When Is A Cultist Not A Cultist?
In the aftermath of the cultist attack in the back alleys of Waterdeep, the party had concerns about the one cultist who got away. He had been shooting fireballs from a balcony, but quickly ducked into the building and was never seen again after that.
The party broke into the building which had housed this enemy and found a dusty old apothecary’s shop. A set of recent footprints lead through the building and out the door, but the only other sign they could find was discarded purple robe outside the shop.
Searching the bodies of the other cultists revealed something interesting: none of the corpses had anything about them that verified their cult membership. They had the purple robes, but they were of theatrical quality — unadorned, plain, and flimsy. What the party did discover, however, was that each of the bodies was sporting a small, pinky-nail sized tattoo on their neck at the hairline: a series of small and crude daggers.
Unsure of the meaning of the situation, the party convinced (financially convinced) a cart owner to help them bring the corpses back to the council house where their Harper ally Leosin met them and heard their tale. He had the bodies brought to the manor house’s cold storage room for later investigation. A chance meeting with the representative from Silverymoon, Taern Hornblade, validated the party’s concerns that this encounter might not have been random, but it didn’t seem to be cult-related either.
There wasn’t a lot of time to investigate further because the party had a meeting with Brawnanvil to discuss Elia’s request regarding her ancestor. He listened to the party, and although he knew about the dragon-skin armor, he couldn’t deliver it to them: he didn’t know where the owner had gone.
Brawnanvil seemed like a dwarf at the end of his rope. The party’s request didn’t seem to phase him — not like the 1/3 of the treasure horde promised to the dragons — but he was obviously feeling the weight of something. He told the party that Mithril Hall was his main concern and that his responsibilities to his kingdom clashed with his responsibilities as their representative. The Hall’s population was dwindling, which made committing an army to this united cause amounted to suicide for his people. He was torn between his duty to the Council and protecting what remained of his kingdom.
In the end, the party met Brawnanvil half-way. There was no way he would apologize to Elia for the entirety of dwarven history regarding the dragon moots; it was not his place, nor was he particularly sorry about it in any way. But the party’s argument that the dragon’s cooperation meant that maybe Mithril Hall didn’t have to be a front-line force, and that providing to the dragons what was negotiated would be a way to ensure that. Brawnanvil agreed to meet with Elia, in private, to issue a personal apology for what happened to her kin, which was all he was able to do.
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I had prepared more content for this week than we actually got to. I didn’t plan on the players spending as much time trying to track down the cultist as they did, which turned out to be one of those classical DM conundrums: go with the flow, or branch out.
In a fit of confusion, I opted to branch out, which may come back to bite me in the ass later on. Still, I’m pleased that I had a sudden epiphany, even though it came to me as I was trying to avoid giving the players too easy an out later on down the line. Theoretically — and this is meta-gaming talk, Adventure Co members — this thread could lead to an interesting side module if we didn’t have a pesky dragon cult invasion that required the bulk of our attention.
Speaking of which, we narrowly avoided ditching the cult invasion in favor of a trip to the old dwarven city of Gauntlgrym. See, Brawnanvil knew of the dwarf who killed Elia’s kin, but he knows him because he left Mithril Hall with Bruenor, the fabled not-quite-so-dead-anymore king who took an expedition to the abandoned city long, long ago. If there wasn’t more pressing content to get through, the party could have easily gone on another side mission to see if they couldn’t find this guy. The problem is Gauntlgrym isn’t just a dwarven city; it’s the D&D equivalent to the Mines of Moria, and also a gateway to the Underdark — and all that entails. A trip down there would be a whole campaign in itself, and while there’s a certain level of excitement about that, now is not the time.
Still, I think we got a lot done. There was a lot of discovery, and everyone seemed really focused on the tasks at hand.