

They move deeper into the tunnel as they feel behind them, the great fiend leave the cavern and fly down the tunnel toward the great room. The tunnel dead ends at a wall where a concealed door is uncovered. They open the door and peer outside to see the tunnel where they fought the gnome assassins. “An escape route obviously” says Naismith.

Mordrock and Cat see the great fiend fly down into the room and land next to the dead Xanathar; it begins clawing the body into shreds. Mordrock and Cat quickly move far away as possible in shock of what it is and what it is doing to the dead body. Nong, Naismith and Royce return to the large room and move toward Cat and Mordrock. “Pay no attention to it, as it means no harm if we don’t mess with it” says Royce. “I guess there always needs to be a Xanathar in Skullport” he sighs, as he collapses Daern’s instance fortress, folds it and puts it away. He turns to the group, “We should go now, I think we are done here”. “Wait!” says Naismith, “check the bodies and I would like my brother alive if you can”, “I’m not done with him just yet”.

Royce’s Detect Magic spell lights up Lulach’s boots, ring and mace and on the female wearing plate mail, her maul and plate mail light up. Mordrock touches Lulach’s lifeless body and brings him back to life; Lulach comes to consciousness, his eye stalks dangling. Nong looks down at Lulach, “Anything funny and I smash your brains in” as he binds Lulach’s hands, feet and mouth.

The party decides to explore the cubby holes. One of the cubby holes has a secret door that leads into living quarters. The party takes things that magically light up and Naismith takes the journal on the desk; he quickly flips through the pages and recognizes the handwriting. On the opposite end of the large room another cubby hole reveals a second living quarters; this one contains magic items, holy items and an alter to the god Bane.

As they return to the large room, they see four Erinyes fiends flying around the room; the flying fiends look toward the party and lick their lips in delight. “Time to go now!” Royce says and recalls them, including Lulach, back to Catchbreeze.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Getting closer

Nong gets up from his rest and moves toward the door to the dock where Royce found footsteps; the others follow him out the door. Nong gets within a foot of the rowboat when it begins to glow a familiar shade of light and then suddenly, BOOM! The boat explodes as necrotic energy washes over the party. An image of Naismith opening the beholder’s chest under the Bolts and Bows enters Nong’s mind, as he blinks to gather himself after feeling the impact of the blast.

The party somewhat in shock licks their wounds as they determine what to do next. Nong takes the row boat behind the opposite door and paddles his way down the tunnel until he is out of reach for the wand to disrupt a much needed rest for the others. He notices further down the tunnel that it descends as water begins to move with a current; he can also hear the sound of falling water further down the tunnel.

The others manage to rest on the dock except for Naismith who tossed and turned unable to stop the nightmares in his head of the tiger man laughing and taunting him; now awake and cranky Naismith realizes no benefits came from that rest for him. He senses a familiar invisible orb pop into existence ten feet behind him. He grabs his cloak, swings it over the orb, dragging it into the water and under the dock. “That will keep you from spying on me brother!” says Naismith grasping onto the cloak; within minutes the orb disappears.

Nong returns to the party and describes the tunnel; Naismith decides to investigate it further. Naismith flies into the tunnel where five hundred feet in, finds the waterfall Nong described; he flies over the waterfall and follows it down, five hundred feet to the bottom. The waterfall opens to a cavernous pool; Naismith flies around the pool and sees no exit nor remnants of boat debris and decides to return to the party.

The Drow’s Bane take a gamble and proceed down the tunnel where they experienced the boat explosion; they bring with them the rowboat from the other tunnel. Three hundred feet into the tunnel they begin to notice phosphorescent lichen across the tunnel walls and ceiling and notice it opens into a cavern a few hundred feet further. The cavern is large and on the opposite side from where they enter, is a small beach surrounded on both sides by various fungi. Naismith flies toward the beach and catches a glimpse of a rowboat stowed behind a large mushroom and some tracks in the sand moving toward a dark tunnel. As Naismith lands on top of a large mushroom, he hears a loud shrieking noise coming from one of the smaller mushrooms. “A shrieker! So much for approaching stealthily” gasps Naismith as he throws his dagger and silences it.

Their rowboat makes its way onto the beach where they move in toward the tunnel. One hundred feet into the tunnel the party hears a deep voice in undercommon say “Death comes in the night?”. The answer the Drow’s Bane provides seems to cause a silent pause followed by sounds of quick movement. The party continues inward and as the tunnel opens to a large cavern where those with darkvision, see 3 huge formorians carrying clubs and a tiefling mage in between them launch an attack. Royce is banished by the mage while the others slowly whittle down the formorians. However, the formorian evil eye gets the best of Nong and Naismith as they become hunchbacked slowing their abilities under the curse.

With minimal light in the cavern once Royce is banished, Cat runs toward a rope that sections off another tunnel exiting this cavern. As she approaches the rope she witnesses it light up like the rowboat and explode; familiar necrotic energy washes over the party and a fomorian. The battle is long and it takes its toll on both sides eventually ending with a party victory at high cost. Royce and Mordrock spend spells to restore Nong and Naismith from their curse, however they realize Naismith is under two curses, a rakshasa and formorian curse, requiring further magic to heal him fully.

Naismith finds during his search the proper password in response to the fomorian’s question, “Death comes in the night? Not for you comrade”.

Nong returns to the rowboat and rows back out to the cavern to allow the party to take a short rest. The party is interrupted as they hear something deeper into the tunnel sectioned off by the exploding rope. This time it is gnome assassins firing poison arrows at the party; the assassins chip away at them and behind the assassin appears a gnome mage who successfully banishes Royce to a demiplane maze!

This fight lasts for awhile as each side uses guerrilla warfare tactics while Nong on the water, is oblivious to what is taking place inside the cavern. Mordrock, Cat and Naismith finally get the upper hand and take down the assassins as they endure a fireball from the gnome mage. They knock the mage’s concentration off causing him to free Royce from his maze prison. As the party attacks the mage, he casts fly on himself and flees deeper into the tunnel.

The party recalls their instant fortress out in the water to have a short rest and tend to their wounds. Once rested they quickly move back down the tunnel in search of the gnome mage, where they find a large spherical shape at the end of the tunnel. The party wonders if it is a beholder or maybe even the Xanathar. They launch daggers in its direction and watch as the daggers connect with it, causing the spherical shape to explode. Nong runs up to it and recognizes the pieces of the spherical fungus flesh and the poison spores lingering in the air, “not a beholder but a gas spore” says Nong. He also sees beyond the dead gas spore, double doors made of gold.

As the poison spores settle, the party crosses through to the golden double doors. Both doors are embossed with a beholder looking victorious in battle. They listen in and hear on the other side, crying among sounds of chains. “These doors look important. We might be at the Xanathar’s lair?” asks Royce.

The party hesitant at first, turns the door handles and carefully opens the doors.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Finding the Xanathar

The Drow’s Bane are unable to locate the Xanathar after Royce’s Locate Creature spell leads them to the waiting room where the Githyanki encounter took place. They decide to explore the second floor above the waiting room in hopes the Xanathar is right above them. They make a hole in the ceiling causing a bed to fall through the hole onto the floor. They climb up to the second floor only to experience more gray fog amongst bedrooms, a hallway and a webbed staircase leading to the first floor’s foyer; a Dispel Magic spell only gets them so far removing the gray fog from the hallway but not the bedrooms.

Eventually they trace their way back to the waiting room and spend time speaking to the dead deep gnome body they find in the kitchen; there are actually three dead bodies in the kitchen as a result of some ‘friendly fire’ during the Githyanki combat. The dead gnome’s obscure messages lead them back into the waiting room where they are unable to locate any signs of a door.

Out of options, Mordrock calls to Kelemvor for help. The divine being responds, lighting a path to a wall where an outline of a door appears. The party tries the key from Ahmaergo to open the door and it opens! They move inside a small room with a high ceiling, a circle of sigils on the floor and hear the moans of a creature above.

The party stares up to see an undead beholder descend and attack the party.

Moments later as the beholder lay lifeless in the corner, the sigils on the floor light up. The party thinks it is a portal and steps in; instantly each one vanishes from the room and appears at the top of a stairway leading down into a room. Nong makes his way down first and sees the stairway opens up into the middle of a large room, just ahead is a large stone statue of a beholder staring at him. Beyond the statue is a large mural on the wall depicting a beholder rampaging an army.

BOOM!!! Fire lights up the stairway and everyone on it. The toasted party heads down the stairs and into the room. Nong looks where the fireball came from and sees a mage on the opposite side of the room finishing spell casting. There are two other humanoids here too – a tiger man whose hands are turned backwards and a dragonborn in plate armor. As they engage, Naismith is wounded by the tiger man’s claws leaving a strange wound. The dragonborn is a mighty foe and wounds several party members with his great sword before finally going down.

The party looks around the room and investigates the bodies but finds nothing. Nong and Naismith explore the southern door to find an empty barracks and kitchen. They explore the northern door and find a corridor that ends in a ledge thirty feet in, overlooking a large pool of water sixty feet down. Both use their abilities to get closer to the water – Nong runs down the side and Naismith flies down into the darkness. Together they spot something large swimming under the water.

They return to the ledge to find Mordrock, Royce and Cat join them. Naismith feels the familiar feeling of something trying to telepathically communicate with him but he chooses to ignore it. Nong then hears a deep voice in his mind, calling to him. “Come down….lonely….”. Nong entertains the telepathic conversation for awhile as the party stands around staring at him. Nong learns the creature below seeks company. In response, Nong attaches a piece of the dead dragonborn to a rope and drops it into the water; he hears laughing in his mind. The creature does not move to the limb but continues to telepathically call out to Nong instead.

Royce returns to the room after realizing the cavern with the ledge is a dead-end except the water, maybe there’s another way out? He walks up to the statue, then the mural. He concentrates on the mural, raises his finger and touches it; his finger goes right through the mural. “Of course, an illusion” he says moving quickly toward the northern door to signal to the party.

Nong walks through the mural to find a five foot wide corridor sixty feet in length. He moves forward ten feet and feels the floor beneath him give out; instinctually he hops back to see the floor open up to a twenty foot deep spiked pit below. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees movement at the end of the hallway. An assassin appears as Nong runs across the wall past the pit, jumps down and engages with him; when Nong lands on the opposite side he sees the corridor open up perpendicular to another corridor 60 feet ending in a door. He also sees a few more assassins and a mage standing nearby ready to engage.

With the pit between the party and Nong, it takes the party awhile to get across. Nong handles the assassin with ease at the same time a large translucent hand appears next to him and shoves him twenty feet into the middle of the pit; he falls onto the spikes and realizes they are covered in acid. Naismith flies over and sees a concealed door where both corridors intersect, opens it up and moves in to find a small barracks room. His search of the room reveals paperwork – a proclamation to take down the intruders no matter what the cost, signed Lulach.

Meanwhile, a fascinated Mordrock at the other end of the corridor recalls from memory the craftsmanship of similar pits he’s seen in his life. He crouches down, observes the opened floor flush to both walls and nods his head in approval, “nice work here, well done”. A thought comes to him that such pits generally are opened via a lever and begins to feel around the walls; unfortunately, after several attempts he does not find a lever.

Royce and Cat stare at Mordrock in surprise as Nong from within the pit, raises the wand of Orcus and casts Stinking Cloud down the adjoining corridor. Immediately he and Naismith hear choking and coughing coming from the opaque yellow poisonous cloud now filling up the corridor, stopping five feet in front of Naismith. Nong runs up the wall and into the poisonous cloud focusing his direction towards the nearest coughing noise; he pummels the body next to him while he hears footsteps further down in the cloud, run to the door, open it and then close it.

Naismith picks up the rope that has been lying on the floor since Nong first arrived; he secures it into the wall to create a taught line for the rest of the party to climb across. He then runs into the cloud toward the nearest coughing, strikes with his dagger, then retreats back out; he listens as he hears the coughing go silent.

Nong and Naismith take down the other coughing voice in the cloud by the time Mordrock, Royce and Cat crossover. Nong dispels the cloud as Naismith looks down and sees a small concealed door at the base of the wall; he opens it to find a lever. “There it is!” rejoices Mordrock as he reaches down and pulls it causing the floor to rise back up, covering the pit.

Down the corridor Naismith examines the door and recognizes it to be jammed from the other side. Mordrock decides to run towards the door to break it open; after a few attempts the door smashes open. Mordrock stumbles into the room at the same time he feels a painful freezing cold wash over him and into the corridor behind; everyone in the corridor feels the painful cold wash over them too. Mordrock can see a mage in the room finish spell casting as he painfully moves to engage. The remaining frost bitten comrades move into the room and take down the mage.

The room smells of rotting garbage; there is every kind of trash littered across the room. At the other end are three doors. “Great, no Xanathar but we found the trash room!” says Nong. Naismith inspects the doors which appear to be unlocked; he opens one of them and sees a landing, a rowboat and a water filled tunnel that continues as far as he can see southbound. Behind the other two doors he finds the same thing except the corridors bend east and west respectively. The party is puzzled by this but Royce explores the landings to find footprints on the west bound landing. “There are tracks here, we should definitely pursue this route”.

Before they follow Royce’s advice, they decide to sit down and catch their breadth. Unfortunately, they are too close to the wand of Orcus to receive any benefits of a rest. Except for Nong who gives everyone a look of false pity, then sits down and enjoys his rest.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: The pact of the Celestial

Naismith opens is eyes to see all around him an infinite gray plane in all directions. Before him a celestial being cloaked in dark gray robes, silver hair and a death mask motions him to approach. Naismith knows exactly who this celestial being is, recalling the various descriptions he learned from Mordrock about his patron.

This is Kelemvor, the God of Death.

Naismith approaches and bows his head in respect as he watches Kelemvor tilt his head slightly in paused recognition of who bows before him. Naismith looks up as Kelemvor’s masked pupiless eyes stare into his soul to uncover why Naismith is here sooner than expected.

The god’s right hand motions Naismith to the path that appears before him leading to a peaceful soft light. Naismith walks towards the light and calls to his friend Jimjar along the way. The soft white light emanates from a portal he knows to be the entrance to Tymora’s realm in the Astral plane. Before the portal Naismith hears Jimjar’s voice as the deva appears next to him, taking Naismith’s hand and smiling. “Welcome home Naismith” says Jimjar. Naismith stops and turns to Jimjar, “I am ready friend except the mortal tug is beginning to pull me back again. My friends are not yet done with me and as you know, we are no where near the end of our journey with that wand.”

Naismith continues, “I’ve been thinking of ways to better serve Tymora and you. For the cost of giving up my song, would you become my patron and teach me your ways?”.

Jimjar stares beyond Naismith in thought; Naismith hears in his mind Jimjar’s voice, “flip a coin”. A coin appears in Naismith’s hand; he flips it, catches it and uncovers Tymora’s face. “Heads.” says Naismith. Jimjar stares down at the coin seeing Tymora’s face smiling back at him, then he laughs out loud. “Very well Naismith, I can be your patron but know this, I am not as powerful as a Solar or Ki-rin, I can only give you minimal power as a deva”. Naismith smiles, “That is all I need dear friend”.

Jimjar begins to speak in celestial and then reaches out and hugs Naismith, transferring a warm power into Naismith’s body. Jimjar pulls away from the hug and takes Naismith’s hands once more. Jimjar stares into Naismith’s eyes and says “now I ask of you this one thing to accept as part of our pact,” and begins telepathically communicating his wish as Naismith hears the words in his mind, but looks utterly confused on his face.

Jimjar then steps closer toward the portal and says, “return now friend, your comrades are calling for you” and vanishes into the portal. Naismith feels the tug getting stronger and the pressure to decide building up in his soul. “Yes, ok…I’m ready” as he gives into the tug.

Moments later Naismith feels the floor beneath him as he returns to the mortal world, hearing familiar voices all around him. He opens his eyes and sees his friends: Royce, Nong and Mordrock. Royce and Mordrock both smile and then at the same time, both tilt their head and look at Naismith a bit more focused.

“That’s odd” says Royce, “I don’t remember seeing a radiant glow around his aura before”.