17- 19 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)
Finally back in the comfort of the Protector’s Enclave after their various near-death experiences in chasm, the party are feted by the common soldiery, albeit at a distance, for fear they might have picked up more than just a bit of knowledge on their excursions. Summoned to an audience with the Mayor, the party outline their discoveries.
Admiring of their bravery, and yet somewhat bewildered by their recklessness, Soman Galt is keen for the heroes to share their knowledge with the scholars and priests resident at the monastery of Helm’s Hold, in the hope that the exploration might yield some more clues in finding a method to combat the menace. Although the party are not the mayor’s to command, Galt makes it clear that such a visit will have some benefit in healing the psychological scars inflicted by such close contact with the spellplague.
The mayor seems somewhat reticent in committing support for another expedition into the chasm to face the tribe of plaguechanged monstrosities seen inhabiting the space beneath the great crystal. In defending his lack of derring do, he treats the party to a lesson in the realpolitik that guides the administration’s approach to moulding New Neverwinter. Priority one, states the mayor, is to bring the Blacklake district into line, then the tricky situation with the Many-Arrows orcs in the Northeast quadrant needs to be resolved, only then can the chasm issue be addressed. For the moment, there is not enough manpower, not enough knowledge, and not enough will to attack the depths of the city when so much still needs to be sorted out on its surface level.
The interview with the mayor becomes a bit of a history lesson, as Malus also recalls the complex series of negotiations a century ago which led to the historic treaty between the dwarven citadel of Mithral Hall and the orc tribes united under the original King Obould, which has seen a relatively stable and unprecedented peace, and continues under the present orc king, Obould XVII.
This greater reality puts the administration of Neverwinter in a bit of a bind regarding the orc settlement in the city. At the moment there is no official recognition of the orc holdings as belonging to the Many-Arrows kingdom, and it would be a disaster for the city if such a claim were made. Any action against the orcs, however, could put a strain on the treaty if it was interpreted as a direct act of aggression against Obould. In the meantime, the orcs keep to themselves and do a good job of putting down any vile incursions from the chasm that get across the river, while a neutral meeting ground has been established in the orc quarter where discussions can take place beween Neverember’s court and the orc leaders.
It is this situation, and the continued trouble in establishing Neverember’s right to rule in the face of opposition from some misguided Old Neverwinter factions, which take up most of administration’s attention span. Although that is not to say that a victory against the chasm would not be a great fillip for the city.
This long and somewhat dry exposition on city politics sees some members of the party beginning to nod off, and the thought of a bit of R&R in Helm’s Hold becomes much more attractive, a proposition sweetened by Galt’s offer of payment to escort the pay wagon to Dunfield, the leader of the Mintarn garrison at the monastery town.
The idea of some form of treatment that might ease the recurring nightmares that afflict the party is also welcome, as they all continue to struggle with disturbed sleep patterns and Danforth’s boils of filth fever.
For Mani, there might be other reasons to leave the city for a while, as Liset takes her aside to warn her that a party of elves led by a drow has been asking after someone who matches the shaman’s description. ‘Bounty hunters I reckon, or I’m not half as gorgeous as I obviously am.’
While most of the party retire to wrestle with their inner demons, Talak continues to refine his set of old Mintarn ballads and shanties in the bar. His efforts are rewarded when General Sabine approaches, telling the bard his performances have penetrated beyond the walls of the Moonstone Mask. She extends an invitation from Mordai Vell, a tiefling of high repute, to play at a grand party he is to host at his manor in Blacklake in a fortnight’s time.
The night passes better for some than for others, although the nightmares continue, and the healer sent to Danforth only manages to contain the disease that courses through his veins.
But a new day offers new opportunities and the trip to Helm’s Hold passes off without incident, until the party reaches the busy if ramshackle town that continues to grow around the monastery. Rok Alim, in particular, is struck by the atmosphere of the place, as he finally sees a community that seems to accept those afflicted by the spellplague, rather than treat them as outcasts.
As they enter the market square the party hear a town crier shouting above the noise of the market traders dismantling their stall for the night, ‘The prophet has spoken, the prophet has spoken. One shall come who will banish old evil and open a path to new horizons. The prophet has spoken.’
As the sun sets and the moon rises, the party are also treated to the strange sight of the spectral market, as ghosts of the past continue to puesue their ethereal transactions, heedless of the living around them.
Finally in the great halls of the monastery itself, where the sick and afflicted are treated in a place of calm tranquillity, Brother Vartan introduces himself to the party. It is quickly apparent that the heroes’ reputation had preceded them, with Vartan prepared for their arrival. He is soon grilling them with friendly enthusiasm about their experiences in the hope that their discoveries will add a vital chapter to the growing body of knowledge the brothers are amassing on the chasm and the spellplague.
The interview consists of yet more history, as the party either learn or recall the legend of Helm’s Hold, the last monastery to Helm to be built. The God of law and protection was killed soon after the ground was consecrated and the first stones laid, a year before the death of Mystra unleashed the spellplague that devastated Faerun. This history has a human face, however, as the heroes are introduced to Brother Satarin, an ancient dwarf who made his devotions to Helm shortly before the god’s death and is believed the last surviving priest of Helm in Faerun. The heroes also learn how most of the followers of Oghma, the god of knowledge, have moved here from the original temple in Neverwinter, which is located near the wall facing the chasm and which sustained a great deal of damage in the cataclysm.
With the promise of a day of interviews and treatments on the morrow, Brother Vartan presents the party with a set of corn dream dolls, blessed by Brother Satarin, although he knows not why he has the power to make them work, but believes that perhaps some residue of Helm’s influence remains to fight the good fight. In any case, they are presented as a salve to ease the dreams of those afflicted by the plague. It seems it is true, as indeed the party find they have their first good night’s sleep since arriving in the city, as they drift off to what sounds like an orchestra of quietly discordant lutes, gradually fading away as if pulling down a curtain over the chaos.
All, that is, except Kierke, who, distrustful of such totems, and bored with so little violence, decides to go for a late night tour of the town under the light of the nearly full moon, spurred by the sound of howling wolves in the distance.
He finds the town quiet and dark, the residents withdrawn behind shuttered windows and even the taverns loathe to open their doors to him. His Uthgardt senses are fine tuned, however, and he soon detects someone following him as he investigates the maze of alleys in the seedier part of town. The hunter becomes the hunted as Kierke ambushes his pursuer, only to find himself locked in a desperate struggle with a savage werewolf, who threatens to tear him limb from limb before a few savage blows from the barbarian sends the beast scurrying off, but not before Kierke senses something familiar in his foe’s distorted, bestial and cruel face.
Meanwhile, back in the monastery, those still awake see Brother Vartan accompanied by a beautiful woman, in a falling in love with your first nurse sort of beauty, making their rounds of the wards.
On looking in on the party, her eyes seem to glaze over before she utters the words, ‘Karadhax can search no more, but his knowledge might free us all.’