Minotaar's GWJ Overwatch D&D Campaign

The Mirabar Connection

After the harrowing fight against the coven of witches that controlled the Fangtooth Tribe our heroes take a much deserved rest. Though upon waking, they went back to the encampment to see what became of the raucous noises of infighting they'd heard upon escaping the cave the night before.

A short trek back through the blighted woods revealed only silence and death at the goblin fortress. Bodies of goblins, hobgoblins, worgs, and giant spiders were left bloodied and defeated as they'd ripped themselves apart. Investigating the huts and halls encircling the perimeter revealed the results of infighting everywhere, from the mess halls and kitchen to the chieftains tents. Stolen gold was reclaimed where it was able, and out heroes considered barrels of Elf Pudding something they ensure to destroy. So the encampment was set ablaze, and they walked north from the fires, not turning around even once as the barrels exploded from the heat.

They decide to travel toward the main road, and after a day's uneventful travel they set up camp and take watches. Apple and Valka are first, with Apple sharing her fears of what their wizard is capable of to Valka. Valka reassures her that they'd made a revenge pact with the wizard. Apple is concerned that Azarek might be the reason their villages are destroyed. Valka assuages her fears by saying they'd use Azarek to fight magic with magic, and she doesn't believe Azarek would be working against them.

Esh takes second watch, and spends time considering his new life as an adventurer. It hadn't been too long since Esh was a player in Falthunhammer's Fools, going from town to town playing music and festivals with the dwarven troupe. Now he'd become a hardened adventurer, associating himself with violence and tragedy. Recalling the death of his father at the claws of a griffon he mentally spirals downward as he recalls the horrors of the hags, the goblins, the death…so much killing…that he never notices the silhouette of dragon's wings flying northward toward The Spine of the World.

Third watch is Azarek and Arlin, who contemplate the visions Azarek has about mind flayers and what Valka has to do with them. Azarek is inquisitive about druidic magics, and though Arlin tries his best, it certainly doesn't translate well. They consider what Lucy expects of them - the winter wolf has said she's looking to return to her kin, and knows she needs to go north to find them. How far north from Mirabar must they travel? Does she need just to meet one other like her? A whole pack? And how will they then get to Tradeholt, Valka's tribes former home, which is a long distance back east through the mountains?

With dawn approaching they join up with The Long Road, travelers heading north and south to Mirabar or Longsaddle, respectively. The traveling is much easier along the road than the hills and forests they'd spent the last week traversing. Not much time on the road is spent before they hear the march of an army. Over a hill comes hundreds of humans and dwarves, and the travelers take to the side of the road to let the soldiers by. Some of the soldiers notice Lucy, and looks of fear, hatred, and suspicion are cast her way.

IMAGE(http://scifiaddicts.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Fantasy_army_marching.jpg)

Esh and Azarek chat up a solider as the army marches by, who tells them they’re headed to the Fangtooth Tribe’s encampment to exterminate them once and for all. They share that they’ve already took care of that and are laughed off, but get the name for the commander and rush on up to the vanguard. Commander Huegar introduces himself and asks what they could possibly mean “they took care of that already.” So Azarek not only lays out everything about the witches controlling the tribe but that they were sent there by Oakhurst after they’d been attacked - and he’d done so by weaving an illustrated tale with his illusion magics that wound up being quite impressive to the commander (and also earned a stink eye from Apple for sharing too much information (she introduced herself as a different form of produce)).

Commander Huegar had questions about Oakhurst, the witches, the goblins intent and how they could even trust their word about what they’ve done. Azarek recounts how they left the encampment littered with dead and aflame, and where to find the hidden cave entrance. He also warns that though they defeated the hags, one got away. Commander Huegar laments that he could not simply turn back this ensemble army of Mirabarian and Longsaddle troops without some kind of proof, so he decides to press on, but perhaps send scouts ahead to shorten their trip. The party questions why Lucy is looked at with such disdain, and the commander lets them know that there’s a bounty on winter wolves in Mirabar as they’ve been attacking the northern caravans.

Commander Huegar hands Azarek an intricately carved coin with the symbol of the Axe of Mirabar etched into it, and tells him that if they are still in Mirabar when he returns, this will allow them to see him directly when presented at the barracks. He asks what name their mercenary company goes by, and is told that they’re working on it. Apple insists that Hootley and the Blowgish is still a fine name but seemingly gets shot down instantly at the notion. The army continues its march, and our nameless adventurers head north.

After a brief parting of ways to help keep Lucy off the road, they reach Mirabar. Lucy encourages the entire party to go into town, and she’ll hunt and meet them at the next sunset by the River Mirar, a small ways away from the city. They head on in, and know they’ll need to be properly outfitted for northern mountain travel. They find The Admired Fire, a shop specializing in outdoor goods and meet Darnus, a young dwarven woman inspired to help them. The shop is filled with all kinds of goods for winter travel. While they may have gotten some cold weather gear back in Oakhurst, Darnus assures them they’ll need extra furs, blankets, climbing packs, grappling hooks. They party helps feed Darnus for a few weeks with all the gear they buy, while Apple notices the stuffed animal heads adorning the walls. Over the entrance door is a winter wolf’s head. When asked, Darnus explains that her husband and his band slew that one, as Mirabar’s 50 gold per head bounty had recently gone into effect, confirming Commander Huegar’s statement from the day before. Darnus asks if they’re going into the mountains for the bounties and Apple confirms they are - Darnus warns them sincerely of the dangers of a winter wolf, let alone if they run in packs.

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/19/96/7a/19967aca9fe8523a27f67a16635dd537.jpg)

By now it's nighttime, and since Apple and Valka had been there before when selling their beer and liquor they were the ones to turn to when finding lodging and revelry. Azarek requested the nicest place they could find, as they'd spent over two weeks of hard travel since they've last had a proper bed. Apple knows which one is nicest, but she wants to go to the most fun tavern. She lies through her teeth and tells him The Eel Fin Inn is the best place in town, and though he's suspicious, he goes along with it.

They head down to the docks and can hear the inn before seeing it, music coming from its windows. The tavern common area is filled with humans and dwarves, the bar lined with people, a musical trio with some patrons dancing, a card game going with stacks of gold being wagered. Azarek immediately requests a room, heads up, and gets to task copying spell scrolls. Esh and Apple grab their bagpipes and join the band, singing song after rousing song that gets the whole bar alive and dancing. Valka engratiates herself with the barman, grabbing drink after drink and asking about the winter wolf problem.

Arlin, however, immediately splits off and heads to the temple of Chauntea, where a chamber choir is practicing. A priestess approaches Arlin and immediately welcomed him and says she's not seen a druid of Mielikki in quite some time. Arlin offers his magical healing services that the priestess immediately makes use of, as they had a young man with a broken leg to tend to. Arlin makes quick work and heals the young man with a smile, and tell him to go praise Mielikki when he's out in the woods. After a bit of confusion over which gods preside over which domains, the appreciative young man sets off and Arlin is offered lodging in the temple for the evening.

And with that, our heroes get their properly deserved rest in actual beds for once. Everything is safe, and surely nothing bad will happen ever at all.

The Mirabar Connection, Part 2

The next morning our heroes gather their wits and head straightaway to Magical Mikhail’s Merry Musings, across the bridge of the River Mirar on the north side of Mirabar. The shop is a three-story tower of conjured stone, with carved wooden doors and made with dwarf-wrought iron furnishings. Inside there’s items of all kinds on shelves, in curios, and hanging up. They find a young human teen with a hat covering his face sleeping behind the desk. Apple proceeds to say hello by flicking a silver piece at his temple. Still groggy, he welcomes them to his shop, and introduces himself as Lucas. Amidst shopping Lucas gets questioned all about his line of work, so he explains that his uncle left one day, and he inherited the shop. He’s been running it on his own for several weeks now, and doesn’t get many customers, but those that do buy things typically buy items of extreme value, ensuring he’s well off. He’s generally happy with his gig. He shows them many fine wares, like a Piercing Longbow, the Eyes of Charming, and the Ring of Spell Storing, but many items are out of their price range. Perhaps if they save up…

In walks a familiar voice that yells “Hey Lucas, I’ve got some new stuff for ya!” as their egg-stealing scoundrel walks into the shop. Immediately distrustful but not hostile our party has some hard hitting questions like "IS THAT AN EGG IN THAT SATCHEL?!?" She assures them that the egg is long gone, and they shouldn't concern themselves with a monster egg, after all, it's just a beast. She introduces herself as Vaelro, and offers a proposition to have our party do some work for her. She needs a large heavy package loaded on to a ship, The Filthy Fortune, but she can't do it herself as she has bad blood with the captain. She offers to help them cross the city with their wolf friend, since she'd need to stay hidden during the journey as winter wolves have a bounty on their heads in Mirabar. They decline, Esh having a feeling that they don't need to involve themselves in shady business, and Arlin offering up the idea to use the water walking spell to traverse the river away from the city. They do ask Vaelro what items she planned on selling Lucas, and wind up buying the Javelin of Lightning at a decent price - and Vaelro got more than Lucas would have given her.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/NpKrr1b.jpg)

They part ways from the magic shop and the scoundrel, head east from town as most of the water-borne traffic is west of the city headed to Luskan. They reconvene with Lucy and begin their trek north. Knowing they need to get a cart loaded up, but not wanting to have Lucy be seen they take a wide berth across the river and around the city and send Esh as an envoy to the northern gate to get a cart. Esh makes the trek but arrives much too late for any kind of service from the cartmasters. So he decides to head back to The Eel Fin Inn and have one more night of comfort and leisure. He employs his bardic skills so well that he impresses the owner of the inn who offers him a steady job as a musician, which he politely turns down. Esh was so able to rile the patrons to the inn that his stay is on the house.

In the morning Esh sets to gather a cart from a very busy stable of horses and carts, where many carts seem to be returning with sheep and goats for eventual sale. He pays for the rental and is told to follow the cart path to then exchange the cart for a sleigh as the snows run deep into the mountains. Esh grabs two carts and then after a time meets up with the others and then begin their long trek north. During their journey, several stops are made, and overnight Esh finally sees the silhouette of a dragon against the moon. He alerts the others, but it clearly was only flying by, no care or notice to the little ones below.

They eventually do trade their carts for a single sleigh, drawn by strange furry northern creatures known as centicores - their cuteness doesn't distract from how well they can pull weight, though. The group mushes ever north, and faced with a path divergence choose to go northwest instead of northeast. They muse over how they can eventually get back to Mirabar, if they even want to, or if they can forge ever onward though the mountains to Tradeholt.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/vEdSspI.jpg)

Since they've only one cart, Lucy chooses to make the journey on her own and is off sniffing around for other signs of winter wolves with Arlin. Having split apart from Lucy for a time, Arlin returns to the party just as they come upon some sounds off the sleigh route. Investigating further, they see a team of five men dragging a winter wolf behind them. Immediately fearing the worst, Esh prepares for battle and uses a scroll of Faerie Fire to illuminate the men. One of the men calls out, "Hold! We're just hunting bounties, same as anyone!" Our heroes creep up to get a better look and see if it's Lucy these men have, but all they can see is a blood streak coming from the wolf. Azarek is quick to offer 75 gold (more than the bounty) to take the wolf from them, but their party's leader is suspicious of why someone wants a dead wolf for more than it's worth.

Just then, Lucy appeared from behind our party and trotted forward, one of the men mentioned to his leader Montrose that she was a crossbreed, and that she'd be incredibly valuable. Montrose immediately offered to buy their wolf from them but our heroes refused, saying that they were keeping a oath to the wolf. The men look confused at the notion of bartering with a beast.

Apple attempts to insert herself past these men to look at the winter wolf behind them, to see if it was truly dead or just wounded. She tells them they'll have to hit an old lady to stop her. So they hit an old lady, and that's when things got nasty.

Apple went to scrimmage with the leader who fought back, unsheathing his swords and ensuring Apple didn't get past him. Apple got her way all the same and laid her mash paddle on three of these men, stunning two of them. One of the magic users brought forth spiritual guardians, harassing Apple and Valka. Valka, sensing the magical threat, darted straight toward him and ran him through. Spells flung from beyond the wounded wolf from their other caster, who took mental control of Lucy, turning her fangs toward the party. Esh and Arlin ensured that the caster didn't last too long, making Lucy not have to pounce on her allies. The enemy warrior charged Azarek and knocked him prone, and nearly took his head off. Apple valiantly assailed the warrior's hind-quarters and got him beat up so much that he turned his attention to her but missed with his greataxe. Azarek seized the opportunity to Toll the Dead for a furious amount of damage, sending the warrior unconscious.

With the bounty hunters diminished, Montrose calls for a parlay and asks they spare the lives of him and his men. Our heroes agree, and Montrose forces a potion of healing down his teammate's gullets, bringing his broken men back from the brink. Montrose reminds our heroes that Lucy is worth a fortune to the right buyer. The ask what he means, and Montrose explains that since her eyes are blue instead of red, it means she's a cross breed of wolf, not a true winter wolf. Most pups don't survive as cross breeds and are left to die by their pack. That, and cross breeds are never as big as a full winter wolf, but she is. Azarek asks Montrose to make a promise that he won't tell anyone about them or their wolf, lest they face their wrath again. Montrose is quick to make that promise, and Azarek believes him since he was magically detecting his thoughts.

They ask where they found this now-dead winter wolf, and Montrose explains that they only need to follow the blood trail to a cave to find that place. Finally parting ways, our heroes decide to take the corpse with them on their sleigh, and proceed to follow the blood trail. The trail leads them to the base of an large mountain, with a cave entrance at the bottom. Lucy begins to zoom back and forth, running in literal circles, telling Arlin that this is the place! She's heard the voice in her head here just like she did back in Oakhurst. Within the cave they find a natural rock tunnel headed straight up, and Lucy says she knows that's way she must go. The vertical tunnel is farther than their light will reach, so Arlin shifts into a spider form and climbs up, noting several places that it'd be tight to squeeze through for a normal sized person, let alone a beast the size of Lucy. At the top of the tunnel was another cavern. This one was curiously covered with snow, though the high pointed ceiling was totally enclosed when he checked it. It featured a stone slab at one end that had a crude bowl carved into it with a hole at the bottom resembling a drain. The slab also had carved writing in the side of it that he couldn't read. Arlin came back down and reported in.

IMAGE(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Ghed0KRgFuw/UNwWf6PkqwI/AAAAAAAAGuw/dxZeyi_011Y/s200/ley-tunnel-dungeon-safe-refuge-hiding-place.jpg)

This is where things got strategic. How to get a large wolf up a vertical scale? They have a magical rope of climbing, along with other rope, but there's also the tight spots to deal with. Arlin has spider-climb magics he can cast on others to ease the journey, and the party still has the Potion of Diminution they can give to Lucy to shrink her a bit. Taking a long rest to recuperate spells and abilities, it's now the dead of night as they make their dark journey straight up. Arlin's spider-shifted form heads up first with plenty of rope and ties things off for his friends, Valka is next and clears the way with her climbing kit's pick to ensure Lucy and the others don't get stuck. It's exhausting work but it gets done, and finally the entire party has elevated to the snow-covered cavern above.

Azarek took a look at the writing on the slab and got to work on his ritual for comprehending languages. Inscribed in the Infernal language it reads "let your wolfish battle pride flow freely, and show thy true self." Azarek has read about ritual altars like these before, and warns Lucy of putting her blood into an altar like this - Infernal is the language of demons and devils. Lucy, however, is all to eager to draw her own blood with her teeth to find out who she truly is.

Once her blood is in the bowl part of the mountain top cavern is magically revealed, the moonlight shining on her. Lucy begins to transform into a young humanoid girl, still a child, not yet a woman. Without a stitch to wear, Lucy is bewildered at the change and starts to shout and scramble from the altar. Amidst her confusion, the spectral visage of a wolf's head appears floating in the cavern, and in a booming, deep voice it says, "Welcome my child, I am glad you heard the call. I am known as Daragor, and I am your father. You were stolen from me by your mother when you were a pup, but now you see your true potential. Step into the light once more and become who you were meant to be."

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/HIYyjWA.png)

Our stunned party can only look on, and encourage Lucy to do it only if she wants to - though they fear the outcome. Lucy steps back atop the pedestal into the moonlight, and begins to transform back into her winter wolf shape, but then continues to grow and her body enlarges and goes bipedal as she becomes a full stark-white werewolf, with a crazed look in her now yellow eyes. The shade of Daragor speaks once more and says, "Your first command, my child - kill the mortals, and eat of their flesh. It will make you strong."

IMAGE(http://fantasyartdesign.com/free-wallpapers/imgs/new/96landscapes-terragen02.jpg)

stark-white werewolf

I see what you did there.
#housestarkGoT

bhchrist wrote:

stark-white werewolf

I see what you did there.
#housestarkGoT

Minotaar wrote:

a young humanoid girl, still a child, not yet a woman.

And you were just gonna let this one slide. Tsk, tsk.

I see you, your sly tricks to get us re-reading previous summaries looking for Britney Spears easter-eggs won't go unnoticed!

3or4monsters wrote:
bhchrist wrote:

stark-white werewolf

I see what you did there.
#housestarkGoT

Minotaar wrote:

a young humanoid girl, still a child, not yet a woman.

And you were just gonna let this one slide. Tsk, tsk.

I see you, your sly tricks to get us re-reading previous summaries looking for Britney Spears easter-eggs won't go unnoticed!

My plans have worked! MUAHAHAHAHA

Blood and Stone

The first change was frightening. Lucy felt herself shrink even more, and her center of balance shifted so much that she fell from the stone altar where she'd just given her blood. When she went to stand up, her back legs were much too long for her front, and she couldn't feel the pads of her feet. An entirely new sensation washed over her as she felt the snow chill her body, colder than she'd ever been before. She no longer had claws or fur - she looked pinkish and frail, like the friends that had helped her up here.

Friends?

Allies, certainly. They were keeping a promise. But she knew she had actually grown to like them. Especially Arlin, since he could speak with her and run with her as she normally is. She was jealous of his magics to go back and forth from a person to a wolf. Though he still had not learned to speak wolf. He was woefully bad at it.

She often wished she wouldn't have to hide so much when she was with Belva back in Oakhurst. Many of the other villagers were so suspicious even though Belva told them lies to keep her unnoticed. Sometimes she wondered, could she actually be a normal dog, like Belva said? If only she were able to speak with them, like other people do - but she could never make the words with her jaws, they weren't made to speak Common. It was a cruel joke by the gods to give her the ability to understand them perfectly, but not be able to respond.

Belva knew her though. Lucy loved Belva. Belva was so patient, and fed her as much as she wanted, and in turn Lucy would bring back the most fetching boar for the Belva's butchering block. Belva did well having Lucy around, and would show her appreciation in many ways. Lucy's favorite was when she'd come back from hunting in the snow drifts of wintertime, Belva would have a warm boar’s thighbone for her to gnaw and they'd sit together by the fireplace.

Those memories were fleeting as Lucy was being addressed by this...ghost? It spoke. “Welcome my child, I am glad you heard the call. I am known as Daragor, and I am your father. You were stolen from me by your mother when you were a pup, but now you see your true potential. Step into the light once more and become who you were meant to be.”

Daragor? Her father? She was so cold, whimpering and frightened of her new body. What had this ghost done to her? What was she changing for? Who was her mother? She knew of nothing before Belva. Belva raised her, took care of her, and made excuses for her when she grew much too large to be a dog. Or even a wolf.

"You don't need to do this if you don't want to!" Azarek called out at Lucy. Lucy regarded his words. She knew he was intelligent beyond measure, as had cautioned against her putting her blood on the altar in the first place. But she had come this far, this persistent voice in her mind beckoning her to arrive right here, right now. She couldn't simply stop...she tried communicating and asking questions, but she'd never spoken words before. Instead, she made grunts and chuffs that sounded like a young girl in pain, her face contorted with frustration. The spectral wolf's head said no more, but she knew she had to see this through. So she crawled back atop the stone altar into the moonlight.

She looked up, toward the ghostly visage, then further still as she sat back and looked at the moon. It was beautiful and full, shining its light between heavy clouds. Was it snowing? The uncapped mountaintop was being dusted in white. She could feel cold touches of the snowflakes on her snout. A wave of comfort rolled over her as she slowly shifted back to her wolfish body. The translucent wolf’s head suddenly filled out a neck, arms, and torso. The red haze of its form extended an arm toward Lucy, a barely perceptible ethereal tether created between Daragor’s shade and Lucy’s head.

Lucy felt the connection immediately. Her father’s presence pressed into her mind, and her consciousness was flooded with every primal need. Hunting, chasing prey as they flee for their lives, knowing one snap of your teeth is all it takes. Feeding, disemboweling your kill and eating their viscera to satiate your hunger. Survival, the ultimate test of strength and capability, to fight your foe to the death and prove your dominance.

Wave after wave of unfiltered instinctual thought washed over Lucy as she felt her body change and grow. She felt stronger than she ever had before, able to sit on her haunches, but her forelegs grew longer and more capable, like Belva’s hands. Belva?

Hunt, feed, survive.

Lucy looked back at the shade of her father. That wolf’s face...grinned. She stopped staring at him and looked back at the moon. So beautiful...so…

Her teeth and claws felt powerful, and she rose up from her haunches and stood. She instinctively knew how best to rend, tear and slash at any and all foes. As she looked down she heard, “Your first command, my child - kill the mortals, and eat of their flesh. It will make you strong.”

Lucy looked behind, her hunger rising as she saw the tender creatures that gazed upon her with fear. She could not wait to sink her her teeth and claws into each and every one of her...friends?

Daragor's presence pressed down Lucy's fears. It scraped a hole in her consciousness and dragged her emotions down into it. She was no longer afraid. She was pure rage and fury, an otherworldly force - a beast possessed.
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/nAGRfYe.jpg)

The Lunar Shift

Our heroes fanned out around Lucy and the altar, the shade of Daragor closing distance instantly with Azarek. It makes an attempt at clawing him while keeping that ethereal tether linked to Lucy’s mind, and on the opposite side of the room, Lucy leaps into the middle of the other four heroes and slashes at every one with absolutely devastating strength.

Esh flits away and fires a magical walloping arrow at Daragor – it seems to disrupt the shade as Daragor’s attention immediately shifts to Esh. There is definite hesitance to attack at Lucy. Is she friend or foe? Valka attempts to slash at Lucy to draw her attention and gets a piercing strike in her back – but the wound seems to close near instantly and Valka calls out her findings to the team.

Apple darts through Lucy’s legs, over her back and around again, pummeling strike after strike desperately finding a weak point to stun the beast. Esh tries to blast her mind with a magical cascade of dissonant whispers, and Azarek attempts to magically suggest to her to cease her fighting and remind them that they’re friends, but Lucy is just so incredibly strong she resists all attempts to disable her.

Arlin sees the wicked retribution Lucy had just unleashed upon Valka and heals her, which calls Lucy’s attention to Arlin. Lucy bites Arlin’s leg and upends him, ravaging him with her claws and sending him unconscious.

Apple darts over to assist Azarek in dealing with the shade of Daragor, punching and kicking at the spectral force, causing its attention to shift once more. Azarek takes the opportunity to thunderwave Daragor, knocking him away and causing his legs to begin to disappear. For a moment during his howl of agony Valka can see Lucy’s eyes shift from yellow to blue, but Daragor reasserts his control and she’s possessed once more.

Esh tries to block the moonlight with an illusion spell, hoping it would disable the connection between Daragor and Lucy. It doesn’t appear that direct moonlight is key, unfortunately, but he is able to heal Arlin back to standing. Arlin looks to the open sky and calls lightning down on Daragor, causing him once again to lose some of his form, now just the traces of his torso and arms attached to a snarling wolf’s head.

Daragor commands Lucy to protect him, and Lucy does just that. She tackles Arlin to the ground, claws going through his core, her teeth latched around his chest, and throws Arlin’s lifeless body to the snow, staining it red.

Azarek shouts a spell to Apple, who knows just what to do – Apple now bestowed with old-lady-lightning breath hops over to Daragor and unleashes her own storm. Daragor’s shade now rendered to only his snout, ears, and piercing eyes. Lucy then turns her attention to her father’s assailant and scrapes her claws up and down the halfling monk’s body before latching on with her jaws and violently shaking her head back and forth, until Apple could no longer move.

Valka furiously waded in, her eyes alight with the raging storm and used Shatterspike to cleave Daragor’s remaining shade into nothingness. As two of our heroes lie dead in the snow, Daragor’s haunting voice trails off but can be heard saying “Your insolence will not go unpunished, child. I will find you wherever you go, and you will be mine."

Lucy’s entire demeanor changes when Daragor is fought off, and she whimpers as her werewolf body sits down, looking at the lives she took. Valka is still full of unchecked anger over the loss over her companions and motions to kill Lucy, but stays her hand at the obvious shift in Lucy’s behavior. Lucy looks at their bodies and then up to the moon as she brings Arlin and Apple over the stone altar. When resting on the altar in the moonlight, their life’s blood flowing into the bowl, their wounds begin to knit and moments later they take breaths. They were alive but still unconscious, and by Azarek’s knowledge of lycanthropy, most likely now cursed. Lucy shifted in the moonlight back to her humanoid form, balling herself up to lie with Arlin. Tears streak her face as she tries her best to use words to say “sorry” over and over again.

Left with not much choice but to make a fire and wait out the night as Apple and Arlin healed in the moonlight, they try and decide what comes next, discuss what they know of lycanthropy, and the ramifications of learning that Daragor is the god of werewolves, which would make Lucy a demigoddess. It also likely meant that Lucy did not bear the curse of lycanthropy as she was born a creature of it rather than turned into it, and it would be unlikely she could be magically freed of her nature by a cleric or priest.

Right before the morning came Apple and Arlin could both be seen as…hairier creatures than they were before. But as the daylight overtook the moon that receded and they woke up. In discussing what comes next, Esh asks Lucy what she’d like to do now. Lucy explains that she’d always assumed the compulsion to go north was to find other wolves like her, but it was actually her father all along. She doesn’t know where her place is, but she knows she misses Belva, and would like to go back to Oakhurst to be with her.

Before they decide on an exit plan, Valka proposes that they destroy this altar to prevent further horrific rituals from taking place. Lucy furrows her brow and balls her tiny fists as she speaks through her teeth to smash it. Valka doesn’t need any more affirmation as she takes Shatterspike to work and strikes the altar over and over, magical sundering cracks booming from the blows. Valka’s fury then flows into throwing the rubble and detritus out of the top of the mountain.

As she throws piece after piece, a shining silver dragon flies past their view, followed by a man riding a magical disc – the same man they’d seen exiting the Sunless Citadel! He lowers into the cave and inquires as to what they’re doing, and after a moment they recognize that they’d met before. Our party explains that they’ve destroyed an altar to the god of werewolves but they had members cursed with lycanthropy. They also asked if there was anything he could do to help them, and laid a guilt trip at his disc. They explained that his magical assault destroying the Sunless Citadel caused a goblin warband to march on their town, which they had to defend.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t know anything about curse removals, but he does feel compelled to help them after he considers their tale. He offers to teleport them to the destination of their choosing. As they discuss this, introductions are had; this elven man is known as Dent. They ask him what he’s doing and he explains he was conversing with Norwyr, the silver dragon, about aiding him in his cause to rid the world of red dragons. He tells them that’s why he destroyed the Sunless Citadel, a monument to a long forgotten red dragon of incredible power, Ashardalon. He goes on about his disgust of red dragons, explaining that they are the most greedy, manipulative and selfish of any creature, as well as the most destructive. They would see the utter ruin of all Faerun and laugh at the annihilation they caused, before they slumber for eons waiting for the world to right itself just so they could do it again. Dent plans on stopping that possibility before it becomes a reality.

They considered their options of where Dent could take them, be it Tradeholdt, Valka and Apple’s home territory to investigate what happened to their peoples; they could go back to Mirabar and try and find a cleric there with enough power to remove curses, or potentially Oakhurst and deliver Lucy back to Belva.

Knowing that they need to remove these curses from Apple and Arlin they think first of the Coffin Cheaters and their cleric, Yorda. She always seemed incredibly capable and they remembered a headquarters for them being stationed in Neverwinter. With the health and safety of their party taking precedence, Dent gathers them together and off with a pop -

Bright Lights, Big City

- they arrive instantly in Neverwinter. The trip is not so perfect, as teleporting is a dangerous business. They arrive concussed, their vision hazy, but several things become clear quite quickly. First, they're in a crowded meeting square, next to a statue, with people all around them. Second, some of those people are blue-robed priests and priestesses of Eldath, who are in the midst of a funeral procession that they've disrupted. And third, Lucy has reverted back to her true form as a winter wolf, and is quite a bit unconscious from the journey's hardships.

Reacting to the multitude of things going on requires a bit of coordination - Arlin, Valka and Apple immediately tend to Lucy, ensuring she's okay. Azarek and Esh start apologizing to the clergy they've interrupted. But all of the citizenry come to a halt as they glare at this motley group of teleporters and their large unconscious wolf. Lucy wakes, looks around and begins to growl nervously. Arlin successfully convinces her to change back into her humanoid form - and after some effort, she does. Apple looks out to the crowd of onlookers after Lucy's transformation and shouts with a smile, "Druids, am I right?" Arlin gestures as Apple plays to the crowd, and this amuses many who begin to laugh it off and carry on with their day.

Azarek had spoken to one of the elder priests of Eldath named Morel, who was incredibly calm and accommodating, about the need for clerical services. Not wanting to interrupt the procession, our heroes follow the Eldathian priests to Bluelake. Lucy tugs at Azarek's robe as they follow the priests and asks him how he knows so much about werewolves. Azarek explains that there's much knowledge in books and libraries, and Lucy asks him if he can teach her to read. Azarek certainly agrees since he wants her to know more about who she is and where she comes from.

The priests arrive at Bluelake and conduct their funeral ceremony that sees the large urn containing the ashes of their former priestess lowered in the lake in its entirety. The recessional takes everyone back to the temple of Eldath, situated on the Neverwinter River. It's a beautiful blue stone structure filled with remarkable water features cascading down its walls, troughs of water for use during ceremonies in the pews, and stained glass that allows light into the temple to shine off of the glistening rocks.

Morel listened to their plight of lycanthropy, and offered to perform ritual curse removals for Arlin, Apple, and Lucy. They explained Lucy's heritage and Morel says that it's unknown if Lucy could be cured by their ritual. The heroes give Lucy the choice, as this might affect her forever and they don't exactly know what it'll do. She struggles with the choice because she longs to blend in but feels out of place as a human. She also doesn't want to hurt her friends, just like Apple and Arlin are choosing. She agrees to watch Apple go through the ritual first.

IMAGE(https://www.artranked.com/images/cb/cb681f47d5de0d0f43d9cb2feebba873.jpg)

In a sanctum further in the temple is a beautiful pool of shallow water. Morel and his two assistants help Apple gently float in the pool, running water over her limbs and face while chanting their prayers. Apple is bathed in a blue light which leaves her body, rises up, turns white, and then dissipates. She's left feeling renewed and refreshed. Lucy is awestruck at the sight and literally leaps at the chance to do the same, splashing in the pool. Morel does his work again, but Lucy glows blue and bluer still, the light growing ever brighter. Morel continues his chants for a time but when the light coming from Lucy illuminated the entire sanctum and saw no signs of dissipation, Morel relented, and shook his head sadly. Lucy exited the pool, and upset that it didn't work, began to transform. While she was a winter wolf she shook off the water, like any good canine would do - but then she continued to change into her hybrid form. Her eyes still a brilliant blue she nonetheless growls and begins to bark, like she's trying to communicate. The priests back away in fear. Arlin magically speaks with Lucy as he carefully approaches. Lucy is adamant that she was absolutely not in control before and she can control herself now. Arlin understands, and embraces her. It's a very fuzzy hug.

It's then Arlin's turn to step into the pool, but he's a bit conflicted in doing so and internally wonders what such a power of shifting might mean for him. But he knows his goddess Mielikki would not want a cursed servant, so he proceeds with the ritual. Arlin's glow starts the same as the others but then quickly turns to white and then...pink? The light disappears much as Apple's did before. Morel tells Arlin he believes his goddess was trying to protect him from the most harmful effects of the curse whether he knew it or not.

Our heroes generously donate several hundred gold for the services rendered, and Morel offers to ritually cleanse any others that desire it. Esh steps up, and Apple notes a small birthmark on his back that looked quite specific and strange, but keeps this to herself. Esh feels rejuvenated, as if some of his anxiety is washed away. Valka seems hesitant to ask for anything, but mutters about how she's had bad dreams. Morel questions her further, concerned with what might have befallen these adventurers and asks them to recount some of what they've faced. Azarek knew immediately to reference the combat with the hags, particularly the night hag since he knows it can haunt dreams from the ethereal plane. Valka agrees to be cleansed, but while her ears are still submerged Morel tells the others he doesn't think he can eradicate whatever was done to her and they aught seek a more powerful cleric to help her, as their most potent follower of Eldath had just passed.

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Knowing they still wanted to connect with the Coffin Cheaters in the hopes that Yorda would be able to help them, they asked about mercenaries and where they're located. With Morel's direction they head to Mercenary Manor, an open trading bazaar with several stands, now closed as it's approaching dusk and the lamplighters are going about their business. A postmasters office is all the way at the back, but our party begins scouting around for a place to stay. After Azarek has a fruitful conversation with an amiable half-orc smithy named Holt, he is referred to the Charging Crab Inn only a block and a half away.

The Charging Crab is a gambler's tavern, and as the party gets comfortable they spy Selma Stormbringer at the back of the room fleecing some card players of their coin. Esh and Apple send her a glass of wine and she cheerfully sits her inebriated butt down next to them and begins to catch up. Meanwhile Azarek has begun to show Lucy the common alphabet with some magical illusory letters - this also captivates Valka who never had any use for reading or writing. As the party makes conversation, Apple starts doodling the strange shape she saw as a birthmark on Esh's back. Selma looks at her doodle from the opposite side of the table and remarks with fondness, "Piz'Az!" Memories of the warhorse they found tied to a tree by the side of the road filled their heads, remembering how the saddle it bore shared the same symbol! With this newly acquired information Selma commands Esh to take his shirt off. Indeed, there it is for all to see. This begs the instant questions - Is Piz'Az Esh's horse? Is Esh a horse? Is Esh actually ethereal? And what in the gods happened to that saddle? Through the haze of drink they recall that they traded the saddle to Ridaldo the Resplendent, (Ridaldo the Regal?) the traveling merchant back in Oakhurst.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/uRnazOd.png)

Harrik and Ort stepped into the Charging Crab, continuing to glad-hand and catch up with our heroes. When asked of Yorda, they tell her that she's off doing rituals to her diety, Kossuth, in the Tower District. There they have several non-denominational shrines for people to worship the more esoteric gods of the Forgotten Realms. But Harrik is quick to mention that they've saved the day over at the Hotenow Hot Springs & Inn. A few toughs were getting rowdy, so Harrik and Ort sent them packing. They came to find Selma and see if she wants to take advantage of the free room and board at the hot springs, but she declines since she's found her gambling den at the Charging Crab. Harrik offers the same to our adventurers, who are keenly interested in the proper rest and relaxation a hot spring can offer. Two baths in one day? Neverwinter is looking great.

The Hotenow Hot Springs

Our heroes head northeast out of the city, following Harrik and Ort to a country roadside inn and tavern, the Hotenow Hot Springs. Named after the nearby active volcano Mount Hotenow, the hot springs in the caverns below the inn have been a source of rest and relaxation to travelers for many years.

Our heroes are greeted by Lucinda Berencourte, the elven proprietor of the establishment. Immediately curious of what the hot springs are like, she guides them on a tour of their rooms, the tavern, and then the cavern below, a steamy cave with a pool lit by braziers. Regardless of already being submerged today, our heroes are excited to really dive into the R&R of the warm waters. They head to their rooms, exchange their gear for lovingly embroidered robes, slippers, and towels, and take a dip.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/jZt61SV.jpg)

Happily relaxing, our adventurers take time to be a bit silly and reflect on their growth as warriors and explorers. Arlin gets curious as to the depth of the pool, and naturally turns himself into a giant frog to plumb the depths. He finds it almost 25 feet down, and it is uncomfortably hot down there. Esh ensures the audio quality of the stonework is up to par with a gentle bagpipe tune. Apple wants to spar with Valka and show off her newly remembered "slippery grandma" technique that sees Valka inadvertently striking Azarek in the love handle. Azarek retaliates by tossing Apple's monogrammed robe in the water and relocating his person. Apple takes the hint, waves off the awkwardness and declares she's going to get some shut-eye.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/NmRdD7H.jpg)

As she starts toward the cavern exit, a scream from the tavern above is heard, with accompanying noises of some kind of fight. Right as our heroes spring to action in all but their towels (and some...less so), a flock of stirges flit into the room, latching on to their exposed skin and drinking their blood like monstrous mosquitos!

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Esh gets swarmed but quickly uses his bagpipes for a magical sleep around him, forcing the two embedded in his skin to fall unconscious. Several more attach themselves all over the heroes, but are quickly swatted or Thunderwaved off almost instantly. Before the stirges are done in, a magma mephit flies in from the cavern tunnel and unleashes a swath of fire breath before quickly being swatted down.

During the fight Apple rushed upstairs to see the tavern in an absolute brawl, with Harrik and Ort taking on several attackers apiece in a bare knuckle beat down. Lucinda ducks in a corner, trying to escape the fracas while Apple surges past her and begins to end the fight. Punches, kicks, stunning strikes - Apple has this well in hand by the time the rest of the party comes up. Esh seems fond of the Big Sleep as he puts two more toughs trying to harry Harrik to the floor, Arlin and Valka pounce on more of them, knocking them out one after another. Azarek magically suggests that one of the aggressors sit this one out, so he obliges and takes a chair at the far end of the tavern. Apple finishes her whirlwind devastation and KO’s the last of them.

Ending the confusion, Harrik explains that one of these hardheads was the same they kicked out the day prior, and he brought buddies to come get some vengeance. More to the point, our heroes mention the flock of stirges and the magma mephit that attacked them down in the hot springs. Lucinda explains that once every few years, they crop up and she hires mercenaries to go take care of it. While they discuss things, our fair party assists Lucinda in cleaning up the mess left in the tavern. Then, our stalwart adventurers vow to cleanse this hot spring once and for all! But, like...tomorrow. They gotta sleep.

In the morning brings ADVENTURE! Down in the cavern they get past the iron gated door Lucinda told them about and head down a narrow path. Hardly lit, it gets hotter and hotter as they make the trek ever downward, until a dim light shines from the path of lava flowing through a large cavern, the obvious source of geothermal heat in the area. Across the cavern room they spy another mephit, but this one made of steam and gas. A wry smile is on its face as they see it snap its fingers to light the embellished brazier right next to it. Brought forth in an instant is a raging fire elemental, spawning from the braziers flames.

IMAGE(https://media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com/avatars/thumbnails/0/343/264/315/636252777098624896.jpeg)IMAGE(https://media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com/avatars/thumbnails/0/113/259/315/636252745841820724.jpeg)

They spy on the far side of the room a gigantic, pulsating, organic mass that begins belching out stirges. Quick thinking Esh casts a wide area of sleep on them and they fall to their doom in the lava below. Several magma mephits come from out of the lava and fly up to meet our heroes and spew their vile fire breath at them.

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Beset on all sides our heroes start tackling each foe one by one, ensuring that no single one of them is overwhelmed. Azarek had foretold in his divinations that Valka would land a mighty strike this day, and indeed she did. Valka toed the edge of the rocky platform and launched the Javelin of Lightning directly through the steam mephit and landing in the fire elemental. A flash of energy crackled between them and the enraged fire elemental surged forward through the now-dissipated mephit.

Apple took ground with the elemental, striking with her focused fists, each strike harming her more and more, until the fire elemental surrounded her and forced her to flee. Apple seized the opportunity to get closer to the brazier, thinking it was the key to all of this, while hastily putting her hot flashes out.

Arlin stepped in and clawed at a magma mephit causing it to burst in a fiery explosion, but he bore the brunt of it to cast healing magics toward the smoldering monk. Esh Thunderwaved and Azarek Tolled the Dead on the remaining mephits while Valka went sword-to-flame with the elemental and slashed it until it howled in agony, sent back to gods-know-where.

As our heroes sweated through their victory they looked at the intricately crafted brazier and put out its flame with their decanter of endless water. A fine piece to study later, but while they continued to search around another flock of stirges emerged from the nest - Esh must have been feeling sleepy since he repeated the same spell on those stirges to the same effect. They quickly formulated a plan to use their magical rope of climbing to get Valka to the top of the cavern and loose the nest to the rocky platform below. It was a rough landing, but she’s had worse. Valka kicks the nest into the lava path and the stirges are no more.

Apple caught the glint of gold in the rock’s edge, and with a bit of help from their climbing kit picks and some teamwork, they recover many solid chunks of raw gold. A heroes’ bounty to be sure, but who would buy unrefined metals? No matter now, it’s time to get out of this relentless heat as they head back up to Hotenow Hot Springs Inn and Tavern.

Forgot to mention, this is what Esh was playing on his bagpipes as the party got into the hot springs

Shrewd Business

When our heroes arrived back at the Hotenow Hot Springs Inn & Tavern, they are met by a familiar face - Ridaldo the Righteous is chatting with Lucinda Berencourte about the happenings of the past few days, and smiles at their return. After they catch up about their recent lycanthropic adventures, they are eager to see what new items Ridaldo has brought with him. To spare our dear readers that minutia, they traded their raw gold and many of the potions of vitality (the ill-gotten restorative swill of the rat men's heinous machine) for a new magical walking stick for Apple (it can turn into any simple melee weapon!), a Sinister Glove for Azarek (casting Protection from Evil and Good once a day) as well as some new scrolls, a Prismatic Blade for Esh (the hilt of a longsword that changes its magical damage each swing), and a new handy haversack for carrying all the rations they've been rapidly going through.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/VxCPqQC.jpg)

They do inquire about the saddle they'd traded to Ridaldo back in Oakhurst. He explains that he sold it to some elves that claimed they were from New Sharandar in the Neverwinter Wood, and only that they encountered him - he was not in their hidden city. He mentioned they were very insistent they have it, but he learned little as to why other than the symbol on the saddle was that of Eachthighern, Lord of Horses. Ridaldo says that if they wish to contact him again, he will be selling in the markets for the next few days in Neverwinter, and staying at Lucinda's Inn.

They then search the Tower District for Yorda, who's praying at a small stone temple, one of several designed for people of all faiths to have a place to worship since not every deity has a temple in the city. She's immolating her breastplate, and is curious as to seeing them again. They ask about curses and Valka's condition, which Yorda certainly offers to try and remove...through fire. Valka complies, but Yorda is unfortunately unable to assist. In the midst of their conversation, the brazier they'd found in the lava chamber deep below the hot springs is mentioned. Yorda knows it as a magical item that can summon fire elementals. Her deity, Kossuth, is the elemental lord of fire - and this item makes her jaw drop as she says she's willing to trade or do anything for it so she may bring it to her temple in Gauntlgrym.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/3lVuI7K.jpg)

She does know that the Pillar of Flame, the head priest of her temple, would be capable of removing the nightmare Valka is suffering from, and with a donation of the brazier, might advance Yorda along their religious hierarchy. Yorda sets herself at their mercy, explaining that she would do or give literally everything to help her complete this task and pilgrimage, laying out all she owns to trade for the brazier. Our heroes (mostly) keep their dignity and agree to help Yorda return the brazier to her temple in Gauntlgrym and free Valka from the Night Hag's nightmare. Yorda says that the best way to get there is upriver and through the Neverwinter Wood, and she'll look into chartering a boat and meet them in the morning.

While Azarek takes Lucy to the library, our other fair heroes attempt to glean any information about Kord-worshipping Goliath monks in Neverwinter. They hit up taverns, bars, pubs, temples, and even flocks of unobservant birds before coming to the conclusion that most here in Neverwinter haven't heard of many people from north of the River Mirar, including Tradeholdt. The last tidbit they got was Ridaldo saying he'd seen a pair of them traveling south toward Longsaddle.

In the Neverwinter House of Knowledge, Azarek feels at home. The quiet busywork of academics and the smell of thousands of books is welcome to him. He's greeted by a librarian who explains that checking out books requires a library card, and while they can read books in the library, the restricted section requires a long list of red tape to go through. Azarek tells them he's an scholar from Limbo, in their capital city of Shrak'kt'lor, and mentions about setting up an inter-planar exchange of knowledge. While the head librarian ain't sure about all that - she does say she can bend a few rules and get him restricted access, but he needs to make a charitable donation. Azarek shows her the journal of Kell Duerte, bound in dragonskin and focused on exalting the tales of Ashardalon, a long gone ancient red dragon that almost conquered the world. This indeed impressed the librarian, who allowed both Azarek and Lucy access to the restricted area.

Lucy got crayons. She loves crayons.

Azarek studied about werewolves, specifically Daragor. He learned of Eshebala, Daragor's twin sister and patron of werefoxes, and sordid tales of horrible mutations that had come from their incestuous union. He also came across a book about Mind Flayers, and learned how they need to continuously feed and gather thralls to grow their race. He also learned that long ago the instigating event of the fall of the Illithid Empire was a formal truce in the Blood War - an eternal war between demons and devils. The fiends saw the Illithid as a threat to every plane of existence so they brought their war to them.

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/564x/bd/7b/b3/bd7bb358bfd210f8d7aa3b03aaa27455.jpg)

While Azarek saw many other books, he knew Lucy wouldn’t be able to keep herself entertained forever, so he did a quick reading lesson with her and then moved on to try and find everyone else before the night set upon the city...

I had my job done for me this week when I woke up -
IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/fiBVF98.jpg)

I praise you for doing these. I had it going for a while and then I got behind and then it was like "Man, I got other things to do."

Prederick wrote:

I praise you for doing these. I had it going for a while and then I got behind and then it was like "Man, I got other things to do." :lol:

I appreciate that!

And yes, I'll have a written update coming later. The emojis will help me suss out what actually happened.

Upriver and Down Below

Having returned to the Hotenow Hot Springs Inn & Tavern once more for a good night's sleep, they awake to find Yorda in the tavern hall, cleaning her sword. Yorda mentions she's chartered a ship to head upriver toward the Neverwinter Wood, and she escorts them there after a luxurious breakfast.

They are introduced to Captain Gracie Cornelius of the Corsair's Thunder, a gnomish captain and crew. Yorda explains that she chartered the ship with a loan from Harrik, but the rest of the Coffin Cheaters have their own job to attend to and they need to part ways for a time.

Aboard the ship it was smooth sailing up the wide river, with the boat sailing from shore to shore to catch wind as best they could. Apple kept a hawk eyed watch, Esh playing his best known sailing songs, and Arlin meditated. Azarek administered more reading lessons to Lucy and Valka. Valka notices Lucy is picking things up in record time, and Valka sets any notion of pride aside to allow Lucy to help her as well. In the evening Apple attempts to assist the ship's cook Jerald in preparing a meal, but she's not as familiar with shipboard cuisine, it appears.

The night comes, and below deck the hammocks are full of sleeping adventurers who are awoken by a scream from above. They race to the top deck in time to see Jerald yanked overboard by a trident through the shoulder. Apple attempts to dive in immediately after Arlin casts his water-breathing spell. Apple sees a group of large sea monsters underneath the boat and scrambles back atop with the aid of Valka.

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Captain Gracie calls for her crew to man the ballista at the back of the ship while they wait for the monsters to emerge. As soon as one does, our adventurers unleash arrows and spells at it along with the bolt from the ballista and kill it outright. The rest of the monsters attempted to pierce and yank our heroes off the ship, only Yorda, worshiper of fire, was unfortunate enough to be pulled overboard.

Valka immediately dives in after her to try for a rescue, and the rest follow suit. Azarek and Apple make moves to stun and charm some of the sea creatures, while Arlin and Esh begin fending off the trident-wielding monstrosities. Arlin quickly turned into Sharklin, biting and maneuvering around, but just as our noble defenders thought they had the upper hand, a mighty dragon turtle arose from the depths and blasted them with its deadly steam breath!

IMAGE(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/97/66/46/976646943a39671c195e64de98ca17d7.jpg)

This massive river leviathan commanded the attention of our heroes but they found themselves surrounded by foes on all sides. Formerly unsure of what to do, Lucy apparently found her resolve to command her powerful werewolf form and dove in, leaping on the neck of the ferocious dragon turtle and giving our heroes time to deal with the rest of their foes.

Valka's spear, Esh's new prismatic sword, Azarek's mental magics, Apple's mash paddle, and Arlin's teeth all did an immense amount of work on the sea monsters as our heroes felled them one by one. The dragon turtle did manage to unleash its hellish steam breath once more, dropping Apple and Arlin unconscious underwater, and damaging the other sea monsters all the same. Eventually Valka and Lucy teamed up to rend the face and throat of the dragon turtle to ribbons leaving the creature to sink to the depths of the river. Yorda and Esh grabbed Arlin and Apple and swam to the surface so that Yorda could finally speak and use her healing magic to awaken the unconscious ones.

Our heroes victorious, they did their due diligence in scouring the riverbed for signs of Jerald, but only his corpse was to be found. They did come across a sunken ship near the now-deceased dragon turtle that contained a barnacle-encrusted treasure chest filled with coin, potions, and other magical goodies.

The sun was just rising as they finished looting the sunken ship, and off in the distance the fringes of the Neverwinter Wood could be seen.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/TjFrFov.jpg)

The Neverwinter Wood

The Corsair's Thunder heads east after the encounter with the Merrow and Dragon Turtle. Our heroes are on high alert, but do not see any other threats as the sun rises to meet them and the ship sails into the Neverwinter Wood. Captain Gracie docks the ship at the Fork of Silvanus, a place inside the wood where the river tributaries meet and start to thin.

They part ways, the ship headed back west, and our travelers going north. The Neverwinter Wood is a thick forest, with a heavy canopy of trees that barely let the light in. There are no paths for travel, so everything is trailblazing. The morning light can barely be noticed shifting to midday, as a dense fog still seems to hang between the trees, and an acrid smell comes with it. After some time headed north the wood becomes abrasive with brambles, overtaking all areas headed their direction. Hootley isn't able to get a good bearing on any other paths, but while keeping Mount Hotenow northward they trudge on, hacking away at the brambles and even resorting to magical flame to push back the worst of it. It seems this thicket can grow back almost as soon as it's cut away.

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The forest floor turns damp, then wet, then gives way to knee deep marsh water. They notice some dancing lights off in the distance. Unable to determine what they could be, Apple pulls out her Ghost Lantern to illuminate the hazy area. The motes of light come at them quickly, bee-lining for Apple. One hovers by Valka and delivers a shock to her, but she shrugs it off and takes out a blanket, catching it from the air. Azarek warns the party of Will-O'-Wisps, undead spirits that suck the life from your bones. With that in mind, they dispatch the two wisps bobbing around Apple with ease and precision, but not without a few shocks. Valka is disappointed that they've not found some kind of new pet, and releases it within range of the rest of the party that delivers an all-out-attack on the final wisp, sending it careening into a tree and turning it to dust by a deft mash paddle swing.

Our adventurers proved the hardy sort as they made their way through the lost pathways, vine tendrils, and dead ends. Eventually they choose to rest, and Esh tries out his new Tiny Hut spell, a small impenetrable space that you can see out of, but can't be viewed in. They spend time camping but still taking watch, as some of the woodland creatures spy on them. In the morning, several pairs of feline eyes can be spotted staring at them, crouched to strike. They keep to their hut, and have Hootley spy on the big cat as it retreats into the forest, where it sits and waits.

IMAGE(http://wallup.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/blue-cats-eyes.jpg)

Once they exit their Tiny Hut our heroes are ambushed! Arrows from the treetops hail down as several humanoid figures draw in closer. Calling out in elvish, they assume these might be the elves of New Sharandar that Ridaldo had mentioned. As they drew in closer, several of our heroes defended themselves - when they did they saw their reddened eyes go clear and they sounded like they were clearing themselves from a haze. In the midst of the fracas the large cats leapt back into the fray, slashing and biting at our adventurers.

The confusion is paramount as Apple calls out to the others that these people might not be enemies! Forced to defend themselves from the great cats, they put them down quite quickly after their human aggressors back down from some kind of charm spell. Showing an instantaneous switching of attitude, Arlin sheepishly offers to heal the man he'd just stabbed with his own primal claws.

The men claim to be rangers, their memories hazy of what had happened to them. Tomas, their leader, tells of a voice they'd heard that asked them to search the forest for enemies. Azarek magically scans Tomas' memories for any insight into their story. He does indeed hear a booming voice say, "Scour the forest for intruders and bring them to me...Chartilifax commands it."

The name sounds draconic to Azarek, and his suspicions are confirmed by Yorda that there'd been stories of a mighty green dragon terrorizing these woods in decades past, but he was supposed to be dead...

The rangers are convinced they can find their way back to where they'd first heard the voice, but they mourn for the loss of their animal companions. Taking a moment to lay the deceased cats to rest, the group moves on further north in the forest, but now - to hunt a dragon.

The Lair of Chartilifax

With the rangers now guiding them toward the heart of the forest, our heroes see the landscape get more and more overgrown with thickets and brambles. The trees start to get taller, but the water gets a bit deeper, and routes circumventing the difficult terrain make progress slow.

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As the adventurers stop for a small rest in the midday, Lucy gets up the nerve to show Azarek the presents she hid within his own handy haversack. She pulls out a small collection of books she stole from the library, because she saw how intently he was poring over them, including a strange book he’d not paid enough attention to back in Neverwinter – Thoughts and Speculations, a very early diary of Vecna, an amazingly powerful wizard-turned-lich, who some say in the tales rivals that of the gods themselves.

With Azarek mystified by the maddened scribblings of an ages-old wizard, Yorda sits next to Apple and asks how someone of her…experience has come to be an adventurer. Apple tells the tale of the Goliath tribe that took in her parents as refugees. Her parents died shortly after they were taken in, and the goliaths raised her and made her fit in with their society. Goliath society only values a tribe member’s usefulness, and Apple proved her worth in the kitchens and brewery - a quick gatherer and preparer of food, ale and liquors, her palette brought new flavors to the Goliath’s monastic order of Kord. She tells Yorda of her quest for vengeance, to find who or whatever might be responsible for the destruction of her order and that of Valka’s town of Tradeholdt.

Valka overhears their conversation and nods in assent regarding her own longing for vengeance. She pulls Apple aside and asks for her to teach her more about Kord, the Storm Lord and god of battle. Apple offers to show her…if she can land a strike at her. Valka might not know dogma, but she knows how to fight. They spar and once Valka lands an open handed strike directly at Apple, the Halfling puts on a wry smile and shares her wisdom of Kord. Fight well, do not run from a challenge, but also be smart. Headlong charges to your death are a waste, train and prepare for battle, and do so with honor.

Another half a day goes by, and the Tiny Hut is created by Esh to protect the party. The rangers decide they can scout ahead with the help of Hootley, and shifts and watches are taken as a precaution. Other than the occasional oddity of observant owls, the night concludes uneventfully. In the morning though, Hootley and the rangers have yet to return. Azarek tries to summon Hootley but is unable to, leading him to believe something terrible happened. He takes time to complete his Find Familiar ritual, where Hootley explains that the last thing he saw was Tomas the ranger turning to him and shooting his bow his direction. Our party follows Hootley’s direction in search of where the rangers went.

They come across a small clearing, where the marsh has taken hold. A small wooden lodge sits at the center of the marsh, with a wooden dock extending to it. Attempting to quietly move forward, Valka and Apple go forth to see about knocking on the door. When they reach the first part of the dock, the door to the hut opens, and an elf steps out and closes the door behind him. His skin is green, his hair is white, and the left side of his face is scarred with an old burn. He looks past the two of them at Lucy, and simply says “Fetch.” A green guard drake erupts from the murk and Lucy dashes after it with four legged speed. With Lucy dismissed, the elf turns his head toward what’s caught his eyes. “I see you’ve brought me the brazier,” he says. “Give it to me now and you may live. GIVE IT TO ME.”

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Yorda instinctually grabs the brazier at her side and tells the elf that he may not have it under any circumstance. A fury in his eyes, the green elf transforms into a mighty green dragon, unleashing a devastating roar.

Knowing the reach of a dragon’s breath is far and wide, our party scrambled to create space between them. Valka stayed at its feet slashing away, while Apple poked at it with the mash paddle and made a tactical retreat. Chartilifax beat his wings in an attempt to create space and reposition himself, but Valka locked him down by sheathing Shatterspike into his foot before he could fly away. Yorda calls upon the power of Kossuth to use the brazier and call forth a fire elemental.

Chartilifax, when assaulted by fire is all at once harmed and delighted. He revels in the existence of the fire elemental, though he shies from its attacks. The dragon roars and stands on its hind legs, asserting its power and instilling fear in many of our foes, and unleashes the first of its mighty breath weapon attacks. A titanic spray of poison coats the battlefield sending Esh, Arlin, and Azarek to the ground in an instant. Yorda manages to block the worst of it and rushes forward to call upon a prayer of healing, and magically picking up her downed allies.

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Esh delivers psychic assaults, forcing the dragon to resist its own inner fears, Arlin calls down a lightning bolt, and Azarek tosses in a fireball, each delivering fractions of their potential damage, but assaulting the creature steadily nonetheless as it flies overhead. Valka picks herself up and launches her javelin at it but is overcome by a magical fog that confuses her mind and she shouts, “Why are we even fighting this thing?”

Arlin recognizes a charm when he sees it so he creates some magical stones and wings one at Valka, and beans her right in the temple, clearing her mind. He hops over some brambles and rocks in the swamp to reach Apple and hands her the other stones, which Apple zings at Chartilifax, getting one right in his eye. The dragon responds by descending upon that pair with tooth and claw, mauling Arlin to the ground before Chartilifax dives into the swamp to circle around his lodge.

The ground around Arlin and Apple becomes overgrown with ensnaring vines as the fire elemental begins a course of self-harm by floating over the boggy water to attack the dragon. The party takes a quick moment to recoup and heal near Yorda’s divinations before Chartilifax swoops back in and delivers another mighty poison breath assault, taking down Apple and Arlin, and bringing Valka to the brink of her limit.

The land Azarek and Yorda stand on erupts with a ten foot high thicket brush, blocking sightlines and piercing skin, but Azarek moves to cast his necromantic cantrip upon the beast while Valka slashes at the dragon again and again. Chartilifax, looking weary and burned, flies into the air and shouts back at them “I WILL RETURN FOR WHAT IS MINE!”

Our heroes were not done, however, and knew they didn’t want to try and look over their shoulders for the menace of a green dragon for the rest of their days. Azarek sends a long range fireball as the dragon flies away, and finally Esh pulls out a piece of Walloping Ammunition and lets loose…

From far away they can hear a shrieking roar and the thunderous sound of a crash, as trees topple and the defeated dragon has fallen from the sky.

With Chartilifax slain, our heroes pick themselves up and begin exploring. Esh goes to the dragon to ensure it’s actually slain, and claims his trophies – an eye and a piece of its tail. Inside the dragon’s lodge they see shelves of spores, molds and fungus. It kept an array of cross bred dragon species, all dead besides the dracowasp. Several carcasses lined the walls. The floor was smattered with coin of all kinds, settling in a pile off to the side they surmised would be the size of an elf, should he choose to sleep there. A rickety wooden table kept a random loose collection of gemstones, and the table was etched with a ritual spell that Azarek determines is a charm enchantment. Saps and salves and poisons of many kinds are scattered about, including two vials of deadly purple worm venom. The chest in the corner then gets magically unlocked by the bowpiper, as Apple had seen it was trapped before investigating further. Inside was the dragon’s prize collection – an assortment of scrolls and magical spells, mostly fire-based. Azarek managed to keep his excitement contained. Arlin took a slithery slide into the marsh water, and discovered the dragon’s true bed – another much larger collection of coin that something the size of a dragon could sleep on.

It takes time to grab all that coin.

Our heroes take their time.

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OMG!!! Tortilla Fox was barbecued to a crisp by that fireball! That is an amazing find, Meebs.

Thanks, Mino. Great session and write-up. The Fire Elemental and Yorda making her save on the breath weapon were likely the difference that let us prevail. The fireball and Esh's shot at the very edge of their ranges were clutch rolls.

bhchrist wrote:

The Fire Elemental and Yorda making her save on the breath weapon were likely the difference that let us prevail. The fireball and Esh's shot at the very edge of their ranges were clutch rolls.

They helped - you guys did all the heavy lifting!

Plumbing the Dragon

With the defeat of the dragon and the looting of its lodge, our adventurers have a mind to get themselves some valuable dragon parts! Well, all except Azarek, who stays behind to study the spells the dragon hoarded, along with Lucy and Yorda.

Before they part Azarek does mention that the most valuable part of a dragon is the draconis fundamentum – the organ that creates a dragon’s breath weapon. In order to get inside the dragon, however, they begin the de-scale it, and de-tooth it for good measure. Valka is incredibly efficient in getting many scales and teeth, even if they’re not all something that could be described as “museum quality.”

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Esh goes low and decides he wants to get its bladder for the potential of a bagpipe bag. A few quick cuts of his Prismatic Blade and he’s got it, as there’s no inherent danger in harvesting a bladder, albeit the smell is a powerful odor. Actually, it’s a pretty powerful stench no matter where you are around the dead beast. But Apple and Valka come up with a plan to get the draconis fundamentum, regardless of the dangers. Apple is naturally resistant to poisons, having tested a lifetime of booze recipes, so she decides to get in there while Valka holds her ankles. Apple sweetly asked for Esh to play her an inspirational tune, so he got to piping.

Apple unfortunately cannot see while knee deep in the dragon’s innards, and is forced to hold her breath and feel around. She gets in there with a knife and does some swift Ginsu work, which unfortunately ruptures the draconis fundamentum and unleashes the full power of Chartilifax’s poison breath on both Apple and Valka.

Valka was not prepared for the volume of poisonous gas and pus that flew directly into her nose and mouth, and she let go of Apple, knocked back unconscious from the shock. Esh immediately ran to her and cast his healing word, forcing the poison from her lungs and bringing her back from the brink. Arlin saw Apple’s feet disappear inside Chartilifax’s corpse and ran to grab her, shoving his arm inside. Apple had managed to turn herself around (she thinks?) and can feel fingers grasping at her own, but the slimy viscera does not make grappling easy and Arlin loses his grip.

Apple attempts to send up a signal and plunges her dagger straight upward. Esh sees the curved blade poke out of the top of the dragon, so he quickly leaps to the top of the corpse and skillfully carves a few slashes with the Prismatic Blade’s acid and cold elements to make a flap of skin he can peel back and then snap off with its frozen edge. He can see Apple’s hand pressing upward against a membrane, still inside the dragon, as her skin has been slowly absorbing the poison into her system and she’s on the verge of running out of air; the poison is like fire in her veins. Esh quickly reaches through the membrane and hoists her out, and Apple gasps for air.
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Not defeated, but certainly winded, our party picks themselves up and rejoins Azarek at the lodge. Azarek can’t find it in himself to let Apple continue to be drenched in poisonous ichor, so he prestidigitates her to cleanliness. A touching moment, to be sure.

While still topical, Apple asks Yorda why she’s called “the Unclean,” if she looks so put together all the time. Yorda explains that it’s a self-made moniker. She wishes to travel to the Undying Pyre in the Elemental Plane of Chaos, where Kossuth resides one day, but her mortal body cannot sustain her there. She wants to cleanse herself of her flesh and become worthy of Kossuth.

Realizing they’d never found the rangers, they set out to find their tracks. A short search later and Hootley spies the rangers on the hunt for their own people. Tomas tells them that they heard Chartilifax’s voice again and fled, but then their minds cleared. Our party shows them proof that they’ve killed Chartilifax and show off their trophies to the rangers, who nearly squeal with fanboy delight. Tomas asks them to help them track Trolndolf, the traveler with his crew that hired them to scour the Neverwinter Wood for ingredients. With their combined efforts, the group puts their skills to good use as they steer clear of arcane overgrowths, find wheel tracks, notice changes in the flora and fauna, keep wide berths around dangerous beasts, and finally, play a rousing marching song on a bagpipe while shouting Trolndolf’s name.

Past a clearing a young dark haired dwarf riding a cart with some hired help comes through a low thicket exclaiming that he’d heard them from afar. Trolndolf reunites with Tomas and his guides and introduces himself to our heroes, and the conversation quickly turns to Chartilifax, their slaying of said dragon, and the aforementioned trophies.
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Trolndolf is delighted to hear they’d acquired dragon’s teeth and immediately offers to buy them. A shrewd negotiation forms as Azarek’s inherent Gith powers allow him to read Trolndolf’s thoughts to ensure they don’t get swindled. In the end they sold all their remaining dragon’s teeth after they got to each keep one.

A call from above shouts “Halt! You are trespassing and must leave these grounds immediately!” Someone in the treetops has been watching them. Apple calls back that she thought this was Chartilifax’s woods, and they already killed him.

A group of elves, bows at the ready, descend from the treetops. Surrounded, our party once again shows off the scales, teeth…and bladder of a dragon to these elves. But once the elves come close enough to see, everyone notices the symbols the elves wear on their clothing and armor – the same symbol of Esh’s birthmark on his back.

Apple smiles. She points to Esh, and shouts a command, “STRIP!”

As I said at the time, when your D&D character has the opportunity to go inside to loot a huge dead dragon, you go inside the huge dead dragon. There is not even a decision to be made. Fun recap!

Just wanted to hop in and say I dig the re-caps!

I just love how tabletop role play scenarios can develop and play out. Zenke has been DMing a Waterdeep campaign for me and a few others and it’s been really great getting back in touch with those feelings from my teen years.

Getting to read about other’s enjoyment and fun is a big part of that for me so thanks again for the posts!

Reaper81 wrote:

Just wanted to hop in and say I dig the re-caps!

I just love how tabletop role play scenarios can develop and play out. Zenke has been DMing a Waterdeep campaign for me and a few others and it’s been really great getting back in touch with those feelings from my teen years.

Getting to read about other’s enjoyment and fun is a big part of that for me so thanks again for the posts!

I super appreciate hearing this, reaper! It's a lot of work but a lot of fun!

New Sharandar

Surrounded by elves bearing the mark of Eachthighearn (pronounced “ek-tee-arn”) akin to the birthmark on Esh’s back, confusion reigns. Esh shows them his mark and can’t answer as to why he bears it. After some debate between themselves, the elves state he must come with them. Obviously our heroes won’t let Esh go by himself and insist on coming. The elves declare that they do not allow outsiders, specifically non-elves, into New Sharandar, but they are making an exception for the “half-breed” due to his marking. Social kerfuffles ensue before the elves relent and declare the party cannot come inside, but they can follow to the city’s edge. Esh is given one of the sending stones, just to be sure he can all for them in case he gets into too much trouble.

They set themselves through the forest and after some time reach the city’s edge – it looks like trees woven together, with a space at the bottom wide enough for a few riders to get through. The elves take a moment, and one casts a communication spell – and begrudgingly informs the party that the matriarchal council would like to see all of them in its court.

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The city proper is filled with trees, buildings are grown from the trees themselves and are connected by wooden bridges which appear to not be constructed, but rather grown. The large trees are at times hollowed out in their centers to feature staircases that connect the buildings. Azarek and Apple muse to themselves the suspicious lack of horses for a group of elves that pledge themselves to the Lord of Horses; Eachthighearn’s mark is clear on banners and buildings around New Sharandar. Azarek recalls a distant piece of lore about the Iliyanbruen, the elves who came from the city of Sharandar in the Feywild – the capital of Sharandar was near a vast plain, not a forest, where horses of all kinds ran free. This must mean the elves are much more familiar with their Feywild roots, especially because they’d referred to themselves as Eladrin instead of elves on numerous occasions.

Led to a large meeting chamber, they see an ornate table and several chairs lit by a chandelier and braziers, with the symbol of Eachthighearn in a wooden relief behind the head chair. As Azarek explains his knowledge of Sharandar, a bird flies down from a window and transforms into an elf - a white haired man who introduces himself as Creno, the matriarchal court's arcane adviser. He appreciates such an intricate knowledge of their history. Four more elves arrive in the room from the upper stairwell, and the court takes their seats. Introductions are delivered from Maewyn, the matriarch herself, Maleshira, the master of defenses, Phoria, the master of whispers, and Abesh, the civic adviser. Maewyn is quick to lead the questioning about Esh's birthmark, but the interrogations don't find anything conclusive. Apple mentions they noticed the same mark on the saddle they sold to Ridaldo, and Maleshira notes that they did acquire the saddle from Ridaldo and were planning on submitting it to Creno for examination, but he's been in the Feywild the past few weeks. Whispers pass back and forth about the "chosen one" set to deliver the Iliyanbruen back to Toril, but those are quashed as New Sharandar is being grown currently.

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Creno
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Maewyn
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Abesh

The council decides to disband and discuss this matter later, and our heroes are told to stay within the city limits so they may discuss this further at a later time - but they may now roam about the city freely. Creno catches Arlin before he leaves, and asks how long he's been changed. Arlin is confused, but Creno points to Lucy and mentions Arlin's lycanthropy. He thought that'd been cleared up, but he recalls when Lucy bit her arm and pulled her from the swamp, and the reddish mark it left on his arm that hasn't left. Creno offers knowledge of the Druidic Circle of the Moon, a study dedicated to shape changing, and offers to share his knowledge of means to control a lycanthropic curse. Arlin is hesitant, but agrees to learn more.

Also as the council disbanded, Esh hears a voice in his mind. "Steal yourself away from your friends and follow me - it is crucial we speak privately, but do not tell your friends," he hears. A wave of shadow comes over Esh as he lags behind everyone else and slips away in shadow. A hand grasps his - it's Phoria, master of whispers, and she leads him to a small room where Maleshira awaits. Maleshira asks once again to see Esh's mark. With Esh's back to Maleshira, Phoria looks to Maleshira and asks her, "Esh, are you certain you want to do this?"

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Phoria

With a sound of affirmation, Maleshira gently touches Esh's back. When Esh turns back around, he's face to face with his mother - Maleshira. Esh is stricken with confusion, but he's certain she's his mother. They greet each other with an affectionate hug, and Maleshira starts to explain -

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Maleshira

10 years ago she was a different person, having fallen in love with a human, and bearing him a child. She kept distant from her culture for that time but was called back to service by Eachthighearn. When his father was killed she knew she couldn't provide the life he deserved without any support of her own, but she dared not leave him traumatized, so she had Phoria alter his memory.

She never wanted anyone to know of her affair with a human, much less of her half bred child since her culture is so insular. Maewyn does not know of her indiscretion, Phoria does.

Esh’s mother (Maleshira) was called back to the feywild to rebuild New Sharandar and could not take Esh with her due to his half blooded nature. Kreshnik, his father, was wanted for treason against Waterdeep for thieving a pegasus. Both he and the pegasus were killed horribly in their capture by griffon cavalry. He was trying to rescue the pegasus and bring it back to the Neverwinter Wood for Maleshira. A lone scout reported the scene, and saw them fall, but they never found the bodies. (Kreshnik knew a lord of Waterdeep owned the pegasus and was going to gift it to her cruel daughter, Kreshnik knew this creature would be better off as a steed in his beloved's care, so he tried to steal it.)

After his father was killed, Maleshira changed Esh’s memory and set him with Falthunhammer, the leader of the dwarven musical troupe he was with before this all started. His father loved their performances, and had been a good friend for years. She'd had Phoria put an arcane focus on his back to commit his memory altering to a state of permanence.

Esh humbly asks if he can stay here in New Sharandar with Maleshira. She says that he cannot, and Esh collapses, a fraught silence as tears run down his face. She comforts him, tears forming in her own eyes, and explains that their culture is unforgiving of...indiscretions such as hers and the punishment can be quite severe. Esh staying would pose a danger to them both, as well as his friends. She encourages him to leave the city as soon as he's able - but gives him the saddle they once had that summoned Piz'Az. When Maleshira learns that it summoned a horse - and not a pegasus - she was confused. She explains that the saddle was magically bound to Kreshnik, and if it was still able to summon part of Piz'Az, then perhaps he didn't die in the fall...but she dismisses this notion quite quickly and swallows her hope.

Esh sets out from his fateful meeting, and wallows among the city of his mother, alone.

-----

Valka and Apple search for ale and revelry, which is distinctly different in an elven city. They hear woodwind instruments and see many folk sitting around tables, a carafe of a lightly colored beverage on each table, but no bar. There's glasses and a dispenser in the back that people seem to be helping themselves, so they take a seat near the band and begin to indulge themselves, Apple not so subtly putting her bagpipes in the band's view.

Arlin and Lucy go with Creno to his Druidic Lodge high above the forest floor. He explains that the curse of lycanthropy has been managed, by some, to be not only a livable condition but one that can be utilized for their own purposes, and not succumb to the beast. He shares his knowledge of the Moon Circle and its shifting powers, and asks Arlin about the mentor he had worshiping Mielikki, if Lucy was the one who bit him, and what Lucy truly is. Lucy was reluctant to say anything, but eventually shifted into her humanoid form and stamped her feet that she is and always will be a werewolf. Creno laughs, remarking on the moon shaped symbol on her forehead. Their studies continue into a sleepless night.

Azarek studies at the library, taking the time to delve into the diary of Vecna for his spellbook. His steely mind prevails, but is lost in his work for hours. Taking the time to head out and try and find his compatriots, he has Hootley spy a drunken Valka and Apple, as Esh finds them as well. Esh had gotten a magical sending spell from the inebriated pair that drew him out of his sullen nature to go look for his friends. On the way he was met by Abesh from the court, who got word they'd need lodging and showed them to their austere room for the evening.

New Sharandar, Part 2

The morning after, Apple finds herself awake, but bound. Valka had tied her up in the Rope of Climbing, and Apple gently notified the rest of the room of her predicament. Azarek begrudgingly spoke the command word and unbound her, but it became apparent that Valka wasn’t awake – nor was she able to be woken. She was sleeping just fine, but responded to no kicks, nudges, or even magical healing from Yorda.

Esh decides to stay and watch over Valka, as he’s not feeling too good – and hasn’t told anyone of what he’s learned about his lineage either, just that he wants to get out of New Sharandar as soon as possible. Azarek, Apple, and Yorda decide to find the enchanter’s shop Azarek had learned about last night in the library. On their way Apple spots a hanging garden off in the distance. At the foot of a massive tree they find vines with berries, tilled soil, and hanging pots with flowers and herbs growing beautifully. Inside the tree next to the stairwell they find an elven woman drinking from a large bottle. She smiles and introduces herself as a vintner named Telasa. They ask her about the wine they drunk at the tavern the night before, and how it’s put their friend out in a deep sleep. Telasa tells them that non-elves have a difficult time with Alether wine, and it can put people to sleep for days. She’s surprised Apple is still up, at all. She tells them that there is a remedy, but it’s a stinging nettle that’s gathered from the sides of trees that grow in Neverwinter Wood, not in New Sharandar. All the trees in New Sharandar are grown from seeds that come from the Feywild, which is how they grow buildings from them, and it takes a long time and a lot of planning to create a city like this on Toril (the Material Plane). They then head their way to the enchanter’s after getting a bottle of Sunberry wine from the friendly elf.

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Telasa

Meanwhile, Arlin and Lucy have been studying all night with Creno on the Moon Circle teachings, as well as the basics of the lycanthropic curse. Lucy has fallen asleep in a corner, but the elves don’t need sleep and press on with their studies. Eventually they agree to meditate on their learnings for a short time. Arlin’s meditation is disrupted by noise, and he turns to see Creno next to Lucy, his hand covering his forearm, and the faintest trickle of blood coming from the winter wolf’s mouth. Creno quickly crosses the room to his medicinal materials and starts to bandage himself. Arlin goes to Lucy and asks her what happened – she’s still groggy but says her mouth tastes like a kill – Arlin immediately marches over to Creno and demands to know what just happened. Creno sighs, and explains that he took what he needed to start himself on his own lycanthropic path. Arlin asks if he asked Lucy permission, Creno says that power is taken, not requested, and he can help Arlin learn that. He explains that this way, no one is harmed and he gets what he wants, which makes them into a pack. He can help Arlin learn the ways of controlling the beast within, as he’s researched about werewolves that have overcome it and the ways they could prevent it from overtaking their senses.

Arlin is still quite uncertain about what just transpired, but is most concerned with Lucy and her well-being. Arlin takes her from the druidic lodge, as Creno reminds him that Arlin needs him, else the curse will take hold at the next full moon. Arlin leaves all the same, and with the help of a friendly citizen, is shown to his friend’s room. A snoring Valka is heard from outside, and Arlin gets filled in on what happened – and tells Esh his concerns about what just happened. Esh says it sounds like Creno broke a trust and asks Arlin if he still even wants to learn from him. Arlin dwells on what his answer truly is.

At the enchanter’s, they find an older elven man sitting in a room filled with all manner of curiosities, bottles, books, tools, weapons – just an absolute mess of all manner of items in disarray. In the back they meet Dyxin, whose monocle drops from his face as he asks them what they’re looking for. Azarek trades the statues of elven deities found at the wreck in Neverwinter River for the material components required of a spell in Vecna’s diary. Dyxin asks about Chartilifax, and the parts of the dragon they kept as means of trade, since gold has no value to an insular city such as New Sharandar. He also shows them around his shop and offers up several items for trade – but none of interest to them, however odd and curious they might be. All except for an amulet that Dyxin won’t discuss. Apple’s naturally infuriating inquisition flusters Dyxin, and he reveals that it’s not for sale as it belongs to someone else. But he does let slip that it’s called the Amulet of the Planes, but will not tell them who it belongs to.

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On their way out Dyxin is fascinated by the enchantments on the club that they found in Chartilifax’s hoard. He says he’d like to study the enchantments, but Apple storms out in a huff of defiance as she makes an ultimatum to trade the Amulet of the Planes, which Dyxin still won’t do. Azarek stays behind and apologizes on the halfling’s behalf, and Dyxin mentions he’d be happy to transmute the enchantment to her beloved magical walking stick for a chance to learn the club’s secrets. Azarek mentions this to Apple who quickly realizes what she was missing out on, and humbly makes that deal before heading back to their lodging.

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Dyxin

Valka’s sleep is overtaken by fits of the Night Hag’s visage – no matter how her mind wanders to the stresses of her life, they always come back to that ugly purple face cackling and whispering to her, reminding her of the nightmare she saw of her family stolen from her back in Tradeholdt. Arlin and Esh can see her writhing on the floor and gently calm and sooth her for a moment, as the rest of the party comes back with their knowledge of a stinging nettle bath and interesting items at the enchanter’s shop, like an exquisite bow. Our party heads out to gather the stinging nettle, a moderate hike to outside the city limits to where it grows. Azarek casts Spider Climb on Apple who takes her time to gather many fistfuls of the dangerous plant before gracefully descending to the forest floor. They then go to a bathing area, which is several pools of water in a spring on the forest floor. Making the correct assumption that the elves likely don’t want their pools turned into a poisonous hot tub, they ask around about where they can find some sort of container. They’re pointed back to the vintner’s place, where they meet Telasa again who is more than happy to loan them a very large cask.

They take their newly acquired cask back to their lodgings and fill it with the Decanter of Endless Water, along with every last stinging nettle. Arlin casts Water Breathing on Valka just to ensure that she doesn’t choke while in the bath, and the whole group works together to pick up the massive barbarian and get her into the cask. They stand around awkwardly for several moments before they eventually stop staring and await some kind of reaction from Valka.

Just when everyone’s turned, Valka wakes up, submerged and in absolutely excruciating pain. Her skin and muscles are on absolute fire, and her lungs are filled with what feels like barbs of poison. She flails in the cask and kicks out, breaking the side of the cask and spilling herself and the poisonous bathwater out onto the floor. Arlin tends to her immediately with magical healing and resistance to poison that instantly begins calming Valka.

With their friend restored, they all catch up on what’s happened that day, and their concern turns to Arlin’s interaction with Creno and how deceptive he’d been. Their plan is to go to Maewyn and the rest of the court and let them know of his intent to grab cursed power. All the while, Esh still refrains from opening up about the interaction with Maleshira. He just asks that he not be required to go to the matriarchal court. No one asks him to.

Yet.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/1DLfHrm.jpg)
Azarek the wizard, Apple the monk, Valka the barbarian, Esh the bard, Arlin the druid
Art by Jem Thilo
https://www.pinterest.com/toriboreal...

New Sharandar, Part 3

After catching Valka up on what happened during her long sleep, our heroes decide they’re going to tell Maewyn all about Creno’s theft of lycanthropy from Lucy. Oddly enough, at that moment a pair of druids arrive at their door and tell them to come to the matriarchal court. Escorted directly there, they are met by all five members of the court, and the number of druidic guards have increased and stand at ready around the room.

Before Maewyn begins, Apple nudges Arlin forth so he can recount his tale. He explains what happened to the matriarch – which Creno does not deny. He reveals the wound on his arm to Maewyn, and tells her that this is his plan to secure power for the Iliyanbruen. He claims that he’s done the research to control the lycan impulses and plans to make all of the moon druids into werewolves, since they already commune with their shifting natural powers, who better to make an army? Maewyn is intrigued by this notion, as they’ve been lackluster on martial power in their ongoing war with the Shadovar. Our heroes posit questions of control, and pose scenarios of how this will affect their culture. Maewyn puts these questions back onto Creno who reasserts his confidence in controlling the curse.

Maewyn ultimately appreciates the idea of an unstoppable wolf army, since she’s been so disappointed in her current master of defenses, Maleshira. Maewyn says that she’s gotten reports that Maleshira has broken their laws of lineage and made a half-breed child – who is here in this room. Maleshira does not deny this, and hangs her head in shame. Maewyn orders both Esh and Maleshira to imprisonment in Sharandar, the original Feywild city from which New Sharandar gets its name, until she can decide ultimately what to do with them. This causes a grand stirring from our heroes who balk and shout at their friend being taken away, but they also realize they are outnumbered and do not want to make a critically mortal error. Before pressures became too great, Creno had teleported himself, Esh, Maleshira and a few druids away – and their friend was now gone.

The elven mystery resolved, Maewyn commands the guards remove the visitors at once, and they reluctantly leave to go formulate a plan outside the city walls. Discussion of going back to Dyxin’s shop and retrieving the Amulet of the Planes is had – it will allow them access to the Feywild so they can rescue Esh. From out of the trees pops Telasa the vintner. She explains that Phoria tasked her with keeping tabs on them, as Phoria’s absence from the court would cause immediate alarm since everyone knows her and Maleshira are close.

Esh and Maleshira were teleported to a different tree – Creno’s druidic lodge. Esh saw a magic circle that Creno had etched on his floor underneath a rug that looked similar to the one Selma Stormbringer had used before, but…different somehow. This created an arcane gate to the Feywild. The true majesty and splendor of Sharandar before him, Esh was too tense and mortified to really take in the sight of not just rooms, but entire buildings crafted from the wood of these impossibly large trees, high above the canopy of much shorter trees, below and beyond he could see the vast plains where teams of horses ran free. But Esh was escorted into one of these buildings that must be some kind of barracks, with weapons, armor, and sigils on the walls. He’s thrown into a cell with metal bars across from Maleshira. As the guards seize their possessions Esh manages to palm a very important item – the Mystery Key he bought from Ridaldo weeks ago! When the guards leave their sight, he attempts to use the key...but to no success. In fact, when he puts it in the latch it ejects forcefully and slides across the room to Maleshira’s cell. She quickly picks it up and Esh lies to the guards about the noise they just made. Maleshira waits, and the key inserts itself into the lock, and the entire lock and key disappear, allowing the door to swing open. Neither of them know what the strange glyph is in front of their cell, but when Maleshira leaps over it the ward changes color from blue to red, and they know they don’t have much time. A desperate mother tells her boy she loves him and dashes away.

IMAGE(https://deathbymage-files-wordpress-com.cdn.ampproject.org/i/s/deathbymage.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/elf-city-in-feywild.jpg)
Sharandar, in the Feywild

The plan – to infiltrate Dyxin’s curiosity shop by having Telasa distract him with the feather token they’d found back in the Sunless Citadel, and have Apple and a small spidery Arlin get inside and take the Amulet of the Planes. Arlin casts his magical Pass Without Trace spell, melding the two into the shadows, while Azarek provides Spider Climb to Apple. Buffed with magic it’s no trouble to climb the city walls and take the route Hootley scouted for them where wandering eyes would not approach. It was a simple task to get in, and they scour the Dyxin-free shop. Apple grabs her walking stick and club, as well as searching for the material components Azarek requested. Atop the stack of books, in a glass case, sat the Amulet. When Apple used the Ghost Lantern’s mage hand ability to grab it down a red glow illuminated the ceiling where it had rested, and they knew they were compromised. Apple quickly grabbed the amulet out of the case, saw the fancy longbow that intrigued her earlier that day and dropped some gems on the floor as payment as they bolted back out the window and reconvened with their group.

Back in the Feywild, Esh could hear the sounds of a struggle out in the hall, and a few minutes later his mother returned with all of their gear and a key for his cell door. Once more they stepped over the glyph, which turned it red and they hurried from the barracks out to the massive wooden bridge connecting two buildings. There stands Creno with two Moon druids beside him. “You disappoint me, Maleshira,” he says with disdain.

Our heroes now with the Amulet of the Planes study its magics and await the return of Telasa. Without stealth or caution, Telasa does indeed come bounding through the woods with news that they must go now – whatever happened in the shop sent a warning and guards mobilized. They need to get to their rescue plan immediately. Azarek concentrates on the amulet as best he can, but the pressure of their plan caused a minor error – and they are transported to the Feywild, but where in the Feywild…are they?

Sharandar

Creno and Maleshira shout at each other from each side of the gigantic wooden bridge, and Esh interjects while holding the Sending Stone, ensuring his allies hear that he's about to fight the arcane advisor. Creno escalates things by sending his druids to do his bidding, and they shift into a wolf and a panther ready to strike. Esh cleverly uses his Speak with Plants spell, and asks the enormous tree they're on to begin swaying, in an attempt to splinter the bridge. This forces the druids to lose footing, but grants Maleshira time to start sending arrows their way.

The rest of Esh's allies teleport to the Feywild, but don't see any familiar faces. Surrounded by exotic flora and fauna, they are awestruck by its beauty -
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until they hear the patter of footsteps - and was that a giggle? - coming from around one of the large trees. A beautiful Fey woman comes running around the tree, with a smile on her face as she's looking behind her. When she sees our party she waves a hand and time slows around them all. The leaves in the breeze move with the slowest of perceptible motion as she happily greets our heroes and explains she's having a bit of fun being chased.
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They exchange names and learn she is called Verenestra, and she can help them in their plight since they're far from Sharandar and need to reunite with Esh. Verenestra says she'd be happy to get them to wherever they want to go, she just asks for a small favor in return, and it'll only take a minute of their time. Azarek and Arlin, knowing the tales of the Fey are immediately suspicious and think about what it would mean to not take the deal. Verenestra says she wouldn't mind, though she'd be elated if they do - but when she leaves and time starts again she doesn't think the creatures chasing her would let their mortal flesh slip by them. Valka tests the limits of the time bubble and spies the creatures chasing Verenestra - an awful otherworldly carrion beast - but there's not just one. A column of these creatures are mid-flight rounding the corner a few hundred feet behind where they stand, ready to descend upon them like piranha.
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Back on the bridge it's all spells and arrows as Esh and his mother dispatch the moon druids, but Creno has taken on frightening elemental forms. Thankfully Esh has had experience in dealing with both water and fire elementals so he knows to keep his distance. As the mighty tree-building continues to sway the bridge's edge does snap away, shattering a sizable gap in the bridge. Esh and Maleshira look to use that spacing to their advantage, but Esh misses his leap, and begins falling down the incredibly long way toward the canopy of treetops below. Maleshira cries out and goes to the bridge edge shouting, "Use the saddle!" Mid-fall Esh brings out the saddle and shouts out every name and word he can think of...when he says the name of his father and the name of the horse tied to the saddle, "Kreshnik?!?....Piz'Az?!?" is when a mighty pegasus forms under the saddle and whinnys with pride as Esh ascends back to the battle.
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Verenestra is patient as the adventurers before her weigh the pros and cons of accepting her offer. Yorda thinks it's suspicious and doesn't like the deal, but Telasa enlightens our heroes as to Verenestra's lineage - she's the Lady of Summer, princess of the Seelie Court, and daughter to Queen Titania. To refuse her would be missing an interesting opportunity, according to Telasa. Verenestra reinforces that she'd not be upset if they didn't exchange favors, but she would love if they do. Right then was when Apple, the bearer of the other Sending Stone (or Rocky-Talkie, as she refers to them) heard Esh's exchange with Creno on the bridge in Sharandar. This helps solidify the trouble he's in, and that they need to get to him as soon as possible. Verenestra asks for some details on where they're going and who they're meeting, so Azarek conjures an image of Esh, and Apple slips Verenestra a few strands of Esh's hair that she's suspiciously collected, which helps Verenestra greatly. Some reluctantly accepting, Verenestra asks that they all stand in a circle and place their hands atop one another. She then clasps both top and bottom hand (and upon brushing Lucy's skin comments on how much fun she must be), and rapidly elongates her index fingernail though all of their hands. The time bubble begins to fade, as the carrion beasts move more rapidly toward them. Not a group, not dozens, but hundreds of these creatures round the bend as our heroes vanish right before meeting their doom.

They arrive in the same jail Esh and Maleshira were imprisoned in, and feel the room shake as the building continues to sway. They make their way to the bridge, and see Creno lying face down, a barrage of arrows in his back, with Esh atop a winged horse, and Maleshira clutching her wounds. The fight was already over. They retreat into the council building across from the barracks, a large hall becoming their place of respite. Many moments are had as they discuss where they'd each been, and what comes next. Arlin talks with Piz'Az, who speaks to him in common - though his voice isn't clear, it sounds muffled, unlike when he's spoken to other sentient beasts. He asks Piz'Az about where he goes when he's not around, and what happens with the saddle, but Piz'Az clearly doesn't understand what he means. He likes, Esh, though. Azarek takes time to look at the teleportation circle in the council room here, and spends much time studying it. Lucy is restless and starts making a mess with her crayons before reverting to her natural winter wolf state and getting a case of the zoomies.

Maleshira says she wants to reunite with Phoria back in New Sharandar, and from there, she's in exile. Seeing Piz'Az makes her believe that there's a chance Kreshnik might be out there, and she intends to find him. Apple offers to help, though Yorda does interject that their task is to get to Gauntlgrym. Apple says she'd give Maleshira one of the sending stones, so that Esh may keep in contact with Maleshira while she searches.

The rest of the party makes plans to use the Amulet of the Planes to get to Gauntlgrym, when Maleshira asks Esh the toughest of questions - would he want to come with Maleshira to try and find what happened to his father? This would take Esh away from his friends on a potentially hopeless cause, but it is his family...