The Zhentarim Gambit

The Unexpected Guest
A three session summary

Construction was well under way at Curze manor, sinking the foundation was much easier than expected given the swampy area. Kardos sure did get lucky when he bought this land, Rogal thought to himself, and imagined what the eventual manor would look like when it was finished. The knight snapped back into reality when he heard a voice calling for him in the front. A short walk over the newly laid cobblestones brought him past the ongoing construction, arriving at what will eventually be the main path from the road to the manor.

Squire Garro, whom Rogal entrusted with making sure only the laborers got access to the property, was standing next to an unfamiliar man with even more unfamiliar clothes. His clothes we certainly cotton, but the craftsmanship far surpassed anything you could buy, even at the most expensive tailors. Black fitted pants, a white shirt with a stiff collar, a black double-breasted jacket, and what appeared to be a long piece of black silk knotted at his throat, under the collar.

Rogal gave Garro a nod then addressed the man, “this property is not accepting visitors at this time, you’ll need to return when Lord Curze returns.”

The man smiled. Calm, casual, and unnerving all at the same time. “I am aware Kardos isn’t here, but I just here to deliver two things. Here is the first, he lost these.” As he spoke, he reached into his jacket and produced a small stack of papers, neatly folded.

Rogal took the papers and read what was clearly Lord Curze’s handwriting.

After Krogg cleaned up the fleeing Zhentarims, John, Krogg, and I regrouped and tried to find where Orianna and Mendartis had run off to. We very quickly found the secret passage behind the fireplace. Guessing that they had gone exploring, we doused the flames and headed down after them, with John electing to stay behind in case the Zhentarims returned.
We did eventually meet up with the two of them in what appeared to be a elegantly styled waiting room with two doors. I offered my stolen cloak to the magical hooks hoping I wouldn’t need it again. It gladly accepted.

The right hand door led to what appeared to be a lab. Some of the implements and concoctions found in the cabinets were familiar from the anatomy and biology classes I largely slept through. Maybe if I hadn’t slept so much I would have known not to touch the fern Krogg affectionately named Chuck.

It was an odd experience, having your body swapped into a half-orc. I always knew that Krogg was patient for his kind, but I didn’t know how much self-control he truly had. It took everything I had to stop myself from swinging his axe and destroying everything I could reach. To live like that everyday, with those feelings, and to have as much composure as Krogg seems like an impossible task. I’ll probably never understand Krogg completely, but those brief minutes gave me more insight than years of friendship ever did.

The rest of the group managed to convince Chuck to return me and Krogg to our proper bodies. As an apology for being rude to the plant, I tasked Bob to return Chuck to him native home. I left Bob in charge of figuring that out and I half expect him to get killed by a passing eagle at some point. Not that I would be upset if that happened.

Moving into a hallway we found ourselves in front of an ornate double door with ancient inscriptions. I was able to decipher the runes and when I spoke them allowed the doors opened.

We were greeted by a clocked figure, one we had seen before when our group just met. He was clearly plundering the tomb that we had walked into. Grasping a sword, he set his constructed servant on us and opened a portal to escape. We weren’t quick enough to stop him, but not all of his quarry escaped with him. I managed to recover the hilt of the sword, a seemingly perfect match to the scabbard Mendartis holds.

The servant was a formidable foe. My magic proved useless against him, but thanks to some ball bearings and clever thinking by Orianna, we managed to destroy him by knocking him into an acid slick.

With the area calm again, we were able to take a better look at the tomb. It was clearly the tomb of Roland, the figure of legend whose sword we were looking for. With a few treasures plundered we left the manor and the city behind us.

We made a stop at Yupa’s tower to let him know what we had found. I was initially upset that he had guided us into a trap, but soon realized that while he is older than he appears he is by no means omniscient.

We left for Waterdeep at Yupa’s advice. It was over a weeks travel, but thankfully it was largely without incident. As we travelled, I got to know John, Orianna, and Mendartis better. Trusting them when things got hairy is one thing, but liking them as people is another. Thankfully, with a few bothersome quirks aside, the three of them are good people and hope that they live long enough to see the end of this.

All this time I had been forgetting why I started this journey with Krogg, and it wasn’t until we reached Waterdeep that I remembered. My worry for Krogg’s safety increased as we approached the command station of the besieging orcs. Grokk had beaten Krogg here and assumed command. Only Krogg was allowed in the tent, so I took a look at no-man’s-land hoping that finding a way into the city would distract me. It didn’t.

The sound of orcish chanting drew the four of us back into the center of the camp. it appears that Krogg and Grokk were to fight to the death.

I was scared that Krogg would lose, and terrified what that would mean for his travel companions. I hid my fear with unflappable composure, a skill that I had used previously when I was working in the information business.

It was a great relief to see that Krogg was victorious; I might have gotten carried away in the moment. But it was short lived. The army behind Waterdeep’s walls took the fight as a signal to attack, and we were soon in the middle of a war zone.

In the midst of the melee, a gnome recognized us by the Roland’s hilt, which I had tuck away in my armor. He beckoned to follow and with no plans on dying the four of us had no choice but to agree.

I say four because Krogg had to stay behind. With Grokk dead he was now the leader of the army and he said it was is duty to rally the troops. I told him I would signal when he could join us in Waterdeep.

“This is surely his. Its in his hand, and the quality is awful,” Rogal said with a frown. “Where did you get this?”

“It’s of no importance, I am sure he will be happy just to have them returned. I also have a gift. You see, I am a busy man and I am not sure I will be able to return here in quite some time. I will likely miss Kardos’ return when his manor is finished. So I will trust that this gift will be waiting for him when he does.”

The words sent a shiver down Rogal’s spine. He couldn’t place it, but there was certainly something insidious in the man’s words. He know he shouldn’t take the wooden box the man was now offering, but he reached out it took it anyway. With words that were not his own, but speaking them nonetheless “Lord Curze said there should be nothing unexpected when he returns, but I don’t see the harm in one surprise.”

“Nor do I” agreed the man.

And without a whisper, the man was gone.

Rogal starred out into space, as if he had forgotten something. The moment ended, and the knight turned back towards the manor. Sinking the foundation was much easier than expected given the swampy area. Kardos sure did get lucky when he bought this land, Rogal thought to himself. A very lucky man indeed.

Fevered Chants
Krogg plays politics while the gang looks on in horror.

Krogg tell story in orc. Krogg ask readers to skip to end if speak common.

Orc: "T’was a fateful morning that we set out from the Antarian manor after having procured the sheath of the fabled Mirror Blade. We decided to return to the Old Man and plan our next step in dealing with the Gibbering Horde. After much deliberation it seemed in all of our best interest to assist in the conflict consuming Waterdeep. For some of us, the city offered a promising lead towards the restoration of Roland’s legendary weapon; for others, mainly myself, a chance at the union of the Orc people under a new banner. A banner of knowledge and progress rather than senseless violence.

Cresting a hill east of the city, the siege came into full view of the party. It seemed a standstill had taken root and the party used this as an opportunity to meet with the Orc high command. Unsurprisingly, my witless cousin Grokk had already siezed the title of Chieftan through treachery, alleging my death to quash any objections made by those that would back my claim. With some luck and my unmistakable brand, the Council of Eight granted me the privilege of Din’dok. (For those not well-versed in Orkish culture, Din’dok is a public forum in which contenders pose differing opinions with no rebuttal. The crowd decides which course of action is to be taken.)

Being the challenger, I spoke first and my final words were met with fervorous cheers and thunderous applause. Grokk’s speech was surprisingly eloquent given his proclivity for single sylable grunts. It appeared, given Grokk’s newfound disposition for public speaking, that I had but one option: a declaration of Mak’lok. (Once more, for the uncultured swine reading this, Mak’lok is of the oldest and fiercest of Orkish traditions. It is a duel to the death predicated on honor. Participants are permitted victory by any means with the sole exception of accepting outside help.)

If I am able to best Grokk in Mak’lok I will drag my brethren, kicking and screaming if need be, into the Golden Age of Orcs. The group will also have the full arm of the Orkish military to assist in the acquisition of the Mirror Blade and the eventual war with the Gibbering Horde.

(For those interested in my speech it went as follows: “I, Krogg, return after a long search and much learning. Our people. Our children. Our forefathers. We have always prided strength over virtue.
Brute force over the subtle hand. We see our brothers and sisters suffer behind those walls and we are powerless to bring an end to it.
I return to you with knowledge, with wisdom, with strategy. I return to you with a plan to rain destruction upon those that would enslave us.
Those that would attempt to break our spirit, crush our will, bring us to our knees. Grokk remained, never growing, his ability to lead is to raise a fist
to all, friend or foe. Our people do not need more of the same leadership. Our people need to bolster our minds just as much as we need to bulster our forearms.
If posed a threat that cannot be defeated by axe alone, a new approach must be applied. I am that new approach. Follow me to bring new glory to our wayward clan.
Follow me to free our people from the tyranny of the Zhentarim. Follow me to begin the golden age of the orkish nomads.)”


You've Activated my Trap Card!
The Musings of Mindartis

Once again, I had to take care of everyone else in this merry band of adventurers that seems to have formed over the past couple of weeks. This time it all started when an invisible John tripped and alerted three curiously robed figures to our presence. I don’t know who they are—were, but they clearly weren’t there to talk. As soon as John stumbled they jumped up with weapons drawn and charged at Orianna who was clearly visible a few feet beyond where John was standing. I slid off into the shadows and let one of them charge past me before cutting him down while he was distracted by Orianna.

John rushed the one that was holding back and was nearly felled in a single blow. By this time Kardos and Krogg had caught up and went to John’s aid. I cleaned up the last fool that was harassing Orianna and walked over to get some information out of the last ingrate left standing.

Krogg held him down long enough for us to find out that their were about 30 of them in Volter Manor. Just like Old Yupa had feared, they too were after Aechris, Roland’s legendary blade. Unfortunately, he also let slip that they were planning on using the blade on “orcs, and orc-lovers,” which Krogg… did not take kindly to.

Mustering up a few quick disguises we entered the house and quickly split up: Krogg and John going one way, Orianna, Kardos, and myself going another. The three of us wandered about a bit and our disguises were thorough enough that I even convinced one of the enemy acolytes to remove a cursed stick from my grasp.

After uneventfully exploring the rest of our half of the manor our group stumbled upon the lieutenant pouring over a massive pile of papers in the dining room. As we were trying to figure out how to deal with him, Krogg’s distinctive bellow erupted from just beyond the next room. HIs cries cleared the dining room long enough for Kardos and I to inspect what had caught the lieutenant’s interest.

Orianna, being the sticky fingered devil that she is, stole the papers off the Lieutenant’s table and stuffed them quickly within her satchel. I did a more complete survey of the room as a whole and noticed a titillating piece of artwork placed on the mantel above the fireplace. The ornament was a simple pair of crossed swords, but when we entered the house looking for a blade, why pass up such a clue?

Session 6: Later Losers, I'm turning to Gas.
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Krogg

Dear Journal,

So it’s been a weird few days. After being chased by these guys who shot those weird thunderpoon thingies (who we killed real good) we managed to make our way to the Antarian capital. The city was barred up pretty tight, so I drank my Gaseous form potion and slipped through a crack and flew above the city. It was so beautiful! Unfortunately good things must end, and I came to rest at the third district of the city. Snooping around, I found the houses to be void of anything valuable, but instead found some spooky guys hiding about. I ran back to get the others and I found them wandering the city. I gave Kardos a surprise hug because I think he’s neato, and he responded by using some weird magic on me. Jerk. I told the gang about the spooky guys (minus Krogg, he was watching the skiff) and we tried to sneak up on them. Unfortunately, John’s armor made too much noise and they saw me. Oh well.


Session 5: Matt is Just the Worst

Thought Bubbles from the Head of John S. Preston Esq.:

—move from gibbering horde site ruins with findings of inscription
—decide to move along road to wizard tower
—travel about 1 week
—mindartis scavenges for the most part but we do use some of our supplies/rations
—I catch a glint of something under a hill, uncover a horse remains and take some dank memes from it
—make it to the wizard tower and look at some books and talk to el wiz
—he tells us some shit about the mirror blade and our quest
—fucking mad max fury road
—I know I am the world’s worst procrastinator

Session 4 - The Gibbering Returns
The Musings of Mindartis

The good news is that I know whose scabbard I have now. The bad news is that he has been dead for hundreds of years, the location of his grave is lost (possibly forever), and it seems like the abyssal enemy he fought is coming back.

After we parted ways with Taragon we marched west to join the liberation effort at the human city of Waterdeep. A few days into our trip we stumbled upon an old Antarian ruin that we decided to poke about in for a little. The ruin appeared to be an old fort or outpost that had crumbled long ago, possibly even before the fall of that ancient empire. Vines and shrubbery had completely overtaken the age-old stonework of the buildings and walls, but in the center of the compound was a man carved from stone.

To call him a statue would belittle the reverence with which he was sculpted. No detail was too small for the artist to embrace, including the strangely ornate scabbard at this hero’s hip. I was drawn to the effigy, pulled to it by an ancient curiosity coursing through my being.

Unfortunately, my inspection was cut short by a scream from some dwarfish voice in one of the buildings. Soon another scream followed and out poured an undulating mass of body parts from all manner of races. The ground around the aberration started to pulse and swell.

After a brief, and briefly terrifying, battle we beat back the mass, though not without loss. Krogg, in all of his finite wisdom, decided to deal the finishing blow by toppling the statue over our enemy before I could fully look it over. I began to dig through the pile looking for an inscription, which Kardos apparently didn’t think was the appropriate reaction considering what we just faced. He explained that the thing we defeated was actually something called the “Gibbering Horde” which was some kind of ancient evil that brought down Antariel. The Horde has not been seen since the Antarian mages called forth the Wonderwall, destroying the Horde and their capital city in the process.

I admit, this sounded really bad but there was still a compulsion inside me to find out everything I could about the statue before we left that place. I finally uncovered a few fragmented bits of text that Krogg had not destroyed and showed them to Kardos. He read them over and frowned, still concerned about why the Gibbering Horde had resurfaced in our world.

I finally caved and told the rest of the party about the night a month ago when I had my run in with the spirit. I even showed him the scabbard she left for me. Kardos read that too, and it finally seemed to focus him enough to give me some translations. He said that both the inscription from the statue and my scabbard were written in Old Antarian.

According to Kardos the bits I managed to pull from the rubble described a man named Roland, the word for either “reflection” or “mirror”, “memorial”, and “Battle of Windward Pass”. He said that it might have also said something about Roland’s grave but it was too far cracked to make out. My scabbard, however, read as clear as the day that it was made:
To tear the horde asunder, a mirror, nothing more – Of Roland’s Make

Session 3 - Krogg Forgot to do This One
The Musings of Mindartis

We made our way back through the forest from the goblin’s cave to the little shanty-town we first met in. With about a mile left to go through the forest the air started to fill with smoke. As we pushed our way through the last of the trees our fears were confirmed when we saw the town ablaze. We made our way closer to the village and discovered that the fire was started by a roving band of orcs out for a bit of fun.

Krogg rushed down to try to reason with the other orcs and even seemed to be talking them down from their burning and pillaging when Kardos got frustrated and let loose an arcane blast. The orcs didn’t like that. I loosed an arrow which must have been caught by a stray gust of wind, because it missed just high. The orcs charged at us, and the next thing I knew I was waking up in Targon’s inn with a rather large bruise on my chest.

Kardos let the rest of us know that apparently the orcs were from the same clan as Krogg and they were headed to the city of Waterdeep to join the war effort. Apparently this human city still has a prominent slave population which is mostly made of orcs, trolls, goblins, and ogres.

Kardos, Krogg, John, Orianna, and myself decided we might be useful in freeing those forced into servitude in Waterdeep and decided to head that way.

Session 2: Fisher Price's My First Dungeon Crawl

From the logs of Orianna Felwinter

Dear Journal,

So let’s see here…After watching the big orc-thingy (He says Krogg a lot so I guess that’s his name), beat on the other Tiefling’s (Tom “Trust” Cruze or something. Lacks elegance.) chest and revive him, we decided to split up and go through the two different halls that were in front of us. I tried to sneak after Mindartis but I accidentally knocked over some junk…oops…

But all of a sudden we heard the screams of a woman! While all the stupid boys ran to help her, I stole off down the hall and peered down another corridor. There was a huge waterfall inside this cave. I wanted to explore it further but I was being watched and couldn’t flee. I decided help the testosterone junkies help this broad.

By the time I got there, she was already dead, and that stupid Dwarf John was almost dead. I had to the lay the smack down on some goblins and bugbear! How they would’ve done without me and my trusty shortsword is yet to be determined.

They were holding some dragon guy captive. Dawsons Creek or something like that was his name. I wasn’t paying attention cause I found a bunch of gold on the floor! It was a nice present after all that goblin killing. I think they talked about the dead girl a bit too. Whatever.

We decided to head into that waterfall cavern next. I found a trap and alerted everyone else, but the noise I made alerted some goblins too. I took a shot at them with my bow and missed, but that Dawsons Creek guy set them on fire and stuff. One got away but I think Krogg chased it down. I was too busy looking for treasure. Mindartis tried to point some out to me but it was just a spike pit which I had seen earlier. That Mindartis is a jerk, but kinda funny.

While everyone else began looking around I figured that some treasure would behind those heavy doors in back. I snuck in and started picking a lock. Sounded like an argument was going on inside. Boy it was a tough lock to crack as it took me almost 20 minutes to open. By the time I busted it, Mindartis and Tom snuck up behind me.

I peered in the room and noticed a bugbear arguing with some sort of astral projection of a figure. When the figure saw me it disappeared. It allowed me to try and sneak attack the bugbear but he saw me coming. There was another cool fight! I saved Tom Kruze’s life! I probably killed everything this time too.

Afterwards we found some super cool loot! I got this sick hat that can disguise me! And Mindartis found this necklace that let’s him breathe underwater. He used to travel beyond the waterfall and found this ancient magical swimsuit! Now he can move fast in water!

And Tom Kruze found some dominoes or something. He seemed really excited. I like Tom Kruze. He’s funny.

Well Journal, getting those goblins was tough but now the towns should be safer. I just hope we get a cool reward in addition to what we found. I’ll write to you later, as always


Session 1: Of course it started in a Tavern
As recorded by Kardos

I guess the best place to start is the beginning, and by that, somewhere in the middle.

Krogg and I were on our way to see Old Yupa, some kind of oracle. He lives in the ruins of Antariel by Waterdeep and we had called it a day at a tavern.

It was full of the usual crowd of humans drinking their pay away, but some oddities too. An elf who looked like he was inside for the first time in a century, a dwarf who could have been mistaken for a slab of iron, and a minstrel who picked up his lute skills from a goblin.

I’m guessing the minstrel didn’t pay for his lessons, for we were soon interrupted by small raiding party of the little buggers.

Now normally I would be writing about how I heroically saved the townsfolk, but I was already a stein or two deep in triple mead and my sense of balance wasn’t at 100%. Instead of leaping onto a table and saving the minstrel, I slipped off the table and end up scorching the tavern wall with a poorly aimed spell. The minstrel probably would have been grateful, had he survived the encounter.

I missed the rest of the fight, but Krogg tells me he killed all the goblins, and that seems reasonable enough for me.

Oh, I forgot to mention the tiefling I found under the table, making that booth the densest tiefling population for 100 miles.

Now getting interrupted my goblins isn’t something i take lightly, and I needed to have a word with the barkeep, Tarragon. I wasn’t the only one who needed answers; the elf and the dwarf were keenly interested in why the tavern wasn’t defended.

According to Targon, most of the able bodied people had headed off to Waterdeep leaving the village undefined from the increasingly bold goblins.

I believe that there is no person too small to owe you a favor, so I said I would take care of the goblins. I managed to flex my new title to convince the dwarf, who goes by John, to tag along. The elf, Mindartis, figured that we would probably get ourselves lost if he didn’t help. I noticed the other tiefling stealing from the barmaid, so i insisted that she join us. For the good of the town.

The next morning we set off. John took the lead, and promptly got us lost. I set the elf in charge of navigation, who seemed more entertained by the tress than making sure we got to the caves by the lake.

As soon as we got there Orianna, the tiefling thief, went right inside the cave. As fate would have it, she triggered a trap, hopefully teaching her a lesson. Exploring the cave, John managed to find a door deeper into the goblin hideout.

Our group was still getting to know each other and I could tell that there was some mistrust. We needed a leader, so I lead the group into the tunnel. Krogg took up the rear making sure that no one chickened out.

The next room was empty, which was a shame because I was itching to make up for my accident last night. My Patron had other ideas though. Instead of earning some respect with a good show of force I managed to inhale a large quantity of toxic spores.

I passed out, but Krogg says he saved me, and judging by which I think is a cracked rib, I believe him.

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