"As seen through my eyes, and told through my words,
is this tale of the adventuring group called The Knights Of Silver."
Yasraena T'Sarran - Drow Harper of Silverymoon
Chapter One - Silverymoon
I wake up lying down to the smell of burned flesh and garbage and to several shadowy beings approaching me. I immediately (if a little groggily) stand and back up, draw my sword and begin an area stun spell when I hear “Wait! We don’t mean to hurt you!! Don’t!!” so I stop the spell and wait with weapon up as I adjust to the light.
I see before me several people standing and one burnt halfling lying on the ground next to my smoking (but unharmed) spell book. I frowned and shook my head. “You rolls your dice and you takes your chances” my old friend, Razor, was wont to say at times like these.
The lead, a tall skinny human male, says “By the looks of you, you’d better come with us if you don’t want to die” as his big partner, a very large barbarian, grabs the halfling. I think for about two seconds, I hear sounds of pursuit and grab my book and pack, and follow these newfound benefactors. We eventually found our way to a safe place and decided to stay for the night. There, the rest of the group introduced themselves. There was Qwest, a human barbarian, Fleabus, a dwarven fighter/cleric, Malachi, a half-elven thief, Nalfost, a half-elven mage/priest of an unknown, but devious and mysterious god, and Wilfbrim, a priest/mage of Azuth, the god of Magic in this realm. I introduced myself, thanked them for getting me out of a sticky situation and told them what I think had happened. I relate my story about Hell and how I remember nothing until waking up in the alley.
“I think I was brought here by someone or something, arrived unconscious and was found by this halfling, who apparently thought that fortune had smiled upon him. He was rifling through my belongings and paid the price. His foolishness cost him his life, which is really too bad. Halflings are usually smarter.”
“Or at least more competent” said Nalfost with a smile.
They all seemed to agree, so we searched the crispy little hobbit to find out who he might be. All we found was a few gold and silver coins, a set of tools, his weapons and an ivory scroll case with the sealed ends in the shape of a unicorn. When we opened it, we found an unusual letter to “come to Silverymoon and help stamp out the evil in Hellgate Keep.”
By the goddess, where was I?
Through later conversation with everyone, I found out I was in the world of Toril on a continent called Faerun. Presently in a city called Luskan on the western shores called the Sword Coast. I thought I had heard of this world. Not unlike my home world, only with minor differences. Well, any place is better than where I was before. After a quick check of everything, I found out everything I owned was there in my bag of holding. THAT was unexpected, and good.
“Anyone else interested in taking this back to Silverymoon?” I asked.
We all decided that it would be a good thing if we undertook this quest.
After an uneventful journey to (I later found out) the fabled city of harmony, we met the ruler of the city, Alustriel, an old mage called Elminster, and another mage called Khelben “The Blackstaff” Arunsun. They questioned and evaluated each of us and told us of the quest. “Destroy all evil left in the ruins of Hellgate Keep, and if that isn’t possible, use this…a small silver sphere, that when the command word is spoken will engulf the entire keep ruins area in an impenetrable sphere of energy.”
Chapter Two - The Journey to the Keep
When we left the city, we all had a certain feeling that things would turn out all right. Wishful thinking in hindsight.
We had camped that evening and had a surprisingly uneventful night. The next morning we were just cleaning up breakfast when an old man came into view. He was wearing old grey robes, a pointy hat and carried a wooden staff that looked like it was used more for leaning than magic.
“Hello the camp!” he croaked from a distance.
“Hello right back!” I replied
“May I come in? I mean no harm.”
We all looked at each other, then at the old man, then at each other again and simultaneously shrugged our shoulders. “Come in if you wish.” I said and motioned for him to enter our campsite.
When he came into the circle, we got a better look at him. He looked like a raggedy old hermit that had come down form his cave. He seemed nice enough though, because all he was interested in was us. What we were doing here, were we adventurers, was that a magic sword, etc, etc. It got kind of tiring after a while and we made the excuse of “It’s getting late, we should really get going if we…” and started to pack our things again. He said his goodbyes, thanked us for the conversation and said to be careful out here. We all laughed at that, but he seemed to be serious.
As we were just about to leave and I was about to mount my horse, we hear howling coming from the direction we were to be going. I stop, turn to look that way and all of a sudden, a large yellow and green cat jumps into my arms and literally wraps itself around my waist, clinging to my armor with its claws. I was about to reach for my dagger when I see that it’s trembling, actually cowering under my cloak, like it’s scared half out of it’s mind.
“Oh you poor thing! What happened to y…”
“HELLHOUNDS!!!” I hear Fleabus yell.
I look up to see 4 Hellhounds running towards us. I immediately back up to allow the others to deal with these things because having this cat around my waist won’t help my fighting any. I’m actually able to cast still, though, so I get off a few magic Missiles at them before the rest of the party takes them out. Afterwards I find out that my new found friend is an Elven Cat. It’s intelligent and can speak (after a fashion) or at least communicate verbally. Her name is Shalar, and she was the pet of a mage who had went to Ascalhorn. They ran into the hell hounds before they even got there and he and his friends were killed by them. She barely escaped with her life and probably would have met her master’s fate if it hadn’t been for us. She seems to have attached herself to me for the moment, although I have no idea as to why. She wasn’t too happy to hear that we were also going to Ascalhorn, but she at least felt we could protect her. So she rode with me on the back of my horse for the remainder of the trip.
We came across the village at about an hour before dusk. It looked to be the typical farming/herding village, except there were no people around; none to bee seen at all. We decided to investigate further by exploring the buildings here. We decide upon a small tavern called “The Ascalhorn Inn”. We ride to the front, tie our horses and enter it. Inside it looks to have been abandoned for years. Dust and broken furniture litter the floor and cobwebs infest the ceiling. The mirror above the bar is still intact though. Fleabus, being the dwarf that he is, heads straight for the bar to see if there is anything left to drink. The rest of us spread out to our respective areas to explore more thoroughly. Nalfost, exploring the upstairs, finds a group of several Shadows that he immediately takes control of. (Something that makes me pause and wonder at my new found companion, and exactly what type of skills he has. As we start to explore the deserted tavern a little more thoroughly, we hear noise from outside that sounds like a small party with horses and wagons is coming down the road into town. When we stop to look out the dirty window, we are startled to see the sight before us.
There is indeed a group coming down the road. But it is not the farmers coming back to their homes after a long day of work, like we anticipated. Instead, it is a group of infernal looking creatures, green skinned and scaly, like something out of your worst nightmare. There is also a centaur with them. But on closer inspection turns out to be some sort of demonic centaur because its eyes glowed a bright yellow. They are about 16 strong and they are pulling a regal looking open topped wagon that has sitting on it what can only be described as a black knight. He is dressed from head to toe in shiny black armor with spikes on the shoulders and arm pieces. His helmet is in the shape of a skull and the facemask is white as bone. As this rabble comes riding into town, then stops directly in front of the tavern, the previously hiding townsfolk come out from all their hiding places and confront them.
“Where are our women?”
“Our wives and daughters?”
“You promised us you would return them to us!”
The black knight then stood up in his wagon, looked at the gathered people around him, and in a voice that sounded like his throat was full of suet, said “If you know what’s good for you, you will all go back to your homes and wait for your women to return to you. If you do not, you will pay the consequences!”
A fairly large farmer, with blonde hair and blue eyes, walks forward to stand before the black night and looks up into his face. “It has been 7 days past the date that was promised to us! We DEMAND our women back now!” He doesn’t seem to notice the demon/centaur walk in behind him. He is carrying a wicked looking barbed spear.
The black knight looks down upon this man and laughs an evil laugh. “Oh! So you demand it now, do you? You really want them back? They’re probably used beyond recognition now, but…… if you really want them back…… here they are.” As the knight says this, he makes a hand gesture, pointing to directly behind the farmer, so as he turns around to look, the guard runs him through with his spear. The farmer gasps in surprise and looks down to see a rusty, barbed spear protruding from his chest, covered in gore. He drops to his knees, looking up into the facemask of his tormentor.
“Hahahaha! You fool!! Did you actually think I would give them back to you? They will very soon be joining you! Hahahaha!” The guard then pulls the spear back out of the gaping wound it had created, trailing even more gore from the wound. The farmer is frozen, moving naught but his eyes, his mouth moving like he’s trying to speak. The black knight then jumps down from his wagon directly in front of the now dying farmer, puts his armored boot in the mans face and pushes back, sending the farmer backward to the ground in a bloody heap. He then looks around to the gathered men, who are in shock at what they’ve just seen. “If the rest of you ever want to see your women again, go back to your homes now, or you will suffer the same fate as this fool!” The gathered farmers do the only thing they can. They start to slowly retreat back to their homes.
As I watched this scenario play out before me, I was in a personal internal battle of my own. I couldn’t let these things just get away. They HAD to have something to do with what we were investigating, but the farmers! We couldn’t risk them getting hurt to further our own goals. We would be no better than what we were fighting. But then the farmer got murdered. Foolish though he mat have been, he didn’t deserve what he got. I was livid with anger, but held my head to quickly formulate a plan. I called the party over to me and told them what we were going to do. When the group got moving again, we were going to attack from the rear in surprise. I cast invisibility on Malachi and myself. The rest of the party did the same with the exception of Quest.
“Wait for my signal.” I said as I slowly opened the door.
“How will we know what it is?” Malachi asked.
“You’ll know.” I answered coldly.
I slowly opened the door and went out. I could see the evil group beginning to move again down the main street right in front of our building. I ran to directly behind the wagon and stopped as it continued slowly on. I reached into a belt pouch and brought out a small sticky ball of sulphur and bat guano. I said the incantation and the ball flew from my fingertips and streaked towards the wagon, bursting into a bright orange and red fireball when it hit the black knight. All hell breaks loose as the wagon goes up in flames, and the rest of the group turn to face their deaths at the hands of adventurers that suddenly appear out of nowhere. The black knight, or whatever it was, was damaged from my spell, but not badly. He was thrown from the wagon from the blast and was now getting up and facing me. He was a menacing sight.
“YOU, DROW! YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS, BITCH!” he thunders as he whips his sword out. It is black and glowing. He wields it two-handed. He begins to walk towards me and I draw both my weapons. They feel good in my hands. “It is you who will pay, dark one.” I reply. “You and your master will pay for the suffering you have caused these people.”
At that moment, I hear a loud cry of “TEEEMMMPPUUUUUSSSS!” and Quest comes barreling into the black knight, knocking him to the left about ten feet and to the ground. This gives me a decided advantage on him, and I run him trough while he’s trying to regain his footing. I make sure he sees whose sword it is that’s piercing his heart as I look into his facemask. “What did I say, you bastard?” I growl at him as I twist the sword in his chest. The satisfaction I felt at hearing his last rasping breath is beyond my capability of describing. As I finish the evil knight off, I don’t notice that Quest has gone bounding off again down the road, but I hear Malachi yell to the effect of “The centaur is getting away! After him!” So I wipe my sword on one of the dead creature’s tunics, mount my horse and gallop after the centaur along with everyone else.
We follow the centaur for a good twenty minutes. He is relatively easy to follow as he doesn’t veer from the road that leads to the Ascalhorn ruins. Pretty much where we thought he’d go anyway. We get to the end of the road to find a forest blocking our path to the keep. When we try to go forward into the forest, a large Treant comes and blocks our path.
“You cannot pass. You must stay off the grass!” He says to us in a booming voice.
“We mean you or the grass no harm, my friend.” Wilfbrim speaks up. “But there was an evil centaur that has passed here that was part of a group of creatures that terrorized a local town near here today. We are in pursuit to bring it to justice for the atrocities it has done to the villagers there. Please let us pass!”
“I cannot let you harm the grass.” It replies back. “If I let you pass, you most surely will. It is young and just growing strong now. I am sorry.”
“Do you mind if we just sit here for a while then?” I ask it in frustration.
“Just keep off the grass and you can stay as long as you like.”
So we ended up camping there for the night, being too mad that we lost the centaur to do much else. In the morning Wilfbrim comes up with an idea.
“If we can’t walk across to the keep, maybe we can convince the treants to carry us.”
“What about our horses? “ I ask. “Are we to just leave them here?”
“They should be fine for a day or two if we leave them some grain and water. I don’t think the treants would allow harm to come to them.”
And sure enough, Wilfbrim talked the treants into carrying us across their precious grass. I don’t know how he did it, but he did.
Chapter Three - HellGate Keep
On our arrival at the keep proper, we were put off at the foot of one of the remaining intact tower structures. We entered the keep from here. We came across many evil things within that keep. A trap that turned all of Malachi’s items into snakes; an evil cloaker monster that almost killed Wilfbrim; an area where we heard voices, but they couldn’t be understood; a barracks room that had several cambion fiends which we fought and killed, a room that had a few dozen pregnant women, but the condition they were in was shocking (these had to be the village women). The shapes of their bellies were all wrong and the things inside all of them were squirming and moving, as if it whatever was in there was something not quite human. But the worst was the Balor demon we found in the bottom most level. He had a Beholder guard, too. Malachi literally roped and rode the hellish thing while Wilfbrim cast spells at it. As insane as Malachi’s actions were, he was actually able to take out several of the things eyestalks in the process. I teleported right into the face of the Balor and proceeded to slice him to ribbons as Nalfost was creeping towards us ready to stick him with his dagger. The Balor had some type of spell that could switch his life force with another being. He used this on Malachi, switched his life force into Malachi’s body and Malachi’s into his. The only reason I knew something was wrong was that as soon as Malachi was switched into the Balor’s body, the scepter the fiend was wielding started to burn him like it was holy (or the thing now holding it was good), so he yelped and dropped it to the ground and started to shake his hand. Also knowing the effects of good/evil items on their respective opposites, I thought this strange, that this weapon he was wielding seconds before should start to pain him. Not to mention that he cried out in pain. I looked over at Malachi, and he was doing absolutely nothing except looking around a the battle, so I took an impulsive action. I prayed to Eilistraee that I was doing the right thing and decided to attack Malachi, not the demon. Well, my instincts were right. By killing Malachi’s body, the demon’s life force was destroyed. At least on this plane. We looted the treasure hold and what was around the floor of the chamber (of which I found Tasmia’s Heart and a beautifully detailed long sword), took Malachi’s and the demon’s body, and teleported back to Silverymoon. We had defeated the evil!
Upon our return, we were treated like heroes and given the run of the city. Alustriel, because of my beliefs, told me of a secret group of people called the Harpers. They were a group of people dedicated to fighting and ridding The Realms of evil, any and every way they could. She was a member, as were the mages Elminster and Khelben and many others as well. After what my friends and I had accomplished, she thought I would be a good addition to the membership. After thinking it over and deciding that here is where I’d like to stay, I accepted. These Harpers sounded like a good and noble group, and where else could I find an Elven queen that is able to put such faith in a Drow? All because we had conquered the evil in Hellgate Keep! Or so we thought…….
Hellgate Keep II - The Return