Last Thursday we decided not to play D&D since a few of the guys wouldn’t be able to make it. I usually run a character if someone can’t play, despite the fact that it slows down combat a bit since I have so much to deal with as it is. I’d leave it up to the players but most of them are new and are still getting a hang of their own abilities, let alone someone else’s.
Instead of all that hassle, the few of us that were left decided to play a few board games, which was our standard Thursday night go-to before our campaign started. I got Codenames for Christmas and have been dying to try it so we played a few games, and then we finished the night off with a game of Lords of Waterdeep. It was a pretty fun night but it’ll be nice to dive back into Hoard of the Dragon Queen after a two-week hiatus.
Now, onto the task at hand. I mentioned in my last post that I was going to write my campaign diary for you to read, and I will, but first I think introductions are in order. It would be a good idea for you to get to know the characters who are traipsing around the Sword Coast trying to stamp out the Cult of the Dragon and save the day.
Originally when we got together to make characters there was me and three other guys. There was maybe a fourth but at the time he couldn’t really commit to every week. I decided to make a character for him that I’d play when he wasn’t there. None of the original three guys wanted to play a healer, and the fourth didn’t mind, so I rolled one up to round out the party. (It should probably be noted that we started at first level. I’m just going to list their current stats, which won’t be that different at third level anyway.)
Human Cleric(Life) 3
Background: Folk Hero
Strength 16(+3) | Dexterity 13(+1) | Constitution 17(+3)
Intelligence 9(-1) | Wisdom 18(+4) | Charisma 12(+1)
AC – 18(Chainmail)
HP – 33
Equipment: Shield, short bow, mace
Zasheir Khalid hailed from the city of Calimport, far to the south of the Sword Coast. It was a hot place. Not humid like many other places in Faerûn but dry. Very dry. The heat of the Calim Desert permeated the city’s wards from the outskirts to the Shining Sea. The water offered little respite to the city’s inhabitants. Its wards were divided into sabbans, and divided further into drudachs by walls, separating one part of the city from another and making it feel many town-like sections. The only people who benefited from the occasional breeze of the sea were those who resided in the Armada Ward, the Dock Ward, the Hook Ward, and the Caravan’s Ward. The rest became friends with the shade.
Zasheir, being a native of Calimshan, was required to join the amlakkar, the city watch, at the age of 18. His time as a soldier was a tumultuous one because of the orc raids on the city. During his second year in service the orcs moved south from the Marching Mountains with ogres in tow to assail the city. At first the attacks were quick and at a small-scale. They targeted caravans entering and leaving the city, sacked the Shackles Ward, which is the least protected section of the city due to the dregs that inhabit it, and attempted to exploit any weaknesses in the city’s outermost wall. As the months wore on the number of assailants increased and the inadequate number of guards was beginning to show. Between keeping the populace from panic and repelling the invaders, the amlakkar were stretched thin, like butter over too much bread.
Things were looking dire for Calimport and the orcs knew it. Word of a centuries old treasure hidden by the former djinn rulers reached the ears of an orc chieftain, Borgokha Ogol. She had a lust for battle and so persuaded her followers that they could harness the hidden power of the djinn to slaughter any who should oppose them.
After 15 months of orcs and ogres attacking the city and sacking many of the outer wards’ sabbans, hope could be seen from the desert as the banners of Tethyr, the kingdom to the north, could be seen shimmering in the desert heat just on the horizon. With reinforcements on the way, the city’s hope was restored and the guards’ vigour was renewed. They mounted an assault from the east and west while the Jaguar Guard closed in from the north. At seeing their odds shrink by the second some of the orcs managed to escape back toward the mountains before the majority of their force was surrounded and butchered. The remaining amlakkar searched through the corpses to find the one responsible for the destruction but it seemed that Borgokha managed to escape back to her mountain home. Since the guard didn’t have the numbers to give chase it was decided that they would let her live in shame. She would no doubt be an outcast among her people, who would most likely see her as weak and unfit for command, and no longer be a threat to Calimport.
Once the city returned to some semblance of normal and everyone was certain that the orcish threat was gone, Zasheir left the amlakkar. He decided to become a blacksmith’s apprentice so he could still aid the city guard without having to potentially relive the horrors that he witnessed during the war.
At 21 years, Zasheir was older than many of the other apprentices in what remained of the Hammer Ward. His age and military training set him apart from the others and he quickly began to excel at his trade. He worked from dawn to dusk almost every day for the next 8 years. He honed his craft, made a name for himself, and even opened his own smithy. It was during this time that he met the woman who would be his wife, Atala Pashar. They were married, had two children, and Zasheir felt that all was right in the world. That’s when the nightmares started.
In his dreams he was floating over the city of Calimport as a darkness crept over the city and into Calimshan like a dense fog. When he got closer to the city he could see that the darkness was flowing from the Pasha’s Sabban, the very heart of the city. He tried to drift closer but just found himself back in the sky. No matter how he approached he couldn’t investigate further. Just when he was about to give up, Zasheir noticed a light shining through the darkness. It seemed to be coming from a location in the Quill Ward but at the same time it wasn’t. It was almost as if it was illuminating the ward from behind. From below. Most of Calimport didn’t like what existed just below their feet. It wasn’t a place of dirt, for even dirt is acquainted with the sun. No, this was a place of filth. The dregs of society called that place home. Dark Calimport some called it, or Muzad. It was the remnants of the city from ages past when it was destroyed and then built over. Zasheir began to float down through the darkness as if drawn to the underbelly of the city. He passed through the Quill Ward, down a long set of stairs, through an alley and came to a large wooden door. There was a slit in the door at eye level with a sheet of metal covering it from the inside, and large decorative hinges held it aloft. As he reached for the door the slit quickly opened, someone asked for a password, and Zasheir shot up in bed. All he could remember about his dream was a foreboding feeling about the syl-pasha, Ralan el Pesarkhal, a strangely comfortable feeling about the Muzad, and one other thing. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. A word. A password. He hadn’t heard it in his dream, yet he somehow knew it intimately. He was both curious and determined to get to the bottom of these nightmares and now he had a direction to head.
He woke the next morning and immediately went to the place he saw in his dream, all the while keeping an uneasy eye on the direction of the Pasha’s Sabban without realising it. He wandered the Quill Ward for an hour or more before he found the place he recognised. He descended the stairs and followed the alleyway to the wooden door. He knocked, the slit scraped open, and he spoke the password as if it were part of his daily routine. As he stepped into the Muzad he prepared himself to be guarded, uneasy, even vigilant, but it was quite the opposite. He felt at home. He felt as if he belonged. He had no idea what the people here did or what purpose any of this might serve but he continued on.
Zasheir was quickly introduced to Mazdal Hamad, the leader of the resistance group. The group had been operational for a few years now and were looking to expose the Cult of the Dragon, who had forced their way into the highest ranking positions in the city. The cult had been increasing taxes and taking the excess for themselves, or some other nefarious purpose and the people of the city could take no more. Zasheir immediately realised that the cult was the source of the darkness in his nightmares and joined with the resistance. He told them of what he had dreamt and they set into motion a plan to be rid of the cult forever.
Over the next few weeks they used Zasheir’s connections from his time in the amlakkar to figure out when the members of the cult would be most vulnerable. Since the city guard are exempt from any taxation and are garrisoned separately from the rest of the citizens they were unaware of how corrupt the government had become. Through some persuasion, and a little coercion when needed, the amlakkar saw that the city would be better without the cultists and agreed to help.
After a handful of successful missions the cultists became more difficult to surprise. During one attempt there had been more of a fight than the resistance had expected. They were outnumbered and Zasheir became separated from his allies and was taken captive. After a quick beating he was brought before Ralan el Pesarkhal for questioning. He refused to answer any question other than what his name was and was thrown into the dungeon for his stubbornness. While there, he was tortured for information but showed restraint despite the circumstances. The torturer didn’t take kindly to this so he heated a strip of metal over a brazier and pressed it onto Zasheir’s cheek. The skin immediately blistered and melted away as his screams echoed down the empty stone hallways. Without warning a location slipped out. The heat left his face and his vision went dark as the door to his cell slammed shut.
There was a faint knocking sound from somewhere behind him as Zasheir slowly came to his senses. He couldn’t tell whether he had been unconscious for an hour or a week. As he tried to crane his neck to see where the noise was coming from, there was a loud explosion and chunks of stone blew past him and covered the floor of the cell. As the dust settled, Mazdal Hamad and 4 other members of the resistance emerged from the newly made chasm in the wall, freed Zasheir from his bonds, and quickly ushered him out through a tunnel and into Dark Calimport.
Once they arrived at one of their hideouts under the Quill Ward, Zasheir told them anything he could remember that might be useful. The most useful thing being that the pasha was most likely a member of the cult. They were in control of the entire city and now knew where the resistance was hiding. Mazdal explained that their main headquarters had been raided, but they expected the Zasheir to give up something under torture. No one would be able to keep quiet. They had packed up immediately after Zasheir’s capture and moved to a secondary location to be safe. Once their stories were told and everyone was settled, Zasheir found a place to rest and recover before getting back to work.
He couldn’t remember how long he was lying there or even that he fell asleep but he must have been sleeping because he was floating over the city once more. There was the port, boats coming and going, the walled wards, the desert just on the other side, and then he realised that the fog was mostly gone. There was a brightness to this dream that he had not been used to. When he looked for the Pasha’s Sabban he found the darkness. It was creeping outward slowly but seemed to be driven back by something he couldn’t see. He moved closer and landed on the ground, dirt crunching slightly under his near weightless form. Down the street he saw something. A light shining out of the darkness, but it was much brighter than the last. Zasheir approached the light and quickly realised it was a man but he couldn’t make out any details. The light was shining from behind this stranger and casting his form into shadow, silhouetting him. The man’s voice entered Zasheir’s head in a commanding tone that somehow calmed him. It spoke of the darkness in this city and how Zasheir had done well in combatting it, proving he was up to this new task. He had passed the test. The stranger pointed north as their vision blurred and Zasheir could see nothing but grasslands. Gentle rolling hills. There was a town in the distance. It was quaint and the people seemed happy but Zasheir could feel that something was wrong. He was about to ask and his vision snapped back to Calimport. The stranger’s voice filled Zasheir’s head once more and told him he is one of the chosen. He had proven himself and must now fight a much greater threat than a corrupt pasha. Before Zasheir could utter a word the silhouetted man burst into an explosion of light, turning everything white for a moment. When he regained his vision the man was gone. Just above the roof tops there was a giant metallic dragon flying into the distance, and if Zasheir was to put money on it, he would have sworn the dragon was the colour of a platinum coin.
He awoke once more, drenched in sweat. As he tried to get up he could feel pain shooting through his body and an ache on the right side of his face. He ran his hands over his sides, his arms and legs, trying to massage the pain away. Suddenly there was a warmth spreading through his body that seemed to come from his hands. He jumped to his feet and noticed that he felt no pain at all. He slowly reached for his face. It didn’t hurt anymore but it was still disfigured from the burn. He spoke of his dream to Mazdal and then left to see his family. Somehow he knew that this would be the last time. There was a power in him now that was driving his every action and that power was driving him north. During his walk he noticed posters bearing his likeness and offering a reward for his capture. The pasha wanted his prisoner back.
When he returned home he explained to his wife everything that had happened. The nightmares, the darkness, the Cult of the Dragon, the resistance, and finally, the meeting with Bahamut. She broke down into tears at the thought of him leaving but understood that he would be setting things right in the world, and so, let him go.
Before he embarked on his journey he visited his shop one last time. He gathered together a set of armour that had been lying around and altered it to fit himself. He then took a helmet and fitted a piece to the front of it so his face would be covered. He wasn’t sure how far the pasha would be looking for him and he wanted to hide his disfigured face from those that he would be trying to help. With that completed, he donned his armour, filled his pack with provisions, and with hammer in hand he set out across the desert following the path that Bahamut had taken in his dream.