Near Phylund Town
The group hears the sound of hooves behind them. They turn to see five heavily-armored knights riding full out for them. They carry swords, crossbows, lances, and wear brand new gleaming plate under the tabards of House Phylund. They come to a stop 150 yards away or so.
Behind the knights come four figures. A floating bald red-robed wizard, a huge knight in purpleish cloak and black armor, a bestial Mort, and a witch riding a nightmare steed.
The black-cloaked man speaks “The knights will defeat you, the elements will consume you, and you will lick at my heels no more.” To Mort he says, “Get the girls,” and Mort digs down into the earth and disappears. To the Red Wizard he says, “Get the families,” and he flies away over the trees, which reach up to grab him. To the witch he says, “Deal with the rest of it,” and she gallops off at an inhuman speed.
He speaks to the party again: “I will not see you again in Waterdeep. My elemental knights will not hurt the horned one, as per the agreement.” The knight turns into a giant bat and flies away.
After he flies away, there is a sound that comes from the north, and a breeze comes from the same direction following a ripple in the earth. As it flows under the horses, they can see for a moment an icy one, a watery one, a gem-covered one, firey one, and a shadowy one.
Elyas teleports to the knights and lights them up with lightning bolts, taking out a horse and ruining the rest of their days.
They charge, one at a time. Vell drops a blob of darkness on the first two. The shadow knight turns to attack Elyas on foot.
The water knight charges out of the darkness and runs down Mordith. He swings at the horse as he goes down, and then Adalwin takes it out. The knight lands on his feet, but as he turns to attack, Mordith rises up and strikes him down.
Just as he does, the air knight charges out of the darkness. They take his horse out as the fiery knight charges out as well. Mordith kills the air knight as Adalwin kills the fire horse. They surround him as he lands and Belwrick kills him.
As they attack, each of the knights recognizes Scourge and calls it something in Infernal [Demon-Bringer].
The other two knights nope the hell out. The earth knight rides away north and the shadow knight dissipates into shadow.
As they stand up, the shadow knight emerges from the earth, grabs Tinuvial, and disappears again with him.
The knights have some interesting items. Their crossbows are masterwork and heavy as hell. Under their surcoats they have different livery: a red field with a white raven in flight. They don’t recognize it, and assume they are foreigners.
Their armor is brand new, without even a scratch despite the very recent battle. Elyas recognizes a mark woven into the breastplate and filigree on each of them as the symbols for the elements.
In the distance they see Betward the baker coming up. He reminds them of their agreement, though Mordith wants to return to Waterdeep quickly. Adalwin talks everyone down and gets Betward to send a warning to his people in Waterdeep.
Meanwhile, back at the Grey Serpent…
A ripple flows throughout the city, followed by clouds and mist running the wrong way, and dimness. A screaming begins in the fireplace. Iliana and Maran bar the doors. Sariel has the patrons lock themselves in the girls’ rooms and they get their battlin’ things. When they return, a window is broken and Mother Malevolence is gone.
Outside, everyone is shutting themselves up. There are some confusing signs in the bar — it seems like the thing and Mal switched places after it broke through the window, then they both disappear.
Maran goes to take care of the fire and discovers that it’s the rabbits in the stew. She pokes them back down, and the screaming stops.
They head up the stairs, which are sticky and soft for some reason.
Upstairs, in that short amount of time, all the patrons have been mauled. The girls are horrified, except for Iliana, who is annoyed at the mess in her room.
They continue up the stairs briefly, but are stopped by the hulking bestial figure looming in the hallway.
In Phylund Town…
The Arrow meets up with the baker in an hour. He seems exhausted and smells faintly of sulfur. Adalwin gets him water.
They fill Betward in on the knights and their symbolism. He recognizes their hidden livery as Halruaan — a race of rebel Netherese that made magic airships and headed south to establish a magocracy. They were destroyed in the Spellplague, though there are rumors among the arcane classes that their far-seers lit out well before then.
He guesses that the shadow knight took Tinuvial to the Phylund compound, but he’s never seen anything like that before. There must be some connection to Phylund’s religion. They worship the gods of Fury (thus the shrines).
Is there some way to get into the compound? Not that he knows.
The tunnels under the elven ruins are dwarven in make. The elves left in the great Migration, though the dwarves were driven out in wars with the drow. Betward has explored the tunnels, and found layers and layers underneath the town. They are dwarven near the surface, but become more alien the farther down you go.
The tunnels in the area all avoid the lodge. There is something significant underneath it.
Bottom line, there’s really only one way in: the front gates. He thinks their best bet is to arm the village and storm the compound.
There is also the fact that the trees tried to grab the red wizard. Maybe they can ride some trees into battle?
Can they leverage the proprietor of Malar’s Outfitters? the smith? and maybe the proprietor of the Huntress?
Maybe they could cause a giant distraction. Adalwin and Betward are happy burning down the town, but Mordith isn’t. Maybe they could start purifying Phylund’s shrines, but that might piss off some very active gods & goddess.
A great distraction would be those trees.
As Belwrick & Elyas get to the forest, it seems more gnarled and older than before, and warmer than it should. Some trees are beginning to bud, and they notice some red & white mushrooms called flytops that are useful in spells, but aren’t in season now.
Elyas gives this some thought, and prays to Chauntea and Rillifane. It suddenly becomes easier to walk through the brambles, and the leaves follow their progress to a stone circle in an oak grove. As they recognize the symbol of Shar on each stone, the trees begin to move.
Meanwhile, back at the Serpent…
It is drooling bloody saliva, panting in anticipation and holding something. It throws out a head at them with long hair. Then they hear a horn calling in the distance and it seems genuinely startled. The horn blows again, and it crashes through the wall away from the sound, north up the Dragon Way.
Maran checks the head. It’s Amelia. There is a stunned silence. Kera jumps out after it and knocks herself silly. Maran goes out to grab her, while Iliana watches. There are things in the mist, so she calls out to Maran & Kera to hurry up.
They get inside the door and bar it just as the eight or so ghouls begin to batter it down. The girls downstairs start piling up tables and chairs while Iliana reigns down eldritch energy.
In the midst of that, Iliana & Sariel see Mal rise up from the mist, smile at them, and float away. They look at each other in confusion.
Suddenly the other three are there with a tiefling who says he’s there to help. Something is up with the sound in this place. He goes to a small sigil none of them have noticed before, touches it with three fingers, and opens a portal. He gestures inside. “Ladies?”
They shrug and go inside. It seems to be a very nice magical flophouse. There are several doors around the wall (it’s round) and some beds. In the middle is a well-laid table. Iliana bellies up.
The tiefling sits as well. “My employers asked me to save you, so here we are. We aren’t going anywhere in a while, so you might as well sit.”
One of the portals likely goes to the Tower, New Olamn, Castle Waterdeep, maybe away south to the library at Candlekeep. Why the Grey Serpent? What better place to hide a portal than some random bar?
The Spires of Morning have initiated a pogrom against any unregistered magic items, clerics of other faiths, magic users, and so on. Oddly coincidental, that.
Wait — if this is a bolthole from several places, during a pogrom and assault on the city, why isn’t anyone else hiding here? An excellent question, which he will definitely report to his superiors later. Not, apparently, to them though.
As their eyes adjust, they realize there are other supplies and things in the shadows. Books and so on.
He doesn’t have much else to say, so he lays down to take a nap.
They start to investigate. Iliana looks through the books, which are mostly on esoterica, and therefore right up her alley. Sariel gives an eye to the portals.
There are keys and feathers and all sorts of things falling out of the books. Sariel notices this once the first key hits the floor, and comes over to investigate. These are the usual things wizards use to open portals because they’re small and not super common to care.
It may be significant what pages the items come from. Iliana starts to try and correlate items with books and pages. Sariel and Helya try and help.
As Sariel is wandering around, a portal opens. Something on her triggers it, and a monstrous face peers through.
Near Phylund Town…
Elyas and Belwrick immediately drop to their knees and begin to pray to Rillifane to save them. They look down and see flowers under their feet, which are ten or so feet in the air.
In Phylund Town, Adalwin, Mordith, and Vell head to Malar’s Outfitters. They discuss the hole that they put themselves in with the proprietor, Dunmar. The armor and barding and masterwork crossbows they left from the knights should cover it. They notice on the way that people in town are staring vacantly forward. Not creepy at all.
When they arrive at Malar’s, Dunmar is talking to a shadowy knight.
Elyas and Belwrick realize that one of the oak trees has picked them up. They talk the trees into helping to save Tinuvial, the Chosen One (who is a reeeally good friend of theirs). The trees agree. They uproot themselves and begin to march.
At Malar’s, the shadow knight notices them arrive and disappears into shadows. Dunmar is shaken to the core. Adalwin pours him a drink and starts to sweet talk him while Dunmar packs up. He has no intention of staying, but he gives them full access to his stash.
On the way out he gives them three pieces of advice. 1. Get rid of the horses across the street. 2. Watch out for the owlbears in the compound. They’re in the back. 3. Watch out for the watchspiders in the compound. They’re in the basement.
Adalwin searches the desk. He finds, among other things, his tradebook of contacts. This is incredibly useful for business, so Adalwin keeps it. There is a stash of silvered weapons in the back, and something like a grindstone he said to pull when they’re done with the place.
Meanwhile, in a parallel plane near the Serpent…
A horrifying face peers in from a blasted, withered place on the other side and reaches its huge lobstrosity claw through, nipping the back off of Sariel’s robes as she runs away. The portal closes on the claw and it drops to the floor.
They wake up Tim the Tiefling, who tells them, a touch too late, to stay in the light. Out of the light is close enough to open a portal.
Tim is way awake now. Maran starts up a conversation about Waterdeep, which Tim seems to know quite a bit about. Have they been to the owlbear fights? The owlbears come from some town way out of Waterdeep that Phylund owns. There are some portals in the compound that connect to the sewers here so they can keep the owlbears below ground.
Who knows how Sariel opened that portal? Something she had on her? Maybe her father opened it. Wait — how does Tim know who her father is? Sariel doesn’t even know.
He hints, not too subtly, that he is Watchman Mert, who is so dumb Tim isn’t sure he could even blackmail him.
Is there a way they could send for Tim again, if they get in trouble? No. In a word. They will likely be at cross purposes in the future.
There is a mole in their ranks who has been passing information to, well…he taps his horn.
It’s about time to get back. He sifts through the piles and finds a section of molted snake skin. “There you go,” he says, and takes them back.
The second floor is absolutely wrecked. Kera puts Amelia’s head in a bag and checks outside the Serpent.
What can they call him? Sariel asks. He gives his name as Dwelden.
Downstairs, the bar is a mess as well. They clean up the worst of it, put out the fires they started, and head outside towards Amelia’s house. Dwelden wishes them luck, says he’s met worse people, and warns them away from heading too far north.
He bows somewhat elaborately, and they notice for the first time that he’s dressed rather well. He’s slumming slightly by coming to help them.
As they begin the walk to Amelia’s, they notice the lightness of their being. They are floating, on account of the red-robed bald man floating above them. “You’ll be coming with me.”
In Phylund Town…
On the one side of town, Elyas and Belwrick ride trees into battle. On the other side, Vell, Adalwin, and Mordith go to talk to the baker. They give him the key to the Outfitters. He’s going to spread the word amongst the populace: kill your neighbor if they are a traitor.
They head down to the Huntress. Adalwin goes in, orders two bottles of booze, turns them into Molotov cocktails, and lights the place on fire. Vell and Mordith barricade the doors with carts. They light another fire in the stables, and head out.
The trees don’t like fire. They go through the middle of town and, ignoring Vell, Adalwin, and Mordith entirely, smash the inn to a smoldering pancake. Then they continue inexorably north. Mordith wants in on storming the castle, so he follows after them.
Adalwin and Vell run to Betward. Now, the time is now! He is armed and armored, and when they tell him to go, he goes inside and grabs a grey skull. He blows into the back of it and it makes an awful noise. From the buildings in town people run out and begin murdering their neighbors. It’s a bloodbath.
They head to the compound, and leave the bloodbath behind.
The trees smash through everything, indiscriminately. Mordith runs through the gate behind them as the trees begin to take out other buildings. Elyas yells to him, “Find Tinuvial!” Mordith heads through the front door.
Inside, he sees the shadow knight holding Tinuvial with a knife to his throat.
Then the whole building disappears.