Dawn broke upon Fallcrest as our heroes awoke from their well-earned slumber. Godfuck and Ana returned to the Lucky Gnome while the rest of the party continued their plans. They decided to simply observe the deal between Faramir and Kamren and follow them to their leader afterward. Most of the party remained out of earshot in the woods near the clearing where the deal was to take place. Sunny approached and stealthily observed them from the treeline. Kamren was easily identified as the woman with the glaive. She stood near a mage who seemed to be smoldering. His staff seemed to be made of embers and his robes appeared scorched. An archer watched from a point of vantage at the top of a 10 foot cliff. A man with a decorative knife belt, who looked exactly like the one in the warehouse, but with an inverted color scheme to his outfit, watched from the shade of a tree. Four humans armed with simple swords and no armor wandered about.
Eventually Faramir arrived, and the deal was made. Everything seemed to go rather smoothly, although there was a tangible tension to the air, as is common with illicit arms deals. Faramir received his gold and left. Then the situation became interesting. Sunny overheard the mage attempting to convince Kamren that there was no need to kill the Eldurstal family. Their orders mentioned nothing of killing them, and they are a good, skilled human family, the type of family that makes Fallcrest great. He also accused her of overreaching by killing James, Barristan’s second in command and murderer. Kamren coldly replied that she wanted no loose ends, and chided the mage for questioning her orders, and for failing to acquire Barristan’s body. The company set up camp and went to sleep. They would awaken at night and attack the Eldurstal forge as they slept. Sunny informed the party of their plots and Thorir immediately decided that they should all be slaughtered.
Sunny waited for her targets to fall asleep, and then began the most assassin-y encounter yet. Sunny removed the two sentries with her shuriken, and then silently approached the other two of Kamren’s minions. She dispatched one as stealthily as a person can be, and then finished the other. After considering her options, Sunny stalked up to the mage and, with a thrust into his vital organs, killed him without waking Kamren, who shared the tent. Wanting to leave her alive, Sunny left Kamren untouched and moved to the knife fighter. She soaked her blade in poison and prepared to strike. Before she did, Sunny gave the signal to the rest of the party, this would likely not kill him, so Sunny wanted the others to attack before his screams could wake his allies. Sunny thrust the poisoned blade into the knife fighter, and then leapt up the cliff next to the archer and prepared to attack him. Thorir charged Kamren and thrust his spear a little too vehemently into her chest and instantly killed her. Gorstag detonated a ball of flame in midair to simultaneously hit the archer and the knife fighter. Dak followed up by imbuing Sunny’s armor with a gust of wind and blew the archer off the cliff, nearly defeating him. Sunny attempted to attack the knife fighter from above, but missed. Gorstag killed the archer and further wounded the knife fighter. The knife fighter, poisoned, alone, nearly dead, backed into a corner, and as desperate as one could be, resorted to the only option left. He attacked Sunny, tumbled around her to Thorir, attacked him, backflipped to Gorstag, attacked, and shifted up to Dak to prepare for another attack. Thorir answered by charging up to him and knocking him unconscious.
The party found a letter on Kamren’s body. It congratulated Kamren for her promotion, and directed her to her next dead drop. However, the location was given in riddle form. It read, “Go to the place where the wild claimed the trout and fish swam in the ocean.” Gorstag came through with his vast historical knowledge, and connected the riddle to an ancient nomadic tribe of humans who took various fish as the sigils of the families within the tribe. The trout was the mightiest of these tribes, and the patriarch of the trout family was slain in a sacred grove which the tribe defiled. The flight of the tribe would appear as fish swimming through trees. This sacred grove is located equidistant from the four classical elements, fire, earth, water, and air. Everyone figured that the Nentir Falls for which Fallcrest is named represented water, and a famous rock formation to the west would be earth. Gorstag again came through and identified fire as the hot springs to the north and air as the “howling” hills to the east. The party used these points on a map to locate the grove, and prepared for their departure. However, they still had a captive to worry about…
The party woke up the knife fighter and asked him about the Sons, about Kamren, and about the general military strength of the organization. He answered as best he could. He and his twin brother had worked as mercenaries for Kamren for years, and had been content with following orders. He explained that estimating the strength of the Sons of Nerath would be impossible. They did not have a standing army. Their soldiers did not form ranks and march across fields day to day. They are farmers, tailors, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, etc. He did not know the process by which they would be called to arms, but he assumed it would be by a man on horseback riding through the area alerting the people through some code word. He neither knew nor cared about the leadership, and wanted only to be reunited with his missing brother. Thorir, still angry at the Sons and protective of his family, obliged the prisoner via a spear to the chest.
After gaining some great loot from their fallen foes, including the mage’s staff, which allowed Gorstag to alter his spells to cause acid or fire damage, and a set of leather armor for Sunny which allowed her to turn invisible, Gorstag used his new toy to disintegrate the bodies in a pool of acid. With all evidence destroyed, the party left for the dead drop at the sacred grove. As they arrived, they spied a beautiful eladrin woman wandering about, and atop an altar in the center of the grove lay a scroll. Gorstag decided to remain behind as Sunny approached the scroll while invisible and Dank and Thorir talked to the eladrin. She welcomed the pair of them and mentioned that she was expecting a larger group. An offering was promised in return for use of the grove, and the group she was expecting was supposed to fulfill that promise. As Dak and Thorir tried to suggest what they could offer, Sunny found out the terrible truth. The scroll was addressed to Kamren, and informed her that, due to her reckless actions and failure to follow orders correctly, even to the point of murdering potential allies and innocent people, her services were no longer required, and she would be most useful as an offering to the spirits of the sacred grove. Sunny immediately whispered her discoveries to Thorir and Dak, who feebly attempted to offer the Mad Underpriest to the eladrin. She simply smiled and transformed into a dryad.
Gorstag saw things go south as the dryad revealed itself and vine horrors and an animate mound of plant matter sprung to life. He immediately took to action and fired at one of the vine horrors. Sunny poisoned her sword and stabbed the dryad, who went crazy and ran after another vine horror to attack it. Thorir and Sunny managed to deal some damage as it left, and Dak managed to land a punch, but he didn’t do any damage with those noodley arms of his. One of the vine horrors turned out to be a spellfiend and blinded Sunny, Thorir, and Dak. Dak chose to not give a single fuck and landed a critical hit on the dryad despite the fact that he shot blind. Sunny shot off shurikens as well, although was not quite as successful. The vine horrors caused vines to shoot from the ground and trap Sunny, Dak, and Thorir, who were being crushed by them as well. They all soon tore free, but remained blind. Gorstag continued to provide artillery support, and Dak eventually regained his sight and felled the dryad. Then the spellfiend blinded him again. The large, shambling mound roped Thorir into its innards and began literally sucking the life from him via roots which bored into Thorir’s flesh. The battle was going very poorly for the party, indeed.
Then, in a sudden turn of events, everyone started kicking ass. Gorstag fired area spells like no other, Sunny expertly slashed and shuriken-ed, Dak fired magical bolts left and right, and Thorir…well Thorir kept getting digested for a while…but he eventually got out! The vine horrors burned away and the mound, despite its full belly, could not prevent its demise. Thorir escaped its clutches and Sunny sliced and diced it to pieces. With the battle finished, the party took a breather and felt relief wash over them. Then they noticed a knight in shining armor rear his horse and gallop off into the distance. The chase was on. Dak used his keen eyes to follow the tracks and (barely) managed to find the knight’s destination, an oddly placed archway in the side of a crevasse, flanked by two gargoyles. Dak and Gorstag immediately sensed the magical and likely animate nature of these gargoyles. They also noticed a manticore prowling around. Our heroes geared up and dove into action…which will be resolved at a later date.
Under the assumption that our heroes successfully defeated the guardians, we continue our story. The party entered the archway and discovered an ornate cave/hall within. Not only that, but to their surprise the knight turned out to be their good (dead) pal Barristan, who welcomed his friends and apologized for the guardians. He explained that he was resurrected by a priest of Erathis, the unaligned goddess of civilization. He also informed the party that, beyond the other door in the hall awaited the man behind the Sons of Nerath, and that the situation was far more complex than they could have anticipated. He bid them to hear what they had to say with an open mind, and to not immediately attack. The party agreed, and followed him into a beautiful hall which appeared to be used mainly as council chambers. At the head of the table, with his pretty assistant at his arm, sat none other than Armos Kamroth. Kamroth greeted the party, and offered them a seat. Then he promised to explain everything, and asked the party to pose any question they desired, which he would attempt to answer to the best of his ability. Gorstag, ever the social paragon, immediately said, “What’s the deal with airline food?”
Dak started over with the only question which came to mind, “Why?” Kamroth smiled and began his tale. “A long time ago, I was training to become a priest of Erathis. During my training, I was tasked with the infiltration of a cult of Zehir, the evil god of poison and assassins. There I met Lucille, a Changeling, and we fell in love. Together we stopped the cult, but my time in the priesthood was at an end. We have been together ever since.” He motioned to his assistant. “Due to her nature, she does not age physically, so it was convenient to have our public relationship appear professional. I came to Fallcrest and became involved in property management, then money lending. Because of my wealth, I gained political power, which I used to propose legislation such as the Equal Tax Act. At first, when the Sons of Nerath formed in an attempt to have the people of the Vale take back their homes from the ever threatening wild, I agreed with their position. It aligned with my philosophy as a devotee of Erathis. However, when the guards resigned and the Sons showed their xenophobic side, I distanced myself from them and used the contact I made through Lady Allande Markelhay to purchase the warforged. Then I earned the position of Master of Coin.
“Then is when things became less clear. I discovered that Lady Markelhay was part of a shadowy organization, and that she had taken control of the Lord Warden’s will. He was no longer his own agent, and was being manipulated. During my investigations, I was contacted by another interested party, someone who not only knew of Allande’s involvement, but the name and nature of the organization, the Eternal Brotherhood. Now, before I introduce you, I must ask a few questions.” Kamroth and the party went back and forth, Socratic method-style, as Kamroth led them to the understanding that, without death, there are no souls going to the Shadowfell or the Nine Hells, thereby making the Raven Queen and all devils obvious enemies of the Eternal Brotherhood. With that, Kamroth introduced Balthezor, a cambion, the spawn of a human-devil coupling. Kamroth continued his tale.
“Balthezor informed me of the Eternal Brotherhood, and that all signs pointed to a plot to cause a civil war, for whatever purpose. Lady Markelhay had been using her position to develop events in such a way that Fallcrest would be torn into pieces by civil strife. As such, I had no choice but to remove her from power and prevent the Sons from starting a war. Faren Markelhay’s eldest son, Doran, had been sent south to be a ward of a lordling near the sea after his father’s marriage to Allande. I contacted Doran, who had grown into a brilliant military commander. He is everything this city, and the Nentir Vale in general, needs. He already knew of his father’s demise at the hand of his step mother, and agreed that his father could no longer remain in power. When I asked him how, he told me that the father he loved was already dead. Doran sent one of his generals, the leader of a great dragonborn army, Baelerion.” As he said this, a serious looking dragonborn entered with one of his lieutenants.
“With the help of Lucille, we managed to intercept and redirect the dead drops, and used the Sons’ caution to our advantage. Unfortunately, we could not control everything, such as the murder of Barristan, who we elected to lead a schism of the Sons to lead the good ones away from the bad apples. Before that decision, though, we resorted to more barbaric means of turning public opinion against the Sons. Men like Raff were making the Sons sympathetic, so Lucille took care of him and, disguised as Raff, wrecked your pub. I apologize for that, by the way. I figured you could handle it better than most. I also learned of Faramir’s involvement, which shocked me. I never anticipated he would turn to arms dealing to pay me back. Typically, I investigate the income of my debtors to prevent things like that. If they really need help, I work with them the best I can, and sometimes I even forgive their interest. I immediately ordered that Kamren release him from his duties. When I found out how far she’d go to eliminate ‘loose ends,’ I had no choice but to have her killed. I’m really not very good at this cloak and dagger nonsense. Anyway, at this point we have two goals, to turn public opinion vehemently against the cancerous part of the Sons of Nerath, and to place Doran on the throne. Doran has been in contact with the other leaders in the Nentir, and has all but established a Nentir Confederation. The mages at Thunderspire are the only holdouts, and we have the military strength to subdue them. After that, we can reclaim the wild and make the Vale safe. However, we need to put Doran in charge, or all our efforts were for naught. So, we created a plan to kill two birds with one stone, and that is where we need you, should you choose to agree.”
The party had figured out by this point what Kamroth meant, and their opinion of him had changed dramatically. They knew he wanted them to assassinate Faren and Allande Markelhay. They chose to hear his plan.
“Well,” Kamroth said, “there is a secret passage leading to my office in the Keep, and from there only a thin line of five guards stands between you and the Lord Warden’s private audience chamber, where he hears reports from Rolsten, his spy. There you will find the Lord Warden, Lady Allande, her brother and constant guardian, Loras, and Rolsten. We must leave no winesses, so that we can pin the assassination on the leaders of the Sons of Nerath, whom we will round up and hang for treason. After that, any Son who we know is an enemy will have the choice of working in the mines of Hammerfast or serving on the front lines of our new military force if we invade Thunderspire.”
At this point, Dak gave Kamroth a strange look and said, “Rolsten? I thought he died.” As it turned out, Rolsten did not die, and in fact has no brothers at all, but instead an orphan. Griff was an impostor. Kamroth also mentioned that Rolsten was probably aware of the Eternal Brotherhood, and might even be a member, since they attract people who have suffered great losses. He also offered a more material incentive to help. Their debt would be forgiven. To make it more legal, he would forgive the interest and pay them the remaining 2,000 gold for “services rendered.” He would also forgive the debt of Thorir’s family. He would also unofficially approve of their criminal empire, as he viewed a benevolent crime lord as a more of a benefit than a disadvantage. The party agreed to help them, although Sunny was having an issue with the “leave no witnesses” part of the plan. Kamrot, grateful for the assistance, gave Dak an enchanted amulet and Sunny an enchanted set of shurikens.
Kamroth and the party set up an appointed time to strike, and our heroes returned to confront Griff. When they entered, an odd sight, even for the Luck Gnome, met their eyes. A pirate sat in the middle of the bar with a strong drink in hand, laughing with Bede, and two men, one human and the other dragonborn, dressed in all black with the mark of the Raven Queen upon their cloaks. Gorstag recognized them as Knights of the Black Window. Our heroes spoke with the pirate, who thanked them for killing off the arrogant jackass he sent to the docks in the hopes he would get himself killed, and offered his fleet to them for smuggling. After the party accepted, the captain then informed them that he and a few of his men wanted to take up adventuring, since the smuggler’s life was getting old. He offered to be their personal captain, and would leave his first mate, a well-organized “stick in the mud,” in charge. Once again the party agreed, and Gorstag became really excited about the idea of a journey at sea. Then our heroes checked on Splug, who discovered the portal to Kelson’s hidden manor and wanted to convert it into a casino (which would technically be legal since the manor is outside the city limits). The party happily agreed. Then they checked Griff’s room, but only found a shrine to Vecna. Well, apparently he really is evil.
Finally, the party approached the Knights. The human, Donal, and the dragonborn, Abraxus, introduced themselves, and Donal addressed Gorstag. “We have been watching you, Gorstag, and have noticed that you have finally placed aside your study of necromancy, and have even vanquished Kalarel, a great necromancer himself. We have thus deemed you worthy of induction into our order, as well as your companions.” The party agreed and, in a ceremony reminiscent of the one during which Drusilla inducted Sunny and Sejanus into her cult, they were made Knights of the Black Window. Abraxus informed Gorstag that his old mentor from necromancy school, Gandling, was still alive and recovering in his hidden island tomb. When their business in Fallcrest was settled, their first mission as Knights would be to find the tomb, navigate whatever horrors lie within, and kill Gandling permanently.
Before preparing for the coming day’s assassination, Dak called a meeting between the leaders of their growing criminal organization, which included Dak, Sunny, Thorir, Gorstag, Orest, Maxwell, the new pirate captain, Godfuck, Ana, and Splug. They decided to name themselves the Silver Swords, or the SS for short. Membership would be signified by a small silver sword pin, and leadership by a pin with two crossed swords. Splug would run the gambling operation, Orest would run the docks and a thieves’ guild, Maxwell would run the smuggling operation, Godfuck, when not aiding the party, would run the security and muscle detail, Ana would establish a brothel/assassins’ guild, and Bede would monitor all criminal activity at its hub, the Lucky Gnome. The goals of the organization would simply be to control crime and keep it as noble as possible. For example, Orest would make sure his thieves would only steal from the rich, etc. With that business settled, our heroes rested and redied themselves for the coming day, when the future of Fallcrest would be decided.
How will our heroes fare in their first fight with bona fide, upper level members of the Eternal Brotherhood? Will Thorir continue his dark streak? Are they making the right choice by trusting Kamroth? Find out next time!