28th day of Nightal 1490 DR the Year of the Star Walker’s Return.
On their second night of travel from the Boarskyre Bridge the party discovers the ruins of a shrine to one of many of the lost gods of the Netherese. It appears it has been used frequently by travelers through the Serpent Hills. The party decides to use it as a campsite for the night.
Gamora approaches Vera and takes her aside to privately discuss what she had saw previously. Vera is surprised to learn that she was able to see her. Gamora asks for an explanation of who that person was and more importantly, “Is it dangerous?”
Vera explains that she is dangerous to bad people. Gamora is satisfied with that but states that if things change they will have problems. Though Gamora is curious as to what she is and states that she also has experience with spirits saying, “I know that I can call upon them sometimes to help me in battle, sometimes to help make me strong. I lifted a float all by myself! And I want to know more about it, sometimes I don’t have time to. But I don’t know what she is to you.”
Vera stumbles stating, “She’s like a mirror-me kind of thing.”
“You’ll have to explain that to me one day,” Gamora says. “So it’s not like an ancestral thing?”
“There’s a lot I don’t understand. But she’s there. And she protects me,” Vera says.
Gamora feels an unnatural crackling behind her and an imposing presence. She seems Vera’s mirror-self standing directly behind her. Gamora addresses the other, “I have no quarrel with you. If you’re here to help us, I am grateful for it.” She turns and leaves Vera and the other.
She is strong but nothing I can’t handle.
“Stop,” says Vera. “She means us no harm.”
For now. Things change very quickly.
In camp the party takes some time to themselves. Gamora challenges Mags play chess on the makeshift pieces she has gathered, when the young sorceress brushes the pieces aside and presents a set that Osrik as crafted. When Vera returns she sits and watches them play.
Osrik is aside reading this tome about the Dwarven gods.
Seeing Osrik is busy Jean Luc asks Reven for some shield training. Reven mentions that he was meaning to approach Jean Luc about how to read and scribe spells in his spellbook.
Jean Luc excited at the prospect of working with another spellcaster pulls out his own spellbook and offers it to Reven. He looks at the book and simply says, “That’s cool, is this your sketchbook?”
“I would say there is some artistry to it,” Jean Luc replies.
Jean Luc realizes that Reven wants help learning how to use the spell book. He asks, “Are you familiar with Feather Fall?”
“No, what is that?”
Jean Luc explaining what the spell does.
“So that makes you very light weight?” asks Reven.
“Yes. Just enough to make it where you would not twist your ankle from a low fall, or your neck from a tall one,” Jean Luc tells Reven.
“Similar to what I saw a few nights ago, I suppose? I noticed you guys had made some sort of late-night rendezvous… I’m just curious,” Reven says referring to the night Jean Luc, Osrik, and Cora left the castle.
Jean Luc is visibly uncomfortable. He says, “Well, that was slightly different. That was just Fly which is a little more complex. We can go over that as well if you would like but if you have any questions… or whatever you want to know…” he trails off.
“Is everything okay?” asks Reven.
“Well,” Jean Luc stammers, “What is okay? I mean, it’s, um, it’s getting hot. Let me go get my canteen and get some water.” He looks around for Cora, who is nowhere in sight. Jean Luc tries to discretely cast Sending to Cora into his canteen, but Reven clearly sees that he is casting a spell. The spell sends to Cora: He’s starting to push me, man, and I’ve been keeping it in all this time, and I don’t know if I can keep it in anymore. These are our friends, and we need to share with them so they are not taken by surprise.
Cora in the middle of hunting dinner is lining up a shot with her bow when the Sending reaches her. Startled she looses her arrow prematurely but it still strikes true. She responds to Jean Luc, “Who? What? What happened?”
Jean Luc wastes no time. He casts the spell again, and again Reven sees that this is what he is doing. To Cora, he says: You’re right. I’ll play it cool. We’ll just do this at your speed, whatever you’re comfortable with. Alright. Good talk. Okay.
Cora’s reply comes, “Okay. Hang in there. You’re doing great! And goes and collects her prey and returns to camp.”
Meanwhile, Reven has been watching Jean Luc through twenty seconds of near silence. He asks, “Am I being blessed? Are you blessing me? I don’t understand. I mean, I feel blessed, but um, your eyes are twitching a little.”
“I was seeking guidance from a power wiser than myself,” Jean Luc says. “Alright, where were we?”
“I don’t know… if there’s anything you think you can teach me that would be great. And like I said, I’m willing to lend my sword and shield to help you practice whatever it is you need.”
Jean Luc sits with Reven for about an hour, describing the pattern of reading a spell, gathering the materials, practicing it, and then scribing it in his spell book. Though he is experienced in teaching collegiate scholars, Reven seems completely overwhelmed by his instruction. Reven suggests they try again another time and thanks Jean Luc, who tells him he will try to think of a better way to present the information next time. They decide it’s still early enough to spar.
Osrik watches the half-Drow and elf begin to spar, and casts Silence on a pebble, which he tosses toward Jean Luc, who feels it hit his foot, but doesn’t hear it, and sees Reven talking, but can’t hear anything. He turns to look at Osrik, who is unsuccessfully hiding behind a book. Jean Luc finds the pebble and tosses back at Osrik, and when his words return to him, he haltingly swears at the Dwarf before giving up, realizing his words are going unheard. He explains to Reven that Osrik played a prank on them.
Cora returns to the camp with her goat while Reven and Jean Luc set up for sparring. Gamora helps her skin it and they cook the animal for the party. Cora spends the remainder of her evening trying to understand her weapons and training by herself.
After dinner, Reven and Jean Luc go back to sparring. Jean Luc is awkward and uncoordinated but with the help of the Haste spell and Reven’s patience he makes some great progress before his arm tires from carrying the heavy shield. When the spell ends Jean Luc collapses to Reven surprise but Gamora and Osrik reassure him he’s fine and just move him into his bedroll.
Osrik comments that it would have been good if the elf could have set up his impenetrable tent before he fell asleep. Vera in response casts Plant Growth around the ruins to protect them and to deter intruders. Gamora tries to meditate before going to sleep feeling very centered and calm.
Xenara wanders the ruins while the others are resting. She makes her way to the stone alter in the center of camp and touches it observing the marks. Runes appear glowing on her hands after making contact. She notices that many of the rune are similar to her own. She hears a voice call out, “You… you should not be here.”
The voice startles Xenara and she steps back away from the stone. She makes her way to her bedroll and lies still unable to rest or sleep for the evening. The thoughts on the voice, a voice that sounded much like her own.
The next day, on the road, Cora hangs back to where Jean Luc is and ensures no one is within earshot before asking him about his Sending messages the previous evening. He explains Reven got curious about their expedition from Castle Waterdeep and that while he trusts her, he would be more comfortable if the group at large was apprised of the knowledge Cora has the Black Dragon Mask in her possession. They are interrupted when Cora is called to pick up the trail as the lead riders seemed to have lost it. Cora rides up ahead and leads the group forward.
Several hours later as the sun begins to set the party comes across the sound of battle. They dismount and move in quietly. They make their way to the edge of the cliff which drastically drops into a large canyon. Within the canyon is the ruins of an old abandoned settlement. Within these ruins they find the source of the conflict. Four trolls are ravaging a group of settlers within the canyon. They try to put up resistance but they have no chance. From their observations these settlers are in fact Cult of the Dragon members. What is odd is that Guard Drakes are working alongside trolls. The group decides to let the trolls weaken their numbers then make their way down there. Cora senses humanoids and dragonlike creatures inside the canyon. Their numbers dropping off as she is meditating.
After the trolls make short work of the Cult of the Dragon they move down into the canyon floor. Gamora, Cora, Vera, and Reven find a path down to the floor and make their way down. Osrik, Jean Luc, Mags, and Xenara wait until the others are in position. The strike team enters the ruins and takes cover behind one of the old stone buildings.
Gamora uses a Sending Stone to tell Jean Luc she is in position and charges the nearest troll who is busy feasting on the Cultist’s body. Gamora breaks out from around the corner of the building and attacks a troll, thrusting her sword into it and slicing as she runs in a circle around him.
Jean Luc uses dimension door and transports Osrik and himself to the roof of the building. Only for the weight of it to give way and send them both crashing inside.
Cora hangs back and shoots her bow at a Guard Drake, striking at killing it, then follows with a shot to the troll next to it which also makes its mark.
Vera casts Call Lightning, and a massive cloud covers the canyon, blocking the moonlight. She directs a bolt to hit a troll and leaves the cover of the dilapidated building.
Osrik goes out the door to the building and casts Spiritual Weapon, summoning a glowing hammer which attacks a troll nearby, he also fires bolt of divine fire which the troll evades.
Reven runs around the corner of the building and shoots a troll with his long bow, twice but is set upon by the second Guard Drake. He summons Talon and finishes it off.
Gamora shouts a command in Draconic that causes her blade to envelop in blue fire lighting up the area around her. She hits a troll near her, striking from behind and taking off its head.
Jean Luc recovers from his fall and joins the battle releasing a Fireball melting two of the trolls in its explosion. Mags and Xenara appear near Cora, having flown down from the top of the canyon.
Gamora, Cora, and Jean Luc all focus their attacks on the last remaining troll. Vera brings it down with an explosive thunder strike from the sky leaving nothing left of its corpse.
With the threat neutralized the party investigates the camp and the ruins. Cora meditates and sense that there are still humanoids and dragon creatures within the canyon, but the humanoid numbers are dropping off.
Jean Luc realizes that the architecture and iconography clearly Mulhorandi, but the ruins seems much older than even some Netherese ruins, which is impossible as the Mulhorandi didn’t arrive in Faerun until somewhere between -2488 DR and -2135 DR based on records. And the Netherese were thriving as far back as -3095 DR.
They notice a pair of colossal status that stand between the party and a path that leads towards a pair of ancient stairs rising up the side of the cliff face to what seem like an entrance. The left hand colossus is a bearded human male wearing exotic clothes, but its face is smashed beyond recognition. It holds a balance in its right hand and cudgel at its side, its left hand raised as if in warning. The colossus to the right of the entrance is a young human male wearing similarly exotic clothing, the left half of its head cracked off and lying at its feet. The statue holds a shepherd’s crook in its left hand and a sword at its waste its right hand raised in warning as well. Both wear a distinct looking cross talisman with an oval top which Vera has seen once before.
As they step between the two statues the sudden sound of grinding stone draws they party’s attention. The status are moving.
Jean Luc yells out, “Tiamat, my mother and strength!” As he remembers his crushing encounter with the Stone Golems on Skyreach Castle.
The colossal figures turn their massive heads, their shatter features staring down at the party. With the exception of the cracked face which looks up. Two voices issue forth in unison, booming out as though erupting from the deep earth.
“Halt. You come before Diderius, either walker and conduit of clairvoyance. Behold ye now his wondrous triumphs. Diderius extends wisdom, and Diderius offers knowledge. Which do you seek?
“We seek knowledge,” says Cora.
“We seek the White Wyrmspeaker,” says Gamora.
“Diderius shall grant you what you seek. But only if you heed him,” say the statues, “And continue to show proper respect.” They turn back to their original positions.
“Who is is Diderius?” Cora asks Jean Luc.
He tells them the name sounds familiar and mentions a powerful wizard who could see into different futures. They discuss how they should show respect and determine at the least they should not loot the caves.
The party climb the stairs and can barely make out the carvings all along the walls on the way up to a platform that narrows into a hallway. Xenara takes a moment to look at one of the carvings on the wall, but quickly hurries to keep up with the party.
The door entering the cave hangs off its hinges. They carefully make their way into the cave and find the walls are gilded and floor made of fine sand. The entire complex seems very old, yet untouched by time.
They move forward into the first chamber where there are six statues of stone wizards in clows. Three against each wall and they are surrounded by skeletal remains..
Stepping into the chamber they each hear in their minds,
Some secrets are not meant for mortal minds to know. Look away from the darkness in which such knowledge hides.
Gamora pulls out her sword and ignites her sword shining light in the room. Jean Luc and Cora suggest they should close their eyes and Gamora does slowly making her way past the first set of statues. Stone grinds again as the statues turn to watch her walk past. Gamora keeps her eyes shut and continues making her way across until she bumps the wall. The others repeat this process until they make it to the door which Gamora pushes open with everyone arrives.
The next room has a high-vaulted dome and a tile mosaic on the floor of a knight fighting a chimera using a flaming sword. The tiles begin to rip from the floor as the party enters and take the shape of the chimera that now moves and attacks them.
Gamora goes into her Rage and attacks the tiled chimera. The blow strikes true and shatters and cracks its form. The chimera roars and the entirety of the floor rises up and attacks Gamora but it does little to stop her.
Cora joins the striking the tile chimera with her scimitars. The chimera strikes Gamora and retreats into the air. Vera tries her Thornwhip to bring the chimera down but it misses.
Jean Luc casts Haste on Reven. Who in turn releases a Shatter spell breaking more fragments off of the tile chimera. Using the remainder of his speed he pulls his longbow and fires at the chimera. Osrik also casts Shatter. Mags and Jean Luc both strike it with their firebolts spells. Cora shoots her bow at the broad side of the tiled chimera, hitting twice. The chimera descends and attacks fires a breath of fire at Reven, Vera, and Xenara. It retreats back towards the upper end of the domed ceiling. Vera releases her Thornwhip again striking the chimera and wrapping around its from. She slams it down into the ground breaking it into many fragments.
The party investigates the area of the room and notice it has several connecting chambers and doors. One door opposite of the entrance is a huge set of double doors plated in copper with the image of wizards looking into a pool of water and one wizard summoning something. The doors visibly bulge into the room.
On the right side of the room is a mosaic of a sun on the wall with a narrow passage. He notices a plate by the opening that leans upwards into a sloping hallway.
On the left side there is a door with the words, “safe” written in chalk in common on the outside.
Vera and Jean Luc open the safe door while Osrik tries to dissuade them. Inside the chamber is a well with a bronze bucket on a rope and stairs that lead to a basin with a lever.
Jean Luc tells Vera to leave the room and begins pulling water into the basin until it is full. This takes him three buckets to do so. He pulls the lever and the water filters out behind the walls but nothing else happens. Jean Luc looks down the well and sees nothing but some fungus growing below.
Osrik heals the party of their wounds before they press forward. And Reven and Osrik make a case that they should follow the light, meaning the sun mosaic.They look at the hallway, but it seems so narrow that avoiding stepping on the plate is very difficult, especially with the low ceiling of the hall. Jean Luc summons Bruce, who appears in his hawk form, and asks him to investigate the hall.
Bruce turns and looks at Jen Luc with one eye and communicates telepathically, “_You know boss, I do whatever you tell me to do. But you only seem to summon me when I inevitably get smushed and die._”
“_I’ll tell you what,_” Jean Luc replies telepathically, “We’re going to use you in a limited capacity this time, and when we get out of here we’ll get you another pineapple.”
Bruce turns his head, focusing his other eye on Jean Luc. “I like pineapple, boss. But I really think that you’re abusing that I can’t die. It still hurts. It’s not comfortable. I don’t like getting killed. It’s noted, right? It’s noted, boss?”
“Yes,” Jean Luc replies.
“I mean, your little midnight stroll you could have summoned me… I would have liked flying over the city.”
Jean Luc stammers. The bird sighs. The elf communicates, “I’ll make it up to you and if something does go wrong, which I don’t anticipate it does, but I’ll make it up to you tenfold.”
“Okay. I know you’re lying, because if you didn’t anticipate something going wrong you wouldn’t need me. But, you’re the boss.” Bruce flies over to the door and Jean Luc sits nearby to meditate and see through Bruce’s eyes.
Vera asks if Bruce needs light and hands the hawk a vial of phosphor luminescent fungus. Vera explains what it is and goes to put the vial on a cord around Bruce’s neck but he takes it from her in his talon. “Okay,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Bruce says aloud surprising a few of them. “Alright boss, now what?”
Jean Luc sends Bruce down the hall. He sees that it slants upward and empties into a dark antechamber. There are large coffin-like objects hidden behind some curtains and some doors. Bruce flies back down the hall and exits landing on Jean Luc’s shoulder. Jean Luc tries to take the vial from Bruce who pulls his talon away. “You gonna carry that thing forever?”
Bruce sighs and tosses the vial which Jean Luc smoothly catches and hands to Vera with thanks. He then thanks Bruce and dismisses him.
Jean Luc tells the others Bruce seemed to see a tomb chamber with several burial coffins.
Cora meditates and senses two dragon-like creatures and four humanoids less than a mile, seemingly underneath them.
Gamora walks over to the large double doors and knock on them. Its seem solid and nothing happens. She decides to pull on the door handle which gives her some trouble initially. Cora moves into help her and the entire door frame snaps and debris collapses down on the two of them. Cora dives out of the way taking minimal damage, but Gamora is injured and buried by the rubble.
Several of the party members help dig her out and she laments that her curiosity will get them all killed one day.
The party realizes that clearing this rubble will take time that they just don’t have. They decide to take the slanted hallway. They test the panel trying to spring whatever trap it triggers. It seems to launch a bear trap like device.
Mags laments, “too bad there’s not someone who know about traps and stuff.”
“Yeah, I miss her too,” says Osrik. Mags sighs and looks at Cora. Osrik continues, “I was talking about Dru.”
Mags looks at him. “Yeah,” she says, “I was too.”
“But you looked at Cora,” says Osrik.
“She somehow blames me for it,” says Cora.
“Obviously,” says Mags.
“Why?” asks Cora.
“Because you killed her sister,” says Mags.
“So?” says Cora.
“So, if you didn’t kill her, she wouldn’t be in this predicament,” says Mags.
“What predicament is she in?” asks Cora surprised.
“Whatever. We wouldn’t be attacked by Drow, and she wouldn’t be forced to leave,” says Mags.
“What predicament is she in?” Cora repeats.
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s go,” says Mags.
Vera Wild Shapes into a cat surprising both Osrik and Jean Luc. Reven comments that this is something Vera does, always has since he’s known her. Osrik asks if Bruce is also a person.
Vera slinks down the hallway in her cat form.
Gamora takes a large rock and places it on the plate trying to secure the bear trap. After a moment there is a click and a loud boom and the sound of stone and bone grinding and echoing down the hall. Vera sees a large ball rolling down the hall towards her.
Gamora shoves the rock off the plate and sees the boulder tumbling towards them. The narrow hallway seems to expand making it big enough for the boulder to pass through. Realizing what is happening Gamora dives out of the way.
Vera gets trampled by the boulder as it rolls into the room. She loses her cat form and many skeletal hands grab at her and pull her inside the boulder. Cora and Reven dive out of the way but it clips Reven and sends his sprawling. Vera just manages to break out of the boulder before it smashes into the wall breaking into pieces.
Gamora says apologizes again on her bad timing. Osrik and Xenara heal Vera, Gamora, and Reven.
Vera says, “Thanks Rusty”, but immediately apologizes. They consider for a moment calling him ‘R2’, but Osrik doesn’t seem too pleased by the suggestion.
The party moves forward into the hallway. Osrik takes the lead and Jean Luc bringing up the rear. Jean Luc notices something that seems to blend in with the ground and stops and tries to pry it open. It appears to be a hatch which could fit a person inside.
They test it and it is a lift of some kind. Gamora descends to a lower level which empties into a hallway. One at a time they each follow her to the lower level.
Osrik waiting for his turn peeks into the chamber at the top of the path. He smells incense filling the room and sees large tapestries covering the walls. There is a small chute letting light into the room. As he peeks in, Osrik hears a voice in his mind,
Humility proffered in the manner of Mystral shelters those opening the way to those seeking knowledge.
Osrik is last to down the chute and he shares this with the group. Jean Luc gives a short lecture about the old religious gestures of the Netherese.
Gamora looks for footprints but it appears no one has been here in a long time. The party pauses briefly in the hallway before moving on.