The Edge of Empire

Closed Fist, Open Vents

The Irregulars made their way up the mountain, the town of Overlook-Triel sitting nervously in the valley to the South.

They reached the Monastery of the Sundered Chain at sundown, whatever “sundown” might mean in a nation ever lit by a second magical sun, to find it already besieged by sentient serpents of every kind.

The five battled their way through the complex until they found Thurgoth in a last stand, battling on his own against a dozen serpent creatures, the corpses of his fallen comrades littered about the Monastery’s Great Hall of Moradin.

The five joined the fray and soon turned the tide, driving their enemies deeper into the complex. In the aftermath of the battle, they learned from Thurgoth that the monks had discerned the Serpent Peoples’ secret way south through the mountains: a set of ducts designed to ventilate the complex of dwarven mines that run throughout the complex.

While the mines themselves were sealed as a matter of course during wartime, the ventilation system is often overlooked, since no force could squeeze through the ducts in sufficient numbers to be a threat. But that rationale doesn’t account for serpents.

The next step was clear: Thurgoth would lead the band of Irregulars to an area at the base of a neighboring mountain called The Vents. From there, they would gain access to the ventilation system, and make their way to its heart, where a mechanism was in place that would allow it to be sealed.

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Enter: the Irregulars

The returned empire of Netheril casts an ever-lengthening shadow, growing its power through subterfuge, magic, and dark alliances. Sembia and Waterdeep have fallen under its influence, leaving the old kingdom of Cormyr as Faerun’s last significant bastion of human self-rule.

With Cormyr threatened to the East by Sembia, and to the far west by Waterdeep, only one tiny nation stands between Cormyr and complete destruction: the tiny theocratic kingdom of Elturgard.

Elturgard’s northernmost city, the dwarven settlement of Overlook-Triel, sits on the trade road that runs east into Waterdeep. And it was to Overlook-Triel that six travelers came, each on their own journey, only to find themselves thrown together by the realities of war.

Thurgoth, a traveling dwarven merchant and devout follower of Moradin, arrived first, and was quickly approached by Elder Cadrick, a fat, red-bearded dwarf in highly decorated armor. From Elder Cadrick, Thurgoth learned that Overlook-Triel was steeling not for an invasion from Waterdeep to the East, but for an invasion from the Serpent kingdom of Najaraa to the North!

A small mountain range navigable only through a narrow pass separated Najaraa from Elturgard, and that pass was guarded by the stronghold of Bordrin’s Watch.

With all those deemed suitable for frontline combat (Dwarves, Mounted Paladins, and those trained for militarized martial combat) sent north to the fort or stationed on walls of Overlook-Triel, there were few left in the city to deal with anything unexpected.

But, Elder Cadrick explained, the unexpected had happened: The Serpent Folk had found another way through the mountains. They had learned how to bypass Bordrin’s Watch, and their advance forces were already wreaking havoc in the unprotected countryside outside Overlook-Triel’s walls!

Elder Cadrick recruited Thurgoth for an important mission: take a path up the northern mountains to the Monastery of the Sundered Chain, and consult with the cloistered monks there as to the Serpent Folks’ possible secret routes. But Thurgoth did not return, and the Serpent raids in the area continued to increase in number and scope.

It was into this increasingly desperate situation that the others came.

Arakos, an elf dressed in tribal garb from the Grey Plains that stretch from the Loudwater River into Netheril itself.

Augustus, a fighting man with an unknown past.

Kirshakru, a strange being made entirely of crystal.

Saranco, a robed elf who fought only with his mighty fists.

Faegin, an Eladrin emissary from Evereska, sent up from Eltur to help where he may.

Deemed unproven for mounted or infantry combat, they would not be sent to Bordrins Watch. Instead, these Irregulars would follow in Thurgoth’s footsteps and learn some means of finding and sealing the Serpent Folks’ secret mountain path.

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A Gathering

In ones and twos, they came. For some, the journey was short, if difficult; for others, practically a lifetime. The mountains, never safe, were even more treacherous in this time of claw and shadow.

At the appointed place, high in the rocky crags, they greeted one another in quiet tones—except the children, who were glad for the end of travel and happy for new playmates. After all, little Gil had never seen a dwarfling.

There was wine, as had been requested, a dark, woody, musky old spirit saved decades for just this occasion. They sat on stones, stumps, overturned helmets, waiting for the sun to set, discussing their lives, their travails, their memories. But, as it always did, the conversation eventually turned to the Mystery. And, as always, there was little new to be said.

“My predecessor wrote them that letter and I was there when they embarked,” Corvyr would say, “I stood there and watched the boat until it rounded the bend. I guess I sensed something.”

“Orth and Me sat by their fire outside Loudwater, and we set them off in the direction of the Forge. If they died there…”

“Hush, now. You heard the tales from downriver about the airship. They made it that far. That, we know.”

“And that’s all we know. Anyone who might know more know more is dead or disappeared. Crexis. Has Jack Jones turned up anywhere? Allendi—.”

“Prob’ly dead. And, even combined, we don’t got de power to stop what’s in de tower now.”

“We c’ld try.”

“Dat’s not an option. You got chilren. So does Lo’kag.

And the dwarf cast a brooding eye downward, to the tower far below, and the Keep still further down. In silence, they waited until the sun slipped behind the distant mountain across the plain.

And there, where she once summoned her love eternal back from the abyss, Cher Nettles body set to flame. It is said that the pyre burned for seven days.

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Epitaph

Dearest Una,

It has no doubt been years since any correspondence has reached you from your friends at the Scepter Tower. I hope that “friend” is an appellation you apply to me, for I fear my friends, and yours, are far fewer than they once were.

The Company of the Scepter Tower is no more, those who comprised its heart and soul having disappeared.

I think you’ll be comforted to know that they left this world as heroes, every one. The circumstances leading to Company’s demise speak well of them, though they also hint at the possibility of what might have been, had they survived, had hope survived.

The major contingent of the company: Hosvir, Angiledhel, the Lathanderite Finn, and their new ally Ikar, had followed a runaway minotaur to Moonstair, where they were caught up in the defense of the city against an invading Troll army. That night’s dinner was the last I would see of them. And it was the last we would hear of the Oracle.

I learned from Corvyr, who heard it from them, that the Minotaur fought and died alongside them in a frontal assault of the Troll King’s lair. Defeated, the Company returned to Moonstair and sent to us here at the tower for assistance in the defense of the town. Corvyr took Lo’kag, Sister Cherra, Mama Nettles, and most of our troops to defend the town.

From Moonstair, I hear that the defense of the town was successful, and that the Company are Heroes of Moonstair. Even the elves of Myth Drannor who came to assist with the city’s defense could not but be impressed by the Company. I do not know the details of the war, for we here in Spellguard were distracted by our own difficulties. Sensing an opportunity, the Waterdhavian soldier from the Keep on the Plain below us occupied our undefended town and took the Scepter Tower! Their rationale: an accusation most foul! They believed-or claimed to believe-that the Company was responsible for the death of the son of Baron Perenon of Waterdeep—and for the death of the messenger dispatched to tell the Baron the news of his son’s death!

None of us believed it, of course. In fact, a few of us immediately began plotting an insurgency of sorts, but were warned against it by a messenger from Angiledhel, himself. So we waited.

From Mama Nettles, I learned that Company returned victorious from Moonstair, the sword of the Baron’s son in tow, having slain the Troll King by sneaking into his fortress. By then, the Waterdhavian occupation of our little town was so strong-they had a Dragon!-that the Company thought it best to travel to Waterdeep and negotiate with the Baron, returning the sword of his son to him and explaining what truly happened.

So after a swift heist of Hosvir’s old lab in the Scepter Tower to reclaim some of his items, the Company set off to Waterdeep.

They have not returned. That was eight years ago.

Of course, there has been some investigation in the intervening time. I know they made it as far as Loudwater, as Finn’s mentor Garwain can attest. I know they traveled to Waterdeep by means of an airship they’d procured from an old Gnomish forge. This is all I know. If others continue the search, they do not consult me, for they know that I have been compromised.

The forces from Waterdeep did not long control Spellguard or the Scepter Tower. Curiosity finally won the day, as they could not resist exploring the tombs beneath the structure. The vampire Barthus had grown in power, and his wrath could not be stayed. Only the dragon escaped.

Spellguard became Barthus’s feeding grounds. My little Monastery here is now nothing more than an inn to attract his prey. Those who are too tired to continue the journey north, or come here thinking the Oracle yet appears, take their last rest in my Monastery. He leaves me human, but I am bound to him and cannot but obey.

There is little chance that you will never receive this letter, for no one leaves here, and there is none to deliver it. But I write it nonetheless, in hopes that some fortune may yet prevail, and you may know what became of us all.

“In hopes.” I’m a foolish old man. Hope died the day the Company went to Waterdeep.

Allendi

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Departures

The portal to the Feywild spins and sputters behind Ikar, seated in Skalmud’s throne, as the Company crosses – in pursuit of Moran’s Eye, and in flight from Skalmud’s horde.

Eyes fixed on the stream crossing before the throne, the deva’s face hardens into a mask of concentration. Holding the swirling passage open as the Troll King’s legions roll into the room, he sees that only he and Finn remain – the priest wading across with Skalmud’s head tucked under his shield arm!

”Finn, our enemies number as do the stars themselves. Go quickly – the others await in the Feywild.”

The stream darkens and frothed where the Troll King’s black ichor pollutes it, fueling a mad rush of the reptilian creatures. A moment later, the priest lunges through the portal. As the troglodytes gather in a great reptilian tide at the tunnel entrance, Angiledhel calls for Ikar to follow across the threshold. As Ikar rises from the throne, Renthorn’s surprised inhalation impales him upon a pang of guilt in the heartbeat before the portal shimmers away. Forgive me this deception, he silently implores the eladrin as he closes his eyes. Peering within himself, he composes his death verse.

Death is a feather,

When duty is a mountain,

Easing all burdens.

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A Private Conversation

Moments after the battle in the Cave comes to an end…

The slow-moving water of the stream neatly divides the cave in two – the triumphant Company on one side, the retreating foes on the other. Hosvir’s staff sheds wan light across the rocks as the newly made Heroes of Moonstair bind their wounds and prepare to storm the cave network below. As Fallon ties off her magical rope to ease the descent into the caverns below, a flash of reflected light across the water draws Ikar’s attention to its surface.

Where his gaze met the ice-blue eyes of a silver-skinned genasi, peering back at him from where his reflection should have been.

“We have to talk.”


A crystal formation rises from the center of a meandering creek, surrounded by smooth and featureless gray plain in all directions. Two figures stand opposite one another on across the stream.

“I expected this conversation would happen less precipitously.”

“We don’t have the time to wait until one of us catches the other in an ordinary dream. The others are holding our place in the physical world while we share this interdimensional space. We don’t have much time. Do you know what this,” the genasi gestures to the formation, “means?”

“The dance between my consciousness and yours, told in allegory. The salt formation reflects the bond between an incarnation and the residual energies from the Astral Sea. The stream must therefore represent…”

“…the substance of the Elemental Chaos, of which all things in the physical world are in part constructed. This is why Deva reincarnate?”

“A dry season is necessary for a salt formation to rise again, once it has been diminished by the influence of a slow drip of water. The death between incarnations is the same for us. As it is for nature in the desert, it is for us in life. You are almost certainly the first mortal to know this.”

“I will have to find the time to be honored later. For now, consider the creek. This is no drip – it is nearly a river! – and we both know that Primordial influence on the physical world is not this great.”

“Indeed. You have some notion of an explanation, then?”

“How can you be so calm? Of course I do, which means you must as well. I am the source of Elemental influence,” the Samir gestured to the bubbling source of the stream from just beneath the crystal, “feeding this widening stream. I am the river! I am the raging flood that will wash us away!”

With each booming word, another figure appears along the riverbed. Dozens of deva – male and female, slender and muscular, injured and whole – stood gathered about the pair.

“I know what this means, Nahid-na of the Howling Season. I – WE – knew as soon as we two awoke together. We will drift closer and closer to the others,” Ikar spread his arms wide to encompass the silently multiplying crowd, “with each day.”

A resplendent figure – faceless and trailing off to a wisp of light where legs would be in a man – appears in the air above the crystalline spire hanging in place with great beats of its flaming wings.

“That is the First of the others. Now there is no one left to hold our place. We have to return.”

“Say it. Speak the words aloud, Ikar.“


In the cave, nearly a minute later…

Angiledhel calls Ikar’s name and shakes him by the arm, eliciting a blank stare from the seemingly entranced deva. A moment later, a raspy whisper escapes his lips.

“We are dying.”

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Small Signs

On the road to Moonstair

The gathered snow settled in the boughs of trees along both sides of the road. The tiny denizens of the forest fell silent at the sound of passing boots, peering inquisitively at the bruised and bedraggled Company from burrows and around trees. Hosvir’s boots cracked twigs and crunched leaves, his stride indelicate from unaccustomed weight. Angiledhel and Finn walked together, speaking in whispered tones as the elf wrapped a dressing around his burned arm. Ikar drifted slowly to the rear, serenely relaxed features a mask for what lay beneath. The winter sun cast them all in muted shades of gray, spreading pale, thin rays sparingly along the path as if to preserve a waning strength.

“Are we so diminished today,” Ikar whispered, his words barely rising above the sound of his breath as Finn’s banner flapped with an eddy of breeze, “or are you shrouding this shameful march out of mercy?”

A tiny, sharp sound draws the deva’s thoughts from his reverie and his eyes to the side. Perched atop a tree stump, a weasel sniffs indignantly at the pungent, spicy odor of Hosvir’s grisly burden. Scrambling from a shadowed nook to a hidden burrow to the sheltered overhang of a fallen trunk, she follows alongside the disheartened quartet. Seeing that the sound presages no threat, Ikar relaxes to a stop as his companions pass around a bend. Their tiny escort deftly negotiates a cluster of mud-caked branches, turnes sharply, and rushes across the path – close enough to touch – to the bushes on the opposite side.

A soft hiss and the rustle of leaves precede an eruption of motion and sound as the weasel leaps back into the path, brown fur dappled with white spots and red blood. The sinuous form of a serpent follows, drawing back to strike a moment later. The weasel circles warily, darting in and out of reach, tempting her foe to lunge.

Red scales, patterned with diamonds, ripple with motion.

Fur shifts, bunching and smoothing with the tension of muscles underneath.

The deva’s unblinking eyes follow.

In a blur of motion and flashing fangs, blood splashes across the dirt path, and a soft – but profound – crack punctuates the struggle.

The weasel drops the limp form of her foe, meeting Ikar’s gaze with an expression of mixed challenge and interest, drawing a shallow bow of homage from the deva.

“I know better,” he says dryly, “than to confront a champion in her moment of triumph.”


“…if he was that kind of guy…”

A snippet of Finn’s voice carries between the trees as Ikar passes around the bend. Hosvir trudges along to the side, engrossed in his own thoughts. Angiledhel kneels to gather some moss in his palm. A few shafts of light escape the gauntlet of gray clouds above to illuminate the Company as Finn turns at the sound of the deva’s approach. The light throws speckles of light across the priest’s muddy armor, tousled brown hair and inquisitive yet watchful expression.

The impassive mask slipping in a moment of amused recognition, Ikar smiles broadly.

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Limping Towards Moonstair

After their failed assault on the Troll King’s caves, our heroes limp back towards Moonstair, Angiledhel binds his own wounds, then falls in step next to Finn, holding small pot of salve and a strip of bandage for his companion. “Here. That cut over your eye. Put this on it.”

He slows his pace slightly, so that Hosvir with his gruesome burden of the minotaur’s head, and the Deva Ikar are out of conversational range, though not out of sight. Gil is pale, visibly shaken, more so than his injuries seem to warrant.

“I should have carried you out of there. I should have carried us all out of there, one by one, while I still held the shape of Fukurokami the Great Owl. I made a mistake, and it cost us terribly…” He shakes his head and passes a hand over his brow, grimacing in pain.

“Finn, I need to ask you something,” he says after a moment. “Do you believe the spirits of the dead can communicate with us? I know Lathander speaks to you, but… But I heard a voice just now, the one I told you about. The reason I insisted we return to Moonstair as fast as we could. My friend Elchelmon, my…” He hesitates, then says softly in Elven, “My heart star.”

Gil’s slender fingers clench protectively over the decorative hilt of his sword, then he speaks in Common again, “In twelve years I’ve heard no word from him. I don’t know how much of my past you’ve gathered, Finn, but when last I saw Elchelmon, he and I were both badly wounded, driven apart by Ingerhol’s soldiers. He was alive, but if they took him captive…” He breaks off again, storm-grey eyes not meeting Finn’s, and takes a breath, steadying himself.

“It was Elchelmon’s voice, just now, calling for help in Moonstair. It was like he was standing right beside me. Maybe he escaped. Maybe he mastered some sorcery that allows him to speak across distances. My heart wants to believe it, but… ” He shakes his head. “Something… Something isn’t right. Elchelmon’s voice said they intercepted the message we sent to Myth Dranor, but that was not our message. That message was sent by the mayor of Moonstair before we ever arrived there. Why would the answer come to me? And why was a message to Myth Dranor intercepted? The voice — Elchelmon — said he’s brought reinforcements, and that Moonstair has not yet fallen. That we had to hurry…”

His steps falter, and he stops. “Finn, I’ve seen your god work miracles, and I know he speaks to you. There are few men in this world I would trust, let alone call friend, but you are one such. You’re not the smartest man, but you… you have knowing of the nature of things.” Gil slips into Elvish again, finding no words in Common that suit his meaning.

“What do you think? What do you sense? Is this a trap, Finn?”

Finn absently applies the bandage to his forehead as he listens to Gil speak. When the elf finishes, Finn breathes out a long, slow breath before responding.

“I don’t really know what to think. Yesterday I thought we were going to kill that troll king and his army, but then he killed Goeban and kicked us out of his cave like little kids. The day before that I thought that nice barmaid wanted me to come say hi to her, but then she was asleep, so I thought it’d be better to not wake her up and play cards with her friends instead, but then the next time I saw her she was mad at me. The day before that I thought Lathandar spoke to me in my mind, but then the Oracle said it’s not Lathandar who speaks to me, it’s the banner, because it smells.”

Keeping his head down and his eyes on the road, Finn continues: “I prayed to Lathandar to make me strong enough to kill the troll king’s army, and he did, but I still couldn’t kill them all. But Lathandar can make the sun burn and move around in the sky and make crops grow and everything, so he can definitely make me strong enough to kill a troll army. So maybe I did something wrong. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong. I don’t know. But no one dead has ever talked to me—not even Father Radnic, and he’d definitely talk to me if he could, just to say hi and maybe to tell me a bit about what it’s like being with Lathandar all the time. And I thought my banner was Lathandar. It’s hard to tell who’s talking to you in your head, because you can’t see anyone’s lips move. But if someone says something that’s not what someone else would say, then you can tell that maybe the someone isn’t the someone else, you know? So if your friend Eckelman said something in your head that was wrong, maybe it wasn’t him. Or maybe he was confused; I get confused sometimes, and I say the wrong thing. Like maybe he thought the message was yours even though it wasn’t, or maybe he meant, ‘your message’ like ‘the message you guys care about’ or something like that. But it is weird that after such a long time he wouldn’t even say something like, ‘Hi, Gil! Guess who this is? It’s Eckelman! I’ve really missed you!’ Or was he not that kind of guy?

“Plus, that troll king said he’d already wrecked Moonstair, and he said we didn’t have to listen to him about not fighting if we got to Moonstair and it was still OK. So I hope it’s still OK, but that troll king really didn’t seem to think it was.

Finn finally looks up at Gil: “So maybe it’s a trap. Yeah, it’s probably a trap. But in a way, that’s OK. Because we would have probably died in that cave back there if the troll king hadn’t kicked us out, so even if we die up here in a trap we’re not really any worse off. So if it’s not a trap, then maybe your friend Eckelman is OK, and so is Moonstair, and we can save Moonstair and kill the troll army and the troll king. And even if it is a trap, at least we got to walk back to Moonstair together and talk and stuff before we die.”

Gil meets Finn’s gaze, steady and searching, holding somberly still a long moment. Then he smiles wryly as if he has reached some conclusion. “Okay. But let’s not die if we can help it, Finn.” He sets into motion again, keeping to an easy pace to match his human companion’s. “Elchelmon was definitely the sort of guy who would have said hi, if he could have, but… When I knew him he was no sorcerer, but when he knew me I was no druid. Maybe something has changed. Maybe the Troll King lied. Maybe Moonstair yet stands.”

Slanting elven eyes study Finn, seeing mismatched armour, toussled, unwashed hair, blood-stained, bruise-marked cheeks dark with stubble. Seeing a light about Finn that seems to come from within despite the rough exterior. A light and a shadow, and maybe it is just fatigue and injury playing tricks with Gil’s vision, but… “I don’t think you’re doing it wrong, Finn. The gods… Gods sometimes give strange answers to prayers. Maybe Lathander didn’t want us to defeat the Troll King and his army. It’s hard to understand what a god wants sometimes. Although the Oracle was probably right about your banner not being Lathander. It speaks for Lathander, maybe, but Lathander is surely bigger than a piece of cloth. ” He glances up at the overcast sky, shivers, and pulls his cloak closer about him.

“I think the gods right now must want us to be cold. Or maybe the gods want to see those trees covered in snow. Or to hide the—” He breaks off, noticing something on the ground and swiftly kneels to retrieve it. When he stands he groans, holding his aching side. “Maybe the gods wanted me to find this. It’s fevermoss. Good for healing bruises.” He cups a brownish, velvety curl of moss he’d scraped from the ground in a creased, scar-marked palm and holds it out for Finn to see, before he stows the bit of moss away in a belt pouch.

“The gods — Lathander, Ereval Illesere, maybe some other gods we don’t even name — brought us to know one another, after all. Brought us this far. Maybe the gods are still on our side.”

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The Running of the Bull

Gil and Ikar returned from their adventure and deposited Orin safely with Mama Nettles and Cher Nettles. They welcomed him home with an odd sort of calm, then Cher Nettles issued a cryptic suggestion that they visit the stables where Goeban was staying.

So to the stables they went, only to find Pria, not Goeban. Gil aggressively questioned Pria regarding her presence there and Goeban’s absence, but learned nothing. Instead, he lay in wait and followed Pria as she snuck into the night, via the path into the mountains.

Gil and Ikar followed Pria for hours, far into the mountains. They watched as she reached her destination, where the mountain path comes to the high headwaters of the Greyflow River. They watched her look around, failing to find whatever it was she sought. They watched her wander onward on the path upriver toward Moonstair.

The three of them, each in turn, came upon the scene of a massacre, as a few large and disgusting trolls stood over the carcasses of freshly-killed horses and humans, and one wounded minotaur.

Gil and Ikar rushed forward behind Pria, and the battle was begun.

Meanwhile, back at the Scepter Tower, as Gil and Ikar were leaving to follow Pria, Finn entered his room after a long day and found that he had a female visitor: Lady Saharel the Oracle of the Scepter Tower!

They spoke for a bit. The Lady was impressed that Finn asked for nothing from her. She explained to Finn that, while The Standard of the Morninglord that he carries might share his values and his love for Lathander, the Standard is not, in fact Lathander himself.

Then she warned Finn that his friends would soon be in trouble, that they’d taken the mountain path, and that he should get Hosvir and follow them.

Finn did just that, and hit the trail only minutes after Gil and Ikar. He and Hosvir trailed behind them, too far back to catch up, but arrived in time to see the last of the trolls fall before the combined onslaughts of Ikar, Gil, and a Pria-revived Goeban.

A quick and frank discussion revealed that Pria and Goeban had intended to run away to Moonstair together. Before this notion could be further explored, Gil noticed a note on one of the fallen riders’ bodies. It read:

Brave and honorable Baron Perenon,

I truly regret that I must send you a multitude of terrible news. May I state in advance my sympathies, and tell you that I, too, am aggrieved by the dreadful events that seem to never stop in these times.

Firstly, I must inform you that your son, Etheran, fell in battle against the trolls. He fought bravely to protect the people of Moonstair, making several expeditions into the Trollhaunt and slaying many of the beasts, but he was defeated before he could find the Troll king. A troll warrior delivered to our town a token proving your son is dead, and declaring the intentions of Skalmad and his “kingdom,” which he calls Vardar.

Regrettably, your ancestral sword was lost as well. We believe it to now be a trophy of the Troll King.

The trolls seem to be even more set on destroying our town, and we believe they will attack quite soon. I am grateful to you for your help so far, but times are desperate, and I humbly request troops to defend us. We’ve requested aid, via the Moon Door, of elves of Myth Drannor, but they require time. Even if you send help immediately, I fear our town will be destroyed before any help arrives.

May the gods favor us and this letter reach you in time. I hope this is not the last you hear from the people of Moonstair.

Kelana Dhoram, Mayor of Moonstair

The Company resolved to travel on to Moonstair and learn more of what transpired. Angiledhel attached a separate note to the note he had found, explaining that the original bearer was found slain by trolls and giving the date, then he summoned an owl to fly the note onward to Baron Perenon’s man, Captain Wellborne, in the Keep on the plain below the Scepter Tower.

And so it was that, on the fateful evening of Uktar 2, 1479, a runaway Minotaur, an infatuated tribal healer, and the Company of the Scepter Tower wiped the snow from their boots inside the town of Moonstair.

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Jack is Back

In the Chamber of the Jade Eye, Ikar and Angiledhel met K’hthel, dragonborn scholar assigned by Baron Perenon to travel to the Keep with Captain Wellborne, study the chamber, and assess its dangers.

His work to this point had mostly consisted of reading old tomes and making various magical attempts to find some clue as to the nature of the chamber.

Gil was able to use the Kala’s Spyglass given to him by Kala himself, Gil’s Glithzerai friend from the Plains of Rust, to view the otherwise undetectable portal that stood on the chamber’s far wall, and even to see through the portal to the other side.

Through the glass, beyond the portal, Gil perceived the Otherworlder, along with the two other beings: Orin Nettles, son of Mama Nettles, pulled by the Otherworlder into his prison when Hosvir and the others defeated him months ago; and Jack Jones aka Moonflower.

Their feelings about Jack Jones aside, the pair decided to rescue Orin, if they could. Using the spyglass, Gil was able to read the instructions around the portal for its activation. By this means, the pair and their Dragonborn ally entered the Otherworlder’s prison.

They found the Otherworlder immobilized by waves of solid energy, along with Orin and Jack Jones. In freeing Orin, they broke the emitter that created the energy and freed Jack and the Otherworlder.

A fight ensued, and was surprisingly one-sided, as the Otherworlder fell to repeated attacks from the others. After a brief battle, the legendary horror called the Otherworlder died, starving, in his prison.

The dust had barely settled from the battle when the Dragonborn scholar laid his hand on Jack Jones and stated: “This one is coming with me.”

The Dragonborn explained that he worked for an ancient White Dragon whose name was irrelevant. Apparently, years ago, Jack Jones had run afoul of this Dragon, while simultaneously impressing the Dragon with his sardonic wit and irreverent humor.

The White Dragon saw an opportunity to punish Jack Jones for his impertinence while also using Jack Jones’s talents against the Dragon’s own enemies, especially the family in charge of House Azaer.

So, for years, Jack Jones has unknowingly worked for the Dragon. The way it worked was this:

Jack Jones could go about his life, but would be transported, without warning, to a place of the Dragon’s choosing, and enthralled to do the Dragon’s bidding.

Usually, this involved publicly insulting or humiliating House Azaer—crashing their funerals, embarrassing their elders, deflowering their virgins, that sort of thing; dangerous work that made Jack hated and hunted all over Faerun.

The Dragon did show one bit of mercy: When the job was done, if Jack lived, he was transported back to the site of his object of greatest desire. Unfortunately for Jack, the object of his greatest desire was always just that: an object. Most recently, a singing sword that fell into the portal Hosvir created to imprison the Otherworlder.

So, when Jack finished up his last mission for the Dragon, he was transported to the singing sword…inside the Otherworlder’s prison, and was trapped there, unreachable by the Dragon’s magic as long as the energy barrier that held the Otherworlder remained intact.

So the Dragon pulled some strings to have his Dragonborn agent assigned to the Keep. And the gambit paid off when Gil and Ikar decided to free Orin.

Through his servant, the Dragon expressed his appreciation to Gil and Ikar for freeing his agent, Jack Jones. In his gratitude, he offered Gil and Ikar a choice: allow Jack Jones to continue in the Dragon’s service, and gain the Dragon as an ally OR take custody of Jack Jones and continue to live beneath the Dragon’s notice.

Gil and Ikar consulted with Jack Jones and it was agreed that Jack Jones would continue in service to the White Dragon, indefinitely.

Gil and Ikar returned to the Scepter Tower with young Orin in tow.

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