Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scrying Time Again

Jaren cast his spell sending his magical sight to the ship moot a week north of Waterdeep. The images shocked him, he had seen death before, but these people were harvested.





Friday, October 17, 2014

The Undefeated

Several months ago Janus Winthwil felt small, not only small in the scheme of current events, but small in size, standing in this King’s throne room.  The King and his six advisers towered to heights of twenty feet, while others in the chamber were considered small at fifteen feet.  The room itself was out sized along with the groaning furniture, which Janus and his two companions eyed with suspicious fear whenever a giant adjusted his bulk while sitting upon it.  Janus had only agreed to the elves plan in order to be away from the mental barrage of attacks that had come at him from the below the waves of Stormhaven.  Now standing in the storm giant king’s presence he wondered if he had not traded a psychic death for a physical one. 
Janus looked to his body man, The Powell, who was still retching from the teleportation magic that Aldarr the old had used to bring them here. Aldarr had lowered his illusions when travelling here, revealing himself to be an elf of unknown age, not the old bearded human that was normally seen.


An amazingly handsome Giant stood, motioning for the others to remain seated, his voice low and rumbling, “I am Nimbosus, son of King Rieci. What would you offer to receive the services of his army?”
Janus Winthwil felt his throat constrict while his mouth went dry.  Luckily Janus would not be making his offer with his voice.  The King and all six advisors jolted with surprise feeling Janus touch their psyche as his mental voice spoke to them telepathically, “Inside of six months I can train your best this talent along with several others.” 


Now King Rieci stood causing all in the throne room to rise, “Your offer has been conditionally accepted.  If your training is successful your elves of Stormhaven will have acquired The Undefeated for two years.” 

(The Moonshae Islands) The Dark Druid

Jerit McCaugh spent much of the next hour calling upon the various vestiges in his circle of power; none of them could hope to bring back Meghan Gundwynd from death. To Jerit’s surprise one of the individuals who rushed from the keep to save the caravan was in facta pact druid.
Deloche Silvermane

In the wake of the godsfall Deloche Silvermane felt a shift in ethos and thus followed a shift in profession to become a binder, but with vestiges that sympathized with Deloche’s divine calling.

Also sitting in the keep’s chapel was Shar, who had sustained almost as many wounds as Harsk and Cren Tosh, remained with Jerit and the pact-druid adding his voice to the choir of prayers. The loss was palpable to say the least with both Shar and Jerit largely impacted by the death of the inquisitor. For Shar it was the loss of a mentor and friend, for Jerit- the affair happened so fast he had difficulties sorting his thoughts.

The ambush also resulted in the loss of over three hundred masterwork swords as well as the death of the Balder’s Gate merchant. As far as the crew of the burned out Mermaid Sword, no one seemed to know.

**************

A short time later the Lord of Aithe, Haembar Cauldyth summoned everyone to his war-room. The hour was late but Lord Haembar was an intelligent warden and who bears a real concern for the Moonshaes and the Ffolk he is responsible for protecting. He longed to put these troubled time behind them all. Lord Haembar is a stout man in his middle years whose brawn has not yet gone to fat; he is charismatic, well-spoken and strong for his age.

Food and beverages were set out, enough for twice their number, but no one –not even Harsk- had the stomach for food, only occasionally would someone pick a fruit or pour a cup of port wine to wet the mouth or removed the taste of death. Grimly Lord Haembar broke the silence.

“There are others,” Haembar said still wearing his mail. “priests and necromancers who serve the Iron Hand, and unfortunately for the Moonshae Ffolk, these vile men have gathered enough strength to challenge all who rule these lands.” Haembar liked to talk with his hands which became swings and gesticulations when he became agitated as he was now.

“It started with the Iron Ring who proved to be well organized and informed; spies bankrolled by Iron Clerics who healed them when I,” pounding his fist across his broad chest for emphasis, “came hunting them down.” Lord Haembar picked up his sword fondly smiling to his reflection as he was reminded of a particularly good hunt.

“Then Deloche informs me of druids slain around the Isles and their moonwells despoiled. I have the word of local serfs and small Ffolk who have seen the twisted fell magic- undead at the command of black-robed priests who proudly call themselves The Risen Cult!” as he said this he spat at the floor.
   
“I’m not going to lie to you my new friends,” Haembar said, seemingly now composed. “the Moonshae’s need individuals like the four of you to put things back into balance. I ask that you stand and fight for Chauntea.” Lord Haembar looked to everyone in attendance. In fact my sword will ride with you, if you will have it.”


“Father?” said a soft voice from a far entryway. As the owner of the voice entered the chambers almost at once a petite woman appeared in the radiance of the light. Immediately she seemed to command the room with a natural comeliness that came with worldly honesty and loyalty.

“Agenlian,” Haembar said surprised. “my friends this is my daughter Agenlian Starwand.”

“My Lords I am sorry, I… OH!” Agenlian said then saw the drow. Her surprise was obvious in her startled tone as well as her body language as she instinctively reached for an item. Shar did not see what the item could have been but was not surprised at her hostile reaction.

Agenlian Starwand
“My apologies again.” Agenlian said for her small lapse of etiquette. “Father are you thinking of going out there again? If you are then I will hold you to your promise.” She said in a no contradiction fashion.

Agenlian was a stunning woman in her late twenties of average height and slim build, Jerit intuited her immediately as an alchemist- mayhap the one Cren Tosh spoke about. Entering the chamber behind Agenlian was an older woman, her sister Jerit correctly surmised.

**************

A short time later the companions agreed to split up and investigate the two contacts the necromancer on the Mermaid Sword gave Meghan: a butcher named Duskerell Thimbottle and a wood carver named Kantivel Chonn.

“I thought I saw the wood carver’s place near where they ambushed us.” Shar said, seemingly redeemed in purpose, ready for judgments to be served.

“Very well, Harsk and I will find Duskerell while you and Jerit inspect the wood carvers?” Cren Tosh posed to Shar and Harsk who each conveyed their silent agreement.

**************

The Woodcarvers shop panned out to be boat repair business and judging from the appearance it sold small used fishing boats as well. Shar noticed that it was shortly after midnight which made a dim glow within in the shop dubious. Outside the streets between Shar and Jerit and the Woodcarver’s had only an occasional passersby but no one lingered.

“Let me do the talking.” Shar said to Jerit. “Put up your cloak so that the color of your skin will not show.” Shar naturally did this by habit so Jerit was familiar with the deception.

Coming around the east side of the shop Shar was able to find a privacy fence and door around the back of the shop that was off its hinges. The door was placed back so that it looked normal under casual inspection. Using magic the two mages were able to silently remove the gate and proceed into the back lot where three rows of five capsized fishing boats sat on sawhorses waiting for repair. They looked like pale coffins in the pale moonlight. To the left of Jerit and Shar were two doors, a bay door and an office entry; the two mages approached the office door. The door had no window, only warped shutters to keep out vermin. All was still when without warning the dubious light from a lamp entered the office. That was Shar’s signal to knock.

Tak. Tak. Tak.

From behind the door hands worked and the shutter opened whereby the viewer was stunned to see what he believed were two drow.

 “I thought everyone was dead!” the nervous man said from behind the door. “I have been here alone since the ambush; the weapons are strapped under the boats behind you ready to go.”
“Are they now?” said Jerit revealing himself, “and just where were they supposed to go?”

**************

Not long before midnight the companions debriefed Lord Haembar, Deloche, and Agenlian. Jerit and Shar recovered the lost masterwork weapons from the wood carvers and captured Kantivel Chonn, an Iron Ring spy. The man said the swords were to be sent to Dultann on the other side of Alaron by boat then to a place called Darkhorn Castle where the Iron Ring are.

For Cren Tosh and Harsk the ‘butcher’ proved to be an Iron Cleric in service to Bane. Duskerell had Captain Veldyrina Flaenitarr restrained and was preparing to move her to the nearby moonwell in the Dernall Forest and an individual Duskerell referred to as the Dark Druid.  

“Dear spirits,” Deloche said aghast, “We must hurry before this Dark Druid defiles yet another moonwell or I fear Chauntea will forever be severed from the realms.

**************

The Dark Druid and High Hand, Ord Gauntather floated gracefully over the pale waters of the
moonwell; his fluidity of movement contrasted his vile words of defilement. Ord was not a ‘druid’- was in fact a clerc who knew by divine word that by spilling the life-blood of Chauntae’s followers into her sacred waters would profane the waters and sever her ties to the Moonshaes. Dark syllables issued form his blood red lips.

Dashiell Clouter
At the north point of moonwell Dashiell Clouter, and Catrina Nesher knelt hands and legs restrained before the moonwell; magical ropes and ties prevented anything but simple and total compliance. Behind the two cleric-rangers, Vlakkados and Tyrostarr, the Hooded Menace and Dark Imperceptor; Vlakkados stood with a mace ready to bat Dashiell’s head forward so that when Tyrostarr cut open his throat, Dashiell’s blood  would flow unfettered into the moonwell staining its placid waters. Tears streamed down Catrina’s face eventually making a ripple in the moonwell.

Proudly presiding over the affair were Halamather, Arnivon the anti-paladin and Mack Snome; their combined presence enhanced Ord’s ritualistic processes. Minor priests toiled about them serving their menial needs whilst traveling, mostly Bladesemmer or Umbrusk men vying for attention. Ironically it was one of these minor priests that alerted Arnivon of an attack when an arrow pierced his Adam’s apple causing him to vomit blood.

**************

Floating unnoticed above the moonwell Ord Gauntather watched with horror as his immediate plans unraveled before him. Adventurers lead by the Lord Haembar Cauldyth penetrated the grove and joined his cultists in battle. Outnumbered Ord closed his eyes and spoke the words of the dead, he was descending Ord knew but kept his concentration on the magic. He could hear the battle waged around him but still he kept his eyes shut calling out- summoning undead to his aid.

**************

Arnivon was immediately on the defensive, weapons and magic erupted around the anti-paladin confusing his senses. Vlakkados and Tyrostarr were the first to fall after the unfortunate under cleric; it looked like the same party from the Mermaid Sword! Looking around Halamather was gone and now it was just him and Mack.

Ord Gauntather
Closing in around the perimeter of the grove scores of dirt and moss covered skeletons converged answering Ord’s call; slimy worms dripped from the caked soil on their pale frames. It was just the opportunity Arnivon needed. Calling upon the black Pegasus Arnivon mounted the creature, flew up to retrieve Ord, to make his second narrow escape of the night.

“High Hand Gauntather Vlakkados and Tyrostarr are dead and Halamather gone.” Arnivon advised his divine patron.


“It is unfortunate,” Ord said as he set into a comfortable positon on the Pegasus; his undead covering their escape. “But I know where Halamather has gone, to Callidyrr my squire and the seat of the High King where we will strike next.” 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review 10/15/2014

We began the session Friday morning; Auge finishing his pearly white spindle ioun stone and Jaren concluding three days of construction on the Temple to Tiamat, swirling chromatic colors washing through the veins of the marble. 

A brief morning messaging with Adalwin points to a shortage of guards men; he has drafted bards into the mageguard but not a day has gone by since the maelstrom that there has not been fighting in the streets. Talk wavered between sending 100 Dragonsbane soldiers to bolster peace keeping and to forging new contracts with Twilight House. 

Adalwin handed down an executive order whereby until the unrest subsides all mageguard henceforth will be uniformed and disguised as to appear the same. Because he plans in secret on participating in field detail to attack the elves and the dwarves. The tactic would hopefully keep the founding families offguard. In the meantime Adalwin would extend a ludicris offer to the elves and dwarves... you may have the driftdowns, in other words you'll have nothing and like it. 

In light of this news and in the vein of Versel's tactics on keeping our enemies busy fighting each other, Auge posed a suggestion to anonymously send a message to the elves and dwarves warning them of Adalwin's personal involvement in patrols and identical appearances.

Also during our breakfasts messages came in as well as Arkiel's valid concern for Stormhaven's longterm economic outlook- it would be many cycles before normal commerce resumes. One message from Evaristus Phocas and his information about Kaer Maga: it is receding in accordance to its normal behavior.  

After breakfast the brothers red split up. Auge pretty much busied himself with the night's Jacket and Ale event. First stopping by Sunbow Mansion to discover a somber affair as many of the patrons were sailors who had lost everything in the maelstrom.  Speaking with one of the Scarski's Auge pays 1500 gold to move Sunbow's whores and operation for the night to the Cinder Block. 

After Sunbow Auge then heads to the Dragon's Breath to make a large purchase of cigars for that night. After enventually making his way in Auge discovers a mystery- Atavah Sunthrower is gone. 

Durg logs in time at the office as he looks for a way to follow through with the proposed plan of warning the elves and dwarves of Adalwin's deceptions. He comes up with three scribes that would be easy to frame the message on: Eichorn, Feagle, and Bailentine (a goblin or whatever). 

Jaren and Versel teleport to Nimbus to retrieve Anan Viator. While in Nimbus they speak with Erilis about expanding SONS presence in Nimbus by setting up a corporation with him as our representative. Again he expressed interest in Ioun stones- green or lavender ellipsoids, offering to pay creation costs but he's in no hurry. Seeing we have ships waiting to dock that have ogre-barbarians Versel sets them on lumbering detail- at least for the next three days. 

Back in time for lunch Jaren and Versel return with Anan and her two guards Max and HP. Once here she asks if she can plant a feather token in front of the Cinder Block. A tree from the continent, tonight during our party. 

About this time Auge returned to the Cinder Block and informed his brothers about the Dragon's Breath. Investigating the Dragon's Breath we find a couple of house wizards/ members: Potior and Hiens Imber. Together we were able to piece together Youvalan's capture of Atavah using her Truename as well as the pilfering of the membership database, purchase orders, and the personal affects stored here by the various members- including Auge's luxurious smoking chair.  There was dried blood and magical copy ledgers that hold a truename in its code, but Jaren has yet to puzzle it out. 
Auge tasks the White Spider with 1500 gold to see all the humidors and equipment moved to the Cinder Block where the New Dragon's Breath will now be located. 

Later that night, during the Jacket and Ale, a dozen individuals arrived each bearing gifts, disguised and accompanied with security. Each were given free memberships to the New Dragon's Breath as well as a Sipping Jacket. Over time either by scent or by their own reveal we identified each: 

Cadmar Embry
Melissa Izanami
Maycorth
The Sultan
Vesper
Sampson Dragonsbane
Savidia Rockhammer (Gnome alchemist)
Archia Starkmore
Turlock
Potior
Hiens Imber
Fiest
Cramston

We begin next session still at the party, speaking first with Savidia. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In the Blink of an Eye


Sarosh and Indira sipped freshly brewed coffee on the balcony, watching the sun come up on Friday morning. She reflected on how odd it was to see the serenity of the oceans after the past weeks unchecked destruction.None now doubted the existence of a malevolence beneath the waves, and whatever it was, it was first and foremost an enemy. Even with the recent upheaval on topside, the violence, destruction, and death toll was a massacre unlike most Stormhaveners had ever even imagined, let alone experienced. Even the most insensitive closed minds could hear the anguished astral cry of thousands upon thousands of souls severed from this earthly world in the blink of an eye.

Over the course of the week, most of the followers and henchmen loyal to Jaren had come to congregate at the Cinder Block. Although the Dragon Docks stood strong, they were all but deserted. What ships that were able to escape the maelstrom had sailed off to ship moots or even farther, and none of them could blame the captains' decision.
Vormite was quick to pick up on the doom and pall over the driftdowns when the LC hunkered down for their trap. He quickly dispatched Sons ships to get them out of harbor and on the seas.  He then ordered all dock guard to fall back to the Harbormaster dock office and to work only towards saving company assets and people. Hislop, Bar-Bazu and his cousin Breaker, and Firi all seemed to treat Vormite a little bit differently. He had proven to them all, in both the best and worst of times, that he was a leader to be trusted and respected for his intelligence and preparedness. Besides themselves, they were able to save about 50 others from the  sodden execution the rest of the driftdowns were subjected to. They all peered out from the reinforced Harbormaster office and watched all they debris, fallen ships, flotsam and jetsam that made up the driftdowns succumb to the torrent of the enraged ocean and sink forever below. In the blink of an eye, the driftdowns was no more.

Filis Fey was warming another pot of tea friday morning, and was hosting a small party of close associates in the lobby of the Dragon Nest, a room that has come to be known as Filis' Tearoom.  Dalia Toma, her eager student and devotee despite her own talents, was there with her uncle, Pippen. Embre, Jaren's master craftsman, was also here. He had found his only real friendship here in Filis, who seemed to regard the lost flame of the azer with profound pity.  Sarosh and Indira joined, as she had in particular begun to enjoy morning tea with Filis. The discussion was a little different today, because it was friday. The brothers seemed to have an energy they saved up for fridays, and the staff and indeed the neighborhood around the Cinder Block fed off that energy, always culminating with the week's celebration on friday night. Neither Lord Auge nor Lord Jaren had announced a theme yet, and there was a lot of talk about what Neutral Grounds was going to be like tonight.
There was talk over tea of tributes to the fallen, prayers for the lost, and tranquil morose moods. There was talk of celebrating those who survived. Then there was talk of using the destruction from the Beast to fuel a surge in those looking for some protection from such a creature - couldn't the church built by Lord Jaren offer that hope? In the blink of an eye, the worship of a dragon god started to make sense.

 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Gazetteer: Lowport

Notes of Lowport
Lowport is a large city on the east coast of the great continent. It is more correctly classed as a metropolis, boasting a regular population of 50,000 people. The true count of people in the city can be as high as 70,000 depending on trade seasonal influx. Low port used to be part of a trio of city states, being the southern most city of the three. Ten days of travel on the coast road to the north is Shabbad, the coastal port of the dragon king Kazzurog. Ten more days on the road to the north brings one to Rendgard,  little more than a surface trade city serving the needs of an Underdark collection of races in the ample caverns below this small walled city. Of the three cities, Lowport is by far the biggest, wealthiest, and most secure. An impressive navy is complemented by an effective guard and army corps in the defense of Lowport's interests.

Lowport is mostly humans and dwarves, but there are several races that call it home. Of course, as with any major port, nearly any type of creature could be here.
45%  humans
20%  dwarves
10%  1/2 orcs
 5%   1/2 elves
 5%    elves
 5%    gnomes
 5%    halflings
 2%    1/2 dragon humans
 1%    1/2 dragon ogres
 1%    drow
 1%    kobold

Above all else, Lowport is a trade hub. It has a large number of exports, as follows. Lumber, ore, refined metals, jungle produce, salted fish, gems, fine crafts and finished goods are all major components of Lowport's wealth and trade. The city's docks rival any for the finest docks in the world. Expansive and well guarded by the navy, as many as fifty ships can be at dock. Separate from the ocean docks are the river docks set in the city within the Low River, which bisects the city as it empties into the ocean. This river drains a massive lake far inland and further south, a lake that has come to be known as Elf Lake. This lake is home to two other cities, a city of elves called Elfhome, and a city of ferrations called Haven. Being down river, Lowport serves as the trade hub for those communities, and any others along the Low River.

With such diversity comes many points of view, but generally the city has an alignment of lawful nuetral, with 14 major public temples. Ra, the Sun God is the most popular church, worshipped by humans, dwarves, and half-elves in three different temples. Most dwarves, especially those of wealthy or minor noble status worship Moraddin in a grand temple located close to a volcano dwarf embassy. Kord is paid homage to by humans, dwarves, half-dragons and half-orcs in two different temples. Fharlanghn is just as popular as Kord, worshipped in two different temples by sailors, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, half-elves and humans. Boccob and Hecate  each have a temple that serve the wizards and sages of the Coast, regardless of their ethos. Set has one temple that serves the needs of rites of death, and the evil plotters of Lowport. Erythnul  and Gruumsh each have a temple, each being worshipped by violent humans and half-orcs. Nearly all half-orcs that live in Lowport still worship their all but forgotten god Pelor, a sun god, in a fairly large and richly appointed temple.

As mentioned, the city is cut in half by a river, and the two halves are set apart by a number of differences. The northern half is older, and the original site of the city. Most natives call this area "Old Port". This area is riddled with sinkholes that open up to the sea caverns below the soft limestone surface. The southern half, known as "New Port", is built upon much harder stone, and was carefully planned and constructed by the humans and dwarves that settled this city nearly 1000 years ago. It sits upon a marvel of dwarven engineering, an expansive sewer system that continues to serve as well now as it ever has. Although Old Port has a large number of fishing docks and a few trade docks, the navy and large trade ship docks are in New Port. Old Port has a large number of business districts, a few middle class neighborhoods, and a lot of lower class and slums, especially around the dangerous areas around sinkholes. New Port is home to most of the temples, government buildings, military housing, upper class and middle class neighborhoods. New Port has been built up and expanded much more over the centuries than Old Port. It has a couple of inner walls that shows its growth, and is surrounded by a sturdy outer wall. Old Port is also surrounded by a great outer wall, but it has not expanded nearly as much, so there are some buildings and commerce outside of that wall. Both sides of the river are covered with river dock and hippopotamus holding pens.

As a city state built upon trade, it's highest government authority is The High Trade Council. Nine councillors sit on this board, and serve ten year terms once voted in by the sitting councillors. It costs ten thousand gold pieces to enter an election, and councillors are the only ones to vote. Most councillors are wealthy merchants or senior guild leaders. To accompany the rule of the council, the Minister of Lowport is the highest office in Lowport government. It also has a term of ten years, and only navy, army, or guard officers may serve. They are voted on by navy, army, and guard members, and then by the councillors. The candidate presented need only win four votes from the council to be confirmed; that is to say it takes six negatives to deny a candidate. The minister runs the defense and navy of Lowport, and he also has the authority to call for a vote of no confidence on any councillor at any time. When this happens, that councillor must go before the council and win a simple majority of five votes to keep his seat. No one may serve more than one term as Minister.

There are a few threats for the city to defend against. Kazzurog marks his border by the Coast Road and Five Tower Road. Although not in his kingdom, the port city of Shabbad is his for all intents and purposes. The ultimate antagonist, his subjects and minions are too dangerous to not guard against, though they rarely make trouble or go against law or even their own word. Inside the Dragon King's lands, it is rule through force and and will, ever watchful for friends and enemies alike to usurp what is yours.
Piracy has been a particular scourge the past 300 years or so. They literally come from all over to poach the shipping lanes to and from the port city.
Horcton is a ruined city upriver. It used to be the home of a culture of noble half-orcs that strangely and suddenly suffered drastic decline 500 - 300 years ago. It is often whispered by some that the city lost some divine protector, and that loss poisoned the bloodlines of these good peoples and caused them to revert to the more violent ways of their orcish heritage.
Not to be discounted is the ferocity of the weather and the landscape of the continent. After all, it's a jungle out there.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

(The Moonshae Islands) Cauterizer

The pearl, so perfect in symmetry and prized for its beauty and associations with illusion magic; as Cren Tosh fed a pearl to his crystal drake companion Baktoon the creature began to dim then disappear.  Baktoon would remain in this state for a time or until Cren fed it a different gemstone.
It was two nights after the lacedons attacked at the behest of the necromancer, the Mermaid Sword arrived at Aithelar’s small, shallow harbor. Shadowy docks skirted the shores of the small bay in a rough horseshoe with clustered fishing boats on one side and trade wharfs on the other. The air had a stale salty taste that prompted Cren Tosh to pull a bottle from his haversack and drink deeply of the elvish wine he had procured from one of the three traveling ladies.
For Cren Tosh this too was a type of homecoming; while his human heritage could be traced back to the Netheril, a fact Cren’s father never failed to remind him of, Cren’s mother was a Llewyrr elf, elves native to the Moonshaes. While Cren had no memory of the islands however he was surprised to discover a comfortable ease that came with the Moonshaes- like a pull from elvish wine.
Around the half-elf the crew was preparing a night dock as individuals from his group took up sentry duties knowing that if something were to go wrong it would be while they were disembarking and unloading the cargo. Speaking of cargo it was Cren’s idea to have the three highborn women and merchant accompany them to the town’s high keep. Now that there had arrived however, that may not have been a good idea. The threat of an ambush was large in front of them but so was there danger in being left behind.
“I will be glad to be on solid ground Cren.” Harsk said from behind deep circles, it did not look like the dwarf had not slept more than ten hours the whole journey. “I am exhausted. Tell you true I am ready for some of that ‘lordly hospitality’ Panthras advertised.” He said exasperated.
Cren Tosh looked down and smiled at his dwarven counterpart, “I hear they have an alchemist at the Keep Harsk, a cute former priest of chauntea who might be able to help in that regard, maybe remove your exhaustion.” Cren teased.
“As long as it is not rage drops this time.” Harsk lamented.

**************
Standing atop the forecastle Jerit McCaugh watched as Aithe materialized through the night’s
darkness. Jerit could see the docks as well as an old man- barely discernible was it not for the lamp he held signaling the Mermaid Sword to an empty berth. The town was still, almost dead were it not for the various braziers and torch light emanating from the town’s high Keep.
Jerit turned to signal to the captain when is eyes happened upon Meghan’s. She seemed to hold him in place with her gaze almost against his will, but what was strange for Jerit- he welcomed it. Jerit felt helpless in her regard but at the same time comforted. Their intimacy on the Mermaid Sword was intense and brief; they would not likely get another chance to come together again, it was an experience Jerit longed for again.
“I must apologize.” came an unsuspecting voice, the even-toned words of Shar Auvryndar. The drow had materialized out of the darkness like the town had, but unlike the town Shar was vibrant and alive.
Jerit shot his eyes away from Meghan. “Wha what? Oh hey Shar, you know it’s not widely accepted to sneak up on someone; especially since we are expecting trouble.” Jerit said obviously unnerved at his own lack in awareness.
“Nevertheless Jerit before any more time passes my friend I want to extend to you my sincerest apology.” Shar said, his purple eyes expressing a brotherly love for Jerit McCaugh as well as for Meghan Gundwynd.
“My friend,” Jerit said at length. “Let us put our energies toward getting the cargo to the keep and put this unpleasantness behind us as men shall we?”
With a clasp of the hands and a smile, Jerit and Shar let the matter dissolve.
**************
From the shadow of a nearby woodcarver’s shop the anti-paladin watched the Mermaid Sword make berth. His mind swirled with the memories of that vessel during the godsfall before coming to the Moonshaes. How poetic he thought.
“Cargo?” he heard the man with the lantern ask a woman on the deck. The anti-paladin listened blocking out the eminent voice of the remarkable sword at his side.
“For the keep,” The woman, presumably the captain of the Mermaid Sword, said with no hesitation, “ten carts.”  
The anti-paladin, in service to the New Bane- The Iron Hand. Retreating from the scene and entering the rear of the woodcarver’s shop. The anti-paladin could hear the carts being brought about outside, heavy oxen pulling carts over the rough planks of the dock. Inside the woodcarver’s shop the anti-paladin was greeted with the sweet spice of various woods and oils as well as the stench and sweat of about four dozen thugs, cut-throats, and archers of the Iron Ring- rouges in service to the Grim Lord.
“It is time.” the anti-paladin said flatly.
**************
Under the cover of night the ten carts, loaded down with over a thousand swords as well as goods from the Sword Coast plotted slowly up the gently sloping streets towards Aithe Keep. The drovers, one for each cart, looked no older than ten or twelve causing the group of five adventurers to quickly find themselves now responsible for the passengers, oxen, and drovers to the Keep. Shar could see how the street climbed up toward a ridge where sat the keep and how if he were to plan an ambush it would be…

Without warning from a side street a huge wagon pulled by six heavy draft horses loaded with thick logs lumbered out coming to a halt ten feet in front of the caravan blocking their path. Shar stood up just in time to watch a second identical wagon charge out from the rear blocking their retreat behind them. On the rooftops two dozen archers emerged over the edge of their perch to train their bows on the defenseless drovers, merchant, as well as the three highborn ladies. Behind the barricading wagons more brutish thugs took cover waiting. From around the first wagon-barricade came two mounted individuals.
“Drop your weapons to the ground or I will give the command and have my archers eliminate the women and children. Do it now!” the first rider commanded motioning with his arm outstretched his palm up and out in typical Baneite fashion.
The speaker was a heavily scarred and tattooed swordsman wearing black splint mail and vestments adorned with smug symbols. He was mounted on a black Pegasus whose wings burned with a blue crackling light and finally on the anti-paladin’s back was a sword that Shar recognized at once. To the anti-paladin’s right was a younger man perhaps the scarred man’s son or younger brother who was also wearing an identical uniform of black splint mail and vestments; he held a mace that looked like a viciously bent and serrated gauntlet at the end of a wrapped bone shaft. This individual was mounted on a hideous unrecognizable dire skeletal animal.
Surrendered weapons struck the ground with forlorn clamor and were hastily retrieved by several thugs from behind the wagons. Shar was pained to see his magic in the hands of such brigands but they did not take his staff. Looking around he had the count at forty-six including the mounted leaders, his darkvision was the best among his friends therefore after the quick count Shar signaled to the others.
To Shar’s left Cren Tosh was gathering his energies causing the air to thrum around them his crystal drake invisible and ready. Ahead on a separate cart Harsk was slowly reaching into his beard for something and beyond that, four carts away Megan and Jerit was quietly conversing. They were planning something. Shar would be ready.
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“Jerit take my phantom steed to the keep,” Megan commanded.
“No.” Jerit protested.
“We are outnumbered go and warn Lord Haembar, we will hold them off as long as we can  until help arrives- I have a task to perform.” Megan eyes bore into the Anti-paladin’s sword, her words left no more room for objections despite the fact they had at least two archers trained on each one of them. There was no time for delay.
Jerit McCaugh never saw what happened after he leapt high off the wagon, but the heat reminded him of a fireball. Before hitting the ground after his leap from the cart, Jerit activated Meghan’s phantom hippogriff underneath him lifting him immediately into the air. The sound of the combat below was earthen, like a giant pounding his fists on the ground. Jerit was grateful for being in the air.  
In less than a minute later Jerit was inside Aithe Keep and in the presence of Lord Haembar of Aithe and his council, “My lord, my friends are in danger on the streets below! Minions of the Iron Hand! I implore you, gather what men you have and follow me!”
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The anti-paladin watched with growing frustration because as he gave the command to fire most of the archers reflexively fired up at the fleeing mage; each of their missiles finding only air as they underestimated the speed at which the mage flew.
This gave time for the women and children to take cover under the carts as the remaining volley from the archers who did follow orders were only able to kill the portly commoner. The anti-paladin’s cohort Mack spurred his skeletal mount at a charge, closing the distance between him and the dwarf adventurer and the brash half-elf.
Along the street Iron Ring thugs emerged from the shadows moving for the crates of weapons heedless of the adventurers that were supposed to be dead during the first wave of arrows. Purple waves of color fanned out from a drow defender defeating many of the unsuspecting thugs, their forms lying unmoving on the stone cobbled street.
Archers on the south side of the street retrained their bows to the half-elf and fired. When this happened their arrows halted in mid-air, reversed direction and rocketed toward their shooters wounding each to a man. The archers on the north side of the street however focused all their poisoned arrows on one opponent- the woman inquisitor.
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Meghan recognized the anti-paladins sword at once, it was Cauterizer- an evil intelligent sword responsible for bending wielders to its will. It was also her Mystra’s divine will that she and Shar were meant to come to the Moonshaes, to not just guard weapons to the islands but to capture Cauterizer and destroy it.
Arrows rained down around her one catching her in the shoulder while another created a think line of blood down her left forearm. Mystra’s calling left her no other choice; proclaiming judgment upon the anti-paladin for all to hear Meghan Gundwynd drew her weapon and asked Mystra for divine favor and aid in the coming conflict.
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The anti-paladin named Arnivon drew Cauterizer and dismounted his black Pegasus and as he did lightning flashed as the Pegasus transformed back into an onyx figurine. Ahead came the woman heedless of the arrows around her, she had an aura of bright blue surrounding her stern features- an aura of goodness and loyalty. It was an insult to Arnivon who knew only dominance and strength in his service to the New Bane.
Behind the charging woman magic and weapons clashed between the Iron Ring and the adventurers. Farther sill, at the docks, the Mermaid Sword burned in her berth.
“Come to me you cunt!” Arnivon said. His words black with hate, “Let us have our contest of faiths and be damned.”
Her response came in a language Arnivon did not understand but nevertheless captured the meaning- strength and favor from her goddess in battle, pitiful really.
The inquisitor’s leading attack came down from the right, meaning to cripple Arnivon’s weapon arm; but the slightest of backward movement from the anti-paladin put the weapon just beyond contact. His counter attack placed her off balance but was not meant to be lethal- it was the first maneuver in a series of disciplines taught to him by the cunning sword.
As the anti-paladin and inquisitor fought, each of Arnivon’s attacks put him ever closer to execution as the battle for the thousand swords waged on in the background.
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In the seventh cart Shar found himself pinned down by archers from both sides; he was helpless to stop the brutes from unloading crates of swords. Every now and again Shar would lob a glue-bag or alchemist fire but he could not see if his efforts prevailed. Shar could hear Harsk’s grunts and shouts; it sounded like he was doing well for himself. Cren Tosh’s familiar voice pierced the clamor of the ambush with magic spells then Shar heard something else. More warriors from the docks, loud and brash thugs finished with the Mermaid Sword. They came in two groups of six and seemed anxious to join their illicit friends already with a taste for blood. Then another sound, this time the rumbling came from up the street; it was the thunder of galloping horses- Jerit had returned with help from the keep.
Shar broke cover and looked up the street to in fact see five mounted high-guard veering down the avenue… then in the first second; breaking his line of sight was Meghan fighting one on one with the anti-paladin. Shar watched helpless as during the next second, Meghan swung for the anti-paladin’s weapon arm, but the vile swordsman stepped swiftly bringing his sword across in a vicious slash across her neck. At the end of the third second Shar realized what had just happened.
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Jerit cleared a wide corner of the street just behind the Lord Cauldyth and his court just in time to watch as the anti-paladin’s counter attack cut off Meghan’s head. The alarming death-strike was accompanied by a flaming burst of fire causing no blood to spill or spray as the woman’s head struck the cobbled street.
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Seeing that reinforcements have arrived Arnivon called for his black Pegasus and retreated to the skies and flew towards Dultann; Mack Snome following closely behind.