The Beginning of the End

The Beginning of the End

3rd April, 1371 DR

Two days after the Challenge of Champions, the party plane shifts to the domain of the elven demigod Aranel Hawkeye. They arrive to find him speaking with 4 solars, 3 of which are dismissed into the woods immediately. The 4th solar approaches the PCs and thanks them for keeping their promise to return the fragments of the soul totem, and to have dealt with her honorably while on Pandemonium. She then follows her fellow solars into forest. Aranel then addresses the party and tells them about their quest.

Aranel explains that there is an elf, a “favored son of the Seldarine”, who needs their help. He tells them that by aiding this elf is his quest, they would also be doing a great service to all of Faerûn through their actions. Aranel tells the PCs to be in front of a certain flower shop in Baldur’s Gate at midday the day after tomorrow. If they are there when they should be, they will find the elf. He also gives them each a ring, and tells them to never take it off as long as they are with the elf. Aranel then asks them to spread out in a line, and tells them that some of the deities wish to speak with them, and give them each a gift to aid them on their quest.

Hucknor’s patron deity, Baervan Wildwanderer, presents him with a morningstar that will help him be stronger in battle. Dugmaren Brightmantle, the one who introduced runesmithing to the dwarves, gives Valkor a greatsword that will increase his abilities as a spellcaster. Labelas Enoreth comes to McSquid with an amulet that will turn him into a werebear and give him full control over his various forms. Kevros is given a pair of kukri by Tymora, goddess of good luck. After speaking briefly with the PCs, the deities depart back into the trees.

Aranel gives the party one last thing before sending them on their way: a bag of horseshoes. He tells them that these horseshoes will allow whatever horses they procure to travel more quickly. He asks them to see if they can find out anything that might be helpful to their quest in the two days that they must wait, then sends them on their way.

Arriving in Baldur’s Gate, the party finds an inn, then they split up to see what they can learn. McSquid goes to a bar and talks to a couple of off duty guards. After listening to countless pointless stories while they become increasingly drunk, they tell the elf about something that happened just a few days ago. The guard says that he was put in charge of the night watch at the south-east gate that night because the regular watch captain was ill. In the middle of the night, a carriage started coming down the street straight toward the close gates. Before it got there, four guards, all relatively new, opened the gate and let the carriage out, without the horses even stopping. When he asked the new guards what they were doing, they told him that they had orders to let that particular carriage out.

The next day, the PCs are talking to folks down by the docks when they decide to speak to the dockmaster. After offering to pay him for information that would help in the investigation of a stolen item, the dockmaster tells them about something that happened the same night that the night watchman talked about. He said that a boat docked in the afternoon, but they didn’t lower the gang-plank at all until the middle of the night. Then a few people got off and walked straight into a carriage which took off into the city. Then one man pulled up the gang-plank, and he hasn’t seen anyone leave the ship since. In fact, the only person he’s even seen on the ship since is the man who pulled up the ramp, patrolling the deck at night. After learning that the ship was still at the docks, the party goes to check it out. They learn nothing from their investigation, other than to confirm what the dockmaster said; there only seems to be one man on board. Not knowing what else they can learn, they rest up until noon of the following day; the day in which they will meet the elf they are waiting for.

In the hours leading up to midday, they notice a near-circular cloud formation approaching the city from the west. Shortly before noon, the storm clouds come to rest with about half of the mass over the city, the rest over the water. About 15 minutes past twelve, a bolt of lightning leaps down from the clouds toward the docks. Even from a few blocks away, the PCs hear the sound of splintering wood as the lightning strikes a ship at the docks. A couple of minutes later, as crowds of people rush toward the docks, two figures walk quickly up the street away from the harbor. One is clearly an elf by his build and stature, the other appears more human until he is close enough that his pointed ears and slanted cheekbones can be seen. The shorter of the two is carrying a metal staff and appears to have a constant electrical current passing through him. He stares straight ahead as he strides down the middle of the street, wearing an expression that dares anyone to get in his way. The taller one follows just a step behind, one hand on his sword hilt, eyes searching every inch of the streets around them. As they approach the party’s location, Hucknor steps out in front of them and greets the elves. The shorter one just moves around without breaking stride, but the taller one hesitates just long enough for the PCs to tell the elves that they were sent by Aranel to find them. The bigger one places a hand on the shoulder of the smaller, and turns him toward the PCs.

After a moment of explanation about their quest from Aranel, the party asks to accompany the elves. The shorter, lightning-covered one stretches out a hand toward McSquid, awaiting a handshake. McSquid takes his hand and feels a painless tingle as an electrical current rushes up his arm. Seeming almost disappointed that the jolt did not hurt his new acquaintance, the shorter elf agrees that they can travel with him, then turns and continues to walk deeper into the city. The taller elf beckons for the party to follow, then sets off after his companion. As the party falls into step beside him, the bigger elf says that his name is Kinson, and the shorter, grumpier one is Jolinar. When he learns that the PCs know very little of their quest, Kinson tells them that they are here from Evermeet to find Jolinar’s wife, a powerful elven spellcaster who was captured and taken to the mainland.

Before much more can be explained, they all arrive at the south-east gate to find it closed and guarded, and the whole area around it empty of people. In a small storage shed to the side, the PCs spot a couple of bloodied bodies wearing guardsmen uniforms. After a short conversation in which one of the guards in front of the gate tells them they are under arrest, and Jolinar warns them multiple times to stand aside, all of the guards blocking the gates turn into werewolves or wererats, and battle ensues… At least, it appeared that it would, then everyone disappeared. With everyone invisible, tactics had to change on the fly. Jolinar throws a couple of lightning bolts through the enemies in front of him and into the barred gates. Hucknor and Valkor cause shards of earth and ice to burst out of the ground in front of them, damaging many of their foes, and leaving the bottom part of the gate splintered. McSquid shifts into hybrid form, then runs to the gate and begins to lift the massive beam securing the gate. Giant balls of fire and rock smash the city walls and set them on fire as Valkor attempts to slay the last of their assailants. Then, with most of their enemies either dead or on the run, Valkor (with more than a little encouragement from Hucknor) uses a cold spell to put out the fires on the ruined city walls. With the fires out and the beam removed, the invisible party sets off through the open gates with their two companions from Evermeet, and try to get as far away as they can before the invisibility wears off.

Realizing that horseshoes of speed are of no use without horses, Kevros heads back into town wearing a hat of disquise and finds 5 horses suitable for travel across the Realms. Once the horses are purchased and shod, Kevros rejoins the group outside the city. The next day they are attacked on the road by 5 huge beasts; a dire bear, 2 dire tigers, and 2 dire wolverines, all with glowing green eyes, and all far larger than normal. As the animals charge toward the party, a 200 ft long stone wall appears immediately in front of the charging creatures, separating them from the targets of their hunt. Charging forward, Kevros uses the magic of his new weapons to put a large hole in the wall so he and his companions can get to the other side more easily. At the same moment, the beasts come around the wall from both sides, making Kevros’s hole pointless. The PCs form up and prepare for the beasts to attack. About the same time the beasts arrive, McSquid’s body collapses in on itself, and he drops to the ground in a crumpled heap. A couple of seconds later, his body returns to normal and all of his wounds are healed. Before anyone has time to marvel at this strange occurrence, the same thing happens to Kevros; first imploding, then returning to normal.

The party thinks that the green-eyed beasts are the cause of the powerful death magic until Valkor looks up and sees a winged man floating in the air above them. After locating their foe, the heroes are able to deal with him quickly, but not before he slays Kinson, completely destroying his body. As soon as their flying enemy falls, Jolinar begins insisting that Hucknor resurrect Kinson as soon as possible, and offers to pay for the expensive spell components. Hucknor agrees that he will resurrect the slain elf once he has had a chance to rest and prepare the spell. The next day’s spell is successful, and Kinson rejoins the party.

After reaching the River Reaching within the Reaching Wood, Jolinar tells the party that the path he is following reaches straight across the river. After some experimentation, the party finds that the horseshoes that Aranel gave them allow their horses to walk across the surface of the water. When they are about half-way across the river, 4 large whirlpools appear in water and move toward the party. The PCs urge their horses into a run and reach the riverbank before they are trapped in. As the whirlpools reach the shallows near the bank, they turn into huge water elementals. As the party turns to face the threat, the river bank forms into a wall of dirt and mud, creating a barrier between the PCs and the elementals. As Hucknor converts the wall into a hulking earth elemental, Kinson and Jolinar see 3 figures emerging from the trees behind them. Valkor and Hucknor focus their efforts on the elementals while the elves and Kevros take on the longsword-wielding werewolves that are attacking from behind. The battle ends quickly, and the only friendly casualty is Hucknor’s earth elemental.

After traveling into the woods for the remainder of the day, the party is approached by a man bearing a torch. The man asks them why they are sneaking into the Sunset Vale where there is no road. After trying to explain that they are just passing through, they notice that the man is wearing black leather armor and a metal brace on his arm. When they ask him if he is a member of the Shadow Guard, the man steps closer and quietly asks them where they have heard that term. When they explain that they knew a Shadow Guard named Darin, the man asks them if they would be willing to go with him to speak to “Lord” Darin. After getting approval from Jolinar (and learning a bit of backstory about Darin that they didn’t know), they travel to a small underground guard post with a teleportation circle scribed on the floor of one of the rooms. The circle takes them to a cave, where they are met by another shadow guard that takes them down into what appears to be a war camp.

When the party reaches the center of the camp, their two shadow guard escorts approach a large tent and speaks to the men standing guard at the entrance. One of them ducks inside, and a minute later Darin emerges from the tent and walks over to greet his friends. After a friendly welcome for Hucknor and Valkor, Darin is verbally assaulted by Jolinar. The argument ends with an agreement to work together to save Preia.

Darin takes the party into the command tent where they see two people they don’t recognize standing across a large map-covered table from Balian and High Lady Respin Qualtaine of Iriaebor. After a brief exchange with Balian, the PCs are introduced to Vangerdahast, the former royal magician of Cormyr, and Alusair Nicasia Obarskyr, the rightful Queen of Cormyr… and very much alive despite the reports to the contrary. Alusair is preparing to reveal her presence to the people of Cormyr, and see how Althon (or whoever is pretending to be Althon) reacts when his claim to the throne is challenged.

After plans are hashed out, the Queen’s troops march toward Cormyr, while Balian’s men take a slightly different route in order to remain hidden, but still be available to support the Queen’s men if necessary. The path that Balian’s troops take is almost the exact path that Preia took and that the PCs have been following.

They travel without incident until they reach the Marsh of Tun, where the trail leads directly into the marsh. Balian leads his men around the marsh while the party must now pass through it. When the reach an area of the marsh that is almost completely submerged, hundreds of arms reach up from the water to grab hold of the PCs’ horses. Hucknor grasps his holy symbol, and dozens of zombies die. Then Jolinar jumps down into the muck and sends electricity flooding through the water. With all of the lesser undead out of the way, the really enemies begin their attack. The two nightstalkers and four liches are led by a cleric of Myrkul with large antlers growing from his bald head. Hucknor destroys all four liches and one of the nightstalkers within the first 20 seconds, and the rest of the party deal with the cleric quickly.

After exiting the swamp, Preia’s trail leads them straight through Brindford. Hucknor and Valkor are hesitant to enter due to the murder charges out against them, so they head around the city with Balian’s men while Jolinar, Kinson, Kevros, and McSquid pass straight through the city without incident. They pass through a secret tunnel under the Stormhorns and reach Cormyr about a week ahead of Alusair’s army. Balian’s men wait in the foothills while the PCs enter Suzail.

As the party passes through the city toward the palace, they notice that some of the Purple Dragons have a slight grayish tint to their skin. When they are stopped at the palace gates, Hucknor and Valkor present the writ signed by Althon naming them honorary Purple Dragons. They say that they have urgent information for the King. They are allowed to approach the palace entrance where they are met by four of the grayish-skinned Purple Dragons. They fetch the guard captain (also gray-skinned) who listens to their story, then tells them to wait while he talks to the King. He returns about 10 minutes later and tells them that the king will speak with them.

… Ok, to make a long story short: Althon isn’t Althon; he’s really Kazgaroth The Beast, a very old and powerful minion of Bhaal. After a lame attempt at pleasantries, he changes into his real real form (which looks something like a tyrannosaurus with larger, fully functional arms) and the battle begins. 3 powerful spells rain down on the party every few seconds as they try to bring down The Beast. Valkor circles around Kazgaroth and almost stumbles into Preia, who is lobbing spells at the party in rapid succession. Valkor moves in close to the elf woman and creates an antimagic field around himself that prevents her from casting further spells. Preia just stands there shaking, seeming having some sort of internal struggle for control, while Jolinar runs over and takes her staff out of her hands, explaining that with it she could still cast spells, even within the field. The rest of the group finished off Kazgaroth, but not before he swallows Kinson and McSquid whole.

The battle is won, “Althon’s” treachery is revealed, and the throne is ready to receive the queen. All seems well and right, … but something Kazgaroth said to the PCs leaves them feeling that whatever evil plans have been set in motion have only just begun…

“You fools have no idea what is happening. Defeating me will not be the end of this.
This is just the beginning of something marvelous. It is … the beginning of the end.”



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