As Seconds Slip Away
Can you trust the words of a traitor? Would you dare put your fate in the hands of someone who has turned their colors and switched sides? Would you risk the fate of a town and everyone in it on a change of heart? High Lord Kalahar Twohands decided that he could not.
Shortly after the Jade Blade had rescued Baern Karneme, they were asked to meet with a secret benefactor at an elegant home in the High Town neighborhood of Loudwater. Curious at who this could be, they arrived and were shown to the library where they were met by High Lord Kalahar Twohands. He wanted to meet with them secretly in case the Zhentarim have spies in the High Hall.
Kalahar wanted our heroes to follow up on the report made by Baern. As I mentioned in my previous tale "The Truth of Hearts," Baern was a spy for the Zhentarim who had had switched his allegiance to Loudwater, and the Jade Blade had rescued him from a Zhentarim assassination attempt. He warned the High Lord that the Zhentarim were planning an invasion of Loudwater in the immediate future.
Kalahar wanted the Jade Blade to follow up on Baern's warning and confirm whether his tale was true. They were to travel to Llorkh, the anchor of the Zhentarim presence in the eastern Delimbiyr Vale, and determine if the Zhentarim were preparing an invasion and to find out as much information as possible. This reconnaissance was needed as quickly so the Jade Blade quickly gathered their weapons and equipment and headed out into the summer night.
Leaving Loudwater unnoticed was easily accomplished with the help of the town guard. The Jade Blade traveled east along the edge of the South Wood for the next several days. They passed Orlbar in the night, without encountering opposition, and entered the Zhentarim-controlled open plains between Orlbar and Llorkh. Zhentarim patrols scoured the countryside, looking for scouts from Loudwater, but the Jade Blade moved stealthy past them and made their way to Llorkh.
When they reached Llorkh, our heroes took several hours to examine its defenses. The town was surrounded by a deep ditch and a palisade. Small camps of soldiers were set up to the south and east of town, housing garrison appropriate for a town the size of Llorkh. The adventurers did notice activity in the hills, suggesting that some of the mines were in operation.
After much observation and consideration, the Jade Blade snuck into Llorkh by climbing over the wall using magic and stealth. They escaped the notice of the sentries on the wall and blended with the local population once they were inside the town. To gather information, they visited several taverns that were popular with soldiers and caravan drivers, including Ten Bells, the Drover's Cup, and the Wet Wizard. Listening to the locals and asking the right questions, they learned that the mines near Llorkh were thought to have played out, but operations in several of them had started back up again. In addition, the number of caravans to town had greatly increased recently. Armed with this information, they bribed with drinks one of the teamsters who had come to town with a caravan the day before. His caravan had delivered a load of supplies to the newly opened mine, but thought that it was strange how the miners didn't seem to be doing anything and insisted on unloading everything themselves, instead of letting the teamsters do it.
The Jade Blade's curiosity toward the mines grew, and they got directions from the teamster before he passed out. Instead of barging head-on into the reopened mines, our heroes snuck into an abandoned entrance nearby, hoping that it would interconnect with the active mines. Their hope was correct but a pair of ropers that had made the abandoned mine their home. The adventures quickly dealt with these aberrations and found a passage that wound deeper underground and eventually connected with the reopened mines.
It quickly became obvious to the Jade Blade that these mines were not in operation at all. Instead, they were housing hundreds Zhentarim warriors and dozens of devils. The "miners" were not digging for ore but carving out new chambers to hold even more troops! Our heroes knew it would be suicide to directly attack that many soldiers so they snuck about the mines, keeping to the shadows and picking off a handful of guards. Using this tactic they made their way to the officer's quarters at the heart of the mines. Inside, they surprised Grei Lorlarr, the Zhentarim commander of the mine, and Shierana, her erinyes aide-de-camp. The two leaders leapt to defend themselves against the Jade Blade. Grei had a special hatred for spellcasters and attacked the party's wizard with a savage fury. Shierana used her fiendish powers to demoralize the rest of the adventures before switching to her wicked bow. Fortunately, the Jade Blade managed to Grei before she could sound the alarm, but Shierana teleported away to summon help.
Quickly searching through Grei's correspondence, the Jade Blade found detailed information on the number of soldiers hidden in the mines and the supplies needed for them, maps of Loudwater with important buildings and defensive structures noted, and a timetable for the arrival of thousand more troops at the mines. The timetable stopped two months in the future without explanation. A dread realization settled over our heroes as they realized why there were no further entries. The troops would not be there.
Avoiding the troops summoned by Shierana, the Jade Blade crept out of the mines and headed back to Loudwater. High Lord Kalahar was stoic as he heard the news confirming an attack on the City of Grottos. War was indeed coming, but at least now Loudwater knew when it was coming and what the Zhentarim had in store. The Jade Blade rose even higher in High Lord Kalahar's esteem, and he would call upon them again in the coming months.
©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.