I love it when encounters can be resolved without fighting. I also love it when NPCs are written as reasonable people who don’t necessarily want to fight to the death over any little thing. I know a lot of NPCs are just there to give the PCs some useful information or serve as motivation for a quest (or be human shields and cannon fodder), but I think it’s good when they’re written with actual personalities and traits and lives outside of the adventurers. It’s a campaign world, after all, not just the PCs’ personal sandbox.
Maelstrom, home of the storm giant lord
Waterdeep, city of adventure
The Sword Coast of Faerun
The Story So Far:
Arriving in Maelstrom, the party found themselves in a large open chamber, standing on a glowing golden glyph that their conch of teleportation was attuned to. The area, while submerged, was free of water except for a small standing pool in the center of the room. Passages to the east and north stood open, as did a spiral staircase leading upwards. From above them, they could hear singing and a strange kind of pipe organ. They chose to explore the north and east passages first before going upstairs.
These halls lead them to what appeared to be guest quarters – the north passage lead to giant-sized rooms with beds and wardrobes; the east lead to smallfolk-sized rooms with the same. Ulmo and Heskan sent their familiars upstairs to investigate before they themselves ascended. What they found was a soiree of giants – Mirran and Nym, the elder daughters of King Hekaton were entertaining representatives of each other type of giant, who all seemed bored and waited to get into the throne room where Serissa sat upon the Wyrmskull Throne.
When they entered the great hall, Mirran and Nym stopped their music immediately. When the group said that they were here for an audience with Serissa, the storm giant women explained that their younger sister was very inexperienced and was rather overwhelmed by matters of real importance right now. However, they’d be more than happy to allow the guards to escort them back to the guest quarters, where they could wait until they were summoned. Seeing this option as little better than imprisonment, the group opted for an alternate plan: Roshi and Hugheorn distracted the giants in the room with amusing antics, while the rest of the group stealthily made their way towards the throne room.
The door to the throne room was guarded by two hill giants, who introduced themselves as Tug and Cog. Heskan successfully bluffed the guards, saying that they had orders from Serissa herself to be here, and didn’t they remember? Tug slapped the back of Cog’s head, scolding him for forgetting, and they opened the doors to reveal a massive amphitheater-style room. The Wyrmskull Throne floated a foot or two off the ground in the center, resting atop four blue dragon skulls. On either side, Serissa was flanked by her uncle Uthor, who commanded the storm giant forces, and an unpleasantly familiar face – Iymrith’s storm giant form.
Uthor and Iymrith insisted that Serissa had no interest in speaking to smallfolk, but Serissa herself insisted otherwise. She wanted to hear them out, knowing that smallfolk could be as brave and true as giants, remembering her trips to visit them with her mother, Queen Neri. The group explained who they were, and explained that they wanted to help Serissa find her missing father, who they believed was still alive. Her eyes filled with hope – Uthor and Iymrith had both told her that he was almost certainly dead, but she had held onto the belief that he was still out there somewhere, trying to get back.
From there, the group has to figure out a way to convince Serissa that her advisor, Iymrith, was in fact an ancient blue dragon. The only way that they could think of was to force her to return to her true form. Ulmo cast Moonbeam on Iymrith, and her true draconic form flickered through. Serissa and Uthor were both shocked, and Iymrith immediately teleported away, making her escape before she could be attacked. The immense throne room was still and silent for a moment as the consequences of what they’d just seen sank in for Serissa and Uthor. Realizing that these smallfolk must be trusted, they consulted for a moment before returning to the group.
Serissa handed them a wooden coin, painted gold and carved with a goose on both sides. She explained that the coin had been found near her mother’s body, and it had been given to Serissa as it was presumed one of Neri’s belongings. Neither Serissa nor Uthor recognized it, and they were unsure where it came from, but they felt strongly that it might belong to Neri’s killers. If they found the killers, they might also find the people who had kidnapped – or killed – King Hekaton. Hugheorn, with his knowledge of trade and his Zhentarim connections, was actually able to point to the coin’s origin: it was a gambling chip used upon the leisure barge The Golden Goose that sailed from Waterdeep.
Serissa explained that a mage on her staff would be able to teleport them to Waterdeep, and that they could take another conch of teleportation to return here. She thanked them deeply for investigating this matter for her, as she was stuck in Maelstrom, negotiating with all the other giants about the broken ordning. She was sure that her faith in them was well-placed, and they assured her that it was. After taking an evening to rest-up and re-provision themselves, the group went on their way to Waterdeep.
In order to convince the wealthy and powerful of the city that they belonged aboard a fine ship such as the Golden Goose, the group all went out and splurged on their best and finest clothes in order to look the part. With such finery on, they were able to simply walk aboard the ship and mingle with the other rich patrons of the establishment. The group met the ship’s captain, as well as its security officer, a mage named Pow Ming, who carried a bag of holding full of both real coin and the gambling chips that matched the one Serissa had given them. When asked if the captain owned the ship, he answered no, and explained that Lord Drylund owned and operated the ship’s business; the captain merely sailed it.
As they set sail, everyone settled in for fine dinners of luxurious delicacies, games of chance and wit, and plenty of rich people gossip (“Can you believe what Lady Elsemere wore to the ball last week? Scandalous!”). At no point did Lord Drylund make an appearance, and the group asked after him, hoping to question him. Pow Ming answered that he sometimes suffered from awful headaches and that he chose to confine himself to his quarters at those times. Hugheorn offered up his skills as a healer in order to help him, and subtlely flashed his Zhentarim credentials at the same time. He would’ve been escorted back to the lord’s quarters alone, if not for the fact that Ulmo had earlier transformed himself into an owl and rode upon his shoulder. Eccentric rich people always had exotic pets, right?
While they talked, Hugheorn read Lord Drylund’s mind, and found him thinking about something known as the Kraken Society, and desperately hoping that someone named “Slarkrethel” wouldn’t find them. Knowing that this probably wasn’t going to be a good thing, Hugheorn brought the rest of the group back to Drylund’s quarters in order to get as much info as possible out of him. Cornered by a group of high-level adventurers, he caved and told them everything. Everything. He explained how the Kraken Society had killed Queen Neri and kidnapped King Hekaton, hoping to sow discord among the giants. He explained that they had an enormous ship known as the Morkoth, where he was being held. And as soon as he gave up this information, his eyes rolled back in his head, his nose began to bleed, and he fell to the floor dead.
Deeply alarmed, they resurrected him with magic, hoping that whatever curse had come over him was broken. Drylund explained about the kraken Slarkrethel, who ran the Kraken Society, and who had a telepathic link with him that he could use to hurt him. At this, he began to seize violently, twitching and shaking on the floor. It seemed that not even death would break Slarkrethel’s hold over Lord Drylund, and with that knowledge, the group was unsure of what they could do for him. Well, besides dealing with the kraken themselves, and they had a feeling that was well above what they could handle at this time. However, if they pitted the king of the storm giants, an ancient blue dragon, and a kraken against each other all at the same time… maybe the problem would take care of itself…
DM’s Note: Yes, I could have had Iymrith use her legendary resistance to succeed on the saving throw against Moonbeam and retain her true form. I decided that this was better from a story perspective (and would take less time, with three sessions remaining). It’s all judgment calls. And yes, I realized later that the ship itself is called the Grand Dame, and only the coins are called Golden Geese. Whoops. We’re rolling with it.