After a tough encounter with two cultist thugs, the party has located their Harper informer. Although he was murdered by the cultists, the party recovers a journal with valuable information. It proves that the caravan was secretly manned by cult members, who were transporting a magical artifact to their leaders. It also mentions finding strange metal with special properties, which were used by the Vladrago family to pacify dragons. This metal was recently sent to the south in a guarded caravan.
Most importantly, the journal talks about setting up a secret ritual to help the cultists communicate with an Elder God to learn how to free them from their imprisonment. The ritual is taking place two hours to the north in a secluded fortress, one thought abandoned. As the party gets ready to venture forth, Rolen’s keen elven senses picks alerts to him an observer. Above them, in the rafters of the hunting lodge, a masked man is poised to attack the party with a loaded crossbow.
Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?
Rolen quickly fires off an arrow, but misses his mark. Realizing he’s outmatched, the masked man retreats, with the party in swift pursuit. Rolen targets the legs of his cultist foe, but he nimbly dodges out of the way. Ammon, the half-elven warlock, sets up a Dimensional Door to forcibly teleport his enemy closer to them, but the attempt also fails.
The masked man uses the cover of the trees to get ahead and the party falls behind after slipping on a damp riverbank. As the masked man retreats into the woods, Arlo throws a handaxe out of frustration. He inflicts a superficial wound, but the cultist covers the injury with his cloak and retreats.
Just Hanging Out
The party weigh their options and decide that stopping the ritual is more important than tracking down the Vladrago metal. They start their journey to the abandoned fortress, but spring a trap. Arlo and Rolen are trapped in nets that hangs them twenty feet above the ground, and only Ammon avoids being snared. Out of the clearing steps out a silver Dragonborn in armor, who immediately mocks the party on their predicament. After some hostile banter, Ammon attacks the nets with Eldritch Blast, but it’s been reinforced by metal and splinters instead of breaking.
Finally, Marahtos, the Dragonborn, admits that Miranda sent him to help the party on their journey, and the nets were his way of seeing if the party was being mindful of their surroundings. He shows a letter, signed with Miranda’s seal, as proof of his credentials. Arlo is not amused, and immediately questions the Dragonborn on his true intentions. Marahtos is evasive and brushes off Arlo’s concerns, but because time is of the essence, they continue to stop the ritual.
Crashing The Party
The party finds the abandoned fortress guarded by three cultists outside the gate and two cultists in guard towers. Rolen tries to scout, but the guards still detect his presence. With one well-placed fireball, Ammon wipes out all of the guards except for one of the sentries on the tower. Marahtos, the Dragonborn Paladin, uses his Command spell to force him to walk down the tower, where he is immediately dispatched by the rest of the party.
The party continues to the second floor of the fortress, finding two guards and two cloaked figures. One of the cloaked figures removes her hood, revealing herself as a half-drow. She introduces herself as Ellisar Daneiros, informing the party that the ritual has already taken place – they simply chose to wait to meet them. They’re not interested in harming the party – instead, they want to recruit them.
Ellisar explains that the return of the Elder Gods is inevitable, but through hastening their return, they can use their power to tear down a corrupted society and build a better one in its place. The other cloaked figure removes his hood and introduces himself as Adan Daneiros, a paladin who’s seen the truth of his sister’s words. He testifies that his God wants him to help the Elder Gods cleanse the unworthy, but his fanatic testimony does nothing to sway the party. Marahtos asks them questions in Undercommon, but doing so raises suspicions from Arlo.
Ellisar, having done research on all the party members, brings up their past to persuade them to join her cause, but all the party members refuse. Losing patience with her villainous monologue, Marahtos tries to underhandedly take a swing at Ellisar, but Arlo holds him back before he can instigate violence.
With a contemptuous sneer, Ellisar says that she isn’t going to bother to make Marahtos an offer to join them. She knows about his past and how untrustworthy he is, and claims that’s it only a matter of time until his party comes to the same conclusions. Rolen retreats to a safe distance to use his bow, and taunts Ellisar as he prepares for a showdown. Angered, Ellisar orders her men to slay the party, and combat breaks out.
Despite their glib words, the party is slow to react and the cultists strike first. Ellisar casts a Twinned Crown of Madness on Arlo and Marahtos, forcing them to gang up on Ammon. With little options, Ammon tries to attack Ellisar with Eldritch Blast to break her concentration on the spell, but she deflects it with her magical Shield. Rolen snipes from a safe distance, but his arrows are deflected by the same spell.
Arlo and Marahtos fail to resist the spell on subsequent rounds, and attack Rolen and Ammon. Marahtos eventually snaps out of the spell and uses his Dragonborn strength to shove the cultists out of the way, using Divine Smite to backhand Ellisar for 26 points of damage. She loses concentration on the spell and Arlo regains his senses.
Angered, the cultists quickly dispatch Ammon and Ellisar blasts the party with a fireball spell. Things are looking grim, but luckily, Torbek and his dwarven honor guard arrive, counter attacking with righteous zeal against the cultists. Reluctantly, the cultists teleport out and Torbek revives Ammon.
Torbek explains that he left the party because he found out that the village had been infiltrated by disguised drow, who were allied with the leader of the cultists. He realized something was amiss when Rolen pickpocked an extremely high number of gold coins from the apparent villagers in the tavern. He casts dispel magic on Rolen’s coins, revealing it to be drow currency.
Torbek and his honor guard slew the drow that were going to flank the party, and then quickly tracked down the party. Torbek also reluctantly informs the party that the dwarf elders were grateful they inadvertently exposed the drow infiltrators, and rewards them with a treasure chest of valuable gems.
After reporting back to Miranda, she says:
“Well done, heroes. I’m very proud of your courageous actions today. Because of your actions, the Lord’s Alliance has agreed to release the tome about the Elder Gods to our custody. Our researchers will study it very carefully.”
“Our elf contact Erlan just sent in his petition to join the Harpers. We need all the allies we can get, so we’ll probably approve his request. He put Rolen down as a character reference.”
“Also, the caravan was carrying something important that never made it to the final destination. It was an ancient magical weapon called, “The Rod of the Apocalypse.” In ancient times, it gave a talented magical user the power to control elemental fire and trigger dormant volcanos under the surface.
“We need to spend all of our resources to tracking that rod down. I can only pray that whoever has the rod now doesn’t have malicious intentions.”
With a worried frown, she turns to Ammon and says, “Have you heard from your devil patron recently? I suspect there might be a connection between him and the rod, but I don’t have proof yet.”
Ammon is at a loss for words, knowing privately that his devil patron has the Rod of the Apocalypse – because Ammon and Rolen delivered it personally to him! Miranda chooses not to pry – for now – but instructs Ammon to share any information that’s relevant after getting a good night’s rest.