The Bone Collector
Our band of intrepid adventurers had made a new friend in Jamna Gleamsilver, so much so that Ms Gleamsilver felt comfortable enough to invite herself to the party one morning as the caravan was taking their breakfast. Eating on the road needs to be practical, which meant a lot of packs of instant oatmeal (there’s nowhere to plug in a microwave for some quick Jimmy Dean sausages, after all). The only problem with oatmeal — aside from looking and tasting like a bowl full of cat barf — is that it’s fairly easy to not recognize when someone slips something in there intended to shred your gut.
It was no accident that Jamna stopped by that morning, as she demonstrated by rooting around in Tinda’s breakfast with the tip of her dagger. From the slop she produced a small bead, explaining that it was intended for the party to consume, and to slowly but eventually die because of. Upon examination, Tinda noticed that the small bead could uncurl itself into a rather nasty looking bone shard. “We’ll talk tonight,” Jamna said before continuing her rounds.
No one wanted to finish their breakfast that morning (aside from Hope, who rolled a high enough Investigation to determine that there was nothing in his bowl that could hurt him beyond the clockwork regularity that ingesting so much fiber would bring), so the party trudged on through the day in stomach-grumbling torpor until that night when they got to chow down on leg of Whatever Was Unlucky Enough To Be Close To The Campsite That Night.
Jamna returned as promised once the camp started to douse their fires and slip into their bedrolls. “We don’t work for the same people,” she whispered from the far edge of the dying campfire, “but we have the same goal — stop the Dragon Cult from achieving whatever they’re looking to achieve.” She said that in order to help do that, though, they had to know what the cultist wagons were carrying, and use that knowledge to figure out why they were carrying it once they got to Waterdeep or beyond.
The plan was for some of the party to sneak around the perimeter of the camp to reach the cult wagon while the rest of the party created a distraction that would hopefully occupy the cultists. Hope, Zalandrin, and Jamna hit the treeline and sunk into the darkness, making their way to the rear of the cult campsite just as the rest of the party started what could only be described as “Cirque du WTF”, which was so named by the rest of the caravan that shouted at them to knock it off.
Hope created a smaller, more authentic distraction by way of illusory audio some yards away from their position that seemed to at least take the cultist’s attention long enough for Jamna and Zal to sneak into the back of one of the wagons and pry open some of the crates. Inside they found valuable items: jewlery, artwork, and fine metals. Satisfied that there was nothing more suspicious in the wagon, they regrouped with Hope and the trio returned to the camp to relay the news.
The next morning as the caravan was waking up to another oatmeal-filled morning, a shout of “Murderers!” rang out from the other side of the camp. Thee of the cultists stormed their way across the clearing to confront the party at the point of their swords, dragging a curious sea of onlookers in their wake.
They accused the party of killing one of their watchmen, who was found face-down under the wagon this morning with a definitive short-sword wound in his back. The cultists demanded to see the party’s weapons. The party refused. Jos, the Thayan who was riding with the cultists, attempted to step in an calm the situation, and was backed up by many of the caravan members who were fond of the party, and who really wished the cultists had never joined their traveling column. Seeing themselves outnumbered and with no support, the cultists skulked away to bundle their dead comrade into the wagon for the final leg of the trip to Waterdeep.
* * *
Despite best efforts, this caravan trip actually played out in real time. The module says that traveling from Baldur’s Gate to Waterdeep would take about two months, and two months it did take. Being an adult means that sometimes there’s real-world matters that take us away from being able to play, and that’s OK. We got the “authentic caravan experience”, except without having to eat oatmeal every day for breakfast.
This was a quick return to the game, however, as the party had been close to the end of the chapter the last time we had convened. I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s about time. The caravan chapter offered a lot of opportunities to “do stuff” on the road, most of which I didn’t use simply because “doing stuff” on the road isn’t the point of the module. In the interest of hurrying things up, using the caravan scenario as a kind of necessary diversion, I threw in just a few of those side items that seemed to be the most beneficial: the party gained another Harper ally, the ranger got a +1 bow, some cultists were killed and dumped in a pond, and everyone made it to Waterdeep alive (except for those cultists).
At the end of this session the party leveled to Numero Cinco, so the rest of the evening was spent adjusting character sheets accordingly.