I limped away from the cloud of dust and debris that had formerly been a Thayan stronghold, and for what felt like the millionth time I assured myself that I would never again interfere in the affairs of the dread Red Wizards. Their Doomvault was gone and yet somehow I knew that no amount of therapy (short of, perhaps, a potent remove curse spell from a friendly wizard) would ever erase those memories from my mind.
Little did I know that that my next adventure was much closer than I expected.
Not even a full tenday after my horrific ordeal I would hear opportunity knocking upon my door once more. I had slumped into a somewhat-soggy and oversized chair in the Laughing Goblin in Phlan when I overheard a group of Zhentish mercenaries loudly calling out to each other with what they would do with “the giant’s loot”. I listened intently – we all did, really, as the Zhents were thoroughly inebriated and were making no indication of hiding this information – as they spoke in great (if slurred) detail about the steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and how they would be striking out along the road in the morning. The halls of the giants were nestled in the Galena Mountains, which were visible along the horizon far to the east.
The group of hooligans and thugs eventually succumbed to the drink and passed out, and only a few moments passed before I felt the point of a dagger at my ribs and heard a gruff “Dove, you will come with me if you want to survive to see the dawn.”
I know Harper code when I hear it, and I know many of the operatives in that esteemed organization. Those Who Harp are not as secret as they pretend to be, but this musky half-orc was new to me. Whether he was indeed a Harper or simply pretending I could not be certain, but he introduced himself and ushered me outside where he hurriedly assembled gear on his horse while explaining that the giants had “significant plans” underway and that there was “a dangerous game to play”. He grinned at first, but that became a scowl when he realized that I had not made any indication of taking to horseback myself.
After a long moment of locked eyes and cocked eyebrows, he grunted something in the spidery language of the Art and that was the last thing I knew.
I awoke some time later, strapped to my horse and surrounded by the half-orc and his allies. He was accompanied by two dwarves and an elf; all but the elf wore Harper pins on their lapels, while the sharp-eared one wore no badge of association from what I could tell. My surroundings were familiar and not wholly unexpected: slightly mountainous with a sharp rise to the east and a phenomenal view of the Moonsea to the south and west. I knew where I was even before they told me.
“The Galena Mountains, priest. You’re coming with us.” The half-orc untied my wrists and forced a smile. “My apologies for the rough handling, but this one” he pointed at the elf “told us of what happened in the Doomvault. The miracles you channeled.”
I didn’t recognize the elf, but there were many prisoners freed during my trip. I couldn’t easily dismiss it, and the half-orc continued:
“Chief Nosnra of the hill giants isn’t expecting us, and this is not an assault on their steading. Those Zhents would’ve doomed us all had they not consumed my, er, enhanced libations. The chief is an immense creature in power, stature, and will, but is by no means a wise leader. However, we’ve gathered insight on their activities that seems to indicate that something more is at play – something dark.”
One of the dwarves fished a shortsword out from under several layers of oiled leather. The blade’s metal was highly polished and seemed to have veins of purple running through it, and as soon as the sunlight played across its face it began to bubble and smoke. In moments, it was gone and only the acrid tang of dissolved metal served to remind me that it ever existed at all.
“Drowcraft. We have reason to believe that the dark elves are planning something big and that it involves the giants. The giants may not be aware of what is unfolding, but we need some place to start our investigation. If the hill giants cannot provide us the answers we need, we must be ready to press forward and proceed through the ranks of the ordning until we either learn the truth or silence the plot.”
We crested a hill and ahead stood a large and dilapidated house. Warehouse? Collection of sheds? I wasn’t quite sure. I could smell it from this distance, though, and I knew that whatever we might find inside would be a challenge.
But I knew that Silvanus watched over me, and deep down I knew that no matter how foul a plot the giants and drow might have, it could not compare to what the Thayans had wrought.
“I could not, at the time, have known how wrong I was – or how hard the next five days would be on me and my new allies. You already know part of the end, for here I stand before you in the hallowed common hall of the Yawning Portal, but the tale that I shall relate to you now is one of grand plans and dire plots and unknowable futures.”
I took a long pull from my mug, rubbed my scarred hands, winked at Durnan (unsurprisingly he did not seem to notice me as he was thoroughly fixated on wiping his mugs) and began to dazzle the young adventures of Waterdeep…
For the DM:
Thinking outside the box: