The Dusk Riders returned to Coyote’s Refuge slightly at a loss for what they should do next. They had determined to immediately provide the critical information regarding Magmar and Perakline to the Simbul via an enchanted animal messenger, but still something seemed amiss, so the Dusk Riders hoped that returning to Coyote’s Refuge might provide some direction while they coped with an extremely sensitive situation.
Wanting to provoke both a reaction and some respect from those within the Refuge, the Dusk Riders made certain to openly display the craniums of their most recent kills – the Rage Demons. Thankfully, the gesture did exactly as intended and the Coyote made all haste to confer with the Dusk Riders so that he could better learn what they had faced within the ruined city of Glarondar and what their intentions were now. While chatting with the Coyote, the Dusk Riders learned that he had in fact just lost a bet since he had no confidence that any member of the Dusk Riders would return alive from the city, much less appear carrying trophies like the skulls of Rage Demons. Despite losing coin, the Coyote could not help but be visibly impressed and surprised and he had so poorly judged the capabilities of the Dusk Riders. As the Riders and the Coyote exchanged pleasantries, it was noticed that the Refuge seems far less thick with visitors now than previously. With any sense of loss or remorse, the Dusk Riders learned that a larger Dwarven exploration party had been savaged during their last foray into the ruins, so all of their remaining goods within the Refuge had been scavenged once the only surviving member passed on from grievous wounds. So, now that the Dwarves were gone, the Dusk Riders were welcome to have the first chance to rummage through and purchase items that had been scavenged.
While the Dusk Riders looked through the goods, the Coyote generously shared a delicious and sweet wine from Cormyr. As the wine began to loosen tongues, Baern could not help but ask about the Nightmare Forges since that was where the Riders had intended to travel. Upon hearing this, the Coyote asked the Riders if they had a “death wish” since the Demon Circles resided within the very center of this hellish locale and was the spawning point for the onslaught that destroyed the city. At this point, Nyria stumbled across an item of obvious worth within the fallen Dwarves goods. Showing the axe to Munn, the precision of the weapon and its exquisite craftsmanship demanded that they ask about it and learn its likely exorbitant price. The Coyote told the Dusk Riders that the weapon was previously owned by Thomin Shattershield, a member of the royal family from the Dwarven kingdom of Shanatar. Sadly, Shanatar had fallen long ago and, obviously, Thomin’s luck had run out as well given that the axe was now available for sale here is a filthy place like Coyote’s Refuge. So, despite the grand history of the axe and the powers that it bestowed in battle, the Coyote would sell the axe for 34,000 or “a minor favor.” This minor favor involved the Dusk Riders returning to Glarondar to recover an Onyx Shard – a mysterious and enchanted stone that acts as a magical intensifier, something that is extremely popular within Thay. If the Dusk Riders would make their way to the Obsidian Spires, they would be able to search for a Spire marked with an Onyx Star and the Dusk Riders would, likely, recover the Shard at that location. Despite their general lack of trust, the lure of the axe proved too great, so the Dusk Riders agreed to the deal.
The Riders had decided to camp for the night in their own tents given that they actually felt safer doing that than trying to rent a room from the Coyote. But before resting for the night, many Riders felt that the Cormyrian wine not enough for individuals likely undertaking a suicide mission, so the collective Dusk Riders made their way to the Dancing Lizard for a drink. The squalor within the Dancing Lizard was evident upon walking through the door given the filth, smell and clientele. The proprietor of the Lizard was no better given that he had suffered a major wound to his head that forced his lower jaw to be replaced with a makeshift iron version. Within the Dancing Lizard was a woeful mishmash of individuals. Some were outright scavengers, some decimated adventures licking their wounds before moving on or foolishly returning into Glarondar and some that seemed extremely out of place due to a complete lack of filth and a seeming lack of ability to be in such an area without proper equipment. While it is uncertain which was worse, the miserable spirit of the room, or the miserable taste of the drinks, the Riders left more than enough coin to cover their bill and returned to their tents. Rotating watch duties throughout the night, Nyria was alert enough to detect a prying hand attempting to pilfer something from Mathis’ pack, but scare off the miscreant and saw the shadowy figure race back to the Dancing Lizard for protection. Not wanting to escalate matters, Nyria let the slight slide and merely continued protecting her fellow Dusk Riders.
The next morning, the Riders collected their gear and began making their way back into the city with the goal of reaching the section called The Obsidian Spires as quickly as possible. As the Dusk Riders made their way through the ruins, Munn and Nyria made out the frightened cries of ladies pleading for their lives. Carefully covering her steps, Nyria made her way towards the sound and was able to witness four men dressed in ornate leather armor using black whips to intimidate the ladies. Nyria signaled the other Dusk Riders who moved into position just in time to learn that the six individuals on the ground were simply acting as a lure for additional Blackwhip Slavers hiding on the roof with nets punctuated with fish hooks. While some might have fallen to such a ruse, the surprise was actually on these Traffickers of Flesh given that they never expected a collective as ready for battle as the Dusk Riders.
Once the Riders had dispensed with the Blackwhips, the Riders discovered a set of instructions that told the Blackwhips to bring any “caught slaves” to a specific section of the Outer Wards for preparation and sale. Pocketing the note, the Dusk Riders decided instead to continue onward towards the Spires.
Upon reaching the section containing the Obsidian Spires, the Riders first approached a tower that was emitting a green mist that became noticeably thicker as they approached. Persevering the mist as well as they could, the Riders pressed on, but soon the stink of brimstone filled their nostrils and caused their eyes to sting from the stench. Unable to properly search the Spire, the Riders instead moved on to the next one in the hopes of discovering their prize there.
The spire that the Dusk Riders approached next had extremely black smoke emitting from the top in a manner that masked to all except Baern that the interior was ablaze. Once confident that an Onyx Star did not mark this makeshift kiln, the Riders moved-on again.
The next spire looked ragged and was falling apart, but after quick consideration by Mathis, he was confident that this Spire too was missing an Onyx Star. Careful scrutiny of another Spire containing gold and diamond accents proved fruitless too and left the Riders dismayed towards where they should explore next.
Uncertain that they had properly examined the first Spire, the Riders returned to the green mist Spire and entered it despite the mist becoming thicker and thicker as they approached. Quickly, the mist became so caustic that it spurred coughing fits from each of the Dusk Riders. Working hard to catch their breath amidst such terrible vapors, the Riders were surprised by a horrific snake that emerged from the ground to attack. The serpent was enormous and began crushing Munn momentarily, before the massive warrior and his compatriots were able to demonstrate true strength while felling the beast. In the hopes of learning more about this spire and the secrets hidden by the mists, Baern enchanted a stone and dropped it into the mist spilling forth from the hole in the floor. Seeing the now glowing stone strike two or three additional serpents before falling out of site, the Riders quickly vacated the Spire and moved back to the tattered tower for shelter.
But, as the Dusk Riders made their way back to the ruined tower, a pack of Demons out hunting prey approached them unaware of the Riders’ presence. Baern quickly and silently warned the Riders, so that Mathis and Nyria were able to hide themselves before they arrived. The Demons seemed ready to move on until Baern and Munn were unable to as expertly mask their position from the Demons. Sensing their vulnerability, Nyria physically pulled Baern to safety while Mathis tossed over a large ratty cloth to Munn so that he could hide amidst the rubble outside before the demons came too close and spied him. Fortunately, the Demons quickly moved through the Spires onward to fresh prey without spotting the Dusk Riders. After the Demons had passed and the Dusk Riders climbed free of their hiding spots, the Dusk Riders could not help but notice a large piece of the Spire had been dislodged and fallen face down in front of the Spire. Upon overturning this large piece of stone, the Riders were able to easily see the Onyx Star which marked this tower as the location of the shard!