A few days later, the party reconvenes in the Serpent. Not a lot has happened in the intervening time, on account of the massive Stream freak party going on outside. They are clearly poor, mostly street rats, but a growing number of them are middle-class folks, smiths & vintners, and even a few lesser nobles. Mercy has battened down the hatches and it’s a much quieter tavern as a result. Within a week or so, scarcity is going to be a problem.
In all of this, Tinuvial has managed to deliver the Crown to the Tower of the Black Staff. The Black Staff was able to secure the area briefly, but doesn’t think she can do much more. The Stream-heads look like they’re ready for to do violence, but just need someone to poke the bear.
They are surrounding several important locations in the city, except the Sinecure, where the Overgod once spoke to the masses. It has a kind of magic-dampening field, which makes it popular for mages’ meetings.
The other group of adventurers is sitting downstairs as well. William looks despondent and Sun-Rod-less. The Dawnbringer took it from him. Moriam & Gloriam are re-imaging their hard drives and learning simpler spells, not the complex rituals they were trying to make happen.
They review certain facts that have come to light.
Welt comes in, and announces, “Bookish is dead. He had this in his hands.” He drops a piece of paper on the table. It is a piece of a recent book on The handwriting in the margin matches the handwriting in the Secret History of the Harpers. It says simply, “I’m sorry,” and is apparently Bookish’s suicide note. According to Welt, he took an epic amount of hemlock.
To sum up: The Stream addicts are set to blow, as agents or pawns of the Black Sphynx. The Family, headed up by Tervis and assisted in some way by Count Rampyr and House Kormallis, are involved with this.
Welt tells him that there is a bounty on Tervis’s head. It would be in their mutual interests to collect that.
Some agents are missing, others are shut outside the walls. The ruling class of the city has mostly departed for their country estates, leaving Lord Neverember (the open Lord) in charge.
The Family/Kormallis have functionally disappeared — Welt’s agents have lost track of them. It’s a reasonable assumption that they are still undermining the city, but where is the question. Welt reminds them that Tervis must be underground somewhere. Bookish’s suicide note may be a clue, since it alludes to a Netherese hidey hole.
1. Soldarin Temple — warn them of possible undermining
2. Recruit Duhlark
3. Tower of the Order of Mages — get info on secret Netherese hidey holes
Sven volunteers the group, who seem eager to join.
They travel in a rather large pack to the Temple. It’s understandably under heavy guard, but one of them recognizes Tinuvial. He allows Tinuvial, Luriniel, and elf-friend Elias in. The rest have to stand and wait.
Tinuvial warns the head of the order about the undermining. The bladesinger from Skullport has come to the Temple, and insists on reviving the bladesinging art. Mission accomplished: they head to Duhlark’s Emporium of Wonders.
Elias knows where it is, so he leads them there. As they approach, the door opens of its own accord. They enter, and as their eyes adjust to the darkness, they see it is richly appointed but dimly lit. There is a large mirror in one corner, which Elias approaches. Duhlark appears in it, and steps through. “Master,” Elias nods to him.
There is a moment of recognition from the other group. Harfoot is curiously muted. The twins could care less — there are books to read.
Duhlark has found out a few things. The anti-scrying wards around the city are almost too powerful for him to penetrate. Not many entities have this power. A Thayan could do it. From Duhlark’s experience, if the Family is using the Red Wizard, it may be that he is also using them for his own ends. They have a way of…widening the plot.
Regarding the Selskar Order, they were a splinter group of the Netherese pursuing magic forbidden to them by the Nether Scrolls. What about the hiding place the book scrap alludes to? It would be an excellent hiding place, as it would already be well-protected.
Duhlark says he will return to Waterdeep when his time has come.
How do we cut off the Stream addicts from Myrkul? Well, one can’t kill them, since he’s, y’know, the God of Death. A better bet would be to disrupt his plan. To return, Myrkul would need three things: a fragment of himself, a body vessel, and a lot of blood. In other words, the Crown, Tervis, and the hordes outside. The easiest link in that chain to break would be Tervis. Another reason to go after him.
Duhlark has known Rampyr for many years. Three hundred or so. It’s unlikely to Duhlark that Rampyr would subdue his will to anyone, and that Tervis has perhaps underestimated the egos of his allies. But believing to be in direct contact with a god would be a way to change some minds.
Next: the Order of the Mages. There is a garden outside the tower, with masters and apprentices talking here and there. It’s immediately apparent that this is a component garden, so Moriam & Gloriam begin to surreptitiously pick some. When Elias’s master arrives, he tells them, “Go ahead and pick some. We can always grow more.” They look sheepish, but don’t stop picking.
Tinuvial asks for the word that opens the Catacomb of Yintos in the Heroes’ Garden. The name: Ulthorn. He also informs the master that the Stream addicts are being directed from outside. The Order is tied up with an outbreak of lemures. Tinuvial explains how that’s possible, with the summoning by numbers. He fills the master in on a few more details — the suggestibility of the Stream addicts, the looming presence of the Sphinx, and Myrkul’s plan. Having filled his calendar for the next few days, the group heads to the Heroes’ Garden.
The streets are relatively empty, aside from a few people looking for food or what have you.
The Garden is really a park, dedicated to people who have in one way or another saved the city. They spread out and look for the statue mentioned in the book fragment, Lady Lhestyn. She took down the Shadow Thieves Crime Group, was an Open Lord for a time, built the palace of Waterdeep, and founded the Red Sashes.
She is depicted in this monument with her mask on, and a number of blades hidden in her clothes.
Adalwin notices some people who are watching them as they go through the park. Mordith and Sven decide to go have a conversation. Half the group go with them, surreptitiously. “It’s like they don’t trust us,” Mordith says. “I don’t trust us,” Sven says.
The nearest pair Mordith talks to claim to just be on a courtin’ date. Mordith smiles and wishes them a good day.
Everyone returns to the statue and Elias speaks the word “Ulthorn.” Somewhere inside, the statue clicks. Mordith and Sven heave to and slide it aside. The motion is surprisingly quiet. The opening reveals a set of stairs leading down into darkness. Tinuvial casts Light on Mordith’s shield, (and Meadow has it’s own glow) and they walk into the earth. Again.
At the bottom of the stairs is a tapestry with a slit down the middle. Mordith taps it with Meadow, and there is some murmuring and growling (!) on the other side. “It’s go time,” he says over his shoulder and charges through.
In the room on the other side, there are about ten otherwise normal-looking guys and a chained owlbear. Full-grown. Standing in front of a door.
They swarm the entrance and begin to swing on Mordith. One of them gets him in the side, but Mordith returns the favor with interest.
Most of the group have to wait. Not Sven though, who steps into the space Mordith made and turns another guy into meat. He takes a few cuts for his bravery, but Tinuvial buffs him pretty good.
Mordith takes out a couple more guys (one with sword, one with shield) and wades into the gap. Sven proceeds to chew through a few more guys. Luriniel steps into the room and immediately downs two guys with two arrows. But only one shot.
William charges down the stairs and into the room, and Harfoot is close behind. He tumbles past the owlbear (not recommended) but makes it past the owl and bear parts.
Mordith takes out a couple more, and Sven decides it’s time to take on the owlbear. He draws blood, as does Luriniel and William. Harfoot sneaks behind it (again dodging the snapping owl beak) and puts it down with a knife to the spine.
Tinuvial comes down the stairs and takes out the last guy. The statue apparently returns to its position, because the light from upstairs disappears. The eleven of them crowd into the room and start investigating. The dead are perfectly normal-looking, except for the long swords and the vampire bites on their necks.
It seems like one of them got too close to the owlbear, because there’s another corpse, partially eaten, near it.
The tapestries (seven in all) are the most interesting things in the room. They are very elaborate, and Vell recognizes some of what’s going on there. Each tapestry is a depiction of a different period in Netherese history.
The first is the First Age, showing people in seven small villages shaking hands and signing documents — apparently making agreements. Each village looks slightly different. Later (farther down the tapestry) elves appear, making some kind of first contact. Farther down in time, the elves and villagers gang up on mountain orcs. In the background, there are gnomes who seem to be around, carrying water, sharpening weapons, and retrieving the dead. Slaves, apparently.
The second is the Nether Age. The Netherese are shown obtaining scrolls (“Probably the Nether Scrolls,” says William). The elves seem to be turning away from the scrolls, while the humans turn towards them. Implication: these scrolls are pre-elven. And terrifying. Meanwhile, the elves are secretly removing the gnomish slaves. Later, the Netherese make contact with the Dwarves and establish a trade route underground between their mountain and Netheril.
The third one, the Mythallar Age, is where shit gets crazy. It depicts a prominent wizard using the Nether Scrolls (directing the work, really) to rip the tops off of mountains, overturn them, and build cities on them. They don’t go straight to cities, though. They make some smaller attempts first with villages. On the edges, though, some Netherese are working with elves on some kind of magic. These Netherese wear different colored robes; most Netherese wear black.
The fourth tapestry, the Gold and Silver Age, shows the Netherese exploration of the Sword Coast. One interesting note: there are three cities set up under the water off the Coast. A variety of horrible creatures surround the cities, looking in and, later, burning them down. Underwater. At the very bottom of this is the largest floating city depicted, which Tinuvial can read as Thultanthar. Now it is known as the City of Shade.
The next, fifth, tapestry, is the Age of Discovery. The Netherese find two things: chardalyn (a black stone that the Netherese crush, and spells come out), and Sargauth, AKA Skullport. “It’s that old?” Adalwin mutters. “Fuck me.” The place that the group is standing now shows up on teh tapestry. It used to be a chardalyn mine.
The sixth tapestry is the Shadowed Age. It is the darkest of the seven, and is dedicated entirely to one person: Karsus. The Netherese are setting up enclaves, and various peoples (elves, humans, halflings, and so on) are stealing the Nether Scrolls. In the middle, awful, four-armed beings called Phaerimms are fighting the Netherese and creating deserts as they do. At the bottom of this tapestry is the depiction of the tapestries being created, and Thultanthar going into the Realm of Shadow.
The last tapestry, the Diaspora, is hastily stitched. It’s labelled “Karsus’s Avatar” and only shows cities falling out of the sky. Adalwin recognizes one of the cities as one that fell near Neverwinter. Tinuvial notices the group of “elf-friend” Netherese fleeing separately.
Elias notes that the rooms are built of basalt, which is a rock that’s good for containing magic.
They decide to move on. Adalwin listens at the door. He can’t hear much, but for just a second he swears he hears a snore, and he can smell something acrid. Elias recognizes it as Stream. The sneakier of the bunch head up front.
The next room is dark, but the light from the previous room trickles in. The smell of brewing Steam is unbearably strong, and there’s a set of stairs spiraling up into the dark. Vell peeks over Adalwin’s shoulder, and swears he hears batwings for a moment. He takes a look up with his low-light vision, but can’t see much more than ruins. Oh, and the sweet alchemy setup that’s mass-brewing stream. There’s a dog bed in the corner. Empty.
He and Adalwin begin to sneak through the room. They hear snippets of things, snoring and conversation, from the other doors in the room, but this one appears to be empty. They’re fairly sure the structure of the room is playing hell with the accoustics.
The group heads on in. Adalwin drags Mordith and his shield over to the bed. There’s no evidence of actual dog, though, just a smell of leather and lizard.
The group takes a moment to look at the bas-reliefs on the walls. Mordith dutifully runs back & forth while Tinuvial & Vell examine them.
They depict the pre-history of the Realms: fish, amphibian and avian creatures fighting gods and avatars and old-school awfulness. See notecards for details.
Vell picks the lock on the nearest door and whiffs it entirely. The bell on the other side of the door clangs, and feral screaming begins from down the hallway. Vell hears under that, someone yelling, “Shut the fuck up!” and the screaming diminishes, but doesn’t disappear. Nothing much else happens, though. Vell disables the bell alarm, but manages to ring the bell again. The screaming begins again. Not much else happens.
There’s some hemming and hawing, but Vell eventually walks down the steps under the cover of the screaming. He emerges in a room with some jail cells. In each cell is some kind of feral, formerly human vampire thing. And their jailer, who opens the cell he’s nearest to and lets it do its thing. Its thing being clawing and biting the fuck out of Vell until he goes unconscious.
Before he goes down, he gets out a “Help!” The group does just that. Mordith gets clawed to hell, but William revives Vell. There’s some furious hacking and slashing. Tinuvial raises Mordith, who puts one vampire down before getting clawed back down again.
Elias spider-walks up to the ceiling and rains down magic missile from above.
Mordith continues to get raised and bit & clawed and collapse again. Sven is not looking good. Harfoot sounds the general retreat, but Mordith has smartly backed himself into a corner and is also unconscious again.
Sven puts down another vampire, and Mordith smartly runs away.
The last to leave is Sven, predictably. And, predictably, he gets taken down on his way out. Tinuvial gets him up and they finally get out. And shut the door.
The door may have slowed them down a touch, but they come through anyway. Harfoot takes one down, Morium blasts a bunch of magic missile into the other one, which Vell puts down.
The immediate danger is over, but there are three…live? vampires still screaming in their cages.
They regroup briefly, heal up a bit, and William heads back down to the cells. He casts Sacred Flame, which takes care of the remaining three vampires. Adalwin picks the lock to the next room, and they all crowd through. Except Vell and Harfoot, who stay behind to guard against ambush.
They go into the room beyond the cells, which has a few stacks of barrels and crates in it, and a fireplace. Adalwin sees a rope disappearing up the chimney, so he grabs it. A brick comes back down and beans him good, so he lets go of the rope and it continues on its way.
They search the barrels & crates. It’s mostly food and supplies, but Elias finds a small chest that he gives to Adalwin. Mordith and Sven move a few barrels to get at a door behind them.
Adalwin and Mordith bait a guy upstairs to drop a brick, and Adalwin shoots an arrow up. Improbably, it hits one of the dudes. As Adalwin and Mordith are giggling, a cask of oil followed by a torch drops down and ignites. They stop giggling.
But only long enough to build a corpse fire out of one of the vampires. They giggle some more.
Meanwhile, Vell gets the small chest open. Some potions of healing and some that Elias identifies as potions of vigorous healing and one potion of water breathing.
Vell checks the other doors. Two of them are buried with rubble on the other side, which means there’s only one choice. The door with voices behind it.
One of the guys from the fireplace makes it down, with a broken leg. He is wearing a red robe, dark hair and goatee. Adalwin & Mordith take him up to meet the group. Vell tries to search his pockets and gets some kind of dark magic zap. Tinuvial shoots him. Vell tries to twist the arrow and gets zapped again. He stabs the information right out of him.
Adalwin rolls the corpse. There isn’t much, but he does have a ring of keys and a brand on his neck. William recognizes it as the mark of Asmodeus, the devil lord, god of sin, lord of Hell. Wasn’t this about Myrkul?
Adalwin unlocks their only door option. The room beyond is mostly rubble, but there is a hole in the floor from which some light is shining. They peek over and discover a 40 ft drop. The plan is to lower Adalwin first, let him set up some cover, while everyone else comes down.
The plan goes pretty well. Adalwin puts one of two arrows into a scribe, and they sound the alarm. William goes next, takes it a little too fast, and lands on Adalwin. Mordith zips on down and proceeds to swing and miss on the nearest dude.
Adventurers drop down one after the other and take on scribes. Scribes in armor. Who cast. Sven doesn’t take the drop too well, but shrugs it off. A few scribes get some spells off.
Mordith puts another one down with his shield. Vell gingerly climbs down the ladder. Harfoot continues to lay halfling waste. Sven takes out a guy with his huge axe. William goes down from a choking touch from a scribe, but Tinuvial spares him.
The heroes continue to chew through the scribes until they’re all chopped steak.
This room was the production lab for the summoning-by-numbers, but there are also quite a few scrolls that Elias likes. There are some components and expensive inks and papers. The corpses have some money on them as well, to the tune of 50 gp.
While they’re searching the room, the door opens a bit, a bell rings, some wings flap, and the door closes again. Most likely an invisibly tiny dragon.
The central question here is why would Asmodeus be helping to resurrect a competitor? Well, it can’t hurt to have a little friendly competition. Until the two start to compete. Someone’s bound to get hurt.
From the other room, someone yells, “Parlay!”
Elias says, somewhat resignedly, “Send your representative.”
Pretty soon a mage comes through. “My superior asked me to come and negotiate.” They arrange some chairs.
His boss is some asshole wizard who seems to be important. He’d rather be killing all of them, but they’re a hierarchy. He describes the boss, which is clearly Finn. Mordith rather calmly gets up and walks to the next room. Sven comes with, then Harfoot, then Luriniel, Tinuviel, William, and so on.
Gloriam puts some kind of fear spell on the negotiator, who promptly curls up in the corner. He’s kind of incoherent, but alludes to the whole Myrkul thing being a feint for Asmodeus.
Mordith walks purposely down the hallway past two statues with their hands up in interesting positions. He ignores them, and they attack him. Sven hits one of them for a not inconsiderable amount of damage.
The answer is to the question is “Selskar,” which Harfoot yells out. The statues stop, and the door opens. There is a room full of shelves, some of which have been cleared away. Finn is behind four more of the order, holding a piece of paper and a torch, and he says, “If you come in here, you’ll never find out what’s going on.”
Tinuvial muscles past Mordith and casts Command on him, and makes him drop the papers and lantern.
A fuck-all huge flaming sphere appears in front of Tinuvial. Sven tries to charge into the room and gets laid out by the fuck-all huge flaming sphere.
Turns out, most everyone who tries to get in gets hurt by the fuck-all huge flaming sphere, like Harfoot and Moriam. Tinuvial tries pulls Sven out of the way of the FAHFS, and when one of the goons swings at him, he misses and hits another goon instead.
Elias shoots a lightning bolt at Finn, but he’s still up. The FAHFS lays some waste. Gloriam goes down from the flame sphere.
Elias & Finn trade lightning bolts, but the red shirts take out Mordith. Harfoot puts a dagger into Finn. Gloriam gets one of the red shirts in a frost ray.
Things progress. Finn, not looking very solid, takes a knee and requests surrender.
The last of the goons goes down. Sven picks Finn up by his armpits for Mordith, who gives Tinuvial one chance to not kill Finn. Tinuvial points out the need for knowledge, so Mordith just pops him with his gloved fist.
There is little to find on the bodies, besides about 30 gp.
Tinuvial shuffles through the papers. He begins to ask questions. There is a Netherese floating mountain top on its way. All the pillars are gone. There is an extensive hit list, written by Tervis. Some are dead, some are turned, some are “turned.” The Hounds are around. Probably on the floating mountain top. Finally he coughs up some interesting information — they can get to Tervis by going through the statue room, under the water, and through the privies.
There’s a moment where Vell begins to torture him, and Finn begins to scream, and maybe talk, but Moridith takes his goddam head off. There’s a moment where the other three deflate, in the face of lost information, and then they begin to tend to the wounded.
Adalwin hears, through the last door they haven’t checked, chanting to Asmodeus.
They decide to search the room, take a short rest, and move on.