Session 11
The Replacement

Renaer Neverember walked into the tavern with a dark-skinned human companion. “Ah, Korahd. Where is everyone?”

“We’re all here, today,” the eladrin replied. “Too dangerous to wander the streets alone now. Who’s your friend?”

“This is Nugai.” He turned to the man. “Nugai, this is the group I was telling you about.”

The man nodded. “Yes, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Renaer has always had only good things to say about you all. Professionally, I am known as Brother Ondateem. But since we are to work together, it may be simpler for you to refer to me as Nugai.”

“Welcome to our humble establishment,” said Wean.

“Well met, Nugai. I’m Korahd Shadowinter; this is Wean, and that’s Swift over there.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Did Ranaer bring you up to speed on what’s going on here?”

“He did.” Nugai paused, his expression turning sympathetic. “I was very sorry to hear about your friend.”

“Thank you.” Almost immediately, Korahd’s eyes welled up with tears.

“He died doing his job,” said Wean. “The best many of us can hope for. Also, we were very outmatched. It’s a mistake we hope to avoid next time around.”

Nugai nodded solemnly. “Might I secure a room for my tenure among you?”

Korahd wiped her eyes. “Oh, of course! Let me show you.” Nugai smiled warmly and let her lead him away. “We’ll put you in this room here, okay? Come see us once you’ve gotten settled.”

“Of course. Thank you.”

Nugai returned downstairs a few minutes later, as Lord Neverember was taking his leave. “If there is nothing else, I will be returning home.”

“Be well, Renaer,” said Nugai.

“And watch your back,” added Swift.

“Thank you, I will,” said the nobleman.

“We’ll send word when there is some,” said Korahd. After Renaer left, Korahd grabbed the last bottle of raspberry mead from the bar and sat at her favorite table.

“As to the task at hand, you have the artifact, which has told you the location of the vault. You have secured the three keys, as well?” said Nugai.

“We have,” said Swift.

“Is there anything more you require?”

The Shifter shook his head. “Only thing left to do is prepare for meeting a dragon … however you do that.”

Nugai smiled. “I am inclined to pray.”

“Say something nice for me too,” said Swift.

“And mending, if and when that meeting goes poorly for us,” said Korahd.

Without further ado, they rose and left the tavern.

Korahd peppered Nugai with questions on the way to the mausoleum, not all of them pertinent.

The cleric took her questions in stride, thoughtfully replying to each. “I am not certain of the best recipe for preparing displacer beast. Perhaps something with curry?” he said as they neared the mausoleum.

The Q&A was interrupted as the largest tree growing in front of the entrance awakened and growled, “Only those of Brandath blood are welcome here! Begone!”

“Oh, but that’s where you’re mistaken, Your Treefulness,” said Korahd. “Wean is, in fact, a scion of that house.”

“He is not. None of you are.”

“If I may, Green One, how do you know that for certain?”

“I can sense you do not carry the blood of the Brandath family line.”

“I take it this was not one of the keys,” said Nugai.

“Not according to the Stone, no.” Korahd reached into her bag of holding for the Stone. “Say there, Golorr, do we know anyone with the blood of Brandath?”

“There are books that cover these things,” said Wean.

“Do you have one on you?” asked Swift. “’Cause that would be awesome.”

“No, but most libraries in the northward should have a copy. I expect I can find a copy if we want to track down one of these Brandath kin.”

“Do we?” asked Nugai.

“No idea. Just seemed like information worth sharing.”

“I don’t know if we have that kind of time,” said Korahd. “I’m still not wholly convinced that the Zhents or bloody Orcus himself didn’t follow us here. So, fellows, what do we do?”

“I am the protector of this tomb,” said the treant. “I can only let those of the Brandath line enter.”

“Treant, are others allowed to enter with permission from someone of the right bloodline?” asked Wean.


“Blast it all,” said Korahd. “Fine, let’s find a Brandath.”

* * *

The adventurers were annoyed that Renaer did not know about his mother’s family mausoleum and its treant guardian. Somewhat sheepishly, the young nobleman agreed to accompany them for the last part of this task.

The treant nodded to Renaer respectfully. “Lord Neverember. Your mother was a lovely person.”

They entered the mausoleum.

Inside, a family emblem was emblazoned on the floor between four ostentatious marble coffins, each engraved with the names of those interred within. After a passing glance, they continued farther within. Empty sconces adorned the walls, cobwebs and dust indicated that no one had tended to this place in a long time. More stone coffins lined the walls in alcoves.

A wide stone corridor ended before an adamantine double door bearing Dwarvish runes. The doors had neither handles nor hinges and the writing on them read: “THE THREE KEYS. BRING THEM FORTH." The adventurers presented the three “keys” that the Stone of Golorr had identified and the great door swung open ponderously.

Beyond, three age-worn columns supported crumbling stone bridges 60 feet overhead, with the ceiling rising another 20 feet beyond that. Set into alcoves were twelve sets of double doors made of iron. Each door was embossed with images of dwarf warriors in plate armor.

“Do you have dwarves in your family tree, Renaer?” Korahd asked. “Or did they just build all this for your family?”

“No idea,” the young man admitted.

“Perhaps you should reconnect with your mother’s side of the family,” advised Nugai.

The party took a few minutes to explore the chamber, and after a while, the cleric of Lliira commented. “Most of these doors are fake. Those are not,” he pointed to the two sets in the northwest corner.

Past the doors on the eastern wall, the path turned southward. The north wall bore a large square fresco that depicted dwarves battling goblins. At the far south end of the chamber, expertly carved stairs climbed 70 feet up to the next area.

Three pillars running the length of the hall were carved to resemble warhammers, with their square heads pressed against the floor. The west wall bore a cracked mosaic that depicted a dwarf smith at a forge, crafting dwarves out of black metal and diamonds. Three archways in the east wall led to crumbling bridges that spanned the entrance foyer and ended in front of adamantine doors. A little more than halfway down the hall, a section of the western mural had broken off, forming a heap of shattered tile on the floor.

“Okay … this place is confusing,” said Swift. “Great craftsmanship … but confusing.”

“The wealthy can afford the most insane of architects,” said Nugai.

“Hey, there’s a door over here,” said Korahd, pointing to the west wall, near the south wall. The door was heavy, and Nugai stepped up to push it open for the group.

A dust-filled room must have lain untouched since the time of the Delzoun dwarves. Green copper urns on platforms overflowed with coins, gems, and more. They unceremoniously shoved it all into Korahd’s bag of holding.

They crossed the southernmost of the three bridges first and spent some time forcing the door open. The north, east, and south walls of the room were adorned with dust-covered frescoes depicting dwarf smiths at work in their forges. An iron anvil sat atop a raised stone block in the middle of the floor. Both fixtures were draped in cobwebs. Swift noticed that the stone hammer being wielded by the smith in the fresco on the south wall could be removed. It left a hammer-shaped indentation in the wall.

“We may need that somewhere else,” said Korahd.

Nugai examined the hammer. "There are Dwarvish runes here.

“What does it say?”

“They translate to ‘Let hearts be lifted and battles won.’”

“I like the hammer.”

“Oh, and there are runes on the stone beneath the anvil, as well. ‘Let the hammer fall and the anvil ring.’”

“So let’s take the hammer to the anvil and see what happens,” said Swift.

Nugai nodded. “Sensible.”

When the anvil was struck with the hammer, an aura of protective magic enveloped everyone.

“I feel good, and I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of… kind of invincible…” said Swift.

“Me, too,” said Korahd. “I got a very positive attitude about this.”

Across the north bridge, they found a 10-foot-tall painted statue of an armored male dwarf wielding a battleaxe and wearing a mask standing at the back of the room. Before the statue, set into the floor, was an adamantine trapdoor with a pull ring along one side. They looked around for more Dwarvish verse but found none. And so they considered the statue.

“I think it’s a dwarf!” said Korahd.

“I know it’s not Gond,” said Swift.

“One of the obscure Dwarf gods,” said Nugai.

Korahd nodded. “I’ll have to find a dwarf to ask when we’re done here. Should we see what’s in the other room before we go opening this door?”

“Might as well take a peek,” said Swift. “Try the trap door?”

Nugai grabbed the ring and attempted to lift the door open. When he did, the statue’s eyes lit up and a blast fire struck the cleric. The protective magic from the anvil room took some of the flames, but he was still singed. “Ow,” he said.

“Rat crap!” said Korahd.

“I will tend to my burns while you investigate the next bridge. If you want to do that. Though perhaps we should try to stay on task to reach the actual vault.” Korahd and Swift crossed the bridge while Wean sat with Nugai, attuning to a magic headband they had found.

The advance scouts found four suits of rusted plate armor sized for a dwarf, standing in the corners of the final bridge room. Each suit was draped in cobwebs, and Dwarvish runes were carved into the far wall.

Korahd called out: “Hey, Nugai, which is the rune that’s shaped like a man in a boat?”

“The clitoris.”

“Sure,” she said, nonplussed, “but how do you say it in Dwarvish?”

Nugai pronounced it then said, “Have you found a Dwarven Kama Sutra?”

“Maybe? I can’t read any of this. I guess we need you to come translate it once you’re less charred up.”

“All right.”

About eight minutes later, Nugai joined the others. “It says ‘A secret never before told will part Dumathoin’s lips.’”

“Is ‘Dumathoin’ Dwarvish for ‘vagina’?” asked Korahd.

“I think he’s the God of secrets…” said Swift. “So that makes sense.”

“But that’s not the one in the other room, with the mask?”

Swift shrugged. “Don’t think so.”

“Ah. I see no lips to part. Perhaps it refers to opening a passageway?” said Nugai. “Does anyone care to part with a secret?”

“I was the one who farted and ruined Midwinter!” Korahd announced. “I’ve never said that aloud.”

A spiral stairway opened in the middle of the floor heading deeper into the dwarven complex.

“Your gaseous confession has opened the way,” said Nugai.

“Oh, good.” The eladrin’s cheeks were reddened. “Let’s move on.”

The cleric did not conceal his grin. “You serve the Joybringer well, my new friend.”

Although deep underground, the vault below was lit by streams of sunlight that poured down from the ceiling, catching motes of dust in their luminous pools. Ornate columns supported a vaulted ceiling, which was adorned with carvings of dwarves basking in the presence of their gods. Deep alcoves lined the walls, and piled in one of them was a vast golden trove.

Out of the dusty gloom stepped an aged dwarf clutching a staff carved and painted to resemble a pair of entwined dragons – one red, one gold. Despite the dwarf’s age, his eyes were steady and bright. “I wasn’t expecting anyone,” he said plainly. “As you can see, the place is a mess. Perhaps you should come back later, after I’ve tidied up a bit.”

“That’s all right,” said Korahd. “We’ve had months to clean our tavern and you’d never know it to look at it. Korahd Shadowinter at your service.” She approached him.

“Barok Clanghammer. Pleased to meet ya.”

Nugai introduced himself then thought to say, “This is Renaer Neverember.”

“Oh, Lord Neverember. My, have you grown. Last time I saw you, you were a wee lad.”

Renaer frowned. “Uh, hello. I apologize, but I don’t really remember you.”

“Of course not, you were mebbe a few months old.”

“Are you a guardian here?” said Korahd. “Or one of them? We were told there’s a gold dragon here somewhere.”

“Dragon? Dragon’s can’t enter Waterdeep, lass.”

“Oh? Oh. We saw one in the harbor, but maybe that doesn’t count as the city.”

“And we are deep beneath Waterdeep, are we not?” said Nugai.

The dwarf shrugged, so Korahd pressed on. “Well, dragon or no, the Zhentarim have been trying to get into this vault, and we… Well, we’re tired of crossing paths with them over the Stone of Golorr.”

“Zhentarim you say?” said Barok. “Who has the stone now?”

“We do. Or, more specifically, I do. We were thinking that, if we simply give it to you – well, you in the absence of a dragon – that might keep them from getting in here.”

“It seemed like a solid plan at the time,” said Wean.

“I see,” said Barok.

“And,” Korahd added quickly, “we aren’t interested in the treasure. Not in any of it. That isn’t why we’re here. We just want to make sure that Bad Guys can’t have it.”

“So you would give me the stone to guard? Yes, I guess if I have it no one else would be able to get to the treasure.”

“Do you … live down here?” asked Swift.

“Yes, I try to take care of the place.”

“How do you get in and out? The way we came in hadn’t been trodden in decades.”

“I have my ways. I am a dwarf after all.”

Swift frowned. “Very powerful people are killing one another to get the Stone because it is the map to the only way into the most secure vault in Waterdeep … but you have your ways. You must be very powerful yourself.”

During the conversation, Wean wandered the vault, stopping to pick up a single gold piece from the pile. When he returned to the others, he said, “He seems to legitimately live here.”

“That’s not yours,” said Barok.

“What are you talking about?”

“I heard you take gold from the pile.”

“My mistake.”

“I wouldn’t be much of a guard if I couldn’t tell if someone tried taking something or stop them from doing it.”

Wean flicked a piece of gold back into the pile, but not the one he took. The dwarf seemed satisfied. “Barok, are you a dragon?”

The dwarf burst out laughing, and Korahd, startled, joined him. “I like you,” said Barok when he’d recovered from his mirth. “I haven’t had this much fun in ages.”

“So you guard this treasure,” said Swift. “That makes this situation problematic. As Korahd said, we don’t want the gold really. But someone who already killed one of our friends wants it very badly, and he knows we have the stone. So as long as that gold stays here, he will be coming after us to get the stone and information.”

“Well if I have the stone. I can change the keys, then no one will be able to enter after you leave,” said Barok.

“But then how with the rightful owner know how to get in? And who is that anyhow?”

“Lord Neverember is the rightful owner. Well, the other Lord Neverember.”

“Also the Zhents would still come after us.”

“Are you asking to move in with me?”

“Not really asking for anything. I’m saying that we have to give the Zhents no more reason to want to get in here. Then the information we have is worthless and they’ll leave us alone … maybe.”

“That doesn’t seem like Barok’s problem, no,” said Korahd. “We’ll have to deal with the Zhentarim ourselves, one way or another.”

Barok nodded. “I can prevent them from getting the gold, but that’s about it. Without the stone, they wouldn’t be able to get in here.”

Korahd took the Stone out of her bag and offered it to the dwarf. “Then, here. Take it. Please.” Barok nodded and accepted the Stone. The eladrin exhaled in relief. “I only need ONE inanimate object talking to me, please and also thank you.”

“Will the stone know the new keys, once you change them?” asked Wean.

“Unfortunately,” said Barok.

“How much gold are we talking about here? Does it even matter if the Zhent’s get it? They’re already immensely wealthy, are they not?”

“If they want it so badly, there is probably a very bad reason for it,” said Nugai. “I would say keeping it from them matters.”

“Well, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of death for not having an item the Zhents assume we have, so it would be nice to resolve that detail before we ascend to the impending doom which waits above.”

“That seems a separate matter from whether or not the Stone remains with Barok.”

“It seems material to me. Could we not simply break the stone, so there is something to hand over; both preventing re-entry into this place AND giving us a chance at falling off the Zhent’s ‘to do’ list?”

“Do you want Barok to give us a RECEIPT?” said Korahd, incredulous.

“Well… We can give it to you, and the Zhents will kill us. Or we can give it to them and be done with it,” said Swift.

“I already gave it to him, Swift. Do you want it back?”

Nugai frowned. “Well, I am here for Renaer. My Lord, what do you think?”

The nobleman looked exceedingly uncomfortable. “My father embezzled this wealth. I feel we should return it to whomever it actually belongs to.”

Korahd sighed. “Right. The people it actually belongs to.”

“If Barok will allow it,” said Nugai. They all turned their attention back to the dwarf.

“If we could even get this much money out of here, would you allow us to return it to its rightful owners?” said Korahd.

The dwarf considered for a long moment. “Aye, if you feel that’s best, Lord Neverember. Let me walk you out.”

Unfortunately, as they entered the iron door gallery, they stumbled into a fight in progress: Zhents led by Manshoon against Zhents led by Istrid Horn. Seeing this, Barok shapechanged to an adult gold dragon.

“I knew it!” cried Korahd.


Interlude: My Bonnie
Korahd's Letter to a Barmaid

My Bonnie,

Now, see, I’ve only just started this letter and already I want to start over. It feels presumptuous to call you mine, doesn’t it? I mean, I have come to think of myself as yours, even though I can’t seem to find the words to tell you. And, yes, it makes no sense that someone who never shuts up can’t tell a girl how she feels, not really, but, here we are. (I can tell Primara, though. A cursed unicorn statue? Yeah, her I can tell.) I guess this letter counts as telling you? Maybe it’ll be easier for me to say it out loud now that you already know it’s true. Or maybe not? Maybe I’ll live long enough to find out. I swear, I don’t even make sense to myself north of half the time.


By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. Now that we have this stone, and the keys, and the location of the vault, we’re going to go find it. Our plan is to simply give the stone to the dragon guarding it, so that none of these other jerks who are looking for the vault will be able to get it. It’s not much of a plan, I admit – it’s barely even an idea – but it’s all we’ve got, and if we spend any longer trying to top it, someone will find us, and it’s bad enough that Sam is gone. I would rather lead this danger away from our threshold, and let you curse my name for the leaving, than let it find you. I can’t even tell you where the vault is, because I’d hate for someone to come and take that knowledge from you.

And so, while everyone else sleeps, I write, and think of you. Some part of me fears that I will never see you again, but I know that part is wrong. I will come home to you. And who knows? Maybe I’ll feel truly worthy of you then.

You know, when I first came to this city, notions of worthiness gnawed on me like ghouls on bones. The truth is that I didn’t leave the Feywild as much as I was cast out of it. My mothers never approved of my bargain with my Lady of Mirrors – never understood it. I spent all my days hungering for glory, for a chance to prove to them (ALL of them!) that I deserved to be called a Shadowinter, even though my road to power split from theirs. And, while I can’t deny I would still love to show them how wrong they were, the chance to show you what a great hero I can be appeals to me far more.

I’m going to go talk to a dragon! Again! I hope it’ll listen to us. I hope that Manshoon and all these others who want the vault cry their eyes out when they can’t get in. I hope I live to tell you all about it.

The dawn is coming, and I can tarry no longer. Should we fail, try to remember me in better days, and know that some called me mad, but I was only ever, truly, mad about you.

Ever yours,
Korahd Neverwinter

Interlude - In Need of Joy
In Which We Meet Nugai

Sister Wellington awoke me gently to let me know that I had a visitor. I thanked her and dressed swiftly, curious who would seek me out at such a late hour. When I saw Lord Neverember – he insists we call him Renaer – I could not help but smile. He has ever been a generous tither, particularly after his abduction and subsequent rescue.

I greeted him warmly, though it was clear from his expression that he was upset. I invited him to sit in one of the temple’s private rooms while I fetched some mulled wine for his nerves. When he drained half the cup in a single gulp, I knew whatever was amiss was something serious. I did not, however, pry. He would share what he would in his own time.

Grief, as it happens, was the cause of his distress. A friend had died by violence, and Renaer said he felt no small amount of guilt, though he did not immediately say why. By and by, he explained that his deceased friend was one of the people who had liberated him from captivity. He had never had anything but kind words for these folk, though I have never had occasion to make their acquaintance. I shared my sincere condolences.

Then, young Lord Neverember admitted that the young man had been slain while seeking something on the nobleman’s behalf. The item had been recovered, but at the cost of a life, it is no small wonder that Renaer would question his responsibility. I consoled him, reminding him that each of us must follow our own path, and though this young man’s journey has ended, it had been in service to a friend. His death may be lamented, yes, but his life must also be celebrated. I think my words offered some measure of comfort.

When Renaer seemed calmer and his cup was empty, I dared to ask why he had sought me out for counsel above others. We are acquaintances, yes, and he has never been anything less than cordial, but we are not close. Typically in times of loss, one reaches out to someone more familiar. When his expression clouded once more, I realized he had come to me with a request.

Lord Neverember confessed that the object that had cost him his friend was but a means to an end. It provides a way to access a vault containing immense wealth set aside by his father some years ago. It appears that he has asked his surviving friends to proceed in seeking out this vault, despite the gold dragon that is said to serve as its guardian. And in the absence of their lost companion, Renaear would like me to provide counsel and divine magical protection for the venture.

The likeliest danger comes in the form of a wizard of great magical prowess, an ancient creature known as Manshoon. He is a leader among the nefarious Zhentarim organization that has stirred up so much trouble in Waterdeep of late. In fact, it was he that slew the young nobleman’s friend, right on the heels of recovering the artifact they needed to access the elder Lord Neverember’s hidden treasure.

This dangerous man also seeks the vault and knows the identity of one of the surviving adventurers whom Renaer holds so dear. It is only a matter of time before he tracks them down and they all rightly fear they would not survive a second such encounter.

Renaer said that he appreciates the danger that this task entails, and he told me that he did not ask this service of me lightly. I have the Joybringer’s favor, of course, and have been trained as a capable combatant, should it come to that. Still, a dragon and an ancient wizard? I confess that I am not certain I am up to this task.

However, Lord Neverember is a good and faithful – and, as I mentioned, generous – servant of Lliira. Despite his recent conversion, I am inclined to accept this request and do everything in my power to thwart this villain and keep the Neverember fortune out of his hands.

May the Mistress of Revels smile upon me.

Session 10
The Resolution

“I’m not sure we’ve done anything this year that hasn’t pissed off the Zhentarim,” said Korahd, going through Wean’s pockets to find one of the healing potions there. She carefully fed it to him and the young man regained consciousness.

“Whoa, what happened?” he asked, “and why do I taste fruit?”

The eladrin pointed at Agorn’s body. “That man tried to kill his mother, but the Zhents killed him instead. Then those two strangers stepped in to help,” she said, pointing them out.

Wean nodded. “Caught right up then.”

“And who are the two of you again?” Swift asked the strangers. “Your timing was perfect.”

“Like I said, I’m Mavia, he’s Salazar. We were watching Agorn’s mom’s house to see who would show up.”

“Just for fun, or…?”

“We’ve been monitoring Agorn to see if he was working with the Zhents or part of them.”

“Turns out he pissed on them more than any of us. OFF. Pissed them OFF more than any of us,” said Korahd. “You didn’t see anyone else come through here, did you? Carrying some sort of stone, perhaps?”

“Nope, just him and you lot.”

“You wanna come have a drink on us and we’ll talk about it?”

“Thanks but we need to go report in.”

“All right. Hey, let’s tell that carriage driver that her fare’s done for the night, maybe see if she’ll take us home.”

“Sounds good,” said Swift.

“Aye, we should be off, what with all the bodies piling up,” said Wean.

Korahd nodded. “I think that would be for the best.”

She led her companions over to the carriage. “Pardon me, madam, but your prior fare has expired and we wish to engage you to return us to our tavern.”

“What do you mean expired?”

“The Zhentarim stabbed him more than three times. You didn’t see him run into anyone else before he got here, did you?”

“No, just him and the lady he had me drop off before I brought him here.”

“There was a lady?” said Wean.

“Yes. I picked them up at the theatre.”

“Lady. I see. What can you recall about her?” said Korahd.

“Average looking.”

“Perhaps you could take us back to our tavern in North Ward, and we could ride by your previous drop off,” suggested Wean.

“Sure, it’s a tower in Castle Ward, which is sort of on the way.”

* * *

They picked up Sam K, piled back into the carriage, and took a ride over to a building encircled by wooden scaffolding known as the Yellow Tower. The outer door had a tiny peephole with a closed iron shutter on the inside, but it was not locked and the party let themselves in. Rotting tapestries adorned the walls, and mud and dirt had accumulated on the floor. Black handprints with fingers and thumb held together covered every interior surface.

“Is that a symbol? Does that mean something?” asked Korahd.

“That looks like the symbol of Bane,” said Wean.

“He’s one of the worst ones, right?”

“Huh. Neat,” said Sam K, heading through the next door.

Stone spiral stairs curled up into the tower and down into the cellar. Set into the west wall was a fireplace blackened with soot. A burned heap that was once a padded leather chair lay near the fireplace.

“Stairs,” the half-elf reported. “Up or down?” Then he held up a hand for silence. “Shh. Chanting from upstairs.”

“Up, it is,” said Swift.

At the top of the stairs, Sam K stopped and said, “Oh, my.”

A lidless iron cauldron hung on an iron hook within a soot-stained fireplace. A wizard’s portrait hung on the wall above the mantelpiece. The floor was littered with shards of broken glass, burned scraps of paper, twisted pieces of metal, and bird droppings. Other furnishings included a rocking chair, a trellis table, and the charred remains of a bookshelf, all shrouded in thick cobwebs. Arrow slits lined the walls, and pigeons nested in the rafters.

What had drawn the half-elf’s attention, however, were the room’s occupants. A woman led a chant with four candle-bearing underlings who formed a circle around a gagged and blindfolded man shackled to the floor.

Sam K cleared his throat as he stepped into the chamber to let the others in from the stairwell. “Excuse me. Do you know a man named Agorn?”

“Kill them,” said the woman. “We’ll finish this after we take care of them.”


“Oh, good. I’m about all bantered out anyway,” said Korahd.

“No one has any manners these days,” said Swift.

“You hate to see it,” said Sam K.

To call it a fight would have been very generous to the evildoers surrounding the chained man. Even the winged snakes that lurked in some of the arrow slits did not stand much chance against the adventurers. Sam K found the shackle key on the woman’s body and handed it to Korahd, who released the prisoner. The man introduced himself as Shan Chien.

“So tell me, Shan Chien, how did you run afoul of these… Baneites? Baneys? Not that I really care what they call themselves,” said the eladrin.

“They wanted to brainwash me so they could take over my broadsheet.”

“Then I’m glad we got here when we did.”

“Wait, you’re a newspaper guy?” said Sam K.

The man explained that he was the publisher for The Targe, a broadsheet that offers up vitriolic rants on all manner of local topics, including politics. The Banites’ ritual was designed to break his will, making him subservient to Bane. The woman – Amath – had been using this ritual to “turn” broadsheet publishers as part of a larger plot to control the flow of information in the city. They also found notes in the room saying that the Zhents hired the Banites to take control of the news in Waterdeep.

“Huh,” said Sam K. “Well, will you write a good review for our tavern, by way of thanks?”

The half-elf looked back down at Amath’s body and frowned at a lump in her pouch that he hadn’t noticed before. He leaned down and lifted up an oblong green stone with an uncanny appearance. Sam K quickly handed the stone over to Wean, almost too eagerly. “It talks!” he said, sounding disturbed.

“Interesting,” said Wean. “I hear you’re a key,” the young man addressed the stone and started a mental conversation with it.

“What did it say? Is it as nice as the unicorn?” Korahd wanted to know.

“I dunno,” said Sam K.

“This is the Stone of Golorr, all right,” said Wean. “Or rather, this is the aboleth named Golorr, who was turned into this stone. It does indeed know where to find the vault and the keys needed to access it. We’ll need to secure a cask of dwarven ale, a painting of a dwarf miner, and a silvered warhammer. However, the vault is not without a guardian – a gold dragon named Aurinax.”

“So do we just give the stone back to Renaer?” said Korahd. No one had an immediate answer, so the eladrin shrugged. “Okay, I am now in dire need of a hot bath and the longest trance in the history of elvenkind.”

“Someone’s coming up the stairs,” said Sam K. “Hm. Bodies everywhere. Hope it’s not the fuzz.”

Swift aimed his gun at the stairs, just in case. A gray-skinned man with long black hair and dark clothing ascended into the chamber. When he saw the party, he looked confused. “Who are you? Where is my stone?”

“I’m Korahd Shadowinter,” said the eladrin. “If you drink enough fluids, you might be able to pass it without too much discomfort…”

“That’s just sound advice,” said Sam K, trying to sound bored. “Anyway, you’ve got the wrong tower, mate. This was the murder party.”

“Murder party,” said the man. “Then you won’t mind if I add you to the casualty list then.” With a gesture, a wall of force encircled the chamber, blocking off any chance of escape through the windows and onto the scaffolding.

“I didn’t bring you a monkey!” said Korahd, striking him with a hex-fueled eldritch blast. Sam K shrugged and stepped forward to engage the man, who evaded his dagger swipe. The man did not, however, dodge Swift’s first bullet. Wean advanced to threaten the man with his rapier, and Korahd joined him in a flank.

Sam K managed to stab the man with his second attack and the magical wall shattered. With a snarl, the man maneuvered behind Wean, ignoring the pain of more dagger and rapier strikes, and evoked a lightning bolt that struck the entire party! Only Korahd avoided the worst of the spell, and thinking quickly, she grabbed the Stone of Golorr out of Wean’s pocket and escaped out the window, fey stepping to get out of sight and hopefully lead the man away from her companions.

The ploy worked, though when she deemed it safe to return, she found two of her companions looking grim near the prone form of the third. “Sam didn’t make it,” said Wean. The eladrin fell to absolute pieces crying over the half-elf’s body. The others let her mourn, and after several minutes, she pulled herself together enough to discuss next steps.

“I don’t know who that guy was,” said Wean, “and I’ve never seen that spell in person before, but I can’t say I’m eager to see either again anytime soon.”

“I want NO part of this stone,” said Korahd. “I mean, I WANT glory. But I also want to live to tell the story. Let’s give it to Renaer. Maybe he can do something for Sam.”

They agreed that was the best course of action and returned to the tavern. Once there, Korahd hired a messenger to fetch Renaer, and before too long the nobleman arrived. “I got here as soon as I could.”

Korahd thunked the stone on the bar. “This is it, right?”

“Yes, that is the stone.”

“Because Sam died getting it, and the rest of us came as close to death as makes no odds.”

Renaer Neverember sat down heavily and started weeping for Sam K’s loss. After a while, they brought him up to speed regarding the rest of the night’s events.

“A man with long black hair and a spellbook a mile deep decided to make sure we paid a hefty price,” Wean concluded.

“Whatever the wizard has in mind for this vault can’t be good, right?” said Korahd.

“I wouldn’t think so.”

“No, it can’t be good,” agreed Renaer.

Swift nodded. “This man also knows who we are most likely. Or will very soon. The stone is not safe in our hands.”

“Oh, I TOLD him who I was,” said Korahd, horrified at the realization.

“I can’t believe the Zhents have someone like him working for them,” said Renaer.

“Maybe they don’t?” said Korahd. “It seems like everybody is chasing this vault for one reason or another.” She stared into the eyes of the stone.

“Perhaps we should go to the vault, give this gold dragon the stone, and be done with it,” suggested Wean.

Korahd looked over at the young man. “Now THAT might work. Just seal it off from EVERYBODY.”

“He has no qualms about going through us to get the stone, and we can’t stop him,” said Swift. “If we give the stone away he’ll still track us down, find out who we gave it to, and then kill us. The way I see it, the only real way to be safe is to find the vault and remove his reason for wanting the stone.”

“That guy was Manshoon,” said Korahd suddenly. “He’s the leader of the Zhentarim.” At the others’ curious expressions, she shrugged. “The Stone told me. As glorious as it would be to claim such a treasure for oneself … to have it in your hands and walk away from it would be LEGENDARY.”

Wean nodded, conceding the point. “A more pressing question may be, can we get Sam back? Renaer?”

“I can pay to get him resurrected, but does he want to come back?”

“Who wouldn’t want to come back?” said Swift.

“My grandmother,” Korahd said automatically.

“I’m not sure how to answer that question,” Wean said softly. “I would want to come back.”

“We should try to bring him back, at least,” said Korahd. “And if we fail, we’ll find someone else. Someone else … healsome. Because this is dangerous enough as it is.”

“Yes, let’s try,” said Renaer.

“…THEN we can rest,” said the eladrin.

Two hours later, the party returned to the bar with Lord Neverember and Sam K’s body. The resurrection had not been successful. They made arrangements to bury the half-elf in a spot they thought he’d find appropriate. Then they decided to rest for the remainder of the night and consider their next move in the morning.

* * *

They returned to the Temple of Gond to collect the reward for having destroyed the rogue nimblewright. They were awarded five hundred gold pieces and several curious and questionably useful items by the Gondians.

“Broadsheets,” said Swift thoughtfully once they were back at the tavern. “Hey, you know? The Zhents might not have had such a bad idea trying to control them. That Shen guy owes us now. What if we had him print a story of his experience that ends with him watching us teleport away to an unknown location with the stone? Might buy us a little time. If he thinks we skipped town he’ll have to regroup.”

“I like the way you think, Swift,” said Korahd.

“It’s better than any of our other plans,” said Wean.

“Also it would shine a spotlight on the Zhents and thieves guild that will force them to be less active for a bit, maybe,” said Swift.

“I may know someone that can help you if you are going after the vault,” said Renaer.

“Indeed?” said Korahd.

“We could use the help, it would seem,” said Wean.

“Yes, I can speak with him,” said Renaer. “See if he’ll join your cause. Do you know how to reach the vault?”

Korahd nodded. “We know where it is, and we know what the keys are, though we still need to acquire them.”

They divided up the tasks, each adventurer seeking a different key while Lord Neverember reached out to his contact. Then they made the rest of the preparations they could think of in anticipation of visiting the vault and its guardian Aurinax.


Session 9
The Revue

The old, one-story, windowless stone house with a slate roof was tucked in the middle of the alley, surrounded by taller buildings. As the party turned the corner, they caught a glimpse of a pale, gaunt woman handing over the Stone of Golorr to another woman who quickly scrambled up to the rooftops. The gaunt woman drew a shortsword as she turned to face them. Another thug materialized from the shadows.

“The stone is on the move!” said Swift.

“Eat more fiber, Swift!” said Korahd.

The shifter tried to run past the thug and was sorely wounded for it. Sam K advanced on the thug and stabbed him. The woman and her companion did not last much longer against the adventurers.

“Which way, Swift?” asked Korahd.

“Woman on the rooftops. She has the stone.”

The eladrin nodded, fey stepped to the roof, eldritch blasted the woman, and raced toward her. Unfortunately, the roof tiles were rotten and hampered the party’s efforts at pursuit. Sam K fell behind but shouted for his companions to go on without him. Swift managed to catch up to the woman, but only for a moment. The woman merely winked at him as she spun and leaped across to another building, grabbing a banner and using it to slide down to street level. She ran into a theatre lobby.

“She dropped into the theater!” said Swift. “I’m going after.” He entered the lobby in time to see her entering the auditorium.

“I can keep this up all day, girl. Best just give me the stone and be done with it.” She looked back and ducked behind some people in the theatre as Korahd joined Swift at the theatre’s entrance.

The plush lobby was decorated with red carpet and ornate wallpaper. On display were several painted wooden mannequins dressed in fancy costumes, each one representing a character from a famous play. Along the walls, banners displayed the current play, “Blood Wedding.” A ghost dressed in a suit, his hair unkempt, floated in plain sight, waving his hands about in gestures of greeting and salutation. “Let not this harried visage diminish you, gentlesirs and beautiful ladies, for I am but your friendly host. What fine art have we wrought for you this day? Buy your tickets and behold! You shan’t be disappointed!”

The adventurers sensibly ignored the ghost and rushed past, chasing their quarry. Wean blinked at his companions from his seat in the auditorium then gamely joined the chase, which led back outside and to the rooftops once more. Additional magic and weaponplay followed.

“Can we talk about this?” Swift asked the woman. “Maybe work out some sort of arrangement?”

“Why? This is sooo much fun,” she retorted.

The shifter shrugged and put a bullet in her. “Is it fun now?!” She made a rude gesture.

The chase continued for several moments more before the woman stopped running and put her hands up in surrender. Swift caught up to her first. “Okay, maybe it was a little fun,” he said. “The stone please.”

“What stone?”

“Nice try, pretty,” said Korahd. “The one Ol’ Pale n’ Gaunt gave you.”

Swift pointed his gun. “I do have more bullets in here.”

“She can search me if she wants, but she’ll find no stone on me,” said the woman.

“So where is it?” the eladrin asked as she started frisking.

“I’ll never tell. I’ll take my chances with the Watch rather than double cross my employer.”

“Who said anything about taking you to the Watch,” said Swift.

“I certainly didn’t,” said Korahd. “Isn’t our ghost getting hungry, Swift?”

“Please, I know the laws of the city,” said the woman. “Plus all the witnesses seeing you chasing me around? You don’t take me to the Watch, they’ll be looking for you soon enough.”

“I … also … don’t mind taking my chances with the Watch,” said Swift.

“They might forgive a lot, but murder isn’t one of them.”

“That is, assuming they find you at all,” said Wean.

“Oh, my employer will make sure they find me and make sure to point them straight to you.”

Swift sighed. “Honestly I’d prefer not to resort to that. Your boss is scary, I get that. But surely there must be something we can work out.”

“So who is this employer who’s so fortunate to have your undying loyalty?” said Korahd.

“It’s better for your health if you never find out. He doesn’t like people knowing his identity.”

“All right. Thank you for a lovely evening, I guess.”

A pair of griffin riders arrived, circling the scene. The Watch took the woman into custody after questioning the party and getting their side of the story.

Afterward, the adventurers retraced their steps to the theatre, where they saw Fala Lefaliir, owner of the rooftop garden near the tavern. They were dressed for a night out and waved the party over. “You know how to make a play more exciting.”

“Uluvathae, Fala." Korahd smirked. “You didn’t miss much. It turns out that the vampire did it.”

“Oh, you.”

“We went through all that and she didn’t even have the thing on her,” said the eladrin.

“Oh, she must have given it to those people that left right after you did,” said Fala.

Korahd’s eyes widened. “Which people were those?”

“Well, I only recognized the man. He’s a bard named Agorn Fuoco. I don’t know who his lady friend was though.”

“Well, that’s something. Where do you know him from?”

“I’ve seen him play a few times. He’s fairly decent. If you’re going to look for him, I hear that he spends a lot of time in the Mistshore neighborhood.”

Korahd made an mmm noise. “And what did the woman look like?”

“I really didn’t get a great look at her.”

“Okay. That’s very helpful. Thanks, Fala! Sweet water & light laughter ’til next.”

“You’re welcome!”

“Why don’t the two of you head back to the bar?” Korahd told her companions. “I’ll go find Sam and bring him back.”

== * * *==

The rain was really coming down by the time the adventurers reconvened at the bar. Sam K informed the others that he had found a dwarf with a beholder hat tied up in the meat pie shop neighbor’s house.

“Did you let him loose? Was it a nice hat? Tell me everything,” said Korahd.

“I did. The hat was tacky. And honestly, the fellow couldn’t tell me anything relevant to finding the stone, so.”

The eladrin nodded. “As much as I’d love to rest and dry out by a nice fire, we should probably find this bard sooner than later.”

The others agreed and set off for Mistshore, except for Sam K, who stayed to mind the bar. When they arrived, they noted a conspicuous carriage. Korahd approached the vehicle but was intercepted by the driver. “Sorry but this carriage is spoken for, Miss.”

“Good sir, do you know which way Agorn went?” she asked.

The driver glared at her. “I’m a woman, and he went back that way.”

“So very sorry, milady. Happens to me sometimes, too. I am in your debt.” Korahd headed in the indicated direction then heard a struggle behind one of the doors. She called back to the others, “Over here!”

Inexplicably, Agorn Fuoco was inside the house, trying to smother a bedridden woman with a sack while tears streamed down his face. Korahd immediately moved to stop him, and the man said, “Let go of me!”

“Not happening. I don’t know why you think you want this, but I promise you that you don’t.”

“She has to go. She’s no longer my family. I will just remove her so my new family can accept me.”

WHAT new family?” said Korahd, also glancing around the room for any sign of the Stone.

“I don’t think he got a full quiver if you know what I mean,” said Swift.

“I get the feeling that you’re in a lot of trouble, Agorn. Why don’t you start at the beginning? Wait, no. Tell me what’s happened to the stone.”

“Uh, guys?” said Wean, pointing out that several thugs in familiar black armor were approaching with apparent hostile intent.

“I’ll be right back,” Korahd told Agorn. “DON’T kill your mother while I’m gone.” She took the pillow with her as she fey stepped into the street and struck the nearest thug with an eldritch blast.

As the brawl continued two more people jumped in to help the party fight the thugs

“Who are you?!” Wean asked.

“Probably better to save that for after the fight,” one of the strangers responded.

“You’ve fucked up for the last time, Agorn,” one of the thugs declared.

Wean went down under a hail of clubs, and Swift cried out, “Hold on, Wean!” While Swift was distracted, another thug moved in and finished off Agorn. The adventurers swore as the vicious melee continued, but with the strangers’ help, they eventually defeated the last of the black-armored thugs.

“Thank you for the aid,” said Swift.

“Glad we could be of some help.”

“Hail an’ well met. I’m Korahd; that’s Swift.”

“Mavia,” said the heavily injured stranger. “That’s Salazar.”
The eladrin nodded. “Excuse me one moment while I tend to my friend Wean. Swift, I feel like I know the answer, but can you see if Agorn had the Stone on him?”

“Sure thing.” The shifter searched all the bodies but came up empty. Once Wean was conscious, Korahd went back inside to check on the old woman.

Mavia, leaning heavily on Salazar, said, “So, what did you do to piss off the Zhents?”


Session 8
The Relay

“Why come to us with this request?” Sam K asked the dwarf.

Istrid Horn shrugged. “You’ve been dealing with our enemies. I figured I’d be safer with you than with anyone else. Plus who wouldn’t want to be protected by the heroes that saved Lord Neverember?”

“Do you have anything you can, um, offer us in exchange?” said Korahd.

“Of course. I was planning on giving you ten platinum for just meeting with me, but if you do hide me, I can pay you forty. Twenty upfront. The rest after the tenday.”

“That would buy a lot of … a lot.”

“Yes, it would.”

“Fine, but your roommate is a ghost,” said Sam K. “You’re not racist, are you?”

“I’ve slept in worse places.”

“You haven’t heard the ghost snore…”

“You haven’t heard dwarves snore.”

“Then we DO have to let her stay,” said Korahd.

Sam K muttered to himself, “And this is why I keep my own apartment.”

Horn nodded. “Well if we are agreed, I’ll go get my things and meet you at the tavern tonight.”

She tossed a bag of platinum coins to the eladrin, who pumped her fist and cried, “Yes!”

“Careful of fireballs out front,” said Swift.

“And it’s talent night!” Korahd called after her. “Have a two-minute monologue if you want to take part!”

Horn arrived later that evening in the guise of a male dwarf named Jorn. She spent an eventless week keeping a low profile in the tavern, paid what she owed, then left without further comment.

* * *

Meanwhile, a few days after the encounter at Gralhund Manor, the City Watch allowed Sam K and Korahd some time to speak with the prisoner Urstul Floxin. The half-elf enchanted the Zhent into thinking they were old friends and got him talking, asking first about the Stone of Golorr.

“They took it from me.”

“Who did?”

“Lady Gralhund and her orc.”

“I knew she was hiding something,” said Korahd.

“Were you their guest?” said Sam K.

“Yes. They’ve been supporting the Black Network for years now.”

“Until, it seems, greed won out. We’ve lost days on their schemes now.”

“Yes, she’s double-crossed us. She sent her automaton to take the stone.”

“Were you with the gnome, then?”

“Yeah. I was following him to steal the stone.”

“Well, you took it before the nimblewright could collect. Then, unfortunately, went to the not-so-safehouse.”

“Yeah. I was injured. Nowhere else to go.”

“Of course, friend. Of course. What happened when you got there?”

“They took me prisoner. I managed to escape and called for reinforcements.”

“A magnificent feat considering the circumstances. Alas, we were likewise duped. But how could we know?”

“They are very good at deception. They treat Neverember like a friend, even though they had him kidnapped.”

“Whoa,” said Korahd.

“Cheers, Floxin,” said Sam K putting his hand on the man’s shoulder companionably. “That is a great tip.”

The adventurers left the prisoner and Korahd summarized their next steps. “So, we ‘need’ to find the nimblewright, and we ought to find this stone.”

“That’s about the size of it,” agreed Sam K. “We’ve got to tell Raenar about the Gralhunds right away.”

“Agreed. By the way, I wish I’d known you two were friends; that would have saved us so much time.”

“I-” The half-elf stopped himself from trying to explain and instead said, “Yes, sorry about that. You know how dicey friendships in this twisted city can be.”

“I do,” said Korahd in a tone that belied the statement.

* * *

Korahd interrupted her latest story – which her companions had heard at least three times in the last tenday. “See, one of my mothers used to be my father, but the Blessed of Corellon change back and forth sometimes, and- Wait, hang on, I have to take this." She fished the nimblewright detector out of the bag of holding. It was activated.

“And of course it’s Wean’s day off,” said Sam K. “Welp. Guess we should stay alert.”

“Right. And hope it doesn’t have another necklace,” added Swift.

The half-elf frowned. “Yeah. Definitely that.”

The trio split up to check different windows of the tavern, with Swift heading upstairs. As Korahd moved toward the front of the building the detector beacon sped up, and she called out to Sam K in a stage whisper. “Psst.”

“What does that mean?” Sam K asked her when. “Is it closer or farther away?”

“Closer. Bonnie, be a dear and bring up some ice wine from the cellar? Try and take your time, dear darlin’.” The young woman nodded and did as she was told, her eyes wide.

Swift came back downstairs and Korahd told him, “It’s coming closer.”

“Why the hell would that thing be coming here, anyway?” said Sam K.

The eladrin frowned down at the device as the beacon slowed. “Wait, it isn’t getting closer. I was.”

The half-elf pinched the bridge of his nose. “All right.”

“Let’s go out to confront it,” said Swift. “I don’t want it to blow up the bar.”

“Seconded,” said Korahd. She threw the front door open and followed the detector out into the streets. They traveled for several minutes as the device continued to whirl and beep faster and faster. “I don’t remember it being this alive when we were following it last time – we must be close!”

They turned down an alley and saw the top of a hat poking out from a pile of uncollected garbage in an alley. Swift drew a pistol as Korahd charged forward and called, “Over here.” The nimblewright stood up from the refuse, pulling the eladrin up short. She drew her weapon and flashed it in a salute before closing the remaining distance. “Ha! En garde, machine-man!”

The encounter was surprisingly brief, and only Korahd took any injury from the automaton before the trio took it down. The eladrin nudged it with one boot, searched it for the Stone of Golorr (which it apparently did not possess), then started shoveling the bits in her bag of holding.

“Okay. How do we prove Lady Gralhund sent it?” said Sam K.

“We don’t even know what its purpose was,” said Swift. “Possibly just to observe and see if we were on to her.”

“Point. Honestly, the manor is so close to the tavern, it may have just been passing by on its way somewhere else.” The half-elf started pacing as he spoke. “At least we’ve taken it out of play. But how was she even controlling it? Maybe the Gondians have an idea. Plus, didn’t they offer a reward?”

“They did, yes,” said Korahd. “But maybe we can still fix it.” She sounded unconvinced.

“I can tinker around with it, but it would take months to really understand something that complex,” said Swift.

Sam K looked over at the eladrin and squinted at the bag of holding in her hands. “Hang on. There’s something under its tabard.” He pointed to a piece of parchment sticking out.

Kor pulled the torso and attached bits out of the bag to retrieve the parchment. “Oooh,” she said as she unfurled it. The adventurers looked it over deciding that it was a map of Waterdeep. They saw the word “Thrakkus” written by an X in the Field Ward.

“Who or what is a ‘Thrakkus’?” asked Korahd. “Should we go find out?”

Swift shrugged and Sam K said, “Sure. Do you want to take a few minutes? Shake off that stabbing?”

About that time, half a dozen City Watch arrived. “Oy, what are you lot doing?”

“Drug … deal?” said Sam K.

“Urinating!” offered Korahd.

“So much asparagus,” the half-elf complained.

Swift frowned at his companions. “Not doing anything. Were about to leave.”

The men looked more confused than anything. “You’re lucky it’s the end of our shift. I suggest you move along.”

“Rock-solid suggestion,” said Sam K.

“With alacrity!” crowed Korahd.

“What’s allcritty?” they heard one of the Watch ask as they walked away.

* * *

As you approached the X on the map, they saw an old, fire-scorched windmill with a red wooden sign carved to look like a butcher’s cleaver hanging above the door. Thrakkus’s Butchery occupied the westernmost room of the windmill’s west wing. The rest of the building looked run down and unkempt.

As they stepped inside, the butchery reeked of meat and blood. A bloodstained chopping block dominated the room, and shelves of cut meat wrapped in bloody parchment lined the walls. The floor was streaked with blood and covered with bits of gore. A red-scaled Dragonborn was the shop’s lone occupant.

“Thrakkus?” asked Sam K.


“Good, good.”

“You come for my meat?”

“Let’s not rule it out. Do you know what a nimblewright is?”


Swift pointed at a hunk of meat behind Thrakkus “That looks nice, what is it?” When Thrakkus turned to look, the Shifter mouthed to the others “He’s lying.”

“Venison,” said the Dragonborn, turning back around.

“Oh… it’s been a while since I’ve had that,” said Swift.

“I got the best meat in town.”

“Oh, deer,” deadpanned Sam K.

Gazing around the shop, Kor giggled. “Deer! Oh, that is funny.”

The half-elf suppressed a pleased smile. “Anyway, a nimblewright is an automaton. We followed one and were attacked. We’re fine, though. It was carrying a map with your place marked on it. Know why that might be?”

“How should I know?” said Thrakkus. He reached behind the chopping block. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“But we came from all the way across town, and we’re hungry … for _information,”_ said Korahd.

“C’mon, buddy,” said Sam K, casting charm person. The Dragonborn shook his head to clear it of the enchantment and raised a greataxe in response.

“Shit!” cried Korahd, whipping out her rapier and stabbing Thrakkus over the counter.

“Careful. I think they can breathe … badness,” said Sam K.

Thrakkus took a positioning step and exhaled a cone of fire that burned both Korahd and Swift. “I think you’re right,” said the scorched Shifter as he changed into his rat form.

“Oooh,” said the half-elf sympathetically.

Korahd and Swift unloaded with everything they had, which was substantial, but the Dragonborn weathered the assault long enough to injure the eladrin significantly. Sam K was forced to lean heavily on Mask’s healing magic to keep her in the fight. Fortunately, Thrakkus’s strength was not limitless. Korahd pulled her rapier free of the Dragonborn as he slumped to the ground. She wiped it clean on a dainty cloth she kept for such occasions.

“Welp. I guess let’s search the building,” said Sam K, taking a ring of keys off the Dragonborn’s body. “This shop bloody enough no one may notice for a bit.”

The larder next to the butchery smelled heavily of meat and blood. Six half-frozen humanoid carcasses were stacked under a ten-foot-square canvas tarpaulin near the western wall. The adventurers’ faces paled at the sight of the victims.

They passed through the less-well-kept portions of the building encountering several squatters. Some of these trailed the adventurers upstairs where they came to another locked door. Unlike the rest of the building, the room beyond was in good repair. A wood-framed, king-sized bed with clean mattresses stood against one wall. Next to the bed, on the west wall, was a door. The window was recently repaired and quietly swung open on oiled iron hinges. Against the wall across from the window stood a wooden armoire. It held little more than clothes, a heavy crossbow, and a wooden case containing twenty crossbow bolts.

“He’s not going to like you going through his room,” commented one of the squatters.

“No, we talked. It’s cool,” said Sam K.

“He’ll think it was one of us and punish us. You don’t want to know what he does to those he doesn’t like.”

“Nah, you won’t be getting punished. Don’t worry.”

“If you’re talking about Thrakkus, yeah, he’s done punishing you guys,” said Korahd.

“Did you kill him?” the man asked hopefully.

“Well, he’s dead, anyway.”

“Thank the gods. He kept us as labor and food.” Swift looked a little queasy after that admission.

“Oh, if you’re religious, send your regards to Mask,” said Sam K.

“How can I repay the mighty Mask?”

“Cash and prizes, mostly,” Sam K muttered, sotto. Then in a normal tone, he said, “Take what you can. Give nothing back. Thank Mask after. He’s pretty laid back.”

“Did he owe you money or did you come for that stone thing?” asked the squatter, suddenly commanding the adventurers’ full attention.

“The latter, yeah,” said Sam K.

“He sent it off with Justyn. Justyn Rassk.”

“Of course he did,” said Korahd.

“What did you say your name was?” asked Sam K.

“Billy Bob Thort.”

“Cheers, Billy Bob.” The half-elf palmed several gold coins to the man as they shook hands. “Seriously, if you ever need work, come to North Ward. We have a tavern there.”

Billy Bob smiled. “Thrakkus gave him extra coin to deliver it quickly and quietly to Cuttle’s Meat Pies in the Trade ward.”

“How long ago was this?” asked Korahd.

“A few hours ago.”

She turned to the others. “Maybe it’s still there.”

“We should find out, yeah?” said Sam K.

“Yeah,” said Swift.

* * *

They reached the Trade Ward around 4 PM, as the sun was getting low on the horizon. Upon entering the alley, they spotted bloody hoof prints and wheel tracks indicating that a cart passed through the alley recently. The sound of thunder roared above them as the weather threatened to turn sour.

“Thaaat can’t be good,” Kor sighed.

A sign above the store read: “Cuttle’s Meat Pies.”

“I don’t recommend eating from here,” said Swift. “Or our own tavern, for that matter. I just remembered where I know the name Justyn Rassk. He’s our meat guy. Gods…”

“Oh. Oh, no,” said Sam K.

“Who was in charge of our vendors anyhow? Wean?”

“I’m going to say yes.”

“I’m going to fix him a nice steak when he gets home. And then tell him.”

“There’s an eladrin tragedy that has that exact ending…” said Korahd.

Through the door, a small room served as a cloakroom where visitors could hang their heavier overgarments. Past the cloakroom was the store proper, with several meat pies on display. A portly middle-aged woman stood behind the counter. “Welcome! How may I help you?”

“We are in the market for some fresh meat,” said Korahd. “The freshest you’ve got. Did you receive a delivery today?”

“I did. It was unexpected. He usually only stops by every couple of weeks, but I won’t say no to an extra delivery now and then.”

The eladrin leaned a little closer to the counter, ostensibly to see wares, but mostly to make sure the woman doesn’t also have a greataxe. It appeared that she did not, and Korahd relaxed. A little.

“Would you like to try one?” the woman prompted. “I have some samples here.” She pushed a tray toward the eladrin.

Korahd looked down at the tray. “Long pork, is it?”

“No,” said the shopkeeper, completely oblivious. “It’s venison, along with some special ingredients. It’s what makes it the best meat pie in the city.”

“One of my mothers used to make meat pies. Not as good as these, but she would keep the crust from rising by putting stones in the pans.”

“Ah, you’re trying to fish for my recipe, but you won’t get it,” the woman said beaming.

“You got me,” Korahd said, suddenly beaming just as hard. She glanced over at her companions.

Sam K shrugged and shook his head, looking a little surprised. “I’ll have a sample, I guess.” He and Korahd each took a bite that was almost all crust.

“Would either of you care to try some?” she asked Swift hopefully.

“Don’t want to spoil my dinner,” said the Shifter.

Sam K put the rest of his sample on the counter and said, “We were given to understand that Rassk wasn’t just bringing meat today. Maybe we got the wrong end of that stick?” He let the question hang.

“What else would he be bringing me?” she said, sounding confused.

“A magic stone capable of finding and/or unlocking a vault containing vast wealth. It’s a little unclear, really.” She blinked at the half-elf, completely bewildered. “I know, right?” he said. “It’s been a weird week.”

“Yes, it has.”

“Oh? What’s been weird about your week aside from the extra delivery?”

She leaned forward. “My ‘neighbors’ have been getting more visitors than usual lately. At strange hours.”

Korahd’s eyes went saucer-wide. “You don’t say.”

“Yes. They’re pretty strange themselves. Keeping strange hours, sometimes coming back with blood on their clothes. I almost reported them to the watch, but… I don’t like the look of them. Didn’t want any trouble.” Sam K nodded sympathetically.

“I can look into that for you. I mean, WE can,” said Korahd.

“Which neighbors, did you say?” asked Sam K.

“The ones next door,” she said, pointing to the west wall of the shop. “There’s two of them. The woman is young. She’s pale and gaunt looking. Her hair is dark and stringy. The fellow is much older. Dark-skinned with a bald head and a short white beard. Oh yeah, he’s also missing part of his ear.”

Sam K nodded and exchanged a glance with his companions. Kor nodded, once, to him.

“Let’s go say hi,” said Swift.

“Oh, but, before we go, you should stop buying meat from Rassk. It’s people. His venison is people. You’ve been serving people people.” She pauses. “Of course, his butcher’s out of business, so maybe he’ll find a new source? But I’d still cut him off if I were you. Okay byeee!”

The woman grew paler by the word, then turned green and projectile vomited in Korhad’s direction. The agile eladrin evaded the spray then turned and left without a backward glance, her companions on her heels. “Well, that went well,” Korahd gleamed.

“It certainly went,” said Sam K.

“I’d hate to see what would have happened if it went badly,” said Swift.

The half-elf gave him a look. “We’d be covered in vomit, Swift. I know it’s difficult, but try to keep up.”

They were interrupted by a rough voice from around a corner. “Well, well, look at what we got here boys,” said a bugbear to his four fellow thugs. “Some adventurers looking for some … uh, adventure?”

“Oh my, yes, please and thank you!” Korahd called out.

“Are you a writer? You should be a writer,” said Sam K.

“Oh, they are going to make it easy on us. How nice,” said Swift.

“Looks like the Xanathar is going to have some extra trophies tonight,” rumbled the bugbear.

Swift shifted into rat form and took a shot at the first thug to rush him. Sam K readied his dagger and shield, cast shield of faith on Korahd, and stepped between her and the bugbear that had attacked Swift. The eladrin was struck by a morningstar and responded with a hex-infused stab of her own. Thunder boomed overhead as the desperate melee unfolded.

Once two of the thugs had been dispatched, Sam K said, “Are you lads sure you like the odds even like this?”

The bugbears continued to press the attack, but the adventurers rallied and slew two more, leaving only one.

“You’re outnumbered now,” Sam K said reasonably. “You should surrender.”

“Running is not surrendering,” Sam K explains to the bugbear’s back.

The creature broke and ran for an open sewer entrance, taking a dagger slash to the back as he fled. Sam K sighed. “Well. We’re alive, anyway. Ow.”

“I’m glad to hear you say it because I wasn’t sure,” said Korahd.

“Let’s take a few minutes, then check out the ‘neighbors’?”

“Okay,” said Swift.

The trio rested and reloaded.


Session 7
The Reprobate

The party returned to the tavern and told Sam K about the job, whereupon he became interested in the hunt. Wean surmised that the rogue nimblewright had attacked the alley victims from a nearby rooftop, but a search of the possible locations yielded no clues. Inquiring about the victims also resulted in no way to narrow the search. So they decided they needed to figure out a grid to search using the “nimblewright detector” until they hopefully got lucky.

Several days later in the Dock Ward, they got pings from different ships docked near one another. They picked one at random, heading toward a ship called Heartbreaker, which floated next to its sister ships, Hellraiser and Eyecatcher.

“Can I help ya?” asked a man at the gangplank.

“Heard there was a metal man aboard and wanted to get a look at ’im,” said Sam K.

“Do you know anything about that?” asked Korahd.

“They’re attractions and nothing more,” said the man.

“And look, it’s attracted spectators!” said the eladrin.

Sam K nodded. “Aye, I’m interested. So, is there a ticket to buy, or…?”

“You’ll need to talk to the cap’n.” The man nodded to another crewman who ran off. After several minutes he returned and said. “You’ll need to go to the Eyecatcher.” He pointed to the flagship. “They’ll be waiting for ya.”

They were brought on to the flagship and escorted to the dining cabin, which was bedecked with golden filigree. The purple curtains were festooned with silken tassels, and the wood paneling scented with perfume. A magnificent feast was laid out on golden platters sprawls atop a mahogany table of exquisite craftsmanship. Even the doilies were something to behold. Standing behind it all with a wine glass in hand was a well-built, scantily clad man, his scarlet apparel designed to accentuate his trim figure and bountiful chest hair. A flashy rapier hung from his stylish belt.

“Welcome aboard the Eyecatcher,” he said, flashing his pearly white teeth. “Zardoz Zord, at your service."

Korahd tried to whistle; she can’t. “And I’m Korahd Shadowinter, at yours. I should have been a … merchant?”

“I was told you wanted to see my attractions.”

“I’m fully impressed. Yes, indeed, and please and also thank you.”

“May I ask why?” said Zord.

“Because I’ve never seen a metal man, and that sounds incredibly interesting,” said Sam K. “Something to tell the kids and grandkids … down the road.”

“Normally I would tell you to wait until the carnival was set up, but… how did you know I had metal men?”

“Word gets around.”

“Must get around very quickly. We’ve only been in town for a few days. Mostly waiting for approval to get our tents and animals unloaded and setup.” As they talked, a nimblewright walked in with a decanter and poured more wine into Zord’s cup.

Korahd’s eyes widened and she breathed, “Neeeat.”

They exchanged a few more pleasantries, but when it seemed clear that Zord’s nimblewrights were not likely the culprit, they said goodbye and returned to their tavern. Lord Renar Neverember was waiting for them, talking to Swift, who had stayed behind to mind the bar.

“Lord Neverember. Good to see you. Want a drink?” said Sam K, heading behind the bar to spell the Shifter.

“Always,” said the nobleman. The half-elf nodded and poured a cup of Neverember’s favorite beverage. After a healthy gulp, the young man said, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“Cheers, mate. And what about the name?”

“I love it, how’d you come up with it.”

“Funny story, actually…”

“You must tell it to me someday.”

“You’re right. We don’t have time to get into it right now.”

“And where did you get that unicorn.” Korahd casually positioned herself between Renaer and the statue.

Sam K shrugged. “Flea market. So. What’s up?”

“Just checking in, wanting to see how you’ve been doing. It’s been a while since you’ve come to see me.”

“Yes, I do regret that. This is a lot more work than I thought it would be.”

“Me, too,” said Korahd. “We’ve been kind of busy, especially after the explosion.”

“I heard something about that,” said Neverember. “It was light on the details though. What happened?”

“Someone killed a bunch of folks right outside the tavern! That’s a long story, too, but I’ll tell it to you anyway.” Sam K snorted and poured himself a mug of beer, putting money in the till. The eladrin sat at the table across from the nobleman, pulled a flower arrangement closer to herself, and started eating them as she brought him up to speed.

“…And that’s how a dog learned to ride a horse,” Korahd finished sometime later. Then she blinked. “Wait, I think the real story ended about ten minutes ago.”

“That was a crazy Blursday,” said Sam K.

“I see,” said Lord Neverember with a sigh.

“What’s the matter, Rainy?”

“I tried to make it interesting…” said Korahd.

“It was, Kor,” said Neverember. "It’s just that … when the Lords of Waterdeep ousted my father, I thought his long, dark shadow was finally gone for good. The truth is, I want nothing to do with him. But his spies hound me. One of them, a gnome named Dalakhar, had been watching me for months. Then, about two tendays ago, the spy was suddenly nowhere to be seen. My father didn’t trust many people, but he trusted that gnome.

“I spoke to a few of Dalakhar’s friends. Apparently, he was on a special mission to retrieve the Stone of Golorr and was afraid that the Zhentarim and the Xanathar Guild were close to catching him. When he heard about my kidnapping, he wanted more information about the adventurers who had rescued me. I think Dalakhar was planning to pay you to deliver the Stone of Golorr to my father in Neverwinter.”

Korahd described the dead gnome from the alley. “Does that sound like Dalakhar to you?”


“Did he have this Stone?”

“He did.”

The eladrin fished out the little stub of cigar she last had in Blue Alley and lit it as she worked through things. “And he didn’t have it on him when I searched him.”

“Well, someone limped off after messing with his body after he got blown up by a robot,” said Sam K.

“He must have taken the Stone,” said Neverember.

“Guess so. That was three days ago. Could be anywhere now.”

“And our rogue nimblewright got a better look at the thief than we did,” said Korahd.

“And still no leads on finding that.”

“I can reach out to my friends in the City Watch if you think that’ll help,” said Neverember.

“If you think that’ll help,” said Sam K.

“It can’t hurt.”

“It’s worth a try, sure,” said Korahd.

“Let me see what I can do. I’ll be by tomorrow if I find anything out.”

“Thanks. This is all too much thinky pain for me.”

After Lord Neverember left, Sam K said, “What a crazy coincidence. Or … not-coincidence, probably.”

“Or … super-coincidence,” said Korahd.

“Perhaps the nimblewright is in league with one of these factions that seeks the stone,” said Wean. “It’s a bit of an assumption, but if we follow that logic then it stands to reason the Xanathar Guild the more likely culprit, given that there were Zhents among the dead.”

“Could be, yeah,” said Sam K. “We got any other friends we can ask for help on this?”

“Do we know any Xanathar associates?” asked Korahd.

“We’ve met a couple of their birdmen, anyway.”

“What about Jarlaxle?” said Wean.

“That’s a good idea,” said Sam K. “Even though it means we would have to deal with him.”

Korahd shrugged. “I mean, his guy shot me in the head, but I don’t mind him so much.”

* * *

Neverember returned the next afternoon. “I was able to find some information. The limping man matches the description of Urstul Floxin, a suspected member of the Black Network.”

“Which faction?” said Sam K. “I hear the Zhents are at war with one another.”

“The non-legit one. A North Ward resident claimed he saw Urstul enter Gralhund Villa, just a couple of streets away from the tavern, shortly after the fireball incident. The resident reported him to the City Watch because Urstul looked suspicious.

“Two City Watch constables spoke to Lord Gralhund. He assured them that no one had broken into the estate and that everything was fine. The constables had no grounds to get a search warrant, so they didn’t pursue the matter.”

“Guess we could take the nimblewright detector up that way,” said Sam K. “See what’s what.”

“Okay,” said Korahd. Swift offered to work the tavern while the other three went to investigate the house.

* * *

Through a set of ornate iron gates, the adventurers saw a yard with several large trees, as well as two footpaths that led to a two-story brick mansion and eastward toward a detached coach house. The party cased the joint, finding a stable and a servant’s entrance around the back. The nimblewright detector did not indicate the presence of any automatons.

“Do you guys know anything about this Lord Gralhund?” asked Korahd. Neither of the others did, and she nodded. “I can’t be subtle, but I can try to be quiet. Still, it may be just as well to leave Swift and his thunderboomers out of this.”

“You’re not wrong,” said Sam K.

They asked around the neighborhood and were told that no one matching Urstul Floxin’s description had been seen leaving the villa. They returned to the manor intent upon posing as servants. No one answered when the half-elf knocked on the service door, so he picked the lock and led the way in, carrying a gourd fruit. Korahd had a sack of cabbages slung over one shoulder.

They entered a pantry lined with shelves containing dry foodstuffs, spices, folded tablecloths, and jars of preserves. Casks of fresh water, ale, and wine were also stored there, but more relevantly, two bodies lay on the floor: an older human male and a younger male halfling.

“Whoa,” said Korahd.

The half-elf set the melon down. “No longer a heist.”

Korahd placed her sack of cabbages on the floor and drew her rapier. “Definitely not.”

“Right then, let’s get to it,” said Wean, casting protective spells and pulling his shield out from under the vegetables he had carried in. Then he took point and opened the door on the west wall.

The floor in the room beyond was strewn with bodies. Two thugs holding bloody maces and clad in black leather armor stood over them. The sound of fighting could be heard coming from the top of a wide staircase in the northwest corner. Two iron chandeliers hung from the dark mahogany ceiling above a long dining table carved from red larchwood. Chairs surround the table, with a particularly tall and elaborate chair at each end. Lining the wood-paneled walls were tapestries and locked wooden cabinets that contained fine dishes, silverware, and candlesticks. A fireplace with a black marble mantelpiece has a framed family portrait mounted above it. The portrait depicted Lord and Lady Gralhund, their three young children, and a family dog.

“Is that red larchwood?!” said Wean, hoping to steal the initiative with a distraction. The thugs were quicker still, and though Sam K had his bow ready, he held his shot, not wanting to hit Wean.

The nearer thug attacked, striking the young man once. He managed to deflect the other with a shield spell. Then Wean struck back and Korahd stepped into a flank on the injured thug. Sam K finished the man off with a well-placed arrow. The other didn’t last much longer against the trio, though both Korahd and Wean were injured before he fell.

“Do you need a minute, or should I quickly steal your pain so we can move on?” asked Sam K.

“It sounds like there’s fighting going on close, so I think we should make haste,” said Wean.

The half-elf nodded, reached out toward each of his companions, and mimed pulling something away from them. They felt a little better and pressed forward.

Up the stairs, a battle raged between several Zhents and house guards, and the floor was strewn with dead bodies. Doors to the master bedroom stood open, and they heard a shout from within. “The City Watch is on the way!” The door to the south of the stairs was ajar, and beyond it, they could hear someone putting a boot to another door.

“Should we play the savior role?” asked Wean.

“Sure,” said Sam K. “Go after Boot-y.” Then he put an arrow in the door beside the thug kicking it. The man turned, and the adventurers recognized Urstul Floxin. “Oi, Gimpy. Pay attention to us.”

Floxin tried to run past Sam and down the stairs, getting stabbed by Wean for his trouble. Then Korahd blasted him and a brief exchange later, the man lay unconscious on the floor. By that time, the house guards managed to overcome the Zhent invaders.

“Are there any more intruders?” asked Wean.

“Not on this level,” said one of the men. “Who are you?”

“Passing do-gooders,” said Sam K.

“I see. Well, thank you for your help.”

“The servant entrance was open and we heard fighting, came in to help and got attacked by these … Zhents?” said Wean. Then he pointed at the door Floxin had been kicking. “What is beyond that door?”

“Would you like us to keep searching while you protect the lady,” said Sam K as the noblewoman exited the master bedroom accompanied by a burly half-orc. “Oh, hello, lady.”

“I would like to thank you gentlemen for coming to our rescue,” said Lady Gralhund.

Sam K bowed. “Madam.”

“Korahd Shadowinter, potential future gentleman, yet presently at your service,” said the eladrin.

The woman nodded. “These gentlemen attacked us, wanting to kidnap our children.”

“How strange!” said Korahd.

“Despicable,” said Sam K. “We took one alive. Is the Watch really coming?”

“We can clear the house,” offered Wean.

“I would feel safer if such strong men and women like you were to guard me and my family until the Watch arrives,” said Lady Gralhund.

“As you like it, milady,” said Korahd.

Wean nodded. “We’re happy to help. But we’ll need to check the rest of the estate to make sure there are not other denizens lurking about.”

“No, my guards can take care of it.” Lady Gralhund nodded at the house guards, and they left to search the estate.

“Is it safe?” said Lord Gralhund as he finally emerged.

“More or less,” said Sam K as Korahd said, “Kind of!”

“When did this fellow,” the half-elf kicked Floxin on the stairs, “first show up?”

“They showed up about an hour ago,” said Lady Gralhund, her expression strange.

“Are we making you uncomfortable, my lady?” said Sam K. “That is not our intention. We only wished to help.”

“Not at all. I’m still bothered by this whole situation.”

“I’m glad,” said the half-elf.

“I wonder if this was for a simple ransom,” said Korahd, “or if they had some other goal in mind.”

“Who can tell with their kind?”

“Mommy is it safe to come out?” came a small voice. The Gralhunds comforted their children.

A short while later, the City Watch arrived. Barnibus Blastwind and Saeth Cromley headed up the investigation and questioned the adventurers at length. Afterward, they took Urstul Floxin into custody, and Sam K spoke softly to his companions. “We have an in with the City Watch. We can probably still question him.”

Korahd nodded. “The lady is hiding something, too.”


* * *

Within days after the events that local broadsheets dubbed the “Gralhund Villa Bloodbath,” the City Watch cracked down on the Black Network. The papers portrayed the Black Network in the most unflattering light, thus dealing a crippling blow to the faction’s already questionable reputation.

“This is going to bite us on the arses,” Kor sighed as she poured over a broadsheet.

As if on cue, a flying snake arrived at the tavern with a note tied to it. The note read: “I would like to know more about what happened at Gralhund Villa. If you can spare the time, meet me at Ahghairon’s Statue in the City of the Dead at highsun tomorrow. You’ll be paid generously for your time and trouble.
— Istrid Horn”

“Called it!” said the eladrin.

“Another meeting,” said Sam K. “Need an assistant to keep track of them all.”

“Bonnie, cancel my appointments for tomorrow at highsun,” said Korahd.

* * *

Ahghairon’s Statue was a well-known landmark in the city’s parkland cemetery: a tall, marble sculpture of a bearded, robed wizard standing atop concentric steps and facing west toward the skyline of Waterdeep, his hands outstretched and a broad smile on his face. At the foot of the statue stood a female dwarf clad in plate armor. The Autumn weather was chilly and the cemetery was otherwise empty.

Without preamble, the dwarf said, “I’d like ya to hide me.”


Session 6
The Replica

Windows rattled as the roar of an explosion filled Trollskull Alley early one morning, six months after the Blue Alley. Charred bodies and anguished screams flew through the air, rudely awakening most of the neighborhood. A thick cloud of acrid smoke billowed outward from the blast, which seemed to have occurred right outside the party’s tavern. In the wake of the explosion, people emerged from their houses and shops to survey the devastation. Korahd, jolted from stringing an olive garland around the unicorn statue, likewise went out into the street to see what had happened.

There were several burned corpses, mostly humans but also a couple of halflings and a gnome. The eladrin crouched beside one of the human men and lifted his arm. Her fingers traced along a tattoo of the Black Network’s winged snake symbol. She also cast her gaze across the other victims for a long moment. Frowning, she returned to the porch where Swift and Wean were standing.

The City Guard arrived and cordoned off the site, posting six guards at each entrance. Another six guards, including a sergeant, made their way to the crime scene and kept an eye on the bodies until the City Watch arrived. Lingering smoke from the fireball also attracted a Griffon Cavalry rider. As its griffon mount circled the neighborhood, the rider watched the streets and alleys for suspicious figures.

“That gnome has dry waste on his boots,” Korahd whispered to Wean. “Like he’d just come from the sewer.”

Twenty minutes after the explosion, a member of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors quietly took charge of the investigation, while the City Watch sergeant escorting him directed a force of twenty constables to knock on doors and question locals.

“I feel like we should ask around, too,” said Korahd, still speaking softly. “Try to get out in front of them.”

The mage came over to knock on the door of the tavern after investigating the scene for several long minutes. “That’s us, officer,” said the eladrin with a sigh, rising to speak with the man.

“Ah, good. I have some questions for you.”

“Shoot,” said Swift.

“Did you know the gnome gentleman?” he said, pointing to one of the smaller bodies.

“Nope, never met him,” said Wean. Swift shook his head.

“I don’t, no, sorry,” said Korahd. “I’ve seen the halflings around the neighborhood, but these others are strangers to me. And where are my manners? I’m a stranger to you, too. I am Korahd Shadowinter, Officer…?”

“Barnibus Blastwind, mage of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors and this is my associate, Sergeant Saeth Cromley.”

“A pleasure.”

“So no one’s seen the gnome before?”

“I can only speak for myself, and no, I haven’t seen the gnome before,” repeated Wean.

“I guess it’s possible he came into the tavern before, but I’ve never seen him,” said Swift. “We have a busy crowd some nights.”

“Not to my recollection,” said Korahd. “But yes, Bonnie might know him; if he’s come through our door, she’s spoken to him.”

“Where is Miss Bonnie now?” said Blastwind.

“I’m afraid I lost track of her in all the excitement. She should still be inside; I’ll go and check presently.” The eladrin entered the tavern, cursed in Elvish, and walked back outside. “That’s right. She hasn’t come in for her shift yet.”

“I see.”

“It’s too early for her to be here, of course. If you don’t mind, I can fetch her post-haste.”

“Actually please have her come down to the station as soon as she can.”

“As you wish.”

“If you don’t mind,” said Wean. “There were several people who in that explosion, why are ye’ interested in the gnome specifically?”

“Because I want to know why he was coming to see you,” said Blastwind.

Korahd raised one eyebrow. “That is a good question.”

“How can you be sure he was coming to our establishment?” said Wean.

“Maybe he wanted a drink,” suggested Swift. “Or maybe he’s heard that I’m a gunsmith and wanted to hire me to craft something.”

“Why so defensive all of a sudden?” said Blastwind.

“Please don’t mistake curiosity for defensiveness,” said Wean. “I’m merely interested in how you got to these conclusions.”

“City Watch business.”

“No need to be defensive, just curious,” said Wean with a wry smirk.

“Well if no one knows anything, we’ll be going. I suggest not leaving town while we investigate.” Blastwind turned around and left with the sergeant.

“Well bless that man’s heart, a right pleasure to be around, it’s clear,” said Wean.

Once the Watch was comfortably out of earshot, Korahd said, “We need Sam. And I need Bonnie. To find Bonnie. Yes, to go and find her.”

“I’ll ask around here a bit if you two want to go get the others,” offered Swift.

“I’m gone.” And she was.

While Wean cast a critical eye across the scene to see what he could figure out about where the fireball had come from, Swift mosied over to the Corellon’s Crown. The Shifter spent a little time chatting with other folks to see if he can get any more info. Once done with that, he returned to the bar and grabbed a drink while waiting for everyone to regroup.

Wean returned first. “There was wee one was down the way a bit wh saw the explosion and needed to be walked home.”

Sam K arrived next, with Korahd and Bonnie shortly after. “She didn’t know the gnome,” the eladrin announced.

“I’d still recommend she go to the station and tell them that,” said Swift.

“We did, yes.”

“Oh good.”

“What happened outside?” said Sam K. The others summarized the morning, bringing the half-elf up to speed.

“One of the bodies had a Black Network tattoo,” Korahd told him, describing the man. He shook his head, face neutral.

“This kid, Martem Trec, was in the ally when the blast happened and was a little shaken by the whole thing. Said he was friends with the musicians and dancers that ended up on the wrong end of that explosion. He was in the ally and hid once it all went down.”

“Were they playing too early?” asked Sam K.

“A bit, but I don’t think the explosion had anything to do with it. The kid said this broken necklace dropped in a barrel next to him after the explosion. It seems relevant, but I don’t sense anything special about the item. Kor?” Wean handed the necklace over to the eladrin.

“I’ll take a look, sure.” A few minutes later, she said, “Well, it’s pretty. Can we go ask the Blackstaff? Does she owe us one yet?”

“I got a couple of pieces of information that give us some leads,” said Swift.

“I expect I could get some research done at the library,” said Wean. “It may be nothing, but I’m not ready to drop the lead just yet.”

“Leads?” said Sam K, a little bewildered. “Were we somehow implicated in this?”

“Only in that the Watch believes the gnome was coming here. From the sewers. Well, Officer Sunshine didn’t say sewers, but if I saw that detail, I’m sure he will, too.” She sat at one of the tables to listen to Swift.

Swift nodded. “First, Fana across the street saw someone kneel down over the Gnome right after the explosion and take something from the body. A cloaked man. And he headed off toward the bent nail.”

“The gnome had a pouch of gems on him,” said Korahd. “Whatever they took, they left that. That’s odd.”

“The man was also injured. Limping,” said Swift. Korahd nodded, pocketing the broken necklace.

“Did you go talk to … what’s that guy’s name? Tally?” said Sam K.

The Shifter shook his head. “No. I decided to wait for everyone to get back before investigating further. Second, I talked with a woman that actually saw the person – or thing – that attacked. It was standing on top of the roof and cast the fireball. But it wasn’t a person. It was made of metal. Like a puppet with no strings. She didn’t see where it went afterward. The thing is I’ve seen something like she described before.”


“In the Day of Wonders Parade, there are these metal automatons that march sometimes. I think I heard they are involved with the Temple of Gond, who sponsors the parade.”

“I see.”

“So, Bent Nail and … where is there a temple of Gond?” asked Korahd.

“The House of Inspired Hands, Waterdeep’s temple of Gond, sits on the corner of Seawatch Street and Shark Street in the Sea Ward. I’ve been by there a few times,” said Swift.

“You were a tout in your youth, weren’t you,” said Sam K. It wasn’t a question.


“I recognize tour guide rote when I hear it.”

“We all start somewhere.”

The party spoke with Tally, who hadn’t seen anyone, and said that no one had come to his door. They noted another exit from the alley next to his shop, however.

“Should we turn this over to the watch?” said Korahd. She fished the necklace out of her pocket. “Because I think we might need to show it to … somebody.”

“Probably,” said Sam K.

“Wouldn’t taking it to the Blackstaff be a proper procedure for a Gray Hand to follow?” said Swift.

“And is there a conflict in the priorities of a Lords’ Alliance … initiate?” said the half-elf, gazing at Korahd and Wean.

“Is there?” said Korahd without interest in the question. “Maybe the Gondsmen know what this thing is.”

“And I think we should definitely find out more about the automatons,” said Swift.

“I’m also interested in seeing what might be found at this temple of Gond,” said Wean.

“Well, whatever you think best,” said Sam K. “I just don’t want to cross the law on something that may have nothing to do with us.”

“To be fair, I’m not even sure it’s connected to the explosion,” said Wean. “Just that it ended up next to this kid in the ally who saw the explosion. Kor, may I have the necklace? I’d like to see if any of the scholars at the library can divine its origin.”

“Good point. It may have nothing to do with the crime. We should try to find out before bothering the watch with it.” She pooled the necklace into Wean’s hand.

“Thank you. I’m off to the library to see if there is anything to this jewelry. Anyone who wishes to come along is certainly welcome.”

“Not much of a reader,” said Sam K, posting up at the bar to start a shift.

“I would, but I need to finish my work. But I’ll go to the temple when you’re done at the book place.” She returned to decorating the unicorn statue, whispering to it all the while.

“I’ll go with Wean,” said Swift. “Then we can come back and pick up whoever else for the Temple.”

* * *

“It looks like we have a … broken … necklace of fireballs on our hands,” said Wean when they had returned.

Sam K continued tending the bar, but Korahd stopped what she was doing and joined them at a table. “So it is part of the crime, then,” she said.

“There is such a thing?” said Swift.

“Aye, there is,” said Wean. “And if the perpetrator is some sort of machine then perhaps they needed a magical item in order to cause such destruction. Either way, it does seem to be a legitimate clue.”

“Yes. Any way it can be traced back to the previous owner by magic?”

“Perhaps, but that’s beyond my abilities. This may be one for the magistrates.”

“Damn, you’re probably right,” said Korahd. “Does the magic work with the necklace broken?”

“Good question,” said Swift. “If anyone’s going to create an explosion in here it’s going to be me, dammit.”

“No, it seems to be busted,” said Wean.

“I guess I should have mentioned the kegs of smokepowder I keep in my workshop…”

Korahd turned to Swift. “Possibly. Is it good on steak?”

“I dunno… Let’s find out next time we have steak.”

She nodded in agreement. “Then I guess we should turn it in, perhaps on our way to the temple?”

“Okay. I’ve been thinking about the temple though.”

“What about it?”

“We can’t just walk in and say ’Hey did you send one of your automatons over here and blow some people up? Not sure how we approach it to get any information.”

“I can see how that might not work,” said Korahd. “And it is in no way what I was thinking about trying when we got there.” Swift smirked.

“Perhaps if the authorities know what went down they’ll be able to do something about it,” said Wean.

“Maybe we should just inquire about how the automatons work? Approach as curious tinkerers? I think I can pull that one off seeing how I am a very curious tinkerer.”

Korahd slapped the table and pointed at Swift. “There we go. Perfect. Maybe we want one to entertain people here in the bar!"

“Even better.”

“Maybe we do really want that,” Korahd said to herself.

“Okay, let’s do it.”

“You kids have fun,” Sam K called from the bar.

* * *

The House of Inspired Hands looked like a cross between a temple and a workshop. The symbol of Gond, a toothed cog with four spokes, was displayed prominently. Curiously, the silhouette of a humanoid shape perched on the rooftop. It extended an arm, releasing a tiny metal sparrow into the sky. The bird made a few loops in the air, then veered right toward the trio.

LOOK OUT!” cried Korahd dodging aside. The tiny automaton jerked and crashed into the ground near her feet. “Oh, you poor thing,” she said before casting her gaze back to the rooftops where the figure was quickly ducking out of sight. “Did you see that person on the roof?”

“Aye, seems we’re being targeted after all,” said Wean.

“I did, too,” said Swift. “That isn’t all that unusual for Gnomes. Probably testing out a new invention that didn’t go as planned.”

“Then let’s take it up to them.” Korahd gathered the clockwork bird.

The main hall of the temple held two dozen marble pedestals. Each one bore a prize-winning invention or a miniature model of some other extraordinary creation. They were met by a bronze Dragonborn woman. “How can I help you?”

“This place is _so cool,”_ said Korahd, eliciting a smile from the Dragonborn. “It’s like the anti-Feywild.”

“These are the geniuses that invented smokepowder and gunnery, Kor,” said Swift. “I’ve been amazed with them since I was a kid.” Then he turned to the Dragonborn. “We came to return this bird.”

“Ah, thank you,” said the Dragonborn. “Do you happen to know who was testing this?”

“We only caught a glimpse of them on the roof,” said Korahd. “I’d be willing to take it up to them if you’d like.”

The Dragonborn sighed. “Follow me.” She led them up a spiral staircase to an attic. A quiet “eee” sound comes from Korahd’s throat as she followed, lingering on this and that wonder.

“Well this is new,” said the Dragonborn, pointing at the lock on the door. Then she knocked and said, “Nim? Nim open up.” There was no answer, but they could all hear someone inside.

“And here we are without our _locksmith,”_ said Korahd. “Nim? Nim, we have your bird, or what’s left of it. Please let us in so we can return it to you?”

They heard the door unlock from the inside and slowly creak open. Hiding behind some boxes they saw an articulated construct with a golden metallic sheen. Its face was crafted like that of a nobleman with a sharp nose and a sweeping mustache and a beard that curled forward into a point. It wore a red doublet with a broad collar and a wide-brimmed hat decorated with a crimson plume.

“Coool,” said Korahd.

Swift’s jaw dropped a bit. “This is Nim?” he asked, looking at the Dragonborn.

“Yes. Nim is a nimblewright. He was gifted to the temple by a Lantanese wizard.”

“Hello there, Nim. I’m Korahd.”

The automaton started waving his arms around, and the eladrin looked over at the Dragonborn woman for an explanation. “He understands Common but doesn’t speak,” she said. “Over time we’ve developed a sign language that he uses to communicate. He says hello and that he’s pleased to meet you.”

“Was … is this your bird?” Korahd asked, holding it up for him to see. Nim reached out and took the bird from Korahd.

“Yes it’s his,” said the Dragonborn.

“Can you make one of these?” Korahd asked Swift. “Please tell me you can make one of these.”

“Not today,” he said. “But I will someday. Except mine will have gun mounts.” Korahd nodded in agreement, then Swift turned to the Dragonborn. “Is he the only … Nimblewright … in Waterdeep?”

“No, he’s not.”

“There are more?! How many?”

“Unknown. We are not the only ones who have gotten one from the Lantanese.”

“Does Nim stay in his room, or does he leave and walk the city?”

“Nim is not allowed to leave the temple.”

“And he is good about obeying that? I know when I was a kid I snuck out all the time.”

“Me, too,” said Korahd. She looked down at Nim’s legs to see if he was favoring one over the other. He didn’t seem to be.

“The guards would make sure that he didn’t leave,” said the Dragonborn.

“Huh,” said Swift. “He’s fascinating. I’m glad Kor almost got beaned.”

Nim slowly started signing again and the Dragonborn translated in a tight voice. “He says that he built another nimblewright to ease his loneliness and that it fled in confused terror a month ago. Nim hasn’t seen it since.” She was clearly upset by this revelation and called down the stairs to summon some underlings. She ordered all of Nim’s tools and unfinished inventions to be removed from the attic.

Korahd’s eyes widened. “Now let’s not be hasty,” she said to the Dragonborn. “Nim, if we find your friend, do you think you can you help them?” The eladrin then pointed out a copper contraption about a foot long with a small umbrella-like apparatus on one end. “Here now, what’s this? For the little fey when it rains, perhaps.”

The automaton signed. “Nim says it’s a nimblewright detector. He was going to use it to find the other nimblewright.” Then she translated as Nim explained how it worked.

“Would you mind if we borrowed it? We could find your friend and bring them back here to you.”

“You can take it but only if you promise to destroy it,” said the Dragonborn.

“Destroy the detector? Very well, I accept,” said Korahd.

“To destroy the other Nimblewright, you mean?” Swift asked.

The Dragonborn frowned at Korahd then answered Swift. “Yes.”

“Okay. May I ask why?”

“It was not created with morality safeguards. Nim did not realize it would need them.”

“I see.”

“As such, the House of Inspired Hands will pay you five hundred gold pieces for proof of the rogue nimblewright’s destruction.”

“I can agree to that. If within my means then I will destroy it,” said Swift.

Korahd nodded. “We’ll see what we can do.”


Session 5
The Request, Part 2

The party backtracked to the first set of stairs they had found upon arriving. The steps rose ten feet from the bottom level to the top into a narrow hallway. The stairs were blanketed by an exquisite Calishite rug covered in geometric patterns and rich colors.

“Nice rug,” said Sam K, walking forward to take it. He paused when he noticed a glue-like substance on the rug then shrugged and rolled it up. “Gonna need to get it cleaned before we sell it, maybe.”

Around a corner, the party came to another door, which the half-elf opened. A raised dais dominated the center of the room. Atop it lay a glittering gem, and an ornately decorated longsword hovered in the air above it, point-down and slowly rotating in place. The ceiling was domed and nearly forty feet high, with brilliant murals of wizards and warriors across the plaster-covered stonework. Around the rim of the dais were the words “Power pulses within me, and only a living warmth may move me.”

Wean entered the room first to investigate, noting no fewer than three secret doors. He inspected a small closet behind the first, which featured the words: “CAN DO” inscribed on the west wall. The small chamber also appeared to contain a broken crossbow trap. A silver bolt still sat within the ruins of the weapon, but upon closer examination, Wean noted that it rested upon a pressure plate and reported this to the others.

“Think it’s worth anything?” asked Sam K.

“Likely worth its weight in silver,” said the young man. “Couple ’o gold, I guess.”

Sam K shrugged. “May as well look. Could put it on a pedestal in the tavern and make up stories about it to entertain guests.”

“Aye. That we can do.”

A few moments later, Sam K sauntered out of the closet twirling the bolt between his fingers. Then they all noticed that Korahd was talking to her bag of holding. The half-elf tilted frowned in concern. “Kor? You okay? Is this normal weird, or…?”

“Yesss?” she replied.


The room behind the second secret door was twenty-feet-square and appeared to have once been a comfortable study or library. A fire blazed in the hearth, the couch still felt warm, and perched on top of the table were a bowl of nine goodberries and a small, plain-looking wooden box with a large ball of very plush fuzz on top of it. The walls were reinforced with steel and a lattice of iron beams across the ceiling appeared both decorative and sturdy. Inscribed on the west wall were the words: “WHAT MIGHT AND.”

Once more, Wean was first in to check things out. After a moment he said, “This table appears to be magical. The runes here will reverse the magic of anything in this space, I think.”

As the young man reached for the items on the table, the furry thing turned into a ball of light that pulsed unnaturally. To his credit, rather than panic, he swiftly read the arcane runes aloud, hoping to dispel whatever it was. When that did not work, he pulled the moon-touched rapier, muttered an incantation, and struck the ball of light.

Sam K looked dubiously at his plain iron dagger but tried to attack the glowing ball to no effect. An arc of electricity burst from the ball, but Wean evaded the strike. Korahd hexed the orb and hit it with an eldritch blast. Swift’s pistol cracked loudly but did no more than had Sam K’s dagger. It fell to Wean to finish the threat off with another stab from his enchanted rapier.

Sam K let out a breath of relief and smiled at the young man. “Nice.” The half-elf glanced over his shoulder at Korahd and added, “You, too.”

Having been subjected to the magic of the table runes, the goodberries had spoiled into something toxic, and the rest of the items had been rendered useless. The party exited the room and moments later,
Swift reached for the gem, carefully eyeing the floating sword. When the Shifter picked up the faceted stone, the sword came to life and tried to hit him. Fortunately, his companion’s magical assault ended the enchanted weapon’s threat moments later.

“Nice gem,” Sam K said to Swift. “Time to get naked at that iron gate later?”

“I mean… buy me dinner first.”

The half-elf shrugged. “Firm but fair.”

Swift looked more closely at the gem. “Huh… Come look. There are tiny iron gates inside the gem.”

While Wean examined the gem, Korahd approached Sam K and said something to him in a whisper. He raised his eyebrows and replied in kind. By then, the others had moved on to the third secret door.

The walls, ceiling, and floor of the latest hidden chamber were all comprised of perfectly smooth, featureless stone – almost as if this place were shaped from a single large rock and then transported here. Inscribed on the west wall were the words, “A SOFT TOUCH.”

The party considered all of the words they had seen on the dungeon walls and tried to put them together into something coherent. When they thought they had figured it out, they returned to the statue of Keilier to test it.

Having deciphered the riddle after finding several phrases throughout the dungeon, the party returned to the statue of Keilier. Swift said, “What might and strength cannot get through, this tool with a soft touch can do.”

“The answer, of course, is a ‘key,’” intoned the statue’s voice.

A wand appeared in front of the statue, and Sam K frowned down at it. “Hey, there’s some writing I can read … part of. ‘All that … and what is … be hidden.’ Well, that doesn’t make much sense.”

“Let me have a look,” said Wean. The half-elf nodded and handed it over, and the young man took his time examining the wand. When satisfied he said, “It would seem that this is a wand of secrets, useful for detecting traps and hidden doors. The inscribed words are: ‘All that is yours is mine, and what is mine cannot be hidden.’”

“Appropriate, I suppose,” said Sam K. “Also, Kor says the unicorn is speaking to her. Her name is Primara and she was transformed years ago. She would like us to free her.”

“So… Damsel in distress, or demon contained for good reason?” said Swift.

“No way to tell, really.”

“I say we give it to the creepy burglar and be done with it,” said Wean.

Sam K assumed a mock aggrieved expression. “I’m standing Right Here.”

“Noted. The other creepy burglar.”

“Uh, I think so, Primara, but burlap chafes me so,” said Korahd into the bag of holding.

“Uh, Kor? Can I … speak with Primara?" said Sam K.

The eladrin assented, pulling the tip of the statue out of the bag. “You have to touch her.”

Uncertainly, the half-elf did so and held a brief telepathic communication with the unicorn statue. Afterward, his expression was sober. “She says she was part of Mirt the Moneylender’s collection until someone stole her and placed her in Blue Alley. Guys, I think this was a real unicorn. For real. But how can we even free her? Seems like pretty powerful magic.”

“Let’s finish here,” said Swift. “Decide about the unicorn later.”

The party talked Sam K into attempting the hallways before the iron gate to paradise, which they suspected to be an exit of some sort. They evaded a pressure plate Wean spotted in the center of the lightning hall. The east door was made of silver-plated iron and engraved with circles of varying sizes, and it was easily unlocked by the silver key.

The walls of the next chamber were lined with rough and dirty tan-colored bricks. Rubbish littered the floor, including trinkets, coins, equipment, and weapons, alongside bones and dried up gore. “There are bear traps all over the floor here,” Swift noted.

“Bear traps,” said Sam K. “Fairly mundane compared to the rest of this place.”

While the others waited, the Shifter went around the room carefully triggering each trap with a castoff weapon. Occasionally, he stopped to pick something up. When he was finished, he returned to his companions.

“Did you get all the traps?” said Sam K.

“I believe so, yes. And some of this might be useful.” He showed the others a piton, a war pick, a wand, a pair of knucklebone dice, a healer’s kit, and a blanket.

“Huh. That’s quite the collection.”

“The dice have a cool skull symbol where the six should be.” Swift seemed quite pleased with himself.


Wean examined the wand, determining it to be imbued with pyrotechnic magic. Then he and Sam K started to cross the room to a secret door that Swift casually mentioned finding. They spotted a couple more items of interest before they reached it. The half-elf spotted a tiny silver icon of a raven and the human found a small music box made of brass, which featured a pair of tiny automatons that resembled Azer working at a forge. They also scooped up thirty gold about the time that the secret door opened and skeletons began to pour out.

Wean struck the nearest skeleton with the moon-touched blade and retreated a step, having to abjure a shield to prevent being struck in return. The undead pursued him, but couldn’t penetrate his defenses. Sam K stepped toward the remaining animates boldly, brandishing an amulet.

“Turn from an agent of the Lord of Shadows,” he proclaimed, drawing on the power of Mask. Half of the skeletons withdrew to the far end of the small room beyond the hidden door, giving the party the advantage of numbers for a while. “Welp. That’s what I’ve got.” He retreated to the doorway near Swift and Korahd.

One of the skeletons chased the half-elf, but he managed to ward off its initial strike. Another came after Swift and drew blood from the Shifter. In response, Swift moved to get a better angle on the skeleton, but his shot missed.

“I’ll save you Sam!” said Korahd, hitting the undead with an eldritch blast. Wean struck down his foe, then pivoted and ended another, as well. Sam K turned his attention to the remaining aggressive skeleton and chipped off a few bone fragments with his dagger. Swift’s next bullet struck the skeleton, but it stabbed the half-elf before Korahd’s magic finished it off.

Sam K squinted into the darkened chamber where the remaining skeletons cowered. He noted sparkling gems on an altar of some sort in the middle of the room. “They will continue to cower for a short while,” he said. “I may be able to collect those gems before they recover. Please do not attack them while I do. If they are damaged, it will break the turning.” So saying, the half-elf entered the hall.

A large mural wrapped around the walls of the small chamber, depicting numerous humanoid skulls of varying sizes scattered across a wasteland. The sun was setting behind a low range of mesas, and the skulls each cast long shadows. There was a small altar made entirely of dark, splintered humanoid skulls. The eye sockets of three skulls were filled with semi-precious gemstones. Sam K wasted no time and began prying gemstones free from the skulls.

As he claimed the last, a shadowy form emerged from the skull’s eye socket. “Uh oh,” he said, retreating behind his companions, who unleashed ranged hell. Unsatisfied with the way the shadow resisted his magic, Wean said, “Hit it with holy light!”

“Haven’t got any,” said Sam K.

“Eldritch is holy to Elves!” said Korahd, erasing the shadow with an eldritch blast.

They took several minutes to rest and recover from their recent encounters then turned their attention to the northern door. The walls of the long corridor beyond were lined with rough and dirty tan-colored bricks. Dried gore was spattered over the floor, walls, and ceiling. Dozens of whirling blades emerged from deep grooves in the floor, while scything blades swung back and forth up the entire corridor.

They couldn’t spot any mechanism which might disable the blades but decided to spend a few minutes watching them to see if they could determine a pattern that would allow safe passage. Wean sketched out what he saw and following these instructions, the party managed to make it through the hall unscathed.

A dome-shaped room awaited them with walls of polished, white marble. In the center of the room was a three-foot-high marble pedestal with a fluted column. A plush red pillow sat on top, and as they drew closer, they noticed a single copper piece sitting on the pillow. They found no traps and claimed the coin, which appeared to be the key for the golden safe in another part of the dungeon.

“Congratulations!” came the voice from a magic mouth.

Sam K shook his head and took a closer look at the coin. “Ooh, anniversary coin. ‘Minted in 1364 DR, golden anniversary of the reign of Lord Piergeiron the Paladinson,’” he read.

The party returned to the room with the safe, and once the small gold door was opened, they found a tiny cavity containing a lantern of revealing. Satisfied that they had taken all they could from the Blue Alley dungeon, they decided it was time to leave. Swift wanted to use the gem on the iron gate to see what Paradise was, but the others opted for the front door.

* * *

The Shifter returned to the tavern an hour or so after the others had made it back. He told his companions that the iron gate had teleported him into the Yawning Portal. A dramatically appropriate moment later, they heard a knock at the door before Jarlaxle let himself in.

“I see your mission was a success,” he said without preamble. “As was mine. Thank you for providing a diversion.”

“Diversion?” said Swift.

“Yes, I’ve suddenly become the owner of one Blue Alley and made a partnership with one Open Lord of Waterdeep.”

“Oh. Well, you might want to step up the challenge in that place. It was kind of a cakewalk.”


“Or don’t and point the exit to our tavern instead of the Yawning Portal,” suggested Sam K.

“That can be arranged.”

The half-elf relaxed somewhat. “Okay, well. You don’t make a good first impression, but I’m warming up to you. Slowly.”

Jarlaxle nodded and dropped a large bag of gold on the table. “Compensation for the trouble my former employee caused you.”

“And you’ll compensate the families of the folk he killed, as well?”

“Already taken care of,” said the dark elf. Sam K frowned uncertainly then nodded.

“Well, that’s that I guess,” said Swift. “Care to stay for a drink, or do you have more pawns to move around elsewhere?”

“Sadly I must depart,” said Jarlaxle. “Can’t keep Entreri waiting for long. He’s bound to stab someone.”

“The company you do keep…” muttered Sam K. After the drow had departed, he glanced at the unicorn statue and said, “Okay. Gonna need a pedestal or something.”


Session 4
The Request, Part 1

A finely dressed dark elf with a fancy hat and an eyepatch was seated at a table in the Trollskull the next morning. “Gentlemen and lady, we have some business to discuss. The name is Jarlaxle. Please sit down.”

Not taking her eyes off the man or blinking, Korahd backed into a table and sat on that instead of a chair. Sam K sighed and went behind the bar to pour himself a drink. “What are you doing in our place?”

“Aye, you’ve broken into our place,” said Wean. “What do you want?”

“Compensation for the injury of one of my employees,” said Jarlaxle.

“If you’re talking about the gunslinger who came to our place of business and shot everyone here, then I think you owe us,” said Sam K.

“He put a bullet in my skull,” said Korahd, indicating a hex-shaped scar over her temple that hadn’t quite healed.

“He has been punished,” said the drow, “but I cannot let an attack on my organization stand.”

“Your organization, unknown to us, was not attacked,” said Wean. “Try again.” Sam K put a finger on his nose and pointed at the young man.

“Also, what organization is that? Because your uniforms are _amazing,”_ said Korahd.

Jarlaxle ignored the men and smiled at her. “Thank you. So we can sit down and discuss terms or…”

“Aye, your man, it seems, tried to kill us. What terms are ye’ offering?” asked Wean.

“You can do a job for me, and I will consider the matter to be settled. My employee will also no longer bother you or anyone else.”

Sam K sipped his drink but didn’t come out from behind the bar. “Was he the one murdering elven folk in the docks?”


“And you allowed this.”

“No. I was out of the city. I arrived late last night.”

“Seems like you need to get your house in order rather than coming to bother us.”

“My house has been properly … cleansed.”

“If we’re talkin’, and it seems we are,” said Wean, “what job is it ye’ would be payin’ us to do?”

“I don’t mind hearing the details,” said Swift. “But so far I’m not really motivated to do anything for you since I’m still nursing a bullet hole.”

Jarlaxle nodded, conceding the point. “I would like you to enter the Blue Alley and retrieve an item for me.”

“Do you know this Blue Alley?” Korahd asked Sam.

The half-elf shrugged. “Rumors. Wizard-built dungeon filled with traps and nonsense.”

“Oooh. A chance to prove my worth…”

Jarlaxle leaned back and puts his boots on the table and said, “All I require is the Celestite Unicorn. Anything else you find is yours to keep.”

Sam K snorted. “Another ‘organization’ offering to pay us in, what did you call it, Kor? ‘Exposure?’”

“And whatever else we can pick up that’s shiny," she added.

“Sounds interesting,” said Swift. “We can always do it and decide what to do with the Unicorn after.”

Sam K nodded. “Fine. We accept. Get out.”

Jarlaxle smiled. “Good.” Then he vanished through some magical means.

* * *

Three days later, after Swift had finished crafting his new pistols, the party set off on Jarlaxle’s errand. The alley was ten feet wide with cobblestones of blue sodalite and twenty-foot sandstone walls. A tin sign on the western wall had the words “BLUE ALLEY” painted on it. A podium of gleaming sodalite stood a few feet inside Blue Alley. Atop the podium lay a quill beside a heavy book bound in blue leather. A wall of force barred further passage.

Korahd squinted at the book, noting that it was full of hundreds of names, each written in a different hand. About a quarter of the names had a neat line drawn through them. “Is that for notifying next of kin?” she asked.

“They want to know the names of the contestants I guess,” said Swift, taking up the quill and signing his name. Korahd wrote her first name in elegant Elvish script but printed “Shadowinter” in blocky childlike letters. Wean put down “Ween,” and Sam K wrote “John Fakename.” So doing, the wall of force no longer prevented them from continuing.

The alley split into branches running east and west. A brightly colored mural depicting numerous adventurers falling victim to every conceivable form of trap was painted on the northern wall of the intersection. Scything blades, spiked pits, collapsing roofs, jets of fire, poison gas, and more were all featured. At the top of the mural, the word “SILVER” was painted above an arrow pointing east, while the word “GOLD” was painted above an arrow pointing west.

“What in the nine hells?” said Wean. “’Ave we been here and I just forgot?!”

“Maybe?” said Korahd. “I haven’t been paying a lot of attention.”

Wean pointed at a section of the mural depicting the party members being mutilated by various grisly traps.

“Huh,” said Sam K.

Korahd leaned in for a closer look. “Coooool.”

“Well, that’s fun,” said Swift. “Let’s go Gold. I’m betting the unicorn is that way.”

“Primus sinister! Onward!” cried the eladrin.

Sam K shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

They came to a door made of ivory-coated iron that was carved with the figures of carnivorous animals eating their prey. “If there are animals eating people on the other side of this door,” said Korahd, “we should watch. Or save them. Whichever.” The door was locked, and Swift turned to Sam K to ask if he could get it open.

The half-elf shrugged. “Maybe. Let’s try the ways that are not locked, first.”

“But don’t we want all the prizes?” said Swift. “The Unicorn is the last thing I really care about in here.”

“Eh. I don’t even really want to be here, so.”

“Okay. You don’t want to go in the door, then lead the way to where you do want to go.”

“All right.” Sam K took point, finding a branch of the hall that led to stairs heading upward. “Easier to map if we take it one floor at a time,” he decided.

A short while later, the half-elf paused in the hall and turned to his left. “Hm. Secret door,” he said.

“Well, hello, hidden door,” said Korahd. “Come out and play with us.”

Sam K reached out his hand to see if the door was locked and his hand went through the illusory wall. Then he stepped through, and the others followed. Racks of wine bottles lined the outer walls of a ten-foot-by-thirty-foot chamber. Inscribed on the west wall were the words: “STRENGTH CANNOT.”

The party looked around the room, pausing to inspect a two-foot gold-plated door mounted in the northwest corner with a coin-shaped key slot. Having no way to open the door, they recovered a couple healing potions and five bottles of dark Amnish wine potent enough to be used as alchemist’s fire in a pinch. Then they continued down the hall past the illusion.

The walls of the next chamber were lined with red clay bricks. Seven circular metal platforms, each six feet in diameter, hung from great iron chains attached to the ceiling. The floor was hidden beneath a thick blanket of smoke. Korahd retrieved a rope from her pack, and the party cautiously made its way across the platforms, recovering a moon-touched sword from one of them.

They entered another hall flanked by locked doors and eventually came to a locked stair. So seeing, Sam K approached the nearest hallway door, above which was written: “TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN TRULY AFFORD.” A moment later the half-elf opened the door to reveal a room filled to the brim with thousands of gold coins of all types. “It wasn’t locked,” he deadpanned.

“Yeah, I can’t afford to be this rich,” said Korahd.

“I wonder how illusory this is,” said Sam K. “Considering that wall earlier.”

Wean chuckled and said, “I think this may be fool’s gold.”

“Oh?” said the half-elf, picking up a few coins. “Looks real to me.”

Wean traced his finger in the air and spelled out the words “ALL FAKE” written in coins on the floor.

“Huh. All right, then.” Sam K dropped the coins.

“I can think of a hundred ways to have fun with these,” said Korahd, “but we’ll be rich enough once our tavern is the most popular spot in the city.”

The chamber through the south door of the Fool’s Gold room was rectangular and featureless save for the black iron gates set into the southern wall. Someone touched the gates, causing a magic mouth to materialize in the ceiling and intone, “Beyond these gates lies paradise. Enter them as you entered life, and you may yet find it; grasp the jewel and grasp the iron, then be whisked away to the truest of rewards.”

Korahd’s eyes narrowed then widened. “I’m not ready to go back. I don’t want to go back.”

Sam K looked over at her. “Are you okay?”

It took a moment for the eladrin to respond. “I mean, maybe paradise and the Feywild are two different places.” She shrugged. “But I doubt it.”

“So you have to be naked?” said Swift, interrupting the exchange.

The half-elf quirked an eyebrow. “I’m not ready to get naked.”

“No?” said Korahd. “Very well. Retracing our steps?”

When the party stepped back into the hallway, a voice emanated from nowhere in particular. “What did the greedy gold digger say? Mine, mine, mine. Congratulations, you are all now blessed.”

“What a daft place,” said Sam K, heading to the next door. “This one isn’t locked either.”

The walls of the chamber were lined with red clay bricks. At the far end was an eight-foot circular that glowed a fiery red. The room was hot, humid, and smelled of ash. Sam K casually closed the door and turned to the one on the opposite side of the hall.

“What was in there?” asked Swift.

“Take a peek,” said the half-elf.

Swift reopened the door and looked inside. “How do we know the Unicorn isn’t in the pit?” he asked.

“Godspeed,” said Sam K, opening the next door.

The chamber beyond had a winding path of bright yellow tiles that led from the western door to the northern one. The walls were all decorated with intensely detailed murals depicting Helmite funerary rituals as well as a dozen mages, all holding the holy symbol of Mystra, hiding in the background. Inscribed on the west wall are the words: “GET THROUGH.”

“Helm,” Korahd said, her nose wrinkling. “Does any deity have less fun followers?”

“Ilmater,” Sam K said reflexively.

The eladrin suppressed a shudder. “I stand corrected.” She examined the murals and the writing for a moment or two then said, “Maybe these phrases form a clue when they’re put together?”

“Maybe so.”

Swift crossed the room, sticking to the yellow tiles, and came to the northern door. “Locked,” he reported.

Sam K followed the same path and inspected the door for a moment. “No, it isn’t,” he said, pushing it open.

All the surfaces in the next chamber were made of a single mirror shaped to become walls, floor, and ceiling. Standing in the middle of the room was a three-foot-tall statue of a rearing unicorn.

“Huh,” said Sam K. “Looks heavy. But is it real?” He looked to his companions.

Korahd shrugged. “Is celestite what it’s made of, or…?”

“Is that a material?”

The eladrin shrugged and entered the Mirror Room for a closer look, followed by Swift. Korahd rooted around in her pack for a moment, then came up with an apple and tried to lure the unicorn toward her with it. The statue did not respond and she looked over her shoulder at the others. “I guess we have to carry it then.”

Swift laughed out loud. “I thought you were looking for your bag of holding.”

“Oh, right! Right!” She nodded at the Shifter then attempted to cram the statue into the bag.

“Okay, so. Job’s done,” said Sam K. “The rest is just to see if any actual pay can be had in this weird place.”

It became clear that he had spoken too soon when his companions attempted to leave the Mirror Room. As soon as they crossed the threshold, their clothes and belongings vanished and reappeared in the center of the room – along with the unicorn statue. The party heard laughter coming from the room. Korahd blushed but made no move to cover her nudity, heading back into the statue room. Swift shifted into ratman form and followed her.

“Huh. Guess you’re ready for that iron gate,” said Sam K. “If you find whatever gem it was talking about.”

“Seems ye’ got a bit o’ the tricksters blessing on that one,” said Wean.

Swift addressed the room uncertainly. “Very funny. Now play nice and let us have it.” No one answered.

“Bit of a pickle. Maybe it’s another illusion,” suggested Sam K. “What if you, I don’t know, take the statue through the mirror on the north wall?”

Korahd dressed and tried to leave the room without the statue, but the result was the same as before: her clothes and belongings were teleported to the center of the Mirror Room. “Okay, now I’m annoyed,” she said. “And cold.”

Swift attempted to toss the bag of holding out of the room from within, but it reappeared in the Mirror Room as it crossed the threshold. Then he tossed his short sword out of the room, but it also teleported back to the center.

“Hm,” said Sam K. “Kor, we haven’t talked about this yet, but what if you teleport out of the room with your stuff. Since, you know, you can apparently do that sometimes. I don’t know much about dimensional whatnot.”

“Could be worth a try,” she said. She gathered her effects and tried to fey step into the yellow room. Her belongings did not arrive with her, and she reminded everyone that Elvish was a very poetic language to swear in.

Swift sighed, looking around the room for any other sort of clue. He paused near the door, squinting. “Ah … there is a hint.” Swift got dressed and walked out of the Mirror Room with his eyes closed. His belongings did not vanish as he re-entered the yellow-tiled room. “The hint said that everything we see belongs to the room,” he explained.

The party returned to the hall and headed to the next nearest door. Rows of workbenches lined the room, each covered the remains of experiments long finished. Scorch marks dotted the scene and the stench of fire and acid assailed the senses. Beakers, vials, and buckets of unidentifiable arcane goo lay all around the area.

“This might be valuable,” said Swift, heading inside and grabbing a bottle. “Potion of some kind, I think,” he added, handing it over to Korahd.

The eladrin examined the liquid and nodded. “If you get in trouble, you can get healed double.”

The final door they came to was locked enough for Sam K to admit it. Still, he managed to get it open after a couple of minutes At one time the room must have been exquisitely luxurious, but it had fallen into disrepair. Even so, the overstuffed couches appeared very comfortable and the carpet had been cared for, even if there is an obvious travel path worn into it. There were doors to the east and the south.

Sam K entered the room and flopped on one of the couches. Korahd sat on another and lit a cigar. “You have cigars?” said the half-elf. “Jealous.”

“Just the one,” said the eladrin. She offered him a puff, which he gratefully accepted. “Someone calling for entertainment,” she added, pointing at the eastern door.

“I’m oddly curious,” said Swift.

“Here we are now,” Sam K muttered, handing the stogie back and checking the door.

A solid bronze statue of the wizard Keilier – so it said on the statue’s base – was placed within a sphere of force. The statue’s eyes followed them around the space, and several broken vials lay on the floor. On the wall was a phrase, scrawled in Common: “Utter madness. PURE RUBBISH!”

Korahd and Swift entered the room, and the Shifter asked, “Who was talking?”

The eladrin examined the statue. “Good question.”

“Who is Keilier?” Swift wanted to know.

“He is I,” replied the statue.

“No, you’re a statue.”

“So you’re going to take me for granite?” said Keilier. Korahd burst out laughing at the pun until tears streamed down her cheeks.

“How long have you been in that bubble?” said Swift.


“Can you tell us anything about this place?”

“Not really, I’m just a sham rock.” Korahd groaned and the statue’s eyes drifted to her. “I gets no respect.”

“Then you aren’t really any help. I’ll shut the door and leave you all astone,” said Swift.

The statue laughed then said, “So do you have a riddle for me?”

“Better slate than never? Is that anything?” said Sam K.

“A riddle?” said Swift.

“Yes, a riddle?”

“I think those inscriptions are part of what it’s asking for,” said Korahd.

“Well, we have two. Or is the one in here a third? Strength Cannot Get Through Pure Rubbish?” he said uncertainly. “That’s not a riddle.”

“This part here isn’t part of it.”

“That would mean we need to find the rest of them and then come back here,” reasoned Swift.

“Need is a strong word,” Sam K said with a shrug. “Tell your stoner friend we’ll be back.” He smiled to himself. “There it is.”

“We’ll be back with a riddle soon!” Swift told the statue.

Additional exploration led to another hidden door that opened into a hallway with even more doors. Behind the nearest, the stone walls were decorated with colorful frescoes depicting a skyscape filled with all manner of flying creatures, from bumblebees to rocs. The ceiling was twenty feet high, and about fifteen feet above the floor, a row of short copper rods protruded from either wall. Lightning arced between these rods the entire length of the corridor.

“No, thank you,” said Sam K.

“Agreed, unless we find an off switch,” said Korahd.

The next door opened on a corridor with walls of dressed stone and thick cobwebs covering everything. There was an open pit blocking the way, ten feet deep and twenty feet long. The bottom of the pit was lined with jagged and menacing spikes.

“Not very welcoming, these halls,” said the half-elf.

The stone walls of the next room had been whitewashed and painted with images of treasure chests of varying sizes. The pictured chests were all open, revealing rows of sharp teeth. A reinforced wooden chest sat against the southern wall. The lid was closed, but it appeared to have no lock. Inscribed on the west wall were the words, “THIS TOOL WITH.”

“Strength cannot get through this tool with?” said Korahd.

Swift approached the chest, and Sam K glanced up, noticing the ceiling start to smile. “Ceiling-mouth,” warned Sam, pointing upward. Korahd entered and hit the Mimic Room in the mouth with a hex-fueled eldritch blast. The others followed her lead, leveling their own ranged attacks at the fanged maw above. The Mimic Room struck the eladrin with a sticky tongue-like appendage, but it didn’t survive long enough to do much more harm. The party looted the chest of coins, a small bronze bell, and a silver key wrapped in a velvet cloth.

While they took a break from exploring to let Korahd refocus, the eladrin played with the bell, which appeared to be enchanted. It didn’t make a sound when shaken, but a few minutes later they heard the chime noise it should have made. “I love it,” she proclaimed.

Three chambers comprised the next area, the first appeared to be a twenty-foot-square pasture, complete with lush grasses, a water trough, and a clear sky overhead. Two silos bordered the pasture, and inside each was a single silver-plated ox skull with rune-covered horns.

“Oh that’s cool,” said Swift, touching the runes on one of the skulls. This elicited a faintly echoing moo.

“I say again: ‘Huh,’” said Sam K.

Swift picked up the skull, and a Minotaur appeared from nowhere. It wore a necklace that bore another key. “Hello! Might we borrow that key for a bit?” said the Shifter.

“Aye, do ye’ speak the Common tongue?” said Wean. The Minotaur spoke, but none of the adventurers understood it. The young man reached into a pocket that apparently contained soot and muttered a few words under his breath. Then he held up the silver key and motioned to the key on the Minotaur’s neck. The Minotaur looked at the key and held up a hand, rubbing his thumb against two fingers – the universal sign for money.

Sam K looked exchanged a look with Wean, looked at the key appraisingly, then pulled out a gold piece. The Minotaur held up five fingers, and the half-elf stroked his chin for a moment before holding up three. The beastman countered with four fingers, to which Sam K shrugged and nodded. He paid the Minotaur four gold and received the key around its neck in return. Then the Minotaur spoke again.

“He wants to leave,” said Wean. “I think you have to let go of the horns.”

Swift let go of the skull and the Minotaur vanished again. “He was agreeable. Better than I expected.”

“Wait,” said Sam K to Wean. “You could understand him the whole time?”



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