Heroes of Hillsfar

The Madman's Prophecy - Part 7

Count the Dead!

“The fifth lies where the ancients lie beneath night’s marble, forgotten but not gone. The lost wealth of a forgotten time pays terrible dividends now.” – The Madman’s Prophecy

The party returned to Elventree to report what they had discovered. Marie, as a Harper, reported to Elanil Elassidil, and Zelda and Cundall being affiliated with the Emerald Enclave reported to Nymarrath the aged elven druid. Minimus said he was going to The Swaying Bough inn.

Both Elanil and Nymarath were shocked and dismayed at the report of the fey’ri and the summoning of the goristro demon, both insisted this news be taken further. Elanil Elassidil sent a messenger to Olisara Lightsong, the most senior Harper in the Moonsea area. Nymarrath thought her faction’s senior agent shoudl be informed as well, except the most senior Emerald Enclave agent was only a short distance away in the the Hall of the Unicorn – Seranolla the Whisperer, a gnome druid of Mielikki. The party were advised to keep their eyes open and report anything of a demonic nature to their faction leaders. Marie discussed the fifth prophecy with Elanil and the probability of it being the old Church of Waukeen.
“That temple has always been strange,” said Elenil. “A church of a goddess of commerce, out in the forest? Every temple to Waukeen I’ve ever known has been in an urban area. However we know someone who is there at the moment. I’ve invited…. ah, here he is.”
Walking up the path to Elanil’s tree cottage was a brawny half orc in shiny plate armour. As Elendil and Marie came out of the cottage, he bowed slightly. Elenil introduced Marie to Zern Xerkstil, Paladin of Helm, and senior member of the Order of the Gauntlet faction. Zern was polite but stand offish. Elanil suggested they go to the Cave of Silver Shadow and meet up with the rest of the party and Nymarrath. When they were all together and ZernZert2.png had been introduced to everyone, the half orc spoke to them.
“I have been told that you are going to the Church of Waukeen. One of our Order’s associates went there more than a tenday ago, a priest of Jergal named Erve. As you may know, Jergal is the god who records the death of every sentient being. Or something like that. Anyway, Erve has been a friend to the Order of the Gauntlet by giving us reports of the state of things on his travels, which has often been useful. We value Erve as an associate and are concerned that he has not returned from doing his inventory of the dead in the crypts and graveyard there. The Order asks that you give any aid you can to Erve, should he be in need, and our regards if not. Please let us know if anything has befallen him and in what manner, if at all possible.”
The party agreed they would, and Zern nodded, looking over the party as if he didn’t have much hope that they could make it to the church of Waukeen alive, let alone rescue Erve. He turned and left.
“He’s not much of a people person,” admitted Elanil. “But he is a staunch ally, and a good friend to Elventree.”

The next day the party went to visit Joyella at the Zhentarim camp near Elventree. It was a busy camp, there were men and women training with weapons, there were goods, carts and horses coming and going. Joyella caught sight of them and waved cheerfully.
“Do you need someone stealthy with picking locks skills?” she asked, hopefully.
“Nope, we just came for our reward,” replied Cundall.
“Oh,” said Joyella. “Well, I have it. The Zhentarim look after family, so they were more than happy to pay.” She disappeared into a tent and came back with a pouch of coins. Cundall inspected it’s contents. He was impressed.
“150 gold pieces, nice,” he said. “Thanks. The Zhentarim must value you.”
“Family,” repeated Joyella. “Not really of course, but that’s what it feels like. As long as they get their cut, they’ll help you, look after you, and never give up on you.”
“We’ll come see you if we have need for a stealthy lock picker,” said Cundall.
“Please do,” said the gnome, waving as the party left.

“You can’t help but be impressed at their organisation,” admitted Cundall.
“And their change,” said Zelda. “That new Zhentarim leader really made them focus on commerce rather than military domination. Seems to have worked, they’re much more widely accepted now.”
“The old Zhentarim sound like jerks,” said Minimus. “They seem like any other faction now.”
“Not so,” said Maire. “They may not be bent on conquest any more, now they just want a monopoly on commerce, trying to set themselves up as the only company to deal with in regard to caravan security for example. Did you see all those warriors training? They’ll all be Zhentarim guards for hire, undercutting the competition.”
“Are you sure you don’t have some kind of biais?” asked Minimus. “The Harpers and Zhentarim have been enemies throughout the ages. But now they’ve changed, are you sure you’re not hanging on to old hatreds?”
“I am not…” Marie retorted, before being interrupted by Cundall.
“We have bigger fish to fry than bicker about factions,” said the druid. “Onward to the Church of Waukeen!”

The old church of Waukeen was about a day’s travel away from Elventree. The abandoned church and overgrown graveyard were exactly where they were told. Surprisingly, the place was not uninhabited. Two humans in loose-fitting peasant garb moved among the gravestones, which were made of a black marble. They led two lumbering rothé, attached to harnesses. It was hard to tell whether these caretakers were trying to fix gravestones, pull them up, or do something else entirely. The party approached warily, and as they got closer the humans suddenly shifted, shedding their illusion and were revealed as horned, bat winged elves. Zelda snarled “Fey’ri!” The party could see that the rothé were dead, their corpses animated by foul magic. The battle was on.

Because the party were ready, they were able to leap to attack. The rothé usually liked to charge anything that threatened them, however the party was on them before they could lower their horns and move. It ended up being a short battle in the end, the fey’ri were outnumbered and the rothé, although tough, were not up to the task of taking on experienced adventurers.

It was apparent now that the fey’ri had been digging up corpses, there was a pile of them stacked near the old church.
“The rothé are no doubt from the Allano farm,” said Marie. “Very cheap labour.”
“Keys,” announced Zelda, having searched the bodies she found a set of large iron keys.

The church building was in terrible repair. Much of the stonework was crumbling, and after going inside they party found that the fine appointments that usually decorated a temple of Waukeen had long since been looted.
However, at the back of the abandoned church, a set of marble stairs descended to a great iron door with a newly oiled lock. The keys that the characters found on the cultists outside fit the lock.

Upon opening the door, the party saw it led into a massive crypt. Every wall contained multiple niches in which rested skeletons long dead. Smaller stone rooms with stone doors filled the crypt as well, obviously the final resting places of more wealthy and influential members of the church.
Immediately in front of the party stood a human wearing the garb of a priest of Jergal, the god of burial and interment, the keeper of the Book of the Dead. His glasses were askew, and there was a strange dark glow on him that made him look blurry.
“More fleshy bodies for my master’s army,” said a voice that came from the priest but was definitely not the priest’s. “Protect the braziers!” he called to someone or something that they could not see deeper in the room. More fey’ri appeared, a couple of them seemed to be spellcasters.

Once again the party lept into battle.
“Don’t hurt the priest,” called Cundall. “Knock him unconscious if you can!”
Zelda despatched a fey’ri about to cast a spell with an arrow to the throat. The other spellcaster was a daemonfey, she could see that now, taller, bigger wings, darker skin. She fired another arrow this time at the daemonfey, but missed.
Meanwhile whatever had possessed Erve the priest of Jergal, was doing serious damage. It just had to touch someone and they became weaker and took magical necrotic damage. Minimus had been affected, as had Marie. And the party were not able to hurt the priest at all.
Marie could feel arcane magic coming from the braziers that the possessed priest had called for the fey’ri to protect. She had an idea. She concentrated on the arcane magic coming from the brazier and used her knowledge of magic to stop it, and then snuff it out. The possessed priest screamed in frustration and attacked anew, this time Cundall suffered the debilitating attack. Marie moved to the next brazier, after Minimus cut a path through the blocking fey’ri, and snuffed that one out as well. She could tell now that touching the brazier and knocking it over would work, but it would do damage to anyone touching it. When the last brazier was extinguished, the priest collapsed to the floor and a creature of darkness arose from his body.
Shadow_Demon.jpg“A shadow demon,” yelled Marie. Now that it did not have Erve’s body for protection the party could attack it, having defeated all of the fey’ri and the daemonfey. It was tough, and was resistant but not immune to their weapons. Eventually they wore it down and the battle was won.

Cundall used healing magic on Erve, who sat up blinking. He recovered his glasses and thanked the party for the rescue.
“I wonder if it might be too much trouble to ask for an escort back to Elventree,” the priest said. “It seems much too dangerous to work here at the moment.”

Back at Elventree in front of Elanil, Nymarrath, Zern, Seranolla and three people the party hadn’t seen before, a small dark haired human, a white bearded dwarf and a tall thin drow. They were introduced as Chaab of the Zhentarim, Dornal Whitebeard – the dwarf representing the Lords’ Alliance faction, and Murssvayas Dhuurniv the drow who apparently was acting as some kind of emissary from a drow outpost.

Murssvayas_Dhuurniv.jpg“Let me get to the point,” Erve was saying. “Being possessed by that shadow demon allowed me to glean information from it, as well as overhearing the conversation between it and the fey’ri. It seems that the fey’ri are aware that the Dark Prince, the Demon Lord Graz’zt has been summoned from the Abyss and is residing in the Underdark, underneath the Moonsea area. The madness and chaos of the Abyss that he brings with him is affecting something they call the faerzress and transmitting the madness to many creatures.”

“If I may,” interrupted Murssavayas Dhuurniv, the drow emissary. “The faerzress is an unusual magical energy pervading much of the Underdark. The origin of this mysterious arcane power is unknown. Legend claims it is an ancient elven magic dating back to the time when we dark elves were first exiled from the world above. We, and other Underdark creatures, use the magical properties of areas suffused with faerzress to protect our settlements. Areas suffused with faerzress can range in size from a few dozen feet across to several miles in diameter, and among other things, provides a dim light.”

Erve continued. “The Church of Waukeen was just a front for worship of Graz’zt. Even the non-fey’ri who attended there were cultists of the Dark Prince. The fey’ri were going to create undead from all of the corpses and let them run amok in the Cormanthor Forest and Hillsfar region. They seek to sew chaos and discord. They are also recruiting disgruntled non-humans and arming them, telling them to attack Red Plumes. They want to create as much chaos and madness as they can so that Graz’zt will be attracted to the area.”

There was much discussion about the presence of Graz’zt and what that meant for the Moonsea lands. The party found out that Graz’zt was the demon prince who had mated with members of the evil noble House Dlardrageth to become daemonfey, and had provided incubi and succubi for the noble elf houses allied with House Dlardrageth to become fey’ri.
“No wonder the fey’ri are becoming more bold,” said Marie to Cundall.
“Yeah, they’re acting up because Daddy’s home,” replied the druid.

Later after everyone had left, Elanil approached the party.
“Olisara Lightsong, the most senior Harper in the Moonsea lands, has asked to meet you. You can find her at the Cloverwall Roadhouse, about a day’s travel northwest of Hillsfar. I request that you go there after you have rested.”

The party agreed, and made their plans to leave in a couple of days time.

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