Dark times had come to Loudwater. Three times in the past month, someone had been murdered in the night. As one victim after another was found with their heads emptied of brain matter, terror gripped the populace. What was the pattern? Who would be next?
Daughter of Talanthe Truesilver
Year of Rogue Dragons
Late one chilly autumn night, Lisyil Sweetwhisper awakened the members of the Jade Blade. Lisyil is a cousin of mine and serves High Lord Kalahar Twohands as his herald. Her voice is true to her name, and she has a beautiful fey-like face. Both shielded her from angry protests of the Jade Blade as she roused them and told them than High Lord Kalahar wished to see them immediately. Sensing the urgency in her voice, they set off.
At High Lord's Hall, Lisyil presented the Jade Blade to Kalahar and his chancellor Rayler Drenn. Kalahar grimly confirmed the rumors of illithid activity within Loudwater. There have been three murders over the past month where the brain was removed from the victim. Two of the victims were officers of Loudwater while the third was a captured Zhentarim agent who was cooperating with authorities. Kalahar was concerned that the mind flayers were in league with the Zhentarim as the choice of victims benefited the Black Network and both groups had dealings with the Hark.
More immediately, Kalahar was concerned of the safety of Stedd Rein, the founder and leader of the Red Fellowship. Kalahar had just dreamed that Stedd was in danger. Mielikki would often send him dreams when he was the Green Regent and this was the first he had since his reign as her champion ended. That she would send him the dream underscored the danger. He sent our heroes out immediately to protect Stedd from harm.
The Jade Blade hurried from High Lord's Hall to the Red Boar Tavern where Stedd Rein was known to stay, and it was fortunate for Stedd that they did so. Kalahar's premonition was accurate, and the adventurers arrived to find Stedd under attack by an illithid assassin behind the tavern. The hideous monster had already slain five Red Fellows, and now he held Stedd by the throat, preparing to extract his brain. The Jade Blade leapt to his defense and drove off the monster, who escaped into the darkness.
With a shaken Stedd Rain in their care, the Jade Blade returned to Kalahar, who decided that Stedd would stay at High Lord’s Hall for his protection. Kalahar then asked the adventurers to undertake a new mission. He had lost contact with Vendross Thaddren, a spy who was keeping an eye on the Zhentarim. Kalahar was afraid that Vendross had been captured, and the High Lord asked the adventurers to go to the Fortress of the Eternal Despot, the temple of Bane in Orlbar, find out if Vendross was there and retrieve him if he was. Kalahar gave the adventurers a description as well as the sign and countersign to know him.
On the way to Orlbar, the Jade Blade came across a merchant caravan under attack by a group of hell hounds. Our heroes aided the merchants and slew the beasts, which mysteriously vanished into smoke when they died. For those who are not aware, this is a taletell-tale sign that the beasts were summoned by magic.
After the merchants departed, a group of Banites lead by a priest named Draeth approached our heroes. Tyrant Draeth (tyrant is a Banite title) was angry with the Jade Blade for some reason, and he verbally abused them throughout the conversation. Somehow a fight did not break out, but the two groups parted on poor terms. That night, the adventurers were attacked by fiendish dire wolves. When they were slain, the creatures also vanished into smoke like the hell hounds. I'm sure you've reached the same conclusion I have about these attacks.
The Jade Blade arrived at Orlbar and snuck around the village searching for a way into the Fortress of the Eternal Despot, which sits on a hill overlooking the town. They eventually found a weakness—a culvert that lead into the sewers beneath the temple. As they crawled through the culvert, they were attacked by a pair of gricks. Once past these beasts, the adventures slew a carrion crawler that awaited them deeper inside.
After some time exploring the bowels of the temple, the Jade Blade reached the Heart of Bane, which is a cylindrical shaft that plunged nearly a hundred feet below them. The walls were pocked with tiny enclosures, each holding a black crystal. A walkway, seemingly composed of bone, stretched across the open shaft, linking the three doors into the Heart, forming a three-pronged star. About thirty feet below the first walkway was another similar walkway.
As the adventurers entered, they were challenged by a DhanTe, a Monk of the Iron Gauntlet. He demanded to know why they had come, but was not particularly interested in their answer. He assumed that they had come for the spy and told the Jade Blade that they would die here. He clapped his hands and the walkway came to life, forming grasping skeletal hands that tore at our heroes. DhanTe was joined by three of barghests, and together they attacked the adventurers, determined to stop them from rescuing Vendross.
After a difficult battle, the Jade Blade defeated DhanTe and found Vendross bound and gagged at the bottom of the Heart of Bane. He was eager to flee with the adventurers back to Loudwater. Upon their return, they found out that Chancellor Rayler Drenn was missing and presumed dead. That night, at a feast in honor of Vendross' rescue, Kalahar made him Chancellor of Loudwater, giving him the circlet of office.
The day after the feast, Lisyil Sweetwhisper came to the Jade Blade with terrible news. Stedd Rein had been slain in the night. His skull had been gnawed through and his brain devoured.