From the personal account in the Lady Okendorser, as excerpted from her personal correspondence and journals:
Rain poured upon our arrival at Baldur’s Gate. We had rested little since departing from Eltruel , and exhaustion was setting in. Yet, there was still much to be done: We were seeking Ackyn Selebon, who would provide us with needed equipment. We needed to uncover more information about the caravan, such as their arrival date and expected composition. And we needed disguises, as members of the caravan may recognize us from the raid on their camp.
As our boat was moored, we were approached by two soldiers. As they approached I whisper harshly at the wyrmling to go searching for prey, and he flew off from his spot on the mast. The guards noticed him, but in the miserable weather, they mistook him for a bat. Jah-Quatt, thinking quickly, transformed into a spider as the guards approached, and climbed into my pack.
We were also commanded to tie our weapons down – none were allowed free in the town. As various members of our party disembarked the Spearhead, Osfyr tried to sneakily keep his weapon free. He was quickly caught. Harbek inquired for lodging recommendations and was directed to a plaza with a fountain in the middle of town. There we would find rest.
The guards told us the wolf would need special arrangement; a permit and a cage. As Uvan made way to get a permit for Fenrir, I tried to follow behind. However, a guard bustled between Uvan and me and spat, saying some generic mockery I didn’t bother to remember. Ever the hero, Harbek said something to the guard – which I also cannot recall – only to be mocked too. Dropping to my knees, I let the guard know we mean no harm, and he walked off with a scowl. I honestly may have forgotten the moment entirely if it weren’t for the ire in Harbek’s eyes. At that moment I took a guilty pleasure in seeing the mockery actually affect someone. It’s been so long since I was affected that way. Is that strange?
The guards also beheld Never with distrust. Osfyr played hero for him, “He is a companion and ally”. Ultimately, however, Never decided to spend the night on the Spearhead to avoid further difficulty. Harbek and Osfyr headed into the town to set up accommodations. I scrambled after Uvan in pursuit of an animal permit for the wyrmling. But by that measure, perhaps we would need one for myself, as well as Jah-Quatt and Never?
The town was muddy with narrow streets and plenty of traffic. People pulled their goods through on little carts, wheels sinking and sticking into the mud repeatedly. When Uvan & I reached the animal permit office, it was closed.
We re-convened around the boat. Harbek & Osfyr let us know we would be accommodated at the Fool’s Gold. Uvan would be staying with Fenrir and Never in the Spearhead for a night due to the lack of an animal permit. I would go to the Fool’s Gold and call the dragon over to a window in the cover of darkness. Of course, I’d be delivering spider-Jah-Quatt safely as well.
Burzum-Ishi had left ahead of us earlier and arrived a few hours after we had. Uvan was on watch at the dock and caught her arrival. She arrived already disguised as a dragon cultist. When approached by the guards, she had a story prepared, “I’m seeking something stolen from me that may have been traded here.”
The guards scrutinized Burzum-Ishi while Uvan crept nearby. When they asked her about accommodations, Uvan was the one to answer, much to the irritation of Burzum-Ishi. With a stern warning not to use magic, the guards left. Uvan and Burzum-Ishi headed to the bar on the first floor of the Fool’s Gold.
Burzum-Ishi tried extracting some information from a patron at the bar, but it was of limited use. The man she was speaking to was distractedly busy trying to impress her with card tricks and smooth-talking. She eventually escaped the uncomfortable confrontation by knocking the man’s glass over with mage hand.
Waiting, Wandering, and Anticipation
Morning broke. It seemed it would be some time before the caravan arrives. After meeting for breakfast, we all considered how to spend our time. In the plaza with the fountain nearby there was a community bulletin board. On it, some caravan-related jobs were posted. For some of us, it would be a good way to join.
In the evenings, everyone would meet together in the Fool’s Gold. Even Never stole himself away stealthy to meet us there. We shared stories of what we had done that day and shared information relevant to the caravan.
At first opportunity, Uvan went to get a permit for Fenrir. Kindly, he offered also to register the wyrmling on my behalf. He dealt with a very cranky registrar who read out the rules in a monotone and offered especially filthy cages for rent. When Uvan returned with the cages, Harbek and I helped load in Fenrir and the wyrmling. I considered again; if the wyrmling is an animal, can I expect to be slapped with a fine for wandering freely myself?
Uvan sought out a more pleasant place to board Fenrir. Along the way, he found an area matching the description of where we were to meet Ackyn Selebon.
With the assistance of a small wheeled dolly, I hauled the restless caged wyrmling out of town to a wooded area and released him there. I gave him careful commands to stay in the area and visited daily to check on him. Often when wandering the woods to visit, I would find Jah-Quatt doing much the same. She would prop herself up against a tree and draw the wildlife there, or observe the wyrmling. I had the pleasure to see one drawing in particular of a rather mean-looking boar.
Burzum-Ishi, Never, Jah-Quatt, and I all focused some of our free time on developing disguises. As the most conspicuous members of our party, there was no possibility of getting away without them.
Jah-Quatt’s approach was an interesting one. She passed many evenings squatting on a stool in the street, offering cheerfully to draw images of the townsfolk. People took kindly to it, enjoying her exaggerated drawings of their faces. Meanwhile, she was closely observing the intricacies of the human face. At night, in the Fool’s Gold, J
Q would practice transforming into an ape – but with a human look. It was unnerving at first but by the end of our free time, her human disguise was perfectly forgettable. It was a wonder – that is until she opened her mouth. Even a human-passing ape still cannot speak. It also impeded her magic ability.
With copious help from the handicraft skills of Harbek and Uvan, my disguise was created more traditionally. Given my short stature, I would disguise myself as a human child wearing the mask of a dog. A frilled dress helped disguise the tail, and human-colored gloves pass well at a glance. Atop it all, a curling brown wig with hair long enough to conceal my neck and ears.
I thought of your hair as a child, Lady Helena, all those years ago.
Osfyr found a smithy who agreed to sharpen his sword; Badlam. The man was quite taken with the sword, envious even. He offered an unusual enhancement of stone-etched channels for poison. Osfyr agreed, and as part of his payment assisted the smith with other projects. A few nights, Osfyr went out in pursuit of a sanctuary scroll. Eventually, he stumbled upon one in the noble quarter and brokered a deal for it.
Harbek spent his spare time attempting to make money with his smithing skills, but he struggled, having overestimated the value of his current ability. Eventually, he came across a dwarven lady who happily let him use her studio. Although Harbek hardly had any luck in his smithing, he had all the luck with the lady, who was happy to keep him there for the time regardless. Indeed, there was at least one night that Harbek didn’t return to Fool’s Gold.
On daytime walks along the docks and in the evenings at the Fool’s Gold, Never and Uvan continued their endeavor to communicate. Previously it was Never that made great progress, but now it seemed to be Uvan who was coming to understand the Kenku’s way of communication. I wonder, will they become the kind of friends who can communicate with eyes alone?
Never was still confined to the boat after dusk, but at least had the space to himself after the first night. When he was on his own at day, he would wander about the docks, exploring.
Burzum-Ishi explored the noble quarter, doing research with the resources available there. She sought information about the history of relics, but found many of the books were full of meaningless puffery. While she was investigating in one bookstore in particular, an author arrived. He was to do a reading of “Guide of Monsters”. Burzum-Ishi decided to attend since the author – Volothamp Geddarm, or simply Volo – was clearly a lover of monsters. Should he notice Burzum-Ishi’s unusual race, it wouldn’t pose so much of a problem.
Volo did notice Burzum-Ishi as he sat down to read but had the discretion not to give her away. To an eager audience, he read a portion of his book aloud about kobolds. Burzum-Ishi requested he read on tieflings – but Volo had no such section, so he read about hobgoblins. At the end of his reading, he let the crowd know he was seeking guards for his departure in 10 days.
With what little free time I had remaining, I sought out a shrine to Bahamut. I prayed for a blessing for the day of the caravan’s departure. Even more than in Eltruel, kneeling before that shrine steadied me. My confidence began to return. For the first time since visiting that encampment full of kobolds and cultists, I felt like I could take a full breath again.
Once, so long ago, Bahamut spoke to me in a dream; “I have a job for you”. I have never known the true meaning, and I might never still. But – ever since that fateful moment deep in the cavern, standing before the wyrmling with it’s shining eyes, some small part of me has wondered. Could it -… could he, be my job?
Meeting Ackyn Selebon
We went to meet with Ackyn at the warehouse Uvan had stumbled across. It was a place offering caravan supplies, busy with people loading and unloading goods. Recognizing me in particular, he called us into a back room. Although he seemed to regard the whole party with amazement, he seemed particularly breathless about my situation. It seemed news of the wyrmling was ahead of us now, as he inquired about it.
Ackyn asked if we had been hired onto the caravan yet, and offered us placards vouching for our trustworthiness. We were happy to accept it. Jah-Quatt signed up specifically to help with horses and any other animals in the caravan.
As we left, Jah-Quatt offered to stay near the warehouse as much as possible, to scout. Surely, the enemy would appear soon inquiring about supplies themselves. Uvan and Never rented horses from Ackyn so they could travel southward and identify how close the enemy was.
The unemployed portion of the party looked for caravan jobs. A silk merchant was seeking two guards and a driver. Jah-Quatt, Osfyr, and Harbek went to meet him in a reasonably nice part of town. The merchant seemed nervous about their skills and cost, and he needed persuading. After painstaking negotiation, he was persuaded to hire all three, with some difficulty – although, they could have just shown him the placard Ackyn provided!
Ahead of Schedule
Uvan and Never spotted the caravan headed for Baldur’s Gate, two days ahead of schedule. It had gotten larger, as well, with at least three carts full of stolen treasure. Not a kobold was in sight; the caravan was guarded by dragon cultists and hired men. Among them was the black-dragon masked leader, who we had encountered many days ago. It was clear just by looking that they were pressing hard, and many of the men and horses would collapse on arrival. Uvan & Never returned with that information on the evening of the 7th day. Along with them was Darik, the soft-looking guard from Greenest.
At 4 AM on the 8th day, a noisy procession passed by Fool’s Gold, carrying someone in a carriage. They hurried through an obscure set of narrow, out-of-the-way roads through town. Uvan was the only one awake at the time, and quickly roused the rest of us. Uvan, Never, and Jah-Quatt agreed to pursue. Never and Uvan took to the streets stealthily, while Jah-Quatt deftly leaped from roof to roof, soft paws scarcely making a sound.
Never was quickly spotted by a guard. Thinking quickly, Never stumbled out of the shadows as soon as he was spotted, wavering on his feet as if drunk. He acknowledged the guard casually before sauntering off.
Having a little more luck, Uvan followed the group as far as the northern gate. However, he was spotted as some individuals broke off the procession to guard the gate. Unable to make it through without undue trouble, he returned to the Fool’s Gold as well.
Rather then directly follow the group, Jah-Quatt considered their destination. She went straight for the warehouse to hide there. Taking the form of a rat, she squeezed behind a crate and waited, having to beat the small caravan by a few minutes. Soon the enemy burst into the warehouse.
His name was Rezmir, and he demanded the attention of Ackyn. He ordered four wagons, eight guards, and six strong horses, “To survive the journey to Waterdeep.” Ackyn made an offer, and Rezmir agreed. Rezmir added, “If anyone comes under my name – Rezmir – they are my agent and will make any necessary changes.” He then asked for Ackyn’s best horse and left. Jah-Quatt scurried out just in time to witness Rezmir mount the horse and ride off.
The Caravan Departs
The day before departure arrived. Everyone was focused on preparation. The coming caravan was under the control of Echelri – master of caravans – and a moon elf merchant. Indeed, the dragon cultists were not controlling the entire caravan. The trip was expected to last five weeks.
Volo had packed a draft of his new book, which he invited to reference as we pleased. Food and supplies were kept in the card second to the back. The cultists themselves only ended up with two carts, rather than the four we were expecting. Along the way, we would have to hunt for food as well.
As we departed, each of us stayed close to our respective employers. We agreed that Fenrir would serve as a go-between and signal. Darik would also help as he traveled on a hose and could move between cards quickly. Those of us with disguises had to keep them on at all times. I cannot speak for the others but as for myself… My lady; do you recall all those human dresses you gave me? I believe you even made some, and I inadvertently destroyed them. Apparently, I have yet to outgrow the propensity to tear soft human clothing. Fortunately, the disguise continued to hold.
The caravan passed through farmland, then toward the woods, where I had been keeping the wyrmling and Jah-Quatt had been studying. On our way, Uvan and Osfyr casually combed the caravan for familiar faces. Uvan caught the eye of one cultist and – seeing a spark of recognition – made sure to steer clear.
Of Feathered Wings and Scaled Things
The Battle of Vivid Feathers
As we neared the woods, I spotted what looked like the wyrmling circling ahead. Suddenly, the leader of the caravan cried out, “Trouble ahead! Armed men – we need armed men!”
Upon closer inspection, the wyrmling was buzzing about in a soup of many other smaller flying creatures, snapping at them in an almost joyful fashion. Directly beneath him – there must have been some yet unknown threat. Jah-Quatt, in her human disguise, ran ahead for a better vantage point but couldn’t quite see. Uvan and Osfyr rushed ahead, with Darik overtaking them quickly on his horse. In front of the caravan, Darik found a merchant hiding by a spilled cart. Broken bird cages were strewn about the scene, and hobgoblins circled in the underbrush.
Darik immediately got shot by the waiting hobgoblins, taking four arrows before diving to hide beside the merchant and heal. The hobgoblins burst forth from the woods, opening fire on the caravan. The caravan master was immediately busy rushing to assist fallen men.
Jah-Quatt ducked quickly behind cover to revert to her natural form before stealthily navigating around the scene, bow and arrow at the ready. Uvan and Osfyr rushed up along the caravan but were still too far to join the fray.
I had been sitting in Volo’s cart as his guard – or, perhaps more like his special guest, and noticed the wyrmling was quickly coming more clearly into view. I turned to him and as quickly as possible explained I had a secret I needed help keeping. Before he even had a chance to respond, I stuck my head out of the cart and commanded the dragon to attack. At the same time Darik rushed back on his horse, having taken the merchant with him. I used healing magic to bring the man back from the brink.
As if the current chaos was not enough, a dire wolf emerged from the forest. It ran for Fenrir in a savage attack. Meanwhile, Jah-Quatt had noticed that the trees surrounding the cart were crowded with colorful birds of many kinds – clearly having escaped from their master’s cages. Using her ability to speak to animals, she persuaded them to defend their masters. Inspired, or whatever it is a bird might feel to embolden it, the delicate beasts began flying at the hobgoblins, causing them to stop in their tracks.
Osfyr, Uvan, and Fenrir took on the dire wolf. Dropping onto the back of Darik’s horse, we were both soon delivered nearby, too. I leapt off near the front where the hobgoblins had taken a guard down, and Darik joined the fighting. Lingering near the front and taking commands from the caravan master, I assisted with healing magic as needed.
Jah-Quatt took out three of the hobgoblins with a well-aimed thunderwave, leaving one of them dangling in a tree, and another face-down in a bush. She continued to encourage the birds to distract the enemy as much as possible.
As the three men were distracted by the dire wolf, the hobgoblin leader slashed Darik with a sword. I was nearby to heal him shortly. They were able to dispatch the dire wolf shortly and turned their attention to the hobgoblin. Before they could finish him off, the hobgoblin slipped away through the trees, barely alive.
We decided it wasn’t worth pursuing the hobgoblins. Those we defeated had very little on them. Jah-Quatt set to work gathering all the fancy birds the wyrmling didn’t eat, kindly thanking them. Afterward, she disappeared into the bushes to return to her human disguise. Re-emerging, the human-like Jah-Quatt started helping return the birds to the merchant. Relieved to be alive and have at least some of his stock returned, the merchant explained he was headed for Waterdeep.
Osfyr helped by burying the man’s guards who had fallen to the hobgoblins and pushing aside the wreckage. Distributing the man’s birdcages amongst the caravan allowed him to join us on his way. The caravan thusly continued through the forest, and a new day dawned.
The Curse of the Scaled Wing
I took the time to discuss the wyrmling with Volo in more detail. His eyes shone with great interest, and that is when he told me. “You know how black dragons have that terrible skull-like appearance when they’re mature? Well, a skin condition causes their faces to be eaten away. Their own bodily fluids are dangerously acidic. Black dragons go mad from being in constant pain.” Volo continued on, but I scarcely heard him…
I forgot to breathe. My eyes stung, my chest ached. It took all my effort to maintain my composure; I was grateful for the mask of my disguise. To go mad from pain… could fate be any crueler? To think I regarded the wyrmling with secret disdain when pity, at least, would have been warranted. Do black dragons revel in the suffering of others because they cannot find any relief themselves? Who among us wouldn’t become so twisted, given time, given unrelenting inescapable pain?
Memories of love, kindness, and warmth… could their power overcome a future of pain and suffering? Could a black dragon be spared? A million questions ran through my head, but only one sprung to my mouth, “There must be some way – can the skin condition be treated?”
“I don’t know,” Volo responded, “You would be the first to try.”
I continued to discuss black dragons with Volo here and there as the caravan progressed. We agreed to keep in touch in researching how to neutralize the dragon’s acid. He suggested a salve made of slimes or ocher jellys, or perhaps even my healing touch. I agreed to write him letters regarding the matter, and he was excited by the possibilities.
One evening, I snuck away from camp to call the wyrmling near. Cupping his face in my hands, I tried channeling my healing magic around his mouth and nostrils. There I presumed the pain would be greatest. The wyrmling, always incessantly squirming, at once became totally still. I felt the weight of his head melt into my hands. His body visibly softened from tense muscles relaxing. His eyes, ever bugging with energy, relaxed too. And there, cheek heavily tilted into in my palm, he beheld me for a long moment before letting his eyes slide shut.
I do not know how long I spent there, holding his face. I wept bitterly.
This would become a nightly habit. For him, healing and relief, and for myself, the softening of my cruel heart.
Mythic Wings and Mystic Encounters
On the fourth day, Uvan noticed the cultist who had recognized him was keeping an eye on some of our party. It was undeniable now that at least he had identified us. Later during an afternoon meal, the cultist wandered off to relieve himself. Uvan and Fenrir stealthily followed. With one well-aimed arrow, Uvan pinned the cultist to the tree he was relieving himself by – right through the head. On his return, he shared the information with is. How long would it be before the missing man was noticed?
The caravan stopped in Daggerford, with its’ participants grateful to rest in hostels there. The merchant and his birds left us there with his thanks. We took some time to do a little resupply. Osfyr, in particular, picked up oil compatible with his newly upgraded sword; it would allow him to light it aflame.
That night, Jah-Quatt had a strange dream. She described to us the next morning. In her dream, we were traveling along the road when a large bird appeared overhead. It was a peryton, with a mate alongside. Then, she heard a great shriek, and behind the two perytons was another bird of unbelievable scale. From its bright red head, the monstrous bird breathed fire. As it passed over, it’s blue tail came into view, snow fluttering down in its wake. Jah-Quatt recognized the imagery of her dream to be from a song. The beast she beheld in the land of nod was the rainbow phoenix.
A few days later, a herd of deer was spotted nearby. It was an ideal time to hunt. Uvan, Osfyr, and Darik were all raring to go, although Uvan seemed bitter to have any company beside Fenrir. He reluctantly accepted Osfyr’s help and tried to slip away with no more. However, Jah-Quatt, as well as other members of the caravan, joined without so much as a thought for Uvan’s hunger for solitude.
Amongst the deer, the three party members spotted a mysterious glowing individual. They split off from the hunting party to pursue it, being drawn into ruins. The hind seemed to be leading them. Eventually, it approached a pool in the center of a ruined structure. It turned toward Uvan, and Osfyr and from its wordless mouth it spoke in sylvan, then elvish; “You’re on the right way – come closer.” Turning its head to Jah-Quatt, it continued, “I’m sorry if I frightened you last night. Come closer…”
The three heeded the beckoning with silence, slowly approaching the hind and the pool it stood by. The deer’s ethereal voice continued, “Follow the river of gold. Find the dragon part.” Sudden sorrow grew in its voice, “Somebody will die, but in the end, it will help the one who leads. Make the difficult choice.”
The hind faded into a mere glow in the air, then disappeared entirely. From an otherworldly distance, its voice concluded, “This will aid you. Give it to the cavalier.”
Hovering over the still pool had appeared a sword, glowing the same color as the hind had. As the party lay their eyes on it, the sword’s name sprung to their minds unbidden; Pathfinder. Osfyr bent down to grab it, saying, “I know a good home for this.”
As the party started to inspect the area further, Jah-Quatt heard the voice once more in her head. “Danger… be ready!” As if by force, she recalled her dream.
Exploring the ruins, the party found it to be a graveyard – about 300 years old, according to the dates on the tombs. The relic of some old cataclysm, perhaps. Jah-Quatt examined the pool; next to it stood a statue of a shrouded woman with hands out front in prayer.
The hunting party returned. The other members of the caravan bore meat, and our number returned with the sword. Osfyr presented it to Darik. Like those who beheld it on appearance, Darik knew its name unbidden as he took the sword. “Thank you,” he said, “I’ve never had such a sword.”
Four days before arrival, at breakfast, a gnome from the caravan wandered toward our fire. In a hushed tone, she introduced herself as Jemna, explaining she joined the caravan in Daggerford . Approaching Darik, she asked for his gruel, which he reluctantly handed her. “Let me show you something,” she said, digging a hand into the gruel. She extracted a small bead, holding it out for us to examine. “It’s a sliver of bone, which inside is a needle that will kill you.” She returned Darik’s gruel. She began walking away, and we could only offer shocked silence. She offered one last glance, “I’ll talk to you later.”
The rest of us checked our gruel. Jah-Quatt found some of the bone fragments. Dragon cultists a small distance away around their own fire were poorly feigning disinterest. In the end, we did without breakfast. Uvan tried to approach Jemna, but she was stubbornly determined not to arise any suspicion.
The Battle of Feathers Foretold
It was later that afternoon when Jah-Quatt felt a shiver down her spine, and looked upward. Two perytons were circling the sky above the caravan. Quickly, Jah-Quatt took cover to drop her disguise so she could quickly tell us all she knew – Perytons travel in groups larger than two, resist all non-magical attacks, and had a tendency to carry off elves. As soon as she was done, Jah-Quatt prepared her thorn whip, should one of the beasts approach.
Darik sought out a position in the caravan where he could keep an eye on the most elves, ready to come to their defense. The monstrous birds began diving in, one heading for the caravan’s leader. Jah-Quatt’s ready whip snagged it’s tailfeathers before the beast could reach. Another swooped menacingly at Osfyr.
I had been sitting in Volo’s cart and asked him what he knew. “Perytons need humanoid hearts to breed,” he said, and with quick thanks, I left to rush toward the caravan leader, calling for the wyrmling to attack along the way. Osfyr lit his sword aflame and waited for an opportunity to swing. Jah-Quatt climbed atop a cart and prepared to jump at one of the peryton, should it come close enough. Uvan steadily barraged the monsters with arrows from below.
Darik stood atop his horse and made a grand leap into the air – and by some miracle grabbed one of the peryton by the ankle. As he drove Pathfinder into the bird with his free hand, he found he suddenly had knowledge unbidden; the location of the creature’s heart. Jah-Quatt sprung off the top of the cart to grapple the other peryton by the horns. Both birds attempted to fly off with their willing passengers. While they were still in range, I cast a sleep spell on the one holding Darik, and the wyrmling finished the other off mid-air with an acidic bite. Both Jah-Quatt and Darik entered a 50 foot free fall – and despite their best efforts at a landing, they were hurt fairly badly. Both perytons had died.
Secrets & Arrival
At camp that evening, we hired help to carry one of the peryton corpses, intending to sell the parts. We also had another opportunity to speak to Jemna, and she introduced herself more formally. “I am Jemna, and we both know they’re after us. I need to know what’s in those carts and where they’re taking it. We both believe the dragon cult needs to end”
Always cautious, Uvan questioned her, “Who do you work for?”
The gnome produced a Harper’s emblem. She seemed to be hiding something more.
Osfyr returned the gesture by showing his own emblem, “We’re not all working for different people.” He went on to mention Leosin, but Jemna was quick to hush him.
“Be careful what you say,” she warned.
Jemna wanted to know what was in the wagons so she could take the information back with her. She had info to trade; the driver of the center wagon was Azbara Jos, the Red Wizard of Thay. We let her know what was on the carts, and that our destination as the Yawning Portal. Jemna’s destination was Waterdeep. Osfyr offered to be her contact, even passing the gnome a note. Concluding our discussions, Jemna let us know she’d meet us at the Yawning Portal, then turned to leave. Uvan attempted to follow her but once again, failed.
Two days later, we arrived in Waterdeep. There was no lost cargo and only one missing person. One of the dragon cultists had mysteriously disappeared, after-all.