Silver Wolf: Chapter IV

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Published: June 10, 2009

Chapter IV:  A Mother’s Memories

Temple District, Nehr’bak
Northeast of Waterdeep, Sword Coast North
13 Kythorn

The best thing about having one’s guild house in a Thayan city was an abundance of mages who could build portals.  Mainly, it made travel from eastern Thay to the Sword Coast a matter of seconds rather than months.

Kalir, Ammon, Safiya, and Gann stood in the temple district of the city of Nehr’bak, having arrived from the portal in the Orc’s Horn Inn.  This was a grand place, with major temples to the Red Knight, Sune, Tyr, Kelemvor, and Eilistraee, starting from the southeast corner and moving clockwise.  With the recent addition of a small chapel to Waukeen in the market district, it was a rare day in Nehr’bak that didn’t see some sort of religious celebration.

The group made their way across the marble courtyard to the wood and stone fortress that was the temple of the Red Knight.  This particular temple doubled as the headquarters for the Order of the Lanceboard, and contained a library surpassed in western Faerûn only by Candlekeep.  There Kalir hoped to find something that would aid her against either Rammaq or the mysterious master of the Dark Heaven.  Preferably both.

The two guards at the doorway wore spotless red-enameled half-plate armor and carried shields emblazoned with the order’s insignia, a red knight chesspiece on a red and gold checked field.  They dropped their halberds to cover the door as the group approached, and the one on the left, who had a sergeant’s red filigree on his helm, commanded them in Common to identify themselves.  Kalir took the lead, switching easily from Thayan Mulhorandi to her native Chondathan:  “I’m Kalir Patten the Wolf, Commander of Fort Lightreach, and these are Lieutenants-Auxiliary Ammon Jerro, Safiya, and Gannayev-of-Dreams.”

The younger soldier at the right started.  “Commander Patten!  Ma’am, I—”

“Private,” the sergeant said, and made a slashing motion across his throat.

“Yes, sir.”

“Welcome back to headquarters, madames and messires.  And to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?”

“We seek information from the library,” Ammon answered.  “And Kalir wishes to visit her mother’s tomb.”

The sergeant scribbled the information on the ledger to his left, then brought his halberd back to vertical.  “Our records are at your disposal.  Permission to speak frankly, milady?”  Kalir nodded.  “If you don’t mind me asking, how goes your war?”

“It goes well.  Dmir fell last week, and we captured most of their non-undead officers.”

“Praise the Red Knight,” the sergeant said, and Kalir smiled.  “Well, I won’t keep you; I assume the information you need is urgent.”

Kalir reached for the doorknob and opened the door, stepping into the chapel.  A chandelier dripping with gold chains and rubies hung from the ceiling, casting flickering red and yellow lights about the room.  The floor was laid out as a giant chessboard, used for games of human chess during major ceremonies.  At the far end stood the altar, a stone table with horse-head-shaped legs, bearing a brass offering bowl, a chessboard with the black king held in checkmate by a red knight and white queen and copies of The Red Book of War and Master Tactician, the two holiest texts of the Red Knightist faith.  On the wall behind the shrine hung a painting dating from the Time of Troubles, depicting the avatar of the Red Knight, inhabiting the body of Lady Kaitlin Tindall Bloodhawk, riding against a black-armored warrior.

Kalir touched the carved ruby holy symbol she wore on a silver chain around her neck, then drew the Sword of Gith and knelt before the altar, then looked up at the painting.  Hello, my Lady.  As always, I seek your aid.  Help me help my friend.

For a moment there was no response to her prayer, but then a feeling of peace washed over her.  She heard a throaty female laugh, followed by a quiet voice in her head:  You need no guidance from me, daughter of Esmerelle.  All you must do is believe in yourself and trust in your allies.

Kalir had prayed to the Red Knight ever since her awakening as a paladin, and the spells she could cast were gifts in return, but never before had her goddess spoken to her directly; this was an honor granted to few.  All she could do was reach for her holy symbol, kiss it reverently, and whisper, “Thank you, Red Knight,” to the air.  She reached into her belt pouch for a handful of coins, and laid five gold pieces into the offering bowl.

The side door opened as Kalir stood, and a balding giant of a man walked in.  He wore a blood-hued tunic emblazoned with the order’s insignia, and had a longsword belted at his waist.  Kalir stood to attention, saluted, and greeted Grandmaster Lord Saladin Dyferras, Count of Harascar and leader of the Order of the Lanceboard.  “At ease, Commander Patten,” he said warmly.  “The door guards informed me of your arrival.  Let’s see now:  Safiya, Ammon Jerro, and Gannayev.  I don’t think you three have ever visited Nehr’bak before.  Welcome.”

Safiya curtsied and said, “A pleasure, Lord Dyferras.”

“We’re not on duty here, Safiya; Saladin is just fine.”  He turned to Gann and said, “I always knew it would be a lucky man who won Kalir’s hand.  I was there when she was born, you know.  She was special.”  He cleared his throat and changed the subject.  “I understand you want to visit your mother’s tomb.  May I ask the purpose?”

“I want Mother’s journals.”

“Ah.  I suppose I should guide you down.”

Saladin led them downstairs into the catacombs beneath the temple.  The temple had once been a castle, which Falcar Greycastle, the first Grandmaster, had bought for the Order.  The catacombs were a series of natural caves that had been excavated millennia ago by Illefarn engineers for use during sieges; one section had formerly led into the Underdark, but Greycastle’d had that section sealed off for security reasons.

The others took lanterns and oil flasks and lit them.  Saladin offered Kalir a lamp, but she waved it away.  She closed her eyes, concentrated for a moment, and then opened them; the darkness lit up in shades of gray.  Her infravision was not as sharp or far-reaching as that of creatures of the Underdark, but she could see in total darkness by virtue of objects’ heat signature.  “I didn’t know you could see in the dark, Kalir,” Saladin said.  “Your eyes are glowing red.”

“I think it’s got to do with my planar heritage.”

“I imagine so.”

Saladin took the lead down the passage.  It was lit at regular intervals by spells of light, but they were all fairly dim; hence the lamps.  Navigating with a compass and by the coded markers on the walls, they traveled north for a while, then turned to the west.  At long last they came to a stone doorway flanked by stone angels.  “Kalir, do you know where we are?”

“The Hall of Heroes,” she said quietly.  “You mean to say—?”

“All the deceased Grandmasters are entombed here, Kalir, but even if she hadn’t been one, your mother would be here.  Not only did she near-singlehandedly demolish the Ilnevallic Horde in the Year of Shadows, she saved Waterdeep from a drow invasion, forged our alliance with the church of Eilistraee, and took out a lich and a medusa in the Anauroch.”

“Damn!” Gann blurted admiringly.  “Easy to see where Kalir gets her courage.”  The paladin blushed slightly.

“Trust me, Gann, she doesn’t just get it from one side of her family.  I know less about her father than I do her mother, but Valen was no coward either.”

“You’ve never spoken of my biological father before, sir.”  Saladin gave her a faraway look, then let out a breath and stepped through the doorway.  “Sir?”

“I apologize, Kalir.  Even after sixteen years, it’s still hard to speak of.  Come, your mother’s journals await.”

The quartet followed the grandmaster into the hall, where seven rows of stone sarcophagi lay in silence.  Upon the lid of each sarcophagus was carved the full name and titles held by its inhabitant, summaries of their campaigns and lists of their victories, and at the head of each sat an image depicting him or her.  Kalir recognized many faces, including a few she had known.  Ian Kalros, Makir Sult, Kavaron of Chult.

She felt Gann shiver beside her.  When she quietly queried him, he responded, “Places like this always make me uneasy, love,” Gann whispered in her ear.  “I can sense their faint dreams, just beyond my sight, teasing me, then fluttering away when I try to see them.  How much longer must we stay?”

“As long as it takes, Gann,” Ammon said.  “These dead are sanctified, and pose no threat.”

“Oh, they pose a threat, all right, Ammon,” Safiya disagreed.  “But only to graverobbers.  I detect a faint aura around each sarcophagus.  If I’m not mistaken, all it takes is the breaking of a single coffin seal.  Three guesses what happens next.”

“The dead rise?” Ammon rolled his eyes.

“Come on, Ammon,” Kalir said.  “The Order is anti-necromancy, remember?  What we have is a lot more useful.  Breaking a seal trips a portal that teleports the unfortunates straight into our lockup, where we can interrogate them at our leisure.”

“That’s what happens?” Safiya said in disbelief.  “My money was on the undead.”

“No undead here.”

“Are you four going to stand there all day?”  Saladin beckoned.  “Your mother’s tomb is in the back, Kalir.”

Saladin led them to a raised dais where only three sarcophagi lay; the other slots were empty.  These sarcophagi had elaborate reliefs showing images from their inhabitants’ careers.  The group went straight to the right-most of the three, upon which stood the static image of a blonde, blue-eyed woman in gilt-trimmed red full plate.  On the wall behind the coffin hung a shield emblazoned with the Order’s crest, with a purple border indicating the Grandmasterhood.  But Ammon’s attention was drawn to the bright steel and electrum trim of the sword hanging next to it.  “The Holy Avenger,” Ammon murmured.  “So it was her.”

“Excuse me?” Gann said.

“Her sword.  The Holy Avenger.  I met a paladin during the battle at West Harbor in the Year of the Turret.  She carried only that sword, but she took a shield from a skeleton warrior and slew more undead than the rest of my troops put together, all the while coordinating the resistance as if it was second nature to her.  One of the Harborwomen even called her ‘Essie.’  I  don’t believe I never made the connection before.”

“That sounds like Esmerelle Patten all right; she was a natural,” Saladin remarked.  “I’ve never met a more talented tactician before or since, with the exception of the Red Knight Herself.”

“You’ve met the Red Knight, sir?” Kalir said in awe.  “In person?”

“You forget I was a member of the Order of the Red Falcon, and served under Lady Bloodhawk during the Time of Troubles.  If you recall, the Red Knight possessed her.”

A table next to the sarcophagus bore a two-handed flail with a broken haft, and a cracked helmet rusted with blood.  Kalir looked at it in silence, then said, “These were my father’s.”

“Yes.  Did you know he was a tiefling?”

Kalir’s head rocked forward in surprise.  “A tiefling?  But—he—I—That’s not possible, I’m an aasimar; how could my father have been a tiefling?”

“Actually, Kalir,” Ammon said, “it’s quite possible.  All it means is that your mother was of celestial descent, a dormant bloodline.  You had a fifty percent chance of being a tiefling and twenty-five each of being human or aasimar.”

“Whatever.  Guess that’s another thing I want to look into.  Nobody in West Harbor knew anything about my father.”

“Well, I never knew much about Valen,” Saladin said, “but I’ll tell you what I know when we go to the library.  You wanted her journals, correct?”  Saladin took the shield off the wall, revealing a keyhole.  He took a key from his belt and turned it in the hidden lock.  A section of wall hinged outwards, revealing a small cubbyhole with a stack of dusty books.  He took several, then put the safe door back into place and locked it, and replaced the shield.  “Let’s return, shall we?”

Another half-hour and they were back at the temple.  Kalir switched back to normal vision as the door opened, and then they headed upstairs to the library.  Row upon row of shelves containing thousands of tomes and books greeted their eyes, a treasure trove of information.  Saladin handed her the journals, and Kalir walked to a chair and selected one at random, dated the Year of the Prince.  The text was written on aging parchment in a neat, flowing Thorass script; the front page stated, ‘Journal of Sergeant Esmerelle Patten, Order of the Lanceboard, Year of the Prince 1357 Dalereckoning.  All praise to the Red Knight, the Lady of Strategy, and to Her Master, Tempus the Foehammer.’  She stared at the page, then said to Saladin, “I never figured Mother to be one for this kind of … thing.”

Saladin snorted.  “She wasn’t, but that’s not her writing; that’s Archivist Lamstrand.  He does that with every book he catalogs.”  Then he yelled up the aisle, “Despite my repeatedly asking him not to!”

“If you don’t want me to do it, you can do the work yourself!” somebody yelled back.

Ignoring this, Kalir turned the page, and the writing switched to a much messier scrawl.  “That’s Mother.”  Saladin nodded.

“This journal of the Waterdeep-Cania War will never be published beyond the boundaries of this Order.  The archdevil Mephistopheles, though now bound by my hand and Word to never again leave the Nine Hells, remains a powerful threat via his subordinates and cultists on the Prime and elsewhere, and the information contained in this volume is intended solely for the use of those who would fight them.”

“‘Bound by my hand and Word’?  How in the Hells did she manage to bind an archdevil?” Kalir wondered aloud.  Saladin, however, had taken another journal from the stack and was perusing it; Safiya, Gann, and Ammon were wandering the stacks, leaving Kalir in her chair.  She shrugged and returned to the journal.

To be continued...

Chapter IV: A Mother's Memories

Introducing Lord Saladin Dyferras, Grandmaster of the Order of the Lanceboard [link] , this chapter sets the stage for Kalir's daring plan to save the Menagerie, which uses a magic older than Toril itself.

This one took a while. One of the trickiest parts of all was deciding on a suitable trap for the Hall of Heroes' sarcophagi to deter graverobbers. The stereotypical dungeon hits the intruders with undead, but the Order of the Lanceboard views their creation as disrespectful, making it particularly inappropriate to use the corpses of men and women honored for service above and beyond the call of duty. Then it occurred to me that a strategically proficient organization would find it more useful to interrogate intruders rather than merely slay them. Ta-da!

The preview image is the painting from behind the altar. In real life, it was drawn by Wizards of the Coast artist Jason A. Engle, and appeared on page 143 of The Grand History of the Realms.

Previous Chapter:
Chapter III: Two Meetings [link]

Next Chapter:
Chapter V: Training, Learning, Planning [link]
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Background Notes:

1. Deities: Sune (pronounced "soo-nee") is the Faerûnian greater goddess of beauty, love, and passion. Her worshipers include lovers, artists, half-elves, adventurers, and Paladins of the Firehair. Though a goddess of love (not "pleasure," necessarily; that's more the domain of Sharess and Hanali Celanil), and one who has been romantically tied to many other deities, she is by no means a weakling, and retaliated with fury against Cyric in 1385 DR for the murder of Mystra, imprisoning him in his homeplane for a thousand years with Tyr and Lathander's help. She also freed Sharess from Shar's evil influence during the Time of Troubles, putting herself near the top of the Dark Goddess' shit-list. Female Sunites outnumber males by about four to one.
Eilistraee (pronounced "eil-iss-tray-yee") was the Faerûnian and drow lesser deity of song, beauty, swordwork, hunting, and moonlight. The daughter of Araushnee (now Lolth) and Corellon Larethian, she was worshiped by good drow, hunters, and surface elves. Unfortunately, she was killed as a result of Lolth's machinations in Flamerule of 1379 DR, the Year of the Lost Keep. Mourning his daughter, Corellon opened the heavenly realm of Arvandor at long last to good-hearted drow and the newly-formed race of dark elves.
Ilneval (pronounced "ill-nev-all") is the orc lesser god of war, combat, overwhelming numbers, and strategy. His worshipers include barbarians and fighters. The Lieutenant of Gruumsh dislikes the other orc deities (particularly Baghtru, who is quite simply an idiot), but being a shrewd planner, uses their talents to great effect in battles with other pantheons.
Tempus (pronounced "tem-pus") is the Faerûnian greater god of war, and the superior of the Red Knight and Valkur. He is worshiped by fighters, warriors, barbarians, rangers, and half-orcs, though practically everyone who has ever wielded a sword has had his name on their lips at least once in their lives. He is one of the four oldest gods of Toril (not including Ao), having arisen from the first clash between Selûne and Shar. He sponsored the apotheosis of the Red Knight. (Source: Faiths and Pantheons.)

2. History: The Ilnevallic Horde (non-canon) was an orc horde that invaded the Western Heartlands in the fall of the Year of Shadows, led by the avatar of Ilneval. While the Red Knight (inhabiting the body of Lady Kaitlin Tindall Bloodhawk) was busy in Tethyr, Esmerelle Patten, now a garrison commander for the Order, led a force of mercenaries, village militiamen, and Order troops to a string decisive victories over the Ilnevallic Horde. Her only regret was that she wasn't able to take out Ilneval himself.

3. Magic: Permanent image is a 6th level bard, sorcerer and wizard spell that creates a permanent illusion of of an object, creature, or force, complete with auditory, olfactory, and thermal elements. Each image of a person interred in the Hall of Heroes was created by the casting of this spell. (Source: Player's Handbook 3.5.)
Portals are gateways between locations on one or more planes that allow one to transit in seconds. Two examples are shown here. The first, the portal between Lightreach and Nehr'bak, is a multi-destination keyed portal that allows those with the correct key to travel between any two Order "garrisons" (or guildhouses). The second, the portal that teleports intruders in the Hall of Heroes to the Nehr'bak garrison's brig, is a keyed creature-only portal, that teleports the intruders to the brig but their belongings to the garrison armory. For more information, read pages 59-61 of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3E.
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Yet another addendum (I think this is the last one):

5. Books: Master Tactician actually exists in our world. It's a web document by Sean K. Reynolds located at Wizards.com [link] .
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1. Deities: Waukeen (pronounced "wah-keen") is the Faerûnian lesser goddess of trade, money, and wealth. Her worshipers include merchants, traders, the wealthy, and rogues who learn the arts of thievery to combat thieves. A relatively young, hardworking deity, she loves wealth not for itself but for what can be done and acquired with it.
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4. Archfiends: Mephistopheles is the Lord of the Eighth Circle of Baator, the frozen wasteland of Cania. An ambitious schemer who wants to rule the Hells, he swore vengeance on then-Sergeant Esmerelle Patten for his humiliation at her hand (which I will expand upon in the next chapter). His hatred now extends to the entire Order of the Lanceboard. (Source: Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark.)