[18 Kythorn 1372 Continued]
At the campsite on the southern side of the River Rauvin, Tunak sees several barges navigating the fast flowing waters. When he heads off into the trees to dig a new latrine, he notices the skeletal remains of a body laying on a branch almost thirty feet in the air. The body's clothing has decayed into tatters, but one of its bony hands clutches a narrow metal tube, open on one end. Tunak is intrigued by the sight, but an obstacle lies in his path: a nest of unusual-looking wasps. Undeterred, he swings a rope over his head in a wide arc and tries to build up enough speed to loop it over the branch. He misses completely with his first attempt, but his second try fares even worse as he hits the wasps' nest!
The wasps immediately swarm over Tunak, stinging indiscriminately. Nauseated and burning with a strange poison that accompanied their stings, Tunak manages to stagger back towards the campsite and jump into the Rauvin. He swims safely under the chilly waters for several seconds and emerges some yards away. The swarm hovers for some time and then gradually returns to its nest. Tunak is safe, but the wasps have left a reminder of his narrow escape: a burning, swelling pustule on his face that will surely leave a scar.
Bettina prepares a herbal poultice for Tunak's cheek and proceeds to ask him several questions about Markus phrased in sailing metaphors. Tunak is completely stymied by the questions. The rest of his day and night pass uneventfully as he ponders how to bypass the wasps.
On her journey east towards Silverymoon, Cammy soon encounters a patrol of the Argent Legion, the Confederacy of the Silver Marches' joint military force. Cammy explains hir presence in the area, stating that zhe was on her way to rescue a woman named Sapphira Silverhue from orcs in Startop Mountain before learning that she had already been rescued! The commander of the patrol tasks four of his soldiers to escort Cammy the rest of the way, citing the dangers in the area. Later, the group encounter a fifth soldier whose horse had fallen lame. Cammy agrees to share hir mount with the soldier, whom zhe nicknames Lucky. As they continue their journey, Cammy sings a humorous song about a dragon and then the travellers rest for the night.
In Mirabar, the rock-coloured gnome caught eavesdropping by Mellia manages to wriggle free of her grasp. The gnome says he'll meet with her again at sunset and then disappears in broad daylight! Dolcetto continues speaking with Mellia and Fargrim. She says she hails from a desert land and that her pursuit of lost knowledge borders on obsession; thus, her fascination with the story of Myrkul and the legendary Crown of Horns. Mellia says she needs to talk to her companions before agreeing to share information and resources with Dolcetto, and arranges to meet with her later that day at the Sign of the Forgehammer.
Elsewhere in Mirabar, Markus and Cain journey towards the city's shrine to Tymora. Markus fails to persuade Cain that the cleric should wear a large floppy hat, but the swordsman does succeed in fitting a peacock helmet in the cleric's helm. The two pedestrians are forced to the side of the street for some moments by the passage of Lord Feldspar's carriage. The noble is said to be a hero for his recent successful return from slaying the Orc King Gorgosh despite the death of all but one of his retainers in the battle. At the shrine, the two travelers witness members of The Axe receiving blessings of good fortune for upcoming battles. Markus donates some coins and praises Tymora for the great luck that has come his way since taking up adventuring.
When Markus and Cain return to the spot where they had arranged to meet Mellia and Fargrim, their friends are nowhere to be seen as they've gone to the wrong place! Their friends' mistake proves costly for Markus and Cain, as they're questioned by a patrol after being seen loitering. When a promise that the adventurers' names can be found in the passage-books of those entering through the gates yesterday proves false, the two are detained and taken to the Hall of Sparkling Stones for interrogation. After a tedious round of questioning, they are released with a warning that teleporting in and out of Mirabar during a time of heightened tension with Luskan could be seen as a hostile act.
Mellia and Fargrim, thinking that Cain and Markus were the ones to have erred, return to the inn and find a somewhat cryptic note addressed to Mellia from the gnome they encountered earlier. Mellia decides to tell Fargrim about the strange phenomena she experienced while everyone slept during the night. Mellia says she felt a powerful force literally drag her spirit away from her body and hurl it through the night sky, across vast tracts of forest and mountain, until it came to rest in a large glass sphere on a pedestal. Mellia could see four other, similar spheres on nearby pedestals, each with a ghostly face inside. One of the faces seemed somewhat familiar, but she couldn't tell from where. The room was dimly lit, with stone floors and walls. At one end of the room were what Mellia at first took to be cleverly carved statues made of glass and set in life-like poses. One of the figures, however, was that of a young girl sleeping peacefully on a real bed: with horror, Mellia realized it was her daughter! When a mysterious cloaked sorcerer entered the room, he berated Mellia and the other spectral faces in the spheres for dithering and dawdling, and said that time was running out: if the sorcerer's enemies obtained the Crown of Horns before his agents did, all of their loved ones would be destroyed! To drive his point home, the sorcerer violently knocked over the glass-transformed wife of one of the spectral faces who, he said, had turned his attention away from finding the Horn and towards finding the sorcerer. The living statue shattered into thousands of pieces when it hit the ground, and the sorcerer threatened to do the same to any others who failed to bring him the Crown. When Mellia and the others' spirits were banished back to their bodies, she explains to Fargrim that she remembers seeing the spirit of a gnome flying alongside her--and that it looked just like the one she caught eavesdropping near the the fountain!
By the time her story has finished, Dolcetto has arrived at the inn as requested. When she pulls back her hood, it is clear her heritage includes extraplanar blood, as she has small horns. Fargrim asks Dolcetto if she can handle herself in a fight. Dolcetto says she primarily relies on magic, but when she does fight she relies on conjured allies. She goes on to say she has skill in crafting magical arms and armor, and arranges to work on a magic greataxe for Fargrim while the adventurers finish their errands in the city and elsewhere. Mellia and Fargrim agree that Dolcetto's presence could be useful in their journeys, and later arrange to meet her at sunset in two days' time.
When Mellia and Fargrim travel to the Hall of Sparkling Stones to inquire about their missing friends, they see Markus and Cain emerging from interrogation. Markus is quite angry at having been detained, and says he will never return to Mirabar again. The adventurers realize that they are being closely watched during the remainder of their time in the city. That night, Mellia meets with the mysterious gnome. Introducing himself as Wrex, the gnome says he knows that he and Mellia are looking for the same thing and they each have loved ones at stake. He says that he wanted to make contact with her so that they can share information, even though he suspects the cloaked sorcerer will only reward the first of his agents to bring him the Crown. The two agree that if they need to leave messages for each other, to do so at the North Gate with the codeword "Three-spotted Eastern Dragon."
After an evening spent making complicated travel plans, those in Mirabar rest for the night.
[19 Kythorn 1372]
Tunak enjoys a peaceful day attempting to fish with his quarterstaff.
Cammy, however, meets with great misfortune. As zhe and hir escorts prepare to break camp in the morning, an uncanny red fog inexplicably rolls through the area. In its wake, remains that had laid under the ground for unknown centuries animate and claw their way to the surface. The skeletal remnants of soldiers in battles long forgotten being to move again, as does the huge frame of a giant slain some ages ago while trying to cross the nearby river. Caught by surprise, Cammy and the soldiers are slow to respond. They decide to flee the area, but their escape is thwarted by the quickly advancing legion of undead. Miscommunication proves fatal: one of the soldiers mounts his steed and waits for Cammy to run over and climb up behind him, but Cammy is waiting for the soldier to ride past hir so zhe can leap on. The delay is only seconds, but it's enough time for the skeletal giant to smash the skulls of both Cammy and her beau "Lucky" with his ancient, rusted morningstar. Only a couple of the soldiers manage to escape the onslaught to carry word of the attack back to Silverymoon.
In Mirabar, Dolcetto spends the day beginning the process of laying enchantments on Fargrim's greataxe. The other adventurers journey a short distance south of the city to an isolated grove. From there, Mellia draws upon an extraordinary amount of magical energy and teleports the group hundreds of miles to a tower in the great forest of Cormanthor, thirty miles northeast of Essembra. This is the Oracle's Circle, a large round spire that serves as a school for divination and was Mellia's refuge before undertaking her current quest. Upon entering, Mellia is greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the school's cook. She exchanges barbed insults with a fellow student named Procul before leading her adventuring companions up to her room to drop off their gear. The room is full of children's toys, and the purpose of Mellia's visit is apparent: she seeks insight into the best way to recover the Crown of Horns and thus secure the release of her kidnapped daughter.
She begins by visiting Liliath the Spell-Wracked, a disfigured, somewhat-mad sorceress in a tower basement. Liliath tries to goad Mellia into serving as the conduit for a spell to reach extra-planar entities to ask about the Crown, but Mellia thinks the spell is too risky considering the limited information that can be gained. She decides to start researching in the tower's archives for another solution. Meanwhile, Markus has no difficulty persuading a student to identify the nature of some magical bolts he carries, and then he and Cain explore the area around the tower. Some children are unimpressed by Markus' aptitude in magic, but are quite excited by his display of swordplay.
Night begins to fall for the adventurers, now scattered around Faerun.
Director's Commentary (July 16, 2016)
A lot to talk about in this one! So I'll just proceed in some sort of random order . . .
So the deal with Tunak and the fire wasps? I actually had a nice little side trek planned if he had managed to get that scroll tube, as inside was a riddle-filled treasure map. Riddles were a big part of many original D&D campaigns, so I thought it would be fun to try to do a little more with them. If recollection serves, Tunak never got very far in that direction, however.
What was going on with Lord Feldspar? Well, the campaign has been over for a long time now, so I can go ahead and fill in some gaps. Grim really was Lord Feldspar as some character suspected. When he was killed at the top of Startop Mountain, everyone in Mirabar wondered at Lord Feldspar's prolonged disappearance. So why was Lord Feldspar still running around at this point? Well, into the void stepped an opportunistic master of disguise with some knowledge of what had gone on: Nakor! I think some of this got fleshed out in a latter session; it all made sense at the time (to me, anyways).
A good example of a session where everyone is split up and there's a half-dozen storylines with me juggling and trying to switch quickly between them to keep everyone involved and not bored. It's not easy!
The idea with Mellia's astral self getting pulled into the lair of the mysterious wizard who had kidnapped her child was to really up the urgency of finding the Crown of Horns. The idea being, if they don't hurry, there's a good chance the wizard will shatter the glass statute that is Mellia's daughter. Mechanically, each month of game time I started rolling a small but cumulatively higher percentage chance that another group of adventurers would find the Crown of Horns before the PCs, return it to the wizard, and he would shatter all of the remaining glass statues out of spite. That would probably have meant the end of the campaign, so I made the % chance low while still setting consequences for the PCs endless dithering.
Wrex was the back-up PC for the player who normally ran Fargrim. Wrex was given a bit of a Brooklyn 1930s accent and vibe, and I liked the character. He spent very little time with the party, but later on has a whole subplot of being trapped behind the lines in Nesme.
Alas, poor Cammy! It really was a case of terrible miscommunication, and perfect illustration of the dangers of venturing across the Evermoors without the rest of the party. Did any of the players learn the lesson? No.
The Oracle's Circle became a major location in the campaign, and I think I did a reasonably good job with it on relatively short notice.