Once more we sat down at nerd central to deter and hopefully destroy the Cult of the Dragon. After a hiatus of some weeks, I for one was eager to return. Terredon brought an amazing amount of truly first rate nachos in addition to the weekly offering of sacrament. We ate more than we should and then ate some more until we were sufficiently filled with self loathing to begin our hunt for the foe. Garr, or Marr (of late) was absent, along with Himo. We paused for a moment of silence in their absence. Or was the moment merely inadvertent silence due to their absence? Regardless, they were missed.
In the last week or two we had entertained use of a new tool. Slack. We role played a bit of the transition from Skyreach Castle to the Lord’s Council in Waterdeep asynchronously in a sort of play-by-post hybrid experiment. For those who participated, it was a great success. For others, it saved precious face-to-face time for more pressing matters.
Briefly, via Slack, Terredon, Tan Meng, and Jamna facilitated a series of negotiations wherein:
Blagothkus kept a 5/18ths share of the dragon hoard. The remainder of the company, treasure, and Wyverns were dropped off at an abandoned barn outside Waterdeep. Jamna arranged for an 8 wagon caravan to transport treasure and cargo into town guided by her friends or accomplices, Yathro and Marleon. Lady Remalia Haventree’s assistant facilitated the passage of the group and wagons through the North Gate. Treasure, wyverns, and party spent the night in a warehouse by the waterfront.
On the way to Lord’s Palace, Garr (slain and cursed dwarven comrade) was dropped off at the Temple of Tyr for treatments and raising.
Just before entering the Palace, a strong, almost inaudible tremor or rumbling brought eerie silence to the morning hustle and bustle of Waterdeep. Later, Dala Silmerhelve asserted that this was none other than the call of the Draakhorn.
“The disturbance that’s been sensed across the Sword Coast is the Draakhorn – an ancient device whose sounding alerts dragons across Faerun that great events are unfolding. It’s impossible to say what the sounding means, but the dragons hear it clearly and will eventually answer its call.”
But I get ahead of myself.
Our group of heroes met Leosin Erlanthar at the gates of the great council. The great outer galleries and courtyards were packed with nobles from across the Sword Coast and farther afield – all in heated debate about what should be done. Their guards and retinues filled hallways and stairwells wearing liveries of many colors and descriptions.
As Leosin escorted our party deeper into the palace, he challenged our heroes, “though the factions are all nominally committed to stopping the Cult of the Dragon, none of the delegates has yet made a substantive pledge. Too much mistrust still burdens the factions, and not enough is yet known. These leaders need someone to show them the right path, heroes who will lead the forces of the Sword Coast with certainty into the coming darkness. … You might be those heroes…” And with that, he led our group to a secret vault-like door hidden behind a large tapestry and guarded by a single guard. “Good luck,” he said and waved them inside.
Inside were the many members of the Council of Waterdeep.
With a goblet full of wine, Lord Dagult Neverember welcomed and toasted our heroes. “Many have faced the Cult, but I understand few if any have been as successful, tell us your tale.” The champions of Greenest were generous in their sharing of the treasure with the Lords of Waterdeep and members of The Council. Arrangements were made to turn most of the coins over in shares to the Lords (condemning all to heated discussions to come) and all the recognizable art and crafted objects to be turned over to Neverember for return, where possible, to their original owners.
Then matters turned to weeks past and the trail which led from Greenest to this Council. Discussions about the fate of the dragon eggs from the Hatchery were contentious. Winterhound, Neverember, and Haventree all believed that the loss and or destruction of the eggs represented a missed opportunity. Melandrach, Ravenguard, Isteval, Brawnanvil, and Frume all cheered the destruction of the eggs or at least the destruction of the Hatchery itself and its Cultist caretakers. Ulder Ravenguard promised to look into the designs of Habakuk the Wizard.
Likewise, the fate of Skyreach Castle caused considerable debate, especially for Brawnanvil who was most outspoken that such a resource should have been captured and used in service of destroying the Cult. Others were more circumspect on the issue, including Hornblade, Haventree and Frume. Perhaps the giants will fight the dragons as well?
All cheered the passage of Rezmir, although Lady Haventree mentioned it was too bad the creature could not have been interrogated – and likewise the Red Wizards. All agreed it is unfortunate that their involvement remains a subject of speculation.
The Council was unanimous in support of Lord Dagult Neverember’s assertion…”Congratulations and thanks are in order! You all have obviously taken a firm hand in addressing this crisis and proven your worth.” The Council further delegated such powers of authority pursuant to the investigation of the cult and presented a writ to each of you conferring such authority granting access to resources and sites deemed necessary for your investigation.
There followed discussion on what to do next. Several members of The Council were interested in hunting the Wyrmspeakers, the Wearers of the Purple. Jamna and Marr decided to hunt Varram the White. King Melandrach vowed to better understand the naming of his son, Neronvain, as one of the Wearers of the Purple and wearer of the Green Dragon Mask. Meanwhile, our heroes settled on journeying to the north and hunting down the Draakhorn and the one who might know something of it.
Which brings us back again to Lady Dala Silmerhelve and her tale of the Draakhorn.
“The Sea of Moving Ice was the last known location of the Draakhorn. No one can pinpoint its present location from the sound, or even verify with certainty that the relic is still in the northern sea, but that is where the search must start. The one person who could tell us more is a horned tiefling sorceror called Maccath the Crimson. No one alive knows more about the Draakhorn than her, but the Arcane Brotherhood, of which she is also a member, hasn’t seen her for three years. She was investigating the Sea of Moving Ice when she disappeared.”
“Maccath resported her progress to the Host Tower by way of sending spells. Her last report spoke of seeing Ice Hunters paddling their sealskin boats toward a huge iceberg, flattened like a plateau across the surface, but ringed by three icy peaks. She had intended to to follow the Ice Hunters and investigate the iceberg. After that, no more reports came.”
“Attempts to find Maccath using scrying and other magical means located only her ship, adrift and heavily damaged. Some of the ship’s crew were seen dead, but no sign of the tiefling sorcerer was ever found. However, the lair of a dragon as powerful as Arauthator is no doubt protected against scrying magic. If Maccath is alive, in addition to the lore she can share regarding the Draakhorn, the Arcane Brotherhood would be most grateful to get her back.”
As our heroes were being dismissed, some Council members murmured slurs against the Arcane Brotherhood beneath their breath, others mentioned their support would be invaluable in the coming battle against the Cult.
Everyone spent the remainder of that day and the following gathering supplies and re-equipping for the journey ahead. Cold weather gear was purchased, and the shops and armories of Waterdeep were scoured for the best arms and armor available. Little was available. What was found was purchased with dragon hoard coin.
Soon, the group was seeking fast passage north to the icy port city of Luskan. Taern Hornblade was enlisted for assistance. He led the group to an even more secluded chamber in a tower of the Lord’s Palace overlooking the Western Sea. From there, our heroes entered a magic circle of teleportation and instantly stood in the empty courtyard of the Host Tower of the Arcane Brotherhood. A chill wind buffeted their cloaks and crisp, refrozen snow and slush crunched beneath their feet. A heavily robed figure approached. The large pallid man bowed low, “Welcome to The Tower, I am Brother Micram. How may I be of service?”
All proceeded into a large paneled hall and enjoyed hot tea and biscuits beside a well appointed fire. Everyone had questions; questions about the port of Luskan, questions about hiring a ship, questions about Maccath the Crimson, questions about Arauthator, and questions about the Arcane Brotherhood. Two cups of tea and two plates of biscuits later, all questions were answered. “The dragon, Arauthator, has many lairs, but one is known to sailors as Oyaviggaton, the “Island of Eternity,” or “Oyavigg” in the tongue of the Ice Peoples. It is said to be a floating mountain with three high peaks at the corners and a plateau in the center. Good luck finding it. Few, if any, sail north this time of year. If anyone will go, you will find them among the boats of Shipmaster Kurth.” Micram bid good fortune and a pleasant farewell before parting. “Oh, one last thing, the Ice Hunters and their ways are unknown to us. Be mindful to bring back your discoveries. We will make it worth your while – if you should return.”
The frozen ships of Luskan lay high and dry, covered with snow. The harbor itself was a frozen sheet of snow covered ice, with gray salty slush-filled fissures. In the growing dark, our group of well armed if somewhat fancily dressed heroes stepped into the close humid air of a sailor’s watering hole down by the docks. The crowd was quietly mocking at first, but the group won respect after accounting some of their achievements and their wish to go north to the Sea of Moving Ice.
When our heroes raised the subject of who might captain such a voyage, all agreed on one name. Lerustah Half-Face. Soon, the man himself appeared, half his face covered in dark leather. It was said by some that the mask concealed a mass of scar tissue received one night when he alone held the tiller against an icy gale.
The Frostskimmer, a single masted longboat, and her forty man crew were available for the dangerous trip north. Lerustah negotiated a rate of 1,000 gold, plus a 200 gold piece death benefit for the family or heirs of any man who does not return. In addition, half of any recovered treasure is to be divided among the crew, with Lerustah getting 1/10th share for himself inclusive.
“There are threats uncounted in the Sea of Moving Ice. Bears, Ice Trolls, the Remorhaz… Old White Death… not to mention the Sea itself.”
Arrangements were made the following day. Provisions were purchased. The Frostskimmer was readied for the trip with stores packed in the low shelters at each end. The crew was assembled, sobered, readied and briefed. Together, they comprise possibly the roughest, motliest collection of souls ever gathered.
On the morning after, all departed the lights and fires of Luskan. Ahead, the cold dark sea spread to the horizon.
Four days later, with favorable winds and moderate seas, the Frostskimmer sailed into the first ice flows. After two more days of slipping ever northward between the ice flows, Terredon took to the air as an Eagle to reconnoiter far horizons. He noticed a small group of Ice Hunters clubbing seals including 6 kayaks, and one larger ribbed boat with six occupants. As the Frostskimmer approached, the men. dressed in skin and fur parkas, hurriedly made ready to depart. Terredon landed near and transformed into his native elven form. Four men stood transfixed, others in their boats began to row furiously away. Terredon attempted to speak with the Ice Hunters, but the language barrier was insurmountable. One said something emphatic to Terredon, obviously with great trepidation, he ripped from his own neck a gold idol and threw it to the snow – and fled. As Lerustah brought the Frostskimmer close, Terredon retrieved the idol, a small crude representation of a dragon, and then jumped aboard. Several others collected seven seal carcasses before pulling in pursuit of the Hunters.
Forty men, plus Garr and Brokk, set to the oars. Such power could easily shadow or overtake the Ice Hunters at will. Soon, Lerustah brought the Frostskimmer upon the stragglers and a few of the kayakers turned to face their fate. There were words – the Ice Hunters told the crew of the Frostskimmer to depart. “Our home, our place, you have no place here. This not your place….” Through Yeoman Ansout, a half breed crew-member, our heroes asked about Oyaviggaton. The Ice Hunters appeared to know nothing of that term and said no such place is nearby. Tan Meng considered casting Walk on Water to further approach the Hunters, but decided to save that mind fuck for later.
Lerustah and crew followed the Ice Hunters at a great distance with Terredon scouting from the air. Through a long day and afternoon, the hunters led the Frostskimmer and crew to a particularly large iceberg with three mountainous peaks at the corners and a high plateau in the center. The kayaks and larger boat disappeared behind smaller bergs at the base of the floating mountain.