This adventure is NOT part of the Foresite Irregulars storyline, skip to Lost in Sigil to pick up the latest in that chapter.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
Cloud Giant’s Bargain [Part 1]
In the month since they were last together at the festival of Parnast, the Inglorious Badgers went their separate ways to heal, train, and deal with other personal matters. [All spending downtime days for 5th level.]
They all committed to reassembling in exactly one month at a specific place and very specific time in Neverwinter – as specified in a letter from “Bambra Gallagher” representing a group calling itself “Acquisitions Inc.”
An Imperfect Reunion
The streets grow quiet as you leave the busy area near Neverwinter’s docks and make your way toward neighborhoods filled with shops and residences. The city is still recovering from cataclysm and hard times, and many houses remain boarded up and abandoned.
Neverwinter is famous for the river the flows through the city, originating from a volcanic mountain and warming the area year-round. Today, however, strong winds and overcast skies bring a chill to the air.
A block from their destination, the Badgers reunite at just before appointed time – all except Sister Mercy. No one has seen her since Parnast, so other than pledge to find her as soon as this meeting is over – they proceed to the intersection.
Dagger Way is deserted as you turn into the narrow dead-end alleyway where your meeting is to take place. Broken crates and piles of refuse line its shadowed walls. A robed body lies on the ground some twenty feet away, partially concealed by a crate.
Our heroes are distressed, as the body brought to recall discovering the body of Veradda Stoor at the edge of a wood near the Black Road, when they first met
- so they quickly moved into the alley to investigate.
Turns out the body is a ruse! A stuffed figure to lure them into position for an…
In the flurry of arrows and counter attacks – Kandrey notices that there is a figure watching them from the attic window at the end of the alley… “We have an audience!”
As the battle continues, Aiindol and Davan climb to the roof to gain the advantage…
Two attackers go down, and the professor is knocked unconscious.
The figure in the attic – a female gnome with riotous purple hair – opens the window and shouts “That’s good enough.” And the attackers immediately take defensive postures and one of their leaders suggests that each side granted permission to tend their wounded.
At that very moment, Davan scrambles along the wall in leaps in through the window to confront the gnome. Quickly joined by Aiindol.
“Very well”, she says abruptly. “Come in, I guess. I’m your contact Bambra Gallagher – before I continue, should we invite the rest of the Inglorious Badgers inside, or should we go down to join them?”
“Down is fine,” snips Aiindol.
A gnome dressed in a riot of colors tumbles out of the window, slides down a first-floor roof, bounces off a crate, and lands in the alley before you. She bows deeply with a flourish.
The brigands immediately move to seal off the street from any other intruders – so that the parlay can begin…
“As I was saying to your friends after they jumped in my face – I’m Bambra Gallagher at your service,” the gnome says in a nasal voice. “Or perhaps I should welcome you to ours!”
She works for a group called Acquisitions Inc. who is interested in the Inglorious Badgers as possible new recruits. This battle was a bit of a test, which the team passed with flying colors – but the usual selection process is being interrupted by an urgent matter.
“… you see, a cloud giant named Count Stratovan is preparing to destroy most of the Sword Coast. AI’s principals (Omin Oran, Binwin Bronzebottom,Jim Darkmagic, and Viari) have gone off to deal with this threat. But, early this morning, a missive reached me from Balakar, claims to be the majordomo acting on behalf of Count Stratovan’s son, Olthanas. Olthanas wishes to meet with Acquisitions Inc. and work together to create peace between the small folk of the
Sword Coast and giantkind. The missive asks representatives of Acquisitions Inc. to approach Olthanas’s flying cloud castle in secret, for only he and his majordomo have friendly intentions. All other giants and their servants are bent on war.”
So – this is to be your true test – will you help us try to circumvent this war by infiltrating the flying castle, determining Olthanas’ intent: If for peace, bring us proof, but if not – do not suffer him to live!
Percocet: “Of course we will! But, how will we get to a flying castle?”
Brahma: “Tonight. We’ll take my airship! You have 8 hours to prepare – those hurt or depleted in the fight should get some rest. The remainder of you equip for a cold night.”
Airship? You have an Airship?
Several hours after dark, on a moonlit night, they meet on the roof of a local tavern where Bramba greets them standing in a small airship, beckoning them to join her…
The dirigible is small-not much more than a rowboat secured to a balloon with some sort of gnomish contraption firing hot air into it.
“Two more things for you,” says Bambra, reaching into a side pouch. She pulls out a skull, which has two glass gems for eyes. “First, this is Instructor Tulahk! He will be our eyes and ears, monitoring your progress and assessing your performance. If you do well, you can win fame and power and become an Intern for Acquisitions Inc.! If you fail … well, you don’t want to fail.”
She hands the skull to the professor.
Tulahk: “Assistant Professor Wellsalt – I’ve read your papers on giants. A good part of the reason we sent for you! Much of your experience may be helpful on this mission. Of course, the parts that are flat-out-wrong, well, I’ll try to make sure you don’t step in any Giant social messes, if you take my meaning, AP.”
“Secondly, here are all the details regarding the exciting ways you can advance in our organization!” The gnome hands you a scroll, wrinkled and slightly bloodstained.
She hands a sheet of paper to each of them describing membership (and a liability release) in Acquisitions Inc. [redacted – get the module to get your own!]
Tulahk: “Oh, one favor, I’m afraid of falling from great heights and shattering, well, my skull. So please stow me away for the trip up to the flying castle!”
Wellsalt: “Well, Okay, then.” and then puts the skull in a pouch for the flight.
After Bambra Gallagher steers her small dirigible up from it’s moorings, you rise quickly into the sky. The dirigible is small-not much more than a rowboat secured to a balloon with some sort of gnomish contraption firing hot air into it. Bambra giggles and prances, clearly enjoying the flight.
The Cloud Castle/Towers of Hospitality
As you enter the clouds above Neverwinter, your craft is shrouded in darkness for what feels like an eternity. When Bambra finally steers the craft out of the clouds, you are looking down upon a massive cloud castle spread across three cloud islands. The moon shines brightly here, reflecting off pristine white clouds. Bambra jabs a finger toward the farthest island as she brings you in close to one of the nearer sets of towers."
“This will be a HALFF insertion: High-Altitude/Low Feather-Fall approach. I’m giving each of you a featherfall token. Break to slow your landing. But not too soon – See that? That’s the Towers of Judgment. Watch out for the observatory there. You’ll be easy to spot if you don’t time your landing just right. Now, here’s the fun part! Jump out and of you must break the rune just before you hit the ground. Hide in the gardens, then enter and get your job done! Don’t go splat!”.
They all jumped…
Outdoor Garden and Docks
As you descend toward the gardens, you can see that the other cloud islands are nearly as large as the one beneath you. Thin walkways connect the nearer islands to the main island-where you suddenly spot an enormous telescope in the observatory, slowly rotating toward your position ! A dark cloud is not far from you. If you can angle toward it, you might descend behind its cover before the telescope fully swings your way.
The group was half in one cluster and otherwise pretty spread out by the time they landed, thought each was pretty sure the eye in the tower of Judgement hadn’t seen them.
[DM’s note, I gave each a FF token, which was not as written. I wanted each to have to make a call about when to break it and decide the detection/risk/skill themselves. Failure meant landing further from the other members of the group. If you look at the threat in the garden it should be clear why this added tension.]
Towering trees and dense foliage cover this huge outdoor garden, which is cut through with trails and walking paths. Where the garden is open to the sky, broad landings jut out into empty air, set with huge ropes and cleats where airships visiting the cloud castle dock. A wall rises up from the other end of the garden, made of glass supported by thin cloudstuff columns. The center section is a gate, also composed of cloudstuff.
Aiindol summoned a cloud of fog to hide them from prying eyes – after all, who would be able to tell the difference with the clouds?
Kandrey discovered that he practically landed on a Shambling Mound!
There was some combat, some subterfuge, and some remembering what the word “Shambling” meant, and next thing you know – they are all through the gate…
… and the mound shambles off.
A stone path connects the outdoor garden to a huge door leading farther into the castle. Verdant planters, stunning garden beds, flower pots, and sparkling fountains fill the rest of this huge chamber.
[Meanwhile – an hour or so ago…] Sister Mercy was hours late for the meeting at Dagger Way, [missed a session] and after through a series of actions was waiting at the moorings when Bramba returned. She boarded the blimp and flew up (and got her orientation and FF chip.]
To make the jump undetected, she made herself invisible…
..and she landed in the middle of the garden – unseen and alone…
Aiindol almost shot through the gate at her (since he heard a thud and some footsteps, but saw nothing…) but soon the entire group was reunited in the inner garden.
They make their way to the huge door, with Kandrey cutting through the garden – off the marked path.
Something’s wrong with the water in the pond, but no one can tell what it is until several pseudopodia reach out and strike! Black Puddings!
Aiindol says: “Seems the same strategy as with the ugly plant, should work here.” and he unlocks the door.
And quickly they’re through and into the…
There are doors to 4 towers here, and several on the far wall. One is huge, another is ornate and they all get examination.
Several doors were investigated for sound, touch, smell, and to determine if they were locked….
One was too cold, one was too hot, one was too noisy, and the big one was locked – and heavy. But the one that was the most interesting, was this one:
The door to this tower is made of fine burnished wood, set with amber swirls that create the appearance of clouds.
Behind the Fancy Door
The professor and Abcde are still cursed because of their theft of the tablets from the sky temple two months ago, and so were sequestered hiding in a nearby storage tower before the rest approached the fancy door.
They knock, first politely, then a bit more firmly. No answer. The door’s lock is quickly picked, and the door is opened…
This tower is expertly decorated with luxurious furnishings, all giant-sized. A massive four-poster bed, side tables, and the frame and feet of a huge freestanding mirror are all beautifully carved from burled wood. The room is immaculately maintained, with curios and personal items placed very precisely.
Several paintings add color to the room. One depicts a cloud giant wearing a mask, adorned with clouds. Another depicts cloud castles flying over a large city. One painting is of this very room. The size of the room relative to the other towers suggests that it should have a second story. However, no stairs are present and the ceiling has no opening.
They quickly enter the room and get a clear picture of the scale of the giants from this bed chamber – Kandrey can’t resist acting like his inner child again, jumping up upon the massive bed…
A look in the armoire prompts them “Clearly, this is the Majordomo’s chamber.”
…One painting is of this very room….
Several features in this painting draw the attention of our heroes…
[Cool Spoilerific exploration stuff removed] … it worked!
Climbing giant-sized steps that have a tread-lift higher then the halfling proved to be a bit strenuous, but no problem.
Above is the Majordomo Balakar’s study.
A huge desk dominates the chamber, spread with a number of everyday documents (supply registers and the like) bearing Balakar’ name and signature.
Mercy: “This room was cleverly hidden. A very old-school approach. I must remember to ask about the designer so that I may compliment her.”
They make short work of exploring the desk top, with Aiindol claming a few sheets of letterhead.
They search the drawers, and Kandrey finds a secret compartment containing three giant-sized empty vials, which Asst. Prof. Wellsalt identifies each as having contained a giant-sized dose of poison.
There was much speculation about what this could mean, so they replaced 2 of the vials, while taking the 3rd with them.
Exiting the Balakar’s room the way they came, they next moved to the large doors in the center of the north wall of the great hall – into a huge chamber:
The Dining Hall
An enormous table, carved from a single block of pinewood over a hundred feet long, dominates this elegant dining room. Portraits of cloud giants line the walls between heavy drapes that cover all but thin portions of the windows, creating narrow beams of bright light. A fire burns brightly in a fireplace set between two doors at one end of the hall. Weapons and shields of human size are displayed above the room’s great mantle.
One strange feature was a 1/2 story human-sized staircase at the end of the table. “For the servants, no doubt”, shares Nym, " probably goblins based on the noises (and smells) from the next room over."
As Mercy goes to explore the staircase, she notices two quadruped figures emerging from the fireplace… “Guys???”
[Next session will start with “Roll Initiative!”]
The story concludes in Part 2
So far, the stealth mission has gone well, providing some inconclusive information about Majordomo Balakar – but very little about Othanus or his intentions. Find out more next time in Cloud Giant’s Bargain II [to be played in January 2017, as Games of Berkeley moves to it’s new location.]
Some player-perspective photos:
The story concludes in Part 2