After their adventures in the Ivy district, the Furious Five were faced with a few problems. First there was the common, but welcome, problem of unloading all of the loot that they made off with from Gauthfallow Manor and converting it to cash, and there was quite a deal of it. The city officials appropriated the manor itself, but asked the Five to remove all of the items inside. They were very nervous about what was and what wasn’t magic, and were more than content to let the Five act as a magical HazMat team. This was great for the Five, as it let them freely loot Gauthfallow manor, but did leave them with a second, more serious, challenge of finding someone who was willing to buy the high level magic items that they couldn’t sell at the common market. The buyer had to be wealthy enough to afford epic level magic items, but the Five were also concerned about the new owner being trustworthy and not someone who would put the magic to ill use. No one wanted a repeat of the incident in the manor, to say nothing of how anxious the guard was to not repeat a string of murders.
In particular, the Id portrait was something that they couldn’t just simply allow to go to any irresponsible nobleman who fancied himself capable of responsibly watching over such an epic item. The same went for the magical paintbrush and the sorcerous pigments. While mulling over these issues, they sent word to the Lucky Monkey for a team to come to Waterdeep to meet them and bring home some of the items they had decided to keep. Rather than selling all of the portraits in Gauthfallow’s gallery, they kept about a third of them for display in the Lucky Monkey. They also kept the Portrait of Health, which was to be hung near their quarters, upstairs in the Inn.
Whilst going through the process of cleaning out the mansion, the Five fell into conversation with one of the guards from the city. He told them about how he had previously been an adventurer, but had given up after all of his party had been slaughtered in a nearby cave complex. “The complex is a wealth of treasure, but no one can survive in there.” The legends of the treasure did sound epic in proportion, and the guard certainly played them up, but in the end issued a caution that his friends died there, and that is where their bones still lie, as far as he knew, these two years past. The Five, the sound of treasure in their ears, made note of the guard’s tale, and took their leave to go and sell their items in the district market.
In the midst of walking through the market, looking for buyers, a messenger arrived. He was unwilling to reveal exactly who his employer was, but delivered to the Five an invitation to visit his master, whom he intimated might be able to help them dispose of the more dangerous magical items, and at what he felt would be a respectable price. The invitation was marked only with the image of a black staff. After a brief but fruitless interrogation, the Five thanked the messenger and told him to assure his master that they would pass by at the appointed time.
The Five met up with their caravan from the Lucky Monkey and transferred the Portrait of Health, the Shield Guardian, the paintings, and various other items. After a brief respite, and after buying the workers a nice lunch at a local bistro, the Five sent them on their way back home to the Lucky Monkey, with instructions on the disposition of all of the items, including the shield guardian, and then went off to their appointment following the directions on the card with the black staff.
They arrived at what turned out to be a very large and impressive wizard tower, where they were given entrance and ushered into a large, tall library, full of impressive tomes of ancient literature and massive spell books that radiated powerful magic. The books themselves were moving about the room, re-cataloging and positioning themselves for some arcane purpose.
After a short wait, a tall man entered the room and introduced himself as Blackstaff, better known to some as Khelben Arunsun, Lord Mage of Waterdeep. The Five were stunned. They had suddenly stumbled into very deep waters. This was a powerful mage, one of the most powerful in all of Faerûn, if the tales were to be believed. After brief introductions, Khelben explained his offer to buy all of the magical items that the Five were looking to dispose of, which he named specifically and individually, at a very fair price. The Five were understandably curious about how Khelben had come to know about them. Khelben explained that he and Asheron Coyl, one of the first people to be slaughtered by the madman Gauthfallow, had been working on a few projects together. Once Khelben heard of Coyl’s death, he followed up on the case with careful interest.
Before making a monetary offer on the magical items, Khelben asked for a moment extra of the Five’s time, and asked if he could beg a favor of them. One of the projects that he and Coyl had been working on was discovering more about an ancient network of caves found just north of Waterdeep, just along the shore. Khelben knew that the caves were the habitation of a certain vampire lord named Srihoz. Srihoz had been causing problems for a number of years, luring in adventurers with the temptation of great wealth, but all to trap and feed on them. He had never raised enough of a problem that Khelben felt the need to intervene personally, feeling that if people were dumb enough to rush of on some damn fool adventure without being properly prepared, it was their own problem.
Lately, though, Srihoz had been stepping up his efforts, and increasingly high-level adventurers were disappearing into the catacombs, and never emerging. More particularly, in the past few years, a couple of unusually powerful magical items had disappeared into the cave, and Khelben began to worry that Srihoz was beginning to pose a more significant threat. Still and all, Khelben was a busy man, and didn’t have the time needed to go through the caves and clean them out properly, eliminating Srihoz and recovering the more powerful magical items.
And then stories began appearing about The Five. Variously referred to as The Fabulous, Furious, or Fearsome Five, these men had acquired a reputation as stalwart and hardy adventurers that were able to take on surprisingly powerful foes and emerge victorious. This caught Khelben’s attention, and he decided to investigate the group further. He had already decided to contact them in the near future to help with Srihoz, when the events surrounding Asheron Coyle’s demise precipitated more immediate contact. Their obtaining the extraordinarily powerful paintings and various artifacts from Gaurhfallow’s home and studio gave Khelben a perfect excuse to invite them into his home without arousing the suspicions of Srihoz’s agents.
Once the Five were in his home, he made them a proposal. If the Five would go into Srihoz’s cave and clean it out, they could keep whatever they found. As incentive, he offered a “starting bonus” of a magical item for each member of the team, even the junior cleric. Between the magic items, the prestige the Khelben enjoyed, and the promise of wealth and adventure, the Five were hooked, and readily accepted the offer.
Khelben didn’t mention anything about the powerful magic items that he suspected were in the cave, but was confident in their reputation for being voracious treasure hunters and thorough dungeon cleansers. Khelben didn’t want the magic items himself, but was worried about the concentration of them in the hands of a decidedly evil and obstreperous vampire. He knew that if there were magic items of note in the cave, the Five would find them and bring them out, and probably turn the property into a profitable real estate venture, judging from past experience.
The Five each took magical items from Khelben and set off on their way to provision and prepare for the trip. Khelben had given them the location of the cave and a preliminary idea of what the layout was like, if not an actual map, and an admonition to be very careful. Srihoz had faced many foes in the past, and greater than the Five. The Five gratefully accepted Khelben’s advice and began their journey.
After a evening to rest and prepare, the Five set out the next morning and traveled far to the north where the weather was cold and bleak. Along the seashore, on the edge of a cliff along a narrow ledge the Five found a door just as Khelben had described, covered in ice and all but corroded shut. After some effort, they forced the door open and were almost tossed into the sea by the blast of wind and decaying air that greeted them upon its opening. They overcame the ill effects of the nauseating funk in the air, and began their penetration into the depths of the dungeon, closing the door behind them.
The first room that they came to was filled with vampiric plants that attempted to kill the heroes and drain their life force. They overcame the obstacle, killing the deadly plants, and continued their journey through the crypt.
To Be Continued at a more reasonable hour.