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"Something Wicked This Way Comes"





Week Twenty

March 19th, 1998
Avg. Rating: 3.3

Aircarn, Manayar 12th, Year of the Shield, Early Morning

The evening began with a segue, again set near the Stone Hearth. Shreesha was walking down the High Road, inebriated, until she came to the Stone Hearth and paused. She stood there for a few minutes, then abruptly hurled a full bottle of wine at the Hearth's front door; the bottle shattered, leaving behind a large crimson stain. She then briefly hung her head before stumbling down the alleyway.

Her outburst and uneven gait, however, had attracted unwanted attention, and a small group of Shieldbreakers disappeared down the alley behind her. A few seconds later a man screamed, and a few seconds after that one of the four Shieldbreakers fled the alley. He was followed by another, but this man collapsed in a pool of blood just outside the alley, his throat torn open. The other two never emerged at all. The passersby in the street merely walked around the scene and kept their eyes forward.

After a few moments the serpent-tattooed Preacher appeared on the High Road, and he had three others with him: a huge, stocky man who never uttered a word; a thinner man, who seemed unable to keep from biting his already bloodied fingertips; and a young woman, cradling in her arms the body of a small girl. The Preacher stopped at the Sword's Rest tavern and begged for food, but he was unceremoniously dumped into the road, covered in beer. The strange group continued on and paused at the Stone Hearth. "This is it, my family," the Preacher announced. After a dozen or so attempts the large man was finally able to break in the door. The Preacher, noticing the Shieldbreaker's corpse at the corner of the building, dragged the body in and shut the door behind him...

The party, meanwhile, spent their first night in the relative safety of the castle's walls. Early in the morning Ludwig (the guard they fought alongside in the sewers) and Breesa (the elven healer who often accompanied Sivantri) came to them. Breesa gave to Tristan an all natural, non-magical poultice for his wounds, then began praying for a quick recovery for Talyth; Ludwig made sure the party didn't need anything else, then agreed to let Erik accompany him on his morning's patrol of the North Ward.

For the rest of the day the PCs went about their own business. Willow spent the day resting and recuperating, as did Tristan. Tristan also managed to break the code on the scroll he had saved from Xanathar's library, but the translation appeared as gibberish. Gregory traveled into the city on unknown business, perhaps to meet with Ygraine and the other Llirans. Kelly exhausted herself trying to (unsuccessfully) duplicate her "teleport other" spell. Erik spent the morning with Ludwig's patrol of the North Ward, finding things to be fairly quiet there. The majority of people in North Ward were nobles or wealthy merchants, and they traveled the streets as though little were wrong around them, though nearly all traveled with well armed personal guards. Erik found things to be similar at the Gentle Mermaid, a popular and crowded festhall in North Ward. Talyth and Gino had remained resting at the castle. All of the party members eventually reunited at the castle that evening.

After nightfall two guardsmen, Dandelus and Rakmor, came to the party's quarters. Dandelus began to speak, but Rakmor interrupted him by shouting "Tristan?" and giving Tristan a huge bear hug. Tristan and Rakmor were apparently very good friends who hadn't seen one another since the destruction of the University. As they caught up, Dandelus just smiled and removed a ring from his finger. He grew two inches taller, sprouted a thick beard and mustache, and his left arm became purple and bloated. It was Lord Piergeiron, and he had a great many things to explain to the party.

Piergeiron first told them of how he used his alter ego of Dandelus to travel unnoticed through the city, and how no one, not even Sivantri or the Lords' Council, knew of this ruse. No one, that is, except his Shadow Guard. The Shadow Guard, Piergeiron explained, was a secret group of talented and powerful individuals known only to himself, a group he could trust with anything. Most of this group was now dead; only three survived: Rakmor Tathe, a sergeant in the City Guards; Hrothgar, a giant who had not been heard from since the Storm; and Texter, a paladin of Tempus whom Lord Piergeiron had sent to find Hrothgar two days previous. Now, especially, it was imperative for Piergeiron to have a new Shadow Guard- he chose the party.

Piergeiron selected the PCs to be his new Shadow Guard for two reasons. First, he knew he could trust them- ever since things in the city had begun declining they had continually strived to find out what was happening and how to stop it. They were also obscure enough that none of Piergeiron's enemies would suspect them as close allys. Second, and just as importantly, they gave Piergeiron a sense of hope, a sense that perhaps the gods had not abandoned the city after all. It certainly seemed that Lady Luck favored them- they had survived sinking in the middle of the ocean, stumbled across Xanathar's lair, and defeated the mighty beholder not once but twice in combat. Certainly if the gods were still watching over Waterdeep, the success of the party was a strong sign.

The party thought it over briefly and unanimously accepted Piergeiron's "offer". Rakmor was sent to find black clothing for them all as Piergeiron explained their first task. He had sent Texter and five men to check on Hrothgar, but none had returned. In these desperate times he felt it critical to know the whereabouts of each and every ally, even if that meant risking lives. He asked the party to follow Rakmor out of the city and to Hrothgar's cavern home on Mt. Sar, and to return with both Hrothgar and Texter if at all possible. The party donned their black clothing and prepared to leave the city (Kelly even left her ankle bells with Talyth).

Lord Piergeiron, as Dandelus, led them to an unoccupied stall deep in the castle stables and revealed a secret tunnel beneath the floor. The party followed the tunnel, unlocking and relocking large iron gates as they went, until they emerged just beyond the city walls. Large camps of Shieldbreakers were set up just outside each of the city's gates, and hundreds of people, impaled high atop pikes, lined the roads. The party quickly made their way through the darkness towards Mt. Sar.

After two or three miles they came upon a nine-man Shieldbreaker patrol that had apparently discovered a family escaping the city. The mother and two children were already dead, and the father was hastily raised up on a pike. The party charged forward and took the patrol completely by surprise- they were soon victorious, with not a single PC harmed. They pushed on another mile or so and stopped to rest.

After just a few minutes of resting some of the party could hear the faintest sounds of wings beating. Willow sent her dove, Felicity, to investigate, unfortunately attracting the attention of the three harpies making the noise. The trio of creatures swooped to attack, charming Kelly and Rakmor with their song as they dove towards the others...

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Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.