Our heroes traveled to Thundertree to consult with their ally, Venomfang. The green dragon, cordially menacing as always, was interested to hear what the adventurers had witnessed at the Festival of Nymm, and seemed pleased with the party’s loyalty. As promised, he turned the Phiarlan tapestry over to Angaera.
He shared his advice for the challenges the party faces. For dealing with the Githyanki threat and rescuing the Phandalin abductees, he recommended asking the Brelish government for armed assistance. Even if stories of the Githyanki invaders arouse skepticism, highlighting the Droaamish threat may spur the military into action to protect the border there. They might make this request in Ardev, or more directly in the capitol city Wroat.
To destroy the Index of Acererak, a more scholarly approach may be required. Morgrave University has campuses in the Wroat, as well as the metropolis of Sharn. He suggested that researchers at the university may know of the history of the lich and his phylactery.
Venomfang also bestowed a few “gifts” upon the party: a sending stone paired with his own to keep contact over long distances, and the magical Canaith Mandolin for Angaera. He did not give them freely, though- in return, he wanted the party to recover another piece of Phiarlan media. A “mad wizard” by the name of Sorrn Lazarus lives on the outskirts on Ardev, and is in possession of an oil portrait that was created by another heir of Phiarlan. He believes it, too, may have some manifestation of the prophecy, and would like the party to collect it.
A few days travel brought the party to Ardev, where they got to investigating a lead that Venomfang had provided them: a huge creature had been menacing the residents of a harder part of town, and people were turning up strangled to death in dark alleys. These freakish occurences might easily be pinned on Sorrn, whether or not he was truly responsible. Keeping watch on their first night in the city, Xander followed his ears to the sound of something large prowling the streets. A ten-foot tall uncanny humanoid abomination wandered through the darkened city streets. When Xander tracked the creature with the rest of the party in tow, they found only a strangled corpse left behind, and tracks leaving town.
Outside of Ardev, the party found the sanctuary of Sorrn Lazarus. The stone building had once been a small garrison, but had been reclaimed and beautified by the wizard in residence. In the back of the building, they found a hidden trapdoor leading to a cellar beneath the building. During their investigation, they raised enough of a ruckus to wake the gnome wizard, who came out to confront the party. At his front door, Billy and Jinara kept Sorrn distracted while Xander, Angaera and Darak crept down into the cellar. Billy explained frankly why they had come- they believed that a creature responsible for murders in Ardev was hiding out there. Sorrn admitted that he did have a “son” there he had created, named Ajax, but assured the party that he had been home all night.
Sorrn led the party through his home, where they noted many valuable pieces of art upon the walls, including the prized portrait depicting a half-clothed elven maiden. Down in the cellar, the gnome hesitantly showed them his son. Ajax was indeed the creature that Xander had witnessed roaming Ardev, but it sat quietly in the darkened cellar. Without evidence of wrongdoing, Billy decided to back off and explain more fully the situation. The real reason they were there, he explained, was because they were interested in acquiring a piece of art from Sorrn, and were willing to pay.
As Sorrn had led Billy and Jinara down to the cellar, Xander crept back out through the back way. He seized the opportunity that Billy had provided, leading the other half of the party out around to the front of the house. He and Angaera snuck inside, quickly cased the house, and swiped the aforementioned portrait. Just as they were sneaking out the front door, Billy and Sorrn walked upstairs while discussing the price of the work of art. Angaera had to think fast- to avoid implicating the whole party in the robbery that was about to go south, she created an illusion to disguise the three of them as they fled the furious gnome!
Even Billy’s silver tongue was unable to fully extricate him and Jinara from the bizarre incident. Fortunately, Sorrn seemed to be aware that he was on thin ice. Short of outright accusing Billy (or attempting to murder anyone for a simple theft), he suggested that he would overlook the incident if they provided some payment for the stolen article, and left him and Ajax alone. Billy and Jinara returned to town after the mishap to reconvene with the party any plan their next steps.