Storm's little-known projects of a recent year continue:
- Sun elves returning to Myth Drannor came to Storm's farm by night to consult with her on specifics of portals, wards, trap-magics, and other powerful spells she or the Knights of Myth Drannor may have observed being cast, or operating, in and near the ruins of the city. Storm freely shared what little she knew (including her harping to a baelnorn at the request of the Knights some years earlier), and in return the elves described their encounters with many "strange and slumbrous magics" in the ruins they're trying to reclaim. Storm pledged the aid of Harper agents as envoys for the elves in places -- such as Hillsfar and Sembia -- they don't desire to go personally.
- Harpers took over Storm's farmwork for a ride so she could travel in disguise to Voonlar and personally deal with a Zhent slaver who years earlier kidnapped and sold several children of Shadowdale (who died in slavery before they could be rescued). The slaver, one Rauthan Zarass (a LE male human Rogue 6) had acquired a clawed arm (a fiendish graft, detailed in the Fiend Folio), and some importance within the Network as a personal agent of Manshoon.
Storm challenged and killed him -- only to find herself under attack by Manshoon himself, who had teleported himself to the slaver's body. She defended herself in part by unleashing two watchghosts from her belt, and the battle attracted local Zhent agents (whereupon Manshoon vanished). Storm "fled" from these new foes, and lured them -- via several portals -- into the reach of the Simbul, who swiftly destroyed them.
- Harpers who had been sent to Storm from Berdusk for training told of fighting Sembians in caves near Thunder Gap. Seeking shelter in the night, the Harpers had stumbled on the Sembians apparently counterfeiting coins by melting gold and copper items and making false gold coins (of copper thinly coated in gold).
The young Harpers asked Storm what should be done. Storm's advice astonished them: Rather than advocating a hunt for the criminals, she urged the Harpers to make some counterfeits of their own, spend them in Sembia -- and then start spreading rumors about fake coins, to sow doubt among the runaway speculators and fool-spenders of Sembia, whose increasingly reckless and arrogant uses of wealth were causing problems all around the Sea of Fallen Stars . . . problems that were beginning to spread. (The establishment of Thayan enclaves, for example, had for the first time put magic items within the reach of "any idiot with coins enough," and Storm has dark misgivings about the intentions of several Sembians who've begun to stockpile magic items.)
- Many of the rangers who visit Storm's farmhouse each fall as they head south when winter approaches remarked that small furry forest creatures seemed to be getting rarer in Daggerdale and the Border Forest -- and yet the fish of the forest streams, usually preyed upon by such creatures, were also growing fewer. Suspecting something was poisoning the waters, Storm sent some of her most trusted Harpers to investigate. Were the Zhents up to something in Tesh-vale?
They were, but nothing to taint the forest. The Harpers discovered a handful of ambitious Zhent magelings, who were seeking to win favor and higher rank, aggressively experimenting with spells cast on all the foxes, martens, porcupines, otters, and the like that the Zhent warriors could catch. The magelings were trying to create new servitor monsters -- with little success, thus far. (The Zhent warriors were causing the fish to vanish; under orders not to kill and eat any forest creatures but to spend days in the woods making and checking traps, they'd set up weirs in the streams to catch fish to eat.)
Storm set some Harpers to devising plans to entice the ambitious magelings into betraying their superiors -- so those ranking Zhents would take care of the monster-crafting and ambitious mageling problems for her and weaken the Black Network to boot.
- Harper sources sent word to Storm of certain exiled nobles of Cormyr gathering in Selgaunt to plot the slayings of the Steel Regent and the Mage Royal. They also told of a scheme to capture the Dowager Queen so they could rule in her name, dismissing the infant Azoun V as a bastard who was born to the now-dead Princess Tanalasta out of wedlock and therefore not a fit royal heir. (In case others disputed this argument, Azoun was to be captured and held also.)
The exiles, who call themselves the Bright Helm, plan to slaughter not only the Obarskyrs, but to "prune back" the royal houses of Crownsilver, Huntsilver, and Truesilver until only young wastrels of their liking (who can be swayed by the conspirators to rule as the Bright Helm see fit) remain alive. Then the no-longer-necessary Filfaeril will be swiftly disposed of and a puppet king (Azoun or one of the spared "Royal House" nobles) installed on the throne. This king will proclaim the Bright Helm a Council of Lords-Protector of the realm, so they can make the real decisions for Cormyr henceforth.
Rather than informing Rhoegantle Malyth and watching him rush off to do something hasty, Storm sent Harpers to shadow certain conspirators, take a roster of who attends the moot, and pay particular attention to just who seems to be leading the Bright Helm (or manipulating its leaders, behind the scenes). Then she used a portal known to her (in the wild woodland somewhere near Shadowdale) to journey to the King's Forest in Cormyr, and from there stealthily made her way to Filfaeril, who knew her of old. Together they went to see Alusair and Caladnei.
The Steel Regent agreed with Storm that it would be better for Cormyr to learn all of the contacts, sponsors, and possible directors of the rebels, rather than to rush to Selgaunt to try to slaughter them all. Accordingly, just one conspirator was waylaid, captured, and replaced by a Harper agent, who could attend the moot in the man's place and report back on all the proceedings.
This was done, apparently without any of the Bright Helm noticing anything amiss. Storm hopes that the exiles don't realize the Dragon Throne is wise to their schemes for years to come. Highknights and War Wizards are currently foiling and intercepting just a few Bright Helm business ventures and criminal activities in Sembia, Westgate, and Marsember -- and keeping watch over the rest. In the words of Alaphondar the Sage: "The flock flees a pouncing wolf, but that prowler can eat better for longer if it hides within the flock, and makes one sheep disappear here and another there, letting the days pass and waiting for chances to do the bloody deeds unseen."
- A peddler who for decades has stopped over for a night at Storm's farmhouse twice a year (outbound from Cormyr, and then again on his return from a round of the Dales, the Moonsea shore, and upland Sembia), brings word to the Bard of Shadowdale that he saw two Red Wizards of Thay adopting disguises in a wayside hollow near Immersea. The two were coaching each other on the words of a message purportedly to Caladnei of Cormyr from her sometime tutor "Old Glowfist of the Rift," the gold dwarf Sarrukh Roldikant. "Be well, Cala. Fortune finds you in the Forest Kingdom, and now fortune finds you from me. I saw your face in this gold as it cooled, so by the Forgefather, it was meant for you. Look for me not at my old anvil, for I go deeper now. Let your days be long and your gold never run out."
One Thayan expressed disgust at having to memorize this meaningless message, when "getting the pendant to her is all that matters," but the other insisted that to fool a War Wizard, when acting too ill to travel, they'd have to deliver it "at great pains," as if remembering it was "what we were clinging to most strongly during the illness."
The peddler hid until the two Thayans departed, but he didn't know how to get a warning to Caladnei. Storm sent word by Rhoegantle that the pendant almost certainly bore a magic by which Caladnei could be traced precisely, and then hostile spells or beasts would be sent to visit her from afar most likely.
Such matters, large and small, occupy Storm Silverhand's days. The few hours left over are spent making soups and stews, or harping by her fireside (or out under the moon atop the Old Skull or Harper's Hill). At home, Storm always has her ghostly sister Syluné to talk to -- and there is never any shortage of things to talk about.
One of Storm's stealthy night projects is to bury tiny fragments from the flagstones of Syluné's Hut around Shadowdale covertly, so her spectral sister (who can manifest only up to a limited distance from such stones) can travel freely around the dale by "jumping" from fragment to fragment. As this project proceeds, Syluné's invisible spying increases in reach, and Storm hears more and more about daily events in Shadowdale.
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 . . .