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The Purple Halls
Richard Baker

In a high mountain vale in the Starspire Mountains, a door of red granite stands in the side of a mountain. Old magic glyphs burned into the stone cover the heavy posts on either side of the door, and the image of an orb and dagger is emblazoned in its center. This door leads to the Purple Halls of Sulduskoon, a secret stronghold that has been a magical assassins' den and the base for a band of evil adventurers, and now serves as a black temple of Cyricist crusaders -- but one with a strange and perilous secret that its masters do not suspect.

The Delving of the Halls

In 361 DR, Year of the Fearless King, the noble-born wizard Tultysar of the Shoon Imperium founded a secret society of mage-assassins called the Daggers of Dusk. The Daggers cut down a number of Shoon nobles over the years, profiting from the endless feuds and rivalries that divided the Shoon realm in its waning years. Their symbol was the orb and dagger, signifying arcane knowledge and deadly intent. Tultysar delved a hidden stronghold for his brotherhood, choosing a remote vale in the Starspires. He and his fellows laid several portals within the complex leading to smaller outposts and hiding-holds, including another extensive stronghold in the Spiderhaunt Peaks of eastern Faerûn.

The Daggers of Dusk survived the fall of the Shoon Imperium in the Year of the Corrie Fist (450 DR), but were lost to western history in the centuries that followed. They continued their secret slayings in eastern Faerûn, meddling in the affairs of Murghôm and Semphar for some time longer. But in time the society faded there too, and by the Year of Watchful Eyes (705 DR) the secret society's stronghold lay abandoned and forgotten. Hobgoblins, ogres, and other such marauders eventually occupied the complex.

The Purple Claws

Hunted by the Dark
Although more than fifty years have passed since the Purple Claws ventured into the Underdark, a sinister power in the Shrieking Abyss of Throrgar has not forgotten their transgression. The Purple Claws unwittingly ventured into the domain of an uvuudaum (Epic Level Handbook), who then dispatched mooncalf (Monster Manual II) minions to erase all traces of the mercenary band. Most of the Purple Claws carried magic, jeweled cloak-clasps in the shape of a dragon's talon, and those unfortunate souls who happened to wear Purple Claw clasps were the first people the mooncalf minions sought out.

To this day a dozen or so Purple Claw clasps still exist across Faerûn -- lying atop the moldering bones of a mercenary who died in some forsaken ruin, forgotten in the treasure heap of a greedy monster, or lying unsuspected amid the trinkets and baubles of the wealthy or noble. Only when a clasp's magical power is activated does the uvuudaum perceive its existence. More than once an adventurer has discovered a magic clasp and pinned it to his cloak, only to discover that an inhuman monstrosity of the deep Underdark is now aware of his whereabouts and coldly intent on dispatching horrible minions to carry him off into the night skies.

In the Year of the Singing Skull (1297 DR), a formidable company of sellswords known as the Purple Claws discovered the old Dusk Dagger hold and cleared it of its monstrous occupants. The Purple Claws were a mercenary band of adventurers fourteen strong -- calculating, ambitious, and coldly pragmatic. Most of their adventures revolved around the ruthless accumulation of wealth and magic, and they decided that the old stronghold would make an ideal place to store their considerable plunder. They brought blindfolded and hooded stoneworkers, locksmiths, engineers, and artisans from Myratma and Darromar to refurbish the place, and restored the place to its old splendor. The stronghold became known as the Hold of the Purple Claws -- or, as rumors slowly spread, simply the Purple Halls.

The Purple Claws adventured off and on for many years, with an ever-changing roster of membership. Over time as many as thirty-five different heroes (and villains) fought under the emblem of the Purple Claws. Most met violent ends, and a few were killed by their own former comrades. But the company as a whole survived until a disastrous expedition into Throrgar, the Shrieking Abyss, in 1320 DR, the Year of the Watching Cold. Not a single active Claw returned from the Underdark -- and soon afterward the dozen or so ex-members who had scattered to various parts of Faerûn one by one met horrible ends, carried screaming into the night sky by unseen assailants. The Purple Halls were abandoned again.

The Gloomfire Chasm

The Secret Palace of Tultysar
Unknown to the Cyricists and their pets, the Mirror of Manedor also serves as a gate to the Plane of Mirrors . . . and in fact at random times someone stepping through the portal does not travel to the eastern citadel, but is instead drawn into the Plane of Mirrors and trapped there. A group of guardians from the mysterious race known as the nerra (see Fiend Folio) watch the far side. Long ago the ancient mage Tultysar, founder of the Daggers of Dusk, created the Mirror to function in this manner and made a bargain with the nerra to serve as his assassins and spies. When his death approached, Tultysar retreated into the Plane of Mirrors, and became a mighty lord among the nerra himself. The Mirror of Manedor leads to his palace on the Plane of Mirrors, from which hundreds of other mirrors peer out into hundreds of different places across Faerûn and other worlds. Tultysar can never return, since he would crumble to dust if he left, but he regards all within the Purple Halls as his.

The Purple Halls consist of several levels of excavated halls, stairs, shafts, and galleries, all cut out of the living rock around a network of natural caverns -- including the spectacular Gloomfire Chasm, a subterranean rift that runs for hundreds of yards and is easily 200 feet to the bottom. Large purple-hued crystals of quartz grow from the sides and ceiling of the rift, glimmering with a faint violet radiance; even without any torches or lanterns, the chasm is as bright as weak moonlight. Several passages in the dungeon emerge on the chasm at various points, run along ledges or descend staircases cut into its walls, and then lead back into the cavern maze at some different point.

The Mirror of Manedor

The old portals created by the Daggers of Dusk took the form of mirrors -- highly polished sheets of bronze set in stonework carved to resemble twisting serpents, heightened to almost perfect clarity by subtle magic. Several of these old bronze mirrors are now tarnished, dark, and dead, but the Mirror of Manedor is still brilliant. It leads to a dungeon carved out by Tultysar in the Spiderhaunt Mountains of eastern Faerûn, a hidden twin to the western Halls. Above this mirror the name "Manedor" is chiseled in the Thorass runes.

The Purple Claws did not refurbish the eastern portion of their stronghold, and in fact left it as the lair of various hungry monsters. That portion of the Purple Halls on the other side of the mirror-portal is therefore in great disrepair and is infested by trolls, hags, and a large brood of wyverns. Viewed from the eastern side, the Mirror appears the same -- but the name above the polished bronze surface is "Rodenam."

Cathedral of Daggers

In the Spiderhaunt portion of the Purple Halls lies the ancient meeting place and conclave of the Daggers of Dusk -- a dark, splendid hall known as the Cathedral of Daggers. Ringing the center of this pillared chamber stand nine stone markers or posts, each about 5 feet in height. Daggers of black adamantine hover in the air above seven of the stone markers, encased in a flickering aura of violet flame (no one knows what became of the remaining two daggers). Each marker commemorates the reign of a Dusk Master, a leader of the ancient order. Attempting to remove a dagger from its place is dangerous, since each marker-stone is trapped in some way.

Ferantaril, Dark Master of the Halls

The uppermost portion of the western Purple Halls now serves as the home of a knight of Cyric named Ferantaril (NE male human crusader 5/favored soul 4). Hearing that the Halls had been abandoned, he led a party of Cyricists from the temple known as the Mountain of Skulls in Amn to clear out the savage humanoids squatting in the place and establish a secret stronghold. Ferantaril claims the rank of Dark Master (Cyricists have a score of such sobriquets), and he is working to transform the Purple Halls into a hidden temple of the Black Sun.

Ferantaril has enslaved a band of gnolls he found occupying the upper levels of the Purple Halls, and he sends the marauders out on wide-ranging raids. Meanwhile, the Dark Master and his acolytes (a dozen or so low-level clerics and crusaders of Cyric) are engaged in exploring the remainder of the Purple Halls. Many of the traps and secret passages put in place by the Purple Claws remain undiscovered, and some of the portals within the stronghold lead to very dangerous places indeed. One leads to a bone-filled desert cave somewhere in the Bandit Wastes where a particularly large and vicious stonesinger lairs (12 HD; Monster Manual III). Another opens in the dungeons of a ruined tower in the Gulthmere Forest -- a tower infested by spriggans, redcaps, and displacer beasts trained by the evil fey.

About the Author

A former officer in the US Navy, Rich Baker has been a game designer since 1991. He has written or contributed to more than 70 game products, including 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons and Axis & Allies Miniatures. He is also the author of eight Forgotten Realms novels, including the New York Times bestseller Condemnation.

Rich married his college sweetheart, Kim, in 1991; they have two daughters, Alex and Hannah. Rich’s interests include Golden Age SF, military history, hiking in the Cascades, wargaming, and the Philadelphia Phillies.