In which the TwistedBranch is asked to find the Bejeweled Goblet of Palor.
A local noble Farren Mcculloughey (Lord Warden of Fallcrest) requests a visit from the Twisted Branch. “Come to the Moonstone Keep at noon” his courier relays to the group at the Nentir Inn. The proprietor Erindel Zomoran is a good sort, but one who doesn’t always keep his story straight.
Later, arriving at the keep, Farren and a local priest Grundelmar (Dwarven priest of Pelor) introduces a tanned human priest of Pelor named Jonathan of Neversummer, sent by the high priest of Neversummer. Jonathan tells a tale of the Bejeweled Goblet of Pelor. The goblet was stolen recently from the church, and the church is searching far and wide.
They initially tracked the thieves down to The Black Sparrow, a disreputable dive in Neversummer, and one thug who did not escape was a half-orc named Digger. He did not escape because he had just been murdered, perhaps double-crossed? Digger was said to be from Fallcrest, so Jonathan came here.
Jonathan gives each member of the Twisted Branch 50gp retainer to assist with this quest.
Dain gets the word about town that Digger’s old haunt was the Blue Moon Ale House (down by the docks). The bartender there (Parwin Nomer) is gruff, but interested in Tasker’s tales of illicit trading in the underdark, so stops watering down the group’s beers. The TwistedBranch settles in and watches as the dockside day laborers wander in.
According to a table of half-orc dock workers, Digger was a porter (dock worker) until 6-7mo ago, when he hooked up with some adventuring ruffians from south (Black Scalers) from about 2 days into the southern swamp.
According to a table of halfling river-boat pilots, they have found their own way through the river-fen to avoid problems. This way involves a toll or tribute with the denizens of the swamp. Gisvol Rattlebottom finds out they offer passage south in about a week.
Rather than wait for the pilots, the TwistedBranch decides to rent a boat and go find trouble on the way down the river fens. Before long, the TBranch finds a branch in the river marked as the domain of the Black Scalers.
A patrol of orcs with owlbears proves no match for the TwistedBranch. But, dead orcs tell no tales, so there is little new information gained. The road that the patrol came from leads back to an old keep in a stretch of mangrove swamp. The keep flies the flag of the Black Scalers.
The next day, the TwistedBranch assaults the keep. Monk riding giant spider (Gisvol), flying battle dwarf, invisi-mage: it is all very confusing and troubling for the orcish contingent. Soon the keep has fallen to the adventurers, who defeat about 1doz troops, 3 owlbears, and a few leaders. But, the orcish warlock got away with an owlbear.
(OOC: Next session)
The lone surviving black scaler thug left proves unwilling to talk. So, 20-minutes later, the TwistedBranchers descend into the sub-basement of the keep, which is probably how the orcish-mage escaped with his owl-bear. The sub-basement is the living quarters of the orcish contingent. Thea finds some orcish poetry, an ode to Tinious the dragon. The author was clearly reverent and he (perhaps all the BlackScalers) were involved with the black dragon.
Gisvol discovers a secret door in the fireplace, which reveals stairs down to a semi-natural tunnel, then extends out through the mangrove roots of the marsh. Most areas of the tunnel-path are natural, but a few areas are reinforced with stone, long ago fallen into disrepair.
Several hundred paces out, beyond and from under the walls of the keep, the Branchers pause to sounds up ahead. The orc-shaman and his owl-bear have paused in a chamber containing three pools, and the shaman is muttering (incanting?) to a log (dragon?). Setting doubts aside, the heroes charge in!
The orcish shaman sprouts into a hulking vine-form, as another viney nightmare emerges from the snarl of underbrush on the cave-room floor. As the heroes engage the two vile foes, a black dragon emerges from a pool, to spout acid on two of the beleaguered TwistedBranchers. The situation does not look good. But, thanks to various heroic actions, the enemies are defeated.
Plunging into one of the dank pools, the druid assumes fish form and, blessed with invisibility, scouts out what turns out to be subterranean tunnels. The group tracks the dragon through the sodden tunnels, swimming from air pocket to air pocket. After that ends at a dangerous underground stream, the druid trick again seeks out a proper pathway, and the brave Branchers follow the trail.
Reaching the dragon’s lair, the Twisted Branch is dismayed to find that the dragon’s evil has permeated the cavern and from there radiated to infect the entire marsh. As the heroes searched for the chalice, the beast made its surprise attack. Then ensued a rapid struggle as the lair itself became as a weapon against the adventurers, and the dragon shifted in never-ceasing movement around the dark and dank space.
The heroes tried to apply their best finesse but the slippery foe simply shrugged off the usually effective assault tactics. At last, the Branchers dug deep into their reserves of ferocity, and renewed their attack, casting aside all caution. The monk, Thea, as his last act, released a wave of flame energy even as he fell. Other smiting blows finally felled the scaly shadow fiend, and the chalice was recovered.
Under the shrine of Tiamat, the “white robes of the arch-magi” are bestowed by a spirit of an ancient mage of goodness, who is finally freed from evil domination by the dark forces.