The world of Nentir is a shining point of light, forged from the dark elemental chaos. Created by the Primordials, it was shaped by the Gods, and gave birth itself to the Primal forces. The Gods and Primals together locked the chaos seeking Primordials away, beyond time and space. As thanks for the Primals assistance, and penance for their part in the hurt wrought upon Nentir during the war, the Gods swore to never directly interfere in Nentir’s life, only to influence events as they may through their creations of life. Mighty empires rose in Bael Turath and Arkhosia, but they soon fell victim to their own lust for control. Chaos followed, until there arose another empire. A mighty human warrior only days past his fifteenth birthday slay the vicious golden dragon Ayunken-vanzen, and in the lands where the dragon once ruled, mighty Magroth founded Nerath, the crown jewel of human accomplishment and power. In his capital city he lit the Flame Imperishable, the standard of the Empire. By the time of Magroth’s death, Nerath covered most of the known world.
Three hundred years after Magroth slayed Ayunken-vanzen, Nerath was still the glorious jewel of Nentir. The Flame Imperishable burned bright, the Emperor Gairdyr ruled fairly and justly from his golden throne, and there was little to worry the hearts of the people. Also at this time the Dwarves also maintained a kingdom in the
, called Ironroot. Ruled by the Ironroot Council, this was the largest power in Nentir Vale after Nerath. The empire covered much of the southern lands, and spread into the Nentir Vale, as far east as Harkenwold, and as far northwest as Winterhaven. It was a good time to be Nerathi. The only issue that was even remotely discussed in less than upbeat tones was that of succession. Emperor Gairdyr was aging, and had no direct heir. His elder sister’s son Elidyr was first in line, then his younger sisters daughter Elani. Third in line was Prince Netrani D’Orda, Gairdyr’s cousin, scion of the powerful house D’Ordaine. D’Orda was much beloved above his people. Had Nerath been a democratic society, it was little questioned that D’Orda would next hold the throne. Dawnforge Mountains
Each spring the Dwarves of Ironroot held a festival in honor of Moradin, the patron God of the Dwarves. To foster relationships with Nerath, the Dwarves this year had invited Emperor Gairdyr himself to join the festivities. Eager to secure further peace for his empire, Gairdyr dispatched Prince D’Orda with a personally written letter of acceptance and a small gift for the Dwarf Lords. Their expected travel time was eight days, taking the King’s Road across Nentir Vale. They were expected to stop at the Five-League house, named so for its proximity to the Dwarven-holds, the eighth night, then make their way to the Council the next morning. On the eighth day, a spirit animal messenger arrived at Nerath saying the travelers had reached Five-League. On the tenth, a message arrived from the Nerathi ambassador in Ironroot with dark news. The expected Prince had not arrived. Aside from the disaster this would cause within the empire if news of D’Orda’s disappearance was leaked, the potential diplomatic insult to the Dwarves was catastrophic.
As Nerathi emperors always had done in these situations, Gairdyr turned to the Blade Wardens, a small cadre of heroes who answered directly to the Emperor. Trained to solve the most delicate and dangerous of issues quickly and efficiently, they truly were elite. Lord General Hathera, formerly a Warden, now their leader and direct liason to the Emperor, summoned his warriors to their meeting hall. The Wardens in this time were four strong. Lucan, the wizard; Merric, the ranger, Ander, Cleric of Sehanine; and Mikkal, Paladin of Bahamut. Explaining the situation to them the Lord General gave his Wardens their orders. First, to find the missing party, especially Prince D’Orda, and the diplomatic bag they carried. Secondly, to determine who attacked the Prince’s group, then find them and eliminate them. Thirdly, if possible, to deliver the diplomatic package to the Dwarf Lords. For that eventuality, Hathera promised to meet the Wardens personally to act as emissary. Travel time to Five-League house was five days, via woods routes the Prince would not have traveled. Lord General Hathera gave his team a two day head start, and bade them set out before mid-day passed. Before they left, he delivered to them another piece of bad news. Merric’s younger brother, Derric had accompanied Prince D’Orda on his mission. A personal soldier for House D’Ordaine, Derric had risen through the ranks quickly. Initially given a chance on his brother’s name, he had earned his rank and position quickly through his own merit and dedication. Hathera offered his condolences to Merric, and wished the heroes great speed and luck.
Arriving at Five-League House dawn of the fifth day, the Wardens immediately noticed that Prince D’Orda’s standard still flew from the flagpost, a sign he was in the house. Investigating the stables first, the Wardens found evidence that horses had been there as recently as a day before, but where no longer nearby. Entering the house, the heroes quickly searched the upper level. The main hall and the first two rooms yielded little, a few small spatters of blood and some scraps of food. In the third room, bolts, arrows, and a spear were found. Unmistakably Nerathi weapons, the spear was marked with a blue tassel, the color of the House D’Ordaine. The furniture in the room had been moved around, and under the couch were two greaves, marked with the symbol of the Nerathi army. Perplexed as to what dire need would cause soldiers to leave behind their weapons, the party traveled downstairs. Instantly upon entering the room they found five bodies. The first four were soldiers of Nerath, each dead beyond help. Each body was pierced by multiple black-tailed arrows and slashed with rough-edged blades, unmistakably the work of Orcs. The fifth body was dressed in the armor of the House D’Ordaine, and on further inspection was revealed to be Derric. Comatose and barely alive, Ander knew that even with his divine healing, he could not save the young mans life. Imploring Sehanine for assistance, Ander was able to bring Derric around enough to allow Merric to speak to him for a few minutes. In his short time, Derric explained to the Wardens that the Prince he traveled from Nerath with was an imposter, a Drow wielding a powerful glamour spell. He reveals the Drow’s name is Brash B’Arnout. Through quick thinking, Derric had managed to convince the imposter to allow him to carry the diplomatic bag. Handing Merric the bag, Derric then turned to Mikkal, who as Paladin of Bahamut embodied the ideals of justice, and told him that there was a traitor in the high ranks of Nerathi military. Shocked by this news, and distraught over the loss of life, the Wardens missed the sounds of newcomers entering the Five-League, and were ambushed by Orcs. A viscious Eye of Gruumsh led five other orcs into the basement, followed by two Bloodseeker Drakes. A viscious battle ensued, ending with eight more bodies laid on the floor. The battle over, Merric returned to his brothers side, but alas, Derric could do no more than implore his brother to avenge him and say a final farewell before shedding the mortal coil and joining Pelor in Hestavar. Saddened at their loss, but resolved to lose no more, the Wardens immediately took off to catch the Drow, lest he reach the Dwarf Council before they did.
Traveling through the night, the Wardens reached the crossroads, just west of the Dawnforge range. Approaching the clearing through the woods so as to remain unseen, a suprising sight greeted them. In the crossroads, mounted atop his steed, was Lord General Hathera, a day early. Before the Wardens can call to their leader, they notice a second, slighter figure besides the horse. Dark skinned and white haired, he is unmistakably a Drow. Their relaxed, cordial conversation leaves the Wardens with only one conclusion. The traitor is their own Lord General. Using a key distraction by Lucan, Merric was able to sneak closer to the General and the Drow, while the Stonechild, one of the General’s personal bodyguards moved from behind his cover to investigate the noise. The Drow fey-stepped from the scene and Mikkal lead the others from hiding to confront the General. Initially denying his role, the General realized that his former troops had learned too much, and charged them. The Stonechild rushed back to assist the General, as did Hathera’s prized War-Ape. Initially stymied by the furious assault of Merric, the General reached for his broadsword, a magic item that was a gift from the Emperor himself. However, the blessed Battleblade of Pelor only struck for good, and resisted the Generals strike on Mikkal before falling from his hands. The Stonechild was defeated and the General surrendered to his former charges, detailing to them B’Arnout’s plan. Not only did he seek to disrupt the relations between Nerath and Ironroot, but he also was seeking an item of great magical power from the tombs of Hammerfast. More importantly, he planned to break into Hammerfast wearing his glamour, so the attack would be blamed on Prince D’Orda. Hathera claimed no knowledge of the Prince’s location however. As Mikkal and Lucan argued about what to do with the traitor, Merric, remembering both his grief and his oath as a Blade Warden, struck Hathera’s head from his body. Severed from his magical bonds, the war ape went wild, but was struck down by a quick strike to the heart from Mikkal, who claimed Hathera’s blade as his own.
Hammerfast represented the pinnacle of Dwarven construction. A Necropolis larger in size than some Nerathi cities, Hammerfast was home to the most honored dead of Nentir’s Dwarf population. Making haste up the mountain trails, the Wardens looked upon the necropolis in moonlight. Ghostly guardians walked the walls, always on alert to protect their fellow Dwarves. Hathera had directed them to a secret entrance in the southeastern corner of the temple district, and they were able to find it quickly. As they passed the temples to Bahamut and Sehanine, Mikkal and Ander were awed at their beauty, pausing to give silent prayer as they passed. As the Wardens walked through a small grove of trees, one of the Dwarf ghosts saw them, but did not raise an alarm. Instead, sensing their intent, he directed them to the Seventh tomb of the Brothers of Balin, located in the Eastern Ward. Cryptically, he instructed the heroes not to allow the usurper to claim Duergar’s Hammer, but would say no more other than to offer them the blessings of Moradin. Passing through the gates to the Eastern Ward, the tomb was easy to spot, as it was the only one whose massive stone doors has been completely demolished. Even more disturbingly, Lucan’s arcane skills led the group to believe that no magic had been used to break the stone, only pure strength. Sneaking through the rubble of the antechamber, Merric was able to see through an ajar door into the main tomb. B’Arnout stood in the center of the room, speaking to a Duergar who worked furiously to remove a large black warhammer from a central pillar. A bright light glowed from the ceiling, and several disturbing sounds came from beyond his view. Attempting to create a diversion, Lucan used his mage hand to pull what he hoped was a chandelier from the ceiling, but instead dislodged a sleeping fire bat. As Mikkal lead the charge into the room to confront the Drow, B’Arnout laughed at the threats of the Wardens before once again Fey-stepping away, carrying the Duergars hammer. Brash’s Duergar ally revealed the sources of the rooms strange sounds. A small Black Dragon and a six-armed skeletal warrior appeared, and attempted to encircle the heroes, joined moments later by an Ogre, the source of the brute strength needed to bash the outer doors. However, this group proved no match for the might of the Blade Wardens, and they quickly dispatched each foe. Faced with such unrelenting and fearsome opponents, the Duergar was quick to give away B’Arnouts plan. Duergar’s Hammer was a magical totem, that when struck thrice upon a magical symbol would open gateways to the Underdark. Using this weapon, B’Arnout planned to destroy a Nerathi city to demonstrate his power, then use the Prince and the threat of more destruction to ransom vast tracts of land and sums of money away from Nerath, carving an empire above for the forces of evil. Relieving the Duergar of his life, our heroes rushed from Hammerfast, desperate to stop the Drow before he reached Harkenwold, revealed to be his first target. As they raced to the bottom of the mountains they received a small bit of divine help. Grazing at the crossroads was General Hathera’s horse, and two mounts used to move his bodyguards. Each wore a Nerathi travel saddle, which granted its rider a peaceful rest while riding. Thanking their gods for this fortune, the Blade Wardens set out to track down the Drow.