Exiting the Benadar Manor with haste, the Blades made the quick ride back to Loudwater. They sought a cure for Operious’s new condition. Though he insisted he felt fine, the evil tattoo worried the other Blades. Kriv suggested they speak to his temple leaders back in Waterdeep; surely they could contain the threat. The others agreed, though Operious worried what form this “help” would take. The creature seemed to be imprisoned within him now, and perhaps a magical solution could be found that would avoid the not-so-tender mercies of Tempus. Desiring a second opinion, Operious went to speak with Curuvir while the others took care of business in Loudwater.
Concealing his hands in gloves, the mage casually asked Curuvir for references on containing various extraplanar entities. The request was believable enough – the Blades had previously investigated Draigdurroch Tower, a bastion of a long-vanished devil-worshiping warlock, at the request of Curuvir. The Mage of Loudwater pointed out several tomes of knowledge, and also recommended a local expert of sorts – the warlock Maldreth, who was in town and had traded with Curuvir recently. Curuvir believed the warlock was more trustworthy than his old mentor Draigdurroch.
Operious was wary of contacting a warlock about his problems, but he did find some interesting lore in the library. Apparently the ritual he stumbled upon was a work-in-progress. The devil was being trapped in an amulet for unknown purposes, but had not been completed. Something must have happened to his ancestor before he could finish his work those many years ago…the Spellplague may have had very poor timing. The containment ritual would have lasted nearly forever, trapping the creature’s essence in an amulet and preventing it from causing evil throughout the planes. Instead the powerful ritual was fumbled and the devil trapped in a very temporary prison: a mortal body. If the cursed hand was removed or Operious slain, the creature may be free to reform on it’s home plane. Early release, of a sort. That explained why the creature seemed to allow the ritual to continue; it realized escape would be only a few years away, nothing to an immortal entity.
Pilgrims of Oreme
The Blades heard rumors throughout town of a new adventuring group, newly-arrived while the Blades were busy in Llorkh. Not wanting an evil influence in town, they went to speak with the group and learn their intentions. The two parties had a tense meeting in a local tavern, each group wary of the other. The Blades learned their official story: The “Pilgrims of Oreme” were a group seeking adventure and evil to cleanse in the lands west of their homeland…Netheril. They had traveled downriver and through the High Forest towards Loudwater, exploring several ruins along the way. In Loudwater they petitioned Lady Moonfire for work, and were tasked with clearing a goblin warren to the south. They had just returned, victorious and ready to pursue more goblins in the High Moor.
Most of the Pilgrims were citizens of their namesake city, Oreme, the City of White Towers located northeast of Llorkh. The group consisted of four members. Operious had already heard of one, the half-elven warlock Maldreth. He sat there nursing an ale, dagger close by his side. There was also a robed, scimitar-wielding human named Araster who remained quiet throughout the night. Beside him sat at huge half-orc, the one-eyed Tarn. Leading the Pilgrims was Kessel, a human warrior and spokesman for the party. Kessel did most of the talking, trying to convince the Blades of the good deeds they had done, the adventure they sought and wrongs they would right…all while the other Pilgrims tried not to laugh or roll their eyes at the performance.
Fearful of Netherese influence in the Grey Vale region, the Blades inquired about the religious beliefs of the Pilgrims. None seemed the religious type, save perhaps Araster. The man locked gazes with Operious throughout the questioning, Araster seeming deeply insulted by mocking of the evil night goddess, Shar. Shar was the default religion of Netheril, and though other gods’ temples existed in landlocked cities like Oreme, an insult to Shar was akin to an insult to Netheril.
Conversation became tense now, and Kessel inquired about the various missions of the Sacred Blades. He asked about Zelbross and the slavers, Llorkh and its occupiers, even Secomber and its leader. Kriv made clear that each issue was minor and unrelated. No mention was made of the Zhentarim masterminding the various plots. With little information gained, the Pilgrims bid farewell for the night, saying they had an early meeting with Lady Moonfire the next day.
As the Netherese left, the Blades had a feeling they would have to deal with the group someday.
The next day, the Blades headed over to the Town Hall to meet with the Lady and spy on the Pilgrims. As usual, a line of petitioners stood before Lady Moonfire as she struggled to resolve various issues. Loudwater was quickly filling with refugees, and though the newly-trained militia kept the peace only so much could be done. Vacant houses were filling up quickly, leaving only buildings too dangerous to occupy.
As the Blades moved past the long line containing the Pilgrims, among others, they overheard a poor couple begging the Lady for a favor. Lizardmen had attacked their family on the outskirts of town, slavers who took their children and ransacked their farm. With the Zhentarim slavetrade stopped, it seems the lizardmen were going straight to the source. Little more had to be said – the Blades volunteered to assist, much to the family’s joy. They left the town hall, the Pilgrims still wondering why they had cut in line.
They decided to speak to the High Moor druid Orus for more information about the lizardmen, first contacting Captain Harrowleaf to learn Orus’s location. Harrowleaf had known Orus for decades, and said the druid often stayed at a small cabin at the border of the Moor and the Southwood. Off the Blades went, traveling quickly through the goblin-infested woods.
Arriving at the cabin, they found signs of a struggle. Strange green blood dotted the room along with several patches of browned humanoid blood. Furniture was in disarray, some of it covered in odd white spider webbing. A large drag mark lead out of the cabin, east towards the Southwood. The Blades followed this trail, leading to a cave at the base of the High Moor cliffs. Lighted only by Operious’s magic, the cave was covered in spider webs. The Blades entered carefully.
Inside they saw an ettercap – a humanoid/spider hybrid – crouching in the shadows. Its next meal, Orus, lay beside it in a webbed cocoon. Calling for the creature to surrender, the Blades moved forward a few steps before calling out in alarm, as dog-sized spiders leaped down from the ceiling. Battle erupted as five massive spiders swarmed and bit. The ettercap spewed a sticky material over the area, immobilizing many Blades as they were poisoned and bitten. Magic erupted, scorching the spiders and causing them to leap back to the ceiling and walls. Kriv and Griegor stood their ground though they struggled to even move in the thick webs. Operious, free of the webbing, retreated to the back of the cave to launch magic missiles inside.
Still burning, the spiders became enraged with pain, leaping to attack again; they quickly perished. The ettercap held out for a few moments longer before being cut in two. Foes dispatched, the group assisted an unconscious Orus, healing his poison. The old man awoke long enough to ask ‘what happened’, but soon passed out from the exertion. Carrying the druid back to his cabin, the Blades nursed their wounds and hoped rescuing Orus would be worth the trouble.
Orus quickly recovered, though the Blades soon regretted it. The wildly bearded man was a talker – you would think he rarely got to speak to other people. He enthusiastically chatted about his swampy home while the group hiked through caves in the cliffs leading up to the moor. He filled them in on the lizardman threat, the swamp dragon controlling them and influencing them to deeds like slavery and pillaging, the strangely united goblin tribes, several local species of mushroom, how excessive troll hunting by ‘adventurers’ impacts sheep population and resulting effects on wolf….
After some point, the Blades stopped listening. They just wanted to know the location of the lizardman lair, thank you very much. Orus pointed them in the right direction, and they quickly left him alone in his beloved swamp.
It wasn’t long before they found a lizardman patrol, six strong. Four rested beside a smoking fire while another talked to a massive black-scaled lizardman in the distance. The party crept up to a safe distance. They readied themselves, then Operious unleashed a deadly fireball, hitting all the creatures while the Blades charged in. Battle was swift and fierce. The lizard’s leader gave orders in Draconic, not realizing that Kriv could understand that tongue. With knowledge of their battleplan, the Blades cut the lizards to ribbons.
Corpses floated into the swamp as the party picked up a crudely-drawn map to the lair. It showed a back entrance, covered in water…perhaps they could swim in the back door. Magical enchantments for water travel were made as the group rested. They would not walk into a dragon’s lair unprepared.
|Ettercapped: 1075 (level 6 encounter)|
|Free Orus: 200 (level 5 minor quest)|
|Lizardman Ambush: 1200 (level 7 encounter)|
|2475xp total, 618xp per person|
|Grand Total XP per character: 6973 (7500 for 6th)|