Journey to Fate’s doorstep: searching for guidance

It takes a few seconds for the Drow’s Bane to adjust to the dim light, thumping beat and the smell of brine, booze and body odor just inside the Shark Tooth tavern. Like a scene straight out of the Mos Eisley cantina on Tatooine, the multiverse of patrons across all four floors stare at the newcomers in bewilderment, before returning to their drinks and idle chatter.

The Shark Tooth is expansive with a large hole in the ceiling’s center that spans three floors up; each floor above contains a honeycomb of alcoves that look down onto the first floor. Patrons swim up and down through the air to reach higher floors, for there is no stairway in this tavern. The party, still standing at the entryway, notices a large bar to their left. Behind the bar is a large broad shouldered black dragonborn with a nasty smirk on his draconic face. Nong moves toward the bar with Royce and Mordrock in tow; Naismith decides to explore the first floor on his own. At the bar, Nong takes a moment to listen in to the conversations around him and catches a few words in abyssal, “Freezer…priest…Grazzt”. He glances up and catches Xuldroath staring at him; Nong smiles and makes his way over to the dragonborn.

Xuldroath, the dragonborn bartender and owner of the establishment, is content to speak to Nong after much coin is dropped for the purchase of house wine and “lubricating” the bartender’s dry mouth. Nong gets straight to the point, he’s looking for guidance on traveling to the Trench of Death. Xuldroath provides a name of a patron who should be able to help him – Crazy Oman, who usually sits on the second floor. While this conversation takes place, Naismith explores the dingy shadows and feels something reach across his waist. He reaches down and grabs a slimy tentacle that is looking for a pocket to pick. He yanks the appendage off of him and moves toward the bar, never looking back.

The party travels to the second floor with Nong running up the wall, and Naismith using his cloak to fly; after a few failed attempts to lift off the ground to swim, Mordrock clicks his heels and rises up; Royce, who succeeds on his first attempt, successfully lifts off and swims through the air. They roam the second floor looking for anyone or anything that fits the description of Crazy Oman; they spot a lone individual talking to himself at a table. Nong approaches, sets a bottle of wine on the table and speaks, “are you Crazy Oman?”. The lone individual appears to be male, his skin somewhat translucent, with a bald scalp and tentacle protruding from each side of his mouth. One of his eyes wanders as he looks up to Nong, except the wandering eye behaves like a chameleon’s that moves around with purpose rather than just being lazy. “That is what some call me…yessssss” says Crazy Oman as he smiles and licks his lips. “Come, let us share drink together as we may need your help” says Nong. Crazy Oman smiles as he motions for them to sit at his table. Nong sits, pours wine and continues, “we need help getting to this location on our map” as he reaches over and takes the map from Royce, showing it to Crazy Oman. Crazy Oman touches the map as both of his eyes narrow in on the map’s content; he also brings the map up to his face, smells it and then licks it, “…devil skin parchment this map is made from…interesting”.

Crazy Oman sips his wine then sits back and says, “my master can help you with what you seek. You must come with me to meet my master…he lives in the Trench of Deatthhhh”. The party, now with a feeling of distrust and cynicism, inquires more about Crazy Oman’s master but learns little about who or what it is nor why it calls the Trench of Death, home. Crazy Oman senses the Wand of Orcus and reaches out in an attempt to pet it but Nong pushes his hand away. Crazy Oman frowns and then looks at the party, “you see…before I can take you to my master…I need your help!”; he waits to read the party’s response before continuing, “…last night I was here and somewhat drunk…when my beautiful blood diamond necklace was stolen from me! I cannot return to my master without it.”. The party inquires about Crazy Oman’s evening but Oman cannot remember who could have done it, but is adamant about finding it before he can help them.

Nong, now frustrated, leaves the table and journey’s back down to consult with Xuldroath. A few more bottles of wine and a hefty tip, provides Nong with valuable information about who was seen with Crazy Oman last night – 1) the female locathah assassin called Goto Arr, 2) a coven of sea hags known as the Blackbrine sisters and 3) the rowdy wereshark gang called the Fins of Doom. Nong returns and calls the others to join him away from Oman’s table. “I have information from Xuldroath about who was seen with Crazy Oman last night; the dragonborn also gave me the location of where each hangs out when here. Let’s go find them!”. The party discusses further and decides to pursue Goto Arr first.

They spread out across the fourth floor looking for locathah patrons. A group of them are spotted in one of the corners. The party approaches and Mordrock speaks first, “excuse me, I am looking for Goto Arr. Have you seen her?”. The locathah look at each other and then one replies, “why do you seek her? do you have work you need done?”. Naismith glances down at each of the locathah and his eyes focus in on the middle one who is dressed in fine leather armor with several daggers running up and down her body. “Yes, we need her help with something” says Mordrock. There is a nod at the table and all of the locathah except the one dressed in fine leather get up and swim away. “Please, sit down and what did you say your name was again?” says Goto Arr. The party and Goto Arr make introductions and small talk. Goto Arr appears friendly and amiable and Mordrock seems quite enamored with her, occasionally slipping in a flirtatious joke here and there during the conversation with her; Royce, Nong and Naismith look oddly at Mordrock when this happens.

Goto Arr appears to play coy when Mordrock states why the party is looking for her; she listens carefully and eventually reveals her intent. She may be willing to part with information if the party can help her locate who is responsible for stealing the weapon order she placed for an upcoming contract in the Plane of Fire. Apparently she was expecting to rendezvous two days ago with a weapon’s merchant coming into the City of Glass, but the merchant never contacted her nor was the crossbow reported to have arrived into town. Goto Arr believes someone in this tavern overheard her conversation and stole the crossbow. If the party can discover who is the thief, she will help them.

The party moves down to the third floor where they hope to find the Blackbrine sisters; they are somewhat flustered being pulled into another personal agenda not related to what they came to the Shark Tooth for. They immediately spot a trio of sea hags at a table and approach them. Naismith begins the inquiry, “Excuse me do you know where I can find the Blackbrine sisters?”. The three glance up at the group and Bernadette says, “Yes you have”, then Brenna continues, “found us, why” followed by Beatrix, “do you seek us?” all seamlessly flowing together to form the response; this type of conjunction continues throughout their conversation. The Drow’s Bane pause for a second as they take in what just happened and then Royce, Nong and Mordrock look to Naismith.

Naismith describes what the party is looking for in regards to Oman’s necklace. The sisters stay quiet for a moment, turn and look at each other and then speak. “You see…we believe a rival poison supplier has moved into the Tide District and we want them…eliminated; business is down and we blame them for the cause. We are preparing to speak with Goto Arr for the contract but we have not worked up the courage to do so. Could you perhaps help us?” They pause but do not wait for a response, “if you could introduce us to Goto Arr we will gladly help you with information you seek”. Nong who looks the most frustrated upon hearing this replies, “why don’t we just kill this supplier for you now? It will save all of us time!”. They respond, “We do not know you nor trust you orc. Help us speak with Goto Arr or be on your way.”. Brenna who has been watching Naismith all of this time begins speaking in thieves’ cant; Naismith picks up on what she is doing and plays along. Through thieves’ cant, Brenna offers Naismith an opportunity to purchase her poison products if he is interested. She tells Naismith to seek her out in the Freezer for the transaction. Naismith acknowledges this, gets up from the table and motions for Royce, Nong and Mordrock to join him.

“What kind of nonsense was that story between you and Brenna?” says Royce to Naismith. “Who cares about taking the long road to observe the sea ponies! This is not the time.”. “That was Thieves’ Cant Royce. Brenna was offering me an opportunity to buy her poison, which happens to be very good, so she says.” replies Naismith. Royce stares back and says “Fine but that is not priority right now. We need to figure out all of this crap before another personal agenda is thrown at us to solve.” He continues, “let’s find the Fins of Doom as I have a feeling they are the ones who are behind this missing necklace”.

The weresharks are playing cards when the party arrives. Three great whites, a hammerhead, and a nurse shark, all in hybrid form, are loud and obnoxious with each other. One of the great whites notices the party approaching and yells out, “what do you want!? ain’t interested, now scram!” as he laughs and the others join in. Royce approaches the table and with an intimidating tone, manages to get their attention. The nurse shark, although the shortest and weakest looking of the five, appears to be the leader; he motions for the Drow’s Bane to sit and play cards. After several games with Mordrock and Nong being the victors, the nurse shark makes a request. “You guys look like you can help us out cause we think we know where your necklace is. You see, we need a smuggler like real quick, for the goods we just hijacked a few nights ago. Turns out Xuldroath knows of a guy, but dragonface wants one thousand gold pieces upfront before he talks. That’s insane man, we don’t have no thousand gold pieces. But I can tell, you do.” The hammerhead pipes up, “yeah, spot us the thousand gold man and we can help you out!”.

Royce learns through “gentle” persuasion their hijacked shipment contains a particular crossbow. He pulls the party aside to discuss options and they eventually decide to buy the crossbow and forego helping the Fins of Doom with Xuldroath. Royce lays down three hundred gold as a deposit and offers two hundred more upon receipt of the crossbow; that’s enough to get the sharks to go fetch it. Mordrock, Royce and Naismith decide to inform Goto Arr of the agreement while Nong stays for another round of cards.

As they approach the table on the fourth floor, Goto Arr is nowhere to be seen. Mordrock seems a bit disappointed when Naismith glances up and barely makes out the assassin concealed on the ceiling, two daggers in hand looking ready to strike. He quickly casts Faerie Fire on her and succeeds. She screams as she lights up in a purple aura blowing her cover. She drops down, as Naismith, Mordrock and Royce ready attacks. “I didn’t trust you would be back, to talk. I figured it was a setup, as I have never seen you before in the Shark Tooth. Why are you back?” as she looks at Mordrock. He replies to her, “we have located your crossbow and are having it retrieved to give it to you. Apparently, the Fins of Doom hijacked your merchant a few nights ago.”. “I will assassinate each of those weresharks for this,” she calmly says. “When you approached me I did not have any information about the whereabouts of your necklace. I have my scouts out looking now to see if I can help you.”. “Maybe there’s another way you can help us then” says Mordrock. “The Blackbrine sisters may need your help with a contract. We can introduce you to them.”. She pauses for a moment, unclear why these four individuals want to help her or why this dwarf is coming onto her but replies, “Very well. I can accompany you to meet them. I respect those sisters, as their product is some of the best I have used.” She then approaches Mordrock and whispers in his ear, “thank you dwarf” and squeezes his hand; Royce and Naismith look at each other and grin uncomfortably.

Nong appears minutes later with crossbow in hand and interrupts the moment, “here is your crossbow” as he places it in front of the pair. Goto Arr steps away from Mordrock and examines the weapon. She inspects the fine craftsmanship and proclaims, “this beauty can pierce any armor including magic armor. Yes, this is the one I commissioned. Thank you for retrieving it.” and stows it away. Then she says, “Come, let us go meet the sisters”.

Nong makes the introduction between Goto Arr and the Blackbrine sisters who sit for awhile discussing contract details. After their business is done, the Blackbrine sisters get up to go to the bathroom. “Where are you going? We’re not done, you and I” threatens Nong to the sisters. All three respond, “to the bathroom, we will not be long. Well done, orc for helping us with Goto Arr. You will not be disappointed.” and the sea hags make their way to the first floor. Goto Arr beckons Nong to sit at the table with her. Nong moves in and sits opposite Goto Arr, who begins talking with Nong. His leg brushes up against something on the seat next to him, a small pouch of some sort. He casually keeps conversation while reaching his hand over to the pouch to feel its content…which feels like jewelry. He grabs the pouch, while making a brief laugh to whatever Goto Arr is saying and then says to her, “Excuse me Goto Arr, I must be going. I believe I have found what we have been looking for.” Nong gets up from the table and makes his way to the others, who are with Crazy Oman.

The pouch, which contains Crazy Oman’s blood diamond necklace is thrown onto the table interrupting the conversation. Crazy Oman looks up and then grabs it, quickly looking inside. “Yesssss, my necklace!!!” he cries out as he reaches in, pulls out the necklace and begins kissing and licking it. The party stares at him scowling in disgust. “Now let’s go. We helped you, now you help us!” demands Nong. Crazy Oman, looks at Nong and begins reaching to pet the wand again, while saying “yesssss orc, you have done well. I will do my part and take you to see my master.” Nong swats Oman’s hand away as it approaches the wand. Oman responds, “Three days from now meet me at dawn at the main entrance to the city. And I would procure mounts if I were you.” as he wickedly laughs.

The Drow’s Bane promptly leave the Shark Tooth satisfied with their endeavor, but feeling really unsure if this journey with Crazy Oman gets them any closer to reaching their goal.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: the City of Glass

The interesting fact about the City of Glass is that it is encapsulated under a large glass dome sitting on top a bed of glacier ice in the middle of the Sea of Light. Under the dome there is air and natural gravity for walking with specific areas intentionally underwater. Creatures either walk if they have legs or swim through the air thanks to the surrounding magic.

The Drow’s Bane arrive at a common port of entry at the city’s edge. Lines of creatures wait for registration into the city; an unfamiliar language, Aquan, fills their ears. Nong appears to understand the unfamiliar language and translates for the group. It takes them a few hours to weave through the lines eventually making their way to the registration patrol; registration consists of identity specification, bag inspection and stowing all weapons until city exit. The group is quick on their toes and successfully distracts the Locathah patrol guard enough to allow Naismith to secretly stow a dagger and Nong to hide the wand; all other weapons are confiscated.

The patrol guard hands them a map of the city and says, “please enjoy this week’s Bubbles and Baubles festival all throughout the city. Experienced, guides are available through these doors”. Royce, Naismith, Mordrock and Nong exit registration and enter the city. They take in the immense space, breathe in the air and acclimate to the mood lighting across the city; their eyes affix to the bubbles of all shapes and sizes that rise up through the air, popping as they reach the glass dome way above the city. In response, cheers and fireworks can be heard throughout.

A string of guides rush the party and a Kuatoa named Suggi lands the job. Suggi escorts them immediately to the shopping districts explaining how everything they desire is within reach in the City of Glass; what they also realize is that everything is far more expensive than Waterdhavian prices. Exotic glowing materials, beautiful corals and seaweed silks adorn the walkways up and down the markets they pass through; Merfolk, Sea Elf and Kuatoa vendors call out to them ready to bargain and haggle for everything the Drow’s Bane’s eyes glimpse in wonder.

The party spends time buying weapons and equipment suitable for underwater trouble. Naismith inquires about magic items for sale but pauses when he hears the price for a magic dagger, “sorry but I don’t think I can do that price”. The Merfolk vendor responds in Aquan then suddenly switches to Common, “You buy both and I’ll cut the total by ten thousand gold. Two magic daggers for fifty thousand gold is a deal my friend. No where else can you get such a deal, come on!”. Suggi jumps in and pushes the party forward recognizing the situation tensing up.

“Suggi where do you suggest we lodge for the night?” says Mordrock. “The Laughing Seahorse in the Flow District is the best place. Tell them Suggi sent you” replies Suggi, “in fact, let me take you there”. Royce looks Suggi up and down and is convinced Suggi says that to everyone he helps. Nong approaches Suggi next, “Suggi, can you take us to the Fathomless Caves or Trench of Death? We need to get there as soon as possible.” explains Nong in a serious tone. Suggi looks up at Nong and begins to step back from him shaking his head, “that’s not my line of business Mr. Orc, if you want guidance to those places try the ‘Shark Tooth’ in the Tide district”. “Can you take us there?” responds Nong. “Uhhh” pauses Suggi, “I will take you to the street where it is located but I will not go any further. That’s a seedy location and dangerous! Beware of the warehouse district!”.

After Suggi escorts them to where the Laughing Seahorse is located in the Flow district, he requests payment for his guidance; the party pays him his fee and a tip. Suggi relaxes a bit and then agrees to escort the party to the Tide district, “Okay let’s go” says Suggi pocketing the gold. The Drow’s Bane pick up their pace and head toward the Shark Tooth. Along the way, they pass a beautiful female Triton dressed in robes who catches Royce’s eye, while she focuses on the Tempus insignia across his armor; she looks him in the eye and smiles. Royce in passing, returns the glance but cannot recall what or who this creature is. “Who’s that?” says Naismith. “I don’t know” responds Royce. They continue onward passing into the Tide district and notice the scenery change as they move deeper into the district.

Naismith sees Skullport in many of the shadows, dilapidated warehouses and sketchy looking creatures standing or swimming about. Mordrock glances toward Suggi who appears to be shaking a bit, maybe from fear. “There down that street is the Shark Tooth” points Suggi still shaking a bit, who bows before them and quickly turns around and runs back to safety.

The party looks down the shadowy lane to see near the end, a four story stone building marked on its side with black and red streaks that resemble blood; the metal sign above the large front doors reads “Shark Tooth” in Aquan. Nong points toward the building, “the sign reads ‘Shark Tooth'” and begins to walk down the lane. As the Drow’s Bane approach closer they hear from within, lots of loud shouts, growls and grunts over a continual tribal music beat.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: much needed downtime

The celebration of Simril at Catchbreeze was grand! Every neighbor and friend came for the festive celebration and stayed well into the night feasting, drinking and looking up into the clear night sky to follow their ancestral or birth star. Musicians played for hours as servants brought trays of drinks and appetizers around the guests who patiently waited to greet the Drow’s Bane. Royce, Naismith and Mordrock enjoyed the change of pace as each relaxed into their drink and conversation, perfectly happy to forget their problems for one night.

The Drow’s Bane spend several more weeks at the estate catching up and enjoying some down time before making preparations to journey to the Elemental Plane of Water. The four spend significant time examining the map of the Elemental Plane of Water, and decide to break into Kendall’s library in hopes of finding a resource describing the plane; they do get lucky and find a tome describing the Elemental Planes of the multiverse. Nong, who can read elvish, translates details about the City of Glass and the Citadel of 10,000 Pearls. They discover the City of Glass is a major metropolis which houses 30,000 residents of all walks of life; the Citadel is the residence of the center of government ruled by marid genies. Further research leads them to believe the ‘X marks the spot’ location on the map is somewhere in the darkest depths of the plane, where places like the ‘Fathomless Caves’ and ‘Trench of Death’ prosper.

Since the library break-in, Kendall has been on Royce’s mind a lot; Royce decides to scry on the wizard one more time in hopes of any news. He approaches his crystal ball and casts Scrying, waiting for Tempus to show him anything about his friend. Royce can feel the familiar divine strength imbue in him a vision of light that quickly fades to obscure gray clouds, blocking Royce’s vision. “Either the spell failed or Kendall is not on this plane” ponders Royce.

Nong’s boat rows into dock where Mordrock steps onboard. Nong immediately rows back out the harbor to his familiar location, three hundred one feet from shore. “Here, I brought you a friend to keep you company on your boat” says Mordrock who pulls from his cloak a small two-headed kitten with pupilless eyes. “I visited my apartment earlier today and realized that Samantha needs to live somewhere where she can roam about, like this boat and not in a stuffy apartment.” smiles Mordrock. Nong looks down at the kitten and pets it before looking back at Mordrock mischievously grinning, “how does Kelemvor feel about you raising undead kittens? I thought he was anti-undeath?”. Mordrock puts his finger up to his lips, “shhh”, winks and smiles. Samantha is drawn toward the Wand of Orcus’ dark aura and begins to howl upon contact with it; Nong and Mordrock watch as the kitten’s eyes go from pupilless to fiery red. Mordrock looks slightly concerned but Nong stares at the cat and says, “Go play and don’t scratch anything!” as they watch Samantha instantly obey Nong and skip away. Nong looks back at Modrock, “thank you…I like her already”.

A day later Royce presents to the group his findings, “I have spent time scrying for Kendall and did not find him on this plane. I also communed with Tempus and have learned the following.” Naismith and Mordrock lean in waiting to hear what Royce has to say next. “Glasya wants Orcus destroyed. The Elemental Plane of Water is the right path for us and…” Royce takes a long pause, “…Kendall is in trouble”. Naismith responds with a look of shock to Royce’s last words. “When I asked Tempus is Kendall okay? The bright light of strength faded into darkness. I know this is not a good sign for our friend” says a worried Royce who looks at the group with a saddened face. They share the news with Nong who agrees the best path forward, is to continue to the Elemental Plane of Water, in spite of the Kendall news.

Royce’s father’s ship arrives in Waterdeep where he will stay at Catchbreeze for the next month, waiting out the worst times of winter to pass before heading back home. Petha arranges Royce’s living quarters to accommodate his father instead of cleaning out Illian’s or Kendall’s rooms. Father and son will spend a short time together before Royce must depart.

An additional last minute surprise lands in Royce’s lap which is the officiation of the marriage between Djanni and Lulach. The ceremony takes place in the sanctuary of Tempus and an informal celebration follows in the courtyard; Naismith opens the celebration with a familiar tune he still remembers from his bardic days. Naismith walks up to the newlywed couple and after giving each of them a hug, says “Djanni this gift is for you and Lulach, this is for you. May you begin your life’s journey together with happiness and prosperity”; fifty platinum pieces for Djanni and a silver raven wondrous figurine for his brother.

The next morning, Royce, Naismith, Mordrock and Nong stand in a circle with their hands linked. Royce holds onto a forked metal rod and casts Plane Shift while speaking the words, “City of Glass”. Seconds later, the Drow’s Bane phase out of Faerun and appear in the Elemental Plane of Water.

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: the second gem

Dear Jonathan,

How many letters have I written to you like this? One for every week. Twelve letters. This one will be a little different, sweetheart.

As I write this, the world around me is cloudy, eerie, misty. Not that much different from how I have felt most of this time, but now it isn’t just me. Everyone I am with feels it too. They seem used to it, even more than I am, though perhaps for different reasons. We’re inside a holy place, they say, though it looks like army barracks to me. You would have loved to see this place, little soldier.

It was perhaps an hour ago that I was inside the greenhouse. Your father had told me it was best if I stayed there for the duration of the meeting he had called, but his new companions, marked with the black hand of Bane struck me as untrustworthy. Evil. I made myself invisible and watched as they performed a ritual that made my blood run cold. They struck among their own. A young man, black of hair and pale of skin, like from the southern coast. I cannot describe the effects properly, but everyone there transformed before my eyes into something I barely recognized. I am not sure what language was spoken during the ritual, but surely nothing of our faith would ever translate as “Draig tgo Bain-iise”. My own house turned inside out, corrupted and changed in ways that I cannot explain. Worse, it seemed to spread. Rapidly.

While your father and his men were in the throes of completion of whatever it was they wrought, I snuck among them and took the dagger. That probably seems strange to you, baby, but if I had had the time to teach you my craft you would know that much power of any ritual remains within the instrument with which it is performed. I ran, then. Back to the greenhouse. Back to you and to the place where I pray. Where your father used to pray with me. He must have stopped, some time in these last tear-stained weeks. I don’t recall that he did. I so recall feeling angry with him. Deserted by him. Feeling like he left you as well as me.

One of the creeds of our faith is “From death, life”. It seemed to me then, as I ran back towards your resting place, that what your father could do, so I could do. If Luther claimed a stranger’s life and damned my house, why could I not claim a life and bless my sanctuary? The fog withdrew, little man. For the first time in a long time, things were absolutely clear. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Not as much as birthing you did, and the goal was much the same.

Rather than facing death and judgment (and in stupid, desperate maternal hopes, a reunion with you, darling), I blinked and faced a quartet of strangers looking most fierce. A dwarf in heavy armor, extended a hand to me, called himself Mordrock, servant of Kelemvor, and demanded the dagger, now the carrier of power of two lifeblood rituals. A human man, bristling with knives called upon a power and healed me, but it seemed weakened. Holding them for men of Bane, I swore that they must leave; that their ritual had not been able to corrupt this sacred space. It shows the selfishness of our fears for in that moment, I knew for certain they would not do what cruel and evil men do to women they find after their victories. Though I am not fully sure of their morality as yet, I am glad not to have to write you of that particular fate, and find that it gives me faith in their intent. There were more attempts at healing, but it took a most powerful spell before they managed to restore me. You would be much awed by these men, Johnny. They wield awesome powers and their stories tell of fighting Tiamat and demon lords!

One of them, a bald-headed human called Royce, carries a blade that spreads real sunlight far and wide. I wonder if he knows of the significance of such weapons in our faith, but I consider it a beacon of hope even if he does not. He serves a god of war, which seems a strange calling for a dawnbringer’s weapon. They tell me that 26 years have passed since your father’s ritual. Since, supposedly, my death. Twenty six years, twelve weeks and three days since yours. I think that was yesterday.

To find such men here must mean that the evil Luther caused is greater than I could imagine. In the hopes of aiding them I retrieve my staff from the sanctuary, and explain to them my suspicions surrounding the nature of what has befallen our house. Based on my instincts as a mage, I ventured to think that killing the vessel for the ritual might be a way to defeat the curse. With those words I condemn your father, though to what fate I do not know. You can blame me later, my heart. We set out together, though one of the four barely speaks and travels far ahead. This half orc, Nong, wields an instrument of the vilest evil, though his companions ensure me that this is only out of the greatest need and that his heart is not as corrupted as the tool he uses. I will take them at their word, though his gaze makes my blood run cold.

The house itself is alien and strange now. Directions seem meaningless and the gallery of ancestors was entirely upside down. The man with the knives, who goes by Naismith, explained to me the various hazards that they had encountered in making their way to the garden. It makes no sense to me. Luther’s captain of the guard an undead menace to be killed over and over again. Strange vegetation that attempts to strangle and devour. It is madness. Then again, what isn’t. Maybe I am still dying. Dreaming. Maybe you will be here soon to find me and explain all this to me. Idle hope is another sign of madness.

After a perilous traverse of the hallways and stairways, we encounter a statue unknown to me. When approached it provides a perspective where it presents its sword as a walkway to be climbed. At the top, a skull is summoned from the statue’s throat. Naismith eventually places the gem from the ritual dagger and another gem into the eye sockets of the skull, much to the eerie amusement of his companion Nong.

This unlocks a door. We pass through, though the half orc stays behind. We enter a room where I see a small skeleton covered in decades worth of dust and the outline of a man curled protectively around it. My breath stalls. Has Luther taken your remains? Has he guarded them? What has grief done to him if this is how he looks for solace?

As I approach to try to determine if this is really you and really him, the room changes. It expands. An altar appears, as do wraith-like beings in each dimension of the room. Strange black armored beings too and then your father, my husband. Luther the bright-eyed. Luther the harpist. A gentle man. He looks aged. Both how I imagined him long after you would have given us a grandchild and also very much not. Yes his hair is long and free and his crown sits atop his head with gravity and grace but his eyes are wild and mad and his clothes are torn and perhaps unchanged since yesterday twenty-six years ago. This is the man I love. This is not the man I love. It is. It is not. It is, but not like this. And if it is… Should I not do what love demands and put an end to his suffering? He’s done enough of it all these years. I blink away the pointless tears. He could not let you lie in peace. I will do what he could not. He is so much stronger than I am, but this I will do. I will buy you a quiet grave, little one. Don’t worry. I am here now.

He points at me. Says the words I have avoided even thinking. He blames me for your death. Isn’t it always a mother’s fault? Should not a mother’s love always keep her child safe from harm and disease? If he is right, where did I err? This is a familiar maelstrom and on instinct I feel the lie behind what he just said. It is not my fault that you were not returned to him. No fair, good, trustworthy power would ever promise such a thing to a mourning father. I decide to take a chance. Conjure up an image of you, my hand protectively on your shoulder. I tell him that he is wrong. That you are safe with me. I have his interest for a moment, but it is not enough. In some way he manages to change the orientation of the room, upending us all. And with that, we fight.

Though fierce and of legendary repute, the campaigners are overmatched by the restless dead, and I am of little help. My spells seem not to do nearly as much damage as I expect them to, and we are held back by having to find ways to adjust to the revolving room while Luther’s lieutenants swarm us. The godsworn do their best to heal us over again as we take fell damage from the swords and spells of the undead occupiers, but in the end we are outclassed. I am not sure who falls after I do, but after a moment we awaken in this strange misty place that Royce says is a temple to Tempus, the god he serves. We are in the plane ethereal and can look out into the dining room of our home. We regroup with rest and meditation, then come together to plan.

Based on what we saw during the fight, the way to harm Luther is through the wraith-like beings that house in each aspect of the room. We have taken out some of them, but still more remain. I wonder if those aspects with the remaining wraiths relate somehow to how he twists the room about and around.

The heroes and I sit in council for a long time and try to come up with a plan. Lathander willing, it is enough.

I must go now, baby. We need to return to this fight and do better.

Don’t forget – we love you.

A thousand kisses,

Judith

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.