Session #5, here we go!
From the northern tower, Xolkin repeated "Give me Kella Darkhope!" down to the assembled crowd below. The party, confused, tried to quickly come up with a plan, but Xolkin had one of his men shoot dead one of the villagers, Brynn Osstra, the rest of whom began panicking and backing away from the palisade walls. Xolkin once again called out, "Give your weapons to Kella and back away from her!" One by one, the group handed their weapons to Kella, who awkwardly held Bran's bow and arrows, Stark's thunder cannon, Malagoth's long sword, and Aera's rapier in her outstretched arms.
As the party took a step back and tried to hide the smaller weapons from view, Kella stepped forward to the edge of the moat. Suddenly, an arrow flashed from the tower and shot into Kella's shoulder. She lurched forward, dropping into the water below. At the same time, Xolkin's men shot two more villagers, Barley Summerhawk and Renarra Hulvaarn, as they fled into the forest in a full blown panic.
Aera grabbed a silk rope and glided over to the other side of the moat, tying it off on a post for hanging lanterns. Malagoth tied the rope to a sword and slammed it into the ground, then began moving across the moat. Stark, seeing his precious Serenity plummet into the river with Kella, dove in after it. Bran sent Smoke after the villagers to protect them and then covered the barbarian as he crossed.
Stark searched beneath the waves for his weapon, but was only able to find the rapier, long sword, and bow and half-empty quiver. Malagoth finished his crossing as Aera leapt up onto the roof of the northern tower. From his vantage point, the aarakocra saw two of Xolkin's company, gathering six horses, readying them to run across the drawbridge once it was open. Malagoth gripped the edge of the bridge with his meaty hands and began pulling the bridge away from the wall.
Aera moved to the walkway between the towers as the two horsemen on the ground fired volleys of crossbow bolts at her. Aera injured one of them as two more guards opened trap doors on the tops of each tower. Outside the walls, Bran began to make his way across the rope, but only made it halfway across when someone inside the towers released the drawbridge, which came crashing down. Malagoth ran inside and headed for the entrance to the north tower.
Stark kept searching for his weapon, but was still unsuccessful, and was getting pushed downstream. Aera glided down, killing one of the horsemen. The other rider, angry at seeing her compatriot die, fired her crossbow blindly with one hand, but missed. The two guards on top of the tower moved to the middle of the walkway, hoping to jump onto the horses as they rode by. They fired crossbow bolts at Aera, hitting and wounding her. As Malagoth rounded the corner and made it to the north tower door, the door was ripped out of his hand as a guard opened the door and just as quickly, slammed it shut. A sixth guard ran out of the south tower.
Bran whistled for Smoke, who turned around and ran at breakneck speed back to the bridge. The barbarian tried to break down the door, but failed, somehow. Aera attacked the other rider's horse, killing it and knocking the rider to the ground. Bran ran into the gate and moved to intercept the guard at the south tower entrance. As Aera dispatched the fallen rider, Malagoth heard a crashing sound and saw flames lick up from the bottom of the door. The barbarian joined the ranger in taking down the guard at the south tower, then ran inside. The two crossbowmen on the walkway fired two more bolts at the aarakocra, one of them hitting and nearly killing her. After they fired their weapons, they turned and dove into the water. Bran and Mal heard the splash coming from the moat. Mal hurried outside while the ranger checked the upper floor of the tower and found Alara Winterspell tied up and unconscious.
Outside in the moat, Stark sees the two guards jump into the water and swim to the wall of the moat. He looks around and sees Kella climbing up a rope ladder that hung on the outer moat wall, west of the keep, Stark's thunder cannon strapped across her back. Angered, Stark swims for the outer wall and begins to climb. Back at the north tower, the guard who set the door on fire had climbed through the trap door in the roof and dove into the moat.
Malagoth ran across the drawbridge and waited for one of the guards to crest the edge of the moat. Bran, who heard the third splash, decided to return to the gate. The dragonborn grimaced, flecks of acidic spittle on his lips, as he saw Kella mount a horse and join a second mounted rider and gallop towards the coast. Aera made her way back to the moat and threw a dagger into one of the guards attempting to stay afloat. As the first guard pulled himself up over the edge of the moat, the barbarian wound up and struck out at the enemy, killing him. The guard with the dagger in his shoulder attempted to climb, but fell back into the water and succumbed to the current. Malagoth threw a rope to the remaining guard, who called out his surrender. Malagoth tied him up and knocked him senseless.
The party regrouped outside of the village and Stark told the other three adventurers of Kella and the other rider. The villagers, escorted at arrow point from the forest by the wood elves, returned to the gates of the town. The party entered Nightstone with the survivors, who scattered to check on their homes. Morak, the dwarven owner of the Nightstone Inn, approached the group, thanking them for rescuing pretty much the entire town. The dwarf takes Malagoth aside and tells him that a close friend and neighbor of his, Semile Southwell, was killed in the giant attack. Apparently, Semile has a brother named Markham who is the sheriff of Bryn Shander of Icewind Dale. He asked the barbarian if the party could deliver the sad news of Semile's passing to Markham. Malagoth said yes and gave the party 250 gp as a reward for freeing the villagers.
Interviewing the prisoner, the party discovered that Xolkin was the leader of a Zhentarim organization named the Seven Snakes, and that they were working with Kella to inflitrate the town of Nightstone and make it into a Black Network outpost. Kella was inside of Nightstone when the giant attack happened. The Snake told the group that Kella got a message to Xolkin using the flying snake, which is a symbol of the Zhentarim. The message told Xolkin that Kella would get their weapons and then take an arrow to distract them and then she would dive into the moat to escape with Stark's thunder cannon, which would be very important in the future of the Black Network. The party left the prisoner in the custody of Morak, who surmised that he was the leader of Nightstone now. Morak told the party to replace any lost weapons from the Lionshield Coster's shop, though Stark would not be able to replace Serenity until he tinkered in his shop for three days to build another weapon.
Grabbing horses, the adventurers hurried to the gates of Waterdeep, asking the guards if they had seen the two Zhents. The guards at the gate hadn't, so they entered the city and discussed their options. The group decides to split up.
Malagoth heads to the docks and finds a ship that is heading for the Icewind Dales area and asks if they could deliver a letter explaining Semile's passing to Markham Southwell. The captain of the ship agrees and takes the letter.
Stark asked Bran to sell the dwarven chain main shirt to raise money for supplies for the dragonborn's new weapon. Bran visited one shop but suspected that he was being cheated, so he found another armorer's, and managed to sell the chain mail for a good price.
Aera visited her contact with the thieves' guild, asking to be notified at the Whirlpool Tavern in the Dock Ward if anyone in the guild spotted Xolkin and Kella in the city. Aera's contact doubted that, since the Lords of Waterdeep banned the Black Network from openly operating in the streets of Waterdeep long ago. Aera now owed the thieves' guild a favor.
Stark returned to his workshop and found the halfling Gizmo minding the shop. He looked around and found the blueprints for his devices safe and sound. Sending Gizmo home, he begins the first of three days' work on the new thunder cannon.
Mal visited Luisa's magic shop and bought a potion of healing as Luisa engaged the goliath in friendly conversation. As Mal left the shop, he noticed a mysterious figure observing him and the shop from the shadows. Seeing the barbarian notice him, the figure wrapped his cloak close around him and backed into the dark alleyway.
The party rents the "good" room at the Whirlpool i.e. the one with the least amount of holes in the ceiling. Aera sat in the common room at the Whirlpool, waiting for word from her contact, but no one showed up.
After an uneventful night, Stark started his second day of tinkering on Serenity Mark 2. Mal guarded the dragonborn as he worked, watching the street from the shop's dirty window. Aera returns to the thieves' guild contact, finding a woman this time. The woman tells her that no one of Kella and Xolkin's description was seen by any of the thieves' guild cells in the city. However, the woman told the aarakocra that it could be possible that the two Zhents went below the city to the pirate city of Skullport. Aera was directed to Durnan at the Yawning Portal in the North Ward.
Aera walked to the Yawning Portal and went inside to talk to Durnan. The retired adventurer leaned against the bar, a large sword hanging on the wall behind him. The common room's main feature was a gaping hole in the floor with a three foot barrier containing it, a locked off winch standing next to the wall. Aera tried to find out information from Durnan and warn him about the Zhents getting Stark's thunder cannon, but the innkeep tired quickly from the roundabout questioning, complaining of the illegal artificer's guild in the city. Durnan told Aera that the Zhentarim agents would probably blow themselves up trying to figure the contraption out. Aera asked about Skullkeep, but Durnan assured that all the known entrances to the pirate city was watched and kept closed, and that his tavern was the only entrance to Undermountain, and from there, to Skullport, and besides, anyone foolish enough to enter Undermountain's dungeon halls would have to deal with the lich, Halaster's traps, and possibly the lich himself.
Meanwhile, Bran and Mal visited the Shrine of the Shining Way to see if Nasisi and Marin had returned from their "safari". Enid, the halfling answered the door and let the two adventurers in to meet the elven rangers. Malagoth asked about Captain Ventus, and the rangers told them Ventus' sad story and got his address. Bran asked the women about the man in the painting who wore the same clasp that Bran wore on his cloak. The elves told him his name was Ser Richard, and he had a strange accent, and was possibly from Sembia. Ser Richard left the Shrine twenty years ago.
The ranger and the goliath went to the address for Captain Ventus, only to find a small dilapidated home. They knocked on the door, and a tired looking man answered, and introduced himself as Ventus. Ventus told them that he used to ferry passengers from Neverwinter to Waterdeep and back. Malagoth and the former captain discussed their experiences and discovered that their respective ships were attacked by the same frost giant, the one wearing a red gem on a chain around his neck. Captain Ventus told the barbarian a legend from the distance past of how the frost giants of the north and white dragons warred on and off for many years, with the white dragons using their icy breath to freeze the giant's longboats into a glacier. Ventus made Malagoth promise to get revenge for the both of him, and gave the barbarian his shield, marked with three wavy green lines, the symbol of the goddess of the ocean. As Malagoth turned to leave, Ventus told him "May Umberlee guide you on your journey and into clear waters."
The next day, as Stark was finishing his weapon, Luisa visited the shop while Bran and Mal waited and Aera explored the Trade Ward. Luisa was worried about Stark, somehow gleaning from her brief conversation with Mal that Stark was upset. She checked in on the dragonborn, and told Bran and Mal that she was only a clerk at the magic shop, and that she took classes and was an apprentice mage at Blackstaff Tower. Smoke seemed intrigued by Luisa, who took Smoke outside and played with him in the dingy street outside the shop.
Later that evening after Luisa went home, Stark finished the weapon and test fired it at a crude drawing of Kella Darkhope. As the three spoke, the sounds of timbers cracking and the tin roof crumbling sounded above their heads. The ceiling slowly started collapsing on them, and the three of them grabbed their belongings and ran outside, meeting Aera on the street corner outside.
Stretching into the night sky, a tall three hundred foot tower floating atop a cloud descended, crushing Stark's workshop. The tower was made of white stone with four black arches supporting it from all sides. Incredulously atop the tower was a giant blue wizard's hat flapping in the breeze and adorned with gold stars. As the party gaped at the sight, a narrow staircase made of clouds formed in front of them, beckoning them inside.
The adventurers climbed the stairs and entered the massive and tall doors in the front of the tower. Inside was a large chamber, lit by several globes, burning with a magical light. The chamber was one hundred feet high and contained a giant sized table and a stone chair. From a large hole in the ceiling, a twenty-four foot tall giant with grey skin, wispy hair and beard, floated down to greet them. The giant was wearing a blue robe and a pointed hat identical to the one that sat atop the tower. The party stared at the cloud giant as he landed gracefully on the floor and said, "Welcome to my home."
TO BE CONTINUED