Day 11 (2:00 AM)
As Day 11 was just getting started, the dragon cultists were already well into their evil worship. At 2:00 am the mercenaries heard a lot of chanting and upon looking out the window they could see 7 cultists making their way towards the old tower carrying lit candles as they escorted a heavily restrained dragonborn. Amon felt that they should be followed and his crew was more than eager to do it, but all 7 mercenaries were too much for what required a stealthy operation on a quiet evening so Kheg was ordered to sneak behind them and report back his findings. By all account, upon hearing the order Kheg just seemed to vanish in the blink an eye as he made his way in the direction of the cultists.
At the tower, Kheg found a hiding place with a great vantage point of what he assumed was going to be a sacrifice. Kheg was even close enough to hear the sacred chants and the sounds of fear that came from the metallic dragonborn. As the cultist continued their sacred activity of chants and prayers, they opened the doors of the tower to see an inspiring green dragon about the size of two warhorses slowly make its way out and into the semicircle of 7 candles set before it. As inspiring as it was it didn’t overshadow the feeling of fear that already filled the atmosphere and adding to it all were its eyes; gold pupils set in pitch black fields that closed vertically as to silently say “don’t fuck with me”; and just as black and as chilling were the long, sharp claws at the end its green talons.
Once in the circle things quickly spiraled downward for the cult. Without understanding a word, Kheg could see the absolute fear that filled the cult leader with his trembling and squeaking voice adding to the scene. It was obvious that Venomfang was displeased and had little patience for incompetence, but over what? Kheg could only guess Venomfang was displeased with his offering, but as far as he’s concerned it isn’t need-to-know information either.
Venomfang quickly drew tired of his chat with the leader and then ensured that the leader’s incompetence wouldn’t be repeated. Venomfang took a single black claw and skewered the cultist in the chest. The cultist was then held high as to be made an example of. He then became what would become Venom Fang’s appetizer. The dragon did however spit out the cultists hammered, metal, dragon mask which Kheg looked fondly at taking.
With the cult leader just teasing the dragons palate it was now onto the main course. Kheg liked to think he had balls, but after watching the dragonborn accept his fate with such courage, Kheg is now rethinking the whole concept. Kheg’s only other thought was “It’s better you than me” and with that thought he wiped his brow and started breathing again for the first time in 5 minutes.
With the night going woefully wrong for the cult, things turned around when a cultist who identified himself as Rondello was brazen enough to speak to his master. Rondello had a plan he believed would interest his Venomfang since it involved horded treasure; feeding on dragonborn and hunting humans. Speaking up in the same voice that his prior leader used only a moment ago, Rondello respectfully made a “request” to his master and from here he laid out a plan that he believed would ultimately free the “Dark Lady”. This “Dark Lady” he speaks of is a 5 headed dragon named Tiamat and according to legend, this “dark Lady has been imprisoned for years.
The basis of his plan was simple: hunt humans and hoard treasure. With his master well feed on dragonborn and in the comfort of great treasure, Rondello believed a network of similar operations could help in ultimately freeing the Dark Lady and that perhaps many inherently evil would benefit from her freedom.
Upon Rondello’s completion of his pitch, Venom Fang seemed eager and dictated that Rondello, his newly appointed agent of evil was to answer as “Worm” and that Worm is to return in 5 nights and every 5th night there after with a new sacrafice. Worm’s fellow cultists, now being referred by Venomfang as “Spores” rallied around Worm and congratulated their champion as if he had saved their lives, and from what Kheg witnessed, Worm probably did.
Once the spores had left the area to return to their cottage, Kheg eagerly picked up the discarded dragon mask and brought it back to Reidoth’s home. When the sun finally rose from behind overcast, dark clouds, discussion on what to do quickly followed…continue on to Cragmaw Castle, or rid the Sword Coast of Venomfang and her spores? The discussions called for another executive decision by Amon and he decided that the team’s next step was to revisit the spore’s cottage, but unfortunately nothing came out of this visit, because Worm had zero desire to speak with Amon.
It was now late morning when Amon gave a new directive: the team was to finally head to Cragmaw Castle to see if they could locate Gundrin Rockseeker and recover his map to an unknown location, but with this new day came another delay. Just as the team was walking out the door Reidoth asked a favor of Guntor. He requested that a message be delivered to Foss Baylie of Neverwinter and by the time Reidoth had completed this message it was past noon and Neverwinter was a half day in the opposite direction of the Cragmaw Castle.
While heading west along the river towards High Rd., Guntor pointed out an interesting landmark. It was a stone formation in the shape of two men on horseback. Upon reaching the High Road, it was getting dark so the team made camp that included a fire.
The sun rose on Day 12 and after moving north on the High Rd., by mid morning the crew managed to reach Neverwinter. Some thought the smell approaching the city was horrible with its multitude of industrial aromas mixed in the air only to linger above, but to others it was a sign they had arrived home after 12 days of fighting, walking and camping. As the mercenaries entered the city they dispersed to allow each member to conduct their own personal business.
In the evening, the mercenaries found rooms at various inns and for the first time in 12 days they didn’t sleep in a barn, camp at the side of a road, or on a cottage floor.
In the morning of day 13, as the party gathered to start their trek south, Charlatan rolls up in a flamboyantly opulent carriage pulled by a couple of draft horses; a set that he had won while running a game the prior evening. Kheg having a criminal background felt both pride and envy since his day wasn’t near as fruitful. Charlatan stepped out of his obnoxiously posh ride looking grungy and therefore very out of place for such luxury, but as the other 6 joined him, the whole image of wealth became as tainted as the carriage became stained. It was clear there wasn’t enough room for all 7, but with a little ingenuity by putting Kheg on the roof, someone on horseback and another hanging on the back, the two horses managed to pull the overloaded vehicle towards the edge of town with decent speed. Once on the main road, the team veered south and into a rainstorm.
What would have certainly been a miserable rainy day, the posh carriage made for a day long party and by evening the team had reached the way shrine where they met a trader doing business with Lion Shield. Most interesting was the circle of stones at the shrine though. The ground inside of the circle was dry, but outside of the circle the ground was very wet from the prior rain. A camp was made here.
More rain came down on day 14 as 6 of the crew were breaking down camp and preparing for the long trip ahead. Charlatan just sat quietly and tooled around with a dagger he came in possession of. He said he was trying to become “attuned” to what would become known as Flitterswitch, the Dagger of Displacement. If Charlatan was serious or just a lazy bastard who found a convenient excuse for taking it easy was anyone’s guess, but Kheg couldn’t help but think to himself how much more “attuned” Charlatan would be if 6 of his mates each planted a foot in ass.
The party had camped at the point in the High Road where they needed to diverge and head east on a wet, grassy plain. This was a lot different than going south because they wouldn’t be traveling on a road, thus Charlatan’s carriage needed to be left behind. With all dead weight needing to be cut, It was a sad necessity, but all of the equipment was unloaded and the 2 draft horses were rounded up for the two day trek east. As preparation continued, Charlatan continued to amuse himself with his new dagger.
As they made their way east, Guntor was unexpectedly educating himself on why mercenaries carry as little as possible. Loaded like a fortress due to his prior day’s spending spree in Neverwinter, Guntor was stumbling due to over encumbrance and it became a problem for the entire group since a team is only as fast as their slowest man. Even Kheg at 3’6” had an easier time keeping pace trudging through the thick, wet grass and dense underbrush. After much huffing and puffing; and tripping and stumbling the falling fortress transferred much of his weight to Charlatan’s draft horses. With the team now proceeding with a quicker pace, Charlatan continued to toss, and twirl Flitterswitch and was starting to do so with uncanny precision and speed.
Cold rain was coming down as the crew moved eastward. Along the way Guntor pointed out some bright blue colored berries known as skyberries and stated that they benefited health, but only for a very limited time. Fortunately there were enough berries for each mercenary to receive one.
Upon waking up on Day 15, the party could see that they were near the edge of Neverwinter Wood and in just a short time the mercenaries had breached the treeline. They quickly found that no matter how many birds chirped, the trudging through the dark forest with its thick canopy and even thicker underbrush and pine needle littered surface could have never turned their hike into a walk in the park. Even here Charlatan continued to become attuned to is dagger. With each mile walked, Charlatan prowess with Flitterswitch grew as he continued to balance and flip the dagger. The two were seemingly becoming one as Charlatan would toss the dagger high into the air and then catch it without even looking.
The evening of Day 15 was considerably warmer than the prior evenings giving the party a good rest.
On Day 16 as the party woke up, they found themselves in a clearing in Neverwinter Wood and although there was a break in the trees, there was no break in the rain. Once again they packed up camp and trudged eastward as their feet sunk into the thick, wet underbrush. What was bone dry for much of the season had now become a saturated, green hell with the autumn rain that fell more often than not. It had rained into the noon when the mercenaries found themselves at the foot of a hill. They climbed the steep embankment for a better view of the land and at the top, they got even more than they had hoped for. A spectacular view opened up as they found themselves on a ridge at a much higher altitude than they had believed, and at their feet was a mile long, oval shaped valley with a man made structure of stone at the other end.
Following the ridge line towards this structure the squad could see that time was taking its toll on what was clearly a castle. As the team continued their approach they spotted a party of 10 goblins pulling a sled. They silently watched as the rain continued to come down and the goblins eventually made their way inside the castle using the south entrance. Us of the south entrance prompted Amon to call for breach via the north section and with that the team descend down onto lower ground and ultimately to what would be the rear of the castle – the north wall.
Now facing the rear, the order was stealth. Even without seeing goblins enter the structure, with all of the filth around it, it was obvious that it was a goblin liar. The stench here was was worse than the decaying corpses of goblins and horses that the team had the displeasure of walking through 9 days ago while on Triboar Trail.
Looking for the best way in, the party went around to the east wall and everywhere they looked it was the same: human bones; piles of rubble from the castle’s walls; piles of goblin garbage and worse were the piles of goblin shit. Upon spotting an entry that Amon believed had good potential, he ordered Kheg to approach stealthily and with that order Kheg became undetectable as he approached the entrance to a narrow passageway.
The Halfling snuck under a tower’s archer slit. At his point Kheg could overhear what was clearly arguing from overhead, but he was unable to hear well or even understand what could be heard so Kheg continued on to the objective point, a narrow passageway.
This passage was short and at the other end was an iron door. Approaching cautiously, Kheg listened at the door. With nothing heard, Kheg made his way back down the passage and signaled the rest of the party to move forward. With the whole team now in the passage, Vola opens up the door after being picked by by the rogue. Upon opening it, Vola could tell that the door was heavily used. The lack of rust made yielded easy movement and the absence of squeal, and if that wasn’t enough, the amount of goblin shit in the passageway backed up Vola’s suspicions phenomenally well.
Inside there was even more shit to be found as Vola lead the way to another door that she found to be unlocked. The whole party could now hear arguing in goblin tongue, but no one on the team was able to understand what was being said. As the team continued to move forward they found that the hallway led into a large dining area with 6 seated goblins and 2 standing. The dining residents who were arguing amongst themselves were startled by the sudden appearance of uninvited guests hungry for battle.
Upon spotting an extra fat goblin across the table, Amon was the first to attack by putting a hex on him. Following the warlock was the sorcerer Charlatan who turned a goblin bloody. Kheg tried a new tactic and threw a net over a seated goblin tangling him up. Guntor wasn’t to be out done and was the first to make a kill with an arrow from his longbow. Miz’ry followed that slaying up with one of her own by using her favored spell, the Eldritch Blast where a bright, blue, icey arc shot into the chest of her target. Jack showed off his strategizing ability as he threw a bunch of caltrops in one section of the room thus making a counterstrike with melee weapons from that area nearly impossible. Copying from Miz’ry’s book of combat was Amon with an Eldritch Blast on the same fat target he hexed prior. His blast wasn’t as pretty as Miz’ry’s, but it had the same result none the less. Charlatan cast a firebolt with minimal damage. Leaving the netted goblin be, Kheg focused on the one seated to the right and got a kill with one of his two shortswords. Guntor made a second kill with his bow.
With Jack on one side, Vola moved into flanking position, but missed her target. At this point there were 3 active targets and one of them was tangled up in Kheg’s net. With a yell for goblin reinforcements, the mercenaries knew this battle was far from over, but the call didn’t faze Miz’ry as she killed the netted goblin with yet another Eldritch Blast. At this point Amon made it clear that his team was to kill all of the goblins, but with only two still alive, and 6 killed in just about 14 seconds, it was pretty clear his squad was already thinking the same thing.
Once the assault at the dining table was complete more goblins voices could be heard. Thinking quickly, Guntor and Vola overturned a table to block entry. With its width about as wide as the goblins were tall, the table made for a good barrier; just not perfect because out out of the dark came an arrow that plunged into Guntor. Using her night vision, the half drow named Miz’ry could see 3 goblins with bows and with a sudden burst of magic, the head of one started smoking as the warlock’s Eldridge Blast fried his brain.
Charlatan’s foot found a tripwire and with that came stone and timber from above. The half drow’s other half must be Halfling because Charlatan managed to go unscathed by leaping back in the nick of time. The sorcerer was now starting to wonder how long his luck would hold out as he could see a goblin accompanied by 2 hobgoblins armed with longswords and longbows quickly approach from down the hall that he was now standing in. With the hall being dark and half of the mercenary team unable to see anything, Amon threw a torch down it. Now well lit, Jack threw a javelin that punctured a hobgoblin’s chest.
With his two shortswords now sheathed, Kheg climbed to the top of the rubble pile created by Charlatan’s foot. From here Kheg drew his shortbow and aimed it down the hall at the approaching hobgoblin. Vola also moved into a more strategic position and Miz’ry went uninjured as two arrows shot by her. The half drow immediately countered by lighting up a goblin. Still alive at this point were two hobgoblins wearing chainmail and carrying shields, and upon seeing how successful Miz’ry was with eldritch blasting, Amon followed suit. From atop the debris pile, Kheg sent an arrow from his bow, but failed to draw blood as the arrow struck a hobgoblin’s chainmail only to be deflected. Guntor and Vola overturned a second table for cover.
With potentially less targets for the single standing goblin to choose from, he focused on Miz’ry and let a black feathered arrow dart across the room. Kheg on the other hand became the target of a rock throwing goblin and as humorous as it were, Kheg stopped laughing after being hit. The little goblin’s bravery was not is short supply either; he was preparing to throw another stone when Jack Winterstorm startled him as he made his way to the top of the debris pile next to Kheg. Just as Charlatan was inflicting some damage, the hobgoblins, with shields left behind, advanced with “martial advantage”.
Things were going well for the team…too well if you believe it’s possible to be too lucky and Jack’s luck ran short. He took on serious wounds but was still able to swing his sword, and upon missing an opponent with back to back swings, it seems that his injuries might have been too great. With a reloaded shortbow, Kheg missed his target and in return, his target — the rock thrower — tried to pelt Kheg once again. Overcome with poor aim the little goblin wasted no time in rearming himself and as he stood at the base of the rubble. With his arm cocked back and his aim set on Kheg, his tiny head received one hell of a jolt as a firebolt from Charlatan passed clear through. With the rock thrower now dead, all that was left alive were 2 hobgoblins and one of the two was seriously wounded.
With the fight not yet over, Miz’ry continued to use the E.B. spell, but Jack’s fight was just getting started. Whether it was prior injuries; bad luck; the lack of concentration; or all of the above, Jack Winterstorm took a phenomenal strike that put his life in the hands of his god as well as his friend Vola. Through Vola’s compassion, Jack would stand once again and in the paladin’s untiring dedication to her work she continued to ensure Jack was at/near full health. Once the battle was over, Amon gave his team a short rest.
Day 16 (1:00 PM)