Lost Winterspire: Into the Void

Chapter 23-25: Fortress of Frost
Return of Bal-Darok and Woestag's end

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For generations, this mighty Orc fortress has stood at the end of Icewind Pass. Its impenetrable walls have miraculously stood against the the awakened Giants of Old, keeping them on the far side of Icewind Glacier. According to the seer Zashiera, the Frost Orc have sworn allegiance to Tiamat in exchange for eldritch power…

Recently, four adventurers, Bal-Darok, Rozzo, Malachite and Beats crawled beneath a small crater in the wall, finding themselves deep within an Orcish Dungeon. Within, Orcish clerics constructed monstrosities made of slain Giant parts.

The adventurer’s slowly made their way through the fortress, encountering a tortured giant head as well as an insane necromancer, ready to betray her King for the sake of the “Old Ones beneath the ice”.

The adventurers eventually fought their way up the frozen tower to meet King Woestag. There, the King pleaded the case for his people’s survival and warned them of the Giants. Despite his pleas, the adventurers beheaded the King, stopping his blackened heart and killing all of his people.

The siege of the Fortress of Frost was broken, and the Giants from beyond the glacier were free to aid the Innkeepers against Tiamat’s Black Legion.

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Chapter 22: Torinn's Detour

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With the stink of Westfurt’s bogs filling his nostrils, the ex-legionnaire Torinn perched in wait. His piercing draconic eyes stalked a cloaked figure as it skulked deep into the mist of the bog. Torinn’s eyes did not blink. They did not falter.

For hours he stalked his cloaked prey as it delved deeper into the foggy mist of the Boglands. There, his prey stepped upon an old, rotted tree stump and crawled within.

“It stinks of death here,” snorted Torinn to himself. “But not the walking corpse of Talimar. And so, a job for pawns” he sneered.

A few days later on the 1st day of the Rotting (November), Torinn sat alongside his so-called pawns: Rozzo, Niloc and Feros within the Dampwalk Inn of Westfurt.

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“The Cult of Tiamat reeks beneath your noses. It festers, like the undead that do her bidding. You may have killed the necromancer Zhul, but Tiamat’s greatest agent, Talimar, still wanders among these bogs. Pitiful humans, not unlike yourselves, have pledged allegiance to the Cult of Tiamat. And with it, they raise rotten dead men”.

“Take these cloaks and meet with Tiamat’s cultists. You will have to coerce them that you are one of them. Have them take you to their den of evil. Destroy it – or face legions of undead upon the battlefield of your Bannercall”.

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And so they did. For Torinn stalked the Innkeepers, in hopes they would bait Talimar’s presence. But it brought another instead. A great white-dragon known as Fenelux, older brother of the late-Farralax, swopped and hovered above the Innkeepers in all its glory. As its mighty wingspan covered them in shadow, they gazed up towards it, accompanied by cloaked cultists in reverence.

“Petty humans” Fenelux laughed. “You’re dusk has come. Worship me! Worship Tiamat! Raise your dead Hrothgar warriors from beneath these swamps. You must prepare for the coming of the Black Legion. Be ready. Frosthold will be sieged by the 13th day of the Rotting. Her day is now. Tiamat will reach Winterspire’s Peak and your servitude will not be forgotten!”

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With those wretched words, the white dragon swopped away into the distance, “Our time has come!” he roared in victory across the Boglands, “The Age of Destruction! The Age of Tiamat!”

In the distance, Torinn’s eyes remained fixated on Niloc, Feros and Rozzo as they proceeded to slay their ‘fellow’ cultists and crawled beneath a rotted log into a hidden den of evil.

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“How fitting,” spoke Torinn. “They’re not useless after-all. Perhaps they will prevent the dead from serving Tiamat. They may have failed to vanquish Talimar – but all is not lost … yet”.

As the new day’s sun began to dawn in the distance, a thundering explosion was heard beneath the swamp. First, Niloc came rushing out from the den and vanished into the mist’s shadows. Second, came Rozzo cackling with delight. And lastly, came Feros, as the thick bog water rushed into the collapsing den.

Torinn’s draconic eyes focused upon them and listened to their celebrations. They had collapsed the den with a well-placed wave of thunder. And with it, buried a den of necromancers bent on resurrecting the dead to serve Tiamat.

“One less legion upon the battlefield,” Torinn whispered. “I must find my own Lost Legion. We have little time to join mankind’s Bannercall”. The dragonborn turned and triumphantly stepped into the fog – only to immediately stop in his tracks.

“That wretched smell of rotting scale,” spoke Torinn. “I am not the only dragonborn who witnessed tonight’s spectacle!" He turned backwards as Rozzo and Feros trekked away in joyious delight.

Talimar…!”

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Chapter 21: Journey to Icewind Pass
Introducing the Singing Fish!

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With the shattered gears and piles of scarecrow hay behind them, the four adventurers gave a nod to one another as they trekked north to the edge of the world known as Icewind Pass.

Among the four was the mighty goliath known as Beats, the whimsical halfling named Festoon, and two devilish tieflings: the bejewelled Malachite and the gibbering Niloc.

As their great northern wandering on the 29th of Leaffall took them further from the warmth of Brutus’ comforting hearth, they recalled the words of fortune-teller Zashiera:

“Let it be known among the pale-folk,” I spoke, “Beyond Icewind pass lies the Fortress of Frost. The last bastion of the unrelenting Frost Orc. It is there the Giants of Old lay their siege upon the orc to bring about the Giant’s reckoning upon Tiamat and her allies”.

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“And if you find yourself upon the frozen edge of the world, it is there you will find yourselves!"

As Zashiera, seer of the south, my words will tell this tale true:

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Within a day’s march the adventurers found themselves wrapped in the fur of bear, deer and wolf as they gazed upon the snow-covered horizon. Festoon gripped his satchel tightly as the whispering moss continually prodded him from within.

“Festoon! It is Brunnhilde! I sense your soul has stepped upon the Icewind snow! Closer, now! To the nearby cave where I am held captive! Please Festoon, you are my only hope!”

As Festoon spoke those words to his nearby allies, he was interrupted by the mighty roar of a polar bear upon a frozen rock. The adventurers stepped back with their hands upon spell and sword. But Festoon stepped forward.

“Rwar! Ruar, rauure, roaugh, rhoar – eh, roar!” spoke Festoon. The white bear retorted, “Ruaor, roar-re-ra-roar!”

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And with a nod, the halfling druid turned to his party and informed them that they shall pass, so long as they free the beast from its giant masters. The same giants, he suspected, held the wild woman Brunnhilde against her will.

The bear led them to a nearby rocky opening framed by jagged icicles. Stepping closer to the cave, they could hear the rumbling bickering of two towering hill giants, mere peons of the Giants of Old.

“No stinkin’ Frost Giant can tell me what to do! I ain’t dying to break some orc or to kill some dragies! Those orcs be killing us all! I’ve got me my purty doll and that’s all me needs!”

“She be my doll! Not you’s!” the other argued, pointing to the captive Brunnhilde.

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And within a moment, the flash of Beat’s blade of vengeance interrupted their bickering as it pierced the gut of their chained owlbear pet. Behind him, Festoon crept past towards Brunnhilde, locked within a cage like a pet. The roar of their polar bear ally echoed across the cave as Malachite unveiled her spiritual sickles and Niloc unleashed his chaotic eldritch fury.

In their defense the hill giants slammed their primitive clubs towards the party, knocking them back and forth with stupefied might. Yet, despite taking some injury, the adventurers overcame the cowardly hill giants as their gargantuan corpses tumbled to the ground.

All the while, Festoon had freed Brunnhilde from captivity. Weakened with starvation, she spoke with gratitude: “You have freed me … and I thank you all. But there is no time to rejoice“.

She continued with a bloody cough, “Can you hear the thunder? The Giants of Old continue their siege and we must assist them. For it is foretold in the whispers of the trees: Tiamat cannot be stopped without the might of the Giants!”

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“Go!” she shouted with barbaric fury, “We must go to the Fortress of Frost!”

Yet, before they could leave – a crack within the wall caught Malachite’s curiosity. She crept towards it, inspecting it with her devilish eyes. “What lies beyond here?” she whispered, gently tapping the hollowed stone.

“Give it a swift knock!” shouted Beats, as he crashed a nearby great club into it, crumbing the wall and revealing a small icy pond. With a grin, Niloc cackled “What lies within such darkness?”

“A job for my duplicate!” Malachite called proudly, promptly sending her illusionary copy beneath the ice. Before her eyes swam a glowing blue fish that immediately its gaping mouth for a kiss.

“It’s a beautiful tiefling! Lost beneath the water!” sang the musical trout as it splashed its head above the surface.

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“Such a whimsical crew I have found!” continued the singing fish, “Here I swim! I swim! Across the frozen seas, only to find a magical number of thee!”

Each member of the Innkeepers looked to one another in confusion but swiftly agreed with a nod:

“At last! A majestic voice to join my whimsical band!” called Festoon.

“A strange creature to echo my thunderous call to the Giants” bellowed Beats.

“Blue, shiny and a delight to my ears!” cackled Malachite.

“A curious creature. Perhaps a mishap of nature..?” grinned Niloc.

“When you’re done with that affront to nature, can we please save this world’s existence now?” beckoned Brunnhilde as she struggled to her feet.

And with an applause, the Innkeepers greeted their newest member: a blue, singing fish on the 30th day of Leaffall! What remained before them was a daunting task: the unbreakable Fortress of Frost.

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Chapter 20: Dragonfall
Introducing Beats

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With his long spine-like fingers the grinning manticore carved the following words into an orange, frosted stone within Winterspire’s Crags: “On the 28th of Leaffall, the Dragon fell”.

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“The day I devoured the soul of a god!” yelped the red-maned manticore, bearing his rows of shark teeth while his spined scorpion tail wagged with excitement. “What savoury taste is the soul of a Dragon of Old!

“Ah, I remember it well…”

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With a crackle of thunder in the sky, the night skies of Winterspire were illuminated with a flash of green lightning. All could hear his thunderous voice calling across the skies: “Begon, demon of Tiamat!” the old wizard shouted.

And as the clouds parted above, a great green comet plummeted from the sky. At its centre, the frantic wings of a Dragon of Old, daughter of Tiamat, struggled to catch wind.

As she crashed into our earth the crags rattled with her fall. The world trembled under her might – or rather, her demise. She exploded into the ground, leaving a massive crater as if to bury her own grave.

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But she lived on.

With her heart and ribcage exposed, pounding with every last breath of life, she laid on her deathbed, gushing her acidic blood as her wyrmlings flocked to her. She wept, and wept as four adventurers came to her.

Yes, it was Rozzo, Feros and Niloc, seeking out their spoils of Waterdeep and hoping to discover Elminster’s fate. A fate that was already sealed in his sacrifice. And as they approached they saw vengeance personified: a goliath-man now called Beats.

The goliath paladin cut his way through her wyrmling swarm with steadfast determination – the tip of his blade had one mission: Lady Silverstar’s heart.

But it was not without due challenge as a dragonborn legionnaire came souring down from the skies, riding his own young dragon. As he crashed upon the earth, I heard his familiar call: “I am Zhul! Necromancer of the Black Legion! I come to breathe undeath into our princess of Old, Lady Silverstar as I have Talimar!”

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And how naïve those arrogant dragonborn are. Zhul’s aggression only united the adventurers, as Beats found new allies in the moustached man, thunderous elf and the smirking warlock. Zhul and the Dragon of Old both met their demise that day. The adventurers pierced the Dragon of Old’s heart and with it, her soul leapt from her body. It reached out to those that would let her ancient soul linger within them, as it always has.

And always will.

“Her ancient soul was consumed” whispered Icarus with a snivelling grin. “Of course, by me. And others, too … Some, but not all of the Innkeepers joined me in my feast of immortality”.

“And with it,” spoke the manticore as he gazed at the stars beyond Winterspire’s peak, “We gained the soul of a god. What better way to defile the gods than to become one yourself?”

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Chapter 19: The Opera of the Council

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With the smell of fish and the squawking of albatross behind them, four members of the Innkeepers (Atremus, Rozzo, Niloc and Feros), gathered their supplies and prepared to return to Winterspire. Behind them, a familiar half-orc voice was heard:

“Condolences on your late father, Atremus” gently spoke Argeist as he approached the Innkeepers. “His sacrifice for the lives of the council members, my life and certainly your own lives will not be forgotten”.

With a presumed nod from Atremus, Rozzo, Feros and Niloc, the agent Argeist continued.

“If it means no offence, I hope to join you on your journey back to the Moon Hills Inn. The Council of the Five Lords has asked me to be their eyes and ears, coordinating the arrival of the army of Waterdeep and most importantly, to answer any questions or concerns you may have with our united city”.

With a single puff from his pipe and a scratch on the head of his scruffy black cat, Argeist gently pulled a scroll from his satchel and spoke:

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“Before I forget, I figured you ought to see what the people of Waterdeep are saying about you. And, perhaps it will serve as a memento for you, Atremus”.

As he handed the Innkeepers the scroll, the date could be seen on the newspaper: 28th of Leaffal, 1214. It read:

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The critics are in: “The Lords of the Lovers Opera was a hit”. While some reviews were mixed, the overall consensus of the peoples of Waterdeep was that the Opera was a grand success.

The first Act ‘Two Star Crossed Lovers’ set the tone for the Opera. Maria, played by Niloc and Venetio, played by Rozzo, showed their ability to draw the audience in and really become invested in their love. According to some audience members, “the arrival of the Kobold snipers are quite a twist! It really gave the feeling that Maria and Venetio’s love was hunted at every corner!”

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The second Act “The Duel of the Lost Lover” really tested the actor’s ability to improvise. While there was a few hiccups in the performance of the actors as bows and flames billowed from above, the act nearly fell apart. However, a strong recovery from Rozzo and Niloc during the duel with Maria’s betrothed lover Gestalt saved the show: “I really liked the role reversal of Maria and Venetio! These days the princess in distress is so overplayed and to see Maria unleash her hidden powers really made the show” spoke one fan. “I hope to see this trend more often”!

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The third Act “The Flood of Fate” was met with cheers as the audience was invited on stage to actively participate in the Opera’s culmination. While previous “Lords of the Lovers” presentations ended with a rather anticlimactic flooding and survival, this years instead ended with an attack of a vile “boar demon”, presumably a representation of the same evil forces that threaten Waterdeep to this very day. As both the boar and its evil drow assistant were dragged (and splattered!) off stage, the Opera ended with a grand finale, as the house stood and applauded in a standing ovation. A notable performance by Gestalt (Atremus), who found himself now forgiving Venetio as the demon arrived.

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“Two thumbs up!” shouted Rogero and Ebertus, who rated it “Five out of Five Lords. A must see!”

Yet such a spectacular performance was followed by a tumultuous yet united Council of Waterdeep, 1214 that ended in tragedy. While much of the city presumably witnessed the draconic aberration and is in mourning of Elminster’s sacrifice, it is indeed important that the truth, as it happened, be clearly presented to all.

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Two major propositioned were voted upon. The first asked for unity among the Five Lords and to march Waterdeep’s army to Winterspire and prevent the prophesied return of Tiamat, an apocalyptic warning proclaimed to the city by the Champions of Waterdeep.

The vote passed, 77-55 in favour of “Yea. The army of the Five Lords should march against the Black Legion”.

The second and highly controversial (at least, at the time) was made against the former White Lord,Lady Silverstar. Once a symbol of righteousness, temperance and purity she was now being accused (by Rozzo, Tirlonde and Elminster) of plotting against the people of Waterdeep (and all of Faerun) with the Dragon Queen Tiamat and the wanted dragonborn Talimar.

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With a vote of 88-57 in favour of “Yea. Tirlonde should replace the conspirator Lady Silverstar” the haggish virgin was promptly arrested and taken away. Our suspicions were immediately confirmed, when nearly a third of the council members revealed themselves as agents of Tiamat, frantically attacking those around him in honour of her freedom.

What happened next will certainly be one for the history books. While no-one witnessed her “transformation”, it can only be presumed that the Lady Silverstar revealed herself as a black Dragon of Old – an ancient dragon usually spoke of only in myth and legend.

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Her attempted transgressions were promptly halted, however. Both the champions Rozzo and Feros fiercely defending their loyal council members, slaying the cultist agents in their tracks. Our late, respected and wise Elminster bravely charged into the wretched darkness of the ancient black dragon. While no-one truly witnessed how our Green Lord Elminster sacrificed himself to save our city, it became clear that his magicks bested the dragon as its destructive breath was extinguished.

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And as I am sure many of you witnesses, the gargantuan Dragon of Old as its acidic blood rained down upon the skies of Waterdeep as it flew northwards in defeat.

May Elminster rest in peace as of the 29th day of Leaffal. Funeral services will begin on the 31st day of Leaffal to mark the end of the Highharvestide celebrations in his honour. The Lords have asked the city respect his sacrifice with a month of mourning as Atremus, Elminster’s son, has been asked to assume his Lordship of the Harpers in his honour.

As the scroll’s print comes to an end, Argeist whispered to the Champions as his black cat crawled atop his shoulder:

“May his eternal soul rest in peace for his sacrifice. We now march north with purpose: to honour Elminster’s sacrifice. And perhaps, it might do well to pay a visit to what remains of Lady Silverstar?"

Argiest grinned, “Shall we?”

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Chapter 18: The Lords of Waterdeep

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The clamours of merchants shouting echoed through the cold, narrow windows of the Vault of the Shield, headquarters of the Knights of the Shield and the Black Lord of Waterdeep. The black stone warehouse proudly watched every detail over the skyline of Waterdeep with its four mighty towers. Within it, a chronicler of the Shield dipped his quill into the thick, viscous ink and began to write:

“To be submitted into the annals of the Knight of the Shield, this document dictates the historical records on the ‘Champions of Waterdeep, 1214’. The events of the 22nd day of Leaffall will be reserved for the collective eyes of the Shield and none other. For it is our eyes that are open, to bear witness, and to know.

Henceforth, the Champions of 1214 will be known as Atremus, Feros, Niloc and Rozzo. This record begins with the Champion’s convening within the Salty Sailor, arranged to be emptied and abandoned. Here, the bitter Deadwalk Templar, former champion and Paladin sought his revenge. Instead, he found the silver tongue of Rozzo, who twisted not only his words, but the intelligence of the Paladin. Believing them to be costumed fans of the Champions, he cursed them as he left, vowing to seek his revenge until the last breath leaves his body.

Before departing the Salty Sailor Inn, Atremus informed his fellow Champions that his father, the Green Lord Elminster, requested their gathering at a dinner within the Halls of Harpers. Knowing now their reputation now preceded them, the Champions decided to split ways to treat with each of the Lords of Waterdeep.

Atremus, oddly costumed as a chubby man-baby, waddled his way to the deepest roots of the Halls of the Harpers, land of the Green Lord.

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The Halls of Harpers

Feros proudly marched himself through the docks of the Red Sash Canton, the port authority of the Red Lord.

Niloc, recognizing the supremacy of the watchful Knights, stepped towards the mighty stone doors of the Vault of the Shield, home the vigilant and all-knowing Black Lord.

Rozzo, knowing his silver-tongue would find best company within the Silverstar’s Basilica, costumed himself as a pompous noble known as Montgomery Goodcock and trotted across the ivory cobblestoned paths of the White Lady.

While their words may have been their own, but the Knights of the Shield own all that is spoken within the City of Splendour.

Atremus’ weary waddle led him into a den of barbarians, seeking an easy robbing from a strange man-child. Instead, they found themselves within a trap as thunder rattled from the babe’s blubber, throwing the bandits upon their asses. Tearing his costume from his body and revealing his true self, the elderly wizard commanded they flee to the north, seeking an invaluable treasure hidden upon the Manticore’s perch. Agreeing to such an opportunity, the barbarians fled Waterdeep to the Crags of the north to, presumably, have their skin devoured from their living bodies.

Feros would find himself surrounded by the pirates, smugglers and petty thieves of the Red Canton. He sought a young Halfling and current member of the Shield by the name of Shadow, only learning that she has taken a short leave of absence. With little luck, he inquired upon the mood of the Canton in wake of Rozzo’s prophecy, learning that while much of the Red Sash held his word’s to be true, they instead resorted to their own indulgences rather than mobilize a fighting force. Yet, prior to meeting the elven pirate-queen and Lord of the Red Sash, Feros learned that a small force of young thugs had organized themselves, hoping to recruit and aid a small force in defiance of Tiamat’s return. Here, he learned of the Red Lady’s reservations of the looming civil war. She knew it would be the downtrodden of Waterdeep who would suffer the most.

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The Red Sash Canton

Niloc marched deep within the blackened stone walls of the Vault of the Shield. Gazing ahead, his devilish eyes focused on our mercenary Lord Roderigo, clad in his iron armour and slouched upon his mighty throne. Here, Niloc shared stories of his past, notably having been raised by wolves as a child. Impressed his hardships that many of the Shield can sympathize with, Roderigo offered Niloc an opportunity to work for our glorious agency. While it may be stripped from future records, he was tasked with preventing the Silverstar’s attempt at triggering an open civil war. For Roderigo seeks to ensure the Shield’s absolute lordship over Waterdeep, rather than provoke a march of Silverstars and the Guards of Castle Waterdeep. Subterfuge, our Lord spoke, is the best means to usurp a city.

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The Lord of the Shield and his Fears

Montgomery Goodcock’s (Rozzo’s) valiant stride into the Silverstar’s Basilica muddled our intel. Even the Spies of the Shield cannot penetrate the blinding light of the elven Lady Silverstar. However, our informants do know of the Queen of Temperance’s devious plot purify the city of its sins by triggering a civil war. That is, their so-called righteous and holy crusade upon the Lords of the Red and Black. One can only hope that Rozzo was not tempted by her renown beauty and purity that few have been said to resist.

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Rozzo approaches the Throne of Lady Silverstar

As the Champions returned to meet with Elminster, father of Atremus, each of them learned of the coming of the Opera titled the Lords of Lovers. Such an event marks the biannual Council of Waterdeep where the Lords must renew their vows to unity, settle any differences and elect any or all of the five lords, if necessary. While each gaining differing propositions, they were asked to secretly participate within the Opera to thwart (or perhaps, to ensure) an assassination attempt that could trigger an all-out civil war amongst the Lords.

Yet, their dinner plans had become interrupted. Cloaked shadows emerged from the rooftops and fired upon them with arrows dipped in paralyzing Drow poison. Inquiries into these assassins have been met with misleading sources but their connections seem to spread to each of the five Lords. As of the day of this record, the allegiance of these assassins are unknown, but rumours claim they serve Tiamat, the mythical Dragon Queen of the stories of Old.

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Regardless of the origins of these assassins, their attempts were inevitably futile. The Champions proved their resilience despite numerous occasions where their allies lay in paralysis. Clouds of fog and maddening darkness blurred the accuracy of their arrows and the Champions slowly, but surely, slayed each assassin one by one, as they ripped their fellow Champions from their noxious slumbers. Let it be known, the assassins and their dungeon master had been utterly foiled. The players of this great game were victorious against all odds.

Realizing that their notoriety had reached those who would rather see them dead, Rozzo and Atremus quickly rushed to the Halls of Harpers to meet Elminster for their planned dinner. Having witnessed a remaining cloaked figure escape into a nearby manhole, Feros and Niloc decided to follow the shadow deeper into the sewers.

Within those sewers they found a spy of our own. A key to the origin of the assassins: the former Boss Shadow of Haz’ran. Caught off guard alongside Foil, former doctor (and torturer) of the Shadow Thieves, they confessed their plot. A plot, our agents must further investigate…”

The chronicler dated the document and gently folded the parchment as he walked over the iron cabinets that covered all four walls. Removing a key from his pocket, he unlocked the cabinet and pulled out one of the leather folders and placed the document within.

“For the eyes of the Shield only,” he whispered to himself as he locked the cabinet. “We shall see how this influences the Opera in two days hence. Now, to write the history for public eyes" he grinned as the night sky of the 22nd of Leaffall crept over Waterdeep.

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Chapter 17: The Coliseum of Waterdeep

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As the cold, night rain from the Sword Coast poured down upon the winding cobblestone streets of Waterdeep, four cloaked figured gathered around a large poster, recently nailed into a lamppost. Their pale, gaunt faces hiding behind their damp, black hoods gazed upon the words scribed upon it.

The title read “Champions of the Coliseum declared!” as their eyes fixated on portraits below of a masked elf wielding an eastern blade, a grinning moustached human, a shark-teethed tiefling peering from a shadow and a robed, grey bearded wizard, holding a single finger to his lips as if to shush. Below, the following words continued:

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“Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known that the City of Splendor’s Gazette revealed it first!

The reigning Champions of Waterdeep’s Coliseum have been crushed in an upset! The Deadwalk Templars were smashed into submission and their rivals, the Soldiers of Silence, were publicly slain upon the bloody sands of the arena! Their defeat was claimed by our current reigning upstart champions! Emerged from Waterdeep’s depths – men from nowhere!

The first team, consisting of two humans, a man and his elder, a spell-singer and a spell-slinger! Known as Rozzo, “the Prick” and Atremus, “the Silencer”!

The second team, consisting of an elf and a tiefling, good and evil, the sword of thunder and bringer of darkness! Known as Feros, “the Persistent” and Niloc, “the Shadow-crawler”!

Our first clash between the Soldiers of Silence and the Innkeepers began with a mighty bang as the Silencer hurled his mighty fireball to devastate his foes, taking advantage of his quick witted insight.

His opponent, the red-devil wizard darted across the sands, retaliating with a bolt of streaking lightning against the Prick, caught in his own duel against the Illuskan war-maiden. The Silencer gave his now-famous hush as the streaking bolt of lightning shot across the battle-field, dissipating in a flash before a single whisker of the Prick could stand on its end.

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The crowd reared in awe at these momentous power-plays while the Prick gripped his maddening crown upon the war-maiden. The Silencer quickly finished off his wizard opponent, pummelling him with scorching rays, leaving only the crazed maiden to cower towards the arena’s edge. With her last ounce of rage, she charged towards the wizard with sword drawn, cutting him down.

Yet, her victory was short lived. With little strength remaining, the Prick mopped her up off the battle-field. As Waterdeep’s patrons cheered for blood, the Prick earned his name as the crowd chanted in his glory: “Prick! Prick! Prick!” was heard within a mile of the battle. With cheers behind him, he drove the pillar’s spikes through their hearts, ending their life and their championship with it!

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Our second clash was quite a show! The Deadwalk Templars stepped into the blood-soaked sands eager for victory against the Persistent and the Shadow-crawler. Immediately, the cleft-chinned oath-breaker locked the Persistent into a solitary duel, giving time for his desert-folk beauty to pierce her blade and arrow at the opportune moment. Yet the Shadow-crawler assured no such moment would occur as he hurled his forceful bolts and slung his thorned whips in all directions, scattering his foes and slamming them into the spiked pillars.

All the while the Persistent continued to dominant his duel, checking every attack from the oath-breaker who retreated to raise his ally back into the fight. With a mighty show of thunderous force, the Persistent conjured a storm cloud that laid waste to the arena. As the assassin darted towards the Persistent, he goaded her towards him. The moment her blades made contact, the Persistent immediately electrified her with thunderous retaliation, leaving her body lump and ending her reign. Alone and with no aid, the oathbreaker didn’t stand a chance against the combined might of good and evil as the Shadow-crawler crushed his cleft-chin into the sand, once and for all!

And yet, that’s not all! Let it be known that Waterdeep’s Coliseum offered our patrons an encore, free of charge! Our unmatched events always bring the best of entertainment as the Prick leapt back into the arena to claim his ultimate championship in a bout of two versus one!

Glowing with invulnerability the Prick managed to hold his own, leaping from pillar to pillar, picking his opponents off shot by shot, pierce by pierce. Yet, the shaky alliance of good and evil seemed tenuous as the Shadow-crawler seemed to act independently without a master and dashed into a swarm of pitch-black darkness.

The Persistent, exhausted from previous battle quickly healed his wounds with his final spell. From then on, relied not on his sharp blade but on his sacred flame of thunder. Meanwhile, the Prick swung into the audience as the crowd continued to chant his name, “Prick! Prick! Prick!” only to disappear into the podium’s floorboards.

The crowd gasped with only Feros the Persistent visibly remaining. Here, he was nearly declared victor when both the Prick and the Shadow-crawler returned in a flash, met with the cascading roars from the crowd – the encore was not over, not ever at Waterdeep’s Coliseum!

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The fight continued in what appeared to be a free-for-all, leaving every man and women in Waterdeep in confusion. Shadowy bolts slammed in all directions and at one point, the Shadow-crawler and the Prick were declared victorious with a final blast of conjured fire from Rozzo. It was then his famous words were spoken as he stood within the centre of arena.

The Prick commanded silence from his fans in the audience and spoke an astonishing premonition: “Tiamat will return” he shouted to the shocked audience. “And her Black Legion marches from east!” he continued, “Unite! Lords of Waterdeep! Let this zone of truth I stand upon be your proof!”

Clamours of discontent were heard, as many held upon his words as truth. While we cannot endorse such ill-omens here at Waterdeep’s Coliseum, we can only report what is said. Be sure to visit our Coliseum again, where the best moments of our age will always be presented!

Signed,
Your entertainer and announcer, Splint.”

The cloaked figures muttered to one another in a sickly tongue and tore the poster from the lamppost, stuffing it into one of their belts. It was then, on the 21st day of Leaffall that the morning sun rose to dry the dissipating rain from the damp streets of Waterdeep. Within the rooms of the Coliseum’s champions, a piercing ray of sunlight peered over their face, groggily waking them from their recent celebrations of their notorious victory.

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Chapter 16: The Steps of Hrothgar Tower

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The fireplace crackled against the cold stone of the frozen tower far atop the mountain peaks. An old, bearded cleric dipped his feather into thick, viscous ink and began to write:

For the annals of the Order of Thunder, Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower, the following history will be recorded in regards to the events that occurred between the 16th to the 17th of Leaffall, 1214.

On the first day mentioned, four men from far away lands arrived atop these steps. For the records, their names will be documented as the Baron of Merritonia, Niloc, Feros and Atremus.

They had ventured up the seven thousand steps, past the seven warrior statues of Hrothgar and far up the western mountains that can only gaze upon the true peak of Winterspire. Like so few who have made their way atop these frozen peaks, their determination to reach our Tower was proof that these were men who tempted fate.

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We sought their assistance, for we the Cleric of Thunder were destitute. Our Tower of Hrothgar had been taken from us by the Nothic, fiendish one-eyed imps who would hoard and consume our ancient knowledge for themselves. The doors of the tower has been barred to us, as Yoric, the spirit of the tower, had been turned against the men he used to serve.

However, the men from the Moon Hills managed to break the door’s seal and ventured within the mighty tower, now corrupted by the Nothic. Before them was a trial that would test their might, wits … and their fate.

The first level tested their might as our ancient Helmed Guardians turned against them, smashing their relentless hammers against their thundering shields. Yet, they were victorious, for might was their greatest asset.

The second level tested their wits as they entered the trial of thunder. A room dedicated to our acolytes who must pass the puzzle of lightning. They completed their puzzle, but not without sacrifice. The floating tiles required a shock of lightning to be infused and some of the heroes found themselves electrified to a crisp.

The third level tested both wits and might together as they entered our archives just below the tower’s peak. Here, the tall bookshelves reached the ceiling where hidden books would open their path forward. Yet it was here they were ambushed by two of the three Nothic and their monstrous aberrations. These gibbering mouthers were blights from the underdark, mounds of oozing flesh littered with a thousand cursing mouths with grinning teeth.

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Their fate was tested here, as they hurled their might and magicks against them, burning much of our knowledge in the process. But they snuffed out the gibbering mouthers and had one of the nothics tear its own eye out in utter insanity.

It was within these archives, they found our observatory and with it, our telescope to view the stars. They gazed through it, viewing the land before them.

The Baron gazed to the far east where he witnessed the charred smoke of the coming Black Legion, Tiamat’s army in the living world.

Atremus directed his gaze towards the peak of the Winterspire that reached above the clouds and into the stars. There both he and the Baron saw a shining light and the columns of the oracles.

Niloc gazed to the north, beyond the claw-like mountains of Icewind Pass where he saw a mighty frozen fortress under a shattering siege. This was the fortress of The Frozen Orc.

Having saw the world around them, they decided to climb the final steps to reach the top of Hrothgar Tower. Here, the last remaining Nothic sat, channelling the secrets of the great rune-stone atop the centre of tower’s peak. And it was also here their fate was truly tested, for the Nothic offered them a devilish deal.

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The Nothic explained to them they knew of Tiamat’s return and the coming of the end. But that it was the Nothic that hoped to secure the living world’s knowledge and bury it with them deep within the underdark to survive Tiamat’s apocalypse. It was a convincing ploy to all but the noble Feros, who sought our aid and refused to betray the Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower. It is our duty to keep that knowledge secret, for this world is not yet ready for such truths.

Despite Feros’ protest, they chose to forsake our duty. The Baron took one captive Nothic for himself and vanished into thin air. Niloc and Atremus devised their own plan, captured the other Nothic and leapt off the tower’s peak, only to be gently guided down by Atremus’ spell of feather fall. It was there Feros remained, empty-handed but honour bound. And it was then, on the 17th day of Leaffall that Feros earned our trust and became one of us, Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower!

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Chapter 15: The Manticore and the Crags
Introducing Atremus

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With the face of a man, body of lion, wings of a dragon and the tail of a scorpion, this Manticore was a sight for sore eyes. Yet, unlike so many of his brothers, he had a keen interest in riddles, tales and most of all, he took great pleasure in torturous games.

This Manticore grinned with his rows of shark-teeth as his claws carved the tale he spoke aloud, recalling the events that occurred upon the 15th day of Leaffall:

“Deep within the orange, cracked, earthy badlands known as the Crags, I had met four members of The Innkeepers who had travelled northwards from Westfurt within the Boglands. They were a foul, outlandish gang of heroes who’ve decided to run fate a muck!”

The Manticore cackled wildly, knowing his truth would be passed down to generations of monstrosities not unlike himself.

“The four approached me, high atop my mighty perch in all my glory! It was Rozzo, Niloc, Steeb and Atremus who bowed before me in awe, begging for my precious wisdom and knowledge beyond their years!”

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“You’re being hunted, they informed me. They spoke of a worg riding hobgoblin who offered them treasure in exchange for my life. As if I didn’t know of the band of hobgoblins who’d been tracking me for days! Hunters for the Warlock Talimar, they were. They knew what I had witnessed around the Misty Rock”.

“While Talimar wanted me dead for what I saw, it was the Innkeepers who desired my witness. They sought to know how Talimar was resurrected, where he had gone and what mischievous acts he had performed”.

“Your life for three riddles,” I insisted. At the time, it was tempting not to devour their faces. “And my knowledge for blood. Hobgoblin blood”.

“Falling to their knees in mercy, they obliged like petty priests before their deity. They answered my three riddles and marched off like pawns”.

“It was there in the Crag’s canyons where hobgoblins sat in ambush and The Innkeepers fought on my behalf. The bolts of heavy crossbows flung across the canyon as the blade of the hobgoblin captain swung as he charged foward upon his mocking worg. I watched, patiently, waiting for my moment to catch them off-guard in defeat".

“The Innkeepers barely defeated their foes. Fallen and bloody, Niloc called my name with thaumaturgy, echoing across the towering mesas of the Crags. I bestowed upon them my mercy and assisted them in devouring what remained of the hobgoblin”.

“We submit to your grace,” the Innkeepers spoke. “Grant us your wisdom and tell us the tale of Talimar”. I reluctantly obliged, for their delicious faces tempted my stomach. But I knew what needed to be done. It was these foul heroes who might, against all odds, prevent Tiamat’s return. A return that would leave me and my kind as slaves to the Dragon Queen. A fate neither of us desired”.

“I told them Talimar‘s resurrection. It was an undead lich who returned Talimar to life within the Misty Rock. He pieced the dead dragonborn’s bones together and with seething necromancy, infused within Talimar the life of a revenant”.

“As undeath breathed within Talimar he rose a Death Knight, avenger of his Queen Tiamat. It was then, the two marched deeper into the Boglands after preparing a grotesque ritual. A ritual so secretive, even I couldn’t recognize its magicks. And Talimar and his lich trekked deeper into the mists of the Bogs beyond my devilish eyes. It is there, deep within the mysteries of the Boglands, where Talimar resides”.

“With the sunlight of the 15th day of Leaffall fading behind them, they retreated back to the Moon Hills Inn. Meeting with the betrayer of the Black Legion, Torinn, they forged a plot. Torinn would spend his remaining days hunting the Warlock Talimar, investigating summoner’s whereabouts”.

“In the meantime,” the Mantigore grinned as he stroked his thick, red mane, “The Innkeepers would return to me. Begging for my flight. A flight that would take them beyond the mighty canyons of the Crags and towards the Steps of Hrothgar”.

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“And it was then, with the sun’s rise of the 16th day of Leaffall that I dropped them off but a few kilometres before the steps. Ah goodie! I had dropped them within the nest of ravenous griffons that was filled with hungry sabre-tooth tigers! An opportunity, I thought, for them to prove their worth and clear the skies in my honour!”

“What a joyous tale!” the Manticore continued, finishing his carvings into the stone tablet upon his perch within the Crags. “It is here my name will go down in history. Icarus, the Defiant! Savour of The Innkeepers!”

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Chapter 14: Into the Boglands

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Her dark, claw-like hands twitch and tremble over the crystal ball, swirling into a blackened cloud. The Rashemi human girl speaks with her piercing red-eyes closed and her dreadlocks dangling aross her jewelled robes.

“I can see them. Dark omens, swamps and bogs”.

She grins, “And three hags. A coven”.

As her guardian Ataba carefully gazed upon her with his dark eyes, she continued…

“They trudge through the Boglands beyond the Dampwalk bridge. Marching to the village of Westfurt in hopes of finding its thane. A thane to answer the Bannercall. They know Tiamat, the Black Queen comes. They know they must act”.

“The villagers, they speak to them. Only women and but a few men remain in the swamp fort of Westfurt. They are enchanted with the Lady in the Red Dress. The beautiful – yet ugly. The Princess of Hags. The man-eater”.

“They’re they are. I see them. Bal-Darok, Jesus, Steeb, Niloc, Festoon, Farin. Some come, some go, some follow behind watchfully. But they venture forth deeper into the bogs. Giant frogs and haunting wisps are no match for their resolve".

“They see it. The Hag’s hut. Fear is in their hearts. They know what lies within. They can feel her charming soul. It beats with hunger. Hunger for souls. They enter …”

“The soulless swarm them – empty vessels of the men whose heart and souls The Coven had devoured. But the heroes make short work of them. Cutting them down and leaving The Coven to remain, hiding beneath the bog".

“Niloc approaches. Curious, he is. He speaks with the three souls within one hag. He bargains with them. They believe him and The Hag lets loose her crackle of lightning, ripping his friends in two. Knowing their strength, knowing their power. Niloc offers himself to save his friends. And they wait. Festoon unleashed his mighty vines and wind as The Coven enters, hungry for their hearts".

“The Coven is betrayed and the heroes hold on, with but a tiny thread. It is their greatest challenge yet, as they unleash all what is left of their strength. The Hags are vanquished and their Soul Gem is shattered. Freeing Westfurt from the Coven’s wrath".

“The heroes return to the swamp village, triumphant in their victory. They meet what is left of the thane. His wife, the lady of Westfurt, answers the Bannercall. She agrees to march to Frosthold in mankind’s defense".

“But their hope is shattered. Torinn, a silver skinned dragonborn and Black Legionnaire from the East. No. Not anymore – a turncoat, doubtful of Tiamat’s strength. He offers a message of despair".

Zashier’s red eyes open as her hands tremble with fear. Ataba solemnly looks in her eyes, gribbing his sharp scimitar strapped to his belt.

“The Black Legion has risen. Tiamat’s army marches! Devouring all in its path, it has laid waste to the eastern horde lands! It marches to Winterspire!” she gasps.

“Torinn’s words are true! The Black Legion will arrive in no less than a month from the 14th day of Leaffall that marks this omen. Thirty days remain before Tiamat’s horde brings its reckoning upon us"!

Ataba closes his eyes, speaking prayers of ancient Rashemi’s deities, praising the sun. Zashier continues her revelation.

“If that army succeeds. If Frosthold and the armies of mankind cannot resist the Black Legion, Tiamat will rise again. The World Eater will devour all that is known”.

And with those words, Zashier collapses into Ataba’s arms.

Across the Moon Hills Inn, Brutus adjusts his eye-patch from the safety of his bar. After exhaling a puff of smoke, Brutus deeply gulps and mumbles to his bar maiden Miri.

“Then ‘The Innkeepers’ have their work cut out for them, don’t they? We must find a way to stop this Black Legion. The fate of my inn … and the world … depends on it…”

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