A Harper's Tale

The Tale of Princess Celestia

A Sinister Plot Revealed

Waterdeep

The Moonstars are one of the most recent and most covert secret societies to appear in Faerûn in decades. Born in the tumult of a fall-out between several senior Harpers, the members of the Moonstars now operate independently of the former group, though they share many of the same goals. Led by the iconoclastic Chosen of Mystra, former Master Harper, ex-Lord of Waterdeep, and incredibly powerful and knowledgeable mage, Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun and his consort, the Mage Lady of Waterdeep, Laeral Silverhand, the Moonstars have spent the last few years establishing their own intelligence network, including agents, spies, informants, adventurers, and a system of portals to allow them fast access to any part of Faerûn.

Malaer Warsong

Our story begins in Waterdeep and focuses on a small batch of new recruits to the Moonstars. initially they will accompany their mentor in the field, a charismatic elven bard from the Dalelands. In time they will work with other agents of the Harper’s organization, perhaps even meeting Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun.

Malaer arrives from the Dalelands with a Halfling ranger named Elphi to meet his contact at the Grey Griffon Tavern in Waterdeep’s Dock Ward. His contact is a Magus named Balthor Flameblade, who has brought his Sylph apprentice Han as well as some urgent news. An important Sembian noble’s daughter has been abducted on the High Road while on her way to Waterdeep from Sembia. The Harper’s suspect that the Zhentarim may have had a hand in matters. The region is under Cormyr’s control and is likely to cause tensions between Cormyr and Sembia if not resolved quickly.

Comments

1st of Flamerule, 1372 DR

Malaer and Elphi arrived at the Grey Griffon Tavern under the light of a full moon. Clear skies and mild weather contributed to the rowdy crowds of sailors and fishermen filling the streets and taverns of the Dock Ward. Dodging several fistfights and stumbling patrons, the elf and Halfling with their dog companion wove through to a great hearth. Balthor and Han had a table nearby and waved them over.

After some food, drink and casual conversation, Balthor asked that the group follow him to his rental in the attic of the three story tavern. There he delivered a sealed message from the Moonstars to Malaer and received a small purse of coins for his troubles. The message indicated that a wealthy Sembian noble’s daughter had been abducted in an ambush at the Bridge of Fallen Men on the High Road near Fort Helm. Malaer determined that he and Elphi would leave first thing in the morning for Fort Helm. Han practically begged to go and Balthor made financial arrangements with the bard for his apprentice Magus’ services.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

2nd of Flamerule, 1372 DR

Early the next morning, a little before the five bells, the troupe was up and packing their gear. Malaer flagged down a coach and they traveled to the home of an affluent wizard who was tied to the Moonstars. He opened a portal and they stepped through to a small set of weathered standing stones on a hilltop. Fort Helm was visible over a sea of low-lying fog a mere mile or two away.

Approaching the keep, the bard related a few bits of knowledge. “Fort Helm was once a major outpost of the Church of Helm. According to Dorian Wolfe, it was in decline in the 1370s. It is unknown if the fort is still held by the servants of Helm.” As they neared the fort it became clear that it was indeed still manned. Guards peered down from towers and walls as they approached the drawbridge at the main gate.

After a brief exchange, the bridge was lowered and the portcullis raised. The corporal of the watch seemed to be grouchy as the scribe took down their names and there was some brief argument over whether or not to stable Elphi’s riding dog. A lackey showed them to the traveler’s inn, where Malaer rented them a good room for the night. After a meal at the tavern, Elphi and Han visited the provisioner and trader to pick up a few basic needs. Han visited the home of a traveling priest of Tymora, while Elphi perused the various private shops within the keep and Malaar visited the guildmaster.

They learned that monsters in the Caves of Chaos sometimes ransom prisoners. They made plans to head out in the morning to the site of the ambush, bringing the priest with them.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

3rd of Flamerule, 1372 DR

In the morning, the group traveled the trail down through the hills to Proskur, a large city just outside of Cormyr. It was a bustling hive of transient filth and shadowy merchants, and few people traveled the streets with an honest intent. Spending as little time there as it took, they hurried to the High Road and made their way to the Bridge of Fallen Men.

There were still signs of the attack near the bridge. Broken javelins, a partially burned carriage and several shallow graves. Despite heavy traffic on the road, Elphi managed to discover a trail leading west by northwest from the site into the wilderness and hills beyond. Finding an article of the girls clothing in the debris around the coach, Elphi attempted to have her dog follow the scent while she led the group up the trail.

They traveled until nightfall. Malaer conjured a magical dome and set an alarm spell about it on a hill so they could rest. Han stayed up a little while to stand watch but soon realized he would need his sleep if he was to be any use the next day.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

4th of Flamerule, 1372

The group broke camp and continued to follow the trail. Han began to worry that his trail rations might be getting stale and old, as he had bought them before leaving Waterdeep. Elphi had just bought her provisions at Fort Helm.

They heard a galloping horse approaching from ahead. At first the group attempted to hide behind trees, grass or rocks as best they could. Then they saw that not only was the horse riderless, but the rider was being drug behind the horse. It turned out to be one of the Sembian caravan guards by the trappings on the horses gear. The guard had been tortured to death and a ransom note demanding a thousand gold for the girl’s return was pinned to his chest with a dagger. The handwriting was crude, childish and in the common tongue. It instructed that on the new moon the money should be left buried in a sack at the Bridge of Fallen Men beneath a lone hangman tree on a nearby hill.

The group dug a shallow grave with the dog’s help and had the priest provide a short burial service for the caravan guard before turning the horse loose and continuing on…

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1st Session Experience Award: 400 xp

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The Caves of Chaos

Elphi led on, following the trail. As the crested a rocky hill she came into view of Fort Helm and spotted three orcs traveling an intersecting path from the direction of Proskur. The party hid and followed the orcs at a distance into the hills northeast of Fort Helm.

The forest they had been passing through began
getting more dense, tangled, and gloomier than before. The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seemed to warn and ward them off, but they forced and hacked your way through regardless. Then the strange growth suddenly ended – they stepped out of the thicket into a ravine-like area. The walls rose rather steeply
to either side to a height of about 100’ or so – dark,
streaked rock mingled with earth. Clumps of trees grew here and there, both on the floor of the ravine and up the sloping walls of the canyon.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

Here and there, at varying heights on all sides of the ravine, they could see the black mouths of cave-like openings in the rock walls. The sunlight was dim, the air dank, there was an oppressive feeling here – as if something evil is watching and waiting to pounce upon them. There were bare, dead trees here and there, and upon one a vulture perched and gazed hungrily at them. A flock of ravens rose croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible. Amongst the litter of rubble, boulders, and dead wood scattered about on the ravine floor, they could see bits of gleaming ivory and white – closer inspection revealed that these were bones and skulls of men, animals, and other things,. . .

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Switching marching order they chose to move through one of the small groves and copses along the north slope. The thick growth was tangled and forbidding, causing them to fight their way single file through it. Relying on their natural lowlight and darkvision they continued on, dragging the nearly blind priest in the rear. Malaer struck a sunrod to provide light, but it also made them quite visible in the dark undergrowth.

They were suddenly attacked on both sides from ambush by eight kobolds lurking in the underbrush with spears. Elphi and Han managed to vanquish one opponent each quickly, but Malaer suffered a surprise attack as the priest touched him with an inflict light wounds spell. Malaer managed to get his sleep spell off and the priest fled back through the brush as the last of the kobolds collapsed into slumber and were quickly dispatched.

Malaer gave healing potions to the others, including the dog. Han stuffed his away for later while Elphi and her dog drank theirs. The bard also gave each Elphi and Han a potion of invisibility and a potion of sleep. He explained that to use the sleep potion you must throw it and upon impact it would release a cloud of gas that acted as the sleep spell.

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Malaer took the lead as they emerged from the dark grove and approached the nearest cave with night falling fast. The tunnel seemed rather large for kobolds and they cautiously proceeded. Some thirty feet into the cave the tunnel formed a T and Malaer discovered a covered pit at the intersection. Collapsing the thatch work cover revealed writhing snakes and spikes below. As Malaer went to step across the corner, six kobolds rushed from an alcove and hurled spears at him.

Elphi jumped the corner of the pit on her dog as Malaer engaged, followed by Han. After a very brief battle, two of the kobolds had escaped and four lay dead. Han suggested the group pull back and rest to regain spells and heal, but night had fallen on the Caves of Chaos and Malaer was not anxious to meet what moved about and lurked in the darkness outside…

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

1st Session Experience Award: 400 xp
2nd Session Experience Award: 600 xp

TOTAL XP: 1,000

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Unwelcome Guests

The sound coming from the west passage was unmistakable. Rats! Lots of them by the sound of it. And they were headed toward the party. Apparently the crash of the pit cover and the following combat had attracted their attention.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

The party used the pit to their advantage. The rats could only travel single file down the ledge to either side. Malaer cast a sleep spell and Han threw a sleep potion which combined to knock out most of the vermin. Elphi’s dog killed one quickly with a bite and a shake. The fattest of the rats had a jeweled silver necklace or collar with five small gems set in it. Malaer estimated its value at 400 gp.

The room the rats came from was strewn with garbage and filth. The smell was strong enough to dissuade the group from holding up in it. Exploring further into the kobold caves, they spooked a scrawny scout and discovered a cave being barricaded by cowering kobolds. Further exploration revealed a locked door with no discernible sound behind it. Then a long hallway proved hazardous as three kobold archers in chainmail lobbed arrows at the group. One broke his bow string and they were soon dispatched.

Han kicked in the door to the kobold chieftain’s room and Malaer parlayed a surrender and cooperation in finding the girl. The chieftain gave them the key to the food storage room where they spent the night to avoid a marauding owlbear, orcs and other nasty critters in the night outside.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

5th of Flamerule

Morning in the Caves

Following the kobold’s directions, the party crossed the floor of the canyon and ascended to the entrance of the hobgoblin stronghold. The entry tunnel was lined with skulls and a carved greeting on the door read “Come on in, we’d love to have you for dinner” in common. Malaer cast invisibility on Elphi and Han pounded on the heavy oak door with the pommel of his sword.

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When the door started to creak open Han gave it a hard kick, knocking one of the hobgoblins back a bit. Elphi darted past the ones on the left following information Malaer gathered from scrying the girl. Three kneeling and two standing hobgoblins with crossbows opened fire from straight across while four others armed with maces and morning stars blocked the passages to either side in pairs.

Malaer, Han and the dog killed the hobgoblins rather quickly while Elphi slipped into the tortue chamber where prisoners were kept. She used her sleep potion to knock out the two large guards and then freed all the prisoners. An insane gnoll attacked her but she bested him and killed the foul beast.

In addition to the nine year old Sembian princess, they rescued a plump merchant, his wife, two men-at-arms who pledged service for one year if provided arms and armor plus room and board, and an orc who was willing to fight the hobgoblins but split from the group as they emerged from the cave.

The weary and battered troupe fled the caves driven by fear directly to Fort Helm, reaching it by the day’s end. The merchant rewarded the group with 100 gp and honorary guild status at Fort Helm, exempting them for one year from any fees, dues, taxes, and the like which the Guild would normally collect.

Malaer arranged for a room at the inn and a hearty meal at the tavern, where they were joined by the two men-at-arms and the princess. The merchant and his wife retired to the guild house after rewarding the group. Malaer explained that their mission was not yet a success. They still needed to get the girl to Waterdeep.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
 

1st Session Experience Award: 400 xp
2nd Session Experience Award: 600 xp
3rd Session Experience Award: 1,000 xp

TOTAL XP: 2,000
Advancement to 2nd Level

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Father Benjamin

Unfortunately for the party, Father Benjamin returned to the keep long before they did. Even as they were eating, drinking and celebrating in the Spicy Ale Tavern, members of Helm’s guard were assembling to arrest the armed miscreants. The priest is well liked and the adventurers are a suspicious lot at best.

In his tale, the fortune of Tymora was all that saved him from the treacherous attack of the roguish party members once they reached the caves. They sought to rob and kill him. Being followers of Helm, the members of the keep plan to seek justice. They allowed the group into the fort unmolested to prevent an unnecessary conflict, but quickly assembled a formidable force of men to ensure a swift arrest with little or no bloodshed and a proper trial.

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Hanuun’s Heredity

Being a “blue-skinned and white haired elf” stands out pretty much anywhere in Faerun. Possibly a strain of Drow? Being a Sylph followed by magical puffs of wind is even rarer. Djinni ancestry? Wish fulfillment? Despite Drizzt’s heroics, there is still little in the way of trust for fey-like beings, genies or those of potential Drow ancestry.

The fact that he is physically stronger and far more dexterous than most of his human warrior counterparts and wields magic makes him an even greater potential threat. Then there are his companions. A dog-riding Halfling in leather armor and an elven bard with a lyre and a longsword. The group looked rather roguish upon their arrival at Fort Helm. Donning chainmail that reeks of kobold filth and bears the dead critter’s bloodstains does little to remedy that.

While the merchant’s word carries some sway, it will be hard to convince the followers of Helm that the priest of Tymora is the bad guy. After all, the merchant wasn’t witness to the altercation between the priest and the party.

The Tale of Princess Celestia
Flambeaux1369

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