The Calm Before the Silverstorm – Part 1

Nulara Silverstorm stands armored in gleaming plate, her brow furrowed as she looks over a map of Baldur’s Gate. The map is dotted with wooden tokens to represent different companies in the Deva’s command. Nulara’s array of sub-commanders stand silently before the table awaiting her orders.

“How many of the refugees and civilians joined our cause?” She asks, her eyes never leaving the map.

“More than we anticipated,” sub-commander Krohl says, as he steps to the map, “About a thousand or so, and among them enough experienced archers to create a small company. I took the liberty of arranging them into two light foot companies, and one archer company.” Krohl gestures to several of the wooden pieces on the map, “One company will enter the south gate along with four of our own, one of which will be cavalry. We’ve named that force ‘Anvil’. The other two will form part of our main force coming through the main gate, dubbed ‘Hammer’. I felt the archers would be useful in taking the palace.”

“Was anyone able to gauge their skills?” The deva asks.

“There was not enough time,” Raylkor, another of the paladin sub-commanders answers, “Some appear to bear themselves as having training, and some are certainly old enough to have served as soldiers somewhere. Most seem to be young glory seekers who’ve managed to learn to swing a club at some point.”

“They all volunteered though, correct?” Nulara asks, as she moves the wooden tokens around the map.

“Yes commander,” Raylkor says after a long moment of silence, “but I agree with the Shadar-Kai.” There is an uncomfortable shifting amongst the commanders, but Raylkor continues nonetheless, “They are not warriors. They are not trained. They’re will be casualties. The Zhentarim are not pushovers. They are well trained, and these ‘dreaming of being a soldier’ commoners will be crushed under the boot of a real soldier company, should they face one. The monk was right. They do not belong here.” Nulara Silverstorm finally looks up from the map and straightens. Her eyes scan the faces of the paladin in her tent and then meet Raylkor’s.

“Are you not a devout follower of Torm?” she asks the paladin, “How is it you forget the tenets of your own god the moment before we go to battle?”

“I am loyal and fervent believer of Torm’s laws!” The paladin protests, his face reddening.

“Respect and enforce the law. Demonstrate truthfulness, loyalty, and steadfast devotion to a rightful cause.” The Deva says, her voice raised so everyone in the tent can hear her.

“They’re not paladins of Torm,” Raylkor argues, “These are our beliefs, not theirs.”

“Our belief. ” She states, her voice dangerous. The tent is completely silent now. “Our belief is one should never flinch away from the execution of duty, no matter what the cost. These people have spent years trying to become a part of Baldur’s Gate. If they want to be counted worthy of citizenship of this city, then their duty is to fight for it.

“It’s not just refugees out there. It’s displaced Baldurans, driven from their homes by mercenary soldiers and men of no morals or code. This is their city, and they should fight for it. When this battle is won, I won’t have it said that just Elturgard came to the rescue of Duke Portyr. I’d prefer that history records this as a triumph by the people of Baldur’s Gate itself, with the loyal assistance of its greatest ally, Elturgard.

“These people are proud, and I won’t have us wound that pride by stealing their glory on a day that could quite possibly be a turning point in the history of this city.”

“Krohl.” Silverstorm barks, and the paladin steps forward, “You are to command the Anvil. You will push for the Flaming Fist headquarters, but do not under any circumstance attempt to take it. The remnant of Fist soldiers remaining there are under the command of incompetent merchant masters from the Twilight Brotherhood, and they would be fool enough to order them to attack your force. Clear any enemies or resistance you find along the way. Hammer force will drive to the palace, liberating the Duke and Lothar Bladesmith. We will then drive whatever resistance is left around the palace to your force. Putting Lothar back in command of the Fist will swell our ranks, and the city will be pacified in no time. Gather what commanders you need, save Raylkor, and make for the south gate. Start your push immediately.”

“As you command!” Krohl replies as he salutes, and gestures for his subordinates to follow him out. Raylkor stands at the table, his face a picture of shame.

“The rest of you are with me, and we push from the north gate to the palace. Arrange your companies with all haste, we leave now.” Nulara commands. The commanders turn to leave, including Raylkor.

“Not you, Raylkor.” Silverstorm says softly, “stay a moment, I wish to speak with you.” The paladin stiffens, avoiding the eyes of his peers and stares straight ahead to the back wall of the command tent.

“If I have given offense, then I apologize,” the paladin says once the tent is empty of all others except for him and the deva, “But I stand by my initial statement, despite the fact that you do not care for it.”

“Steadfast.” Nulara says, “As any good paladin of Torm should be. You can relax Raylkor. It is I who owes apologies. I should not have spoken to you the way I did in front of the men.”

“You command here,” Raylkor says, visibly relaxing, his eyes meeting hers, “I should have held my tongue. It is not my place to second guess your decisions.” Nulara smiles as she comes around the table and gestures to the map table.

“I was angry, because I did not want to think about them being devastated by the enemy. You were right to be concerned for them. They need a bold commander that values their lives more than their tactical worth. That is why you will command them, with two companies of cavalry and a company of heavy foot to ensure their safety. And you will strike here.” She gestures to a corner of the palace.

“Gerrick and his men came out of the palace here, and he tells me the wall was already breached. The Zhentarim are using crates and debris to temporarily shore it up, but you can make short work of it. Once you’ve breached the wall, clear the courtyard beyond. Entry into the palace from there should be easy. I want the first men into the palace to be your two Balduran companies. We will be keeping the enemy occupied here.”

“A wise choice, commander,” Raylkor says, “and I am honoured to have this duty. I will not fail you.”

“I pray by Torm’s hand that none of us fail today.” Nulara says as she straps on her sword and shield, and steps from the command tent. Mounting her horse, she scans the host of Balduran militia, and Elturgard paladins. Cantering up to a grizzled veteran of one of the paladin companies, she addresses the man directly.

“Frenek? You were with commander Decler at the food riot?”

“Yes, commander.” He replies stoically.

“Your company will join mine in the vanguard.” She says to the man. Nulara raises herself up in her saddle and addresses the soldiers, both hers and the two companies of Baldurans.

“Today we end the stranglehold on your great city!” She shouts, her face determined. “Today we cement an alliance between our nations that has never wavered!” Nulara draws her sword and brandishes it over her head. “For the glory of Torm!”

“For the glory of Baldur’s Gate!” the host replies as they raise their weapons as one in salute.

“For Commander Decler!” shouts Frenek as his company slams their weapons to shields.

“Did you hear that?” Omarlyn says, his voice concerned.

“It’s hard to miss the sound of an army preparing to march.” Morpheus replies to him, equally as concerned.

“Preparing?” Hart Stonefield says in panic, “They’re not preparing, they’re leaving! We need to go! Now!” The three of them, as well as Legion stand off to the side as Gerrick and Asturean lean over the prone form of Bartholomew Rhum. Gerrick shakes his head angrily.

“I told you to keep him sober!” the dwarf yells at the elf, “How did he manage to drink himself into a stupor so quickly!” Gerrick kicks angrily at the numerous empty bottles that are cast around the snoring form of the cleric, “Moradin’s beard! Where did he get his hands on so much spirits in the middle of a paladin encampment?”

“I think he took it from the Quick Blades’ camp.” Asturean replies, as he bends down over the ex-pirate and attempts again to shake him awake.

“He’s more trouble than he’s worth,” Gerrick grumbles, as he throws his arms up in defeat. At this point the rest of the group, except Stonefield, gathers around the unconscious Rhum.

“What now?” Omarlyn asks, “Stonefield is fit to burst. If we don’t leave now he’ll pass out from anxiety.”

“Stab him.” Gerrick says, his face serious, as he points at Bartholomew, “Go ahead. Stab the bastard with those wicked sharp knives of yours. That should wake him.”

“Are you mad?” Morpheus says, “That’s like to leave him sleeping forever.”

“Then you punch him in the face!” exclaims the dwarf angrily, “or kick his teeth our, I don’t care!”

Suddenly Legion leans down quickly over the cleric, his left hand darts to the side of Bartholomew’s face and with a quick gesture the cleric’s eyes open suddenly, and he blinks.

“What are you all staring at?” Rhum says as he rolls onto his hands and knees and then begins to rummage through the empty bottles. He grimaces finding none full and then jumps to his feet, brushing off his arms and legs. “Well go on,” he gestures to them all, “we haven’t time to laze about now; we have a bunch of unicorn cultists to kill.”

“Dragon.” Omarlyn corrects him.

“What are you on about, now?” the cleric says as he pushes through the ring of concerned and angry faces.

“Dragon cultists.” Morpheus clarifies for the priest as he and the thief follow him.

“I’ll kill him.” Gerrick says to no one, as he storms off, “I swear by Moradin’s hammer, I’ll kill that drunken fool.” Asturean glances over at Legion.

“What kind of demon magic did you use there?” the elf asks, he face concerned. The shade smiles for the first time in a long time.

“Nothing arcane.” Legion says, “I pulled his ear. Hard. It’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to slumbering drunkards.” I bizarre sound bubbles up from the shade’s throat and the elf is not sure, but he thinks it could be laughter. “You’ll return his money purse, or course.” Legion says.

“Of course.” Asturean says as he smiles, “I didn’t want anyone to take it from him while he was sleeping.”

Author: Neil