Ixzy, it turns out, is good at subtle. Like when Kavi tried to communicate in nuanced phrases about how Inky could be turned to the light side. Sort of. Or at least, used as a tool of the light side. Maybe. Or anyway, should not yet be destroyed out of simple principle, but rather allowed to serve his contractual obligations. Y’know, since he seems pretty useful and pretty obligated to do something pretty good. Basically.
Yeah, Ixzy gets it. She’s good like that. Probably for the best that Grax was sleeping. He’s not so good with subtle.
The dryad known as Sap Wildoak, who was three acorns shy of firewood when the party rescued her— er, him— from Moonbane Prison, made an amazingly quick recovery with the TLC provided by Gardener Meridith! Having heard about the Deck, Sap had asked one too many questions in the Wealdath and was captured by Sharran operatives for… questioning.
Joyous about Liera’s recovery, Verde decided there was no time like the present to encourage Liera to live. And what better way for Liera to live than by dating a undead guy? To that end, Verde told Inky she was setting him up with Liera. Inky had a different perspective on appropriate dating ages and declined. She asked several different time in several different ways in a fashion that only Verde can. Still no. Finally, Verde pulled out all the stops: she invoked the “we’re friends” clause and offered a deal: if Inky agreed to go on the date and it went badly, Verde would never try to set Inky up again. Sensing his escape route, Inky agreed.
Then negotiations on bathing began. Verde beat Inky’s resistance to a bone-dry dust, and after some brief-free moments of indecent exposure before Inky was brow-beaten into a bubble bath, Verde and her assistants managed to get Inky to 70% of maximum cleanliness – an Epic feat, especially considering the work required on those dreadlocks! Verde then turned her attention on his attire. After much debate on style and fabrics, Inky found himself in a breathtaking (pun totally intended) silver robe with lightning lace and embroidery, cracling and actively ascending the robe in a flame-like pattern that’s practically hypnotic.
Inky wasn’t the only one having a bad time getting ready for a date. Liera found herself receiving the unwelcome styling attentions of Aeriarthia, and damn, she’s looked fine! Her horns peeked out over a glittering tiara. An eye-catching ruby-red lipstick stood out against her black, silver-laced dress with scandalously low-V neck and slit up her left leg. Boots, an uncharacteristic Brooch of Healing, and a leather trenchcoat completed the ensemble.
Once Verde and Aeriarthia were done playing with their life-sized Barbie dolls, they plotted remaining date preparations. Aeriarthia planned music while Verde arranged for fine food and alcohol, and all that remained was the addition of two very bitter people.
And then, the date began. It went [TO BE REVEALED], causing the party to feel [TO BE DETERMINED].
Meanwhile, after Sap refused to provide them himself, King Oris ordered Gardener Meridith to pick all two of Sap’s remaining acorns so Oris could have oak trees in his relatively pedestrian throne room. Despite being stealthy for a gardener, Meridith easily awoke Sap from his meditation in the Cult Garden. Upon explaining her predicament, Sap pointed to his oak tree (that had matured overnight) as a sustainable source of acorns. After embarrassing himself by failing to climb his own oak tree, Meridith nimbly climed the tree, grabbed 9 acorns, and safely climbed down, leaving one sad Sap behind. King Oris immediately saw through Meridith’s clumsy lie of an explanation and ordered her to plant three of the acorns in pots in the throne room.
Before all the talk of blind dates, Kavi researched Waterdeep. Most notably, he found:
- The City of Splendors is ruled by 20 Masked Lords plus one Open Lord (currently Neverember).
- Masked Lords are protected and (if needed) executed by the Blackstaff of Waterdeep, Vajra Safhar.
- The only known Masked Lord is Durnan “the Wanderer” of the Yawning Portal Inn over Undermountain.
Late in the night, well-after Inky and Liera’s blind date, Kavi searched Inky’s now-unoccupied library for clues about the mysterious Puzzle Box. Consulting a 10-year-old book titled “The Puzzles of the Puzzle Box” by Link N. Quill, Kavi was able to gather several clues about the Puzzle Box :
- Possessors of the Puzzle Box have often been warlords who use the artifact for their advantage, but ultimately meet a bloody end.
- The Puzzle Box is believed to have been created after Vecna’s ascention to godhood.
- The Puzzle Box was last sighted 20 years ago after a warlord from the Anaroch desert was killed in the Dale Lands.
- Nobody knows what lies inside the Puzzle Box – this is considered its greatest secret.
Kavi was not able to find a direct explanation for why Inky believes the Puzzle Box is in Waterdeep. His favorite theories:
- A cult of Ioun is using it to unmask the secret Masked Lords of Wterdeep.
- The Blackstaff possesses it and uses it for security purposes.
- The Puzzle Box is actually still lost and has yet to be found.
Kavi did not, however, have time to read “How to Raise your Dracolich: 37 Easy Steps”, a 1’ tall tome. That volume pales in comparison to the “How to Train your Dracolich: 37 Days to an Obedient Pet”, a set of 37 1’ volumes. Kavi also did not pry into Inky’s locked personal diaries. This is in part because alarm bells started going off…
“DRAGON!!!” Cultists on watch trained, newly-installed ballistas toward the incoming dragon, and the party rushed to respond (though Inky and Liera were nowhere to be seen). The dragon was damn difficult to see in the night sky, and tensions ran high as certain twitchy party members readied attacks. Given no orders, ballistas were not fired and the dragon landed in front of the unoccupied cult cave that was originally intended as a Dracolich prison.
After a long, tense moment, the now-obviously Shadow dragon broke the silence: “At long last, I have arrived.” Glancing at the cave in front of him, the dragon remarked “Yes, this will do nicely.” Confused looks suddenly evaporated as memory served: this was Umbraxakar, the dragon they intimidated into submission in Vanrakdoom.
The Elder shadow dragon was suddenly and unpleasantly put in its place as it was informed of the presence of the Ancient Silver and Gold dragons. Looking like a flight risk, the party managed to quickly shift Umbraxakar’s focus as they made his merchandising options clear. Umbraxakar had never imagined he could so famous, so rich, or so… worshipped, as he now could be. This was the best day of his life. Perhaps that bar was not difficult to beat, though, considering the dragon lamented it and its temple’s neglect from Shar.
Quick but shrewd negotiations will bring Umbraxakar 20% royalties on merchandise and 50% cut of loot he acquires.
Kavi made a mental note of the dragon cave’s association with Card Donjon, and smiled.
Kavi quickly ordered a sign placed over the lair. Mismanagement combined with hasty measurements and poorly-chosen font sizes produced an inevitably disappointing, but likely still effective, result:
Lair of Umbraxal
Do not enter on penalty of digestion.
Kavi also wrote a quick note to Ixzy and Grax with a message amazingly similar to both the sales pitch to not incinerate Inky (and for the perks of having a baby Red Dragon around). Perhaps he needs a form letter… Gardener Meridith was tasked with the note’s delivery.
King Oris ordered a new dragon lair to be constructed given that there were now zero dragon lairs available in his cult stronghold – not even low-quality lairs. Light on details and heavy on delegation, the lair construction project can only go well.
Urchins in Waterdeep
After turning in for the night following the dragon excitement, the party finally gathered themselves and, with five Cultists travelling under Captain of the Guard Verde as the King’s Guard, they travelled to their safehouse in the Waterdeep docks district. Verifying the safehouse was still apparently safe, they emerged into the City of Splendors.
Who better to welcome them than an urchin/inept cutpurse? The party had decided to head to House Moonstar when an urchin informed them Lady Alathene Moonstar was looking for them. The urchin first attempted to bargain money from the party for his service, then attempted to lift Kavi’s purse. A lesser hero might have been susceptible to the surprisingly light fingers, but Kavi one-upped him by putting a newly-minted Cult of the Dragons coin in his pouch. The coin, worth 1gp, has Ixzy on one side with “Be the Dragon Inside” embossed; on the other side, a silver inlay of Grax with the words “Contact the Cult of the Dragons today!” The urchin hadn’t realized he’d gotten a tip by the time the party left him questioning his criminally-oriented path.
Lady Alathene was quick to greet the party — so quick, she bordered on impatience. Or… she may have crossed the line entirely. It’s sometimes hard to tell with statues. Inviting the party to a more private audience, she reveals that Waterdeep is in turmoil due to Open Lord Neverember’s decree levying double taxes on demi-humans, a thinly-veiled racist move that does not sit well with fair-minded Waterdavians. Rumors are circulating of the treasury having somehow been emptied! The party exchanged knowing looks as they considered whether their recent use of Card Gem had some unintended consequences.
Lady Alathene pressed the party on their plan to deal Shar a deathblow now that they had defeated Vanrak. (A couple of immature comments got Sap and Aeriarthia curtly removed from the room.) Alathene questioned their lack of planned action given their obviously superior and growing force, but the party rebuffed her given that Shar is a Greater God and not one to be trifled with lightly. They explained they were on a mission to find the Puzzle Box at the request of Inky.
Inky’s name immediate piqued her interest, and she was soon pressing the party for information on Inky while reluctantly explaining that she and Inky were old flames, driven apart by their religious split between Seluné and Shar over 1000 years ago. (She scoffed at the notion that he could have a real library that could compare to her own in the Astral Sea.) If only Shar were dead, she was certain that she and Inky could be together again, forever…
That’s when Verde realized that Lady Alathene was a crazy stalker girlfriend, and that she better warn Liera. And then Verde couldn’t help herself, and mentioned Inky’s date with Liera. Alathene’s demeanor changed quite abruptly, and quite violently. She demanded an answer to one simple question: