The two groups (mostly Mordith) spend a few days recuperating from the battle with Knute and planning their assault on the awful snake god.
They decide that the best thing to do before taking on the Snake God is to see if Shradin might have some info or resources or what have you to help out. They head out en masse to Shradin’s legit business, Shradin’s House of Corpses.
It is dead silent outside, eerily so. Despite its size, Skullport is a cavern, so there should be echoes. Everyone has gone to ground, which is good and bad. No one is out to bother them, but no one is out for them to blend in to, either.
Harfoot guides them through the Venter back to the shoulder where Shradin’s place is. It appears to be a cluster of separate buildings, but is in reality one larger complex that has been pieced together over time. He makes zombies here, so there’s a particular odor. He has tied herbs to the ceiling to try and mitigate that. There are books along the walls of the foyer, and jars of strange animals, and things of that ilk in the flickering light.
The nerds peruse the nerd books.
That gets Shradin’s attention. He appears at the railing above, a sunken-faced man(?) mostly covered by beard and robe. “Do you like my books?” he asks in a raspy voice.
Vell takes the pole position. He offers an alliance, since they have a mutual interest in killing the snake god. Nhyris is its name. Shradin accepts their offer, and gives them his leave to attack him. In return
Tervis worked for Shradin as a Hunter of the Shadows, bringing in the raw materials. He eventually came face to face with Nhyris D’Hothek, the snake god. He has been here as long as Shradin. He was a slaver first, not unlike Snake Man, who is in charge of the Reforged Ring. He found something, though, down here. A crown, which changed him, and he disappeared into the Murk.
When Tervis finally found him, Nhyris had become the Snake God. He listened, and was inspired to Messiah-hood, and went on to found The Family. They have been fighting the Snake God the whole time, in a way.
Elias wonders if what Nhyris found was the Crown of Horns. During the Time of Troubles (when gods walked, as punishment by the Overgod for stealing the Tablets of Fate) Myrkul showed up with a terrible host at Waterdeep. He was overcome and destroyed by a group of wizards. Godly power cannot be destroyed, though, and, according to legend continued in the form of the Crown of Horns.
Now, Nhyris is a Chosen of Myrkul. It might seem like Shradin would welcome him, but that would be competition. Especially if Waterdeep comes crashing down into his territory. He likes this place. The surface gods don’t come down here, and the Deep Ones don’t come up. There is only one god here, but Shradin will not name him. The only person he could possibly mean is Hallister. Oh, fudge. Is Shradin a disciple of that bastard?
He essentially admits to it — Hallister told him he could have Skullport as long as he could hold it.
Shradin won’t contribute directly, but he will tell them that the crown is independent of Nhyris. It will leave him, if it finds a more suitable host.
He can’t tell much more about Nhyris, but he can tell you about Tervis. He’s fully turned now. A vampire. Good thing they have a rod of sunlight. His place of rest is above, but Shradin feels that he has come down here. To look for them.
There are two more sources to see, Zstulkk and Sangalor (again). They decide to see the snake man first, since it may be more painful. They expect some resistance, but initially encounter none. Harfoot, though, thinks they may have to bloody some noses to make sure they’re not immediately sold into slavery. On the other hand, their recent exploits are pretty well-known, which means they’re the new big guns in town.
They approach the headquarters of the Ring. There are two guards out front, armed with polearms and wearing collars chained to the building behind them. “You’ve been expected,” one says, and opens the door.
The inside is, for all appearances, a Kalamshan opium den. It’s plush, with women laying about and so on. But, all the women have collars on. This must be the sex level.
A man in nothing but a loincloth and collar comes from somewhere in the back. He’s no stranger to physical labor, and has been completely shaven. “The master will see you,” he says, and takes them upstairs.
They go all the way up to the Crown. Again, it is well-appointed, in the Kalamshite fashion. There are meats and cheeses and drink laid out. The slave bows again and says, “The master will be with you soon.”
True to his word, Zstulkk comes out from a side room. He is indeed a half-man, half-snake. He coils up his bottom half and sits. They have dealt a blow to the Mandible, so he is indebted to them. He will tell them what he can. He and Nhyris were from close clutches, long ago. He has been here almost as long as Shradin and Nhyris. The Snake God is allied with The Mandible, and therefore his enemy. All of them will become his sacrifices, if he gains power. His weakness is his history — he was of a slave caste in the Yuan-Ti society and still harbors that resentment. Zstulkk also has a Yuan-Ti poison that the group can apply to their weapons.
Nhyris acquired the crown from a previous owner. When the crown is ready, it moves on.
Nhyris will be in his lair, back in Undermountain. They will need a guide, and the High Tide will be their best bet for finding one. A drow there named Treader is Zstulkk’s recommendation.
Finally, when they are ready to go, Zstulkk says he will get them out of the city.
Last stop is the illithid. He is there, awake, in his chair. “You have returned,” he slithers. Harfoot, at least, is happy to see him.
Controversially, Tinuvial hands over the 200 platinum they acquired from Knute.
Things Sangalore knows:
The crown is Myrkul’s, and he wants to come back. He needs a priest to do so, and The Family is trying to bring back his eldest priest to do the rites. From below.
The Black Sphinx is the answer. The riddle is two fold.
The phrase to decode the message(s): Sphinx of black quartz hear my vow
The crown was in the tower of the blackstaff and traveled to Skullport on the head of another, which was separated from its owner at the appropriate time.
When the head of the owner is removed, it will leap upon the most appropriate host. Or, if an owner cannot be found, it will allow itself to be carried. But it will need to be carried in something strong enough to hold it and mitigate its psychological effects. Something covered in holy water, say.
The summonings above were trying to call Dagon. So…yeah. Probably Dagon is his oldest priest.
The Snake God will poison them, or dominate them. And if they die, the Crown will bring them back. But not in that good way.
To counter the poison, the easiest thing to do is to find an alchemist to brew a potion of anti-poison. They should find Vhondryl in Skullport.
Tervis is waiting for them in the caverns already. He does not know anything about their weapons, but he knows what they have done.
To get to his cavern, they should hire Treader. There is a gnome, however, whom they will recognize by the candle on his head at the Pick and Lantern.
Scourge was created by priestesses who are currently committed sacrifices for our destruction in honor of….. It’s an infecting weapon that also inflicts grievous wounds.
Twent has been causing havoc above.
They exit to the Ratways. Next stop: Vhondryl. Then the Pick & Lantern for a guide. Then we kill a god.
Harfoot takes them along the edge of the cavern and down towards The Dredge.
Vhondryl sells them 16 antivenin potions at 10gp each. They are expecting a fight.
On the way out, Tinuvial notices a whole shelf of Stream. She makes the pitch to Adalwin — she perfected the recipe and sold it to someone. A hedge wizard bought it a few months ago. Mordith clenches his fist, and they move on.
…To the PIck & Lantern so they can cut a deal with the gnome. It’s kind of a hard-luck place, full of poor-ass miners hoping for a score. Mostly demi-humans, really, gnomes and dwarves with a few humans mixed in. There a serious totemistic, superstitious strain on many of the miners. Good luck charms abound. Towards the back, they see a lone gnome sitting at a table by himself with a candle on his head. Unlit.
Vell sits on down and makes nice with him. There’s something a bit…odd about him. He says he knew they were coming. He has met the snake god. Their magic still works, so The Happening has not happened yet. He mostly speaks in riddles. And seems to be…unstuck in time.
He speaks about the past as if it were the future. Yesterday will be bloody, and last year was The Happening in which he becomes unstuck. Myrkul and many other gods were involved.
AKA something big is coming.
Back at the Harper shack. William has figured out that the rod is pretty much a direct conduit to his god. He has spoken with Lathander, who has said that he will carry the rod for a short time. But that’s vaguer than it sounds, coming from a god.
The leader of The Mandible has a sword, Dragon’s Tooth.
Tinuvial goes to the Shrine to Lathander he found earlier, where he met the Bladesinger. There is blood everywhere, but the sanity has returned to him. The dark god has spoken to him, of the vengeance he has wrought. The god has spoken of Tinuvial as well, favorably. The Bladesinger will go on to teach his art.
[Ryan, you’re going to have to add to this about Shavarash the Johnny Cash of elven gods and the bracelets and god-swapping. This is some serious shit and I don’t want to fuck it up]
Also, Tiuvial decides that Adalwin needs a magic weapon as well. So, in true gamer fashion, they decide to sneak back into the headquarters of The Mandible and steal Dragon’s Tooth from their leader. What could go wrong?
Answer: Nothing, really. WTF?
There’s some discussion of the new sword. Then they head to the Pick & Lantern to get Severn. The gnome.
They head to, for the first time, Undermountain. The other party has been there, and doesn’t look very happy about this. Luriniel is the least troubled, though. This is, in some fashion, the realm of his god (Mask).
It’s a somewhat treacherous trip — there are underground waterways and fungi-filled caverns and it’s dark as hell. Eventually, Severn says they should rest. Their first battle is coming up.
They start to sneak ahead, but Severn says, “He already knows you’re coming.” So they head on in.
In the cavern, they come around a corner and Tervis is presiding over a zombie feast. He welcomes them, and offers them a bit of Welt, or Lily, or maybe Mother Mercy?
“If you’re trying to convince me to kill you,” Mordith says, “you didn’t have to. I’m going to do it anyway.”
Vell steps up and, instead of charging (like Mordith would have), checks for traps. Answer: yes, a bunch of rubble that would have fallen on all of them. He disarms the tripwire. Adalwin puts a bolt into a zombie, and Mordith charges Tervis, to not a whole lot of effect. Elias sends a magic missile into another zombie. Tinuvial, the newly-forged elf of vengeance, puts an arrow in Tervis. Gloriam & Moriam begin to cast, and Harfoot steps in front of them, as defense. Sven and Loriniel both charge a zombie, while William jumps onto the table and unveils the Rod of Sun.
Tervis takes Mordith out, and he collapses on the table. He attempts to glamour Linuriel, but he shakes it off.
A lot of things happen. The other guys take out a bunch of zombies, but Tervis glamours Sven and takes a swing at Loriniel. The girls cast a fire elemental, which dispatches several zombies. Seeing the tide of battle swinging against him, Tervis turns to smoke and disappears.
They recover briefly and push on. They come into another cavern, dimly lit by fungi and torches, where a group of Kormallis mercenaries surrounding a terrible metallic snake god. Protecting their investment, as it were.
Vell sets up a forward position, misses his attacks, and gets immediately knocked unconscious. The rest of the party does a little better. Mordith shakes off a will attack from Nhyris. The snake god slithers into a pool and disappears.
As they kill the Kormallis mercs, they reanimate. Tinuvial heals Vell, but Nhyris erupts from a nearby pool, coils around Moridth, and all the nearby mercs hack at him (Mordith) until he’s unconscious. The girls turn the ground under Nhyris into mud, and he slips back into the pool, sans Mordith (thank Torm).
Tinuvial makes his way over and revives Mordith, but gets it in the face for his efforts. William hightails it over, and revives Tinuvial.
The group clears the room of the Kormallis goons, and has just a few seconds to recuperate before Nhryis shoots up out of a pool. Elias unleashes his readied magic missile on him, and Vell chugs some katakuda.
They swarm him. Sven finally gets a good swing in, and William takes a good chunk out of him with the sun rod.
Mordith shakes off the cobwebs from his incapacitation and chops a mighty blow down onto his neck…ish parts. The human and snake parts separate, and the body falls to the ground. The metal begins to melt and shrink until it’s a Crown of Thorns. The scumbags Vell, Adalwin, and Elias go to check out the massive pile of gold and jools and items Nhyris was camped out on.
William dumps holy water on the crown, and Tinuvial investigates his armlet. Circlet?
There is quite a haul in the pile of jools. Enchanted weapons, potions, a shield, and at least 2050gp. They corral it all, and limp back home. The next day, they repay their debt to the alchemist (Vhondryl) with Nhyris’s head. She immediately begins to milk it for its venom, and promises to have a cure for Stream in a few weeks.
They go to see Zstulkk. He (sort of) thanks them, puts them on a boat, and sends them back topside.
This is a process, since the boat has to be hauled up the waterslide they fell down into days ago via a series of chains and winches. Eventually they are back on the docks. There are Stream fiends everywhere, and good folks have their windows and doors boarded up.
By the time they get to The Serpent, the smell of food and the sound of conversation hits them, and almost overwhelms them. They all but run in the door. Bookish clears them a table and Mercy (thank Lathander) serves them up food and drink.
Bookish puts all their food and drink on his tab, in exchange for the story. But not today.
Welt comes in (thank Lathander) and sits down. They give 1000gp to him and the other half to the other group.
There are some stories to be told on both sides, it seems. But they agree to tell them another day.
They spend the evening drinking and telling other stories, of better times and other places. Mordith may or may not make a pass at one of the twins.