Tag: Dragon Tales

Dragon Tales: The Mistress of Secrets

Logo courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Emperor Lysander has a great deal of tools at his disposal. Vicious mercenary bands like the Iron Circle supplement the Imperial Army he is forming in the capitol city of Nerath. He also employs insidious spies, deadly assassins and priests of Bane. Some of his agents serve multiple roles, such as the author of the following correspondence. This report speaks of the foreign powers surrounding the Empire and seeks to inform and advise the Emperor, even as he considers how to weed out the dissenting element in the Nentir Vale: Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.

Your Most Exalted Majesty,

What follows is my accounting of the foreign powers that lurk on the outer fringes of our mighty Empire. Rest assured that I have done all in my power to bring to you any and all answers for questions I anticipated you having. Should you find this information inadequate or incomplete, allow me to first convey my sincere apologies and know that I will either answer whatever questions remain vague in your mind or hunt down further expansion upon the information provided. But I ramble overmuch. Let us begin.

The dwarves of Hammerfast remain the most credible threat to the Empire. While they remain quiet within their underground city for now, they made it no secret that they do not recognize your legitimate claim to the lands of the Empire, nor your audacity and courage in crushing all who oppose you. Were our Imperial forces in stronger, better-trained numbers, I would recommend an immediate invasion to excise this dangerous, festering postule from the underside of your Empire. However, seeking new recruits for the Iron Circle and your own Imperial Guard has taken precedence, which I completely understand. To strike without our full strength would be foolish.

To the west, the elves of the Feywood have kept their own counsel. We have taken pains not to encroach upon their forests and they in turn have not meddled in our affairs. It is an uneasy peace, and I am afraid I cannot accurately predict how long it will last. The deaths of many of the ‘free land owners’ who traded with the elves has deprived them of certain goods and crops, and while we have provided them many opportunities to purchase these goods (albeit with an appropriate amount of Imperial taxation) they seem more interested in brooding in the boughs of their trees. Should they become an irritant I recommend as much magical and alchemical fire as possible lobbed into their woods from a good safe distance.

Their cousins, the eladrin, continue their practice of trade with the likes of Daggerport and Southport. Their ship captains are courteous to our customs agents but reports indicate that any stoppage beyond a routine check raises a considerable amount of ire. This has lead to a handful of ships being impounded by the Imperial Navy. To their credit, the customs agents are as expedient as they are thorough, and only a few eladrin have been held indefinitely while most are released after receiving a heavy fine and probationary status. I have it on authority that dignitaries from their cities, Meloravia and Sehavia, will soon be in the capitol to discuss the held eladrin with Your Majesty.

TO the north the situation is more vague. Beyond the Nentir Vale is a harsh, unforgiving tundra and several rocky passes leading into the Frostjaw Peaks. It is said the Peaks are ruled by a figure known only as ‘the Winter King,’ and a cadre of frost giants do his bidding. There is also a large tribe of orcs in that area that once swept down the passes into the Vale but have not been heard from in some time, since before Your Majesty made the crossing to reclaim the Empire. As I was unfortunately unable to treat with any of these orcs, I cannot say how willing they would be to assist Your Majesty and Lord Vhynnk in conquering the Nentir Vale.

I know you await the return of our ambassadors from the Caliphate of the Seven Stars to the south with as much eagerness as I.

In closing I would once again voice my opinion to Your Majesty on the subject of the Iron Circle. You are the final arbiter of who serves the Empire and in what capacity, and Bane shows His favor to those who are uncompromising in their conquest of the weak. But Lord Vhynnk and his converts are not followers of Bane. His patron, Asmodeus, is a dangerous and ambitious god, an aspect shared by the Iron Circle. Should he gain enough numbers and favor, I fear he may move to depose Your Majesty. I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention that Vhynnk was overheard expressing dismay at your agent dispatching the troublesome Dar Gramath and nearly slaying the quartet of troublemakers who came to the aid of the Harkenwold.

Rest assured that my next task will be to seek all I can on these four, and discern fact from fiction for Your Majesty. You should know at full who might stand in the way of your rightful conquest. If they be a worthy challenge, we will bring them to Your Majesty to further prove your might. And if they seem too dangerous, Bane will see them cleared from your path before you ever leave the capitol.

I remain your humble and devoted servant.

Quenora of Avernus
Sworn Sword of Bane
Imperial Mistress of Whispers

All locations, NPCs, spells and equipment copyright Wizards of the Coast unless otherwise noted.

Dragon Tales: The Captain of the Tower Guard

Logo courtesy Wizards of the Coast

It takes more than a few individuals to run a keep of any size. The small cadre of dwarves from Hammerfast have outdone themselves rebuilding the former Keep on the Shadowfell, its ten mighty towers rising up above the village of Winterhaven in the northwest reach of the Nentir Vale. A few volunteers have come to support, maintain and defend the Keep, which is now held by four known throughout the Nentir Vale as heroes: Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.

The sun rises above the westernmost Frostjaw Peaks. There is a light coating of snow on the ground, a testament to the odd weather of late. While much of it will melt even as more falls, it adds an extra layer of chill to the men and women standing at uneasy attention in the courtyard in front of the main hall. As the sun’s light spills over the walls and across the assembly completely, the doors open. Instead of the castle’s masters, four unfamiliar individuals emerge. Leading them is a tall, broad-shouldered dragonborn, clad in a suit of plate and carrying a sword at his side and a shield across his back. His scales look as if they were hammered out of pure mithril, the way they catch the dawning light. Cool, emerald eyes look from one face to the other amongst the volunteers before him. When he speaks, his voice is rough and heard easily in every corner of the courtyard.

“All right, recruits, listen up! My name is Silverscale, and you will refer to me as ‘Captain Silverscale’, ‘Captain’ or simply ‘Sir.’ I have been given the great honor of putting the defense of this Keep in order. You may be here because of the heroes who made this Keep their own, or because you’ve heard of the snow orcs or frost giants or the Winter King to the north. Frankly, I don’t care why you’re here. What I do care about is your performance as guardsmen, your dedication to the defense of this Keep and your willingness to die to defend those that dwell within it and in Winterhaven below us. If you don’t believe you can do that, the gatehouse is immediately behind you. I’d rather see your backsides now than see them running away from us on the battlefield!”

After a moment, Silverscale nods and looks down. Directly in front of him, arms crossed, is a dwarf in a very fine suit. His beard is immaculate, with a number of braids containing delicately-spun gold thread. He is, if possible, even less impressed with the would-be guardsman than Silverscale.

“Immediately in front of me in Bensun Stonecarver, the Keep’s seneschal. His dwarven crafts and craftsmen made this Keep what it is today. I’m sure a couple bards you might have heard may refer to Seneschal Stonecarver as a ‘butler.’ But he is in charge of the Keep when its masters are away, so when he tells you to do something, YOU DO IT.”

Bensun nods solemnly. Silverscale gestures to his left, where a young human stands, his face the only sympathetic one the recruits will find. Dressed in a smith’s apron, a roughspun shirt and dark gloves, he looks like he was pulled away from either a hot forge fire before his work was done, or his bed at too early an hour.

“His apprentice, to my left, is the young man who will be tending to your arms and armor when you go and get banged up. He comes to us from the Harkenwold, as do many of you. His name is Alton Gramath. He’s also joining us on the Guard, but don’t take it easy on him just because he’s our smith or because his father died for defending your homes. You should be so lucky to leave this life the way Dar Gramath did!”

Alton looks a bit sheepish at the mention of his father. He runs a hand through long-cut dark hair and manages to smile a little. On Silverscale’s otherside is an older human, his grey-white beard spilling down to the embroidered breast of his arcane robes. He leans against a tall staff topped with a faceted crystal and decorated with runes another eldritch symbols.

“To my right is Quillion of the Tower. He’s a mage, a scribe and our Keep’s local herbologist. He’s here to study the interesting phenomena in the Keep’s bowels, which brings up another point of order. The subterranean levels of the Keep are off-limits for those not on duty to guard the mage or any of his guests. If any guardsman is found below ground afer hours for any reason, you will answer directly to ME. Is that understood?”

There’s a murmur from the assembly. Silverscale scowls.

“I didn’t hear that.”

“Yes, sir.” The response is half-hearted. Silverscale roars.

“LOUDER!”

“YES, SIR!”

The dragonborn crosses his arms and nods.

“Welcome to the Tower Guard. Your training begins NOW.”

All locations, NPCs, spells and equipment copyright Wizards of the Coast unless otherwise noted.

Dragon Tales: Winter in Summer, Part 1

Logo courtesy Wizards of the Coast

What follows is the account of a conversation had in the Blue Moon Alehouse in Fallcrest. Three men, a stonecutter, a tailor and a city guardsman, gathered over mugs of ale to discuss the odd events befalling the Nentir Vale. Despite differing professions and opinions, each man knows the names and deeds of their heroes: Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.

“If I mention the weather,” the tailor began once they were served, “are you going to hit me?”

“Gods, you’re paranoid.” The stonecutter’s beefy hand wrapped around the mug and he took a long drink of frothy ale. “No. I’m not going to hit you.”

“It’s on everybody’s mind.” The guardsman had unbelted his sword and it leaned against the table beside him as he nursed his drink. “You can’t help but notice the snow coming out of the sky.”

“In this season!” The stonecutter shook his head. “It’s bad for business. I can’t be up the side of a building carving gutters or fixing shingles when it’s like this.”

“You’d think I’d have an easier time, but everybody’s asking for furs I don’t have, when they manage to leave their hearth fires.” The tailor sighed and took a drink. “What do we know about this?”

“It’s snow. What is there to know?”

“Perhaps one or more of the gods have been offended, my granite-minded friend.”

The guardsman shook his head at the tailor. “The only god I know of with such power over the skies is Kord, and he’s more likely to smite us with lightning than sprinkle snow on our heads. No, this is likely something else.”

The stonecutter belched. “What, then?”

“Many and varied are the magical artifacts at the disposal of our benevolent dictator. The defeat of his Iron Circle in the Harkenwold cannot have endeared him towards us. Perhaps this is Emperor Lysander’s subtle revenge, or a tactic designed to bring us to heel.”

“Codswallop.” The stonecutter took another drink, then wiped the foam from his beard. “Lysander’s a boy in a man’s clothes playing at war. He would not use such subtle means. He’d smack us with every Iron Circle fist at his disposal were he truly interested in direct conquest.”

The tailor nodded. “Besides, the Lord Marshall pays the Empire their dues on time. Lysander would have no cause to subject the entire Vale to his wrath if it’s the Harkenwold that’s offended him while Fallcrest remains loyal, at least in word.”

“All I know is the Lord Marshall and some of the other nobles have left for Winterhaven to seek aid from Ten Towers.”

The stonecutter snorted. “They haven’t dreamed up a better name for it yet?”

“Well, it beats ‘The Keep We Reclaimed From The Heretics Trying To Open A Portal To The Shadowfell And Still Creeps The Folk Of Winterhaven Out’, doesn’t it?”

“Who asked you, tailor?”

The guardsman rolled his eyes, and waved the barmaid over for another round.

All locations, NPCs, spells and equipment copyright Wizards of the Coast unless otherwise noted.

Dragon Tales: Lament for Dar Gramath

Logo courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Dozil Tumbledown is not the only bard familiar with the Heroes of Harkenwold. Making her way through the southern lands of the Nerathan Empire is Azarya Dawnborn of Daggerport, a deva fascinated with learning and telling tales of the brave and the selfless. Here you will find her perspective on events befalling Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.

Tonight I sing of Dar Gramath.

You will not have heard his name. He was a hard-working man of common birth, like many of you. Before the coming of Lysander, he was one of the premiere horse-masters of the Nentir Vale. The Lord Marshal of the Vale, barons and free knights, all came to him for the shoeing and barding of their steeds. It was for this reason the Harkenwold became known outside of the Vale. It was for this reason Antonious Vhennyk sought the land as his entry point to his claim on the north.

Yes, that very same Vhennyk, Lysander’s Lord of War, master of the Iron Circle. He wanted lands befitting his title and stature, for he was a large man with large appetites. Half-giant, some called him. Still, with Sarthel uncertainly held, Adamanton loyalists creeping in the alleys and the dwarves ominously silent, Vhennyk could not leave that place with which he’d been charged, so he sent his lieutenant, Nazin Redthorn, to secure the Harkenwold and the land beyond it.

He anticipated peasant resistance. He anticipated guerrila assaults from the Woodsinger Elves. He anticipated Hammerfast closing its gates only to open them onto his very keep in Sarthel.

He did not anticipate Dar Gramath, nor the heroes that came to his aid.

For his part, Dar Gramath feigned compliance. He knew most Harkenwolders were no soldiers. Still, he sent whom he could to harrange the supply lines of the Iron Circle. The smallfolk beyond the towns of Harken and Albridge could render no assistance, as they had fallen under assault from vile frog-men with a grudge to settle with the druid Reithann. Gramath knew he had little time, that his resistance would be discovered eventually, and without help from elsewhere in the Vale, he and the freedom of his people were doomed.

But then came the Heroes. You’ve heard the tales of their part in the Battle of Albridge, yes, how they set Redthorn to retreat before tracking him down to Harken Keep and ending his short but brutal career as a mercenary leader. But this foursome numbered five that day. Dar Gramath stood with them at the battle, a general in all but name, an inspiration to the brave people of the Harkenwold, as if he was twenty years younger and once again adventuring with other names you know – Zeradar Brightsong, Azariael of the Tower, Tulwyr daughter of Bahamut, the Silent Lady. Those are tales I’m sure you know well, from happier times, the times before the Empire.

When Baron Stockmer was freed and Harken Keep liberated, Dar Gramath feasted these new heroes. He traded stories of battle with Andrasian. He served Lyria ales even larger than those of her compatriots. He introduced Melanie to a traveling hedge magician. And he told Krillorien that he was the spitting image of his father in both form and action, yet the elder eladrin had never been so inclined to help smallfolk as the priest of Pelor had been.

It was after the Heroes departed for Fallcrest that tragedy came on a black horse. Nazin Redthorn, you see, was not the only tool in Vhennyk’s arsenal. A tiefling murderer, full of hellfire and malicious intent, came into Albridge with a smile and some coin. The night he was shown hospitality and goodwill from the newly liberated folk, he stole into Dar Gramath’s livery, taking the former hero’s head and burning the stable to the ground.

The head he took to Fallcrest. He presented it to the Heroes of Harkenwold and tried to send them to meet their friend. The battle was fierce. The blade of Avernus nearly took the lives of Lyria and Andrasian. Were it not for the skill of Krillorien and Melanie’s magics, this tale would have a very different end. Yet they did triumph in the end, and almost immediately, they returned to the Harkenwold to pay their friend the respect he was due.

Great was the wake held on the grounds of Harken Keep. Baron Stockmer told the massive gathering of his friend of many years, how he’d come to the Harkenwold after suffering so many scars and hardships, wishing merely to tend to horses and hang up his weapons forever. Yet when the Iron Circle came, Dar Gramath took up arms again without hesitation. He died, John Stockmer said, knowing his land and his people were free, thanks to the Heroes of the Harkenwold, who even in death did not forsake their friends.

After the wine and song, the bonfires and memories, the Heroes struck back West, to that keep over Winterhaven you all know well. Snow had begun to fall, despite it being just after midsummer, but… that is a song for another night…

Dragon Tales: The Battle of Albridge

Logo courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Being the stories and recollections of Dozril Tumbledown, traveling minstrel and friend to all, regarding the exploits of the wandering band called the Heroes of Harkenwold – Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.

Yes, yes, gather ’round, gather ’round! I bring you a tale drenched in blood and bedecked with honor, fraught with danger and harrowing the faintof heart! You have heard, I’m sure, of the Battle of Albridge, the first blow struck for true against the Iron Circle cronies of the vile emperor-boy Lysander as he skulks on his thrown in Nerath. Yes! You have! But you know not of the crucial part four intrepid souls in turning that battle’s tide, and the good service they did after at Harken Keep! You will, good folk, as I, your humble storyteller Dozril Tumbledown, speak the names of this fearsome foursome –

(as Dozril says each name, it is echoed by the patrons who drink to each adventurer)

Andrasian! Elf of the Feywood, whose axe has cleaved many an Iron skull!

Krillorien! Eladrin noble of the dwarven manse bearing the light of Pelor wither he goes!

Melanie Good-Melons, lovely of form and keen of mind honed in the mysterious Tower of the Arcane!

Lyria! Sweet Lyria! Sly Lyria! Call her short at your peril, good sir, for she’ll shank you for it!

Now I begin my tale! Dark was the dawn when the rider found the four, and roused them to ride to Albridge. Dar Gramath, mighty of wind as well as fist, summoned them to assist in rebuffing the oncoming tide of iron. They had already done a good service to him, to Reithann the druid, the folk and fields of the Harkenwold – even the Woodsinger elves, cagey and aloof, pledged themselves to the defense of the ‘wold after these four rid them of an ancient evil, one that they said could never truly die! Ah, but that is a tale for another time…

So! Albridge! A fair jewel in the Harkenwold, rivaled only by Harken itself and facing annihilation at the hands of vile Nazin Redthorn (audiences tend to hiss at the first mention of his name) and his tar devil brood, his lackwit sellswords and his Iron Circle minions. Yet Redthorn did not anticipate resistance. Indeed, while his caravans had been sacked and his outriders disappearing, he had no notion that Dar Gramath had retained the services of four souls so keen to see him fail and fall! So when he rode to Albridge, he anticipated a quick tussle and an easy victory – not a hard-fought battle that would end in a rout!

For Krillorien prayed with the defenders of the Harkenwold, and Pelor shone his light upon them! Melanie’spells and… other charms (here Dozril waggles his bushy eyebrows) … gave the warriors help and hope to defend their homes! Andrasian’s crass, direct critiques of their fighting styles emboldened them! Lyria, sharp as her knives, conferred with the leaders of the resistance to draw Redthorn’s cronies into a brilliant trap – and so it happened! Like a steel snare for bears the resistance waited, and when the Iron Circle stepped into them with hoof and boot, the trap snapped shut!

(Dozril claps his hands and the audience bangs tankards and silverware on their tables)

Oh, many an Iron Circle tunic was tarnished that day, friends, and many sellswords threw down their arms and ran when the battle went ill. There were tar devils! Magics most foul! The flail of Redthorn and the bites of his drakes! Yet the defenders of the Harkenwold stood their ground, not giving up an inch of their precious land that was not paid for five times over in Iron Circle blood! Six times! (“Six times?” calls someone from the audience) SIX TIMES the Iron Circle came! SIX TIMES the Harkenwolders beat them back! And in the middle of it all were our heroes! Nazin Redthorn found them, friends, swore out an oath against them and set upon them full of vengeance and anger!

And what did this mighty warrior do, this warlord of sellswords, this most iron of Iron Circle men?

(“What? What? Tell us what!”)

HE RAN AWAY!

(Dozril takes on a frightened face, tucks his tail between his legs and runs in place. The audience laughs long and loud)

He ran away, good folk, back to what he felt was the safety of his keep, called Harken Keep when good Baron Stockmer held it, rechristened Iron Keep by Redthorn and his yes-folk. Yet not long after his shameful defeat a wagon of Iron Circle warriors came to the gate with a delivery for their dread lord. Into the keep they came, two men and a women with a large box between them.

Up into the great tower they went! Past behorned gatekeepers and guards born of dragons, they bluffed and parleyed their way to the highest room, the baron’s chamber. There was the craven Redthorn, who recognized his tormentors immediately in spite of their disguises. Lyria Thorngage sprang from the box, and the fight was on! The sound roused the others in the tower, save those below in the gaol, and what seemed to be an endless tide of iron washed over our heroes. Yet Andrasian’s arms did not tire! Krillorien’s voice did not fail! Lyria’s fingers remained deft! And Melanie’s spells struck for true! Only when the guards from without tried to strike within did the heroes slide into the hidden stairwell that Redthorn would have used himself, if halfling daggers hadn’t put an end to his reign of terror!

Down into the gaol they stole after recovering their wits, and it was there that they found good Baron Stockmer, half-starved but willing to fight. Through the postern gate they slipped, only to find elves of the Woodsinger tribe awaiting them! Dar Gramath had rallied the defenders of the Harkenwold, felled one of the mightest trees outside of Albridge and was battering down the gates even as the Iron Circle struggled to find someone to lead them! Thanks to the Heroes of Harkenwold striking the head from this iron serpent, the remnants of the body slithered away to the south, to the city they called Sarthel but good folk remember as Adamanton and…!

That, too, is a story for another time! Thank you, friends, for your attention and kindnesses! Though if you wish to convey futher kindnesses in gold and silver, this humble teller of stories would be much obliged…

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