Keys to the Kingdoms

The Fall of Tethyr
Shoot first. Questions can wait.

An excerpt from Volo’s Standard Histories of Faerun, Volume 24 (DR1502):

…Following the liberation of Waterdeep, King Oris Lathander the Dragonrider and his Planatar Guard continued carving a path of light from Waterdeep into the lands of Tethyr. Arriving mounted atop gold and silver dragons under a banner of righteousness pulled by a baby brass dragon, the party descended upon the nest of wickedness of Tethyr’s Suldanessalar and its conniving ruler, Queen Ellesime. She was well-known for usurping the rule of a good man whose name and lineage has been lost in the sands of time.

Under the magnificent, never-ending boughs of the Tree of Life, the evil Queen had foolishly bound her life force to the Tree. Swooping in from the sky, the dragons unleashed horrible vengeance upon the Queen, destroying the throne room where she once sat – all while healing the wounded Tree. And so ended the illegitimate reign of Ellesime, and thus began the righteous reign of Amaunator in Tethyr.

An excerpt from The Secret Inky Diaries, Volume 2,230 (DR 1489):

The fools. Did they not consider the danger? Did they think themselves invincible? Were it not for Kavi’s lucky strike that removed “Queen” Ellesime from her well-protected throne, the party would likely be either a mound of flesh with glowing arrows out of their back or perhaps back here with their tails between their legs. They didn’t even attempt to converse with Ellesime! Aeriarthea tried to take her for a fool… but she’s no fool. Perhaps one day someone will have to be resurrected and they’ll remember they’re still mortal. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll do now that they allowed Ellesime to escape through her contingency portal. At least Verde and Oris were bright enough to knock out the entry guards first.

Curious. My friend Verde pledged to obtain a fruit from the tree of life. I cannot help but wonder whose unlucky soul she’ll pick? At least the Tree despite their healing touch didn’t seem inclined to reveal the precise location of my own fruit – I should pick it myself, sometime.

How sweet that Kavi and his mother Thorn finally reunited. I must research what compelled her to return to him after being away so long.

Oh, and I need to remember to send someone to rig the advertising banner up to the baby Red…

Meta

  • The party has found one Rare item each.
    • Kavi has the option of this character-specific Rare item: Locket (Neck Slot), +5 (upgradable to +6 for standard cost), standard neck slot bonuses plus Daily Aura 3, 15 radiant damage at start of turn.
  • Queen Elesime has escaped through a portal from her Throne Room.
  • The Tree of Life has been healed of its acute wounds, but its full recovery will take a century.
    • The Tree is on guarded speaking terms with the party.
    • King Oris found out that licking Tree of Life fruit will make your tongue glow, and that by eating a fruit “you will gain something and lose something very valuable” (per the Vizier card).
  • King Oris and Verde are working on their secret language. They currently have a 1/10 chance of fully understanding each other.
  • Kavi stole:
    • Xenophobia from guards
    • Will to Rule from Queen’s administrator
    • ½ of Queen Elesime’s wisdom of ruling.
  • The party translated ancient runes on the Dark Lantern.
    • It says: “Please do not disturb my slumber.”
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The Fall of Waterdeep
…and it was met with cheers… - The Wise Alaundo

An excerpt from Volo’s Standard Histories of Faerun, Volume 23 (DR1502):

…Indeed, by DR 1488, Waterdeep had become a corrupt state on the brink of failure. Its Masked Lords’ Council had become a petty, slothful, self-preserving, and self-indulgent group. The reigning Open Lord, Neverember, was even worse: a traitor seduced by Shar who was embarking on a campaign of genocide against the demihuman citizenry.

It was only by the righteous Light of Amanautor that this threat was eliminated. Shar’s foothold in Waterdeep was so deep that Selune was held powerless to intervene, despite the pleas of the Council’s Blackstaff. Selune’s appeal for help was answered personally. Indeed, the Aspect of Amaunator named “King Oris Lathander, the Dragonrider” (a name paying homage to the Amaunator-Bahamut alliance), with a Royal Guard of ten Planatars led by Captain Verde, arrived in the midst of the secret meeting of the Masked Lords’ Council. Under the unholy symbol of Shar, the Dark Council were formalizing their plans to unleash war upon their demihuman citizenry with one final vote. As the last ballot fell, their evil plans gained unanimous support.

Decreeing judgement at hand, King Oris Lathander and his Royal Guard descended upon the Dark Council. Surprised and stunned by their radiance, the Dark Masked Lords, exploiters of Waterdeep, were cut down within seconds. The body of Neverember the Soulless was displayed in the public Council Circle until the dawn three days’ thence, a moment among the brightest for demihumans in Waterdeeps’ long but troubled history.

King Oris Lathander established a new, righteous Masked Lord Council, and answering the desperate pleas of Waterdeeps’ citizenry, King Oris Lathander himself ushered the city into its Era of Enlightenment.

An excerpt from The Hidden Histories of Faerun, Volume 229 (The Wise Alaundo, edited by Link N. Quill, DR 1489):

Rarely has a city so prosperous and well-defended as Waterdeep been taken with so little blood, time, or treasure – and it was met with cheers. Following a public council vote of demihuman taxation, in which the measure passed by simple majority thanks to doppleganger replacements of many Council Members. While her companions began fading into the crowd after the vote, the Cult of the Dragon’s spunky “Captain of the Guard” Verde loudly challenged both the legal and ethical basis of the law (and did so in a shockingly educated manner – Verde’s educational history shall be covered in an upcoming Volume), citing both the Masked Lord Massacre of 1117DR and the Citizens’ Empowerment Act of 1332 DR.

As Verde claimed the moral high-ground, the Blackstaff took the tactical high ground and encouraged her to defer action against Neverember. Verde stubbornly leaned on and broke Neverember’s last nerve, and in the background Neverember was made an idiot and subsequently dominated by Aeriarthia. In a simultaneous mess of confusion, the dopplegangers were revealed – and of course, violence erupted.

The Cult of the Dragon’s so-called King’s Guard quickly joined battle. The Blackstaff realized the gravity of the situation and leveraged her home-field advantage and bound all but three of the dopplegangers – then reduced them to ash. Verde and Kam united to turn Neverember to stone – but not before Neverember deflected the first Euryale assault to Durnan. The Guard doing what they do best, the battle was won in short order. Three dopplegangers fell to party brutality do-gooding: a ritual suicide, a crowd thrashing instigated by Kavi, and one went straight to the Donjon. Waterdhavian custodial staff circumspectly considered whether to start cleaning up the mess. Besides the statues now in the party’s custody, Kavi took one more piece of information: the exact method and identity of replaced Masked Lords.

Waterdeep has a power vacuum for approximately six seconds before the Blackstaff declared Oris, the self-proclaimed King and Dragonrider, Open Lord of the city. Naturally, his Guard filled as many Masked Lord positions as they could – at the expense of replaced Masked Lords whose statutory rubble shall never be found. And of no small import is their acquisition of Vecna’s Puzzle Box from the unwitting Open Lord Neverember, an artifact than remains a mystery even to me.

I can only surmise that the Deck is somehow behind this, as these bumbling fools (however powerful) “leading” the Cult of the Dragon are hardly capable of engineering such a feat, and the Blackstaff has otherwise been known to be of sound judgement. No gods have shown their hand in this particular event, despite how much some would have liked to have influenced its outcome.Chaos follows wherever “King” Oris and his Guard tread. So purely as a historian, I look forward to the events soon to unfold in Tethyr…

Aftermath

The Blackstaff was no match for Verde’s kitten stare, and the two are now “friends”.

Aeriarthia has begun composition of the “Imperial March” for King Oris, the Waterdhavian governmental secretary is as difficult as can be expected. The Vecna holy symbol in Lord Neverember’s secret chamber is now in a lead box to which the holy symbols of Selune, Ioun, and Amaunator are fastened, following Aeri’s.attempt to deceive Vecna.

The party attempted to open the Puzzle box, but even Card Key was stymied (much to its displeasure). The box revealed what could be a clue: “Seek out the most secret spot and you will find your friend. Show your allegiance, and my prize shall be yours.”

Meta

The party is in possession of Vecna’s Puzzle Box and is now in transit to Tethyr.

The party gained one wondrous item (any level, any rarity) with the only limitation being that it cannot break the plot.

Verde gained Teleport 1 (At Will, Standard) in her first lesson with the Blackstaff.

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Waterdeep: City of Intrigue
You say you've lost a box? Most puzzling...

Date Night

Liera had never gone to prom before. Verde couldn’t have known the void she would fill by setting her up on a blind date with Inky. Liera got to experience it all… The gentlemanly gesture when Inky pulled out Liera’s chair at Sap’s freshened garden getaway diner. The awkward moments when nobody knew what to say. The two course meal plus dessert. The smell of Inky’s hair color and styling. The cheerful chaperone that was Verde attempting to make the night something to remember. The wild rave (cleverly titled “Love Never Undies”) held in the throne room, complete with substances that would be illicit in any governed country. Aeriarthia’s magically manipulative musical strummings designed to create the baffling, unfamiliar emotion called “love”, and succeeding for long enough to confuse Liera. The seductive talk of love contracts and becoming the ultimate power couple as gods. The cold calculus of your date evaluating your potential worth to their life as you do the same.

And the heartache. The moment when you kiss your date with much anticipation, and they scream in pain as your kiss sears their unholy flesh with divine radiance. The moment you realize some of your so-called friends had more important things to do than help your date succeed (Kavi!). The consolation when you slap your chaperone, demand a refund, then accept the hug that you needed all along. Because sometimes, being an involuntary warlock of Amaunator going out with a lich and without protection sucks. Because sometimes, life — and unlife — is just not fair.


Love Triangle

Lady Alathene was not pleased to hear that Inky had gone on a date. Despite Kavi’s best efforts, reason and logic stood no chance against crazed stalker love in the Lady’s view of the world and her relationship with Inky. She has never given up on Inky, citing their common ground and long history. Lady Alathene is desperate to destroy Shar to ensure that Inky will return to her and worship Seluné, as he should have long ago.

She demanded Verde reveal the identity of Inky’s date – Verde refused. Lady Alathene gave Verde three options:

  • Reveal the date’s identity
  • Leave House Moonstar forever
  • Fight in a duel of honor that would see Verde a pile of ash on the carpet.
    The situation was dangerously tense as Verde was raring to fight, but defused once Gardener Meredith was identified as the date by King. Murdurous intentions were derailed when Oris revealed that Meredith said Inky was in love with another woman. Lady Alathene needed no further encouragement to cast herself in that role.

Soothed and flattered, the stationary Lady was back to business. She sees a completed Deck as a major tool for the defeat of Shar, and indicated she had several leads. She gave the party Card Moon so they could keep in touch and as a reminder of Seluné’s power, and tasked the party with acquiring a Card in the Wealdath. She indicated that challenging Lady Elessime’s source of power may prove revealing.

Lady Alathene also made clear that the Blackstaff possessed at least one card, and they should pay her a visit.

After Oris made an exceptionally diplomatic comeback from earlier idiotic statements, Lady Alathene gifted him Card Fool. Even in its protective pouch, Card Fool provides a muted but never-ending stream of derogatory commentary for Queen Oris the Dragonfodder.

Verde’s Card Moon, on the other hand, makes pleasant sounds of wind rustling — and the occasional grumpy noises as it argues with (and tries to push away) Card Flame.


Blackstaff Tower

Blackstaff Vajra Safhar is short, for a Blackstaff. That’s hard to remember when the Blackstaff Tower door is closed and things seem on the edge of going south.

The conversation started pleasantly enough. There was an immediate audience, a cordial reception, and friendly condescension to Kavi about the merits of “nature” versus the intricate, nuanced weave of The Art. There was vague conversation about the power of the Blackstaff Tower wards. Vajra and the party caught up on matters of shared interest like a new Cult of the Dragons Reborn temple permit application, Asmodeus’ newfound Shadowfell restrictions, the number of cards in a shattered Deck of Many Things, The Weekly Inky, and the travels of Zule the Muscle Bound’s march across the Anauroch Desert into the Dale Lands.

Then King Oris opened his big mouth, and things got tense. Sensitive to the suggestion that her Cards be taken (in addition to the Puzzle Box Oris was convinced she had), and even more sensitive to King Oris moving to use Card Fool, she bound Oris using an epic version of Hold Person, forcing him to keep his hands raised. [Note: Those with good insight would have realized she seemed much more tense than you remember her in the past.] After rolling preparatory initiative, Kavi noted that Vajra had flat-out suggested a one-way “trade” of cards into the safekeeping of Blackstaff Tower, but Vajra was nonplussed.

Further talk defused tensions somewhat. After Oris realized she had not revealed the full truth about Zule the Muscle Bound’s defeat, Vajra revealed her concern that Open Lord Neverember had led the army that defeated the warlord – he is said to have killed Zule personally. Vajra never saw the Puzzle Box. However, she recalled that the Masked Lords’ votes have slowly shifted toward Neverember’s agenda, and lately his more radiacal agenda items have been being defeated by the slimmest of margins: 9-11 against. Vajra has been asked by Open Lord Neverember to investigate Durnan “The Wanderer” and one other Masked Lord for treason. Durnan Is Neverember’s most outspoken critic, and she advised talking to him, telling him “the wind sent you”.

Vajra opened the door and allowed everyone to leave (though she marched Oris out for him), and asked the party to investigate the political situation and verify there was no intrigue. She is obviously nervous that something is afoot, given it is her job to identify and remedy such events.

Kavi wondered whether perhaps a criminal guild had gotten their hands on the Puzzle Box, but guard reports of criminal activity have only recently increased. Kavi ventured that a Puzzle Box would be a handy way of digging up blackmail to sway votes…. Kavi also wondered whether the Puzzle Box might leak information it gained to others that would be next in its chain of bloody ownership. And, oh yeah – Kavi questioned the wisdom of secret codes when Vecna is a primary enemy of the party.

Much to Verde’s disappointment, the conversation ended before Verde could get dewey-eyed on Vajra. Much to Oris’ disappointment, Vajra refused to let them see the tower’s panoramic TV.


Over Undermountain

While travelling to the Yawning Portal Inn over Undermountain, home of Durnan “The Wanderer”, the party took the opportunity to spread Cult coinage (via a 1:1 exchange program with occasional donations), Cult brochures (glossy color double-sided prints encouraging people to “Be the dragon inside”, and are a treasure unto themselves for the poor), and Cult propaganda (like dubious coupons giving a month of membership free). They mused about having a dragon spotlight in the clouds around the Earthmote, and discussed the merits of having a bungee jump off the Earthmote that serves as snack time for hungry hungry dragons. Shameless.

None other than Durnan himself was tending the bar at the Yawning Portal Inn, taking the party much by surprise. He has apparently found a happy place for himself turning his Undermountain plunder into a profitable, relaxing business. After downing various alcoholic beverages (firewine for Kavi, and “organophosphate-free mineral water” for Sap), conversation quickly turned from a distinct lack of interest in paying for entry to Undermountain’s ever-changing dungeon to talk that was best had in a windowless back-room protected by wards made by someone who knew what they were doing.

Durnan rolled his eyes at the close-enough passphrase proffered by the party, and confirmed the patterns that Vajra had noticed in the long-term shift in political leanings of the Masked Lords. He didn’t seem overly paranoid about its cause, and wanted to see how the vote went in a couple of hours.

Upon inquiry, Durnan revealed that his long-time friend Bernard (who made a fortune in Undermountain with Durnan but preferred the rich city life in “retirement”) had recently changed his voting. It’s strange because Bernard seems normal — but when it comes to votes, he is voting along Neverember’s agenda. Durnan knows this because his Mask is magically linked to Bernard (apparently with Vajra’s approval if not work), and he can use the magic to tell which Masked Lord is Bernard.

Durnan was a simple man that didn’t like complex talk of plots and intrigue. Soon the party was back at the bar for round 2. Kavi tipped generously (to much appreciation), and put a Cult coin on the line that Aeriarthia could, in fact, down that Dragon’s Breath firewhisky. After put it down in one swallow, and Patron #17 lost his tab money – but gained a Cult coin.


Waterdeep Office Of Housing and Urban Development (WOOHUD)

Having returned to Waterdeep, King Oris felt it important to acquire a plot of land for their new Cult temple to sit on, since they didn’t want to convert the safehouse. After bribing each person in the long line with a Cult coin, Oris found himself bribing coincidentally gifting one final Cult coin on the woman at the counter. The woman explained that the temple application needed to be approved at the public hearing that evening, but that’s the Office of Temple Affairs. She was, however, happy to provide Oris a copy of the application. When Oris asked about property on which to build the temple, she wanted to know whether Oris really wanted another plot when the old demolished Tiamat temple grounds had already been arranged by Gardener Meredith. Oris considered the idea of a raise for the Gardener… then discounted it.

Meanwhilst, the squabble over the line positions up for grabs had just ended.


The Vote

As the time for the public vote approached, Kavi verified the areas wards looked secure (the no magic in, no audio out wards did indeed look secure), and then made his way up 40’ towers to observe the proceedings. Sap followed suit on a different corner of the open-air auditorium, avoiding detection by guards distracted by an angry group of demihumans. Kavi saw Bernard leave his house and enter the Central Palace, but couldn’t keep sight from there.

King Oris took the opportunity to point out to the agitated demi-humans gathered that the Cult was a great alternative to an overly-taxed lifestyle in Waterdeep, and they should consider the proposition offered by certain shiny brochures (lugged around in the Body Bag of Holding)! Even the most agitated seemed receptive to his well-delivered remarks.

Once everyone was admitted to the auditorium, Lord Neverember brought the meeting to order. He initially forgot the routine procedural vote on the Cult temple application, but it passed with a 2-1 margin (with the remaining 17 “not giving a shit”). He then moved on to the only item of substance on the agenda: a proposal to double taxes on demihumans, purportedly as a fair means to make up unexpected tax collection shortfalls. Bypassing debate, he called for an immediate vote.

Sensing a similar faint, sinister magical thread in 10 of the Masked Lords — akin to a delayed effect spell that’s not yet triggered — Kavi suggested Oris and Verde use Card Flame and Card Fool on one such Masked Lord. They did so successfully, Verde with ease and Oris only after the card made a fool of him.

And then, the Masked Lords voted. And the vote was 11-9… in favor. Oops.

Open Lord Neverember smiled, his self-assurance of the vote’s outcome evident, though he was subtly expressed surprised at the vote of the Card-altered Masked Lord. He seems personally satisfied at the new burden being placed on demihumans.

Neverember is about to adjourn the meeting… what will the party do?

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Housework
Cults are a lot of work...

Nuanced Conversations

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 Talk

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].


Nuts

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.


Research

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:

  1. A cult of Ioun is using it to unmask the secret Masked Lords of Wterdeep.
  2. The Blackstaff possesses it and uses it for security purposes.
  3. 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…


Distant Relatives

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.


Statuary Reunion

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:

WHAT!?!?”

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Aurum Maximus
Damn... that palace got bling!

It’s difficult to describe so much epic in so little time…

Having defeated an aspect of Asmodeus and connected Liera to Amaunator, the party set about its exit from Moonbane Prison. They wasted no time stuffing the unconscious-but-recovering Liera into a newly-created Paper Body Bag of Holding (Epic Items) and posing the first murdered shadow illithid secretary most inappropriately on the psychic exam table. The party then wasted a lot of time deciding what to do with Ithylgriaa, the second shadow illithid secretary of Moonbane Prison. After making pleasant chit-chat with the secretary and Kavi stealthily relieving it of the second half of the Moonbane Prison key, the party gave serious consideration to the usual “murder death kill” plan, but ultimately decided do draw on the power of Card Void and Card Donjon to open a portal beneath the unsuspecting creature, placing it in Liera’s old cell in a 5-portal figure 8 never-ending portal loop with lights and disco-inspired special effects. The party theorized the loop would accelerate the illithid indefinitely, since they’d also used Card Void to relieve the cell of its air.

With both keys in hand, the party retrieved Sap and placed her into the body bag. The party then walked out of Moonbane Prison through the portal by which they had originally entered as if they owned the place (which, since they’d pwned the place, was practically true). The party decided not to detour by Shar’s dark palace to acquire the Card or Cards she supposedly has (according to the party’s Cards).

Their arrival back at the Cult of the Dragon earthmote was met with a flurry of activity. Sap was handed off to the newly hired Gardener Meridith for care and planting of the dryad’s acorn; King Oris demanded the gardens be enlarged three-fold and after some disagreement allowed her to discuss details with Inky once daily. Meridith seemed gratified but overwhelmed.

The party eventually realized they had Liera in the paper body bag of holding, and released her to the care of a simple nurse, who also seemed overwhelmed at the responsibility and honor.

Then Accountant Willie came by with a stack of well-done, shockingly non-corrupt expense reports. Upon hearing of the accountant’s engagement and planned simple wedding to Librarian Millie, King Oris and Verde couldn’t help party couldn’t help but cover the bill for a significantly larger celebration. Of course, that bill paled next to the ~25K/week deficit the Cult was running in operating expenses, never mind the larger capital defense expenditures being incurred by Commander Hartman.

After musing at the genius of the Scroogean rubber ducky grenades on order, and realizing just how badly the Cult was bleeding gold, Verde lit the fire for the party to take the Cult in a radically new direction: mainstream. Soon everyone was contributing alarmingly-plausible ideas:

  • Merchandising!
    • Cult of the Dragon everything!!!
    • Retail outlets in major cities
    • Company store in all Cult strongholds
    • Cult Card
      • Memberships at the Silver, Gold, and Platinum loyalty rewards levels
      • Cards have Ixy and Grax stylized silhouettes.
    • Tell-Me-A-Secret Line
      • Inky dolls and bobbleheads
      • Manufactured with one-way sending stones, they say “Tell me a secret…”, which is then relayed to Inky.
    • “Inky Diaries”, which produce a copy of the written text in Inky’s library.
    • Verde co-(second)-authoring a Shar book with Inky
  • Direct Marketing
    • Hire mission-/mercen-aries.
  • Cult of Dragontology Branding
    • Slogan: “Helping you achieve your full potential to be the best that you can be.”
    • Oris Island
      • The exclusive resort created by moving the Earthmote to a remote location above the Sea of Swords.
    • Motivational Speaker series
      • “Finding the Dragon In You”
      • “Understanding Workshops” workshop
  • Investigate trade through earthmote shipping with dragon-accelerated travel.
  • … and so much more…

Inky, upon hearing of the “Tell-Me-a-Secret” line immediately approved the entire concept, decided he needed so many more friends, and literally pulled prototypes of the bobblehead and doll out of thin air. The party authorized the start of the merchandising plan immediately, including the hiring of magewrights.

With business settled, Inky reminded the party that they had little time for rest. They needed to act on the offer Ixzy and Grax had made, as time was running out. After careful consideration, the party decided to draw on the power of Card Gem to convert the old stone cave into the lair the ancient dragons had “requested”. As a storm approached, they planned, drew, and designed. And then, they created.

Verde, Kavi, Aeriarthia, and King Oris the Dragonrider each took hold of Card Gem. Verde took lead with her magical might, Kavi offered his life force to the card to fuel the creation of opulence; Aeriarthia sang appeals to the storm to frenzy ambient energy, and King Oris the Dragonrider channeled searing radiance to make some gold aqueous eternal. The palace began to form, but the price would be high as Kavi’s reserves faded and his life force began to ebb. Just before Kavi slipped into unconsciousness, the storm reached crescendo and twin bolts of lightning arced across the sky… and into Verde. With a flash (and a party-cumulative 203(!) on the skill check), the spell was done, and a palace lay before them, just as was in their minds.

What was once a 100’ dome of rock was now streaked with intricate veins of silver and gold, lit from below with everburning orbs. Preceding the entrance lay a landing zone comprised of a grip-textured gold floor with inlaid silver landing lines with a platinum inlay of a dragon silhouette, reminiscent of Bahamut’s profile. And inside… draconic paradise.

The floor, save a space on the right, is solid gold. A molten gold waterfall streams from the rock into a pool large enough to bathe in on the left side, returning in a closed loop with a new moat in the keep’s chapel-turned-throne room. Tucked into the right corner, a large horde on stone makes for a bed. Behind it, a golden gazebo (since all good lairs need gazebos), and spanning the back wall, a pagoda. The pagoda has four room, sapphire windows, diamond support structure, standard solid-gold ply construction, and color gem accents. A large, disco-enabled diamond coffee table centers the pagoda. The lair is furnished with gold pillows and fine tapestries, gems and jewelry.

King Oris managed to squeeze in some reconstruction for himself amidst the vast power being thrown handled. The former Cult chapel has been converted into a throne room, with pillars of carved stone. A large throne of metal and gold leaf sits in the middle against a golden sun headrest, separated from the rest of the room by the molten gold moat. Paintings of King Oris and dragons adorn the walls.

Upon completion of the spell, the storm dissipated and Ixzy and Grax could be seen approaching in the sunset. The dragons graciously accepted their new home. As Kavi went to retire, Ixzy pitied him and healed him with her breath. Verde made a cute attack against them, and they are now her friend. The party deferred discussing Inky with the dragons.

The party decided to discuss the Deck with Inky. Inky said that the current situation is unprecedented as the Deck had split only at the arrival of the Spellplague, but that historically it is an artifact of Chaos, sowing change with every draw made. While in the library, Kavi decided to research Waterdeep further in preparation for further adventure while Ivy plotted to set Inky up on a date with Liera.

Liera is now feeling well enough to be up and about, and was fascinated and disturbed at how other Amaunator worshipers now glow in her eyes. She is conflicted about the change, but is digging the radiant resistance and damage.

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The Playmate in the Astrolabe
Who dialed 666?

A now teenage-looking Liera led the party away from the creepy carnival to meet her “friend”. As the party traveled down a dusty path, there began to be transparent patches within the path. Through those patches, stars and cosmos could be seen. Eventually, there was more stars than path, and the party had to take a step of faith. Despite there being no visible path, the space still supported the party, which decided to continue toward a bright red beacon in the distance.

As the party approached the beacon, they were now completely surrounded by the stars and cosmos, recognizable as if viewed from Aber-Toril. Overlaid on those cosmos were places of power; looking “up”, the party could see the reams of the good-aligned gods; the neutral powers were “ahead” and “around”, while the evil powers were “down”. It was as if looking at the locations in the Astral Sea from above or below rather than on the sea itself.

Each party member saw a web translucent ribbons emanating from their person and connecting to all the other objects and locations in the Astrolabe. Almost all the ribbons were grey and lifeless, but the ribbon connecting themselves to their god’s demesne shone bright with power in the color of their god. (King Oris the Dragonrider took the opportunity to pull himself up by his own ribbon and swing around a bit.) The party also had ribbons connecting to one another.

The Cards of the Deck held by Verde showed very strong connections to each other, a strong connection to Verde, and these other connections:
– Connection to the beacon ahead of the party
– Connections to Hell
– Other connections were visible, but their destination could not be discerned.

When the party approached the formerly-distant beacon (which took only a few minutes’ travel), the adult Liera came into view. Blood streamed from her ears, eyes, and nose, and she was bound to a ritual table with chains. A contract is clearly visible in the chain, which details the very unfavorable terms Liera agreed to when selling her soul for a temporary sliver of Asmodeus’ power (i.e., being a Warlock). The contract clearly states incapacitation as sufficient grounds for her soul to become due and payable. Muted ribbons of power connect her to vestiges of power, but a thick ribbon of dark power connects Liera directly to Hell. In her hands, she grasped a locked golden box.

Verde attempted to cut Liera’s chain with an arc-weld of lighting. Oris tried to blast the contract with religious radiance, Kavi attempted to find a contractual loophole, and Aeriarthia stood watch on the outside of Liera’s mind in Moonbane Prison. Asmodeus accepted the invitation.

The Aspect of Asmodeus arrived in the confines of the Astrolabe within Liera’s mind, and like the gentledevil he is, proceeded to parlay with the party. All he wanted was for the party to go away… and leave Liera behind. He offered to solve the cash flow problem that the party faced for their cooperation. The party began to protest they had no such cash flow problem when Inky contacted them via sending stone and explained that in exchange for their services, Ixy and Grax (the gold and silver dragon the party rescued from Inky’s scheme) demand that Dragon Cavern at the Cult’s Earthmote be remade… in sold gold with silver accents. By any standard, that is a VAST, VAST expense. The party said they would call Inky back.

Kavi wanted to know why Asmodeus was taking Liera’s soul now when she still had more power to gain with time. Asmodeus declined to make a villain expose, instead offering the party an NDA to hear the reason. The NDA would wipe the contents of the conversation from the memory of the listener once the conversation was over; any attempt to retrieve the contents would allow Asmodeus ownership of their soul. Kavi talked Asmodeus down to a penalty of one contiguous hour of sole soul ownership, to be returned in exactly the same condition as it was acquired. Verde declined the offer as did Aeriarthia; King Oris was still considering when Kavi accepted. Asmodeus constructed a field of isolation, and told Kavi [REDACTED]. Kavi now has an Asmodeus-unholy-symbol-shaped hold in his memory, but remembers stealing [STEALTHED] from Asmodeus.

And that’s when the brawl broke out. Liera’s chains were suddenly released and a red glow replaced her usual blue. Verde pleaded Liera not to hurt her, so Liera hurt other party members instead until she was gently taken down by non-lethal-owie damage. Asmodeus dominated most of the party, yet King Oris the Dragonrider suffered an uncharacteristic streak of bad luck and missed most of the party. Drawing on the power of Card Flame, Kavi drew exclusive and 5 HP-shy-of-lethal aggro from Asmodeus. Shanra kept the party from slipping into unconsciousness, the searing light of Amaunator burned all evil, and Verde fought the devil like Gandalf, with lightning-infused sword of fury. His first defeat by mortals in centuries, the Aspect of the Lord of the Ninth was destroyed in the stage set by Liera’s unconscious mind.

The party rushed to Liera’s still form. Liera was, once again, clutching the sealed golden box. Teenage Liera offered the party a key to the box, which opened to reveal one of Liera’s most closely-guarded secrets: a map to a Ring of Wishing. The ring appears to be secreted away in Myth Rhynn, an ancient city lost in Wealdath (aka the Forest of Tethir), north of the Starspire Mountains.

With Asmodeus’ defeat, Liera’s contract and bindings were weakened and quickly destroyed by the party. Liera’s most powerful ribbon of power was now free of Asmodeus and Hell, and the party cast it to the heavens, where it bound to the bright realm of Amaunator. Upon her release, the party was forcefully ejected from Liera’s mind.

And there, in a dark cell of Moonbane Prison, the remnants of the battle blown out of Liera’s mind were laid plain to see. Asmodeus’ Aspect was carrying Card Gem, and Liera’s key had been a psychic manifestation of Card Key. Asmodeus’ Aspect also had numerous exceptionally powerful magic items (one Rare item for each PC; clear with DM for items above L22).

After the battle, Kavi and Verde enlarged Verde’s card-carrying pouch to 4 cards max, and created a 2-card pouch for Kavi.

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Group Therapy
Who wants popcorn?

Liera’s “therapist”, a shadow mindflayer that the party disturbed at the end of the last session, seemed to accept the party as clergy of Shar. That is, until the party decided to kill him. Once hostilities commenced, the mindflayer invoked induced horrific delusions on the party members. These included:

  • Verde was a pixie dolphin.
  • Queen Oris… well, you get the picture.
  • Kavi was a penguin.
  • Shanra … evaded the spell? Crap.

Worse, the characters saw creatures of their worst nightmare, illusions created by the mindflayer:

  • Kavi saw walking slimemolds
  • Verde saw cloudy gelatinous cubes
  • Queen Oris saw Medium lobsters
  • Shanra saw carnival workers with disturbing juggling pins.

These [de|il]usions passed once the mindflayer was slain. The party realized that the mindflayer was one of the two secretaries from the lobby, and Verde understood that its holy symbol is one of a two-key lock system for the rooms.

Liera was sitting on a psychic interrogation table, and everyone but Shanra decided to go in for a look. Liera’s mind was a scary carnivalground, and the party soon ran into a very young tiefling that looked just like Liera. The child seemed disoriented and confused, but every piece of information about herself seemed to help her grow up a bit more. Lessons learned: take wine over popcorn, give the appearance of thanks, it’s not nice to steal, and don’t destroy someone for taking your corn dog.

The party then provided Liera with some sketchy moral guidance when presented with various dilemmas from the vantage of a spinning merry-go-round whose “horsies” were apparently statues of angels and devils. There was:

  • The “protect the kid or take power?” problem (protect the kid and then take the loot).
  • The “protect another adult or die yourself?” problem (don’t die yourself tops the priority list).
  • The “is it okay to kill X?” game (mostly depends on if they’re doing harm, if they’re potentially useful, and/or if they’re more powerful than you).
    Ultimately, Verde told Liera to use herself as a moral compass.

Looking more like herself all the time, Liera playfully suggested the party go visit a playmate of hers… Asmodeus.

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Where'd Liera go?

Inky appeared after Vanrak ate it, and after extensive negotiations, Inky and the party negotiated the following deal:

  • Do what we can to kill Vecna. Inky will help & direct.
  • Inky gets most of Vecna’s power.
    • The party negotiated this to 80% Inky/20% party.
  • We keep what else we find, though not the eye/hand.
  • Inky manages the Reborn Cult of the Dragon in our absence
    • “Moral” management practices: no slavery, no child labor, a livable wage
    • Profits go to the Cult fund
    • Inky shall attempt recruitment of the Gold (Ixzi…) and Silver (Grax…) dragons, luring with:
      • Baby Red Dragon rescue opportunity
      • Shadow Dragon mentorship opportunity
      • Cult Leadership Opportunity
      • Generous Benefits Package
    • Disputes between Inky and Dragons are referred to party via Extra-planar Sending. Party has 24 hour grace period before Inky makes the call.
  • And Inky is friends with Verde

The party also learned that Inky has a contract with Gill the Beholder at a much better rate than Billy came for. Inky asked the party to infiltrate the Masked Lords of Waterdeep, as they hold an item Inky requires.

While we were negotiating that deal, Liera was looking at Vanrak’s body for loose change, and came across the cards of “Void” and “Dungeon” from the Deck of Many Things, and promptly vanished.

The Cards remained; Verde picked them up. They started whispering to her, so Verde created (with Kavi’s assistance) a magic pouch for the deck that’s “mostly thief-proof” (likely with a back-door for Kavi), element-proof, and has room for 2 cards. This could be improved with time and effort.

The party almost unwittingly took ownership of the 50-floor fortress when Vanrak’s goons showed up, frightened and ashamed of his death.

After wrapping up negotiations with Inky, we sought to find out where Liera was. Through a ritual from her blood, the group determined that she was in a jail run by Shar in Shar’s home area of the Shadowfell. Gwendolyn (a twin of the Cult’s librarian) pointed Verde to the right library location, and taking one for the team with some SAN loss, read up on the evilness that is Moonbane prison.

We traveled to the jail via ritual and talked our way in as important Shar worshipers in need of Tiefling sacrificial victims, and were trying to figure out how to break Liera out, were we able to even find her. The party also stumbled upon Sap the Dryad, and has not yet found a way to free her.

The session ended with our finding Liera in a “therapy” session, with us alerting the “therapist” to our presence.

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