“All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it.
OBADIAH 1:7 NIV
Daggerford is a small but important Sword Coast town that lies along the Shining River on the Sword Coast in the Western Heartlands. It is a walled town with a population of about 900, with a some outlying hamlets, farms and estates bringing the population to over 2,000. The town is strategically placed along the Trade Way and fortified by the local duke’s dwarven-crafted castle. It is primarily a farming community, but a desire to grow and be seen as an alternative to the northern city Waterdeep has caused the town to actively seek craftsmen and artisans. Its streets are unpaved and the buildings are ramshackle in appearance.
That is exactly where you met a man named Arvik Zaltos. He was a necromancer and wanted to hire mercenaries. He had deep pockets, and paid you all in advance a week before your assignment was to begin. He even gave you magical weapons and armor from a secret stash within the city. More than one of you kept a mental note of the location. Everything seemed to be falling in place. Hiring on with him was a no-brainer situation. You even seemed to get along with the other members of your mercenary cabal.
It all seemed simple enough. You were to infiltrate a small, almost meaningless village called Voonlar. This quiet, law-abiding trading and farm-market town of almost 2,000 citizens in the southern Moonsea lands was an easy target. Zaltos explained that an ancient artifact was located within the town. He described the artifact precisely, identified the exact location, provided you with accurate maps to get you there. What he didn’t warn you about was that you were walking straight into a nest of Zhentarium.
But that really didn’t matter, in the end. Your cabal used stealth for most of the expedition, picking off guards one by one. You all left a trail of broken necks, sliced throats, and crushed necks in your wake. When you reached the artifact, a large iron-bound box, then the fight was on. You were discovered, and your group had to fight their way out.
The battle was gruesome, and all of you suffered injuries. However, you were able to make your way out of the Zhentarium base and escape the city. It was only a matter of hours until you delivered the iron-bound box back to Zaltos. He was very pleased with your work, and even granted your requests for danger pay due to the undisclosed nature of the quest. All things considered, you were all very wealthy. Life would be good.
What you didn’t know as you all went happily on your way was that Arvik Zaltos was not only a necromancer, but also a Red Wizard of Thay. As you would discover later, the Red Wizards were building a secret fortress here in the Sword Coast. The fortress included an academy built atop magical portals connected to four elemental nodes—vaults ofimmense elemental power. The Red Wizards intend to harness this energy and use it to threaten and subjugate the cities of the Sword Coast with the help of the Cult of the Dragon.
The elemental portals were built many years ago by a secret society of bored, wealthy, unscrupulous Netherese nobles who founded a cult dedicated to the Elemental Princes of Evil. When the cult’s activities began attracting unwanted attention, its leaders sealed the portals with four elemental keys, dismantled the cult and its temple, and fled. The keys were hidden in altars dedicated to the Elemental Princes of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water and buried underground.
The Red Wizards researched the dead elemental cult, spoke to the spirits of former members, and tracked the four elemental keys to the Sword Coast, where the leaders of the elemental cult had retired long ago. The Red Wizards dispatched operatives to retrieve the four keys and return them to their secret stronghold.
The Red Wizards had already obtained the Air Key, and with your help they have obtained the other three which had been retrieved by the Zhentarium. However, they’ve suffered a major setback: The authorities in Daggerford have captured Arvik Zaltos, the Red Wizards’ main operative in the Sword Coast. His loss puts the entire operation in jeopardy. Worse, due to a fault in the Red Wizards’ communication network, Arvik’s superiors aren’t even aware he’s been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang … and you are scheduled to join him on the gallows.