Nezznar The Black Spider walked confidently across the Astral Plane, his feet echoing throughout the deserted blasted landscape. He was followed by his personal bodyguard, a monk named Foo, and six black-clad Cult of the Dragon warriors. A silvery cord extended from between the shoulder blades of each of them, trailing behind and fading into invisibility after a few feet. Thunderous storm clouds still rolled across the skies, only illuminated by streaks of crackling purple lightning. Nezzar had been to the Gray Wastes before, seeking knowledge from the souls of the dead.
As it is written: “At Winter Solstice within the Year of the Scarlet Witch wise men shall gather to stand between Darkness and Light.”
20 Nightal, 1491 DR, Winter Solstice
The Drow known as Nezznar (or simply “The Black Spider”) has risen through the ranks of the Dragon Cult to obtain Lordship over a small territory in Western Faerûn. This fief was granted to The Black Spider during the Great Armistice where the Factions of the Sword Coast surrendered to Tiamat and her army.
Our heroes have been sent into the enemy stronghold of Skyreach Castle with orders to bring it down. The Castle is a floating iceberg acting as a barge to transport a huge collection of treasure to the Well of Dragons. Sabotaging the Castle will deny the Cult of resources and help to subvert the Cult’s plan to release Tiamat from the Nine Hells.
While in the employ of Lord Dagult Neverember, the Company traveled from the city of Neverwinter south towards Waterdeep. Their first stop was at Phandalin to deliver a precious relic to one of the newly formed churches. Ultimately, they intend to end their journey in the far South at Greenest. On the way, they discovered the Karst Caves, a base of operations for bandits who have been raiding the trade routes between Neverwinter and Waterdeep. They have decided to clear out the caves, depriving the enemy of supplies and resources.
“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills,
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
- Vrae’ree Everhurden, 2nd Level Drow Elf Wizard
- Fo, 3rd Level Human Monk [Faction: Lord’s Alliance]
- Brûne, 3rd Level Human Paladin
- Therivol, 1st Level High Elf Fighter
- Abernacky, 1st Level Human Fighter [Faction: Lord’s Alliance]
During this blog post, you will see red text. This is my Dungeon Master Voice chiming in about the events of the session. I want to take this chance to thank my friends who share in my adventures. You guys are awesome, and I enjoy rolling dice with you. If you are reading this post and you are playing through the adventure, please send a message to the Dungeon Master saying “DROW” to gain a point of inspiration.
The Company stared at the swirling mist behind them, and decided that it must be investigated. The High Elf, Therivol, and Abernacky, the gruff soldier from Neverwinter, moved towards the mist while the others held back to observe. As they approached, a soft voice came from the mist saying, “You have become so weary. Give up. Rest. You cannot go on.” Therivol raised an eyebrow, hearing a familiar accent to the voice that reminded him of an Elvish speaker. He could not place the dialect. He glanced at the Human next to him, seeing that suddenly Abernacky had grown weak. His shoulders slumped, and his eyes drooped. He seemed exhausted.
Abernacky remained under the effects of a Suggestion spell cast by the Black Spider. The spell should last until the Black Spider took damage, however Abernacky’s player had to leave for the evening so I ruled that Abernacky would remain Exhausted and out of play.
Vrae’ree approached the mist, thinking it may be a creature. Meanwhile, Brûne called upon his inner magical powers as a Paladin, searching for any vile creatures in the area. He looked to the others a shook his head. He did not sense any Undead, Fiends, Angels, Unhallowed, or even Holy places nearby.
“I’m so tired,” said Abernacky. “We need to take a rest.” He yawned, looking back at the rest of his companions. Without realizing it, his grip on his weapons became so weak that he dropped both the handaxe and the warhammer to the floor of the cave passage. “This journey has been so exhausting.”
Therivol and Vrae’ree came to the same conclusion: this was charming magic! They spoke the words of Flame Bolt together, both unleashing a small burning particle that flew into the mist turning into small shafts of flame. The fire passed through the mist and licked against the damp limestone rock of the passage. Fo rushed forward, moving past Abernacky who had now slumped to his knees. The Monk lashed in a diagonal strike through the mist from the top left to the bottom right. It seemed to have no effect.
The voice from the mist spoke again. This time, it spoke in perfect Drow dialect. “Why have you come into the Karst Caves?! What purpose do you have in the domain of Tiamat?!”
Tiamat. The name was one of legend. Tiamat was the patron goddess of chromatic dragons and the embodiment of greed and envy. She takes the form of a five-headed dragon, and each head is a different color. She gave birth to the five primary species of chromatic dragon, each taking the form of one of her heads. Tiamat combines the powers of all of the chromatic dragons. Confined to the Nine Hells by the power of the greater gods, Tiamat longs to escape and wreak havoc upon the world. What part did Tiamat play in the darkness that has encroached upon the Realms?
Vrae’ree responded in Drow, trying to convince the mist creature that they had come to investigate. He gestured to Fo and Therivol who both were wearing outfits stolen from the Tiamat Cultists. Brûne, too, was disguised by wearing a cloak taken from one of the Cragmaw Wild Eves. Vrae’ree hoped that they ccould easily pass for a small sect of Tiamat Cultists. He inferred that they were allies.
“Prove it then,” demanded the voice. “Show you devotion to Tiamat and the Cult of the Dragon! Lay down your weapons. Otherwise, you shall surely die!”
Vrae’ree attempted to convince the voice that he was the leader of this group and that they were not here as a threat. But, Fo glanced at the others with a smile. He knew of the Cult of the Dragon. The organization had existed for hundreds of years in Faerûn. The Cult of the Dragon venerates dragons, evil dragons in particular, and specifically dead evil dragons. They reanimate the gargantuan corpses as powerful and fell dracoliches. The Cult acts as an information network for its draconian “masters”, brings gems and riches as offerings, and encourages evil dragons to become dracoliches. Their belief is that dracoliches are destined to one day rule Faerûn and beyond. The Cult is active throughout the Realms, but is specifically powerful in the Cold Lands and the North, where dragons are particularly abundant. Cult member activities include gathering information on particularly rich caravans to be raided, stealing unique items to be offered to their masters, and leading raids against their enemies. Senior members of the Cult of the Dragon are known as Keepers of the Secret Hoard or, more recently, Wearers of Purple, and to them is given the secret of creation of dracoliches. Rumor had it that the Cult was under new leadership from a fanatical, charismatic leader.
Fo knew the rumors well. He had discovered them during his travels while searching for his twin brother. The Cult of the Dragon was supposedly under the thumb of a new leader, a young Calishite human with visionary ideas for the organization. Some believe he is the Chosen of Tiamat, bestowed divine abilities by the dark goddess. Severin is a visionary who brought the cult new life and new ambitions of dragon domination, but he’s young and prone to underestimate his enemies . . . or fail to see enemies posing as friends. This thought gave Fo an idea.
“Who are you to question a Keeper of Secrets?” bluffed Fo. He hoped that he could convince this creature that he was in fact not only a Cultist but also a high ranking one. With his knowledge of Cult of the Dragon activities and rumors, he might be able to muddle his way through this siutation without another battle … with any luck.
Suddenly, the mist dissipated, leaving a menacing Drow Elf in its place. He had long white hair, red eyes, and skin so dark that it seemed to have a somewhat purple hue to it. He was dressed in fine clothing, and a jet black cloak. In his hands he held a magnificent staff topped with a dangerous looking spider sculpture. In his other hand, he held a large medallion marked with a symbol of the Nemesis of the Gods, Tiamat the Dark Queen. It seemed to glow with an inner power.
“Praise be to Tiamat, Nemesis of the Gods, Tyrant of the Realms!” shouted the Dark Elf.
Fo suddenly cried out. He felt as if some gigantic creature was pushing him down to his knees. He went down hard, jarred his spine. He clenched his teeth against the pain. He struggled, trying to get loose. Sweat beaded on his skin. Blood dribbled from his nose. Surely, this was the Divinity of Tiamat enthralling him in place for his heresy. For a moment, Fo wondered if his mortal frame could withstand such power.
Abernacky collapsed then to the cave floor. Therivol glanced at the soldier with a sneer, and withdraw his bow. He sent a single arrow at the Drow, hitting him squarely in the left shoulder. The Drow shouted in pain and anger, stumbling backward. He stowed the medallion in the folds of his cloak, clutching at his wound. Brûne prayed softly, calling on ancient powers to Bless his companions and grant them favor. Vrae’ree pointed towards the Drow Cultist, speaking the arcane phrases for Magic Missiles. However, as the small magic bolts lept from Vrae’ree’s fingers to streak towards the enemy, they fizzled and faded.
The Drow disappeared from sight. While the others glanced around seeking their enemy, Therivol took careful aim and loosed another arrow. The bolt struck true, hitting the Invisible Drow in his midsection. The Drow faded into sight, sneering and pulling the arrow from his gut with obvious pain. Blood trickled freely from his wounds.
The Drow took a few more steps backwards, and sneer on his dark lips. He knew that his Counterspell ring had hindered the other Drow for now. He glanced at these invaders, and realized the truth. These were a rival sect of Dragon Cultists, perhaps from Phlan who were still loyal to the edicts of mad Sammaster rather than their newest leader, Severin.
Counterspell is a 3rd level spell which attempts to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and has no effect. Therefore, the Magic Missile spell fizzled.
Fo ran forward, leaping into the air with a kick, smashing into the chest of the enemy Drow. The Elf fell backwards a few steps, groaning in pain. He lashed out with a sharp dagger, missing the Monk. Fo noticed that the blade dripped with a bring green fluid. Certainly it was poison. Fo ducked down, and brought in an upper cut punch, connecting with the Drow’s chin. He channeled the mystical power of Ki into the strike, manipulating it and tapping into the Drow’s Ki at the same time. Using this mystic force, he caused the Elf to fly upward towards the stalactites on the ceiling of the grotto.
As explained in the Player’s Handbook, Ki is kind of like the Force from Star Wars. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. Therefore, Fo is able to manipulate his own Ki but also the Ki of his enemies. Since Fo is a 3rd Level Monk, he is able to spend Ki to do Flurry of Blows with an added effect. The player chose the effect to cause an enemy who is hit with a strike to be thrown fifteen feet. The player asked if this could be in any direction, and I house-ruled yes. Therefore, Fo’s player Dragonball-Z’d the Black Spider into the ceiling.
The Drow moaned, a tooth flying from his mouth. He flew into the air, but quickly recovered. He grabbed the stalactites with his free hand and feet, scrambling across the ceiling like a spider. The effect of the staff’s Spiderclimb spell was very effective. He skittered across the ceiling, weaving in and out of the stalactites.
Spiderclimb is a 2nd level transmutation spell. The target gains the ability to move up, down, and across vertical surfaces and upside down along ceilings, while leaving its hands free. The target also gains a climbing speed equal to its walking speed.
“Heresy!’ shouted the Drow in Common. “I am called the Black Spider and this is my domain!” He scrambled a little further along the ceiling. “Tiamat will feast on your flesh!”
Brûne saw his chance, and hurled a javelin. He hoped that the weapon would pin the Drow to one of the jutting shards of rock. It pierced the Drow’s shoulder, causing him to cry out again. However, it did not pin him to the wall but did remain embedded in the Elf’s flesh and armor. As the Drow groaned and grunted to adjust to the new pain, another arrow hit him in the thigh. Tharivol smiled in satisfaction as the bolt made the Drow wail yet again.
The Black Spider pulled the arrow from his leg, and cast it to the cave floor. He glanced around the party of rival cultists. It was clear that the two Dragonclaws wearing capes and masks were adept fighters. As it should be. The Dragonclaws were the foot soldiers of the Cult of the Dragon trained for assassination and murder. The one wearing the heavy green cloak seemed to be a recruit perhaps from Kryptgarden Forest. And the other Drow was a mystery. He hadn’t planned on fighting with these invaders, but instead wanted to size them up. And he had done this. Clearly they were a force to be reckoned with. They were no simple merchants from Phandalin or inexperienced sellswords acting as guards on a caravan headed South. These would have to be brought into the fold or eradicated. They couldn’t be frightened away by Kobolds or Goblins.
The Black Spider whispered arcane words while he rolled a bit of bat fur with a drop of pitch. The Darkness spell filled the entire grotto. The Company stopped suddenly, trying to regain their bearings. The torches were of no effect in the magical darkness. And even the Elves were unable to see with their keen vision. Seconds later when the magical darkness lifted, the Company looked around to find that The Black Spider had taken his leave, at least for now.