The Blades have been teleported to Elturgard, but when have they been teleported? What happened during the four days missing from their memory? Has Lady Saharel used them as pawns, or saved them from an unknown fate? Why are the Zhentarim convinced that the Blades are now allies?
High Observer of Torm
While traveling on foot from Triel to Elturel the Blades are approached by three mounted knights. The knights greeted them directly, asking if they were the Sacred Blades. The knights introduced themselves briefly and formally before stating that the High Observer requests their presence.
The knights escorted them directly to the city gates then into the central keep. Crowds wondered at the passing retinue, whispering how rare it is for the High Observer’s personal guard to provide escort. The keep went by in a blur and the Blades soon found themselves before the High Observer of Torm, leader of the nation of Elturgard. This was a bastion of good in the Realms and a retinue of armored paladins stood guard in the audience chamber.
The Observer questioned their reasons for entering his nation, questioned how they arrived and what their intentions were. The Blades provided information on the upcoming battle at Darkhold and the actions of the Netherese. None of this important news seemed to bother the High Observer and instead he seemed increasingly agitated.
After a few minutes the leader of Elturgard called out, “Bring out the prisoner!”
A hooded prisoner, feet shackled and hands bound at his back, was hobbled out from a side door. Guards stood at his back and swiftly removed the hood in a dramatic moment. What was revealed was…some random man the Blades had never seen in their lives.
“Thats them, your Grace! Thats them Blades I was to meet!” he said. The adventurers found themselves on the defensive, and a long question-and-answer session began.
The man was Dent, a Zhentarim spy captured days ago. In exchange for his life he promised to give up the contacts he was supposed to meet in Elturel and escort on to Darkhold. During the questioning it turned out the Lady of Shadows had informed Dent of the Blades. She told them they would be arriving soon and to meet them in the capital city. How she knew was anyone’s guess – were the Lady of Shadows and Lady Saharel one and the same?
The High Observer brought forth two more witnesses: the traveling paladins Jaryn and Simon. The two had met the Blades near Llorkh while traveling the region, even spent some time in their stronghold. They told the High Observer that the Blades had served the Zhent cause many times in the past months. First by slaying the black dragon and worshipper of Shar, leaving its head as a grisly trophy in the peaceful town of Loudwater. Then by routing the Netherese spies from Loudwater and their army from the Spellgard ruins. And finally, by attacking their base in the Shadowfell and disrupting operations there (as explained by Dent, via the Lady). All these actions served to empower the Zhentarim in the region.
The Blades countered with news of the coming battle at Darkhold but the Observer had already prepared for that. The Observer had a contingent of paladins ready to defend his lands should evil forces look to Elturgard after conquering Darkhold. Who won at Darkhold was no matter for the forces of good – one evil replacing another still left evil in control.
Dent seemed to believe the lies, actually thinking he was to meet the Blades. Unfortunately with the testimony of the paladins so did the High Observer. He ordered all parties confined to the prison until matters could be sorted out.
Each prisoner was confined to a cell, locked away. They talked amongst themselves trying to make sense of an insane situation. Dent told them to drop the facade, that at least they would not be executed. The paladins would just banish them from the land. The Blades had turned out to be Dent’s savior!
At this point they played along, realizing Dent wasn’t the brightest torch in the dungeon. “What exactly was the plan again?” they asked. Dent seemed surprised they had forgotten, Bax was supposed to explain it all to them after their meeting in Llorkh. The Lady had told him that meeting had went perfectly and the Blades had signed on to the cause.
The Blades realized something was up. They slew Bax near Llorkh a week ago and refused his offer to ally with the Zhentarim against the Netherese. In a moment of mercy they allowed a Zhent mage to escape with his life…had he fled to the Lady of Shadows? Why would she deceive the Zhents of Darkhold into believing the Blades were allies? What game was she playing?
Dent continued, explaining that their Zhent contact in Spellgard should have told them the plan details. If Milli had forgotten it could only be blamed on her halfling incompetance.
Milli had assisted them in the tower at Spellgard and mysteriously disappeared after the four tests. So she had a part in this and was a Zhent agent too…
Dent explained that after they were freed from the prison they all would continue to Darkhold. There they would covertly strike several Shadowfell portals the Netherese would use to attack, re-routing the portals to far more dangerous locations. Imagine the chaos when a Netherese army is transported to Waterdeep! The Lord’s Alliance would retaliate, causing war on a grand scale and destroying all the enemies of the Zhentarim! Cyric would be pleased.
All this needed to happen quickly, because the attack was coming in 5 days. “Come again?” they asked, “I thought it was 9 days away?”.
Dent seemed confused, “Well today is Friday and the attack comes on…”
Friday? The Blades thought it was Monday. How had they lost four days? What had they been doing?
Was it a result of the teleport? Were Saharel’s tests real at all?
Were they really Zhent agents, as everyone else seemed convinced?
They didnt have time to ponder the consequences as a shadow portal opened in the prison.
What happened next was pure comedy. A Zhentarim rogue arrived through an open shadow portal and proceeded to unlock all the cells. The Blades thanked him and promptly knocked him unconscious, tossing him in an open cell.
Just then the guards returned and noticed prisoners breaking free! They attacked the Blades, who quickly surrendered and went back to their cells. The Blades didn’t want conflict with the paladins, after all they were trying to prove their innocence by opposing the Zhentarim.
The guards now puzzled over the still-open shadow portal. What evil magic was this? One guard ran off to get help.
The help that returned were the paladins Jaryn and Simon. They thanked the guards for their assistance and relieved them of duty. The two traveling paladins, fresh from testifying against the Blades, turned to them in anger.
“You almost blew our cover! Just go in the portal and meet us in Darkhold later! Follow the plan!”
The paladins were Zhent agents too? What the hells was going on here? What had happened during the four lost days?
“You will have to knock us unconscious – make it look good, but not too good.”
The Blades bashed the two traitor paladins, ditching their bodies in a cell.
Just as the guards returned with the High Observer.
Surely they would get a promotion out of this, the guards thought. They had captured a new prisoner and foiled a Zhentarim escape plot! Instead, as they returned with the Observer the prisoners were again free, and had knocked out the two paladins.
The Blades voluntarily returned to their cells while the Observer easily snuffed out the shadow portal. He listened to their explanation as Dent loudly protested. This time the high priest of Torm was swayed by the Blades’ actions and words. They could have easily escaped or injured his men; instead they had prevented the escape of the true Zhentarim agents and remained imprisoned so the truth could be heard.
Oddly, the Observer did not seem convinced about the two traitor paladins. Truth magic could not always be taken at face value. Dent had truthfully believed the Blades were Zhent agents, now the Blades truly believed the paladins were as well. The Observer needed time to sort it out, but in the meantime the Blades could not remain in his kingdom. They had caused enough trouble already and their presence in his lands brought the attention of evil powers. He ordered them escorted safely to the borders of their choosing.
The battle at Darkhold would take place within the week but its results were now out of the Blades’ hands. It appeared the prophecy of them as kingmakers in the conflict had been untrue, they would not even witness the battle. The Blades began a long and uneventful journey to Waterdeep, there to discover what transpired during their four missing days.
While they traveled the battle at Darkhold came and went, its results unknown. At the minimum the plan to disrupt the shadow portals had failed, as no Netherese army showed up in Waterdeep.
Kriv brought the Blades to the Temple of Tempus, his god. There they spoke of the coming wars among the evil factions. Then they began a ritual of divination to determine exactly what had really happened at Spellgard.
The visions brought by the ritual were hazy, showing the Blades freeing the Lady in the tower. This they remembered. They had visions of traveling through shadows with their halfling companion Milli, arriving at a city of white towers. That could only be the Netherese city Oreme. They had flashes of a meeting with lizardfolk living beneath the human city. An exchange was made, a glowing purple crystal handed to the Blades. “Saharel supports you,” the Blades had said. They then traveled through shadows (portals?) back to Saharel and handed her the crystal. This time Milli was not among them.
After handing over the crystal their memory resumed with the Lady congratulating them for passing her four tests. Tests that never happened. There was no hint on the purpose of the crystal. Perhaps the prophecy had not been false and they already influenced the conflict at Darkhold.
The Blades had no idea what to make of this manipulation. One thing they were certain of: they were tired of the Lady of Shadows interfering. She had ruined their chances of an alliance with Elturgard and been a thorn in their side for months. They resolved to destroy her in her home and with her death wipe out Zhent influence in the region. Traveling from Waterdeep to Secomber, they scouted out the small walled town and the central keep.
The town had a hushed atmosphere. Citizens stayed mostly indoors and tightly shut their windows at night. Guards patrolled the exterior of the keep but glanced in fear towards the castle as often as they looked at passerby. Knowing the Lady of Shadows to be a vampire, the Blades approached at dawn. The guards were easily bribed and left their shift a few hours early.
In the courtyard the Blades were quickly attacked by animated gargoyles from the castle walls. The fiends were swiftly defeated and the Blades stood at the entrance to the castle of the Lady of Shadows.