Storm Silverhand's Quieter Days
III: On the Boil, Part 1
By Ed Greenwood
Storm's status as a Chosen, one of the Seven Sisters, and position among Harpers as a much-loved senior "epitome of what it is to Harp" all involve her in many affairs of importance she neither seeks nor necessarily enjoys. They tend to be the "news" that tongues wag about, sages take note of, and bards compose ballads around -- while smaller everyday deeds and interests of the Bard of Shadowdale go unrecorded.
Among her mundane everyday doings, Storm is an entertainer at local weddings and wakes, a busy, successful farmer, and a mother figure to folk of Shadowdale as well as Harpers. Storm's time is also spent on another level of interests and strivings that are more complex yet generally unnoticed. If the folk who try to spy on her could see all her current deeds laid out before them, the array (in an unspecified but quite recent year) would look something like this:
- Word came to Storm from Harper sources that unusually large caravans were traversing Battledale, from Sembia to Hillsfar, but not returning. Diverse "small goods" were carried on these runs -- items always salable in the cold, trade-goods-poor lands north of the Moonsea -- but why so much traffic, with few wagons and fewer armed outriders returning? And where were the warriors going?
Storm coordinated Harper scouts and merchants who collect observations from paid "local eyes" to trace the armed men and wagons. As she suspected, they were heading north, in force, to Glister and beyond. Someone is kingdom-building or trying to roust orcs and hobgoblins out of many mountain mines so as to control a large number of working delves -- again.
Storm alerted certain War Wizards of Cormyr to this and sent Harper agents into Sembia to make contact with Harpers resident there so that they could seek out the "other end" of the trail of caravans. Who is investing in this latest plan, and what return do they expect? Who has been promised what? And how will the Zhentarim, who have traditionally regarded all of the mineral wealth north of the Moonsea as rightfully theirs, react? Or are some Zhents (Manshoon, perhaps) actively involved in this secret army massing to move north? Could it be a force intended to turn on the cities of the Moonsea and conquer them all, Mulmaster included, for the Zhentarim? (Or some cabal of wealthy Sembian merchants . . . or someone else entirely?)
- For some years, rumors have been spreading that the Zhentarim beholder Xulla lurks in a fortress or hidden refuge somewhere in, under, or near Shadowdale -- rumors that Storm and Elminster know full well to be false. A Harper agent brought word to Storm of a fresh internal Zhentarim report or rumor that Xulla died, was slain, or departed the Black Network some time ago -- and has been discovered to have been replaced by a "ring" of six or perhaps even more allied beholders, who take turns posing as Xulla.
So what is Xulla's fate and whereabouts? Are the ring beholders her offspring? How did they come to work so closely together, somehow avoiding the traditional "strongest ruthlessly dominates the rest" eye tyrant behavior? Is some powerful entity controlling them? What aims does this ring of beholders pursue? And if not in Shadowdale, where are they truly based? Do portals exist near Shadowdale leading to a lair elsewhere, perhaps?
Storm convinced Elminster and the Simbul to search for the latter, perceiving through the Weave as well as by more conventional means, combing the air above and the drow tunnels below Shadowdale as well as its surface fields and the surrounding forest. They found nothing. She directed Harper agents to decide how best to isolate a Zhent mage for mind-reaming, to learn the internal Network view of Xulla. (The wizard's disappearance must be made to look like the work of a Zhent or personal rival, and he or she must be slain after the interrogation.)
- A Harper brought to Storm a young Rowanmantle lass who had fled the country mansion of her noble family in northeastern Cormyr into lands devastated by the forces of Shade. The young woman emerged half-bestial and erupted from time to time in enraged, uncontrolled near-magical powers and with her wits sliding from "normal" to snarlingly beast-mad. Storm used her magic, the wisdom of her spectral sister Syluné, and the talents of certain Harpers to "cure" young Alsrace Rowanmantle of the being "riding" her. She then sent Alsrace off to see the world with trusted Harper escorts, so as to choose her own road in life.
This isn't the full extent of Storm's "quiet time" doings. Check the next installment for more!
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, sf, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .