After concluding the fierce battle with the werewolf and friends, Pel rejoins the party quite suddenly. He updates them on his study at the Academy, concluding with the revelation that he’s learned much from the Shaman there, and his bond with Posket is stronger than ever. After everyone is caught up, the heroes of Kombat Advantage notice a clearing in the woods several yards off the road. As they approach, they recognize the clearing as an abandoned cemetery, not overgrown with weeds and vines. They go closer to investigate, and find remnants of a recent picnic. While the blanket seems recently placed, the food is strewn about the area and appears to have been appropriated by the local wildlife. Beef and Gord try to see if the picnic attendees had wandered off into the forest to pitch some woo, but see no sign of them. Pel recognizes evidence of a struggle, and footprints leading back to the road. He also noticed a small drop of blood on the door of the nearby mausoleum. Immeral inspects the blood and quickly concludes that it came from a magical creature: either one from another plane or a powerful hereditary spellcaster. The blood itself radiates with strong magic. Beef attempts to open the mausoleum, but is unsuccessful, and notices from the growth in the area, it appears not to have been opened in quite some time. Melthos expresses concern about the apparent kidnapping, but is curious about the source of the blood. He wonders aloud why there is only one drop, not a trail or a splatter or anything that would give them a clue about what happened.
They decide to follow the trail back to the road, but are unable to tell which direction it leads after that. The wisely decide to continue on, and ask about the picnic when they get to a city or village. They proceed toward Fort Morninglord, to check on Caom and Ydal. The road is long and they stop to rest for the night. Pel takes first watch, hoping to squeeze in more drinking time. Unfortunately, his personal revelry is disturbed by an unsettling sound, like a low, loud croak.
He wakes up the party. At first, Beef ignores the alarm, unimpressed by the threat of imminent danger presented by hearing frogs in the middle of the forest. After some prodding by the party, he manages to get upright and open his eyes. Due to his lowlight vision, he sees what the rest of the party cannot: four enormous, man-sized toads approaching the campsite. Gord activates the floating lantern, illuminating the area and exposing the slimy beasts to everyone else. Several of the heroes recall stories they heard when they were little of altered beasts coming out of the High Forest, touched by the thin veil between that place and the Feywild. As they’re considering how to respond, one of the toads begins lurching toward Pel, who simultaneously heard a rumbling voice in his head. “Hungry,” it growls.
The party swings into action. They quickly discover just how different the toads are from the kind with which they’re familiar. The Hypnotoads use psionic powers to dominate and blind the party, attempting to subdue them and use their own powers against them. The heroes focus one one enemy at a time, taking each one out until they are victorious. After the enemies were dispatched, and thus no longer hungry, the brave victors went to sleep and were not disturbed again until morning.
They arrive at Fort Morninglord in the mid-morning hours. When they ask after Caom, they learn that he’s left the fort to go study at the Monastery of the North Wind, in the service of Bahamut. Apparently, the clerics of Lathander believed that, if in fact Caom was prophesied to be a great tyrant, giving him the opportunity to answer the call of Bahamut and be reborn as a dragon would change the course of his life and avoid that dire fate.
The party visits Caom’s father, Ydal, who is staying at the fort and learning from the clerics there. His emotions are mixed about his son’s future. If he should receive and accept the call of Bahamut, he will be forced to forsake everything about his former life. The alternative, however, would be risking the fate of the world. He told them that Caom had been writing to him, and seemed very happy. As they left, Ydal asked if he could contact them if he needed them, and told him they would be staying at the Yawning Portal in Waterdeep for the foreseeable future.
When the heroes arrive in Waterdeep, they settle into the inn to catch up on their drinking. Melthos finds it serendipitous that the party discovered a prophesy scroll of Bahamut and then came to learn that Caom is now seeking to become a follower of the dragon god. They decide to return their attention to the scroll. Immeral again reads the inscription, written in Draconic: “A great evil that has long been departed will seek to forge an alliance and return to the material plane. He can be defeated by those who seek justice. The final battle will take place at a location known only to the spirits. In each of the places depicted on this scroll, the heroes will meet a dragon. The dragon will tell them about the place of the final battle and bestow a boon to aid them in their quest.” The first picture is clear, a gargoyle that appears to be sculpted on a wall. The other pictures, while somewhat discernable in a broad sense, are hard to make out. Whenever someone tries to examine them more closely, he finds himself unable to focus his eyes. The only information they gather is that the second picture is a dragon, the third is a unicorn, and the fourth is a pair of griffons.
Beef decides to ask Durnan the Wandrer, the inkeeper who has extensive adventuring experience, if he knows anything about the first picture. Durnan, says he’s surprised to see the scroll, as he heard it was lost at the Academy. Beef is reluctant to give up information, so Durnan adds that he heard an implausible story that it was being guarded by poltergeists. Beef says it wasn’t as hard to acquire as all that. Durnan responds that the party might want to consider whether it’s really intended for them: how do they know they’re the heroes who seek justice? Melthos, always wise, says they don’t know with any certainty, but that finding the locations on the scroll will assist those heroes, whoever they may be.
Finally satisfied that the party’s intentions are genuine, Durnan informs them that the gargoyle is part of a navigation system in the sewers beneath Waterdeep. He can’t really tell them anything more than that. “The Undermountain is bad enough, and I have no desire to explore the sewers. The sanitation workers have a guildhall in the trade quarter. Ask around over there and they might help you.”
The next morning, the adventurers have breakfast and head over to the trade quarter. As they enter the sanitation guildhall, the taller members of the party have to duck to get in. Once they get inside, they realize why: the sanitation guild was made up almost entirely of dwarfs and gnomes, and Beef feels suddenly right at home. He greets the young, female dwarf receptionist and shows her the picture of the gargoyle. She chirps and flirts as she explains, “The gargoyles are carved in the passage that runs beneath High Street, but their distance from the floor determines the location. Since the elevation of the sculpture isn’t apparent from the picture, it could be anywhere along that corridor. If you want to, just go down through the entrance at Lamp Street and ask one of the workers. They’re all so nice! I’ve only been here a month, and everyone is SO nice to me!” Beef says he’s fairly sure he knows why everyone would be nice to such an attractive lady, causing the clerk to blush deeply.
The heroes, as directed, proceed to Lamp Street. They lower themselves into the sewer and see that the clerk was correct, the gargoyles are all positioned at varying distances from the floor. Those to the south are lower and those to the north are higher. They do note that, although all the carvings are identifiable as gargoyles, there are distinctions such as length of horns, shape of ears, and expressions. They go off to seek some of the sanitation workers and ask them if they can help locate this particulate fellow on the scroll. Just as they begin to proceed north, they hear a scream and someone calling for help.
When they get to the source of the screams they find two dwarf sanitation workers. A large boulder that was formerly attached to a rope and pulley system has fallen, crushing the legs of one of the workers. The other is trying fruitlessly to free his friend, who is bleeding out. They send the dwarf to go get help, and proceed to the valiant rescue of the injured worker. Through feats of strength, insight, and cooperation, the party manages to free him just as the members of the medica guild are arriving. They have some trouble getting him on the stretcher, but the medica whisk him off for further work and observation.
The injured dwarf’s friend introduces himself as Tito Farfire. He thanks them for their help, but is clearly in shock. Gord directs Tito to the nearest inn, tells him to have a beer and get some rest, and informs him that they’re staying at the Yawning Portal and he can find them there later, once he’s recovered his wits. Before he leaves, they show him the scroll and ask him if he knows the location of the gargoyle depicted. He says it’s just around the corner, and points to a nearby passageway. He depart in a daze, mumbling a bit to himself, and crawls upward towards the street.
The party proceeds to the passage that Tito indicated, not knowing that’s in store. They arrive and inspect the gargoyle. Just as they’ve determined that it is indistinguishable from the one depicted on the scroll, a breeze rolls in from the north. It’s particularly noticeable because the air in the sewer is otherwise completely still. As the breeze rolls past them it carries a mist which lingers for a moment before clearing and leaving in its place a young boy. He looks just like the boy Caom, but his skin has taken on a slightly platinum sheen, his eyes are wide and reptilian, and he has small scales on the back of his neck.
To be continued…