Tuesday Evenings on the Sword Coast

Episode 6.5: A cut scene in Zephyros's tower.

After some farewells, our heroes begin the ride toward Goldenfields. Zephyros’s tower returns to the sky.

A few hours later, en route to the Moonshae Isles, Zephyros drifts down from the control orb on the second floor of his tower. Gingerly, he removes the gag from Amarath’s mouth. He gently scoops up Amarath, and raises him to his eye level.

“I have a message for you to deliver to your god,” the eccentric giant rumbles. “I appreciate the mighty Yan-C-Bin taking some time out of his day to answer my questions, please don’t think that I’m ungrateful. But I have no desire to work toward his evil ways, and I’m somewhat tired of his repeated overtures, particularly overtures that get belligerent with my guests. Please inform your master that I will not work for him. I pay my debts, but I owe him information, not allegiance.”

Amarath’s eyes grow wide. “I’m not that powerful,” he says. “I don’t get to talk to His Ethereal Majesty. I am given orders, and I fulfill them. Or I try to! I can’t send your message!”

Zephyros scratches his chin with his free hand. “Hm. So in order to deliver my message, you would need someone to grant you an audience with your deity?”

Amarath gulps, and remains silent.

After a moment, Zephyros says, “Then it’s settled. I will arrange for an introduction.”

The scene cuts to outside, and we see Zephyros’s tower drifting among the clouds a few miles above the Sea of Swords. A moment later, a small figure screams as he’s dropped from the front door of the tower.

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Episode 6: A shortcut to Goldenfields

Morak Ur’gray, the dwarf who runs the inn in Nightstone, came to the group with a problem.

“I’ve been giving this some thought,” Morak says. “I figured if we managed to escape, someone was going to have to let survivors know of the family they lost in the cloud giant attack. I’d convinced myself back in the caves that it was gonna be me that did it. I’m really not a traveler any more, though. And without the Nandars, someone needs to help out around here, and folks seem to trust me. I don’t suppose you all are up for a little traveling?”

“Semile Southwell has a brother. He’s the sheriff up in Bryn Shander. That’s up in the Icewind Dale, so I’d understand if you didn’t want to travel that far.”

“Melantha and Lathan Xelbrin have a son, Miros, who lives in Goldenfields. The Xelbrins have some paperwork that ought to be delivered to them, and that Tressym hanging out in the windmill probably ought to find his way there, as well.”

“Darthag Ulgar, the guy who ran the Lionshield Coster trading post, has an ex-wife who also runs a Lionshield Coster out in Triboar. She might be sad to hear of his passing, and she’ll probably want to do something about the trading post here. I think she’s still a part owner. She may be able to offer some coin to help out with that.”

Gilraen noted that she is carrying a legacy of the Southwell family that she had originally come to Nightstone to deliver to Semile Southwell. With Semile dead, she said that she will eventually make it to Bryn Shander to deliver the object to Markham.

Kessa felt the best course of action was to go to Goldenfields, to allow Baronne Alton to know that Nightstone no longer had a lord to protect it.

Kanut’s only suggestion was that any quest they took on should involve more boats.

dd_storm_kings_thunder_tower_of_zephyros_side_view.jpgThe group decided to go to Goldenfields first, if only because it’s close. They set out in the morning to head back to the High Road. As they followed the path up, they cleared a ridgeline, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful afternoon. The sky was clear with only a few puffy clouds. The more eagle-eyed of the group could even make out some details of Waterdeep, all the way out here. Hey, what’s that in the clouds?

A strange tower floating atop a cloud drifted toward the group. The tower was hundreds of feet tall, its roof shaped like a wizard’s hat perched at a jaunty angle. It was about a quarter mile above them as a stair case of clouds began to descend from the tower, ending right where the group was standing. A short debate ensued as to whether or not to accept this invitation.

“If the intent was to kill us,” Kessa noted, “There are much easier ways than to dematerialize a staircase from underneath us.”

“But not many ways that would be as funny,” mused Tijala.

Zephyros.jpgAfter a long and arduous climb, the group reached the top of the staircase and met the master of the tower. “I am Zephyros!”, the cloud giant rumbled. “And who might I have the pleasure of speaking to?”

The group introduced themselves, and Zephyros stuttered. Zephyros explained that he’s been casting contact other plane trying to determine the reason that the Ordning was gone, and that these names were relayed to him as instrumental in restoring the Ordning.

Nobody but Ptahmin had ever heard of the Ordning, so the two of them explained that it was the hierarchy of giants. All giants have a place in the Ordning, and without it, giant civilization could turn to complete chaos. Nobody knows why, but the Ordning disappeared a couple months ago.

Zephyros explained he was coming to Nightstone to determine if the Nightstone itself might have something to do with it. He was distraught to hear that his cloud giant kin had smashed the town, killing some of its residents, and taken it. He then asked what the Nightstone was, and the group responded, “We were hoping you could tell us that…”

While Zephyros doesn’t want to get too involved with the group, he felt bad that his cloud giant brethren had smashed Nightstone, and offered the party a ride to wherever they wanted to go. Kanut suggested that with the services of a flying tower at their disposal, they should go all the way to Bryn Shander. The rest of the group wanted to stick with the current plan: go the short distance to Goldenfields. [Editor’s note: I forgot to mention that the horses could hang out on the cloud, but there’s no forage on a cloud, so the multi-day trip to Bryn Shander would probably require leaving behind the horses]

Zephyros asked the group to stay on the first floor, then retired to his study above.

Around midnight, a group of cultists arrived on giant vultures. Their leader, a short man named Amarath, wearing light armor and bearing a haversack with a smiley face on it, demanded to see the master of the tower. His companion, N’Von, carried a bag to give to the master of the tower as a gift. They led four mooks. When Zephyros did not come down, or even show his face, the cultists got belligerent. They demanded that Zephyros come hear their offer from Yan-C-Bin, the Prince of Evil Air.

Invisible_Stalker.jpgDeciding that the group were in his way of talking to the master of the tower, Amarath reached into his haversack and threw something across the room, and the cultists attacked our heroes. The group noticed that across the room, there were two footprints in the swirling mists on the floor of the tower. [Editor’s Note: In canonical Fifth Edition, Invisible Stalkers aren’t humanoid in form anymore, and they don’t walk, they fly. I kinda split the difference on this, and made it a flying sort of humanoid. This will probably be forgotten next time Invisible Stalkers come up.]

Gilraen, and Tijala made quick work of the cultists, while Kanut did battle with the stalker. Kessa wisely attacked the stalker from afar, while Ptahmin split his efforts between ensuring the rest of the party could see the stalker using a guiding bolt spell, and keeping the cultists from coming further into the tower.

Amarath and N’Von were the first to fall, and three cultists went down quickly after that. The fourth cultist figured he’d take his chances calling his vulture back to him as he jumped from the tower. Meanwhile, the stalker grabbed Kanut and started to fly upward with him.

Kessa’s magic turned out useful for more than just beating on invisible stalkers, as she caught Kanut with a well timed gust of wind. That spell also made it tough for the stalker to return to the fray, as every time it got close, it was blown back upward.

When the invisible stalker was destroyed, everyone finally relaxed. In the new quiet, they could hear Zephyros still snoring.

As it would be good to find out what was going on, the party talked Ptahmin into reluctantly using his magic to keep the cultist leader, Amarath, from dying from his wounds. Unfortunately, Amarath had little to tell them.

When Zephyros woke and returned downstairs, he saw the results of the battle. Seeing the cultists’ equipment in the corner, he spoke a few words of magic and in the pile of gear, N’Von’s offering, Amarath’s satchel with the smiling face, and one dagger began to glow.

The group left Amarath in Zephyros’s care. The eccentric cloud giant noted that Yan-C-Bin was one of the outsider entities he had contacted looking for information on the Ordning, but hadn’t expected that he’d get company.

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Orcs in the Ardeep and refugees in the caves

The Seven Snakes beat up our heroes pretty good, so they took some time to rest, besides, it was still dark out. They were about to head out to look into the caves when a war band of Orcs came crashing out of the Ardeep Forest.

The group wasn’t particularly well prepared to deal with an assault of orcs, but quickly took the bandits’ crossbows and took up positions around town. The orcs split up, about half went east around town, half went west.

After a brief battle of arrows and thrown javelins near the town gates, the western orcs eventually found their way to the breach in the wall, and the party went to meet them. This turned out to be problem: while the orcs were a stout foe at range, in melee, they’re truly nasty.

Kanut had positioned one of the bandits’ horses at the main gate, and was at the breach quite quickly. The horse acquitted itself well in the fight, as well— perhaps better than the humanoids did.

Fortunately for the party, they orcs were pursued out of the forest by a band of elves. The group and the remaining Nightstone guards delayed the flight of the orcs enough that the elves caught up, and from there, the slaughter began. The hatred between the orcs and the elves is legendary, and it was on full display here.

The leader of the elves, Rond Arrowhome, worried for the fate of the agreement with the town that kept the people of the town from entering the forest, as the Nandars that signed it were dead. Kessa helped smooth things over, and the party negotiated a document that would allow them passage through the forest if need be.

This further delayed their trip to the caves to search out the town’s inhabitants.

Hedge left the group to head out to warn the Emerald Enclave of the possibility of further giant incursions and the bold play the Zhentarim had made in sending the Seven Snakes to Nightstone. The rest of the group headed north toward the caves.

While the group licked their wounds, a warrior who had learned that Lady Nandar had put a bounty on some goblins approached Nightstone. She could tell the town was mostly deserted and smashed by boulders, and when she approached, she saw the footprints of the townspeople heading north.

Interested in helping those who cannot help themselves, Tijala followed those tracks north. The tracks led to a cave on the south face of a rocky hill topped by pine trees.

She took two steps into the cave and then froze in her tracks. There was just enough light to see the shadowy outline of the upper part of an ogre in a mud bath. The ogre called out something in a booming voice, and she thought she’d been noticed until a response came back— a shrill voice, just as booming. Even not knowing ogre, she was pretty sure she recognized a nagging voice. As the argument broke out, she backed out of the cave.

As she were looking in the pines to find makings for a decent torch, a small group of goblin scouts left the cave. They were no match for Tijala and her greatsword.. One, who died a little more slowly than the rest, thought she was interrogating him “Lock for hark!” were his last words, though she was not sure what was lost in translation since his Common was miserable.

She were just about to set fire to a stout branch covered in pine tar when she heard voices coming up the path from the town. She found a quick place to hide, surprisingly able to do so even wearing shiny, heavy armor. The party found the same thing Tijala did, and were about to charge in behind some stones with light cast on them when Tijala greeted them.

In the cave, the ogres presented small challenge to the band. The goblins weren’t done dying yet when the group found Morak Ur’gray, the dwarven inkeep from the town, who’d assumed the role of spokesman for the refugees, most of which were still alive. On the other side of the cave, Hark, the goblin boss, led a new charge into battle. His spearhead met with Kanut, who found the boss quite slippery and tough to take down as long as he had some of his underlings to hide behind.

Once the goblins were mostly beaten. the group found one of Lady Nandar’s handmaidens who was about to become Hark’s feast, and saved her from becoming dinner like one other townsperson had.

They found Boss Hark’s treasure chest, and when Gilraen attempted to open it, the lock on it just fell off; it was completely rusted out.

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Nandar Keep and the Seven Snakes

After clearing the goblins from the town, the group decided to visit Nandar Keep and see if it was also infested by goblins or if anyone had survived. If nothing else, they could see a cart atop the smashed bridge to the keep that they figured they could use a wheel from to fix the one in town to haul away any loot they found.

guard.jpgKanut of the Whalebones cleared the 15’ gap in the broken bridge with plenty of room to spare, and built a quick rope bridge for the rest of the crew to cross safely. In the keep, they found that Lady Nandar had been crushed by one of the stones, but four of her guards survived. The guards (Sydiri, Torem, Alara, and Kaelen) had no leader, as the captain of the guard also perished in the cloud giant attack, and had been debating what to do about their current situation.

Countess Kessa found this to be a problem she was used to, and quickly put the guards to work in the kitchen, as a good meal and a rest seemed to be in order.

The group’s rest was interrupted by the arrival of a group of unsavory-looking characters on horseback. They rode into the village square and called out for Kella Darkhope. Kella came down out of the inn to meet with the leader, then pointed toward the keep.

The half-elf leader of the band, Xolkin Alassandar, approached the bridge to parlay with our heroes. Finding himself at an advantage, he declared to the group that he and his group, the Seven Snakes, were taking Nightstone as an outpost. Kessa objected that just because the current lady was dead did not mean the town was unclaimed, and that Baronne Shaille Alton’s claim of lordship over the whole area still stands. This argument did not strike Xolkin’s sword arm as particularly convincing. Figuring he had the heroes cornered in the keep, he offered them safe passage through the village should they decide to leave, but the town would be an outpost for the Black Network.

After posting a pair of guards at the low end of the bridge, Xolkin, Kella, and the remaining bandits took up in the smashed inn. Ptahmin strode down to the end of the bridge to talk to the two guards posted there. He found the bandits had dragged some crates out to make a makeshift table and stools, and were starting up a dice game. The bandits had been ordered not to start anything, so they allowed Ptahmin and Kanut to join them.

As it turned out, neither of the bandits had any real skill at gambling— but neither did Ptahmin nor Kanut, so while gold pieces moved around the table, the game was pretty anticlimactic in its result. That was fine by Gilraen, who used the distraction of the gambling to go sneak over the parapet to the stables. There she began a collection of equestrian tack, taking every bit, bridle, and reins out of the stables and bringing them back to the keep.

The decision was made to strike before dawn. The stealthiest of the group would set up to ambush the two guards, and Ptahmin would go out to talk with them. On his signal, Kanut and Gilraen would join him in quietly silencing the guards. Somewhat amazingly, this went exactly to plan.

The next plan was an assault on the inn. Ptahmin would lead the keep’s guards in the front door, while everyone else went around to the back of the in where a cloud giant boulder had demolished the kitchen wall. They noticed one of the rooms upstairs had a candle lit, indicating someone was likely awake, but continued with the plan.

xolkin.pngThe four remaining bandits were in the common room downstairs, but Kella and Xolkin were nowhere to be seen. As they dispatched the bandits, the other two came downstairs. Kella fell quickly, but Xolkin had been awake, so he was better prepared for this fight— he was wearing his armor, and drank a Potion of Invulnerability before he went downstairs to join the fray. He quickly knocked Hedge unconscious, but it wasn’t long before he found himself surrounded. Kessa asked for his surrender, but once Kella Darkhope fell, he wanted nothing but revenge.

Xolkin knocked out Gilraen and two of the guards before he was finally defeated. Hedge and Ptahmin healed everyone as best as they could, but everyone was pretty beat up.

A quick search of Xolkin’s room at the inn found his flying snake, which the team quickly killed. They also found a message that Xolkin was about to send out: “Objective Secured.”

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On the Road to Nightstone

On the Trade Way between Waterdeep and Daggerford, there sits a crossroads inn where the road forks off to Nightstone. Our heroes had traveled from all around the Sword Coast with varying reasons to reach Nightstone, and took off as a group to make the last day’s journey.

As they walked through the hills toward town, they began to hear a bell ringing erratically. Coming down out of the foothills, they could see no activity in the town, and could see that the bridge between the town and Nandar Keep had been destroyed. There were many footprints headed north out of town as they approached the drawbridge, but curiosity piqued, they decided head into town.

There were a pair of wargs in the town square, which they dispatched fairly easily by taking up refuge in the guard towers near the drawbridge and assaulting the wargs from the tops of the towers.

They found many boulders strewn about the town square and could see many buildings smashed around them. In the middle of the town square was a divot, as if a memorial or something had been removed.

They then went to the temple to investigate the bell’s incessant, but extremely cacophonous ringing.

Vark.jpgIn the temple, they found Breedo and Vark, a pair of goblins, gleefully taking turns swinging from the bell rope. Breedo didn’t survive the interruption of his fun, but the group kept Vark alive.

Ptahmin attempted to interrogate Vark by getting philosophical, by noting how he and the goblin were of a kind, both outcasts in a world of civilized beings. Vark, unfortunately, was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and his eyes glazed over, almost mesmerized by Ptahmin’s intelligent discourse… or at least the two out of every three words he understood of it.

Ptahmin asked about the stone, working on the theory that the Nightstone was what had been removed from the town square. Vark knows about stones. Grey ones, brown ones, green ones covered in moss…

Hedge laughed, and switched to the goblin’s own language, asking about the large black stone in the center of town. He asked perhaps if the goblin chief knew anything about it.

Vark was happier to converse (alas, poorly) in his native language, but knew nothing of a black stone. Unfortunately, bringing up the poor fellow’s chief reminded him of what fate awaits him if he’s found cavorting with the enemy, and this slowed his response until he was reminded what fate befell his friend, Breedo.

It was about this point that Hedge had a brainstorm: Perhaps the rocks weren’t thrown by trebuchets, but maybe by giants? The rocks were about the right size… but then he realized that while he didn’t see tracks made by siege engines on his approach to town, he also didn’t see the footprints of giants.

sktkella.jpgGilraen and Kanut grew tired of interrogating goblins, and at this point they thought the best plan was to explore the inn and the trading post in search of ale. In the Inn, they found a goblin looting the larder, who attempted to get away but was too weighed down by her sack full of frying pans and pantry staples to get far. Upstairs, as they split up to check the four rooms, Kessa found a woman huddled behind the bed in what’s left of her room. Kella Darkhope explained that she had been in town when the town was attacked, and she hid here while the rest of the townspeople ran.

Our heroes were pretty sure she was hiding something, but couldn’t discern what. Further interrogation told them how the town was attacked— cloud giants blew in on a flying citadel and they took the Nightstone from the center of town. The heroes offered to remove the offending goblins from the town, and ensured Kella was armed before she returned to hiding.

Tressym_FRCS2e.gifAs the group explored the town, they found a farmhouse where the farmer had been impaled under a rock, and Gilraen recognized the name on the farmhouse. She had a package from Hal Southwell to deliver to his sister, Semile, who was likely to be found under that boulder.

Exploring the trading post yielded only small amounts of ale but some useful equipment. Slowly, our heroes cleaned out the goblin scourge from the town. The only other creature they found in the town was a terrified tressym that bolted its home to perch atop a windmill. We broke for the evening with Hedge trying to coax the tressym down from its perch, having cleared the goblin scourge from the town.

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