The setting is lively for a weekday at the Yawning Portal Tavern. There’s a new bard in town with songs that most of the tavern regulars haven’t yet heard. The bard, Kvoth, is a master with the guitar, bringing forth notes heard by very few of the tavern’s patrons. This particular evening he’s attracted some fans who are also new to the tavern: a firbolg cleric (currently in his more compact form), called Ganymede and a gnome illusionist named Kerry Tomerighter Nosdig.
There are goings-on among other patrons who don’t seem to take the same delight in the bard’s ballads. Notable regulars include Jalester Silvermane, a knight of the City Watch and Meloon Wardragon. Jalester is deep in his cups while Meloon is holding court to all who will pay heed to his political rantings.
Some more newcomers to the tavern include an impressive minitour warrior by the name of Tiran, and mysterious, dusky elven sorcerer/warlock who goes by the moniker of Ven. While most of the tavern customers seem robust Ven is somewhat listless, almost as if he’s drunk, but he hasn’t had anything to drink, much less eat. He doesn’t look healthy.
Possibly sensing a warrior kinship, Tiran makes conversation with Jalester. Although he’s in little mood to talk, Jalester mentions he’s mourning a lost comrade and laments of the sad state of affairs on Waterdeep’s streets. Jalester discloses that the Zhentarim and the Xanathar’s Guild are in open conflict. According to Jalester, Guild members have ambushed and murdered certain members of the Zhentarim.
It seems that the conflict has brought itself to the tavern, as a brawny female half-orc, purported to be a member of the Zhentarim, squares-off with five scoundrels from Xanathar’s Guild. Jalester shakes his head in dismay while other patrons begin to clear away. Although the half-orc, Yagra Stonefist, is a noted champion at the tavern, she is outmatched by these thugs, and no one seems to want to stand with her.
Ven decides to offer assistance, more out of his mercurial nature than of a desire to assist the underdog. He launches an assault into the mind of one thug and then sends an infestation to plague another. Ganymede grows to his larger firbolg size and he and Tiran the minotaur warrior offer assistance to take out another thug. The illusionist, Kerry, sends his owl familiar, Sooty, to distract a thug, giving Yagra the upper hand to knock one unconscious with an uppercut from her ham-sized fist. Seeing a opening, the remaining thug moves to strike Yagra but is held fast by Kvoth, who approaches him with a rapid down picking technique on his guitar. While not exactly ensorcelled, the thug cowers in fear as the menacing notes bring realization to his fatal predicament.
Jalester officially arrests the fallen thugs and secures assistance to remove them. The bard, warrior, cleric and illusionist engage Yagra, who offers small thanks and mentions she’ll remember them favorably in any future encounters. While the others are talking, Ven takes the time to search the pockets of the ruffians finding for himself a small amount of coin.
As Yagra leaves the party, the tavern’s customers return to their festivities. Durnan, the tavern’s proprietor, comes over and offers his thanks for their assistance in breaking-up the altercation. Durnan remarks that the group seems well able to take care of themselves and that he has a way for them to make a little coin. As “a little coin” is more than any of the group have, they’re all ears.
Durnan coaxes the party to fight whatever the elevator brings out of the Portal. Duran promises to pay each of the group 5 gold pieces and cover their tabs if they win the fight. Apparently, they don’t have to pay their tabs if they lose the fight since they’ll be dead. Kvoth asks about his wages for playing at the tavern, but Durnan seems to consider it a wash with the publicity Kvoth’s received from playing at the tavern. With limited options at hand, no money and a deal like this who can say, “no.”
“No” is indeed the first thought that may have come to the mind of the group as the elevator delivers 2 hungry trolls. The experienced patrons fabricate a makeshift arena in the tavern for the contest leaving no way out for the trolls, much less the 5 adventurers. The fight is on!
Ganymede (who goes by “G”) and Tiran are of equal stature to the trolls and draw their immediate attention. Before they can move, Kerry casts Dragon Breath on Sooty, his owl familiar, and sends Sooty to give the trolls a fiery welcome. Tiran follows up by making an “echo” of himself in front of the trolls and engages them as well. Ven magically attacks them from a safe distance and G casts healing to keep Tiran in the fight. Kvoth, makes effective use of 2 vials of acid he happens to have on hand. The acid drives the trolls into a rage while Ven’s magic blinds them. The foul beasts succumb quickly to Tiran’s mighty strokes and the combined magic of the group.
The patrons deconstruct the arena and clear away the carnage as if they’ve done it many times before. Invigorated by the evening’s entertainment the tavern’s customers go back to eating, drinking and carousing. Durnan returns to tending bar, leaving the party to consider what to do with their newly won riches. They aren’t pondering long before flamboyant human of indeterminate age approaches the group and introduces himself as “Volo”.
The man is none other than Volotham Geddarm, author of the famous “Volo’s Guide to Monsters”. In fact, Volo offers the party a signed copy of the celebrated tome, which Kerry snatches for safekeeping. Volo praises the adventurers for handily dispatching the trolls and offers them a job. He requests that the group look into the disappearance of his friend Floon Blagmaar. Floon is a dandy and presents himself above his station. Volo seems quite distraught by the disappearance and offers each of the party 100 gold pieces to investigate with further reward promised if they return with answers.
The adventurers, being open minded and not ones to judge this progressive relationship, readily accept the commission and begin to investigate. Ven begins by using his minor illusion to get the exact description of Floon from Volo. Ven uses the cantrip to make his own face into a macabre, yet effective rendition of Floon’s.
Questioning the blustering Meloon Wardragon of “Force Grey” provides no leads. Durnin proves more helpful in disclosing that Floon met with Renaer Neverember at the tavern the last night anyone saw him. Renear Neverember is the son of the former Open Lord of Waterdeep, Jastin Neverember. Further investigation with another regular patron revealed that Renaer and Floon had been gambling with an elven female and left with her. The witness mentioned that the group planned to visit another tavern called “The Skewered Dragon”. This all took place the night someone was burned to death outside the back alley. The party decides to rest gratis overnight in guestrooms of The Yawing Portal Tavern and start anew in the morning.
They initiate their investigation in the back alley where it’s clear that some hapless individual was, indeed, burned to death. The fire turns out not to be magical in nature as the party finds that grease was the accelerant. Further investigation finds that the same grease is also on a sewer grate which the party removes and climbs down into the sewer.
They quickly discover the symbol of Xanthar’s Guild. The symbol, a sphere with 10 radiating spokes, is placed in locations showing the way to this particular guild hideout. Fortunately, there’s a walkway in the sewer which keeps the party from having to slog through the sewage. G can convey darkvision to Ven and Tiran. Kvoth muddles through by remaining in physical contact with other party members.
Some of the more observant party members note that something is keeping ahead of the party just out of eyeshot. Kerry sends Sooty the owl ahead to reconnoiter. Sooty narrowly avoids being hit with a ray from a “gazer” which Volo’s guide reveals is a common beholder minion. The gazer moves in to attack the party but is killed before it can cause any harm. The party presses forward to find a large door with the Xanthar’s Guild symbol.
While deciding what to do with the door the parry comes under fire from arrows shot from murder holes across from the door. They retreat the way they came only to be caught by 5 well-armed goblins who pour out from a secret door. Despite their gear, the goblins are no match for the party. One goblin surrenders instead of dying for the Guild.
When pressed for his name the goblin says something that sounds like “Tree-nuts”. The heroes dub him “Tree-nuts” without protest from the goblin. Tree-nuts explains that he works for a fearsome human named Nihilore and that they had 2 human prisoners they were holding. Tree-nuts seems to appreciate that the party isn’t in a hurry to kill him and agrees to escort the group into the hideout and to the holding cells.
One cell is empty and the other holds a body. The body belongs to Floon and is mostly intact with the exception of a large hole in the back of his, now empty, head. Ven, remembering some previous trauma, knows this is the trademark of a “mind flayer” and states how dangerous these creatures are and that he’d prefer they didn’t encounter one. Tree-nuts doesn’t seem to know anything about a “mind flayer” or anything that looks like what Ven describes. The party debates leaving with Floon as they’ve accomplished their mission. The righteous Kvoth remarks that Renear is likely still in the clutches of Nihilore, who they now believe to be a mind flayer. Kvoth eventually convinces the party to do the noble thing and try and rescue Renear.
The group heals up and comes up with a plan that includes illusions to hide their positions and charming, the now friendly, Tree-nuts into luring Nihilore into the party’s ambush. Everything is set perfectly as the party is able to arrange it. Everyone is hidden or, in Ven’s case, playing dead. Tree-nuts is charmed and willing to work on the party’s behalf. Tree-nuts, obviously terrified of Nihilore, knocks on the door and enters. The party can hear him speaking to Nihilore who responds with a rhythmic, pausing, and well enunciating cadence. Nihilore seems as if he’s about to fall for the trap but notices that Tree-nuts seems more nervous than ever. Nihilore places his hand on Tree-nuts and states that he knows Tree-nuts is lying and that the party is lying in wait for him beyond the door. He also says that he doesn’t care and will go out despite the intended ambush. He boldly strides out the door and as he enters the room with the hidden party he snaps the neck of the beloved Tree-nuts.
As Tree-nuts body falls lifeless, a well-dressed human looks around at the party and peers through all of their disguises. He lets them know that they’ll need to leave but they’ll have to help him if they want to leave alive. Kerry pipes up that they’re not leaving without Renear. Nihilore calls back into his chamber, “Renear, come out here. These people want you to leave with them.”
Renear comes out and explains clearly that he has no intention of leaving and that he has plans with Nihilore. Renear says that the party must leave and that Nihilore will escort them out of them out of the hide-out. Several party members scrutinize Renear to see if he’s somehow under Nihilore’s power but find no evidence of that. It does seem odd to the group that a noble like Renear would associate with anyone within the city’s sewers.
The group agrees to leave and be in the service to Nihilore who says that he will use them to secure pieces of the Stone of Golore. He doesn’t say what that is but that there’s four pieces to it and he has none of the pieces. Nihilore leads the party out and tells them that he’ll be in touch. He brings out another gazer and states that he has hundreds of them and that the party will always have eyes on them. they need to keep their mouths shut and wait for his instructions. If they don’t keep their mouths shut, they’ll be killed. To accentuate the statement, Nihilore’s face blurs and briefly reveals his true nature. Nihilore is a mind flayer!
After the loss of Tree-nuts the revelation about Nihilore doesn’t seem to carry the weight, it might normally have. With heavy hearts the group gathers Floon’s body, the dead goblin gear, and departs the sewers to return to the Yawning Portal Tavern.
Volo is decimated but grateful to have the body of his friend. He takes the body and mentions that he will leave Waterdeep for a time. Before Volo can depart, Tiran reminds Volo that he mentioned payment once the investigation was concluded. Volo states that he has no more money. That he and Floon were going to procure and run a tavern together. All the same he states that he’ll give the party something worth more than money, he gives them the deed and keys to the tavern.
The party travels to the tavern in Trollskull Alley. It is unfinished and needs work. Maybe this could be a base for the group. They can use it while they wait for Nihilore’s instructions. They can use it while they plan to get back at Nihilore for brutally murdering Tree-nuts. Maybe the party’s name, their plan and this tavern can all have the same name.