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 breath. 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 nowhere 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.”

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: getting inside the Xanathar’s mansion

The party travels along the underground bedrock of the Heart district in the Ethereal plane, moving in the direction of the mage’s flight path. So far, they have remained undetected this far beneath the ground in the Ethereal plane; any closer to the surface and they risk being noticed by the mages or their invisible dogs. They locate a large structure up above them and guess it is the mansion. They float up hoping to move directly inside, by-passing the multiple guard patrols walking around outside the structure.

Their heads hit the structure on the Ethereal plane and they cannot penetrate through it. They glide around the foundation, trying to push inside but something will not let them in. “This is very odd and never seen before,” says Royce. The party agrees to move away from the structure and return to the bedrock. Nong and Naismith stealth up toward the surface near the mansion and poke their heads up. Naismith sees two guards in black plate mail, one riding a strange beast mount to the side of another dragging a female leather clad human in chains behind him; Naismith notices she’s wearing a Harper pin on her lapel. Nong fails to notice he popped up right behind a patrol when he suddenly hears a familiar barking behind him; he quickly turns to see two mages with glowing eyes, their dogs and the mask wearing assassins running towards them.

The Drow’s Bane exit the Ethereal plane to fight.

A long battle ensues between the Drow’s Bane, the guards and the patrol. A third mounted guard joins the fight as soon as the party frees the human female from her captor but not from her bindings; she still manages to do a good job of disappearing from the scene. The party sees two black dogs manifest from the shadows and attack; they also endure the masked assassins’ cube of darkness ability that explodes right next to a party member causing significant damage; the mounted guards charge the party and use smite attacks with reach.

The mages are the first to fall, followed by their dogs then the guards and finally the assassins. The woman emerges from the shadows and introduces herself as Cat Swain – a Harper agent on the same assignment as the Drow’s Bane. She joins the party to look for a way inside the mansion.

When they use the key found on the guards to open the front door, they do not notice the Sleep spell trap upon entering. Naismith in bat form falls to the ground and so does Cat Swain, sound asleep. Inside the entrance is thick with heavy gray fog preventing sight beyond two feet in front of you. An awakened Naismith uses his echolocation but cannot make sense of what he hears – as if each echolocation call produces a different room layout each time. Walking into the gray fog causes the party to get confused as they try to make their way around in the obfuscation; the only clear path is back toward the main entrance. Eventually the party dispels the magic in the foyer to gain sight and walks in; they are surprised to hear loud laughing within the foyer. They turn around and see a large mouth positioned on the wall behind them making the noise. “So much for sneaking in,” Cat says sarcastically.

The foyer is a small room that opens up to two doorways South bound, both filled with the same gray fog. Royce’s locate creature spell is pulling him in the direction of both doorways. “I’m sensing the beholder is through the doorways. Now let’s pick one and go,” says Royce. Naismith flies into the doorway on the left and this time his echolocation makes out the shape of a long hallway that opens up into a large room; the room contains tables and chairs. The party forms a chain and follows Naismith into the gray fog. They stumble about but sense their direction does not change as they move deeper into the fog this time; the room eventually leads to a doorway East bound.

Naismith flies through the door way into a dark hallway that contains no gray fog. He transform back into himself and can see at the end of the hallway another doorway that leads into a room filled with humanoids. He calls out to the party while he notices the dark figures ahead move towards him. Seconds later one of the humanoids is dead on the ground with a Naismith dagger stuck into his neck.

Naismith begins to feel a magical tug pulling his body away from the party towards the doorway. Nong enters the hallway from the fog to see a great sword connect with Naismith, taking him down.

Nong’s eyes move from Naismith’s body to the Gith walking out of the room on the opposite side of the hallway dragging his great sword on the ground until it crosses over Naismith’s unconscious body. Royce and Mordrock peer into the hallway from the gray fog but it is completely dark; only Mordrock sees the Gith by way of his dark vision. Nong notices this Gith is wearing plate mail and wielding a great sword which is a different style from the Githzerai he met awhile ago.

The Gith speaks to the party, “Why do you attack us? What is your purpose here?” but only Nong can understand the Gith language. The Gith continues, “We are next in line to see the Xanathar, not you!” as he stabs his sword into Naismith’s body in anger. Nong responds trying to calm the tense situation as he sees behind this Gith, eight more Gith forming a semicircle near the doorway. Nong replies, “We come as friends and mean no aggression. We have fought alongside the Gith known as Sithka and her army helping to defeat an Elder Brain.” The Gith takes a moment to register the name Sithka, and then Nong sees a new anger wash over the Gith’s face. “Sithka? You helped the Githzerai Sithka!! You are no friend of the Githyanki you traitor!!!” screams the Githyanki knight as he stabs Naismith’s body one last time.

And Naismith’s body goes limp.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: The Bolts and Bows

A disguised Naismith and Nong climb their way up to the Trade Lanes district avoiding the bridge patrols below. They peer over the top curious how the Trade Lanes look since yesterday’s leveling. 4 man patrols are everywhere up and down the streets; the patrols are composed of 2 mages (and invisible dogs) and 2 assassins who wear non-Thieves Guild attire along with laughing masks covering their faces. The guard towers across the Trade Lanes now include mages who periodically fly out over the district using Truesite along their route. “This feels definitely like high alert,” says Nong.

The two quietly make their way to the familiar shack they inhabited previously. “No rug rats today,” says Naismith looking around. They duck for cover as passing patrols along the front and back streets of the shack, walk past. “We need too quickly and quietly make our way to the Northeast section of the district to find the Bolts and Bows,” says Naismith. As they dart in and out of shadows heading Northeast, another small invisible orb appears 10 feet behind Naismith who senses its presence along with Nong who sees it clearly. “It’s Lulach again!” says Naismith, who turns and stares in the orb’s direction. The two linger for 10 minutes waiting out the duration the orb can exist; after 10 minutes the orb disappears and the two continue Northeast.

Near the Northeast guard post, they find the Bolts and Bows, an abandoned shack with no windows and a single entry door. They time the mages flight patrol just right to run to the door which appears to be locked. Naismith looks it over, picks the lock and moves inside with Nong.

Inside is a cross between someone’s bedroom and a bar. The place is filthy but they look around. They eventually pull up the straw floor mat to reveal a 10 foot hole in the ground. Nong and Naismith descend, climbing 30 feet down to the bottom where it opens up to a 50 foot hole Northbound; a perfectly carved circular tunnel through the stone. “Definitely a beholder’s work,” says Nong. They stealth forward but fail to notice the pressure plate in front of them; lightning lights up the tunnel washing over both of them as they sizzle from the impact. They catch their breath after the stinging sensation wears off, look at each other and proceed forward; this time Naismith checks for traps along the way.

The end of the tunnel opens to a circular tunnel leading straight up 40 feet. Nong walks up the tunnel walls, while Naismith uses his cloak to fly up. Together they reach the top where the tunnel opens up West bound 10 feet and beyond, a perfectly carved out cavern. They stealth inside and notice: a chest 30 feet away, manacles bound to the opposite wall dangling on the floor surrounding a pool of dried blood and piles of bones and carcass remains. “It stinks in here,” says Naismith as he approaches the chest. “Beholder stench!” comments Nong.

The chest is ornately decorated with gold at the corners and trim; it is locked but an easy pick for Naismith. As he opens the chest, he notices on the hinge inside a tiny purple symbol light up. Seconds later, the purple symbol explodes spraying necrotic energy all through the cavern and down the tunnel. Naismith and Nong are caught in the blast and suffer significant damage. What remains of the chest’s contents are a few platinum pieces strewn about the decayed floor. “There goes all of the clues,” a frustrated Naismith says to Nong. The two move back to the tunnel entrance and listen for intruders, but hear nothing.

Nong hears Mordrock’s voice over a Sending spell and responds describing where he and Naismith are, and how best to get here while avoiding the mage patrols. Twenty minutes later, Royce and Mordrock appear from the Ethereal plane rising up from underground. Together they sit in the cavern where Nong and Naismith learn how Mordrock and Royce appeared in the Heart district rising up from underground and immediately discovered by a passing patrol. Before escaping back underground, Royce noticed one of the mages leap up and fly towards a large mansion. “I think he flew towards the Xanathar’s mansion and we should head there soon,” says Royce.

Nong and Naismith nod in agreement, then sit back and tend to their wounds.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: the second attempt

“So why does your neck tattoo look just like the tattoo on Amhaergo’s neck, Naismith?” asks Nong. Naismith feeling a bit uncomfortable sighs and explains to the party about his past association with the Xanathar Thieves Guild and his escape from it; he also reveals that his brother Lulach, is the one who has been watching him. “Lulach is still in the guild and I believe he has discovered magic along his journey; he was not able to scry when he and I were partners in the guild,” says Naismith.

The party back at Catchbreeze discuss options and strategies to return to Skullport to complete their mission knowing it will be harder to go unnoticed now. Naismith attunes to the Cloak of the Bat, giving Nong the Robe of Eyes. The party journey’s back to Skullport and enters the Ethereal plane where they drift through the Port district; except for Nong who stays on the Material plane. The party approaches the bridge to the Trade Lanes District and notices in addition to patrolling guards, there are now mages on the bridge patrolling with strange glowing eyes; the party remembers the silver dragon they fought and the angels they have encountered having similar glowing eyes. Nong wearing the Robe of Eyes also sees at the side of each mage, an invisible dog.

Royce, Mordrock and Naismith approach within 100 feet of the bridge and are surprised to see the mage look up and see them in the Ethereal plane! Nong 100 feet away happens to notice the invisible dog with the mage, is barking in the direction of the party too. The mage raises the alarm and points toward the direction of the party. He casts a spell, lifts off the ground and flies in the direction of the Trade Lanes. The party quickly moves underground and away from the bridge escaping to Skull Island for cover. “That mage had truesite which is how she saw us,” says Royce. “The Ethereal plane is no longer safe for us now,” admits Mordrock.

Nong finds the party in Skull Island and lucky for them, the same intensity of guard and mage patrols is non-existent. Except for a few Skulls lurking around, this district seems minimally impacted by what went down in the Trades Lane yesterday. Nong explains that each mage has an invisible dog companion who can see into the Ethereal plane too.

The party contemplates their next move.

Through magic means, they locate Cephalux who appears to be in the Port district. The party makes their way to his location paying mind to the guard patrols and find his location inside the “Tunnels and Trolls” tavern. This run down shack is two stories tall, a bar is on the first floor with clientele mostly composed of orcs, bugbears, slavers and drow. Still in the Ethereal plane, they ascend to the second story to find a long hallway with small rooms on either side. They can see the rooms are used by escorts and clients and in one of these rooms, a naked Cephalux enjoys a lap dance from a naked female drow.

The Drow’s Bane descends on the couple, blinking out of the Ethereal plan and into the room. The female drow screams in surprise as Cephalux in carnal ecstasy, jumps up in shock when noticing the party. The escort grabs her robe and runs out of the room where she encounters Nong at the door. Nong calms her down and pays her for her room key; he makes his way into the room and locks the door. The party threatens the naked Cephalux back into the chair and refuses him access to his clothes until he spills the truth.

They learn from Cephalux telepathically, the beholder who surprised them at Cephalux’s manor was from the Thieves Guild; it hired mercenaries for the surprise and showed up minutes before their arrival, forcing Cephalux to acquiesce. Where it learned of the party’s rendezvous with Cephalux is a mystery, even to the mindflayer. Cephalux tells the party the location of the beholder’s hideout, “The Bolts and Bows,” in the Trade Lanes. They also learn that Xanathar’s hideout is somewhere in the Heart district but Cephalux has never been there.

WHACK!! Cephalux’s naked body falls to the floor, knocked out cold. “That will be a nasty bruise when he wakes up,” says Naismith before noticing on the body a copper scourge tattoo, just like the one found on Gart. “Let’s move on. We have enough information now to find the Bolts and Bows,” says Royce. As they exit the room, Nong looks back and says, “I never imagined a mind flayer would be anatomically correct,” as he closes and locks the door behind him.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: finding Madame Carmen Cobb

A disguised Naismith peers out of a run down shack on the fringes of the Trade Lanes district checking for patrols passing by. The shack is dirty and smells of piss and mold and was home to a few rug rats before they took the gold and ran. The Drow’s Bane are assessing their travel options now that the Thieves Guild has been informed of a party who took down Ahmaergo earlier today. Moving up the mountain in the Ethereal plane or hiking up it seems like the best alternative routes given the bridge from the Port to the Trade Lanes is now on alert.

A small invisible orb pops into view ten feet away from Naismith’s back; he notices it behind him, thanks to the Robe of Eyes he wears. He’s unsure of what it is but just turns around and stares right at it, as if letting it know it is not hidden from his eyesight. A voice wills itself to speak to Naismith however under the protection of the ring of mind shielding, Naismith can choose to allow or ignore such things; this time, Naismith allows it.

“I told you never to return and here you are,” the voice says. “Your plan has been foiled Naismith, you will be destroyed if you continue forward,” the voice concludes. Naismith recognizes the Sending spell used and the voice of his brother, Lulach. Naismith considers his 25 word response carefully and makes sure to conclude with the words “I loved you brother.”

Naismith gives the others in the Ethereal plane close by, the update that he’s being watched by the Thieves Guild. A disguised Naismith then makes his way to the one place in the Trade Lanes he is familiar with – the Enchanted Shadows.

The Enchanted Shadows is a magic item store run by a half-elf sorcerer.

“Do you have my goggles yet?” Naismith says to the shopkeeper.
The half elf replies, “Let me see in the back one moment. A few things came in this week. I don’t recognize your face though, who did you say you were?”
Naismith replies, “I’m here for a pickup for master Naismith, a human who placed an order with you, for some goggles several weeks ago.”
The sorcerer disappears and then returns several minutes later with a package, “Goggles of Night have arrived for sir Naismith. The cost is 1000 gold pieces please.”

Moments later Naismith exits the Enchanted Shadows having spent 850 gold pieces and directions to the Vial Brews.

The northern street where the Vials Brews is located is filled with patrols. Two guards are stationed outside of the apothecary when Naismith walks by; he glances further down the street and notices several conspicuous people hanging about in the street and on the roofs. Royce, Nong and Mordrock in the Ethereal plane enter the Vials Brews. They notice a short old human woman behind the counter slowly moving around; behind her is a door. They move through the door and see several guards waiting in the dark room. “This place is a trap. They are definitely onto us,” says Royce. The party moves back outside to see where Naismith is.

Naismith walks past the Vial Brews and down the street. He notices 3 individuals slowly move into the street and follow him; he looks again, and notices two of them in sight now. He moves quickly to the end of the street where it continues south; in front of him is a fish monger shack. He quickly moves in hoping to escape through the back when he realizes there is only the front entrance. He turns around to notice the two individuals dressed in Thieves Guild assassin gear ready to attack him. Naismith is fast enough to move past them outside as both take a swipe at him. The two connect with Naismith and stab him a few times while an arrow from the shadows hits him too. People walking about, including Thieves Guild guards, take notice of the skirmish and begin to react.

Mordrock, Royce and Nong appear on the street from the Ethereal plane. Nong moves in front of the Vial Brews, holds up the wand of Orcus, and casts Cloudkill. The spell’s poisonous yellow-green fog erupts into the street causing people everywhere to begin coughing and collapsing from inhaling the poison. Nong sprints down the street to help Naismith.

Mordrock moves down the street towards the skirmish, noticing Thieves Guild guards and mages running toward this direction from all side streets. Royce notices this too and casts Earthquake in response. The ground 100 feet in all directions begins to tremble and fissures open up, causing people and buildings to collapse into them. The Vial Brews, like the rest of the buildings caught in the earthquake, is now a pile of rubble.

Between the poisonous gas and the earthquake this area of the Trades Wards is destroyed. A few Skulls took notice and responded with Fireball spells but they did not last long under the attacks of the Drow’s Bane. Once the assassins were down and no one else was standing, the party searched the Vial Brews rubble but did not uncover the body of Madam Carmen Cobb.

The party now confused and out of ideas on what to do next, returns to Catchbreeze, by way of Royce. They realize their cover is blown in a big way and making their assignment that much harder to achieve.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: finding Ahmaergo

The party enters the Lazy Bugbear, a dilapidated building that is barely standing. Inside the tavern room is busy this afternoon with patrons of drow, deep gnome, human and orc. Royce can see over the crowd toward the bar where he notices a bugbear pouring drinks, a human female barmaid taking orders and a dwarf patron at the bar with a mohawk, tattoos and piercings. When the dwarf sees the Drow’s Bane enter the establishment, he steps away from the bar, moves to the staircase and heads up to the second floor.

The party makes their way through the crowd to the bar where they greet the barmaid ‘Holly’. They make small talk with her and with Ben the Bugbear, the owner of the establishment. Royce relays to the party about the dwarf he saw moving upstairs. One of the party members happens to suggest the dwarf went upstairs with a lady friend when all of sudden they hear Holly’s voice, “What! He did what! That bastard! I need to speak with him now.” The party looks back to see Holly’s hand rubbing her stomach; she angrily moves from behind the bar towards the staircase and ascends. The Drow’s Bane, a little surprised of what’s taking place, follow Holly up the stairs.

The Drow’s Bane ascend to the second floor as they see Holly down the hallway, looking out the window. “There here is!” she climbs outside the window, makes her way to the catwalk on the roof and begins chasing the dwarf. The party moves quickly to the window, jumps out one-by-one, and climbs up the rope ladder. Naismith can see the dwarf 100 feet away running along the catwalk while Holly behind, shouting at him to come back and talk.

Naismith and Nong are first to catch up to the dwarf where Nong successfully stuns him. Holly and Mordrock catch up to the group shortly after. “Oh my god, what have you done to my Johnny!!” as tears roll down her eyes as Holly takes the stunned dwarf into her arms.
Naismith, Nong and Mordrock look at each other in shock. “Did we just stun the wrong dwarf?” Mordrock says.
Nong turns to Holly, “do you know a dwarf named Ahmaergo?”
Between tears, Holly looks up with a frown, “This is Ahmaergo…Johnny Ahmaergo you asshole!”

A sigh of relief washes over their faces.

Johnny Ahmaergo shakes off the stun in Holly’s arms. “What’s going on Holly?” says Johnny as he looks up at the 3 strangers who he remembers trying to avoid at the bar. “We need to get you to safety now, it’s not safe here.” Johnny grabs Holly and escorts her to the nearby roof window of another tavern where the catwalk ends. He helps her through the window when all of a sudden, she vanishes into thin air. “Aaaghh, Holly!” he turns around to see Mordrock’s arms raised as if completing a spell. “What the hell did you do with her!!!” Johnny screams at Mordrock. “I banished her until we have a chance to speak with you Ahmaergo.”

Johnny looses his shit, draws his two handed sword and swings at Mordrock in a mad rage. Mordrock cannot dodge fast enough and takes the multiple hits from Johnny’s great sword but manages to stay focused on keeping Holly banished to a demiplane. Johnny is not strong enough to take on Naismith, Nong and Mordrock together and eventually collapses on the catwalk; Nong then kicks Johnny’s body off the catwalk where it falls 40 feet and crashes onto the ground…broken.

Royce ascends onto the catwalk from the Lazy Bugbear taking in the encounter 100 feet away. What he doesn’t notice are the two assassins hiding in the shadows next to him. Royce doesn’t see them coming and endures the multiple surprise attacks from both assassins, however those attacks are not enough to take him down. Royce manages to kill one assassin but the other escapes, jumping off of the catwalk to the ground below. Naismith now on the ground next to the broken body, sees the encounter with Royce and the fleeing assassin, and starts running after the assassin in hopes to catch him. Nong pays no attention to the assassins and searches the broken body; he finds a key and a tattoo on the dead dwarf’s neck, similar to the one Naismith has on his neck.

Naismith in pursuit manages to wound the fleeing assassin but not enough to slow him down. The assassin is too fast and Naismith eventually lets him go. He watches as the assassin fleas in the direction of the Thieves Guild guards on patrol at the bridge between the Port and Trade districts. “This won’t be good for us,” Naismith thinks to himself.

Back at the broken body, Naismith says to Royce, Nong and Mordrock, “We need to move now. That assassin was obviously Thieves Guild. They all watch each other, especially someone like Ahmaergo.” The party escapes into the Ethereal plane just as Mordrock releases Holly back into Skullport.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Skullport

It feels like hours of sloshing, inhaling the stench of sewers and climbing down before the Drow’s Bane exit through a tunnel that lets them onto the edge of the Port district, Skullport. Naismith leads them forward as the party takes in the scene – a large cavern, dim light from bio luminescent fungi clustered across the cavern walls along with a few torches farther towards the shanty town of taverns and inns that make up the Port district. High above the dilapidated buildings, roped catwalks spread out across the roofs connecting one tavern to another.

Which makes sense given the ground below is littered with filth and pock-marked with large gaping holes making it difficult to travel by foot. Just shy of where the party entered, they notice a horrific shrine filled with sacrificed body parts, blood everywhere and a rams skull. “A recent shrine to Orcus it seems,” says Royce shaking his head in disgust. “Looks like the cults are also using the sewers to travel between Skullport and Waterdeep,” says Naismith.

The party begins to move forward en route to Skull Island from the Port district when they notice they are not alone. Several individuals peeking out of rundown buildings notice the Drow’s Bane and move to intercept. “Orcs,” says Nong. The encounter does not last long as every orc except one is taken down; the remaining orc, roughed up and naked is let go as a warning. “Just another Skullport gang looking for trouble,” says Naismith, “several gangs exist here and vie for territory and dominance.”

“Where’s Mordrock?” says Royce.
“I’m here. Was checking out the shrine while you handled the orc gang.”
After searching the orc bodies, the party continues forward and eventually arrives at the gate to Skull Island. Naismith changes his appearance and flashes a circular tattoo on his neck; it looks like a sun with a dark circle in the middle. The guards at the gate are complete assholes and demand 25 gold from each person. Even the fast-talk Naismith is having with them does not seem to persuade them to lighten the toll. Mordrock walks up to the guards, pulls out a bloodied sack and opens it revealing body parts collected from the shrine, “Let us pass or you’re next!”
“Aaaagh! What the fuck man is that!!” the guards jump back in horror and look at Mordrock in fear. The guards quickly motion the party through the gate and then regain their composure. Royce, Nong and Naismith stare in awe at Mordrock as they walk through the gate into Skull Island.

The party takes some time to get the lay of the land as Naismith is not familiar with this district. They manage to locate the prison and very close to it an Iron Ring establishment with several chained slave groups being lead into a 3-story stone building. These slaves look young ranging from adolescents to minors; one group is composed of surface races while a second group are from the Underdark. Naismith explains the Iron Ring is the slaver organization who do the dirty work for the Thieves Guild in terms of acquiring and selling slaves in exchange for protection. Acquiring kids seems very odd to Naismith and only highlights the drive to gain enough supply to fulfill the demonic cult’s demand.

They scout out the prison and count the number of watchtowers surrounding it as well as a large barracks near to it. All of the guards appear to be dressed similar to the guards at the gate. “These guys belong to the Thieve’s Guild. You can tell by their uniforms” says Naismith. What also catches Naismith’s attention further inland on the island is a floating skull bouncing around, watching others pass by. Naismith turns to the group and says, “There are several Skulls that patrol Skullport,” as he points in the direction of the floating skull. “If any fight breaks out and a Skull is near, it will attack non-Skulkers and then call for backup; it’s goal is to restore the peace at any cost. It’s best we don’t get their attention.”

“I don’t think we can take this prison by force after looking at all of the watchtowers and guards patrolling the prison grounds,” says Nong. The party thinks they can bargain their way into the prison as a better approach. Naismith still in disguise, along with Nong, walk up to the prison gates. Two guards stand behind the gate and stare at Naismith and Nong as they approach. Naismith persuades the guards enough to learn that Gart is within but the guards will not fetch the prisoner for fear of their captain’s wrath.

With enough persuasion and many pieces of platinum, the two guards acquiesce and sneak away to fetch Gart. They return with a beaten up middle-aged duergar that’s barely alive; they throw him at Naismith and Nong and tell them to disappear. The party regroups nearby in an abandoned shack to revive Gart. They learn Gart used to work for the Thieve’s Guild before prison; he’s now looking to start a new life outside of crime with his new freedom. As a reward, Gart shares the names of the Xanathar’s two lieutenants who each possess a key – a shield dwarf named Ahmaergo who hangs out at the Lazy Bugbear inn and an old crone named Madame Cobb who runs the Vial Brews apothecary. Royce and Naismith notice on Gart’s arm a tattoo of a copper scourge, the symbol of Glasya, lord of the sixth hell.

The Drows’ Bane locate Bloodthorn Manor and walk up to the double doors. Royce intimidates the guards who attempt to hold their ground against him but eventually tap the doors twice. Moments later the door opens and a goblin appears from within. “These guys are looking for Cephalux but don’t have an appointment,” the guard says to the goblin. “Please let them pass. I’ll escort them to Cephalux. We have been waiting for them,” the goblin smiles. The Drow’s Bane are escorted down a long hallway that opens up to a large room with a long table down the middle. As they approach the entryway they see 12 females dressed in leather armor seated at the table and a mind flayer seated at the opposite end of the table from the entryway. Cephalux says in a raised voice, “I’m so sorry…it looks like they got to me first,” as a large beholder drops from darkness above and attacks!

The Drow’s Bane notice this beholder seems quite old, with many scars and with two eye patches covering two of its eye stalks. The females dressed in leather also react by drawing swords and standing up from their seats. During the fight, Cephalux escapes out the front door and heads towards the nearest barracks for cover.

The beholder and the females are no match for the Drow’s Bane who wear them down. When the beholder falls, the remaining females stop fighting, disengage and run out the front door. Naismith notices their uniforms are not of the Thieves Guild and thinks they are sell swords for hire, which explains their retreat once the beholder was dead.

The party lets the females go and explores the manor. They find a bedroom where they camp for a long rest. They exit Bloodthorn manor, refreshed after their rest and decide to visit the Lazy Bugbear inn as their next stop.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Lady Silverhand’s important meeting

The Drow’s Bane arrive at Castle Waterdeep and are greeted by the door guards. Minutes later Seneschal Talonfeather greets the party and escorts them inside. “Thank you for your promptness,” says Talonfeather, “the masked Lords of Waterdeep, Lady Silverhand and the Lord’s Alliance are about to begin session.” The party is not familiar with the corridor they are being led down; most of the time they are taken through to Lady Silverhand’s personal chamber which is on the opposite side of the castle. This corridor leads to two double doors with gold trim and fine detail; a guard stands on each side of the doors. When the guards see Talonfeather approach they salute him and open the doors. The large chamber inside is noisy with people moving about, situating themselves in chairs and around tables. The room is displayed with a large chair near the center surrounded by several chairs on both sides behind a bannister. Two other seating areas of benches and tables, are on either side of the room. Together the entire seating area forms a semicircle with Lady Silverhand seated in the middle.

This is the first time the Drow’s Bane encounters the full entourage of the masked Lords of Waterdeep. Every one of them is dressed in fine robes and wearing a gold mask to hide their identity. On the benches appear to be representatives from the Lord’s Alliance – Neverwinter, Baldur’s Gate and Silverymoon.

Lady Silverhand calls the chamber into session at the same time she acknowledges the Drow’s Bane and motions them to come forward to the middle of the room. “Thank you everyone for making arrangements to be present at this meeting in such short time. Our goal for today is to decide on the path forward to dealing with the recent outbreak of demonic cult activity across the Sword Coast and within each of our cities.” She scans the room and stares right at Nong for a brief moment before continuing, “The demonic cult activity is spreading as we see trails of sacrifices in our alleys, abandoned warehouses and in our sewers. None of my agents have been able to deduce why now, why here, however we have learned something interesting. The demonic cult outbreak in Waterdeep is in high demand of slaves to sacrifice. They are pursuing the crime lords in hopes to receive a constant supply of slaves for their evil intentions. They have been in contact with the Xanathar Thieve’s Guild who has stepped up to provide more slaves to meet the demand. Their slave trading partners, the Iron Ring, have begun to hunt down more innocents from the Underdark and surface in response.”

Lady Silverhand pauses to let the room take in the information and then continues, “My relationship with the Xanathar Thieve’s Guild has always been something of a hushed tolerance so long as they minimized the impact of their business on Waterdhavians. In return, we have used their sources for intelligence and information that have thwarted several criminal activities for years. Yes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Her facial expression turns grim as she says, “Rumor has it that a new Xanathar has taken over the Thieve’s Guild in recent months; this new leader is hellbent on undermining everything we have established prior; it is intent on meeting the slave demand of the demonic cults over keeping the political balance with Waterdeep. After several failed attempts to parley with the Thieve’s Guild, we cannot wait any longer and must choose a new path to take to protect our people and our interests.”

“Given the circumstances, the Lord’s of Waterdeep supported by the Lord’s Alliance and to a degree the Harpers too, have decided to terminate the Xanathar as the most viable option on the table. The removal of this leader will hopefully instill temporary chaos in the Thieve’s Guild buying us time to eradicate the demonic cults here at home.” Next, Lady Silverhand looks at the Drow’s Bane, “I have invited the Drow’s Bane to this meeting as I feel no other party has demonstrated themselves to me, who is capable enough to fulfill a mission like this. Royce, Nong, Naismith and Mordorck…will you take on this assignment to covertly enter Skullport, find the Xanathar and assassinate him?” All eyes look towards the party as Royce, Nong, Naismith and Mordrock look to each other. For a brief moment, Naismith looks uneasy about this, but quickly changes character. Royce responds, “Yes, Lady Silverhand, we accept this assignment for the Lord’s of Waterdeep and the Lord’s Alliance.” A sigh of relief fills the room as Lady Silverhand displays the briefest of smiles before she closes the meeting and adjourns the audience.

She calls to the Drow’s Bane to approach her, “Thank you. I knew I could trust you to help. We have learned of two accomplices willing to help the Lord’s Alliance in Skullport with information on the whereabouts of the Xanathar. The first named Cephalux, a mind flayer, who has a manor in Skull Island. Meet him at his manor and learn from him what he knows. The second is a duergar prisoner named Gart; he is unfortunately in the Skullport prison also on Skull Island.” They discuss the plan to arrive into Skullport via the river. Naismith comments that travel by water is unnecessary as they will use the sewer route he is familiar with. “Oh, I didn’t realize that way to Skullport was still accessible. Very well as you see fit,” replies Lady Silverhand.

She then reaches out to each of the four and says “May the gods protect you and godspeed home with a successful mission.”