- Vrae’ree Everhurden, 2nd Level Drow Elf Wizard
- Fo, 3rd Level Human Monk [Faction: Lord’s Alliance, Rank: Cloak]
- Tharivol, 2nd Level Moon Elf Fighter
- Brûne, 3rd Level Human Paladin [Oath of the Ancients]
“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
While in the employ of Lord Dagult Neverember, the Company traveled from the city of Neverwinter to Phandalin to deliver a precious relic to one of the newly formed churches. Now they are headed South towards the town of Greenest. On the way, they discovered the Karst Caves, a base of operations of the Black Spider whom is an agent of the legendary Cult of the Dragon! Quite on accident, the Company was transported to a War Council meeting where the Cult of the Dragon has revealed their plans for conquering the Sword Coast. Now they have decided to return to Neverwinter to report their findings to Lord Neverember and the Lord’s Alliance! What they did not expect is to find Neverwinter in the midst of a massive assault from the Cult of the Dragon …
A once-bustling metropolis, the northern city of Neverwinter lies mostly in ruins after a century of turmoil that culminated in a great cataclysm nearly thirty years ago. Fires, earthquakes, and evil portents destroyed or chased away most of the populace, but even the waking of an ancient primordial could not kill the city completely. Some stubborn natives remained, carrying on in spite of countless hardships. Because of them-and because of the reconstruction efforts of the last decade – Neverwinter still stands, despite its tragedies.
After so much abuse and neglect, much of the city’s architecture is damaged or lies in rubble. Recent repair efforts have given Neverwinter a patchwork appearance; slums are juxtaposed with new construction, all resting on the shattered remnants of old buildings. Certain districts are more intact than others, and former citizens have returned to such areas, thanks to the efforts of the city’s Lord Protector: Dagult Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep.
The Halls of Justice is actually a temple to the god Tyr, a deity of Law and Justice. The temple itself is a radiant and beautiful structure, decorated with marble columns and gold filigree, beneath the high-domed ceiling filled with hundreds of precious gems. The trappings of the building reflect a bygone age, one dedicated to justice and temperance in all things. The temple remained standing completely intact even after the earthquake shattered the city and the chasm swallowed up half the city’s structures.
When Lord Neverember took control of the city, he chose the Halls of Justice as his base of operations for its practical value and its emotional significance to the people of Never winter. The city had long served Tyr, the god of justice, and even after the deity fell nearly a hundred years ago, the residents refused to convert the temple to worship of another god. By restoring the temple to its former glory, Neverember seeks to win over the city’s traditionalists and establish himself as a champion of just rule. He sponsors priests of Torm whose rites emulate the Tyrran tradition, hoping to attract new devotees to the temple and to the Lord’s Alliance.
The Halls of Justice is the headquarters of the Lord’s Alliance of Neverwinter. From here, Lord Neverember struggles to keep his two cities and the territories between safe. He watches as civil war threatens to erupt within Neverwinter due to political strife, Waterdeep is torn apart from within by the children of Lolth, and the trade routes slowly grow unsafe thanks to raiders, bandits, and thieves. He knows that his vision of peace stands upon the edge of a knife.
And this is where the Company chose to teleport using the gem given to them by the Half-Dragon cultist named Cyanwrath. In an instant they had traveled hundreds of miles thanks to a single powerful spell. Vrae’ree watched as Tharivol fell to his knees, sickened by the teleportation. Vrae’ree looked around and gasped.
The marble floors, walls, and ceiling of the Inner Sanctum were smeared with fresh blood. At least a dozen Dragonclaws lay dead, scattered throughout the room. Twice as many Alliance soldiers lay among them. And there, ahead of them near the dias stood five men. And beyond them, the throne where Lord Neverember usually sat to hold audience was splattered with blood. A wide trail of red was splattered from the throne to the rear doors of the room. Someone had dragged away a hostage, and it was possible that it was the Lord Protector himself. And if so, he was severely wounded. Because … there was so much blood.
There five men turned to gaze at The Company. Four of them were Dragonclaws, holding blades still dripping with fresh, red blood. The fifth was a Man draped in heavy, Black robes. He held a wooden staff in his hand, and his face was handsome … beautiful …. impossibly perfect. He frowned, and turned to face the Company. The top of his staff flamed with a flicker of fire, and his eyes seemed to burn with an inner fire.
“WHO ARE YOU,” he shouted. “TO INTERRUPT OUR PROCEEDINGS?!” The Man in Black’s eyes flared angrily.
The Company was still in disguise. Fo and Tharivol still wore the black masks and cloaks of the Dragonclaws, and Brûne was still draped in the dark green cloaks worn by the Lolth-worshipping wild elves.
Vrae’ree stepped forward. “I am Vrae’ree Everhurden of Menzoberranzan. I am my companions were sent here on the behest of Master Cyanwrath of Phlan. We -“
At that very moment, the main double doors to the Inner Sanctum were flung open and two soldiers of the Lord’s Alliance rushed inside. They were outfitted in heavy armor and carried shields and shortswords. One of them wore a dented helm and it was clear they had both seen recent combat from the swathes of blood spattered on their clothing and armor. Both of them raised their swords, and shouted, “For Neverwinter!” And with that, they charged forward towards The Company.
With that, the Company abandoned their ruse. Tharivol and Fo both shrugged off their masks, and rushed towards the Dragonclaws and the Man in Black. Brûne followed, unsheathing his blade as he dashed forward. Meanwhile, Vrae’ree raised his spell focus crystal, and cried out arcane words. He extended his hand, and unleashed Thunderwave.
A thunderous boom shook the room as a wave if force smashed into the Dragon Cultists. Two of the Dragonclaws and the Man in Black were tossed backwards against the far wall and the dias. Two of the Dragonclaws managed to weather the brunt of the Thunderwave, and remained standing.
Tharivol rushed at the Man in Black. He slashed time and again with his swords, opening grievous wounds on the man’s forearms, chest, and belly. The man grimaced and moaned in pain. Tharivol noticed that his features were slowly changing from astoundingly perfect to twisted and ugly. Each new injury seemed to add a new wrinkle, a crooked twist to the nose, or a droop to the eyes.
Fo and Brûne worked as a team. Together, they managed to drop the two closest Dragonclaws. They turned to see the two Alliance soldiers dash past Vrae’ree and engage the two other Dragonclaws who had been blasted backwards. Although the two Cultists were prone, they still managed to wield their weapons with enough finesse to parry and block the blows of the two soldiers.
“For Tiamat!” shouted one of the Cultists as he swung wildly at Brûne.
“No, you are deceived,” said the Paladin as he drove his sword through the Dragonclaw’s belly. “This is the work of Asmodeus!”
The Man in Black stood up, and opened his mouth impossibly wide. A cloud of thick, dark ash spewed from his mouth, and filled the area. The Alliance soldiers and Tharivol began to cough and coke, blinded by the ash cloud. Brûne and Fo both rushed towards the edge of the cloud, unable to see what was going on inside. Vrae’ree however squinted his eyes in horror. He could see perfectly what was happening.
The Man in Black grabbed Tharivol roughly, and spun him around. Withdrawing a wire garotte, he wrapped it around the Moob Elf’s neck and pulled tightly, leaning backwards to pull Tharivol off of the ground. The Moon Elf grunted and groaned in pain, struggling to escape. But the Main in Black was too strong, even with the added strength provided by his new magical gauntlets, Tharivol was bring strangled to death.
Vrae’ree pointed at the Man in Black, and gripped his spell focus in the other hand. He chanted the words that caused glowing Magic Missiles to leap from his fingertips and spiral out to explode on the shoulder, face, and neck of the Man in Black. He growled in anger and pain. Tharivol continued to struggle, and the Man in Black shifted his weight, turned his hips, and then turned to put his back against Tharivol’s back. Mercilessly, the Man in Black leaned forward to add more leverage to the strangulation.
Fo and Brûne rushed to the edge of the ash cloud. Fo noticed the outline of one of the Dragonclaws hovering just inside the cloud. He struck out first with his staff, connecting with a solid hit. He followed through with a series of kicks and punches. Before delivering the last punch, he summoned up his Ki and channeled it through into his fist. The blow landed with enough force to send the Cultist flying through the air, over the heads of a second Dragonclaw and past the Man in Black. The Cultist landed against the wall with a loud, sickening crunch. He slumped to the floor, his neck shattered in three places.
Suddenly, the ash cloud was gone. The two Alliance soldiers, Fo, Brûne, and Fo all ran at the Man in Black. They could hear Vrae’ree chanting again, and they saw more Magic Missiles explode on the Man in Black. He shouted and groaned in pain, but held fast to the Moon Elf. And then suddenly, Tharivol gave a final sputter, and and he went limp. Blood was pouring from his neck, the cruel wire having cut deep into the Moon’s Elf’s flesh. The Man in Black left go, and Tharivol slumped to the ground. He wasn’t moving. It was likely he was dead, and if not dead, then dying.
The Man in Black turned, a wide grin smeared on his vile face. His incredibly beautiful visage was gone now, replaced by a withered, twisted face of an ugly old man. “You don’t how true your words are, Paladin,” the monstrous Man in Black laughed. “But soon you will know without a doubt!” It was clear at this moment that this was no man. He was a monster, perhaps a demon, devil, or even a fiend.
Fo lashed out with his staff from behind the monster, hitting the enemy in the stomach. Then he launched into a flurry of blow, pummeling the monster’s body. The Alliance soldiers attacked from the flanks, fighting almost in unison. Neither managed to hit the Man in Black, but instead landed stabs into his heavy robes. The Man in Black stumbled somewhat, turning to glare at Fo. The Monk watched in despair as the wounds slowly began to regenerate, healing before his eyes.
However, Brûne stepped forward, and shouted mightily, “By the Lord and Lady of the Forest!” He raised his blade, and it began to shimmer with light as positive energy gathered within the Blade. The Paladin channeled divinity into his blade, making it a sacred weapon for only a moment. Brûne slashed the Man in Black, inflicting a savage wound in the monster’s chest.
At that moment, the Man in Black revealed his true nature. The facade of his visage fell away, revealing the face of a vampire! The thing’s face was pale and feral with long white hair, black blood-shot eyes, and long viper fangs. It snarled and wriuthed in pain, the radiant energy surging through its undead flesh. Finally, they had inflicted a wound that this monster could not easily recover from … one that could not be healed so quickly.
The vampire hissed at Brûne. “Tiamat will rule this land,” it spit with a hissing moan. “And when that time comes I will find you. Our buisness is not at an end!” With that, the vampire faded from sight, and turned into mist which began almost instantly to dissipate and fade. The Paladin attempted to call forth vines with his divine powers to entangle the escaping vampire. The vines burst through the marble floor, grasping at the mist but making no contact. The monster was gone.
The remaining Dragonclaw remained in the far corner of the room, lurking within the shadows. He made a dash for the rear doors, but the two soldiers cut him down before he could escape. They turned to The Company, and slapped their swords on their shields. This is was a standard act of honor among the Lord’s Alliance. It was a show of respect.
Fo nodded to the two men with a smile. Then he turned to look at the others, and shook his head. “He will tell the Cult what he knows. Our path may be more difficult from here.”
Brûne was already at Tharivol’s side. He layed hands on the Moon Elf, channeling healing powers into his body. “Lady Mielikki,” he whispered. “Heal this one to us. His task is not done.” The Paladin’s hands seemed to glimmer with a faint light for just a moment, and the gashes on Tharivol’s neck slowly began to close. His skin returned to its normal alabaster rather than grey. And he coughed raggedly, whimpering in pain.
“No,” Vrae’ree shook his head. “The vampire doesn’t know who we are -“
Fo crossed his arms. “You told them-“
“-my name.” Vrae-ree finished the Monk’s sentence. He frowned, suddenly realizing his mistake.
“Our Elven friend will live, but he needs greater healing than my own ability. I have simply stablized him for now.” Brûne raised a hand, pointing to the blood covering the throne and leading dow the steps to the marble floor and out the doors at the rear of the room. “My friends, what are the chances that this blood is that of the Lord Protector?”
Fo glanced at his companions. “If that is the case, then the enemy has him. And they will not keep him alive for long.”
Vrae-ree nodded. “If Neverwinter falls, the Cult of the Dragon will take the entire Sword Coast.”
One of the two soldiers stepped forward. “The time is dire, my friends. The city is at war. An army of undead led by a witch assaults the eastern gate! Their numbers are bolstered by a dracolich! And within the city, the streets are madness. The Cult of the Dragon are going house to house, slaughtering as they go! And even worse, they have broken the wards on Helm’s Hold. The insane and criminal flood the streets, adding to the chaos!”
The other man stepped forward then, the horror in his voice obvious. “Dragons are attacking the city: Blue, Red, and Green. The very rock of the battlements are aflame! The city is nearly lost, my friends. We must flee. We’ll take the Great Tunnel out of the city, and live to fight another day!”
Both men looked at The Company anxiously. It was time for a choice. Would they stay and fight? Would they seek to find and defend the Lord Protector and his family? Or was it a better choice to flee though the Great Tunnel and live to fight another day?
… to be continued …