First the egregious prose, then the DM's thoughts.
TL;DR Welcome to Waterdeep: Banking, strange fashion party lost money at trivia, narrowly avoided an anchor dropped by a flying castle. No fighting, much foreshadowing.
After a bit of relaxation in the farming commune of Goldenfields, the heroes hitched a ride on a grain barge heading downriver to the Sea of Swords. Agammemnon returned to his elven kin beyond the water, but his place was taken by Grimnir, monastic sort curious about the Realms. The riverboat journey was unevenful, 3 nights floating on broad slow waters.
Entering Waterdeep, the City of Splendors was a shock. The City of Splendors—the most resplendent jewel in the Forgotten Realms, and a den of political intrigue and shady back-alley dealings. Never had they seen such an endless huddle of buildings, never had they seen so many peoples of any culture and species huddled together, commerce happening constantly, and cut purses to. The fashions tended toward outlandish hats featuring small bird cages.
The elf Althea soon tired of such mundane distractions, and the others were keen to transfer the crown jewels hard won in Barovia into local currency. In the course of selling such a king’s ransom they became favorites of their jeweler, Bezel the Albino, who fed them vegan food and put them up in his townhouse for the night. 16,000gp was deposited with the Iron Throne Trading Coster, available in any major city in the North.
The next day Apollo went to visit the House of Thann, who he knew since childhood. The butler gave them the inheritance of the acolyte Zi Thann: A Robe of Eyes and a suit of Adamantine Platemail. Furthermore, he invited them to the Garden Party at the palace of Laeral Silverhand, Open Lord of Waterdeep, that very evening.
The Garden Party itself was a ridiculous affair. The nobility strolled under starlight lamps, wearing bird bedecked hats and allowing themselves to be lead by their pet turtles. Quite a stir was created when the Rainbow Knight arrived astride his flail snail.
Lady Silverhand did not appear to be in attendance, here domicile was wondrous. Here was a small lake, replete with a miniature island and full sized riverboat casino, catering the thrills of the the city’s leisure class. Apollo, Althea and Otto boarded and encountered a slight but confident man wearing a rich robe of exotic silks. He was Pow Ming and he would exchange 100gp for a Golden Goose token, used at the games table. He had a small bag that held many things. He said he and his employer Lord Drylund would be leaving the next day to begin the river journey north to the city of Yartar.
At the table Apollo found his old acquaintance Danilo Thann, who was eagerly awaiting the next question in the current game of Trivia, as intoned by an elderly squire: “Sages do sayeth that the race known for the flaying of minds did come as refugees from a far away star. Little is known, yet even a schoolboy knows how many tentacles doth the illithid bear?” All bet and answered silently. “Four is correct.” There were many cheers!
Next round: “Name three gods who died during the Time of Troubles and yet are now worshipped by zealous priests once again.” “Bane, Mystra and Myrkul is correct!” Groans.
“I lost 400 gold!” moaned Apollo. “Oh stop crying,” said Danilo Thann. “Besides, you should know, thou soldier of god, eh?”
The festivities continued, with light shows and dancings, but finally the newcomers found themselves politely ushered out onto the street of the Castle Ward, stumbling drunk and beginning to realize they had not procured an inn. “Didn’t Bezel the Jeweler have our belongings sent to the Yawning Portal?” said Grimnir.
“I’m not sure,” said Apollo, thinking hard, “Or was it the ---look out!”
Apollo looked up in time to see a massive hook of metal come careening down out of the sky. He and his companions dove out of the way as a massive 20ft anchor tore into the cobbled street and hooked itself on the corner of a cathedral to a goddess of luck. A massive chain ran from the anchor up into the clouds above, where dimly could be seen glowing lights and the imposing shape of a massive fortress floating in the sky above Mount Waterdeep.
This turned into a dice-less improvisational bad joke fest. We had a great time, but basically, I tried to play up the crazy fantasy city of Waterdeep. The players did some business, selling loot from Barovia, banking it and following up on a couple of quests. They kept asking for magic shops to buy potions and +1 things. I told them there were no magic shops and if they wanted to sell magic stuff they might as well go straight to the castle because the Lords' spies are everywhere and they frown upon a magic economy. I know it means there's not much use for gold, but I don't love the magic shop idea and they are already at a high enough level.
Otherwise I tried to keep things moving. I'm focusing on really bringing the Realms to life, referencing all the great place names of the Forgotten Realms, since they may actually go to any number of these places, so I'm seeding in as much foreshadowing lore as I can. I think I managed to get a fair amount in this session. I had a lady tell each one a fortune such as, "You will be scorned by three sisters!" and "You will find a cool hand in a burning sky!" "You will forget to look up". There were quite a few references to Gauntylgrm as well. It's always a bit awkward to have a session with no violence and few clearcut decisions for the players, but they enjoyed it and I made sure the anchor set up next session.
I awarded 1000xp each, based one having banked a huge amount of money. I don't think that was the right call. They are around 9th level, so it isn't much, but I think I should have based it on money spent, carousing table style. I should have given XP for money spent on gambling, wine and books, things like that. An arbitrary "Nice roleplayin tonight guys" doesn't really encourage any particular kind of play.