Hoard of the Dragon Queen!

Revealing Rituals and Bothersome Bandits

The caravan pulled around into Castle Dragonspear, the wagons circled up to camp, and our heroes sat back for a moment. Q idly questioned Eldkin about the Castle and its history, and the group was informed that it was built on the former lair of a great dragon who had died some time ago. Galuzard took a short walk, and found herself suddenly holding a letter, hastily shoved into her hand by one of the cultists. It bore the waxen seal of Tiamat.

Hesitantly, she opened it, and it contained nothing less than an invitation. She, a dragonborn, was invited to a gathering shortly after nightfall to celebrate the glory of Tiamat and her fallen dragon comrade, to be held in the* inner sanctum of Castle Dragonspear*. She rushed to tell Q. She and Q worked out a plan, asserting that if something went south Q would be willing to jump in, but would remain hidden otherwise.

They approached Salazar, their swarthy (but not sweaty, fat, or drunk) friend; while they yet think of him as “sketchy as fuck” and have avoided giving him any details of their task, they have noted his apparent competence compared to the others in the caravan and asked for his help if, as discussed, things were to go south in the ceremony. Q scoped out the inner parts of the castle, and during his walk was approached by none other than Carlon Amoffel, who had somehow found out about the ritual to be held and wished to help if necessary. Carlon, Q, and Salazar took up their posts as night fell and the cultists (plus Galuzard) filed into the inner sanctum.

Their ceremony, which included praising the treasures they had collected to give unto Tiamat , was cut short by a pair of horn blasts from the direction of the wagons. Tearing their eyes from the cultists, Salazar, Q, and Carlon discovered a gang of bandits that had invaded the camp, and were holding Oin as a hostage, a knife at his throat. Galuzard asked to be excused from the ceremony, “to protect Tiamat’s treasures”. Battle was joined when, in unison, Salazar dropped a large boulder from atop the remains of the castle walls onto the archers set out below, and Galuzard let fly an arrow into the throat of the bandit holding Oin.

Hacky slashy followed, wherein our intrepid heroes made somewhat-longer-than-expected work of the bandits, cutting them down to a man using Evan’s newly-discovered GM power of “fast forward through remaining combat.”

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How to stomp a Wyvern

Sheranya decided to take a safer route than Q and have Manaar identify the newly acquired green liquid and the scroll. The former seems to be a powerful contact poison, while the latter is a one-time-use Hold Person spell. They only lent the diamond that Manaar used for the identify spells.

After all the Hobgoblin and Ogre trouble, the caravan finally reached an Inn along the road to resupply and rest a bit. After contributing to the collect for the fallen guard, Sheranya and Q checked out the common room, spotted some adventurous looking fellas and introduced themselves with a bellowing Hello and 7 mugs of beer. But apart from being adventurous they didn’t turn out to be very interesting. So Sheranya decided to meet with Carlon in the stables to find out about the Harpers, positioning Q just outside to watch out for trouble. Surprisingly, the Harpers and the Gauntlets seem to be working, if not together, then at least towards the same goal. Carlon was supposed to spy on the caravan ahead of us but was discovered and buried in the road to die. Now he wants to help us/work together(?).

After a good nights sleep, everybody attended the funeral of the brave but unfortunate guard, before preparing to get back on the road. Eldkin’s boss filled the empty guard spot with Salazar Calabra, a tall, light-footed, swarthy man with a runner’s build, immediately dubbed “The Wasp” by Q and Sheranya due to his strikingly black and yellow striped outfit. He also is the owner of a drooping and well oiled moustache, and a red bandanna on his head.

To their surprise, Q and Sheranya found out that there was another change in employment as well. They got fired by Oin and replaced with the uninteresting fellas from the night before. Furious, they took the opportunity to get hired by Beyd, and struck a much better deal (at least for Q), being payed the same, plus (as much as we want? some?) beer.

This change of employer soon turned out to be advantageous in another way. Back on the road, out of nowhere, one of Oin’s newly acquired guards got his arm ripped of, and his belly drilled by a Wyvern. All hell broke loose in an instant. Two of *Oin*’s new guards turned tail, Sheranya and Q went into their by now intuitive attack mode, while Salazar tried to distract the Wyvern by taking one of the spare horses, riding it to the back of the caravan, and killing it there. Despite the kicking and screaming of the dying horse, it failed to attract the Wyvern’s attention. By the time Salazar made it back to the battle scene, the Wyvern was writhing on the floor, for apparently no reason but *Sheranya*’s satisfied smirk. Seeing his opportunity, Salazar lept across the wagons, jumped on the Wyvern’s head and stomped its throat with his boots, twice. Just to make sure.

With the farmer’s help, Salazar skinned the Wyvern to make a coat out of it. Unfortunaley it’s balls turned out to be internal (and not very tasty), so the Wyvern ball-purse remains a thing of legends.

Having lost all his new guards, Oin tried to hire Q and Sheranya back on. Still pissed by his poor judgement, they agreed to guard his, and all other wagons (which they did already anyway), for double the pay plus some.

Going on, the caravan encountered a procession of followers of Shiv, the sharp god, which took up the whole road. Sheranya offered her sword as offering to let the caravan pass. Soon thereafter, Dragonspear, the ruined castle came into view, marking (almost) the half-way point of the caravan’s journey.

Somewhere along the way, the crazy Gargoyle guy came to Sheranya and said in an ominous voice: “One is stone and one is flesh. Which has life and which has death?” Or something along those lines.

(I wrote this out of memory. Please add anything that I might have forgotten. I will compare it to my notes later on, too.)

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Archers and ogres and treasures, oh my!

We found ourselves camped at “Fort Ammon”, now little more than a piece of wall and a denser complement of stones on a hillside strewn with ‘em. Q and Galuzard sat down for a beer with Beyd, the brewer. They both ordered his Trade Route Barleywine, which Q got for free in exchange for some of the beer in his tummy fermenter. A quick conference with Sheranya later surfaced the amusing fact that we would come out quite poor from our adventure if our only income were *Oin’s* gold and we attempted to buy one of these fine barleywines each day. During our drink, Eldkin (a spunky lady dwarf who has travelled this road many a time) informed us that Fort Ammon is a safe place along the trade route, whose residual magics keep the monsters at bay. That explained why everyone seemed so relaxed.

Sheranya, meanwhile, was working her wiles on the half-elf cultist from before. He didn’t let anything about the cult slip, and came off more as hired muscle than a deeply-involved cultist. Then again, he was pretty quick to shut up after another glare from his superior.

Thus socialized and filled with barleywine, the caravan continued its way up the road. As we crested a hill the next day, we saw laid out below us a classic standoff. A disabled caravan wagon sat in the middle of the road, its boxes piled at one side as a makeshift barricade. Across a stony field, a ring of rocks held a troupe of hobgoblin archers led by a very mean, very ugly, rather large hobgoblin. There appeared to be no incentive for either side to make the first move. Our heroes raced down the road to the caravan to see how we could be of help. Marcus, the owner of the wagon, informed us that they had broken an axle and couldn’t move, that they couldn’t advance on the hobgoblins without becoming pincushions, and that they anticipated that the hobgoblins would mob them at night with their superior darkvision.

Q, his military training coming to bear, ripped the lids off three of the boxes, much to the dismay of Marcus. Sheranya managed to smooth him over, promising he’d keep his life in exchange for temporary use of the lids. (p.s., she rolled a 20; he was VERY convinced, nice job) The three heroes advanced in a phalanx behind their box lids. They turned back to see two other guards from their caravan racing up, one of whom was unfortunately cut down by the hobgoblin archers. The other turned tail back to the caravan. After some hacky slashy, the three heroes returned victorious to Marcus and his caravan, with two box lids intact and one neatly sliced in half. Being without many means at the time, Marcus instead gifted them a blue chip, which he asked them to bring to his friend Darren in Waterdeep for proper thanks.

Further up the road, our heroes reached the Troll Claws. At a pinch point, they were beset by an ogre and his goblin friends, but made short work of them. Hidden up a valley spur, they discovered a locked chest which they were too eager to pick and smashed it open, finding inside some shattered potion bottles, a diamond (100gp), some fancy super-straight arrows, a bag of powder (later determined to be sneezing powder of some variety), and a scroll bearing the image of a humanoid in a cage. Pocketing these items, they continued on.

Q attempted to ply Eldkin for information (and gain her friendship). In the process, he came to know that she has a very finely-made Elven sword in her possession, the identification of which she appreciated greatly. She may have some suspicions about the heroes, however: she mentioned that they are better equipped than most guards, and that they carry themselves just a bit differently.

Sheranya went to speak with the owner of the gargoyle caravan discovered last time, but he was reticent and we got little information from him (Sheranya, correct if wrong, I don’t have notes on this).

The following day, still passing through the troll claws, the caravan stopped short when our heroes spotted a human head in the road. For real. It turned out to be a man buried up to his neck, left to die of dehydration, whom we unburied and gave water to. His name is Carlon Amoffel, and he has an intriguing tattoo on his arm. Sheranya has deduced that he may belong to the Harpers, and has a meeting with him later, to which he asked her to go alone…

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Spidershits

We began the session in a forest between Baldur’s Gate and the Fields of the Dead, where we had to fend off a pack of gigumbous spiders (two legs, two arms) and Ettercaps. These creatures are known for taking live prey during their raids. True to form, they attempted to take one of Oin’s horses, but Sheranya yelled “Not My Horse!!!!!!!!!1111~” and killed some things with fire and burning. Other people killed lots of things; one spider managed to escape with little damage.

Sadly, we didn’t find an opening to sabotage the cultists’ carts: we were in the front when attacked, and needed all hands to mount a decisive response lest the caravan be damaged.

After the combat, Q dissected one of the Ettercaps, thus confirming that it is not human. Sheranya negotiated a 15gp/person bonus based on our spider crushitude, to be paid on safe arrival of all persons and birds in Waterdeep. Rumors of our prowess spread throughout the caravan like a fire through open grassland, and many people are impressed.

Reaching the Fields of the Dead proper, we noted a change in mood: guards tensed up, dimming their lanterns to avoid attracting attention. We heard two wolf-like howls, the first one about a mile away and lasting ten seconds, the second one in a different direction in response. Savage and dangerous beasts – and worse – roam these parts.

Manaar used her powers of divination to discreetly search the caravan for magical items. None were found among the cultists’ carts, but she discovered that one of the non-cult carts has a magical gargoyle and a silver chain around the gargoyle. The rest of that cart has comfortable bedding, but we don’t know who owns it yet.

Slipping away from the bulk of the caravan after setting camp for the night, we conferred briefly on our plans:

- Sheranya will continue attempting to befriend one of the cultists;
- Q plans to speak with (name?), a half-elf alesman whom Manaar met during her magical reconnaissance;
- Galizard: ???
- Manaar will chat with those who attend her nightly services, especially anyone from the cultists’ group.

We also discussed how best to sabotage the cultists’ carts in a way that forces them to stop, but that can be easily repaired without splitting the caravan. Loosening the bolts or weakening an axle both sounded promising.

Our immediate objective, however, is to learn what we can about the members of the caravan: we have time yet to plan our sabotage, and this may surface further resources to aid us in our task.

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Off to Waterdeep

The Order of the Gauntlet has gotten wind of a dragon cult stirring on the Sword Coast. Apparently the followers of Tiamat are shipping treasures to the north, probably acquired during raids in the southern parts. Suspecting some kind of mischief, the Order seeks to learn more about their destination and intentions.

Four brave and experienced adventurers were selected, that couldn’t be more different from each other. Manaar, the devout and fastidious cleric; Q, whose love for ale seems only be topped by the love for his sword; Galuzard, the seemingly ill-tempered dragonborn, who spends her free time carving masks; and the rather delicate and graceful Sheranya, who seems to be friends with everybody. As different as their characters were their reasons to accept the appointment, and they willingly joined forces to investigate the cultists’ activities.

It took them one week to get to Baldur’s Gate, from where caravans with the cult’s treasures left for Waterdeep. After speaking to Aken Sellabaan (not the slightest idea how to spell that), everybody stocked up on gear, including health potions, two finely-crafted platinum bands, a “guard costume” for Sheranya, and the unbelievably musky gland of an Owlbear (right?) for Q’s research in the area of pheromones. With the help of Sellabaan’s good name, they soon got hired as guards by Oin Evenmore to protect a wagon of exotic birds that he intends to sell to a club of rich noblewomen in Waterdeep. The negotiated pay is 5gp/10 days per person plus food and shelter, with Sheranya getting 8gp/10days as she was chosen as Sergeant of the group.

Then, some lovely morning, the caravan finally got on its way with 8 wagons and about 30 people, merchants, guards, and other travelers including a family moving to Waterdeep. To the group’s surprise they only recognized three wagons as the cult’s, in contrast to Sellabaan’s information that there were five in town. The wagons were loaded with sealed crates and tied down tightly, obviously with no intention to access the crates on the road. Although the wagons weren’t completely full, the extra space was denied to even well paying travelers.

The 750 mile long road to Waterdeep passes through Dragonspear about halfway there, a small town with an old ruined castle, and Daggerford about 150 miles before Waterdeep, with the occasional inn and farm along the way. The first part of the voyage to Dragonspear will take the caravan through the Fields of the Dead, ancient battlefields that are rumored to be inhabited by unimaginable horrors, and along the foothills of the Troll Claws, which despite their name would actually be a nice holiday destination if it wasn’t for the Fields of the Dead.

The first two days passed uneventfully, with our heros trying to get a feel for the environment they got themselves into for the next two months. Sheranya buzzed around the camp acquainting herself with everybody, Manaar spread the word of Tyr, and Q investigated the effects of his newly acquired scent on the male portion of the caravan (including horses, rather accidentally).

On the morning of the third day, the caravan entered an eerie forest with gnarly trees that didn’t bear leaves despite the season. What at first looked like mist in between the trees turned out to be large spiderwebs, wrought by even larger spiders, the size of horses. Without warning the caravan was attacked by those very spiders, three lowering themselves right into the caravan, another one engulfing (?) the horse of the first wagon in a huge web, (and two still running towards the wagons in the trees?). Someone might have wondered about the purple, odd looking creatures that were riding the spiders. But as it were, Q apparently decided that it would be easier to learn more from their dead bodies and pulled out his musket…

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The Story So Far

The Cult of the Dragon has razed the peaceful town of Greenest, despite the best efforts of local heroes. As news of the Cult’s depredations spreads up and down the Sword Coast, the secret powers of the realm marshal their forces in response…

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