[DM’s note: I am inserting Waterdeep: Dragon Heist in place of several chapters in HotDQ – the Waterdeep treasure is wanted by the cultists of Tiamat.These notes represent several sessions we played before the COVID shutdown in early 2020. I’m very happy to report that the game will resume this weekend!]
A letter of Lady Oskendorser, sent to her beloved patron:
Please forgive the terseness and delay in this report. I am writing it in the early hours just before we must make our best defense to The Watch for violating several of Waterdeep’s strictest rules in the tenday we’ve been here. I fear a long trial and imprisonment, or worse.
This note might be useful context for anyone who you deem might assist us if it indeed comes to the worst – starting with the events when we arrived at the gates to the city. Now that I reflect on it, that is when I started feeling like there were great forces at work that I did not understand.
The morning we approached the gate, Uvan was overcome with a vision – that of a great multicolored bird with burning and freezing feathers, flying over a city.
Just then, as the guard was opening the gate for us, there was a commotion from within the city. Several guards withdrew to investigate.
At almost the same moment, a became instantly ill – as an invisible wave spread out from somewhere in the city. My black dragon spoke Draconic from its nearby hiding place: “Wall… wall… can’t go! Can’t go!”. I knew immediately that the Dragonstaff of Ahghairon was in the city and had just been activated – barring all dragons within, so my dragon would wait outside the city for my regular visits.
Charlie indicated we should meet a local Irregulars member at the Yawning Portal, so that was our main destination (after resolving various caravan commitments and noting where the culists were stashing their carts.)
The people of Waterdeep were ill at ease. We’d noticed that we were the only ones fully armored – even the City Watch were in simple leather uniforms and carried mostly non-edged weapons. One of them gave us copy of the Laws of Waterdeep – clearly this place is all Law and Order.
It also seemed like every dragonborn in the city was headed out of the city – suffering even stronger ill effects than I.
But there was something else causing commotion – there were fingers pointing various places, pointed higher than building rooftops. One group was pointed ahead, toward the Yawning Portal.
As we got closer, we noticed one of the great legendary “Moving Statues of Waterdeep” – which had not moved in centuries. In fact, several of them were now hollowed out for homes, or even used as architectural support for buildings.
The closest one was called the Honorable Knight. It was impressive, at least 60 feet tall, and in an action pose, as if ready to fight. There was a stage below it where performers normally put on a production about the history of the statues for tourists and children. But the performance was in a bit of chaos.
“Yes, dear audience! The Honorable Knight, and there are reports of other Statues, have just moved for the first time in centuries! It was but for just a moment, but as you can see – the knight has gone from his guard-at-rest pose to a defensive posture! I’m afraid other statue movements have caused injury and death – so please forgive our show for a temporary shutdown while we tend to our own. We’ll return as soon as possible.”
Entering the Yawning Portal, we met a contact from the Waterdeep chapter of the Irregulars, Adrien the bard – seems the rest of Waterdeep Irregulars was out on a quest, but he could be our guide. We also met with Volo, where he shared a somewhat embarrassing early draft of a future book-chapter about my personal history.
As is our luck, while eating our midday meal, a Troll emerged from the pit, being chased and attacked by a flock of Stirge.
We were ultimately defeat those threats and treat the wounded patrons. This put us in the very good graces of Durnan – the proprietor and barkeep of the Yawning Portal.
That’s when Volo decided that we might be able to help him with a problem: “I seem to have misplaced a friend – his name is Floon Blagmaar… and I’m afraid he may have come to violence. I’ll pay you 10 dragons [Waterdeep GP] and ten times that when you return with him.”
[I have little time to report and so much more to cover, so I’ll skip to the point where later that night, wearing little armor, we track someone matching his description to a warehouse in the wharf district]
When we entered the warehouse (marked with the emblem of the Zhentarum), we encountered many Kenku – who were ferocious fighters in close quarters.
Surprisingly, one of them was able to fly, and sing songs of that seemed to embolden the others.
JaQuat transformed into an ape and threw large crates and barrels at the flying leader, so we were able to reach a stalemate, with all the surviving Kenku leaving together. We found someone hidden on the upper floor, but it wasn’t Floon, but instead was Lord Renaer Neverember – son of the Open Lord of Waterdeep. Renaer was spying on the Kenku who had captured Floon mistaking him for Renaer. The Kenku work for the Xanathar and took Floon down into the sewers nearby.
The Lord agreed to return and report to Volo while we moved on and into the sewers.
We entered the closest sewer entrance we could find and explored until we found markings on the walls: A palm-sized circle with 10 equidistant spokes radiating outward: “Xanathar” – The voice was Renaer’s but it came from Never’s beak.
We eventually approached a large arched chamber and heard unnatural self-echoing voices: “You are my Dreamspawn. You will protect…”
“…If you are defeated, you will be born again.” The sounds were coming from two small floating eyballs with four eyestalks each – and those stalks shot deadly rays at us. Long after we defeated them, I learned these are Gazers created by the Xanathar – whos’ voice they’d been echoing.
As we followed the markings, encountered some hobgoblins…
We found another room with two hobgoblins where one was acting very strangely, fighting to keep the door across the room shut against some unseen menace. Ultimately a giant black pudding, burst into the room causing massive corrosion, mostly to the hobgoblins.
We proceeded with great stealth, following an unworldly smell and the sounds of struggle ahead.
That’s when Never and Uvan saw Floon, on the ground being tortured by a very large Orc. “Where is the Stone of Golorr?” came from, not the Orc, but a Illithid at the far end of the room. Floon replied “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Ugnnn..”
If that were not enough, there were also three “brains with four legs” in the room.
We made a quick plan and charged in the room…
Immediately, the Illithid floated through a side door and waved the brains to attack.
Of all our fights, this had the greatest cost, with Uvan and Osfyr suffering partial brain damage from those attacks. We recovered Floon but needed to get out quickly to treat everyone.
Uvan looked through the doorway to make sure that, if we retreated, we wouldn’t be surprised by the huge threat that had floated though the other door just moments ago. He found nothing but a large stone pillar, etched with the same shape as the chalk markings, except there is an indentation in the center shaped like a lidless eye
So, no sign of the Mindflayer, we couldn’t have fought it anyway, but the Xanathar now knows we are here.
With a patched-up Floon, we exited the sewers and returned to the Yawning Portal.
Instead of an additional 100 dragons, Volo offered us the deed to a manor house on Trollskull Alley as payment, along with deep healing for Osfyr, Uvan, and Fenrir. “It needs a little work, but it will be useful to have a
headquarters in Waterdeep.” We took it.
Trollskull alley is a shambles – literally. It’s an undeveloped muddy street – almost hidden – squeezed between two major avenues in north-central Waterdeep.
The Watch didn’t patrol here, which made it a great place for grey-market dealings.
Most importantly for us, Trollskull Manor was on one of the few narrow paths into the alley.
The manor looked OK from the outside if you didn’t pay attention to the broken door or missing windows.
Oh, and the spiral staircase was rotting from leaks in the turret glass roof.
There was broken stuff everywhere.
It was two stories – and once cleaned up it would be a decent HQ. Maybe even the downstairs could generate revenue.
As we discussed restoring the main floor as a bar, we heard a BANG! from inside the table? Then items appeared under Never’s feet, almost tripping him down the stairs. The manor was haunted with a poltergeist!
We gave chase to the spirit, and eventually determined it was a half-elf former owner/bartender for this building. They were upset about how we wanted to remodel the bar…
So, with negotiation, we hired Lyf the ghost as our bartender and restored the original bar to their liking.
We hired craftfolk from the alley as much as we could to repair and refurbish the entire building – most of it over the next tenday or so.
[I’m sorry to leave out so much detail about who we met, such as “Mert”, and all the deals we made, but dawn is coming, and the story gets even more intense…]
One afternoon, while we are in the Manor, a sound of great explosion shakes the windows…
Uvan and Osfyr are on the second floor and hop out onto the balcony
“It looks like it was fireball! It’s horrible! People are dead and injured but the buildings are intact!” Osfyr shouts back.
We sprang into action, some to aid the injured, and the rest to investigate the event.
JaQuatt found broken roof tiles, suggesting that the attack came from the roof above the explosion.
We discovered that a gnome was attempting to bring “The Stone of Golorr” to us at the mansion but was killed by a gem from a necklace of fireball – dropped by the perpetrator who “walked like a puppet” and “flew away” from the scene.
Besides innocent children, the others killed in the blast included agents from the Black Network that were apparently chasing the gnome – though one of those escaped he blast, looting the gnome and escaped on foot.
Then the Watch arrived – slowing the investigation to a crawl, so we returned to the manor.
At the bar, sat one an Irregulars was waiting with news that one of the Titans, the Rainbow Phoenix, had been sighted a tenday ago in the mountains – this coincided with Uvan’s vision, the movement in the great statues, and the activation of the dragon-ward over the city.
A billy-club tapped at the door, announcing our formal introduction to the watch – as witnesses to the afternoon’s tragedy. We met and spoke with Sargent Saeth Cromley and Magist Barnibus Blastwind.
We decided to keep most of what we knew secret, for the time being, until we could determine why we had been brought into the middle of the turf war between the Zhent and the Xanathar.
After they left, we had a call with Charlie about all the events so far with Titans and Waterdeep. “The metal dragons may hold the key to our future. If they haven’t already allied with the Chromatic dragons, we must see if they will join us in the coming cataclysm. Keep your wits about you. As to Waterdeep’s dragon-coin vault (unlocked by the Stone of Golorr – a monster’s name?), you must prevent the cult from adding that great treasure to their cache. If possible, try to obtain the Dragonstaff.”
That evening, while going back over the details of the day, the Waterdeep Irregular said “A puppet? I remember seeing some great automatons that came from the Temple of Gond – perhaps they can help you.”
In the morning, as we approached the Temple of Gond a metallic sparrow flew down from the roof directly at us. We saw it as an attack and disabled it with a single blow.
This didn’t go over so well with the Artificers of Gond. Apparently, it was some kind of malfunction, and everything was smoothed over with a sufficiently large donation.
While asking about human scale constructs, we encountered Nim – who roughly fit the description from our crime scene. “But Nim is unable leave the grounds.” Though, after some discussion we learned that Nim had a duplicate, also named Nim that went missing a several days ago. We acquired a tracking device, built by and given to us by Nim that we might find his “brother.” The temple offered us 500gp to return the missing bot, intact. This would be helpful in funding the Manor’s refit.
From Volo we learned that Golorr is a hibernating Aboleth – Renaer added that the “stone” is one of the keys required to open the vault – but he doesn’t know specifics about any others. From other investigations, we found that Jemna is NOT a Harper – but we hadn’t seen her in days.
That night, we began the search for Nim – with a lone rider coming the city with the tracking device. It eventually homed in on Gralhund Villa – a huge manor the size of an entire city block.
Renaer shared that a well-known member of the Black Network – Urstul Floxin was known to be hired muscle at the Gralhund estate and he was likely to be the one who stole the stone during the fireball incident at Trollskull alley. We decided to approach carefully, and at night.
We split into two groups to avoid detection and potentially gain surprise/escape if needed. Uvan, Burzum-Ishi, and the bard went through the stables, while my group approached through the main gate.
Initially the main courtyard was quiet until the hellhounds and their handler came around the side of the stables… We had little choice but to quickly and as quietly as possible neutralize those threats. It seemed that the groundkeeper was human by day, but some transformed demon by night. This is no ordinary estate.
We approached the front doors, which were unexpectedly ajar…
Meanwhile the stealth team breached the stables, and silently incapacitated the staff there.
They then used the servant’s entrance on the side of the main house and found the staff cowering because the house was suffering an armed incursion – which had started some minutes ago.
The team quickly secured everyone and moved to the upper levels, hoping to reunite with the main group as soon as possible.
We (the main group) quickly entered the main-hall, and it was strewn with bloody bodies. A fight between house guards and Black Network members was in progress, though most of it had moved somewhere else in the house.
Clearly the Black Network was winning. The fight had moved up stairs, so we rushed up to join the fray and assist in protecting the household – at least try to reduce the deaths.
Did this have to do with the Stone and the Dragon Vault?
We fought along-side the few remaining guards, we were barely holding the line. We could see and hear Floxin brandished his sword at a nobleman, shouting: “Where is the stone?”
Orland Gralhund shouted back “You’ll get your pay as promised!”. When it was clear this was a dead-end, he said “Fine, she’s mine, then” and ran the Lord through. He then turned to head to the master bedroom, where a panicked noblewoman was apparently preparing to defend herself – reaching behind a hidden wall compartment.
“How could you betray me, Yallah? How could you?” – he started to charge in her direction.
Our team reunited and, along with the only three remaining guards, killed Floxin before he could reach his final target.
When it was clear the danger was gone, two small children came out of hiding, and she tried to comfort them from the shock when they saw that their father was dead.
One of the guards noticed and begged leave to tend to the injured and dead. “Granted. Please move my husband to the guest room for now. Then send someone to fetch the Watch.”
“I need the privy!” said Uvan using that as an excuse to sneak off the premises using the same side-door route he used to enter the estate – “I was never here. See you at HQ” he said quietly to Never before vanishing. The sorceress left quietly as well.
Lady Gralhund continued, “I don’t know who you are, or why you are here, but I am grateful that you assisted my guards in saving the lives of my children. May I ask was your business here?”
We told her we were lead there in pursuit of The Stone of Golorr, and we used a tracker to follow a mechanical construct that was at the scene of the Stone’s theft and it led us here.
She played dumb calling the story “fantastical.”
She was lying, and we all knew it, but could prove nothing.
We showed her the tracker and activated it – but nothing happened. If Nim had been here, it was out of range now.
“Please, remain here until the Watch arrives so they can gather your information for possible questioning. Whoever assaulted my home and killed my husband needs to be brought to justice!”
We helped where we could and though we tried to look around without seeming like it, but we couldn’t really find anything incriminating.
When a bleary-eyed Crowley arrived with a dozen of the Watch they had a lot of people to question. Seeing us, he said only “You again? If it weren’t for Lady Yallah and the staff indicating how lucky they were that you were here, you’d all be in the irons tonight. As it is, I’ve got my hands full here. We’ll be by Trollskull Manor tomorrow mid-morning to talk to you. You’d better have good answers. This is a bloody mess like I’ve never seen before, except maybe yesterday at the alley. Go straight home. Good night.” – He was not happy, at all.
Thus ends my summary, my lady, as it is that very morning now. The sun is in the sky, and I hear the cock crow out on the Trollskull alley.
I feel sick from both the anticipation of the day and the effects of the Dragonstaff.
But my future, as always, lies in the hands of Bahamut.