“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”
- Adon Cordell, 17th level Human Celric Warpriest of Tempus
- Grogon, 17th level Half-Orc Fighter Battlemaster
- Sunz Tzu, 17th level Human Monk
Adon woke up to find that he and a few other prisoners were being carried away by Drow. He found that the Foam Curse was no longer in effect and connected this to the departure of the green dragon. Maybe the dragon was using a spell or ability that blocked magic, arcane or divine. In any case, Adon invoked the healing magic of his war god, Tempus, and surged out positive energy that healed himself and the other prisoners.
Sun Tzu, Grogon, and Adon entered a desperate mêlée with the Drow. There is a reason the Drow are feared. They are masters of their crafts. The combat seemed to sway in the favor of the dark elves for some time and without Adon’s healing spells, the mercenaries might have fallen victim to the swirling poisoned blades of their dark-skinned enemies. But the tide turned when Adon cast a spell of Light on his sword which put the Drow at a disadvantage in the battle. One by one, the dark elves fell, until finally, the mercenaries found themselves alone in the now ruined central tower of Helm’s Hold.
The three congratulated themselves on their victory and made quick introductions. All of them were prisoners of Helm’s Hold. All of them had been mistreated by the forces that controlled the prison. All of them agreed that they needed to search the immediate area for fellow prisoners that might have survived, and then they needed to find a place to rest.
They were discouraged to find that their comrades in arms, Abernacky, Maug, and Wraith, had been carried away by the Drow. The three searched the area but found no clues to where the Drow had taken the three mercenaries. Drow were masters of concealing their movements and trails. The only clue was the general direction that they were being carried. Adon explained that after they rested he’d like to search the area for secret doors.
Sun Tzu looted the bodies of the fallen Drow. He took finely crafted scimitars with the intention of using them to trade when they went into the closest city. He spied the brooches on around the necks of the two female fighters and reached down to take one. He knew of these artifacts. Each dark elf house had them and they held great magic. Lore said that each was blessed (or cursed depending on your point of view) by Lolth, the Queen of the Demonweb Pits. ANd Suz Tzu knew that lore also told that a House would not allow a brooch to be stolen or fall into the hands of heretics. Each artifact was traceable by magic and would bring down the wrath of the Drow on its possessor. This knowledge only made Suz Tzu desire the jewelry even more.
As his fingers touched the surface of the brooch, there was a sizzling explosion of purple energy that tossed Sun Tzu backward through the air and sent his now limp body sliding across the floor for several feet. Adon checked the still smoking monk and glanced back to Grogon to explain that Suz Tzu was still alive, but unconscious. Laying a hand on the monk, Adon again channeled the healing powers of Tempus to heal Suz Tzu’s wounds. He also chanted the words of a prayer that would reveal any traps in the area. The only thing that revealed itself as a trap was the two brooches. Adon explained that they were protected by a powerful Glyph of Warding.
The three of them searched the hallways and rooms nearby the central tower. They did not have the time or courage to investigate the entire complex of Helm’s Hold. That would take several hours. All the prisoners that they found were dead. The Drow were known for killing their slaves and prisoners and not allowing them to be rescued or saved from captivity. Finding no other prisoners alive, they returned to the meeting room that Suz Tzu had discovered on the first level of the tower. They locked themselves inside and settled down for a much needed long rest.
Several hours later, the three emerged carefully from the meeting room. They had taken the time to place fallen timbers and masonry to make it look like the room and hallway had been blocked off during the blasts that rocked the entire prison. Going back down to the bottom floor, they were keenly aware that all of the Drow corpses were missing. Apparently, their kin had come to collect them. Adon explained with a grimace that it was likely all the dark elves they had killed hours ago were now mindless zombies, animated to once again serve the Dark Queen of Spiders. Again, no traces of their passage were found. They had departed without a trace.
The three started to search the large bottom room and after about thirty minutes Adon managed to find something interesting. He touched a section of the wall that felt like metal but looked like stone. He put the palms of his hands flat on the surface of the wall section and pushed. The symbol of Tempus on his arm flared to light, glowing with red and orange light. It swirled down his arm to his fingertips, then on to the surface of the wall to outline an intricate design etched on to the surface of the wall in the shape of a five-headed dragon.
“Tiamat.” breathed Sun Tzu.
Adon felt the section giving way so he pushed harder. The section began to slide in and then started to move on its own. The three watched as the roughly six-foot wide section slid backward about ten feet, and then slid to the right to fall seamlessly into place. They looked in to see that a vast staircase extended down, down, down into the darkness. The only light seemed to be small sections of the wall that glowed very slightly with red, green, blue, and ivory hues.
After some discussion, the three decided that they should climb up the tower and look at their surroundings to get their bearings. They found that they were not far from the fabled city of Neverwinter. The city had weathered the assault from its enemies. The walls were shattered in places, and many of the buildings still burned. Thick white smoke rose from within the walls.
“Men of the Lord’s Alliance are on the walls, collecting their dead,” said Adon. “Neverwinter remains, again, ready to rebuild.”
The three of them departed the halls of Helm’s Hold and wandered out into the battlefield. They spent nearly two hours searching the dead for weapons and armor. They saw that the field was littered with the bodies of men, elves, orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and even some dragons. But no Drow.
As the three fitted together piecemeal armor and gathered a few weapons, the soldiers of the Lord’s Alliance were busy collecting the dead. They worked in teams of fou. Each team had a wagon where they would pile the corpses of men or elves. The other bodies were stacked into piles for later burning.
Sun Tzu made an effort to talk to the soldiers. They were stand-offish and official in their interaction with the monk. They explained that the city was recovering from the attack from a coalition of the Cult of the Dragon and the Red Wizards of Thay. Apparently, they had come with a sizeable force of dragons. But the conversation ended abruptly when Sun Tzu hinted that they had come from Helm’s Hold where Drow had taken over the prison.
“The dark elves are a dire threat to your city, soldier,” explained Suz Tzu. “I intended to enter the city and speak with your leaders.”
The soldier seemed to become suspicious. “Wait, did you say that you were prisoners in Helm’s Hold?”
The monk sensed the mistake. “We fought with a green dragon there and several Drow.”
“But you were a prisoner there,” said the soldier as his comrades all put their swords at the ready. “The prison is set aside for the Spellplauged … the Infected … sick and insane.”
At this point Grogon joined in, followed by Adon. The three made it clear that they wished to enter the city and warn the leaders of the Drow presence in the prison. They were not welcome until Adon explained he was a cleric who could offer to heal to the sick and wounded.
The three entered the city of Neverwinter and were directed to the Halls of Justice, the main headquarters for Neverember and the Lord’s Alliance faction. Along the way, Adon stopped at several different shops seeking to sell one of the Drow daggers. None of the shops were open due to the recent siege of the city. When they finally arrived at the Halls of Justice, they found that it had been converted to a hospice for the wounded of the city. Adon began using his divine healing magic to care for the injured while Grogon and Sun Tzu was directed to the person in charge.
The man introduced himself as being Elden Vargas and explained that he was in charge at the moment. He led the two out of the sick room and into a private meeting area. He explained that the city was in turmoil and still recovering from the assault. He listened to the story told by Grogon and Sun Tzu and quickly picked up on the fact that although he was warning about what had happened at Helm’s Hold, they were also hinting that they’d like to be hired to go back and face whatever evil lay under the prison.
Elden Vargas knew who the two were and made it clear that he knew they were prisoners at Helm’s Hold for their part in the conspiracy against Neverwinter and the Realms with the Red Wizards of Thay. “I visit Helm’s Hold from time to time, you see,” he added with a sly smile. “And I know that you three among the prisoners there. If what you say is true, and the enemy has a foothold in Helm’s Hold then they must be using the ancient Dwarven tunnels leading through the undercity of Gauntlgrym.”
When the two hinted again that they might be willing to return to Helm’s Hold, Elden assumed that they were just mercenaries seeking payment. “I do not want you to return to the prison. In fact, I do not even want you to stay in this city. You were prisoners but now you are free. Under the circumstances, I will turn a blind eye to you if you leave immediately.” After a slight pause, he added: “I will make sure that the secret passage you found is dealt with and that Helm’s Hold is secure.”
And with that, the two mercenaries decided that they really had no wish to return to the prison and enter that dank, dark dungeon below it. They said their goodbyes to Adon who was busy with tending to the wounded, and the two of them left the city.
And Grogon, well he wasn’t sure where his path would take him from Neverwinter. He decided he would travel with the monk for a time, and perhaps he would find a place to call home again along the way.
All they knew for sure was that they were free again, and that was good.