Following their investigation into just who Lady Varia Mil’baer is, Saradoc was invited to speak with Lord Alwyn, leader of the Jewelers’ Guild, who said he may be able to trade information for information. He and Kaloy took the nobleman up on his offer and sat down for wine at his manor, where he revealed that the Skullport was perhaps a base of operations for the Zhentarim, confirming Tyaene’s thoughts. In exchange, he asked them to find out just what Varia’s lineage was.
The party decides to head to Skullport, though Tyaene is adamantly against the decision. Pressured on why she doesn’t want to go there, she mentions the Thirteen Skulls, floating skulls that rule the underground port who are to be avoided at all costs. Her activities as a Harper are too well known in Skullport and she’s afraid of what might happen if she returns.
Nonetheless, she leads them there, utilizing a series of ladders and decrepit corridors in an abandoned warehouse near the docks, which outlet onto a dark alley far beneath Waterdeep. Upon arriving, the party comes across a gathered crowd, watching as one of the Thirteen Skulls doles out punishment on a helpless man, turning him into a rat that scurries away into the market.
Chasing after the rat, they track it into a dead end alleyway. Saradoc picks it up, but it scratches at him violently. Ooga soothes it instead, and Tobias tries to talk with it through magic.
The rat reveals his name is Anther, and that he is a spy working for the Lords’ Alliance. He’s tracked activity related to Zalthair, who seems to be behind many ill actions throughout the region, here in the Skullport but was discovered by the Skulls. He knows of a cleric, Andalar, who may be able to transform him back to his human self. The last he heard, Andalar was in a town called Loudwater, east of Waterdeep.
Ooga places Anther atop his head, and all together, they head to the High Tide alehouse to gather more information. Kaloy works the room, and the musicians point her to a man sitting alone at a table. Attempting to be subtle in her approach, she comes to his table with an offering of rum but the stranger, Mason Lockright, has already picked up on who she and the others are. He says he can help them, but only if they can win a small wager.
Outside of the tavern, he challenges Saradoc to shoot a series of empty bottles with a prototype flintlock pistol he “got from some crazy tinkerer gnomes near Arabel.” The party imbues Saradoc with blessings to guide his aim, and the magical aid helps indeed. Saradoc is able to shoot bottle after bottle, but it becomes more apparent that Mason just wanted to see how much they could entertain him.
Winning the wager with a few well-placed shots, the party learned of a blind man who traded in rumors and secrets in Skullport named Rhosius Vane. They headed to the Scuppery, where Rhosius would be waiting. Ooga stayed outside while the rest shuffled in, on the lookout for the blind man. Finding him, they asked for information regarding the Zhentarim. Rhosius told them exactly where they were meeting and how to get in, and in exchange asked them to discover what Varia’s lineage was, just like Lord Alwyn. Kaloy promised him the answer, though she’s not entirely sure if they’ll decide to truly deliver.
Meanwhile, outside, Ooga was accosted by bounty hunters searching specifically for him. He was successfully able to convince one he wasn’t the half-orc he was looking for, but the second was a little more adamant. A brief scuffle occurred, and Ooga brought the bounty hunter down with the help of Anther the human-rodent.
The party asked Ooga who these men were, and why they were hunting him. He has a pretty substantial bounty on his head.
Taking the information from Rhosius, the party headed to the abandoned fishery where the Zhentarim were meeting.
They came upon the Zhentarim preparing another infernal ritual, requiring one of their own to sacrifice their own life. Kaloy, disguised in a black cloak while the others hid in the shadows, volunteered.
When the ritual began, the lead Zhentarim stood behind Kaloy and prepared to slit her throat. Just then, the others sprung forth into action.
The black cloaks were quickly dealt with. Kaloy interrogated the last remaining one by reading his mind, only to discover that the Zhentarim had indeed destroyed Lord Bailey’s collection and that Lord Alwyn appears to be behind it. Inside one of the dead Zhentarim agents’ pockets, they found another list of names, apparently containing the identities of the Masked Lords of Waterdeep, whom the Zhentarim were targeting. Most of the names had been crossed out already … except Magister Cyvarian, Rhys Cottonfield the baker, Avaraquis Quilt, who had gone into hiding, and Lady Varia Mil’baer.
The party now heads back to Waterdeep with their new information to warn the Masked Lords their identities have been compromised.