Tyranny of Dragons

Session 8

The Cultist Caravan and the second part of the journey

A few days passed before the golden stag hunt faded from fireside talk amongst the caravan. It was on the 16th day of the journey that one of the “traveling” cultists, identified as such by Yumi when some of their ill gotten gains spilled onto the road back in the Fields of the Dead, came up to Crosby asking about a ring he wore on a chain around his neck. The ring was special to him as it bore his family’s crest. The man seemed overly friendly as he introduced himself as Kylar and asked about the ring. He assumed it was for sale despite Crosby’s polite but firm response that it was not; he offered a mere 5 silver. Over the course of the day’s travel Kylar became more insistent about buying it and then in the afternoon more angry about it. He made one final attempt at dinner offering a “generous 10 silver” and became angry when Crosby again rebuffed him and thereafter looked at him with animosity.
Around dinner on the 22nd day of travel two buxom sisters found their way to the caravan’s fires. They were not looking for companionship nor selling anything but were very interested in learning all they could about the various travelers, teamsters and guards. They were turned away from the cultist campfires but others were not concerned by their presence. Seef was most disturbed by their questioning and was able to watch them as they sat and talked with several others. Before long he realized they were picking up the mannerisms of those they spoke with longer and he became more suspicious about their true nature & purpose. He introduced himself as a great wizard, one of his alternate roles that he’d cultivated in the past, and was very convincing; so much so they two ladies shortly thereafter took their leave of the caravan and bid goodnight to those they seemed most focused on. He followed them a couple hundred yards into the woods before heading back to the caravan and gave some special words to remember to their likely targets. Over the next few days nothing seemed amiss.
At the same time Katya noticed that Nyerhite Verther’s silk stock was infested with worms and this caused him a great deal of anguish. He was comforted only when Katya agreed to mend the wagon & his silk and eradicate the infestation. She stayed up all night performing this service mouthing prayers to her deity all the while. Crosby helped initially sort through the good & bad bolts but went to bed eventually. For the remainder of the trip he was obsessive about Katya checking his silk rolls and making sure there was no recurrence.
On the morning of the 23rd Crosby awoke to find his necklace & ring had been taken. He’d not taken it off the night before. A search of his bedroll and the immediate area found the broken necklace but there was no sign of the ring. He & Katya immediately confront Kylar who surprisingly assumes Crosby is approaching because he’s ready to sell the ring to him now. His response seems genuine as he denies any part in the theft. Before anyone can react Crosby casts Shocking Grasp on him and he all but dies. They search him and his few belongings but don’t turn up the ring. The rest of the party notice the other cultists are angry and debating about becoming involved but before they do Katya heals Kylar and the pair leave him alone. He and the other cultists focus their gazes on Crosby for the remainder of the journey.
On day 26 the caravan comes upon a man buried up to his neck in the middle of the road with “Oathbreaker” painted on his forehead. He is in bad shape from exposure and dehydration and it’s obvious from wheel tracks on the turned-over earth that other wagons have passed him by during the last few days. That is what the cultists & some other wagon masters feel is best but none stop Katya as she approaches and immediately starts digging him out. Nyerhite does not second guess her decision and neither does anyone else, leaving her to deal with him and the hole she dug in the road. He is found to have a Harper tattoo on his arm if they dig him up. They borrow Yumi’s horse to catch up to the others by nightfall. After receiving some water and benefiting from her healing ministrations the man introduces himself as Carlon Amoffel. He is very thankful for her help and is quick to identify her as a cleric of Torm and confirms she is a member of the Gauntlet. Upon hearing a basic pass phrase from Crosby he openly shares he was on a similar mission to the party’s: tracking a shipment of stolen loot north along the Trade Way, but the smugglers—he’s sure they’re members of the Cult of the Dragon—became suspicious of him. He passed information to another Harper at a roadside inn and members of the caravan witnessed this. The cultists then successfully manufactured a story that he was passing information to bandits. The remaining merchants were unwilling to kill him outright but were willing to leave him buried in the road and “let providence decide the man’s fate.” Over the next day or so he regains his strength and then purposefully distances himself from the party after letting them know he has Harper contacts in Waterdeep and knows his way around the city; he’ll help them continue their mission when the caravan reaches its destination.
On day 31 the caravan was passing through a small forest and was attacked by a fairly organized group of ettercaps and giant spiders. While the party fought off the creatures with no losses the caravan as a whole lost five people and five horses before they were completely driven off. Unfortunately none of those killed were among the cultists.
The next few days and nights were filled with rain, lightning and strange whistling sounds on the wind. On the morning of day 34 the entire caravan awoke to find the surrounding countryside was blanketed with fungus. It grows everywhere, including on the road. The spores release a puff of black spores and a moan of pain when stepped on or crushed but they are easily destroyed. The sounds spooks the animals and none will willing walk on the mushrooms. Over the next couple hours they grow to over a foot tall each as the caravan debates about what they should do. Yumi is the first to try making a path broad enough for the caravan to move forward and uses silence to keep from going mad from their moans and shrieking. Unfortunately she succumbs to the hallucinogenic spores and falls into a deep despair for the next day or so filled with nightmares. Her training allows her to recover from these effects far faster than some other members of the caravan similarly affected. Armed with this knowledge the remaining members of the party cover their faces with wet cloth and are able to clear a path through for the caravan over a few hours.
On day 40 Seef comes to believe that one of the cultist teamsters has likely recognized Crosby from the bandit camp near Greenest. That night with the help of a distraction he’s able to slip an ingested poison into the man’s dinner stewpot and the following morning he is found dead. Though there is no proof Crosby receives even more dirty looks from the various cultists.
On day 44 the caravan arrives in Daggerford and rests for the night. As is typical along this type of journey some travelers leave the caravan and others join, among the latter two are noteworthy. The first is a robed human wearing an odd wool cap with ear and neck flaps who is surprisingly welcomed by the cultist wagons and rides with them; something they’ve not allowed anyone else who’s approached them and tried to pay for. The other is a female gnome who later identifies herself as Jamna Gleamsilver.
The following day Seef and others notice Jamna has spoken with all of them at different times and many other members of the caravan. She leaves the impression of being someone who flawlessly takes in every detail about people and her surroundings. Seef also comes to believe she recognizes that he is watching her watching everyone else. She doesn’t get closer to anyone in the party but is often observed near the cultists and especially their new riding companion in the robes, being in a position to eavesdrop on many of their conversations surprisingly unnoticed (probably because they’re all busy scowling at Crosby!).
The morning of day 49 Jamna fairly openly joins Crosby and Katya as they sit down for breakfast. She surreptitiously takes Crosby’s bowl of oatmeal before he takes a bite and with the blade of her dagger pokes through it and lifts out an oatmeal-smeared object resembling a tiny bead. She whispers to them that it’s a sliver of bone curled into a circle so it can be easily swallowed without noticing it. Once eaten, she explains, it uncurls exposing needle points that pierce your guts and kill you slowly. She suspects their in the breakfasts of the entire party and as she departs tells them they’ll talk more this evening. Other party members look for similar bone sliver beads in their bowls but find nothing; some skip breakfast.
True to her word that night after most of the caravan have bedded down she comes around again to Crosby and Katya. She gets right to the point stating “we don’t work for the same people, but we’re all on the same side—we share a belief that the Cult of the Dragon must be stopped. I need to know what they’re carrying in those wagons and where they’re taking it.” The party shares some details about the raids on Greenest and the area surrounding the bandit camp down south and she is grateful to learn that information without having to risk breaking into their wagons. She also points out that the robed man traveling with the Cultists, Asbara Jos, is a Red Wizard of Thay and is openly curious why he is chumming it up with them. Suspicious of her motives and allegiances the party is appropriately wary dealing with her and after she’s gone agree she’s not telling them everything she could, but none of them feel like she’s lying either.
The following morning Katya openly approaches Azbara Jos and introduces herself. The cultists bristle at her approach and seem tense but don’t interfere in any way. When he shares his name with her she asks simply if he is a Red Wizard of Thay; he denies and explains he’s another refugee forced to escape his country after it was overrun with undead under the control of Szass Tam, the story of which is well known across Faerun. She does not detect any falsehood in his statements.
The morning of day 53, only a few days outside of Waterdeep, the caravan awakens to find one of the cultist wagon guards was murdered overnight. He was stabbed in the back with a sword and left where he fell beneath a cult wagon. The cultists immediately accuse Crosby of foul play and are not deterred by the fact that his gnome-sized sword is not large enough to make the wound in the dead man’s back. Many footprints are around the wagon but nothing can be determined from this since most or all are from people crowding around the body that morning. The cultists then argue it was one of Crosby’s party members but they have no proof and other wagon masters are quick to rise to the party’s defense given how much aid they’ve provided to many of them personally and the caravan as a whole over the last nearly two months. One of them then asks what was stolen and recommends their wares be opened and examined to ascertain what might be missing. Azbara Jos then comes forward and tries to calm the situation, in the process saying more than anyone has so far heard him say at one time. The wagon masters ultimately agree that without witnesses, nothing can be done and the gods will punish the guilty party and life (for everyone else, at least) will go on. The cultists thereafter look at Crosby with undisguised hatred.
On day 58 the caravan reaches the great city of Waterdeep.

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