The next morning the party found themselves in various rooms throughout the manor.
Viigo and Renaer awoke at nearly the same time in the library. Books on religion lay strewn across the floor open to texts regarding Gond.
Taman pulled himself off the kitchen floor, bits of food scattered everywhere. Looking up he found Torlyn leaning back in a chair munching on an apple. Seeing that Taman was awake, Torlyn tossed him a waterskin without saying a word.
Finzu awoke in a comfortable bed almost exactly his size. Stretching, he crawled out from the sheets and began to look around. Personal effects were neatly organized across the dresser and in the wardrobe. A knock at the door startled him.
Madrak: (opening the door with a sour look) Master Finzu, I’m glad to see you have awakened. I trust my quarters suited you well? If you would follow me, it seems that the rest of your party has awoken and are gathering in the kitchen.
Madrak then turned and began walking, leaving the door open behind him.
Akta opened her eyes and found herself in a nice room. The bed was extremely comfortable and tall matching curtains hung from a large window. The musk of a man hung in the air. She looked around the room but she was alone. She noticed that her clothes were cast haphazardly across the floor. Taking a quick look under her sheets, she found herself naked and fell back into the bed with a disgusted “Ugh”.
Once everyone was in the kitchen, Renear served up hot cups of heavy-handed coffee that was thick as mud. Without touching his, Torlyn announced he was leaving. Taman asked what had happened to Meloon and, without breaking stride, Torlyn said:
Torlyn: Meloon was up bright and early. (imitating Meloon’s voice) “The city ain’t gonna save itself” or something such as that.
A Coffee Cure
Renaer stared into his mug for a moment. Then, with a certain resolve, asked the party if they would accompany him to the Market. He knew of a stand there that sold an excellent brew. Everyone agreed.
On the way, Renaer fielded questions from the party. He told them more about The Champion’s Games. Only the Masked Lords knew what they would be fighting. Though Renaer assured them that it had been some years since someone had actually died. Aside from that, there would be healers at the ready should they be needed.
The party asked about his opinion on the article in the most recent edition of the Waterdeep Sentry. He seemed unconcerned, citing the Game of Houses that the nobles played. The Cassalanters were a family at the top of the food chain. It was only natural that other houses would want to take a shot at them. And this wouldn’t have been the first time someone had libeled the Cassalanters.
Sipping their new coffees, they asked who may have stood to gain the most. Renaer wasn’t certain. He spoke vaguely about various houses but when he got to the Gralhund’s the party asked for more details. It turned out that Yalah had been eyeing a spot as a Masked Lord for some time. She certainly fits the bill as one. And then some years passed there had been a serial killer who targeted a number of Masked Lords. Naturally, once everything had been handled, they had to fill the empty seats. But Yalah was left out.
As they turned to exit the Market a voice stopped them.
Willifort Crowelle: My, how fortuitous that I should run into you here.
The tiefling Cassalanter servant approached them flanked on either side by a guard.
Willifort: I had just been tasked with delivering an invitation and was wondering how I would be able to carry out the task. You all are rather difficult to keep tabs on you see.
The Lord and Lady would like to invite you all to dinner on the 18th to celebrate the coming tournament. (handing them the invite). Might I tell them you accept?
They agreed. They asked if they could give Willifort the first installment of their loan, trusting him to see that Victoro received it. Willifort accepted, took the coin, and bid them goodbye.
Lunch With A View
Amused at learning they would be participating in the tournament, Renaer asked them how many more surprises they may spring on him. Viigo took this opportunity to produce the map they had acquired from Istrid. He gave as little detail as possible but ask Renaer if he understood any of it.
Looking over the map Renaer pointed to the second dot.
Renaer: Well, I would imagine this had to be the Hawkman Walking Statue. It is the only ‘bird man’ I can think of. There is also a fantastic restaurant built into the statue. Would you mind if I joined you and we grabbed a bite to eat?
Together, they made their way south to the Hawkman. There, they found two guards flanking a double door that led into the interior of the statue. Inside, it looked like a small trolley system had been rigged up to take visitors to the ‘first floor’. Renaer approached the guards and spoke with them for a minute before waving over the rest of the group. As they passed, he pushed a coin into each of the guard’s hands.
The restaurant itself was a round room with glass panes making up three-quarters of its circumference. This gave a magnificent view of the Castle Ward; including Castle Waterdeep, Pigerion’s Palace, and Blackstaff tower.
The maître d’ seated them and a waiter was quick to take their orders. Hearing the prices, the party each ordered the cheapest item on the menu. Grimacing, the waiter returned to the kitchen.
Renaer: So what are we looking for here? Some sort of giant X?
Viigo: We aren’t entirely sure actually. But have you ever seen this symbol?
He pointed to the symbol at the top of the map. Renaer told them that it wasn’t anything he had seen before but it did have the feel of an ancient Zhentarim marker. Though he couldn’t be certain. For the rest of the lunch, they discussed their next move but never arrived at one.
And so the party left the Hawkman, said goodbye to Renaer, and turned North towards Trollskull.
A Proper Message
They arrived to find a message for them. It was a simple design, an eye painted on their door, but its implications were grave. The door had splintered as if someone had attempted to kick it in but it held fast to the frame. All the windows on the face of the tavern were smashed, cracks spiraling outward from a large hole in each pane of glass.
As they inspected the damage, Jenks emerged from the nearby alley. He told them that there had been five men who came the previous night and vandalized the inn. They had tried to stop them but the men hurt Squidly badly. The only reason that they didn’t get inside was because of Lif.
He then led them into the alley where Squidly sat on the ground. The tiefling was doing his best to hide the fact that he had been crying. When he saw them he tried to shelter his left arm, which he cradled against his body, from their view. Akta knelt down beside him and carefully inspected the damage. The arm was obviously broken. She cast Heal and the bone began to stitch back up. Squidly smiled but Viigo began to lecture them about being safe. The dwarf spoke in a fatherly tone, letting them know he cared about them.
Once the kids had run off, the party went back to inspect the damage. Inside everything was as it should have been save for broken glass strewn across the floor and a few hunks of brick. Viigo cast Mend and the glass reassembled itself. Aside from the giant purple eye on the front door, the place looked good as new.
Fetching water and brushes that had been left by the workers, they went to work scrubbing the door clean.
As Taman finished removing the last of the paint he caught the sound of soft footsteps approaching. Standing, he turned to find Bonnie. Her face was wracked with a litany of emotions but dominated by fear and sadness.
Bonnie: Taman, they took Davil. The Watch. They came last night and arrested him. They said it had something to do with illegal potions. But, tell me true Taman, I can’t believe that Davil would do something like that. Would he? I mean, if for no other reason, it would be bad for business.
She related the story of Davila’s arrest to the party. There had been three or four City Watchmen that had conducted the arrest and Davil had agreed to go, trying not to make a scene. But before he went he had made eye contact with her and then placed his journal on the table. And then he was gone.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a worn leather journal and handed it to him.
Taman: Why are you giving this to me?
Bonnie nodded to the book. Opening the cover revealed a short message.
Taman began leafing through the rest of the pages only to find them blank. Then Bonnie spoke again, bringing his attention back to her.
Bonnie: Taman, it’s gotten too dangerous for us here. With Davil and Durnan both missing… (she shakes her head). It’s time for us to move on and start again. I just wanted to stop by and say goodbye, to all of you. You’ve been a good friend.
She smiled and gave Taman a hug. Then backed away towards an old carriage parked at the mouth of the Alley.
As he was getting over the shock of losing Bonnie Taman became frustrated. He waved the book around in the air.
Taman: What is going on here!? What are we supposed to do now? What am I supposed to do with this?
As he asked his final question, the pages of the journal flared with a yellow light. Confused, Taman opened it to the second page. There, written in Davil’s handwriting was one word.
The Tiger’s Eye
It wasn’t long before a strange approached the party outside the manor. Dressed in a long trench coat and a matching fedora hat, he produced a card upon introduction.
He told them he owned the building the ally thought he would come over and welcome them to the neighborhood. He explained that he conducted investigations. That he got to the bottom of things and the more difficult the better. Interested, they followed him up to his office.
The Tiger’s Eye had an interesting feel to it. On the surface, it was warm and welcoming. The stairs to the second floor opened into an open space. To the left, there was a leather sofa and loveseat atop a plush carpet encircling a stone hearth. And to the right was a space dedicated as an office with a large dark brown desk and shelves packed with books with uniform bindings.
He sat them down in front of the fire and poured a drink for everyone. They then asked for more details about the services he could provide.
Trench: Often, the jobs I receive are simple and rather routine in nature. A woman suspects her husband of infidelity and would like me to validate her suspicions. Perhaps a noble’s daughter runs off and needs to be found. But these are often quite boring. As I said, routine.
What I prefer are the more challenging puzzles. The ones which you must slowly unravel to get to the grain of truth hidden within.
That is not to say that I won’t take the former, just that I prefer the latter. Now, may I ask, what did you have in mind?
The party asked him if he was familiar with Zardoz Zord. They shared that they had previous dealings with the Luskan and were interested to learn more about the man and his intentions.
Trench: I am aware of this man. I find him to be very interesting. Tell me, have you ever seen him or his captains never leave the docks?
But what you ask of me, if I may be so brash, is only to collect some information on his past? Surely a man that flamboyant in personality won’t be difficult to track down. I must admit that after hearing about some of your adventures, I was hoping for something a bit more exciting.
They apologized and told him he didn’t have to take the assignment. Trench waved his hand to dismiss the notion.
Then the subject of pay came up.
Trench: Consider this a favor from me to you. A welcoming gift to our home. And also, I saw what you did for the tiefling boy. I am happy that such compassionate neighbors have moved in.
They thanked Trench and made for the door.
Trench stopped them before they re-enter Trollskull Alley.
Trench: Oh, and as for your little Xanatharian problem. Do not concern yourselves with that. That is something which I will handle.
Davil was “arrested” by City Watchmen who are in the pocket of Manshoon and the Black Network. Skeemo and Urstel Floxin conspired to take Davil off the board in an attempt to crush the Doom Raiders and end the Zhentarim Civil War. Their hope is that they can now focus on the Xanatharians and retrieve the second eye.
Bonnie and Crew
With Davil out of the picture, Bonnie has deemed it far too dangerous for them in Waterdeep. She and the other bartenders that have been operating undercover throughout Waterdeep are planning on heading to Baldur’s Gate.
However, Willifort Crowelle has identified this as an opportunity. Due to his loyalty to Victoro, he has informed Lord Cassalanter about the doppelganger’s plans. Victoro has drawn up a plan to capture them
His plan is to dominate them and use them as a secondary team working in parallel (but unknown) to the party towards the Stone of Golorr.
The Private Eye
Vincent Trench is a Rishaka that has made Trollskull Alley his home. He does not wish to bring a lot of attention to his location and he has been watching the party to assess what risk they might pose.
However, he has grown fond of the area and its people. He has a soft spot for children and often allows the Urchins access to his fire and provides them with food. This made the Xanatharian’s attack on Squidly all that much more egregious. His ‘favor’ to the party is not a favor at all. It is vengeance.
One thing that my players have commented on is how they have gained and lost allies. Just as they think they have a solid supporting cast around them, it begins to fall apart. This is what happened with both Mirt and Durnan.
When I pull an ally away, I have another in mind to slot in and start the rebuilding process.
We are getting very close to the Fireball event and I want the party to be a bit more informed as to what is going on in relation to the Great Game. Most sessions thus far have not been more than a single in-game day. This, and my lack of time to plan, has made the last two sessions feel as if they aren’t driving the story.
To fix that, I am “forcing” the story forward a few days to the dinner at the Cassalanters. The in-game reason for this is so they can finish preparing for the grand opening. But the narrative reason is that I don’t want to add much more on top of what is already going on. There are so many threads that I fear adding too much more will make the story feel bloated and disconnected. So far I have been able to make everything feel as if it were all one narrative.
And honestly, I really liked the pace up until now. Because of how slow they were going, I was able to spend a lot of time world-building for them. And I think it really paid off. Most things feel like the natural fit within the context. And I believe I have the faith of my players that, if it doesn’t at the time, it will later.
But now it is time to speed things up and bring it back to the reason we are running this campaign. The Stone of Golorr.
Davil’s journal is the start of Taman’s personal quest. As time goes on and certain events take place, they will begin to fill themselves in.
One point I have made when designing each player’s personal quest is to make each feel dramatically different from the next. I didn’t want it to be obvious that they had now received the quest.
Can’t Get Them All
I screwed up with my description of the Hawkman. By describing the trolly system that I had made up on the spot, I had unintentionally cued the players that they would be eating on the second floor. This implied that there was a ‘first floor’ that they had to get to in order to find the clue.
While this isn’t the end of the world, it did put me in a bind at the time. Once I realized how the players had interpreted my description, I wasn’t able to recover. And because of that, I dropped all the agencies I could have provided the players.
The reason for my lack of preparation regarding the Hawkman was that it is the second step in the Map quest they were on. They hadn’t yet investigated the house in Trollskull Alley. I didn’t think that they would skip it altogether.
But one of the players, Viigo, made a very clever observation in session. He noticed that on the map there are 25 dashes between step 1 and step 2. He then went to the interactive Waterdeep map I provided the players and charted the distance between the two. It happened to be 25 minutes between the two points. While completely coincidental, I loved the connection he made.