The Eladrin eventually guides you to a glade in the forest, where a small group of Eladrin wait for you. They nod respectfully, and through Asturean they convey their vast appreciation for helping rid their garden of the evil infestation.

Each of you receives a gift from them, a token of their gratitude for the services you have performed, and after a feast of delicious food, and fine Eladrin wine, the elder among them leads you to another glade. The boughs of two beautiful trees meet to form a gateway, and after intoning an ancient ritual, the space between the trees shimmers to life, and you can make out a rocky beach and the sound of waves from the other side.

“You are expected.” The elder says in common as he gestures to the portal. He bows low and smiles at your group, “I hope we may call upon you again, in the future, should we discover more of what caused us all so much trouble.”

Asturean bows in return, and the group slowly steps through the portal…

…and onto the wind swept shores of the Sword Coast. A rocky arch of coral makes up this side of the portal, and the warm winds of the coast are a pleasant surprise. You breathe in the ocean, and spy the silhouette of what you guess is Candlekeep, the Sword Coasts bastion of knowledge.

“I guess we missed winter…” Gerrick says aloud to the group.

“Indeed you did,” a voice replies, and the group turns to face Warnard, with a small contingent of elderly scholars and a smattering of other individuals, “You’ve been gone for months. It’s a blessing to see you alive and well, and I see that Morpheus and Omarlyn were able to find you in the end.”

“I can see in your eyes, that you have much to tell me, but unfortunately, much has happened in your absence, and time is of an essence. Please forgive my abruptness, but walk with me as I relate to you recent news.”

He leads the group up a winding cliff towards the keep.

“The last time you left Baldur’s Gate, following the scandal of Georghen Homphray, one of your number, Sardis, came to Candlekeep. The scholars here, knowing your group for its many good deeds to this region, gave the Genasi free reign to the scrolls and books within. They never guessed that he could have a sinister motive in mind.

“He left the keep under mysterious circumstances, and the rumor is, he left with several volumes regarding some nefarious and dark rituals that no sane man should ever dabble in.

“From here, he disappeared, but rumor has it that a Genasi matching Sardis’ description entered Baldur’s Gate.” Warnard stops, his face becoming very grave, and worried.

“A day later, there was… an event. It centered in the Bloomridge District, much like the event that you men helped put a stop too, but instead of an army of undead, a shadow of dark necrotic essence has spread throughout the district.

“The citizenry panicked. The rich that made it out of the district alive attempted to leave the city, or flee the district, but this was just the beginning of that great city’s issues.

“You are well aware of the scandal caused by Lord Homphray’s arrest, and then subsequent escape. The citizens had ceased to trust the nobility, and the merchant consortiums that fund the Flaming Fist. There had been riots and upheaval since Homphray’s escape. The Necrotic Event, as we’ve begun to call it, has made things go horribly wrong.

“The event is believed by the citizenry, to have been caused by the nobility, and the city quickly plunged into a full revolt. The Flaming Fist, sadly, has lost control. The city is in civil war, with different factions controlling different parts of the city.

“No one knows anymore what is going on inside. The refugees that have lived outside the city itself have become a besieging force, controlling who enters or leaves the city. And just recently, an army of paladins from Elturgard descended on the city, and I’m told they’ve clashed with the refugee forces and taken control of the North Gate.

“Amidst all the blood and mayhem, the aura of necrotic power is growing in Bloomridge. It must be stopped!”

At this point, you’ve reached the gates of Candlekeep, where a lone hooded figure awaits. Warnard slows and speaks under his breath to your group.

“The scholars have provided us with a man they call an expert on necrotic auras and they feel he may offer some insight into what is happening in Bloomridge. I will need you to get him into the district, inside that city in turmoil, and see if you can stop what is going on there. But I must warn you,” he says skeptically, as he casts a sidelong glance at the man, “he may disturb you, and you may not want to trust him, but the scholars here vouch strongly for him, and they say he can be trusted. He also has spent time in Baldur’s Gate, so the city is familiar to him.” You reach the hooded figure, and Warnard continues his monologue.

Legion,” he says addressing the figure, “I was about to tell them about the tragic tale of Demeran Strongheart, and his lust for power. A lust that led him to meddle in knowledge no man should ever consider.”

The lone figure drops its hood, and there is a collective gasp from the group, a hissing curse from Bartholomew, and then a choked noise of anguish from Morpheus.

“What is this?” Rhum declares indignantly, “Warnard, this man is a shade!” Warnard has his arms up, attempting to calm the group, but his eyes dart to Morpheus as he notes that the Shadar-Kai seems to know the stranger.

“This is Legion,” Warnard says calmly, “And I must stress that the men here at Candlekeep hold him in high esteem when it comes to knowledge of a necromantic nature.”

“What a surprise that he should know so much about it.” Gerrick says flatly, clearly unimpressed. Legion simply eyes them all in turn, looking unhurt by their reaction, but rather cool and uncaring. The shade speaks as if no one had said anything biting to him:

“Demeran Strongheart was of the brightest young member of his powerful family, distinguished himself at an early age, and eventually turning into a brilliant mage. However, ambition corroded his soul, and when he finally realized that family ties and obligations would always end up leading the less capable members of the family to the greatest heights of power in the city, he decided that he would have to make his own adjustments to the normal order of succession.”

Legion seems to smirk at his last comment, perhaps only to himself,

“Demeran knew that if he could take down some of his better-placed kinsmen, he would be able to manipulate the line of succession to place himself in a position of power. Seeking out the means to achieve his goals, Demeran discovered lichdom at middle age and did not hesitate to pursue this path.

“On the night of his transformation, possessed by his newly found power, Demeran put his plans into motion. He committed a series of murders, but he was discovered before he was able to throw the city completely into chaos. The newly-created lich was destroyed in a great battle that involved forces of the Flaming Fist mercenary company in addition to the family’s own retainers.

“The other wizards of the family tried to gather the resources to destroy the lich’s remaining essence, but they lacked sufficient power to unmake Demeran’s phylactery. The search eventually led to a scholar at Candlekeep who was said to be an expert in all sorts of esoteric means for dealing with undead creatures. The old scholar managed to imprison the lich using an ancient minor artifact created long ago. That same statue is believed to have been the cause of the Bloomridge Incident. And the mansion that the Strongheart family owned, is again at the center of this current disturbance.”

The shade pauses to gauge the group’s reaction.

“Liches… Shades…” Bartholomew mutters venomously.

“Yes.” Legion says, ignoring the slight, “Warnard has told you that the necrotic energy is growing, and no one knows what will happen when it reaches whatever height is its goal. Time is vital now.

“And while my being part of this group may bother some of you, I should remind you that Sardis was also among you, and he is the one that took ‘Beyond the Far Realms’ and ‘Blood of the Demon Prince’ from this very establishment – two books that can barely be mentioned among scholars without causing a debate about whether they should be burned or not. Your Genasi friend appears to be walking a dark path. The first book is disturbing enough, but the second is the definitive guide to Orcus himself. No sane being has any reason to possess it.

“I know your abilities, I’ve heard of your valor during the night the undead overran Baldur’s Gate, I know you are men of honor. Let me help you in this.”

“Bartholomew,” Gerrick says gravely, “I’m reluctant myself, but we can’t let that city go to ruin. Especially knowing what we do about that statue and what started the Bloomridge Incident. I don’t see what choice we have.”

“We should have destroyed it when we had the chance,” Rhum mutters, then spits on the ground, his eyes locked on Legion‘s, “But fine, he can join us. Let’s just get this done.”

“Gods be praised,” Warnard says with relief in his voice, “May the blessings of Balduran himself be upon you. You are that cities only hope.”

“Uh…” Asturean stammers under his breath at Omarlyn, “Does this mean we are splitting the treasure six ways now…?”

Author: Neil