Icewind Dale 13-17: Assault On Caer-Dineval Keep

Caer-Dineval is built on the rocky shore of Lac Dinneshere, with Kelvin's Cairn looming behind it
It took us five more hours to reach Caer-Dineval. It was a small town of about one hundred residents, dominated by a castle on the hill.

Caer-Dineval shield
At the south end of Caer-Dineval was a drafty old building with boarded-up windows and a crooked weathervane shaped like a rearing dragon that appeared to have once been an inn.

We decided we had only a few hours before we had to leave in order to get to Termalaine and Ravishin’s by the half-moon.

Erling was eager to investigate the castle, hoping to find out if this was the castle where the tieflings had offered Huarwar sanctuary.

Northwest of the Caer we found a tavern called The Uphill Climb which offered a spectacular view of the lake and the frozen dock. We checked inside and found they served hot chowder but were all out of beer and spirits, which might have explained why there were so few patrons. The proprietor, a rugged middle-aged man named Roark, greeted us, blaming the cursed winter and the closing of the Easthaven ferry for his business woes. He explained he had no available guest accommodations and suggested we try the Caer if we were looking for a place to rest. He said the town speaker, Crannoc Siever, resides in the castle, but had been sick for a couple of weeks and hadn’t been seen since. He also confirmed there were no high level clerics in Caer-Dineval.

After we finished our meal, we approached the sturdy, stone castle devoid of ostentation squatting atop the cliffs overlooking the town and the frozen harbor. Warding the castle entrance were thick, battle-hardened wooden doors. Four cylindrical guard towers had wind-worn flags bearing the town's heraldry fluttering above their tiled, conical roofs. These towers were connected by icy battlements and parapets. Atop the castle walls and within the guard towers, torches flickered. A set of closed wooden doors sealed off the castle.

“What do you want?” a gate guard shouted down in response to Bran’s knocking.

When we explained our interest in assisting the speaker, he retorted, "Speaker Crannoc Siever is too sick to entertain guests! Be gone!" adding "Speaker Crannoc Siever has no need for your heathen rituals! Be gone!"

I ushered Oosi to join me and we circled the perimeter of the castle.

After circling the castle, we decided to infiltrate the place, agreeing that I would hide our entrance in a fog cloud. I tied a rope to an arrow and secured it to the tower’s spire. After I cast a fog cloud to cover the top of the wall, Erling climbed up first, and I followed.

The fog had seeped into the nearby tower and alerted two guards within. “Who goes there?” one of them called out from within the tower. A glow of light was barely visible from the center of the tower. Hugging the outer wall, I circumvented a staircase that descended to a lower level.

I heard the familiar sounds of arrows, followed by Erlings cry, “Oh! Dammit! I knew it was this!” and the unsheathing of swords.

I stepped out of the fog toward the light and saw Erling engaged with two cultists wearing necklaces with shards of black ice and wielding scimitars. “Intruders!” one of them yelled. A copper brazier full of hot coals was situated in the middle of the room, a bellows protruding from its base.

Drawing my swords, I engaged them, providing cover for Erling. Bran soon joined us.

A bell rang out from within the castle.

Once Bran and I had run the two cultists through, I exchanged my swords for my bow, and took up a position on the far wall. The two dead cultists seemed to freeze where they lay.

More cultists poured into the room through the fog and up the stairs.

Oosi and Blaze fought their way through the cultists, into the tower.

As we put the cultists down, I was hit by an arrow, and my fog cloud was dispelled.

Oosi was briefly paralyzed and spiritual weapons began attacking us.

More cultists continued to flood into the tower quicker than we could put them down.

Bran cast thunderwave, dropping four cultists by the door and pushing them back.

Bran cast healing word on Oosi, pushed the frozen bodies aside, and closed the door.

Erling finished the last cultist in the room with an arrow through the chest.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Oosi.

[“Huarwar, let's get out of here!” Erling and Bran heard a female voice cry.]

Oosi threw the door open and charged out onto the parapet.

I pushed a cultist’s frozen body down the stairs.

Bran cast healing word on himself and shot his bow out into the dark courtyard. Erling also shot into the dark courtyard.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Bran.

A spiritual weapon appeared and attacked Bran.

As Oosi, Blaze, and Erling chased the cultists, I covered them from the parapet and saw the main gate begin to open and the portcullis behind it begin to raise. Within the courtyard, footprints in the snow led to various doors along the perimeter, including a tall double door to a keep, with its unwelcoming row of arrow slits and barred windows on the upper floor. To the east of the double door was a small, single-story building with a slanted, snow-covered roof. West of the double door were two unused merchant stalls with torn canopies. Tucked under some icy stairs in the northwest corner was a slender wooden hut with a crescent moon carved into its flimsy door.

Oosi, Blaze, and Erling ran for cover as arrows rained down on them from the keep’s many arrow slits.

Bran tried the door to the southern tower, but it didn’t budge. We tried to bust the door open, but it must have been barred.

After shooting at a cat I saw in the window of the main keep, and missing, we returned to the northern tower and down the narrow stairs.

The lower level's furnishings included six wooden cots with furs and matching footlockers. A door led out to the courtyard, and Bran, at the bottom first, was standing over a trap door on the floor.

A wooden ladder clung to the west wall, held in place with iron brackets. The ladder descended twelve feet to a hall made of mortared stone lit and heated by four sputtering torches. Extended from the east end of the hall was a water-filled cistern. A small rowboat was tied off near the water's edge.

Hoping that it might lead to the keep in the castle’s center, we agreed to climb down.

A five-feet-wide, eight-feet-high passage in the north wall led to a small room, empty except for four sheet-wrapped bodies lying side by side on the floor.

Stone steps descended into the icy water that partially flooded a twenty-foot-wide, arched tunnel, which continued eastward into darkness. The roof arched twelve feet above the water, which appeared about eight feet deep. A rowboat tethered at the water's edge looked safe to use and just large enough to curry the two of us. Inside it were two oars.

Twenty feet down the tunnel, a five-feet-wide, eight-feet-high passage cut into the north wall. A similar passage farther east led south.

At the eastern end of the cistern was a half-submerged slab of blue marble, ten-feet-square and two-feet-thick.

Together, we entered the rowboat and I rowed us to the northern passage, the floor of which was just above the water level in the cistern. The small room beyond was empty except for a rat that chewed through the corner of a sack of grain lying on the floor.

As I rowed us toward the southern passage, Bran eagerly jumped out too soon and fell into the icy water. Fortunately he managed to quickly pull himself up to the southern ledge.

I pulled the boat up and followed Bran past a short passage. Frost covered the floor of a dark, fifteen-foot-square room beyond. To our left and right were narrow tunnels, and across from the entrance stood an eight-foot-tall pillar of ice with a horned, pale-skinned, humanoid figure trapped inside it. The pillar was wrapped in black chains, and the wall behind it was covered with brown fungus. A light flickered from the west.

After warning Bran to stay away from the fungus, we quietly agreed to avoid the light and explore the eastern tunnel.

An unlit room beyond was empty except for an iron lever that protruded from an iron plate embedded in the north wall.

We optimistically lowered the lever, and heard a sound like grinding stone from the cistern.

We quietly returned to the rowboat, where we could see that the blue marble slab was lowered into the water, revealing another forty feet of freezing water with a narrow tunnel carved into the north wall, to which we promptly rowed.

A five-foot-wide, eight-foot-high tunnel led to a dark, cold room that reeked of filth. Inside were five ragged figures huddled together in the dark. They seemed like they could hear our approach. “There might be some prisoners in there,” I whispered to Bran.

Handing the oars to Bran, I stepped up onto the northern ledge into an empty room and quietly addressed the five human figures, “Who are you?”

“Who are we?” a feisty old man barked. “Who are you?”

“Are you prisoners here?” I asked.

“You should know,” he replied. “You’ve been holding us here for weeks.”

“We are not the cultists,” I explained. “We are your rescuers.”

“Well, great!” He replied. “If this isn’t some trick, get us out of here.”

“My companion is going to take you to the other side,” I instructed them. “Wait for us there and we will lead you out safely. In the meantime, be as quiet as you can. Are any of you the speaker? We'll give you some food when you get to the other side. Who wants to go first?”

“No,” the old man replied, “the speaker is being kept upstairs somewhere. Take the women first.”

The first to go was Tam Sharf, the speaker's thirty-year-old housemaid.

I gave them each some rations to open when they reached the other side.

When Bran returned, he said a female voice called out, “Can you keep it down out there?” from the southern passage.

The second was Mylbara Norbrav, a stout forty-five-year-old.

The third to go was Elprekt Norbrav, the speaker’s effete, tall, skeletally thin, fifty-five-year-old butler, and Mylbara's husband.

Next went the feisty old man, Lanthis Alderdusk, Speaker Crannoc's sixty-four-year-old assistant, notary, and scribe. He was notably spry for his age.

The last was Dassir Ravenscar, the speaker's shy, twenty-five-year-old dogkeeper.

I tried to calm them, but I got the distinct impression that I made them nervous.

Finally Bran came back and we joined the five prisoners on the other side. They all seemed far more amenable to Bran’s company.

We led them up to the northwest tower and gave them all cold weather clothing from the cultist’s footlockers.

We asked them where the speaker might be held, and they didn’t know, but suggested we try his bedroom on the second floor of the keep. They explained that a couple of weeks ago, the speaker opened his home to this group calling themselves the Knights of the Black Sword. He was under the impression they were a knightly order here to help the people of Caer-Dineval, but they immediately turned on the speaker, killed his guards, captured the prisoners, and took over the castle. It sounded like they’ve been recruiting ever since.

We took them upstairs where they could see all the frozen bodies of the dead cultists.

One by one, we lowered them down the rope from the parapet. Bran told them to head for The Uphill Climb and inform Roark from what had transpired.

I took two of the cultists’ scimitars, and we took as many arrows as we could carry. Bran took a longbow.

I crossed the parapet and tried the door again, but it was still barred. An arrow hit me from the keep and I dashed back into the northwest tower.

We returned back downstairs and peered out into the courtyard. I snuck out to the courtyard and tried the lower door to the southwest tower. I was hit with three arrows as I found it was also barred. Bran cast healing word on me.

As Bran cast a minor illusion of me at the door, we sidled across the wall of the keep, behind the merchant stalls, rushing past a kennel, to the opposite side. Arrows hit the door where Bran had cast the illusion, but as we were turning the last corner, one hit Bran as well.

We made it into the northeast tower, which was identical to the northwest. We went upstairs and crossed an identical parapet, only to find that the door of the southwest tower was identically barred. We returned to the northeast tower.

Bran created a minor illusion of a dark figure on top of the kennel while I crossed the courtyard to the southeast tower door.

Arrows bounced off the kennel roof, but the door was locked. As I was turning to run back, I heard Erling’s voice in my head, “Frizzt, Bran, Where are you? Are you around here? Are you alive?”

As I ran back, I tried to project my thoughts, “It’s Frizzt. I’m with Bran. We’re right outside the door of the southeast tower. Where are you?” But there was no response.

When I asked Bran, he said he had not heard the voice in his head.

Bran and I grabbed two large cots and used them as shields as we crossed the courtyard together and placed them over the doorway to the tower. Arrows hit the cots as we entered the courtyard.

As soon as we reached the door, I heard Erling’s voice in my head, “Are you still there? Where are you?”

I projected in return, “We’re right outside the door to the lower level of the southeast tower.”

I told Bran that Erling was coming to let us in, and we waited for a moment as more arrows hit our cots before Erling opened the door and we rushed inside to safety.

“I thought you guys were dead,” Erling cried, “Where were you?”

We explained how we had tried to find a way to enter the keep and let them in, or surround the cultists, but wound up rescuing prisoners instead.

“I’m glad you had time to get the prisoners out, and not help us!” Oosi grumbled.

When I pointed out that they looked to be in fine condition, he replied, “Yeah, thanks to Blaze. No thanks to you! Running off...”

I turned my back to Oosi and addressed Erling, who replied “We’re going to have to think about better tactics, because this didn’t work out.” Blaze agreed.

When I asked why they all ran across the courtyard, Oosi barked, “We were chasing the mages!”

“We were engaging the enemy,” Blaze added, “In the interest of communication, let us know if you’re going to pursue a different strategy.”

“I think the moral of the story,” Erling suggested, “is we need to not split apart when we’re engaged with this many enemy forces. We might seem healthy now, but we came pretty close to some of us dying. It was not our best moment in terms of strategy.”

“I think we all said right from the beginning,” Bran mentioned, “that running down into the courtyard, into the killzone, probably wasn’t the best strategy. But anyway, we’re together now.”

“The point is,” Erling reiterated, “that we should stick together. If we’re going to go in a direction, we should all go together, because we’re weaker separate than we are together. And it almost cost us pretty badly here.”

“Yes, “ Bran agreed. “I hope you’re paying attention, Oosi.”

“Who the hell are you talkin to?” Oosi challenged. “I was here defending them. While you were running around, looking for a trap door.”

“You went running off!” Bran countered. “Running off!”

“Running off?” Oosi argued, “I was trying to kill them. Where were you? Underground, exploring caverns, while we were taking the heat.”

“We were looking for a way into the keep,” Bran explained.

“Nonsense!” Oosi replied.

“We were covering the courtyard,” I explained, “until you ran off.”

“We didn’t run off!” Oosi argued. “We ran to engage the enemy. And then you ran off.”

“What’s our plan?” Bran asked. “We have no way into the keep.”

Blaze explained that they had found a good place to rest in the gatehouse.

Bran explained what we found under the trapdoor in the northwest tower, and what the prisoners told us.

Within the gatehouse we found an armory and grabbed as many arrows in extra large quivers as we could carry.

When we finished resting we explored the southwest tower, which looked just like all the other towers.

We ran across the parapet to the northwest tower and, after spiking the two outer doors with pitons, made our way to the tradoor.

One by one, we all climbed down the ladder.

The first room was empty except for four sheet-wrapped bodies lying side by side on the floor, three human and one halfling-sized. They were not frozen, and each were a sword-shaped crystal amulet resembling black ice, indicating they were all cultists.

Even though I warned Erling that the amulets might be dangerous, recalling that Cora’s son wore one when he joined the cultists, Erling suggested we might be able to use them to disguise ourselves as cultists.

I rowed everyone to all the northern rooms and we searched them all with no luck.

Finally, we made our way to the southern room, and I warned everyone to stay away from the brown fungus.

I covered my companions as Erling and Bran explored the light from the west, which came from what appeared to be private quarters furnished with a red rug, a narrow bed, a freestanding mirror in a wooden frame, and a small desk. An albino tiefling woman sat at the desk, writing in a book with white leather covers. An ink-black crow perched on one of her horns and seemed to read along with her scrivening. Without taking her eyes off the page, she waved, "Get out."

“Can we ask your name, miladay?” Bran asked.

“My name is Avarice?” she replied. “Who are you?”

“My companions and I are trying to free the speaker of this town,” Bran explained, “who is apparently being held captive.”

“Oh, that,” Avarice noted.

“Hi there,” Erling said, peeking out from behind Bran. “I’m Erling. Nice to meet you. What are you doing here? This looks like an awful place to be cooped up.”

“I’m not cooped up,” Avarice replied, clearly distracted. “I’m writing.”

“Oh, what are you writing?” Erling asked. “I like to write sometimes. I like to fish too.”

“Magic,” Avarice answered.

“Ah, magic!” Erling acknowledged. “Interesting. What kind of magic?”

Avarice closed her book and placed it, along with a few other odds and ends from her desk, in a satchel from under her desk. Rising, she added, “I’m sure you wouldn’t understand what I’m writing.”

“Ah,” Erling gasped, “but you’d be surprised at the things we’ve seen. We’d like to get to know you”

“Maybe we will get to know each other at some point,” Avarice replied as she began to leave. “But for now, I have to go.”

“Can we give you a lift?” Erling asked. “You know there’s a nice little rowboat back there and one of our companions is oh so good at rowing.”

“You’re funny,” Avarice replied with a laugh.

“Why thank you,” Erling replied. “You’re cute.”

“Good evening,” Oosi grunted as she passed, heading toward the cistern. “If you’re sizing us up, we’re not here to hurt you. Is that your boyfriend there in the ice? Maybe we can help you out. And you can help us out.”

Avarice stopped. “How do you propose you would help me?”

“Maybe we can get him freed out of there,” Oosi replied, “if that’s your cause.”

“That is but a statue,” Avarice explained. “A symbol.”

“It sounds like you need help with something,” Oosi pressed. “Maybe we can strike an agreement. You help us clear out what’s upstairs, and we’ll help you with what ails you.”

“Oh, no,” Avarice declined. “I couldn’t help you clear out this castle?”

“It could just be information on how to get in, undetected, and we’d be fine with that too,” Oosi continued. “You don’t have to fight. Information is just as good.”

“No, I couldn’t do that,” Avarice insisted. “They’ve been quite hospitable to me.”

“The cultists you mean?” Oosi asked.

“Yeah,” Avarice confirmed. “The cultists, I mean.”

“Wow!” Oosi remarked. “Okay.”

“But if you really want to help me,” Avarice commented, “maybe we can work something out.”

“Okay, let’s see what you need,” Oosi bargained, “and what you can offer.”

“I’m looking for something,” Avarice revealed. “Where do you call home?”

“The frozen plains to the east,” Oosi replied.

“I’m going to need something a little more specific,” Avarice explained. “Like maybe an address.”

“We’re nomads,” Oosi explained. “We don’t have an address.”

“Do you have an address?” Avarice asked, looking at me. “Do you have some place you’re staying, here in the ten towns?”

“I do not,” I replied.

Avarice sighed. Then, cocking her head to the side, she said, “You blocked the doors. Charming.” She explained she was referring to the tower doors that we had spiked.

“How do you know that?” I asked. “Are you in league with the cultists?”

“Yeah,” Avarice admitted, “I guess you could say I am.”

“Are you calling them down here?” I asked.

“Why?” Avarice teased. “Would that scare you?”

“Yes, it would,” I admitted.

“Then why are you here?” Avarice asked.

“We are trying to find the speaker,” I explained.

“Ah, yes,” Avarice sighed. “Kadroth’s little game. Well, I’ll leave you to it then.”

“What game is that?” Oosi grumbled.

Avarice stood at the edge of the cistern and raised her arms out to her sides impatiently until two gargoyles arrived and carried her off toward the trapdoor.

While Erling was searching her quarters, Bran and I jumped into the rowboat and pursued her through the trapdoor and to the top of the tower, where we saw that the door had been destroyed. The gargoyles carried her out of the tower, and they all flew away from the Caer.

We regrouped at the lower level, where Erling said they had not found anything in Avarice’s quarters.

We considered attacking the archers behind the arrow slits from the cover of the southern tower doors, but we ultimately decided to check on the boy in the kennel with the dogs, thinking he might be Dassir’s son.

I followed Erling to the kennel, with some rations handy. The sled dogs within began barking loudly as we entered, but we were able to quiet them down with some food.

Among the dogs was an eight-year-old Calishite boy named Alassar Sulmander. He explained that he was found stowing away inside a crate of supplies that was delivered to the castle over a month ago and now does menial chores for the cultists.

As I tried in vain to find a secret door on the wall adjoining the kep, Erling convinced him to lead us into the keep for a few silver coins.

Alassar skipped across the courtyard to the northwest tower, and rattled the spiked door until Oosi opened it.

As I crossed the courtyard, I was hit by an arrow.

In the lower level of the northwest tower, Alassar opened a secret door in the east wall.

Erling gave him a gold coin.

I told Alassar about the rope to escape the castle, but he said he wanted to stick around.

Ten feet beyond the secret door was the backside of another secret door. Listening at the secret door, I heard nothing and entered, only to find an unoccupied office, with a desk, shelves, book, and another door on the southwall.

After we searched the room and found nothing of interest, I listened at the door, and heard nothing.

Entering the room, we entered an unoccupied well-appointed sitting room with comfortable furnishings and another door in the east wall. After finding nothing of interest in the room, I listened at the door, but heard nothing.

Peering into the room, I saw a once-grand hall, lit by fires from the fireplace. Three long tables were positioned on their sides, forming a barricade on the far side of the room. A stone staircase ascended to a pair of twenty-foot-high balconies that hugged the walls. Four crossbows were aimed at my face from over the barricade...

* * *

After Blaze cast spare the dying on me, I was revived by Bran’s healing word.

Oosi had hit a cultist with a spear. Bran hit one with a crossbow bolt.

Kadroth, a paunchy tiefling cult fanatic
Oosi ran into the room to a barrage of crossbow bolts, and was only hit by four, and a sacred flame. I cast hail of thorns, and hit one of the cultists behind the barricade. Blaze stepped into the hall and hit the cultists with radiance of the dawn, dropping four of them. A tiefling cult fanatic, appeared to cast a spell, but there was no obvious effect. Bran hit another cultist with an arrow, but Blaze was hit in return.

After retreating into the sitting room, we pulled back further into the office.

We heard someone yell, “Kadroth, the townsfolk are coming!”

Eager to open the gates and let any townsfolk in, but cautious that it could be a trap, Erling and I ran out through the secret doors while Oosi, Blaze, and Bran spiked the door.

Erling and I ran up the stairs and across the parapet toward the southwest tower.

Spotting a cultist in the courtyard, I took a shot, but missed.

In the southwest tower, Erling saw cultists entering the gatehouse from the other side.

I ran up to assist him, and was hit during the arrow exchange.

[Blaze cast spare the dying on me. Oosi and Blaze took out the cultists in and around the gatehouse, while Erling and Bran opened the gates for Rourke and the guards. Bran dragged me into the armory, and then joined Erling, Blaze, and Oosi in fighting the remaining cultists along with Rourke and the guards. Erling took down Kadroth with his crossbow from the parapet. A mage appeared, but was quickly surrounded and dispatched. Erling finished off the final cultist from his perch up on the parapet. All the guards were killed except for Rourke and one other.]

I woke to Erling pouring a healing potion down my throat. He explained that, with the help of Rourke and the guards, they defeated Kadroth and the rest of the cultists in the courtyard, as well as a mage who appeared from the keep at the last minute.

I asked Rourke how the prisoners were fairing, and he explained that they were doing well at The Uphill Climb.

While the bodies were searched, I stood watch on the parapet by the southeast tower.

Bran took the mage’s staff and robes. Erling found a ring of keys on Kadroth. Erling, Bran, and I equipped ourselves with as many arrows and bolts as we could carry.

I took up a position in the tower door while we all took a short rest.

After having the guard close the gates, we entered the keep. Oosi, Blaze, and I entered through the front door with Rourke and the guard, while Erling and Bran entered through the secret door from the northwest tower. We met in the now-abandoned great hall.

Listening at the northeast door, I heard the sound of cloven hooves on a stone floor. Entering, we found a kitchen reeking of fish. It was furnished with stone ovens, a fireplace for roasting skewers of meat and boiling soups, and wood-block countertops. A portly cook cowered in the corner behind two goats.

Bran and Erling assured the cook that we meant no harm.

“Come out from there,” Erling urged the cook. “Anybody else in there with you?”

“No! No!,” the cook cried. “Don’t hurt me!”

“No one’s going to hurt you,” Erling promised. “All the cultists are dead. Come on out… Come out from there.”

“What do you want?” the cook questioned.

“Just come on out and we’ll have a chat,” Erling insisted. “We just want to make sure everybody’s safe here. You can leave the goats. They’re not going anywhere. Come on out from there.”

“Milady, we’re just trying to find the speaker,” Bran exhorted. “Anything you can do to point us in the right direction. The cultists are dead. You should be safe.”

“They’re keeping the speaker upstairs!” the cook explained, standing up from behind the goats. “They don’t let me upstairs. I just go from the quarters to the kitchen. That’s it! They kept me alive because I’m a good cook.”

Rourke recognized the cook and helped to calm things down.

“Stay safe, milady,” Bran encouraged. “We will return.”

Next we checked the southeast door, which led to the servant’s quarters. It contained two recently used beds. Inside was a young tiefling girl.

“Are you okay,” Bran inquired. “Are you safe? What’s your name?”

“I’m Mere,” the girl replied.

“What are you doing here, Mere?” Bran asked.

“Kadroth brought me here as a servant.” Mere explained.

“Where did he take you from?” Bran queried, “Where’s your home?”

“I don’t have a home,” Mere answered. “The cultists killed and burned down the caravan I traveled with.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” Bran sympathized. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Do you have any other family or friends nearby?”

“No,” Mere replied. “Did you kill Kadroth?”

“Kadroth is dead,” Bran revealed. “You’re free from your oppressor.”

“Good,” Mere replied through tightened lips.

“What will you do,” Bran wondered aloud, “now that you’re free?”

“I guess I can offer my services to the lord of the manor,” Mere proposed.

“We’re actually looking for the speaker,” Bran prompted. “Have you seen him? Do you know where he’s being held?”

“He’s upstairs,” Mere replied.

When Erling asked her about Kadroth, Mere replied, “Kadroth said they successfully conned the old idiot that was living here, and this was the cult’s new home.”

“Did you get to meet Huarwar?” Erling inquired.

“Yes,” Mere replied, “I know him. He was a recent recruit.”

“His mother is very worried about him,” Erling explained. “We wanted to inquire about his whereabouts.”

“Mere, where was your caravan attacked?” Bran investigated. “Do you know?”

“On the trail, north of Luskan,” Mere answered.

Bran asked Rourke if he could find a job for Mere, and he assured us that he could find something for her, adding, “Here in Caer-Dineval we take care of our own.”

“You’re in good hands here,” Erling insisted. “Try and rest. No one’s going to bother you. We’re going to just go and clear this place out. Is there anything noteworthy you can tell us about your captors that would help us while we’re looking to make sure there’s no one left in here?”

“They worship a devil,” Mere replied. “Levistus. They have a statue of him in the basement, entombed in ice. He’s a lord of the sixth layer of hell. There’s also an albino tiefling in the basement. She’s scary, but she’s nice to me.”

Oosi had heard that Levistus was the lord of Stygia, the frozen layer of hell.

Mere also told us that Kadroth’s chambers were upstairs, so we went up to the hall’s balcony and stood on the western side while Bran checked the east door. Finding it was locked, Erling tossed him the keys he had taken from Kadroth. The room was immaculately furnished with all the trappings of a royal bedchamber, including a soft bed, warm quilts, elegant tapestries, and a gilded chamber pot. Bars over the windows dispelled the air of luxury somewhat.

Squatting in the far corner of the room was a pale man wearing a nightgown. He had an unkempt beard and seemed hard at work filling a chamber pot. "Perfect timing," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Are you the speaker?” Oosi asked.

“Yes, I’m Speaker Crannoc Siever,” the man replied. “Untie me, would you?”

After untying the speaker, Bran waved Rourke inside the room.

We checked the room beyond the far door and found an old library that was set on fire years ago and never repaired. Evidence remained of floor-to-ceiling shelves along the walls. A draft issued from a darkened fireplace, stirring the cobwebs around it.

We left Rourke and the speaker to exchange tails and crossed the hall.

I waited on the eastern side of the balcony while Bran checked the western door. An explosion of frost erupted from the door as they tried to open it. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

The door led to a hallway with doors to the north and south.

As they opened the south door, a cat rushed out.

Inside, a large, gilded mirror covered most of the east wall. Other furnishings included an ornately carved wooden table and chair. The remains of a meal was left on the table, and a bed of glowing coals in the fireplace.

Peering into the mirror, Bran only saw himself, but then caught a glimpse of a strongbox under the bed.

Bran used the keys to open the locked strongbox and found a pile of gold and silver coins inside.

The north door was also locked, but they managed to open it with the ring of keys.

Inside, a chilly draft wafted through a bedroom despite a roaring fire in the hearth. Bundled under a thick quilt and seated in a squat rocking chair in front of the fire was a venerable dwarf with a wooden peg where her right foot should be. Next to her, on a small table, was a plate of food. "I've been dreading this moment," she said.

Hethyl Arkorran,a  venerable dwarf with a wooden peg where her right foot should be, and the cultists' spiritual guide, has been dreading this moment.
“Who are you?” Bran asked.

“Me name’s Hethyl Arkorran,” she growled.

“And what might it be that you dread?” Bran inquired. “Who are you?”

“I dread your presence,” Hethyl replied.

“Why is that?” Erling asked.

“What is your association with these cultists?” Bran questioned.

“I am their spiritual guide,” Hethyl revealed.

“Ah, the leader behind the leader, interesting,” Erling expounded. “Are you ready to clear out?”

“Clear out? What do you mean?” Hethyl grumbled. “No, I’m not clearing out, you dense muppet. I’m here to have a conversation with you boneheads. Then I’ll go alright. What are your names?”

“I’m Bran and these are my companions,” Bran revealed.

“I supposed you killed Kadroth, did you?” Hethyl suggested. “Or is Kadroth alive?"

“No, Kadroth is dead,” Erling confirmed, “as are the rest of your minions.”

“No great loss there, I suppose,” Hethyl sighed. “Kadroth was a good leader, but he hated me after I told him that Levistsus hated him. He was just waiting for me to die. Levistus lived up to his promises, mostly. I got a few things to tell you, and then I'll go. You lot are here to save the Ten Towns, are you? Right? Look, I’m a seer. Lying to me is not worth anybody’s time. There’s a duergar warlord. His name is Xardorok Sunblight. He will conquer Icewind Dale unless you stop him. Xardorok has a fortress on the surface, hidden in the Spine of the World. It contains, among other things, a forge powered by the still-beating heart of a red dragon. Xardorok has a plan for the systematic destruction of Ten-Towns, which you can discover if you search his fortress. But beware, you will die if you face Xardorok too soon. You must test yourself against the horrors that haunt the farthest reaches of Icewind Dale before you can hope to survive the perils of Xardorok's fortress! Now begone you tedious fools and let an old woman die in peace.”

As soon as she had finished, her head slumped and she died.

Erling took Hethyl’s amulet for his collection.

We brought the speaker his strongbox and he rewarded us with fifty gold coins each, adding, “You’ll always have a place to stay here at Caer-Dineval. The towers function as barracks, and one will always be cleared out for you if you need a place to stay.”

After ensuring the basement was uninhabited, we decided to try to track down the escaped cultists. Outside the Caer, I found their tracks and we followed them into town where I lost them in the foot traffic.

After investigating the houses, we identified some that were abandoned, including Dinev's Rest, which was all boarded up. After finding that one of the boards had been recently pried open, we decided to investigate the boarded up old building.

Being in no condition to confront the cultists, we rested inside a nearby abandoned building, keeping watch on it through the night.

In the morning we entered Dinev's Rest, Oosi and Blaze leading the way, and were soon attacked by six duergar, who were invisible at first. Blaze cast bless on Oosi, Bran, and me, and used his spiritual weapon in combat. Blaze was hit early on and lost his bless. I tried to reveal them using faerie fire, but the duergar were all out of range. It was a difficult fight, and we were wounded badly, but we ultimately put them all down.

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