The Highwind Blows
Session 2 - The Harper's Tune
Session Date: 20 November 2016
The party continued to examine the captain's cabin on board the Highwind. Crispin helped himself to the set of navigator's tools left on the captain's desk. Snipit and Lelldraen attempted to use their knowledge of herbalism to identify the poison spilled on the desk, but neither was successful. In the end, Snipit used a Neutralize Poison spell to determine that the poison was crystallized foxglove extract, and decided to keep the vial for himself. Other party members found a small iron-banded strongbox. Carefully searching the room, they eventually found a secret panel over the bed that hid the key. They opened the box and found a small assortment of coins and gems.
To Captain Jothias Stan of the Highwind,
Greetings. We hope this letter finds you well.
It pleases us to assure you that our mutual business arrangement remains in effect. Your wife and daughter live their lives in Amn under our protection, free from harassment. You may inform your crew that, likewise, their loved ones are also safe under our protection.
It also goes without saying that our protection depends on you fulfilling the terms of our arrangement. We shall await delivery of the drow and his companions at the Torgott Mercantile warehouse in Amn. We expect your arrival within the tenday.
Fail us not. We are always watching.
The note was embossed with the diving wyvern symbol of the Zhentarim, a shadowy criminal organization just starting to make their presence felt among the cities of the Sword Coast.
At this point, the party was faced with the problem of what to do with the vessel, since none of them had any prior sailing experience. They took stock of what the ship had to offer them. They found two ballistae, one on the forecastle and one on the aftcastle. They found provisions in crates and barrels placed along the gunwales – the kind of cargo that would normally be stored in the ship's hold. The party also found two ten-person launches, useful if the party needed to make a shore landing (or decided to abandon the vessel and row for the shore).
After a lengthy discussion, the party decided to keep the vessel, and discovered the basics of sailing the hard way as they headed southeast. Within a couple of days, the crew of the Highwind sighted the port of Amn in the distance. The party drifted into the mouth of the harbor, dropped anchor, and weighed their options. Since it appeared that this "Z" was after Lelldraen specifically, the party decided that taking him into the city was a bad idea, and Shankill volunteered to stay behind with him. The others decided to keep the Highwind moored offshore and take one of the launches into town.
As evening fell, and as Edwynd was preparing the launch, the party's preparations were interrupted by a fireball arcing overhead and hissing into the water. A booming voice instructed the party to heave to and prepare to be boarded. As two schooner-class ships approached, the party decided not to resist, and shortly afterward, an official-looking dwarf and rather surly elf boarded the ship, flanked by squads of soldiers. The dwarf indentified himself as Harbormaster Jann Mardon and the elf as Chief Wizard Mithandria.
Sending the soldiers off to search the ship, Mardon demanded to see Captain Stan. Edwynd, having claimed the former captain's fancy outfit in the last session, attempted to pass himself off as Captain Stan, but the Harbormaster was having none of it. Captain Stan had garnered quite a reputation as a ruthless pirate, and Edwynd could not quite pull off that demeanor. When pressed, Edwynd related the events of their capture and subsequent victory, and insisted that he was the captain now by right of conquest. But the Harbormaster remained skeptical.
However, at that moment, the soldiers returned to the main deck with Taliesin, who corroborated the party's account. Satisfied, Harbormaster Mardon withdrew his soldiers, but offered assistance with getting the Highwind into port. After he assured the party that their ship would be looked after, the party happily accepted Mardon's offer.
Meanwhile, Chief Wizard Mithandria approached Lelldraen and remarked that she had met the legendary champion Drizzt in her youth. She expressed hope that Lelldraen would be more like Drizzt than his fellow drow. Then, lowering her voice and speaking in perfect Undercommon, Mithandria advised Lelldraen that he was in danger and that he should seek out someone named Tonberry, who could be found at the Golden Flagon Inn. And she handed Lelldraen a token embossed with a harp symbol.
Harbormaster Mardon and Chief Wizard Mithandria withdrew, leaving behind several sailors who took charge of sailing the Highwind to an open berth at the docks. As the crew secured the ship to the dock, night fell upon the city. And, abandoning their original intentions to leave Lelldraen and Shankill behind, the party set out to find this Tonberry.
No one in the party, save Taliesin, had ever been in Amn before, but they had no problems finding the Golden Flagon Inn, as it was one of the most famous inns in the city. But, as the party approached, they found themselves confronted by an unusual obstacle: a mass of people gathered outside of the door, trying to get in. The Golden Flagon Inn was hosting Aldavius Tonberry, the virtuoso dwarf lutemaster, that night. Lute music spilled out into the street as the party approached an overworked half-orc security guard named Stacee. Lelldraen showed her the harp symbol and insisted that they see Tonberry, but the half-orc explained (rather patiently by half-orc standards) that space in the common room was limited, for safety reasons. She could get Lelldraen in, but the rest of the party would have to wait outside.
The party withdrew a short distance away and discussed their options. Snipit decided to use his druidic talents to assume the form of a rat and ride in Lelldraen's pocket. Crispin sauntered down a side alley, attempting to find another entrance into the inn. Edwynd decided to leverage his newfound captaincy in persuading Stacee to let him into the inn. And, not being able to think of anything better to do, Shankill and Taliesin sat down on the curb to wait.
Crispin's adventure down the side alley soon brought him to a door, but was stymied because the door had no lock and no handle on the outside. With nothing to pick, and not being strong enough to try breaking the door down, Crispin settled on the tried-and-true tactic of knocking. But no one answered. Meanwhile, Stacee let Lelldraen into the common room, with Snipit in tow. Lelldraen soon discovered that the common room was just as crowded as Stacee claimed, and made very little headway in getting to Master Tonberry. "Captain" Edwynd's attempts to charm his way past the beleaguered guard once again fell flat. Meanwhile, Shankill pulled out his banjo and started playing to pass the time.
Shankill's banjo soon fell in time and in key with Master Tonberry's lute, and the virtuoso dwarf took notice. He subtly shifted his performance to test what the half-orc was capable of, and the half-orc rose to the occasion, impressing the master bard. Tonberry called for a temporary recess, and told Stacee to let Shankill and his companions in. He then invited the half-orc to join him on stage.
When the concert ended, Lelldraen approached Tonberry, showing him the token that Mithandria had given him. Tonberry suggested that they withdraw to a private room, and called for food and wine. One he was alone with the party, Tonberry cupped the harp token in his hands and concentrated; soon a flash of arcane energy erupted from between his hands. Tonberry confirmed that the token was genuine because it bore Mithandria's arcane mark. And he confirmed that he and Mithandria were agents of the Harpers, an organization dedicated to protecting the Sword Coast from evil groups like the Zhentarim.
Tonberry explained to the party that the Harpers had caught wind of a Zhentarim plot regarding a drow who had recently appeared in Baldur's Gate. Harper scouts had lost sight of one particular drow a couple of days ago, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief when Lelldraen turned up on board the Highwind. Tonberry then proposed that the party help the Harpers combat the Zhentarim by keeping the meeting between Captain Stan and the mysterious "Z". He offered them a purse of gold up front, with not only the promise of more to come later, but also the chance to find out why the Zhentarim wanted them captured.
A short time later, the party agreed to Tonberry's suggestion. The following night, Harper scouts would shadow the party while they kept the appointment in the warehouse. And once the Zhentarim exposed themselves, the Harpers and the party would act in force to take them out.
The party took rooms in the Golden Flagon that night, and made plans to purchase supplies the next day before springing the trap.