The Leviathan Coast

Xavi Goes Home

I thwarted a Thayan civil war. If it hadn’t involved the release of Tiamat, I’d be pretty upset with myself right now for stopping Red Wizards from slaughtering each other.

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It has been some weeks since I left Waterdeep. It has been a fateful wander across the breadth of Faerun, near the end of which, I now find myself sitting on top of a dune in the great sand sea of Anauroch, watching a swarm of scarabs flicker in front of the desert sun. There is nothing here to assume the furniture of home or the armature of the crowd, soulless… empty of all the distractions implanted by the eyes of others. None of the push of Clara’s efforts to regain her family name. (We live in a world of too many names as it is.) None of Raz’s surreptitious comings and goings to uncover a murder? clear her name? climb the magocratic ladder? (I was always unsure.) None of Carric’s secrets quests. None of Viola lust fantastical projections of the things in the world into the vessel of her self.

I still have not found who killed Hume. Not that Raz will not eventually, mounted as she is on the resources of Blackstaff tower.

But I have helped to make a city less corrupt and callous, and to stop a lord of hell from entering this world. Before I return to Rashemen, I should go to find some of the metallic dragon lords and learn more the draconic connection to the Weave.

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Much heroics. So wow.
Viola dies, getting a new lease on life.

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We returned to the Blackstaff Tower with our half-elf evil witch in tow and found that the place was a complete disaster, with a giant hole right down the middle. It seems that the Cult of the Dragon, eager to kidnap Laraelra, dropped a portal stone right in the middle of the tower and cultists came swarming out like ants at a picnic.

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You have to give them credit: Baller move. But still, you know, evil. Luckily, Carric had somehow gotten word of the evil plot and he and this half-elf and this young gnome managed to stop them. After composing ourselves, Carric explained that the half-elf was his daughter, Liliwyn, and her traveling companion Garos Bumblesnot, or something like that. He’d run into these two just in the nick of time to save the acting Blackstaff’s life, it appears. Carric seemed into this Lili woman and her gnome friend, but overall, I cannot say I was impressed. Second rate poseurs, if I’m being honest. Sorry your druid spawn is inadequate, Carric, but them’s the breaks.

After putting the half-elf and Quinn Podesta under some serious questioning and mind-reading, we determined that the elaborate plot had two parts: Blow up a bunch of dragon eggs and throw a spellbook that was holding the Blackstaff’s soul into a deep lava pit. The two together was supposed to create a major explosion that would allow Tiamet the dragon demon queen to take over the world and destroy us all. The last thing the world would apparently see would look something like this:

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In my long list of ways to die, this seemed second only to beheading in terms of awfulness, so I was in for whatever it took to stop this. As is typical with our group, much debate ensued. Some of us thought we should go directly to Garlan Arundel, on the grounds that he probably had that Blackstaff-infused spellbook at his mansion and we could just stop this horrible event right then and there. Some felt that was too simple an answer and argued instead we should go back to the Lodge we found through the portal stone and try to find out the answers there. Team Fuck Up Garlan Now lost the debate, and we went to the Lodge. Well, not right away, but after a rest and after Val insisted on making Carric submit to mind-reading, which she said was for her peace of mind but I am beginning to believe is some kind of half-orc sexual fetish.

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When we got to the crypt and portal stone’d to the Lodge, things seemed relatively peaceful. Getting a good night’s rest and going after evil forces at the crack of dawn is just good thinking. Evil motherfuckers are night owls I hear, and you can really catch them with drool on their faces if you go at it this way. Xavi, Carric and I snuck around while our friends held back. We spied a four-armed troll guarding a stable full of wyverns, which was alarming. Naturally, Xavi stepped on the loudest twig I’ve ever heard and this troll asshole came right for us. Well, Xavi, because Carric and I were still hidden.

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Xavi decided to be “proactive” (a word I learned from an MBA-having upstart who joined the Redbrands and was trying to organize us into a more efficient criminal enterprise until he got shivved in a drunken argument over whether to institute performance evaluations) and attacked this troll with his fist of fire. It looked cool as fuck, but alas, it did not perform to expectations, as my deceased friend might say. The troll fought back with fury and had him pinned. Xavi was not in a good place.

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I climbed into a tree, lit a torch, and started shooting flaming arrows at this troll as Carric also tried to kill him with fire. At this point, a bunch of cultists came scrambling out of the Lodge, but luckily, Ges, Val, and Clara were there to kill them with a vengeance. The melee became loud and confusing and a wight jumped in, and at some point, I realized Carric was right beneath me, dying. So I jumped out of the tree and gave him a healing potion.

At this point, the group had killed off everyone but the wight, who took off running towards through the Lodge and to a portal stone. We followed and found ourselves in…Garlan’s mansion.

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There were some cultists and some other fucktards hanging around, scheming to destroy the world, and in the middle of it, wearing a five-headed dragon helmet, was Garlan himself.

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The only way he could have looked stupider is if he was posing in a fedora for his Tinder profile. (“Garlan, 55. I love parties, brothels, and destroying the world to make them all pay.”) They were clearly discussing throwing this spellbook with Blackstaff’s soul into the fire to destroy the world and bring Tiamat in from some hell dimension. We were standing quietly on the portal stone, so we caught them by surprise, and did some serious damage. I hear Clara threw some guy into the lava! I tried jumping on Garlan’s head and attempting to pull the helmet off his head, to no avail. That thing was screwed on tight and he seemed awfully strong. He was surprisingly hard to beat for a feeble old man, at what point I began to believe this helmet, no matter how stupid it looked, might also be stupid strong in the badass magical powers realm.

But the main thing was getting the book. Val shot the book out of Garlan’s hand and everyone started trying to get to it at once. Then Carric called a bunch of wolves and one of them threw the book into his hands. Good dog! I hope he gets properly rewarded.

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Carric then made a dash for the portal. Garlan, with me on his back, gave chase. Ges also chased us, but somehow lost us after we jumped from the Lodge back to the crypt. In the crypt, faced with Garlan spewing crazy badass magic everywhere, Carric turned into a crocodile and jumped in the water. This is where shit started to truly get surreal. Garlan kept hammering me with magic and I kept pulling at his helmet, and just as the life began to slip out of me, off that helmet popped and we hit the ground. The last thing I saw as I slipped out of consciousness and began to drift towards death was this amazing, super-powered crocodile bursting out of the water and biting Garlan, now a feeble old helmet-less man, dying by the process of croco-dick-ectomy.

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Next thing I know, Clara is waking me from certain death with a healing potion. As I come to, I hear my friends explaining that one of the bad guys got away and we have to chase him down and kill him. And, believe me when I tell you, my only thought was in how badly I wanted to wipe out all these dragon cult motherfuckers, preferably through the dick removal method, when I put that helmet on. Look, I saw how much power Garlan had and how hard it was to kill him and I thought my soft-bodied halfling self could use all the help I could get. So I slipped it on….

Y’all, Adder’s Tongue has nothing on what it feels like to have pure evil coursing through your veins as you think nothing but the fanatical thoughts of a religious sadist. Many of us can dream about what it must be like to be Rick Santorum, but I, I have felt it. The wild-eyed stare, the overwhelming certainty coupled with a desire to destroy them all, my spiritual boner fully erect at the thought of dealing out some pain to the non-believers.

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To my friends who I tried to kill, I want to offer my sincere apologies. For a minute, all I could see were the sinners, the fornicators, the communists, and people who snicker under their breath when someone is blessing the food, and I totally forgot those are my most favorite people in the world. I was on fire with the white hot passion of the fundamentalist and I totally promise that when I ask for forgiveness, I really am sorry. Not walking the Appalachians sorry. Not Josh Duggar sorry, but really, truly sorry. I didn’t mean it. It was the helmet talking. And to prove that I really am sorry for all that, I can say without hesitation that you did the right thing in taking my head off my shoulders to stop me.

I also would like to thank you, Clara in particular, for bothering to resurrect me. I would totally understand if you felt, after that, you might like me better as a distant memory. I will not waste this second chance at life you’ve given me. Continuing a life of petty thievery and mindless money-grubbing is not for me. No, I plan to use my precious time on earth to do something with myself: Become a mob boss, control a major criminal organization, defy any attempts by law enforcement or do-gooders like the Lord’s Alliance to get between me and my fight for massive profiteering off the criminal underground. I will not waste this gift. I will be sitting in a mansion like Garlan’s, stroking some expensive and very large animal I keep for a pet while ordering minions to do my dirty work. And I’ll stay away from magic helmets from here on out. This much, I promise you.

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Uncovering the great conspiracy
Viola finds her conscience

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After returning to the Fiery Flagon and dyeing my hair in panic, a bunch of cops showed up. Carric wisely turned into a cat and took off, but not having that option, I went meekly along with Clara to face justice. Somehow, through many political machinations, our compatriots Xavi, Ges, and Val ended up jailed with us. While Cade offered to take us, somehow Quinn Poedsta got us.

Val managed to transport out, but the rest of us were stuck. But then the guards just happened to leave the locks all but unlocked and, of course, we got out. I snuck up and saw that it was an obvious trap, because Podesta and her men were combat-ready, eager to kill us.

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We went after it anyway, after Xavi convinced us that they were going to kill us one way or another. Things were not going well. Xavi was all but killed, Ges was captured and Clara and I were captured.

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Then our knight in shining armor, aka Cade and Vale in some weird disguise, showed up.

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Quinn and most of her buddies took off, but we captured two of them. When we sacked the place, we found a second portal code word along with some inspirational words about reaching for the sky. After we returned to the Blackstaff Tower—-and after Val, who has secrets of her own, made us—-and we submitted to a mind-reading, we figured that our captives were part of a Cult of the Dragon conspiracy to destroy Waterdeep.

Lala and Cade took the threat seriously, but left us to pursue one possible avenue, going to the City of the Dead to see what some assholes were up to there. Turns out, a lot. After capturing a couple hanging around outside and using their costumes to sneak inside, my friends discovered this dumb cult is the real deal. They have actual portals and the ability to go to other worlds!!!

To find this out, however, required Xavi and myself using a zombie to distract the guards and steal their clothes. The less said about our exploitation of the undead, the better.

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There was a lot of debate about how to play this, but my sense that we should just play along to get along and see what happens worked out. My friends learned a lot about the conspiracy that we can take back to Lala and finally stop this plot. After they went along with the plot, most of the Cult of the Dragon mofos took off, leaving only some high priestess half-elf. She tried to take off, but we subdued her and are taking her to the Blackstaff Tower for questioning.

My friends are wondering how it is that I balked from stealing from a corpse and am generally flying straight and acting right. The answer is simple: Stealing from the dead is bad luck, and where we’re going, we’re going to need all the luck we can get.

That said, we should take all the money we have and buy some magical tools and weapons to help us. I may know a guy.

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Bird's Eye View: Ep. 08 -- Svant Cha-Sid

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Kythorn 06 continued

After 90 minutes of rest, Clara, Viola and Carric came face to face with a patrol of City Watch and City Guard working together, and they asked to take Clara to meet the Open Lord for urgent business. Still badly damaged, Carric hopped out the window before anyone tried to engage him. Fortunately, these guards didn’t seem overly threatening, and Clara and Viola went along. Everything seemed to be fine until another guard rode up and rerouted them.

Then they saw the mess outside the Thayan Embassy. The Open Lord rode up in his ceremonially imposing splendor and asked LaLa what was going on.
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She told him of a plot at the Thayan Embassy, that there’s a plan to blow up the city somehow. So Wisetide strode up to the Embassy and went toe-to-toe with Rath Modar, the Ambassador of Thay. Modar tossed a body off his roof, a Red Wizard he claimed was killed on his embassy soil in an unprovoked attack. Lord Wisetide questioned Xavi, Larealra and friends about the events, and while the troop was insistent that they were being led into danger by Modar, they also had to concede that they struck the first blow. Modar claimed the guard was just reacting defensively after sudden commotion and a charging band of warriors, while Xavi and LaLa argued that he was taking a combat pose and meant to keep them trapped.

Wisetide demanded a search of the Embassy, but Modar said that would be an act of war. He countered that these miscreants should be rounded up and put on trial for murder. With what felt like half the city looking on, Wisetide agreed to the imprisonment pending investigation, but warned Modar that there would be more investigation into the Wizards, as well. Modar did not seem particularly concerned.

Then Wisetide hauled his retinue off to the Market Square Tavern, and held an impromptu Lordly Session of Lordliness and set his sights on Clara and Viola. He accused them of killing a band of Eldritch Knights and stealing city gold. Clara spun a yarn as best she could, but when Wisetide called forth a witness, it turned out to be one of the Eldritch Knights. He’d been resurrected, and he had some very unpleasant things to say about Clara, Viola, Ges and the absent Carric. Wisetide went on to say that he heard from Clara’s uncle Garlan that she was unhinged and dangerous, and that he had further corroborating testimony that she was the financial sponsor of the city’s disruptions at the hands of the supposed Common Alliance. Clara strenuously denied this.

In a rare fit of rage, Wisetide flipped over his table and demanded everyone be rounded up and taken away from him at once — Xavi’s group, Clara’s group, whoever. Cade Thorngage stepped forward to assume responsibility for the group, but Commander Quinn Podesta of Harborwatch, she of the dragonhilt sword and the head of the dock-area strikebreaking efforts, said the prisoners should be hers as it was her men who were (temporarily) killed. Wisetide yelled for her to take them all and she did. As the Open Lord went off to speak with Larealra furter, the band was marched to the Harborwatch cells in the Dock Ward and locked up in the basement.

With the locks warded, our heroes seemed stuck. Well, all except for Valravn, who simply misted out of the cell and left the group with even fewr options… at least until the mess officers who left them food in the early evening seemingly forgot to re-ward the locks. A couple quick lockpicks had them free, but when they made a stealthy check up the stairs, they saw Commander Podesta and her four Eldritch Knights waiting for them in combat pose. This was a trap.

At the same time, being trapped in a prison by people who want you dead doesn’t leave a lot of options. You could fight now, or fight later, and so Clara, Viola, Ges and Xavi charged into the fight.

Podesta was equipped with not one but two powerful weapons: her dragonhilt sword dealt extra acid damage with every hit, and in her off hand she held a Wand of Paralysis. It does what you think it does.

Ges and Viola made a break for their weapons stash across the room while Clara and Xavi engaged the five foes. Blows were exchanged, but Podesta was able to paralyze Xavi and eventally batter him nearly to death with acid orbs conjured and tossed by the Knights.

After grabbing weapons, Ges and Viola went to try and unlock the door, but they were also frozen by the Wand, and things looked bleak.

But then the cavalry arrived! Instead of abandoning them, Val had gone off to get Cade Thorngage and alert him to the trap he had overheard Podesta setting with her men. Thorngage brought a few of his most trusted soldiers (including the Knight Carric had charmed and Endrik Tarim, Viola’s best friend from their childhood together in Phlanderhead, I mean Phanderbend). The Knights formed a wall and tried to hold their ground on the orders of Podesta, who escaped out the back behind their cover. In the end, two of the Eldritch Knights also escaped while two others were taken into custody.

The group then searched Podesta’s office. In her desk, they found a roster of soldiers and their work shifts. It was clear the Knights were often placed on overnight duty and thus had more freedom to get up to shenanigans. Behind the desk, the gang found a pin, a fang pin, that Cade Thorngage said was often used to mark ranks on the Cult of the Dragon. That cinched it: Quinn Podesta was likely in the Cult. There were also two booby-trapped drawers.

Disarming one trap, the group found a scroll similar to the Draezir scroll from Garlan’s. This one has the Draconic phrase “Svant Cha-Sid” and a different pattern design inside a circle. The phrase means something loosely akin to “reach for the sky” and everyone agreed it was likely another portal stone command.

Val then cleared everyone out and opened the other drawer, which sprayed poison. Eyes and mouth closed, Val grabbed a box and got out of there. When she was able to look inside, Val finds a Ring of Fire Resistance with a dragon head etched finely onto the garnet stone.

Taking the two Knights to Blackstaff Tower, Clara noticed you were being watched but Cade advised that you keep moving. You did. Inside the tower, down a flight of winding stairs, was a rotunda of cells, each with magical barriers under Larealra’s control. To trick your prisoners, Val put on the disguise of Quinn Podesta while LaLa read one’s mind. From that, she learned that the Knights and Podesta are in the Cult of the Dragon, that the Cult has been repurposed somehow and now is dedicated to the worship of Tiamat, and she saw the path to the crypt in the City of the Dead to which the Knight dropped off the red dragon egg. Cade promises to work on the evac plan for the city whikle LaLa works on contacting the metallic dragons for help. Our heroes were off to the crypts.

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As you approached the crypt used by the Cult, Clara spotted two Cultists making their way to the crypt. The team encircled and defeated them, scaring one with the fate of being fed to the zombies so she would cough up the passwords to enter. You then stole their outfits and two members made their way into the crypts. There, they spotted the two stones with the patterns you have seen on your Draezir and Svant Cha-Sid scrolls.
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To get the rest of the group inside, you used a shambling zombie. Tossing him into the crypt, he drew out the two guards in the doorway, who you then subdued and claimed their cult outfits. Viola hid near the tomb while Xavi and Ges took the place as the door guards. That left Clara and Val to head down to the main pit.
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There, a half-elf woman who read from a large leatherbound volume called the meeting to order.
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She lined up all the Cult members and had them step onto the Svant Cha-Sid stone and whisper the word. Watching people vanish one by one, not knowing where they were going, was a little scary, but both Val and Clara said the words. And when they were, they were whisked somewhere far away. TO a flying ice castle in the sky somewhere in the far north, to be (a little more) precise.

There, Talis ran the group through the plan:

  • Retrieve the white egg from inside the ice castle
  • Place the egg in the center of the crypt while the other groups do the same with their eggs.
  • Allow the Red Wizards to take control of the crypt’s main room
  • Defend them with their lives as they complete their ritual
  • Take the portal stone back to the castle at the end of their ritual

The half-elf said that another of the egg protectors has a runthrough for their group tomorrow night, and then on the 8th, all of their dreams will come true. The Dragonwaste will be born and a new dawn will begin.

The half-elf then dismissed the Cultists. As everyone left, she made her way back to the Svant Cha-Sid stone, but with just your group left, you used that opportunity to attack. She proved quite a handful — her plague of locusts spell and Wand of Winter were difficult threats to handle. But Xavi made his way up to her side in disguise, and while his first few blows didn’t even dent her armor, neither was she able to freeze him with her Wand. That stalemate was eventually broken by Xavi, who delivered the final blow and sent her into unconsciousness.

Clara claimed her +1 scale mail, someone else took the Wand of WInter (who, I don’t recall), and someone else has her book, The Glory of Tiamat, which describes in rich detail what Tiamat’s return will do to the realm. In short:
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With that, the group went back to the Blackstaff Tower to regroup…

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Song: Never Bored With The Morning Lord
A Hymn for the Waterdeep Temple of Lathander

Never Bored With the Morning Lord
by Ges Slahoot

If you’re craving something new,
Lathander is the god for you.

The god of light and youth and grace,
Feel His rays upon your face.

Make new friends, expand your mind.
Leave your dreary faith behind.

Salons and parties, lectures too.
There’s always something fun to do.

Sing with us, forget your cares.
Life’s too short for boring prayers.

The Morning Lord, bless’d be he…
Said “Bring your dreams and schemes to me.”

We grease the skids, we turn the gears,
We hook you up with financiers.

We worship He Who Brings the Dawn,
He keeps the draco-liches gone.

So, get your ass up out of bed.
Face the sun and fight undead!

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After Action Report: Two Triumphs and a Tragedy Before Noon
By Ges Slahoot

Kythorn 6

This morning, I went to see Janek Farrowsun, a very handsome, serene, and optimistic priest at the Temple of Lathander. I was feeling very unsettled about the prospect of Waterdeep being blown to smithereens by slaving undead wizards, demented druids, and greed-blind humans. I wanted to blurt out all the details to my spiritual adviser, but I feared that would be a sin against optimism. We don’t know for sure this is going to happen. And besides, we can probably fix it before anybody knows what’s wrong.

Janek loved my new song, “Never Bored with the Morning Lord”! The temple is going to perform it for Dawn Rites. Granny would be so proud! I really hope that the world doesn’t end before the premiere of my anthem of faith and optimism.

On my last visit, I told Janek about the mysterious death of Venomfang at the hands of Dragon Cultists in Thundertree. Clara and Viola will recall, the cultists died trying to abscond with Venomfang’s eggs. (Note to Self: Goal of Dragon Cultists=draco-liches!!) (Unresolved: Draco-litches only come from ancient dragons. Why steal eggs?)

Today, Janek told me that Waterdeep’s magical anti-dragon barrier remains intact. But an alert Lathanderite dockworker named Harvin Ashwood spotted a red dragon’s egg being smuggled into the city and alerted the temple elders. That sighting took place about a week ago.

Janek expects the egg will be to be taken to the City of the Dead, the nexus of undead activity within the walls of Waterdeep. Normally, between the City Watch and the Lathanderites, they keep it down to a dull moan and a brief shuffle. But, with the current supernatural turmoil in Waterdeep, I fear that the red egg might be used for draconic/lichian purposes.

I left the Temple of Lathander in a positive frame of mind, but my elation soon turned to bitter remorse.

I set out with Clara, Viola, and Carric to disrupt the city’s attempt to buy scab labor and undermine the dock strike.

We saw several dockworkers standing in line to get their payoffs. I wanted to slap each of them. Suddenly, I had an idea to keep them from taking the money. I would warn the dockworkers that the gold was cursed. If they didn’t believe me, Carric would summon a pair of giant magic spiders to drive home the point.

Well, they didn’t believe me. But those would-be scabs took off running when the spiders set upon them! They’re going to tell all their shiftless friends that the money is cursed. Nobody will dare turn up for scab pay tomorrow. And we’ll see who’s scratching oozing spider bites at the Splintered Stair tonight.

Some of the thwarted scabs had a real blame-the-messenger attitude. So, I blended back into the crowd.

I watched as four Eldritch Knights exited the makeshift counting house, lugging a huge chest. I held back. I knew that some of my compatriots wanted to commit an armed robbery. I didn’t want to spill blood for gold, but I must admit, I wanted to see the scab fund stripped bare. That’s strike-breaking money.

I should have left then, but I was worried about my comrades. It’s crazy to attack four Eldritch Knights in broad daylight.

At first it seemed like they were pursuing a non-lethal strategy. Carric tried to immobilize the knights with vines, then Clara got tangled up in the vines, and suddenly Viola was stabbing an Eldritch Knight. She’s so little! And there were four of them, and they’re big, and strong and, magic. And Clara was all tangled up in vines and…and I DON’T KNOW. I drew my blades and threw myself into the fray. Carric turned into a bear and chaos reigned. By the end, Carric was gravely wounded and Four Eldritch Knights were dead.

Clara smashed the chest with her great axe and we all grabbed as much gold as we could and ran. At first I was excited about having stolen the city’s gold.

I couldn’t wait to get my scimitars silvered. I was going to go buy healing potions and magic weapons for the fight ahead. Also, a present for Nissa. Beautiful, brave, noble Nissa. Viola said she’d help me pick out a ruby amulet, or a jeweled tail-guard, or something elegant like that.

As I thought about Nissa, I began to have second thoughts about what I’d done. She wouldn’t approve of killing those knights. What if she knew them? What if they were her friends? I imagined her black slit-like pupils narrowing against me. I couldn’t bear to hear her low, rattling snarl of disdain.

I don’t want this dirty money anymore! I want to give it all to the Moonstar war chest so that Nissa can go into battle in the finest armor, like the warrior princess that she is, but I can’t tell them where the money came from. (Unresolved: Do they take anonymous donations?)

I am DONE backing up Viola’s impulsive homicides, Clara’s bizarre machinations, and Carric’s weird stunts. Next time, they’re on their own.

Respectfully submitted,

Ges Slahoot

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Tangled Bine Stems Score the Sky
Xavi Flings his Soul at the Growing Doom

I have know my compatriots but for a few days drawn by a vision that the lichocracy of Thay threatens the descendants of the chosen. Their agendas are all over the place, and they lack clarity, confusing self-interest for political strategy. Their plans are poorly thought out. They cannot prioritize. And they have taken my suspicions lightly. Now, there is proof. Lala detected the machinations and subterfuges of the Thayans on the surface of their minds.

There can be no question, Thay makes a play for the West. Moreover, the Wychlaran send a message that there are rumors of a Red force headed West. Either the Liches make a move to grab a center of the world or the resentful human wizards seek to make their own stronghold removed from the necromocracy.

I may die doing so, but I will stop them. My compatriots largely lack an appreciation of the threat to grasp what is at stake. Even if they were to understand it, they lack the capacity. The workers’ movement and the Masked Lords and the Moonstars must all work together to stop it. I believe that what we can best do right now is discover how to release the spirit of the Blackstaff so that Lala can claim much of its power. We can find the dragon eggs and prevent the ritual from happening. And perhaps we can find the dragons from whom the eggs were stolen and point them at Thay and Ophilin to exact revenge.

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Random grooming update
Viola gets a makeover

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For reasons of pure whimsy that have nothing whatsoever to do with fear of imprisonment and/or execution, Viola chopped off her long blonde hair and dyed it auburn when she returned to the Fiery Flagon.

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This is the Thanks I Get
From Carric Naïlo's Journals.

This may have been our—or at least my—darkest day yet. It’s not even noon and I’ve lost my best friend, almost died, and done things I’m not proud of. I’ve behaved rashly and impatiently, and I may have betrayed my Circle, and set in motion its revelation and destruction at the hand of the Harpers.

All this to save a city. A godsdamned city. I know when my friends look around Waterdeep, they see the City of Splendors. Or the home of their childhood. Or a place for fellowship with their fellow man. Or a city of opportunity, a place to make money.

I see none of those things. I see animals bred for docility and stupidity so they can be slaughtered without honor. I see trees felled before their time. I people leaving in squalor, out of tune with nature. I see corruption and oppression. I see the upset in the balance.

This is what I’ve decided to save. Bravo, Carric. Really. Bra-godsdamned-O.

I knew my friends would be upset when I told them the truth about Ophilin—which I’ve known for 2 days—and the Blackstaff and Clara’s Uncle, which I’ve known for only a few hours.

I wish I could’ve explained myself better.

I wish I could’ve better explained to these impatient, short-lived people the value of the long game. The need, sometimes, to hide what you know, to wait until the right opportunity. To meet challenges sideways, instead of head on. To not strike until you know the moment is right, even if that has consequences, even if people die. Because the consequences of the head-on approach are almost always more severe, particularly when your opponent is more knowledgeable, organized, and powerful than you.

I can’t expect them to understand, I suppose. They’ve never had to maintain a cover for very long. I’ve had to live as other people, allowing things I hate to transpire for years, because my Circle’s goals required it.

Here’s what I told them, although in not so many words. When I first discovered Ophilin was involved with the common alliance, I assumed he was working to help the green roots gain power wihtin the movement, that he was hoping to find a way as peacefully as possible to return the city of splendors to harmony with nature. To that end, I agreed with him to convince you to help.

Then I discovered what Ophilin really planned: He wanted to destroy Waterdeep. When he first told me, I didn’t take him seriously. I agreed with him, and agreed to help, but it was such a pipe dream, I thought the worst that would happen is a rioting, some chaos in the city, maybe. After all, no one has wiped a city off the map before. Raise an army and kill a bunch of people? Sure. But destroy everything? All the buildings, the animals, the people, the books? Wipe it out and start again? I’ve never heard of anyone seriously attempting such a thing. I know Ophilin is tired of what he calls “failing slowly to keep the balance.” I thought he was just ranting.

But no. He wants to, in his words “wipe Waterdeep off the map,” and he doesn’t care how many people he kills to do it.

And what’s more, I think— no, I know, now— that he can succeed. And I know that because of what I learned last night, which is that Ophilin and Clara’s Uncle conspired to kill the Blackstaff, and as far as anyone knows, they have succeeded.

What’s more, Ophilin had a list of tasks he wanted me to do. He wanted me to:
- Convert Clara to our cause
- Return the stolen piece of paper to Lord Arundel
- Deceive the group into thinking the Open Lord is connected to the Black Staff’s disappearance
- Figure out ways to continue to eliminate the Harpers
- Encourage Ges’s work at the docks (as it is a “distraction”)
- Cause as much chaos as possible

Val was unbelievably upset with me. I can understand it, even if it stung. He’s a good person. He believes in being straightforward and honest, in achieving good by doing the right thing.

But what has doing the right thing or taking the straightforward approach gotten us? I wish I could get everyone to understand this, the value, particularly when you don’t have power, of doing what is necessary instead of what is right.

After all, it was only through going slantwise and not caring about “right” that I found out what’s planned for Waterdeep. It’s only through doing this that I found out what’s happened to the Blackstaff, what’s happening to the Harpers, what the real story behind the Common Alliance is. It’s only through doing this that I’ve been able to protect my friends from Ophilin, convincing him that they can be persuaded to go along with the destruction of Waterdeep so he won’t try to eliminate them.

I did this, me, alone, by myself, while the Harpers sat around congratulating themselves on how great they are, somehow blind to the fact that they’re being picked off, slowly, one by one. And it’s only by continuing to work the way I do, and by keeping my betrayal of Ophilin secret, that I’ll find out the details of what’s coming next.

Yet, instead, perhaps out of anger with me, Xavi and Val seem determined to tell as many people as possible—including people who might be Ophilin’s spies—about his plans. Which means every time I go to see Ophilin from now on, I am taking my life in my hands.

Yet still I will go. Because it is necessary that I do so. There’s too much at stake to worry about myself. I am not afraid to die.

Our eventual decision was for Xavi and Val to go to Blackstaff tower while the rest of us inspected the scene at the docks and tried to knock off the considerable amount of gold they have stored at the makeshift police station. This has four important benefits: helping the dockworkers strike—we’ll need a peaceful alternative to Ophilin’s madness, and Ges plan for a workers’ union is a good one—helping to maintain my cover, helping to further the story that Clara is coming around to Ophilin’s point of view, and raising some much needed funds for our efforts. Who knows whom we’ll need to bribe, what supplies or artifacts or information we might need to buy? Ophilin has spent ten years planning. We’ve been here for four days. The four longest days of my two hundred fifty years on this Earth.

I don’t want to write about what came next. It breaks my heart. It turns out that somehow Val was able to pierce the magical cloak of shadows that enveloped Clara and myself as we went about framing Softshade last night. I underestimated him, both in his abilities and his distrust of me.

When he confronted me, I told him everything. How I had snuck into a healer’s house to procure a dead body, found a man on the edge of death and eased his pain, and then used the body to frame Softshade. The eventual goal seemed like a good one: create a problem for Softshade. Solve the problem. Have her be indebted to us. Leverage that for information about her clients. Use that information to expand our influence amongst the nobles. It’s a classic move for those of us who work in the shadows, it’s been effective before.

I would learn later that it didn’t work out as planned. Yorienne simply left town to return to “the Farm,” which is some Harper getaway somewhere. I wasn’t there, having left to go meet Ophilin and Lord Arundel, which is when I learned about the Blackstaff. Even though our plan didn’t work out how we wanted, it had the surprise benefit of endearing both Lord Arundel and Ophilin to Clara and myself, and the request that I recruit her to help Ophilin’s cause.

Val was furious, as I harmed an innocent and framed another, and he accused me of breaking a solemn vow. He is misremembering our conversation. I said that I don’t like killing people unless it is necessary and that our definitions of necessary might vary. Our argument was about whether it is okay to kill people over political disagreements. I said no because killing over politics is an absurd, frivolous waste of life. I never swore a vow. I abide by my vows. Which is why I’m very careful as to when I make them.

I was so flustered by being discovered and by his anger that I was at a loss for words. But I doubt this explanation would’ve changed anything. I’m sure he would’ve told me I was being lawyerly, and it was yet more evidence that he can’t trust me.

I tried to explain myself to Val, but my words came out like old porridge. I tried to explain that I respected him, that I understood his goodness, that I thought we needed it, but that I needed him to respect me. To understand me. That I am an instrument of nature, and that nature is not good, or evil, it just is.

Honestly, I think I was more articulate as a dancing bear last night.

It seems that nothing I’ve done can outweigh what Val sees as a series of betrayals. The significant gains in intelligence about the Common Alliance, the Blackstaff, Ophilin and Lord Arundel, keeping Val’s secrets, protecting his life, our wanderings here with Xavi, none of it matters. Our bond is sundered, our oath is void, our friendship is over. I don’t see a way back from this.

In my anger, I called Val a child, and told him he was acting childishly. I don’t think that helped matters. I was just so angry. This morning I decided to do the right thing, betraying the confidence of a sworn brother of my Circle, perhaps setting in motion my own excommunication or death. And all it got me was the hatred of one of the few people I could call friend still living.

The truth is, we need each other, all of us. We are the only thing Ophilin didn’t plan for, and it’s only by working together that we’ll be able to stop him. We don’t know all the details of his plan, we don’t know the centuries-old factional intricacies of Waterdeep, we are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of numbers. We must stick together and we must be willing to work from the shadows, if we’re going to accomplish anything. What’s the life of one almost-dead plague victim up against the million of Waterdeep?

In addition, I must contact my Circle. They must know what Ophilin is up to, I must get them to secretly exile him so that I can move formally against him, and they must bring their strength here. It will take four days to get a message there and back.

Before I can do any of that, however, I must enter my trance and recover. Our misadventure this morning nearly cost me my life, and I feel my connection to The Weave has weakened. We will need to be together, and at our full capacity, for tonight’s investigation of the crypts. That’s assuming Xavi and Val ever return.

I will know more and have more freedom to act in four days. If I survive that long. If we make it through this, then I hope the Oak Father is merciful enough to keep me away from these damnable cities for a few years.

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Trust none, for oaths are straws
Valravn's diary

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There are three transgressions I cannot forgive. The first is oath-breaking: a man is only as good as his word. If his word is worthless, so is he. The second is falsely accusing or implicating someone in a crime: I know what it is like to be framed for a terrible deed, to be chased from your home and hunted like an animal. Anyone who would willingly consign another to that fate is a monster. The third is harming or killing those who cannot defend themselves. Our ragtag group has had our differences, to be sure, but until last night, I did not believe any of us could be so utterly vile, so contemptible, so completely black of heart as to murder a helpless, innocent man in cold blood.

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Carric Nailo, my closest friend and confidant since I fled my home, the man who I loved as a brother, the man who swore to protect me and vowed that he would never kill for sport or mere expedience, was revealed to be an oath-breaker, a framer of innocents, and a murderer of the defenseless. His partner in villainy is the corrupt Eldritch “Knight” Clara Arundel, who hatched and executed a terrible scheme to snatch some poor sickly man out of a house of healing and choke him to death in the street. (Druids being healers, one would expect this would violate their codes and incur the wrath of their leaders, but as we soon learned, Druids would rather see millions die than act against one of their own.)

The rationale for this appalling crime was apparently to plant a forged letter on the dead man’s body in order to frame brothel owner Yorienne Softshade for the murder of Lord Bardryn — a crime for which she would surely be executed, as the Open Lord made quite clear during his speech. (Why some poor defenseless man needed to die in order to frame Yorienne for a completely different murder was unclear.) The pair then approached Yorienne and offered to help her escape the very charge they had pinned on her, in exchange for information. She refused, and then fled the city on her own, revealing that she was a Harper agent and would avail herself of her own resources.

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So: not only did Carric break his vow to me, and not only did he and Clara strangle the life from a defenseless man in order to get an innocent woman condemned to death, they gained nothing for their efforts, and additionally managed to make themselves enemies of the Moonstars by burning one of their agents.

The sickening irony is that Larealra had already revealed to me that Yorienne was one of hers, and I Iearned more from Yorienne by simply befriending her and speaking to her at last night’s party than Carric and Clara learned in the course of their horrible scheme — information I fully intended to reveal to the party… that is, until Clara and Carric decided to step out on a late-night murder-and-blackmail-the-innocent spree.

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I was — and am — utterly distraught at having misjudged Carric so completely, and at having put my trust in such a faithless, cowardly, utterly contemptable man. But before I could confront him with what I’d learned, he announced he had something to confess to the party. Amazingly, his confession had nothing to do with his being a murderer and oath-breaker — rather, he revealed to the party something even more shocking: that Rydell Bronzeblossom, one of the Common Alliance’s inner circle, is actually Ophilin Karar, Carric’s longtime friend, fellow Druid, and homicidal maniac whose decade-long plot to wipe out the entire city of Waterdeep and everyone in it is about to come to fruition.

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Did I mention Carric has known of Ophilin’s plan for days and has kept it from all of us, while we dallied and dithered at a godsbedamned party, instead of trying to prevent Armageddon? Did I mention that this party was being hosted by Ophilin’s main co-conspirator, Garland Arundel? (I think we now know from whence Clara gets her homicidal tendencies.) Did I mention that Garland and Ophilin murdered the current Blackstaff and leader of the Moonstars, Vajra Safahr? Did I mention they have also somehow prevented Vajra’s spirit from returning to Blackstaff Tower, thus preventing her successor, Larealra, from becoming the new Blackstaff? Did I mention that they’ve been killing off Moonstars and Harpers left and right and almost certainly have a double agent within the organization? Did I mention that the entire Common Alliance (the uprising at the docks included) are (at best) dupes — unwitting pawns in Ophelin’s plan to sow discord and keep the authorities distracted? Did I mention that Carric, who was perfectly willing to break his vows when it meant strangling a helpless old man for no good reason, now claims his vows prevent him from harming a fellow Druid without the approval of his Circle — even though millions of lives hang in the balance?

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So. How did my companions react to Carric’s shocking revelations?

Viola suggested we take this opportunity to go down to the docks and fill our pockets with the gold the City Watch is using to bribe striking dockworkers into returning to work. Once this is done, she told us she intends to flee the city rather than sticking around to try to prevent its destruction. I note that her heist would also result in causing more chaos on the docks —which is exactly what Ophelin wants.

Clara asked us to wait until nightfall before taking any decisive action, so that she might have the opportunity to speak with her lunatic uncle and attempt once again to ingratiate herself with him — which I note again, is also exactly what Ophelin wants her to do. Her request that her uncle cut her into his illicit businesses did not appear to go well last night, but for all I know, that was all for show and she has been in league with him since the beginning. A woman who will murder innocents so freely is capable of anything!

Carric is dead to me.

Ges sang a song about Lathander. While I appreciate his attempt to raise our spirits in the face of a terrifying cataclysm, I’m not sure this was the most opportune moment. And I am left wondering what in the Nine Hells this good-hearted simple human male has been doing running around with a conscienceless thief and a cold-blooded killer. I can only assume he was as innocent of his companions’ true nature as I was of Carric’s. When the opportunity arises, I must warn him.

Only Xavi seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation. The destruction of the city is imminent. Millions of lives are at risk. We have no time to lose. We are headed immediately for Blackstaff Tower, where we will tell Larealra everything we know. After that, the Open Lord must be alerted, and contingency plans must be made to evacuate the city if we cannot thwart Ophelin’s plan in time.

Meanwhile, having learned of the impending danger to Waterdeep and everyone in it, the others have (of course) decided the best course of action is for them to take the opportunity to fatten their coinpurses with stolen gold. Let them have their little heist — Xavi and I are off to try to save Waterdeep. (I can only hope that their avarice does not result in the deaths of any Eldritch Knights, at a time when the city’s magical defenses are already weak.)

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