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 flees 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, “lets 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 watch towers 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 semi-circle 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, Naimsith 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”.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: To Candlekeep and back

The Drow’s Bane teleport to Catchbreeze after saying farewell to the Githzerai. They report back to Lady Silverhand and inform her of everything that was discovered in Ice Reach and how they thwarted the unleashing of an enthralled Kraken and Tarrasque onto the Sword Coast by an elder brain.

The Drow’s Bane also come clean with Lady Silverhand and tell her about the wand of Orcus and how it came into their possession. They ask her for help and she recommends they seek wisdom at Candlekeep, the greatest collection of writings in all of Faerun.

Days after, they set out for Candlekeep by securing room and board on the ‘Fancy Lady’, a keelboat docked in the Dock Ward; it appears money is no object with the Drow’s Bane as they secure the entire ship just for themselves. The trip to Baldur’s Gate takes about ten days by sea which goes uneventful. Nong along with the wand of Orcus, stays in the cockpit the entire time because the distance is greater than 300 feet from the others and the ship’s supplies; anything within 300 feet of the Wand will spoil and prevent anyone from taking a short or long rest.

They arrive and dock in Baldur’s Gate and set out across the city. They soon overhear people talking about Demonic Cults on the rise in the area. They decide not to stick around but quickly find a horse stable, rent horses and make their way south to Candlekeep. The travel on horseback takes days but the trip is uneventful. Except for Nong staying 301 feet away from the party, waking up to find the tree he’s climbed up was alive the night before and now is dead; there’s also a party of rat swarms hanging out just below him attracted to the Wand’s aura.

They arrive at Candlekeep, a towering castle-like-fortress with many spires walled off by 20 feet high stone walls surrounding the entire compound. Candelkeep sits on a crag that overlooks the Sea of Swords; the entrance is via a bridge from the main road that crosses over to the crag and leads up to two large metal doors. As the party approaches they see several monks standing in front of the open metal doors, welcoming people into Candlekeep. They greet the monks, who inform the Drow’s Bane that to gain entrance requires an ‘entrance gift’ – a tome not already found in the library that is worthy of significant historical importance, rarity or immense value.

You can hear a pin drop as the party looks at each other unsure of what to do next; none of them inquired beforehand on the requirements to enter Candlekeep. Nong gets a little cocky with the monks and wields the Wand of Orcus in their faces proclaiming the importance of this trip for the Drow’s Bane and the danger he holds in his hand. The monks smile back and simply restate the entrance gift requirement or no admittance. Moments later, the monks shut the main doors to avoid further discussion with Nong and signal for help. Nong then runs up the wall and stands on top looking out over the courtyard. Several monks look up and demand he remove himself from the wall. High above in one of the spires, an old monk with golden eyes looks out, sees Nong, and makes his way down the stairs and out to the courtyard as fast as he can.

Naismith convinces Nong to get down and to head back over the bridge to come up with a plan. As they move back across the bridge together, Naimsith hears the door behind him open up slightly. He turns back over his shoulder to see an old monk slowly walking out, using a cane for support; the monk has golden eyes, wrinkled skin, grey hair and is hunched over. Naismith stops suddenly as an image of an ancient gold dragon appears in his mind. The monk with the golden eyes projected his true self to Naismith in a split second. Naismith turns around and walks up to the monk and greets him. The monk and Naismith talk for a moment about the situation at hand, and the monk convinces Naismith to write his story and present it to the gate for entrance. Naismith returns to the party and with the help of Mordrock, begins to write down the tale of the Drow’s Bane, as best as a bard can tell it.

The next morning, the story is ready and they present it at the main entrance. The monks look it over and discuss; minutes later the party is granted entrance into Candlekeep.

The main courtyard is cobblestoned and opens up to several buildings along the walls. At the far opposite side of the courtyard sits a tower with a green door that behind it are the research study halls. The party is escorted by a monk to the bath house where every ‘Seeker’ must first bathe and put on simple robes. They are next escorted to the inn where each member of the party is assigned simple living quarters. Their escort, brother Tim, will stay at their side until they depart Candlekeep, at most ten days from now. After they get settled into their rooms, brother Tim, escorts the party to the Hearth, the grand eating hall for a meal. Nong decides to leave the wand in his room to prevent any problems.

After the meal the party is escorted into a private study hall to begin research. Brother Tim listens to their requests with no judgement, leaves for awhile and returns with tomes and scrolls. The first subject is all about Orcus and his wand. The party reads through tomes of various legends of the demon prince and how he acquired the wand and how to destroy it. Some legends say one thing like to destroy the wand you must bathe it in Tiamat’s blood, while other legends say something completely different like you must take the wand to the Positive plane and bathe it there. What is clear is that there is no one solution across the legends. Further research that day uncovers details about the Abyss, Tiamat and her lair in Avernus, and her subjects.

At the end of day 1, the Drow’s Bane are escorted back to their rooms to go to sleep. The next day, a similar routine occurs where they are escorted to a meal followed by an escort into the study hall. During the middle of the second day, the party is paid a visit by an imp, who appears out of thin air. Naismith and Royce happen to glance up from their tomes when they see this imp signal to them to get rid of brother Tim. Nong calls out to brother Tim, requesting he needs to return to his room for something and Nong and the monk leave the study hall.

The imp says to Royce, Mordrock and Naismith, “Do not believe everything you read; not all legends speak the truth about how to destroy the wand”. The imp smirks and then continues, “I was sent here by my Lady, who has taken an interest in your journey. She wants to help, but you must prove yourselves worthy first.” The party begins to ask the imp questions but the imp only replies with, “In time all will be revealed if you prove yourselves.” and then blinks out of existence.

This encounter sets the party off into a new direction of research! Brother Tim returns with Nong and is sent off to find details on imps, the Hells and who rules each layer. Hours later reading through tome after tome, the party maps out the female lords of Hell: Zariel, Tiamat, Glasya and Fierna.

That night Royce and Mordrock make a plan to prepare spells for the next day, to contact their deities and planar allies, looking for any help as to who this Lady might be. Royce also receives a message from Lady Silverhand, requesting the Drow’s Bane to be at Castle Waterdeep in one week for a very important meeting.

The next day Mordrock and Royce get to work. Mordrock contacts Tiamat, given his previous encounter with the dragon goddess. A black Abishai appears in the circle representing the voice of Tiamat. The party quickly abandons this idea once they learn the cost for answers from the Abishai is one of their souls. Next, Royce succeeds in contacting Tempus. Royce learns from Tempus ‘the Lady’ is in fact Glasya, the lord of the 6th hell, Malbolge.

With that information, the party returns to the study hall to begin research on Glasya, her hate for the wand of Orcus and travel to the Hells. Unfortunately, brother Tim does not return with much information on these topics. Little does the party know, the monks have cut them off from further research of non-mundane things, given Nong’s little stunt outside the keep.

Back at the Hearth for the evening meal, Nong is requested by brother Tim to step outside. Apparently, the neighbors on both sides of Nong’s room have complained that something foul is emanating from Nong’s room and is turning water and liquids rancid. The monks perform a test by placing a jug of water outside of Nong’s room and confirmed within a few hours the jug of water was rancid too. Nong is immediately asked to gather his belongings and is escorted out of Candlekeep. Nong does manage to inform the party of this on his way out the door.

Royce, Naismith and Mordrock realize the situation and decide now is a good time to leave Candlekeep. They are frustrated too with today’s lack of research results and seriously question the value of this research facility being the greatest in Faerun. They gather their belongings and leave Candlekeep.

The four travel back to Baldur’s Gate to return the horses. Royce then recalls the Drow’s Bane back to Catchbreeze with a few days to spare from Lady Silverhand’s very important meeting.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Upon the Githzerai citadel

For a brief moment, the interior is crackling with chaos energy until Sithka, the Githzerai Anarch, waves her hand and transforms the energy into rooms and corridors. She welcomes the Drow’s Bane in and escorts them to a sanctuary room filled with peace and tranquility. She watches as her new guests carry a dead human with them into the room; the Half-Orc with black eyes holding a strange wand, also catches her attention.

Sithka and a few other Githzerai begin chatting with the party. She wants to understand what happened to her attack squad, the layout of the Mindflayer fortress and what is left of the Elder Brain. During the conversation, a few Githzerai bring food and drink in for the party – the food tastes sweet and savory and the drink goes down easily. In no time, the conversation ceases as Mordrock and Naismith fall fast asleep; even Nong, who no longer needs food or liquids to sustain himself, passes out too.

Nong falls into a deep slumber and begins to dream. His mind recalls the feelings he experienced when joining with the Wand of Orcus: power, fearlessness and a thirst for destruction. His mind next recalls the feeling of elation that coursed through his body when he delivered the death blow to the Elder Brain! However, the feeling of disappointment came next. Even though the wand was satiated with the kill, it still cursed at Nong, disappointed that Nong did not raise the brain as his undead servant.

The long rest continues for several more hours.

Nong enters into another dream state; this time he sees his mind’s familiar infinite plane of darkness except no eye stares back at him. Instead, he watches the horizon as a small light walks towards him. He waits until he sees the figure a hundred feet out; it’s a small humanoid holding a light in its hands. Fifty feet out Nong recognizes the small humanoid is a child holding a candle; it’s a Half-Orc child crying as it walks toward Nong.

In the room on the floor, Nong feels his heartbeat speed up. He takes a deep breadth, turns over and calms his breathing. After five minutes, he sinks back into the dream.

Nong looks out across the plane again and sees the child standing directly in front of him; the candle in its hands barely stays lit. The child looks up at Nong and says “Your light source is fading and I cannot keep it lit in the darkness for much longer. If you don’t find a way to destroy it first, it will destroy your light forever.” The child turns around and begins to walk away. Over the child’s shoulder, he cries out “You don’t have much time. It has awakened.” The familiar eye begins to open on the plane of darkness and looks at the child. The eye’s looming size dwarfs the crying child who slowly walks away. The eye grows bigger and stares at the child in anger.

Suddenly, Nong awakens in the dark room. He inhales and steadies his breadth as he here’s his comrades deep in sleep. He pauses, sniffs the air and frowns; then lies back down and closes his eyes. Ten feet away, a figure stands at the doorway quietly observing the sleeping party. She stares at Nong, moves her eyes down his body and stops at the strange wand in his hand. She studies it but from this distance she cannot see much. She catches a scent in the air and immediately looks towards the human corpse; their fallen comrade. The body has decomposed in record time and gives off a rotting scent; she also detects the smell of rotting food too. “That’s impossible, especially in here.” she thinks to herself. Her eyes dart back to Nong’s gaunt sleeping face.

After a few quiet breadths, she scowls, shakes her head and silently steps away.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: From the ruins to B’al Crek

The walls and floors of the stairway leading down are out of this world. Mordrock does not recognize the craftsmanship nor the type of strange marbled purple and black rock the corridor is made from. All three rooms down here are constructed with the same materials. In the first room the party encounters a table with a dead Ice Reach resident on it, missing the top of his skull and brain. A few Mindflayers and Intellect Devourers surprise attack but are no match for the party. In the next room, the party finds a Githzerai prisoner locked in a cage named Onas, who is drooling and appears to have endured incredible psychic and physical torture. Onas does not speak common so the party uses Nong as the translator.

After several heal spells, Onas coms to his senses, thanks the party and gives them a warning and a request for help; Onas is the last survivor of a raiding party on the ‘Ruins of Angdan’. During his torture he picked up glimpses of the Mindflayers purpose here. They established this outpost over a century ago and have extended their reach to a Goliath settlement to the northwest and west as far as Silverymoon. He has witnessed dozens of humanoids, some with grey skin, taken into this room and through a secret door which Onas believes is a route to a Mindflayer outpost. Onas tells the party the Mindflayer’s Elder Brain has located a Tarrasque trapped in a demi-plane and a sleeping Kraken under the sea of the Sword Coast; the Brain plans to unleash thousands of Intellect Devourers on both creatures to eventually subdue each of them. Once enthralled, the Brain will unleash the Tarrasque onto Faerun and the Kraken onto the Sword Coast. Onas realizes all of the captured humanoids taken through here are being turned into Intellect Devourers to feed this grand plan.

The party agrees to help Onas attack the Mindflayer outpost behind the secret door. Naismith leads them through the secret door into a corridor, and down into a small room. Inside the room there is a strange structure; Onas gasps as he recognizes the structure to be a qualith portal – a gateway to a Mindflayer hive colony. He proclaims the party to enter through the portal, seek out and kill the Elder Brain; this buys time for Onas to planeshift to his home, gather the armada and attack the hive colony. He hands Naismith a ring of Mind Shielding which also serves as a homing beacon for the Githzerai armada.

Onas psionically shields the rest of the party, which will last for one hour. Both of these are protections from being discovered by the Elder Brain as soon as they exit the portal. Onas starts up the portal, watches the party step through then planeshifts away.

Disoriented and nauseous the party emerges from the portal onto a plateau over looking B’al Crek, a MindFlayer city somewhere deep in the Underdark. The huge cavern where the city is located is familiar to Royce, Nong and Naismith in terms of cavernous lighting by way of illuminating lichen and other bioluminescence. From this height they can make out the city’s buildings and identify the largest building in the center of the city; they set out to head there in hopes of finding the Elder Brain.

The party tries to covertly approach the city, trying to fit in as best as possible. Royce, Nong and Naismith recognize familiar Underdark kin – Drow, Duergar, Grimlock, Quaggoth and Bugbear. Patrols of Grimlocks and Mindflayers walk the city perimeter. So far, no one detects their presence. The first building they encounter along the road into the city is where Mordrock catches the attention of an attractive human female carrying two flagons of wine, who opens the door of an octagonal building; she smiles and beckons Mordrock to follow her in. Mordrock pursues her and enters the building; eventually everyone else makes their way in.

Inside is luxuriously furnished in silk beds and chais lounges. Soft lighting floats around above as a half-elf bard plays softly on a harp; skimpily clad consorts of various humanoid races lie about the room eating, drinking wine or gambling. Two concentric rings of pink marble raise the floor slightly in the center which is occupied by a large insect creature and a beautiful angel in shining armor; both creatures greet the party warmly as they enter.

The Ice Devil and Erinyes instinctively know why the Drow’s Bane are in B’al Crek and jokingly point in the direction of where the Elder Brain resides. But they also suggest a game of chance as the Ice Devil pulls out a Deck of Many Things. The wager are the souls of all of the consorts or a magic item against whatever the Drow’s Bane offers up. Mordrock seems interested however the party cannot seem to decide on an offer when eventually Naismith makes his way in. Immediately, the Ice Devil and Erinyes, proclaim the wager is what Naismith has in his bag (i.e. the Wand of Orcus) as both devils stand-up and start moving towards Naismith.

The devils’ action causes a fight to break out. Naismith tries to exit the door and finds a wall of ice blocking his way out. The Erinyes takes to flight and fires poison arrows at the party. Consorts begin screaming and running out of the building while others hide in fear. Naismith goes down inviting the Erinyes to swoop down and begin searching his bag. In this vulnerable position, she succumbs to party attacks and falls herself. Shortly after, the Ice Devil falls too. Fifteen minutes later, a Mindflayer patrol enters the building from the south side right after the party exits from the north side, having confiscated a magical cloak beforehand.

The party quickly moves toward a main road to fold in with as many people walking to and from the city center. Royce abruptly stops the party as he recognizes up ahead a patrol of Mindflayers, Grimlocks and Intellect Devourers standing on opposite sides of the main road; the Mindflayers appear to be reading minds as people cross their path. The party is not registered in B’al Crek and will alarm the Mindflayers if they cross paths. Quickly, they detour off the main road into an open market; they make their way through Drow and Duergar vendors towards the large building in the city center. Someone successfully pickpockets Nong along the way.

They avoid another patrol reading minds when they hear loud cheering from a building not far away. They approach what looks like an amphitheater and notice a very unfair match inside – a Goristro, whom the crowd is cheering for, against 6 halfing slaves. Minutes later, the party feels an intense vibration wash over their minds and bodies; a female voice telepathically speaks out across the cavern, “We are under attack, we are under attack! To arms! To arms my children!” and repeats the phrase several more times. People look around at each other, then look up and begin pointing at the sky. Six portals above the city open, each sparking lightning and chaotic energy as large adamantine citadels emerge from each of them. Hundreds of individuals begin jumping off the citadels and diving down towards the city, slowing their pace as they approach the ground; these are the Githzerai armada who have finally arrived, seeking total Mindflayer annihilation.

The party runs toward the large building as Githzerai rain down around them. There is a moat surrounding the large building that is home to two hydra that emerge and fight the party. The moat spans twenty feet across. On the other side, Naismith sees two invisible Mindflayers guarding an invisible doorway. The invisible Mindflayers dash into the invisible doorway when the Githzerai begin to land and attack. The party fights the hydras but does not spend the time needed to take them down. One-by-one, they jump, run, or swim across the moat and dash through the invisible doorway.

Inside is a large room supported by eight monumental columns resembling tentacles. In the middle of the room is a hole in the floor and ceiling; shambling around the room are several walking brain golems. The party realizes quickly these brain golems are superior meat shields that soak up a ton of damage. Nong kicks a few down the hole in the floor about the time the tentacle columns come to life and smack everyone around; Naismith falls from the damage but magically recovers. Eventually the party jumps down the hole in the floor to avoid further damage after Naismith sees and hears two adamantine citadels crash into the city from the sky. Maybe the tide is turning against the Githzerai armada.

The hole leads to another room that contains walls and walls of brains in jars. The party continues to fight the brain golems; they also realize that as a golem goes down it explodes causing damage all around its body. Naismith notices the two invisible Mindflayers are in this room watching the party fight; they look ready to attack the party. A lot of time is spent taking down the brain golems and then the Mindflayers, which equates to significant damage to the party.

The Drow’s Bane must spend time to recover slowing their progress. During recovery, they hear from the room above a battle breaking out. Four Githzerai, one being Onas, peer down into the room from above; they are glad to see the party alive. The four Githzerai join the party in pursuit of the Elder Brain.

It takes a moment to realize how to unlock the floor lock but eventually they figure it out; the floor vanishes to reveal another hole. Jumping down they land into a room that contains two large pens with several humanoid slaves staring contently back at the party. A ritual is underway between three Mindflayers and a captive Half-Orc; the Mindflayers surrounding the Half-Orc, are in deep concentration; the kneeling Half-Orc reacts to the Mindflayers – first he begins to tremble, then his body stiffens as its skull falls open to reveal its brain. The brain turned Intellect Devourer, begins to move and falls out onto the floor.

The party and Githzerai launch into attack and wipe out the Mindflayers and Intellect Devourer. Onas can tell the slaves are under the Elder Brain’s control leaving them practically enthralled waiting for their turn at the horrid transformation ritual. Naismith notices on the wall two invisible windows; when he peers in, he notices each window reveals a demi-plane containing thousands of Intellect Devourers. The windows also have latches to allow for opening and closing. Onas says these Intellect Devourers are part of the master plan but there’s no time to deal with them so long as the Elder Brain lives. Another floor lock is opened and the party descends down into darkness.

They land in the back of a large room lit by torch light along the walls. A human and a huge serpentine beast stand in the middle of the room waiting for the party. The Githzerai and party attack only to watch the monk take down a Githzerai with the snap of his fingers. The serpentine beast lets out a string of lightning that hits several in the party and Githzerai. The pair appear to be the Brain’s body guards and it is a tough fight. Eventually the party is successful taking them down only to find two Intellect Devourers spring out from the corpses. The toll after this battle are two dead Githzerai, one being Onas.

There is a wall of force surrounding the Elder Brain’s room next door and the party is unclear on how to break it; dispel magic does not work. Naismith sees the wall of force extends into the ethereal plane so the party cannot use that plane to transport into the room. Given the walls are aberrant in nature, spells to move through rock are impossible either. Mordrock calls to Kelemvor for help and an angelic figure with ghostly wings and a dark visage appears. “What do you seek child of Kelemvor?”. Mordrock explains to the angel about the wall of force. The angel replies, “You have what you need to remove the wall, just look around”. The angel disappears after speaking. Someone figures out the wand has the potential to disintegrate the wall.

Nong takes the wand from Naismith and feels the power course through his body one more time. The familiar eye opens up in Nong’s mind as the eye closes in the mind of Naismith. “Join with me and we will destroy it and make it our undead servant!!” the Wand of Orcus says. This time Nong accepts the invitation to attune with the wand. Immediately the power fills Nong’s body but this time more happens. Nong opens his eyes and they are pitch black; his skin is changing color and he looks thinner. The familiar dark aura emanates around him and the wand but now with extreme intensity. The two Githzerai take a step back in fear of what is happening to their comrade.

Nong walks up to the Wall of Force and touches it with the wand; the wand unleashes a disintegration spell and instantly destroys the wall. Inside the room is a huge tank with glowing pink water. The party rushes in and is hit with a psychic scream leaving some stunned. The party feels their minds being probed and a female voice telepathically taunts them. A tentacle emerges from the water, grabs Royce and stuns him while grappled; it then drags him underneath the water; more tentacles lash out and attempt to strike the party. One Githzerai is grabbed but withstands the stunning effect of the grapple, and is also dragged underneath the water. Nong uses the wand to call forth an army of undead that rise up and surround the whole room; he commands them to attack the creature submerged twenty feet under the water. The skeletons and zombies obey, dive into the water and attack; some manage to hurt the creature just before the Elder Brain lets out another psychic scream and turns the undead into dust and bones. Everyone in the room feels the damage of the psychic scream t00.

Mordrock is now down, Nong and Naismith now watch what the Elder Brain does to Royce. A grappled stunned Royce moves toward the Brain where it reaches out and sucks Royce’s brain out of his head; Royce dies as the Elder Brain consumes the brain making it feel stronger. Naismith dives into the water to attack and Nong goes unconscious while being grappled. Naismith gets grappled by a tentacle and falls unconscious underwater; Nong miraculously wakes up from the brink of death.

The wand chastises Nong as he comes to consciousness. Nong stands up, dives into the pool and uses the wand to strike the death blow to the Elder Brain. The female voice telepathically screams as a psychic eruption explodes from the Elder Brain killing everyone in the room as it dies. Royce is dead underwater, Mordrock is unconscious on the floor, Naismith is unconscious underwater and Nong is unconscious on the water’s surface floating on his back.

After an hour Nong regains consciousness; after two Naismith stops choking to death and awakens and after three hours Mordrock opens his eyes. Both Githzerai are dead and the Elder Brain is dead too. The party is victorious but at a tremendous cost. They hoist Royce’s dead body out of the briny water and attempt to rest. Several Githzerai discover them and the party informs the Githzerai of the death of Onas and the others. After the rest, the Githzerai escort the party back out to meet Sithka, their Githzerai commander.

Outside, B’al Crek is raised to the ground; there are fires burning, dead are littered everywhere and the stench of death is strong. Through the smoke, they come upon Sithka, the female Githzerai commander. She knows who the party is from Onas and salutes them. Naismith, using Comprehend Languages, can understand Sithka, but is hesitant to use Nong as the translator given Nong’s new appearance. Sithka looks over the party and their dead comrade and invites the Drow’s Bane back to her adamantine citadel to recover.

The party gladly accepts and begins to follow her, with Royce in tow.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Beyond Ice Reach to the mountain top

The rare sightings of a Purple Worm and Remorhazes within a few days time leads Xzin and the party northward, to seek council at the Goliath Embassy. The Goliaths are looked upon by Ice Reach residents as caretakers for some creature and some ceremony; these things are not discussed with outsiders but the party finds bits and pieces of information during their stay in Ice Reach.

After trekking two days north, the party arrives and Xzin presents the Drow’s Bane to the two Goliath Ambassadors. Xzin is humble and is looking for answers to the strange events occurring since the arrival of the Drow’s Bane to Ice Reach; like the other Ice Reach residents, Xzin holds the Goliaths in high esteem for their wisdom and advice. But the Goliaths responses are spiteful and chastising; they believe the Drow’s Bane are imposters and need to be punished.

A battle begins in spite of Xzin trying to mediate the situation. The Goliaths rage and viciously fight the party but are eventually overtaken and fall. Xzin, shocked in horror by the turn of events, comes clean with the truth. There is a Silver Dragon named Angdan who lives on the top of the mountain. Angdan routinely conducts a ‘Ceremony of the Silver Heart’ that Xzin believes is honorable. Worthy Ice Reach residents, visitors and all Ice Reach children partake in the ceremony by way of the Goliath Embassy; these selected individuals journey up the Silver Path, meet Angdan and under his guidance become protectors of the realm, never to be seen again.

The Wand of Orcus is destabilizing the bag of holding and Royce removes it seconds before the bag implodes. The Wand reacts to Royce’s handling of it, by instantly killing Royce and turning him into a zombie. The party deals with the situation and resurrects Royce; Xzin, in shock and horror, witnesses these unholy events and mocks the party for mocking him about the Goliaths, Angdan and the Ceremony of the Silver Heart.

The party settles down once Royce awakens and takes a long rest; unaware the Wand’s aura is causing the Goliath corpses to rot and spoiling all food in the area; ice cock roaches responding to the Wand’s aura, have assembled in the corners of the room by the time the party wakes up.

The trek up the Silver Path is nearly vertical, hiking 500 feet up the mountain to a path made of clouds, that ascends another 500 feet up to the mountain top. Besides extreme cold weather, the Drow’s Bane are attacked by two Rocs on the cloud path. A Roc grabs hold of Royce and drops him 500 feet below; Royce survives and calls forth Daern’s Instant Fortress for protection. Nong, Naismith and Mordrock perform acts of ‘Cirque du Soleil’ on the Rocs as a way to counter the Roc’s grab and drop tactic. During this encounter, Xzin is never attacked by the Rocs even though he attacks the creatures in self-defense.

The party continues up the cloud path after disposing the Rocs; one nearly crashes into Daern’s Instance Fortress 500 feet below. The mountain top consists of a large space centered around ancient ruins; 50 feet above the ruins a heart shaped cloud hovers revealing just a face of a Silver Dragon. For a few hours, Naismith, Nong, Mordrock and Xzin hang out at the mountain top edge, recovering from the Roc attack while Royce recovers in the Instant Fortress.

When the party crosses into the area with the ruins, the dragon speaks and welcomes the party to approach as five chairs made of clouds form in front of a table made of clouds. The chair backs resemble elongated dragon necks that extend into dragon heads over the top of the chairs. A human woman greets the party and apologizes for Angdan being unable to assist the party on the cloud path due to the extreme weather. Xzin immediately recognizes the woman to be his wife, Shevin, and runs to her; the couple embraces and just goes after each other as if they have not seen each other for days. Xzin pulls back from their kiss and tells Shevin about the Goliath Embassy.

Angdan laughs, flys out of the heart shaped cloud and lands his huge body next to the cloud table and chairs. He beckons the party to approach, sit and converse. Nong, Naismith and Mordrock approach and begin talking with Angdan. Eventually one of them sits down on a dragon chair. What happens next is a surprise for the group: something hiding in the head of the chair attempts to attack and fails, revealing itself to be an Intellect Devourer! Four other Intellect Devourers climb out of the other chairs and attack. Angdan takes off circling around the area, taunting the Drow’s Bane.

Shevin pushes Xzin onto the ground and taunts her husband as she unsheathes her long sword and moves to attack the party. Xzin is besides himself, confused with what he’s witnessing between his wife’s and Angdan’s behavior.

Naismith, Nong and Mordrock engage, taking down the Intellect Devourers in between Angdan’s breadth weapon, claws and tail swings. Nong takes down Shevin as Angdan takes down Mordock; when Shevin falls, an Intellect Devourer emerges from her head and attacks Nong. Naismith moves around the battlefield, ducking and covering and unleashing damage to the dragon. The battle is difficult without Royce’s support and eventually Nong is barely up, when a Mind Flayer exits out of the ruins and attacks. Xzin comes out of shock and attacks the Mind Flayer only to be stunned by the Mind Flayer’s mind blast.

Naismith, who is hiding but cornered, reaches into his bag and takes hold of the Wand as Angdan searches for the rogue, flying above. The Wand responds to Naismith’s command and an arc of necrotic energy releases from the Wand into the dragon! Angdan lets out a great roar as the necrotic energy tears into his flesh. The sound is so loud, even Royce hears it causing Royce to check in with the party. Minutes later, Royce shifts into the Ethereal plane and travels up the mountain.

Naismith delivers the killing blow to Angdan using the Wand one more time. The Wand reaches out to Naismith with excitement and a thirst for destruction; it tries to join with Naismith but fails. The familiar eye in Nong’s mind closes as an eye in Naismith’s mind opens. An Intellect Devourer emerges from Angdan’s head and attacks. Naismith quickly puts down the Intellect Devourer.

Royce recovers the party and as Mordrock’s eyes awaken he watches as Xzin, speaking to himself walks past; Xzin looks in shock, with unfocused eyes and babbling to himself, “…my life is a lie…I’m a joke…what was my wife…what did I do to my children!?!…”. Mordrock stands up and calls out to Xzin as he watches Xzin walk off the side of the mountain to his death.

After the party recovers they make their way down the stairs that leads deeper into the ruins.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Ice Reach

Below are key moments from the previous session worth noting.

Mordrock now carries the bag of holding that contains the wand of Orcus. When Mordrock opens the bag to peer inside for the first time, his mysterious necklace flashes intense burning heat. The flash of heat pricks his skin as he recognizes, what is inside the bag reeks of tremendous necrotic power. Nong is also interested in the bag of holding and draws closer to Mordrock.

Ice Reach is a human settlement founded 50 years ago by an expedition led from Silverymoon to Highmelt Lake region. In Highmelt Lake, the expedition stumbles upon the rare Greyboon fungus and discovers Bluefin Tinker fish spawning grounds. The Bluefin Tinker fish brain is an alchemical ingredient to make potions of water-breathing and also induces a temporary fugue state when ground up and snorted; the latter property is a component much sought after in the pleasure houses of the realm. Between Greyboon sustenance and Bluefin Tinker to trade, the expedition setup a fragile settlement called Ice Reach. The offspring of the expedition leaders, a man known as Xzin, is the current jarl of Ice Reach.

The inhabitants of Ice Reach have grey mottled skin; a result of consuming Greyboon fungus. Once a person consumes 3 servings of Greyboon fungus his/her system can no longer sustain itself on any other food source.

Xzin appreciates the party’s assistance with the Remorhaz attack on the quarry. Ice Reach has not experienced a Remorhaz attack since the extreme blizzard two years ago that caused much of the Remorhaz natural prey to parish. Plus, the party receives bonus points for Mordrock helping prepare the dead for the evening funeral. Unfortunately, these bonus points are quickly cancelled when Royce threatens to level Ice Reach with an earthquake in front of Xzin and several guards the next morning.

The party meets the enthusiastic Wrennick, foreman of the Greyboon harvesting operations. Wrennick is delighted to have guests interested in a tour of the Greyboon cave. The large cavernous Greyboon cave brings to mind memories of the Underdark to Royce, Naismith and Nong. Unfortunately, Wrennick stumbles down a wrong path and right into the open mouth of a purple worm. This causes the mouth to close and swallow at the same time the party stops dead in their tracks in shock of what just happened.

Journey to Fate’s doorstep: Skyreach Castle

The party prepares for a long night’s rest on top of the huge bed that serves as Blagothkus’s ‘guest bedroom’. Royce lays down, closes his eyes, and offers a prayer to Tempus. He allows his mind to reflect on the day – ‘flying on pegasi, a Cloud Giant and his humongous castle and a battle with huge monsters – haven’t seen that in awhile’. The remorhaz battle was dangerous and it reminded Royce how out of shape he feels. ‘The rush of adrenaline and fear, thinking on your feet and keeping focused on spells in the heat of battle – man I am out of shape but happy we did our job, praise Tempus!’.

His mind shifts to reflect on this new cleric of Kelemvor accompanying the Drow’s Bane, the hill dwarf Mordrock. ‘I like the guy so far, seems to have an interesting history. Boy does Lady Silverhand like him, haha. I wonder if Kelemvor and Tempus are good buddies?’ he smiles. ‘I loved when Mordrock casted that banishment spell just at the right time. He definitely feels to me like he can stand on his own which is great… I get this odd feeling, Skyreach and Blagothkus is all he knows. The description Blagothkus told us about the human settlement, Ice Reach, didn’t appear to resonate any familiarity with Mordrock.’

Royce’s mind settles on Nong for a moment. ‘Nong is back which is good, but so is his uncomfortable stares and such. Every time I sense something, I turn and there he is, staring at me or sitting right beside me. As if that isn’t enough oddity, now my sword is complaining about being too close to the wand. We have to do something about this soon. That evil artifact has a mind of its own and will not just behave. Tempus what is this trial you have given me?’

Naismith turns over and tries to calm his mind from a day full of adventure. ‘I did not expect such a day. Today put my Skullport shenanigans to shame. Even though we managed to take those humongous things down, our synergy was off; it wasn’t the same without Kendall and Illian. Nong was fearless in battle of course, even more so than before. If there was an ounce of fear in him like I felt, he never showed it. Kendall and Illian would have been proud to be at his side today’.

Naismith thinks for a moment, ‘Unfortunately, we must take the good with the bad in this life. Nong outside of battle is back to his peculiarities again with Royce. I feel we’ve only just begun to tread down this road’.

Mordrock lay on his back staring at the ceiling 100 feet above. He exhales and watches his breadth condense into a misty cloud that slowly dissipates. ‘Skyreach is just as awesome as I remember it, except for the 3 huge burrow holes and dead remorhazes in the courtyard. Blagothkus looks a bit older and a tad less agile, but aren’t we all? His story about freeing his wife’s spirit is bittersweet; may Kelemvor show her the way to eternal rest. One day you free your wife’s spirit, say goodbye and the next day random pegasi show up and never leave your side…pretty awesome’. Mordrock shifts over to his side, before closing his eyes he scans the top of the bed, taking in the guys who call themselves the Drow’s Bane. ‘These three seem cool although I think the cleric and monk are embarrassed to talk to me about their past relationship that might have gone sour. I get it, we have only known each other for 2 days. The way I see the monk stare at the cleric tells me the attraction is not over. The last thing we need on this trip is for romantic drama to get in the way’.

Nong settles into a deep meditative state; he returns his breadth to its familiar steady rhythm of inhales and exhales. He allows his mind to awaken and focus deeply inward. ‘I acknowledge the the feeling of satisfaction for my battle discipline today. I acknowledge a moment of regret that Kendall and Illian were not on the battlefield with us. I allow myself to feel content for the camaraderie with Royce and Naismith again.’ Nong’s breadth pauses as his mind moves deeper into reflection. He allows his mind to uncover something that has returned, something that is open again. Nong’s mind sees an eye staring back at him from the far corner of his mind…somewhere on the distant horizon. He moves toward the eye, reaches out and touches it. The contact generates an emotion – a feeling of being in the heat of battle…adrenaline…strength…control…focus. There is also a subtler feeling underneath that Nong uncovers.

He allows his mind to experience this deeper feeling; it is one of chaos, submission to a greater power and of dominance over all. This feeling is so intense and intoxicating; it seems to nourish itself on the feelings of battle. Nong’s breadth is unsteady now as he moves his mind away from the eye. He tries to regain the steady breathing rhythm but it is difficult. He awakens and his eyes lock on Royce’s; immediately Royce looks away. Nong turns over and begins to calm his mind again; hopefully this time he can just fall asleep.