The Blades awoke in an armed camp. Though still wounded they were tended by healers of Elturgard. Paladins had pulled them from the rubble of Darkhold and nursed them back to health. They were told that Simon, the other traitorous paladin and ally of Jaryn, had been captured back in Elturel. Simon gave up a great deal of info, enough to clear the Blades of any suspicion and allow them to return to Elturgard if desired.
As for Darkhold, the ruins lay quiet. The castle had literally fallen back to earth. Strange magical effects still plagued it and otherworldly creatures had been sighted in the area. Darkhold would likely remain a no-man’s land and require a permanent military presence to watch over the ruins. Spellplagued lands could be unpredictable and dangerous, and who better than paladins of Elturgard to maintain vigilance.
The Blades had unfinished business back home in Llorkh and decided to return there as quickly as possible, taking a long and lonely route through the wilderness. The journey was uneventful (if you dont count the ettin and massive owlbear) and they arrived within a week at Llorkh.
Llorkh was preparing a defense. Militia had been recruited and stationed in the old dwarven citadel reclaimed by the Blades. The tower was nearly impossible to directly assault, isolated and consisting of towers spread across a hilltop canyon. Sturdy dwarven construction, it was hardened against even air attacks. Llorkh itself was far less defensible. The repaired wooden walls could only last so long against a determined attacker. If hobgoblins had nearly sacked the town, a trained army of Netherese could do far more damage. Llorkh would need a true army if it was to last. After meeting with the town elders and discussing the defenses, the Blades traveled next to Loudwater.
Home Sweet Home
Half-expecting a town in chaos, they instead found that Lady Moonfire still lived. Whatever they had slain in Secomber had only taken her likeness, but it was not actually her. She seemed to have no clue what happened in Secomber, besides hearing that the Duchess had been slain. She told the Blades that research was underway back in Waterdeep into her family, to determine if an heir still lived or if her line was dead.
Moonfire was in the middle of negotiations with a group of elves from the High Forest. She sought their assistance but they seemed unwilling to trust her. The elves spoke of numerous problems of their own, portals to be defended and attacks they must repel in the Fey. They were in the midst of a conflict in the Fey with an enemy unknown to the people of Loudwater. The elves would not send aid while their own city was in peril.
The Blades were suspicious of what Moonfire truly was, but met with her to discuss defense plans. She agreed that with Darkhold out of the way, the Grey Vale region would be next on the list for expansive Netheril. She suggested the Blades travel to Waterdeep and ask for assistance from the Lords’ Alliance. Her town would not hold out long against attack.
Before traveling to Waterdeep, the group took care of some business in Loudwater. They learned of an ongoing feud between the local mage Curuvir and Moonfire. Apparently Moonfire had also investigated Draigdurroch’s tower after the Blades had destroyed it. The Blades soon realized they were being monitored in town and Moonfire’s men were behind it. Fibbit left a dagger in her door as a parting gift. On to Waterdeep.
The Lords’ Alliance was a mutual defense pact between most cities and towns in the North. It had not been called upon in many years. The small towns of the Grey Vale had always been members, but Llorkh had not been successful in calling for aid during their occupation. Waterdeep seemed distant from the Grey Vale region and that great city-state gained little from the minuscule populations of the Grey Vale towns of Llorkh, Loudwater and Secomber
However, the region had great value as a buffer zone. Should the Grey Vale fall under Netherese influence then Waterdeep would be far too close to their enemies. It takes a truly regional threat to convince towns hundreds of miles away to send aid. Encroachment by Netheril certainly qualified.
Upon arrival in Waterdeep the Blades went to the temple of their patron god Tempus. They spoke with the high priest and asked for an audience with the Open Lord of Waterdeep. The city was ruled by one known man, Lord Neverember, and several unknowns. A group of Masked Lords ruled from the shadows, working with the Open Lord while avoiding any undo influence that might happen if the Masked Lords became public knowledge.
The high priest spoke on their behalf and gained an audience. In truth the situation was already known and had been discussed by the Lords. They had no love of Netheril and had already decided to send a large army as a show of force.
The high priest had his own concerns. If war was prevented by a massive show of force it would be a great defeat for Tempus. Ideally war would spring up and envelop the region. If the Lords prevented war that would be a horrible thing (if you were a priest of Tempus!). If a smaller force was sent instead it could engage in glorious battle.
The priest mentioned one other thing that may assist the war effort. Netheril drew its power from the evil goddess Shar, lady of the night. They were practically an arm of Her church. Selune was the good goddess of the moon, split from Shar in ancient times. Rumors of a lost artifact of Selune had spread, a weapon that could be used to battle Shar’s forces. The priest knew little about it, but rumors insist it was lost somewhere in the High Forest during a past battle with the Netherese.
Prior to their meeting with the Lords, a red-robed mage approached the Blades and asked for assistance. The wizard, Caranatar of Thay, offered to put in a good word with the Lords if they assisted in recovering a stolen painting. The artwork had been taken by a noble locked in a feud with the wizard. Doubtful of his intentions, the Blades refused to help.
Meanwhile, Fibbit contacted the Thieves Guild. He sought an expert in political knowledge, someone with dirt on those he was about to deal with. For a nominal fee he was able to meet with a halfling bard and expert on regional politics. The bard knew every dirty secret…and each one had a price. He revealed an ongoing feud between Caranatar and a noble house. He told of bad blood between Lady Moonfire and certain elements in Waterdeep. He also mentioned how odd it was that Moonfire, despite having no living heirs, had never given birth or married. Were she to die, her line would end.
Kriv sought out a Silverstar, a priest of Selune. In a private meeting he won the priest’s support in a quest to find the lost artifact. The priest explained that it was not truly a weapon at all, but a simple cup. It had powers over shadows and could nullify the worshippers of Shar, that much was known from the lore. The object was feared lost in the vicinity of Karse in the High Forest. It may have been taken anywhere after that by Netherese forces, but it is unlikely they personally guard an object that can cut off Shar’s power. The priest suspects it is hidden in some dark place.
The meeting with the Open Lord was brief. He agreed to send a large force directly to Llorkh. Two thousand footmen, half as many archers, and a full five hundred light cavalry had been assembled and would soon be on the march. A supply train stretching down the Delimbyr River back to Waterdeep would keep the troops fed and minimize the strain on the local economy. Llorkh was about to double in population and become a very busy place indeed.
The Open Lord seemed impressed by the Sacred Blades’ long list of accomplishments fighting the Zhentarim and Netherese. Secomber had been a constant thorn in his side and with Cala deposed that town may become more friendly to its neighbors. That too was thanks to the Blades. Neverember decreed that while the army was in Llorkh it would be in direct control of the Blades. Not that it should matter…the size of the force almost guaranteed that Netheril would not attack. After a few weeks the army could return home, confidant that a message of solidarity had been sent.
Neverember mentioned one other thing. He brought up Lady Moonfire, said that he frowned on those trafficking in slaves or allying with Zhentarim. He openly called into question her loyalties and suggested she would not be missed. The Blades now had all the permission they needed to remove her from power.
Some of the Blades had been wanting to slay Moonfire for months. She had turned a blind eye to slave traders in her own town, “for the greater good”. She sought alliance with Netherese adventurers passing through her town, and was greatly angered when the Blades slew them. She had some relationship with the occupiers of Llorkh and with the now-dead vampiric ruler of Secomber. She was known to dabble in evil magic.
In short, she had it coming. The Blades planned to enter Loudwater in the dead of night through the docks and slay her in her sleep. Kriv then had a plan to blame the murder on the Netherese. It would seem like they struck first. The coming army could then be diverted into the shadow portal of the High Forest for a direct attack on the Umbraforge. War would be assured and would envelop the entire region. Netheril could be destabilized and collapse, ending a great evil.
The other Blades were horrified. Kriv suggested sacrificing Llorkh to provoke a war! Thousands of innocents would be slain. Though Kriv relented, the elven ranger Raven completely objected and left the Blades for good, departing into the High Forest. He refused to take place in regicide and was worried about Tempus’s influence over the group. The others only agreed to kill Moonfire if her death was not used to lead an army to war. They agreed to kill Moonfire, find good leadership for Loudwater, then seek out the Cup of Selune to battle Netheril on their own terms.
As their boat docked in the dead of night, a familiar face was waiting for them. The warrior Griegor had come to warn them. Griegor was warned that Moonfire had heard of the Open Lord’s decree. She planned to strike first, here at the docks. Someone had warned her…and in turn, Captain Harrowleaf had warned Griegor to go save his friends. The Captain was tired of Moonfire’s increasingly questionable leadership. When she decided to slay the group that had done so much for Loudwater, Harrowleaf knew she was lost.
Moonfire arrived with a contingent of her loyal guards. They opened fire from the upper levels of the docks. The Blades rushed them in turn, quickly slaying her hired help. She cursed them, showing off the warlock powers she had learned. Despite her magic and the ambush she could not hold them off. Fibbit finished her, wiping his blade on her dress.
As she faded away, she whispered, “Draig…warned me to kill you…sooner.”
Emerging from the shadows was the only witness. Captain Harrowleaf.
Loudwater was now leaderless. The region was about to become a warzone. The Blades would need to work quickly now to prevent disaster…or to cause it.