The Clutch of Verthandi

Preparations in Oakwatch

The Crusade readies itself for the expedition into Dragonhelm.

The party suddenly arrives in Ardyn, taking advantage of Eoleo‘s newest spell to finally escape the hazards of the Scarred Hills. The startled citizens recognize their heroes and celebrate their return, but not before Ulmace alerts them of a dwarf intruder, who had been aggressively demanding entrance for almost a day. The dwarf turns out to be Delvin, sent to deliver Val Rognar’s profits from the restoration of Scoria and their discovery of two new silver veins, but he was inadvertently robbed by none other than their companion, Thordast, so Delvin tracked the elf to Ardyn and was demand the return of his lord’s money. Rognar dismissed Delvin and confronted Thordast, receiving his rightful earnings and spending it on some magical improvements to his armor and shield, as well as a belt that improved his physical prowess and a headband to advance his social skills.

The party then traveled to Oakwatch, after hearing numerous tales of the activity of fell fey in the Feywood. Upon their arrival, the town elders update the adventurers on the recent unpleasant developments in the forest, hoping that the heroes had discovered some means of restoring the Master of the Forest to power. They brought Thordast to the petrified dragon, and he told them that he knew an arcane ritual that could revert the earthbound state, but he would require several potent material components, most notably a diamond or white opal conduit for wind energy worth at least 10,000 silver pieces.

Eoleo magically contacts Alymaneann’s consciousness to ask where they might find such a treasure (since the group is unsuccessful in determining the location of the dragon’s lair, and thus his hoard, which might contain a piece so valuable). The dragon suggests that two of the fey dukes might possess the necessary jewel: the vicious Kelpie Queen, Aughisky, and the nymph Elmira (known for her distaste of elves). He also tells Niamh that her mother was last seen traveling north to “follow the holy falcon,” some kind of missionary quest that required her departure from Ardyn, and gives her a code with which to find the savings she left for her wayward daughter (namely a well-concealed platinum coin of immense value).

The party decides their best bet is to speak with Elmira, so they stock up on equipment in Oakwatch before marching out into the Feywood, accompanied by an honor guard of two gnomes. Along the way, they are beset by four monstrous fey dragonflies, which lure them into a glade with an illusion before ensnaring them and trying to whisk them away. The party is able to fend them off, but at the expense of many resources, including one of their guards (who was taken by one of the giant bugs). The groups follows the insects’ trail and finds the seat of Duchess Elmira, who awaits their arrival. She is initially unfriendly given their violent foray into her domain and the two menfolk’s drifting eyes (although she had set them up in an unfair position from the start), and argues that the Master’s failure to keep the evil fey in check suggests the forest’s need for a new guardian, one with less sympathy for elven outsiders. Through much cooperation and compromise, the Crusaders agree to borrow and return the valuable diamond in exchange for their gnome guard’s life.

With the gnome’s life at stake, Raleria refuses to take chances by Thordast. She calls off the groups first attempt at the ritual to prompt some research of material components and arcane rituals, and the group finds numerous inconsistencies with Thordast’s supposed spell. Their stalling provokes the Elders to call an official meeting, where they challenge the party to either let Thordast complete the ritual, or have him write it out so Raleria could do it. Eventually, Raleria’s distrust of her estranged parent outweighs her self-confidence issues, and she asks for a written task analysis for the ritual. Thordast complies, retiring to a room to transcribe the ritual process.

Sure enough, when the party returns Thordast is gone, and his “ritual” turns out to be a friendly letter applauding Raleria for seeing through his ruse. As a parental reward for such social competence, he leaves for her a strange ring supposedly connected to Dragonhelm which he procured from a gambling buddy, since he knew that was the Crusade’s intended destination. Blackbarrow‘s journal describes such rings as being used to “command the elite guardians of the dwarven citadels,” but to untrained eyes the ring seems almost useless. Thordast also writes that no known ritual or spell could restore an earthbound creature of Alymaneann’s size, only a tremendously powerful creature of elemental air (which Raleria might find in the shadows of the accursed city). Disheartened but prepared, the group asks how to get to Dragonhelm, to which the Elders respond that the party could take one of two dangerous routes: passing through the Kelpie Queen’s watery lair, or taking the winding road through the Feywood with the homicidal witch Julian as their guide (given that Julian was the only one to ever glimpse the gates of Dragonhelm and return). After much debate between frying pan and fire, the group decides that Julian is the lesser of two evils, although Eoleo buys a scroll of dominate person and learns the spell as a precaution for hopefully keeping the madman under control.

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