The Sword of the Dales Trilogy: A Synopsis
The Sword of the Dales
The heroes begin at the Old Skull Inn in Shadowdale, where they are contacted by Lhaeo, Elminster's invaluable scribe. After a brief introductory conversation, Lhaeo tells the group of an important mission he would like them to perform. Randal Morn, rightful ruler of Daggerdale, and leader of the rebel units attempting to oust the Zhentarim from his country, has gone missing. He and a group of rebels were exploring the recently rediscovered tomb of an ancient wizard named Shraevyn. They penetrated the mysteries of the tomb, discovered a long-lost weapon called The Sword of the Dales, and were about to leave when set upon by a group of Zhentarim. They dispatched the villains easily, but then quite suddenly, a horde of undead creatures rose from the ground and attacked Randal's party. Randal himself was struck by a green light that seemed to come out of nowhere, and left him paralyzed. Only one man escaped: Ariton Delmis, one of Randal's captains. Realizing that the battle was lost, Ariton fled to Shadowdale where he told Lhaeo all that happened, and after resting and healing, went back to gather more troops and search for his leader. Lhaeo asks the heroes to go to Shraevyn's tomb, and see if they can discover what happened to Randal Morn.
Unknow to the adventurers, Randal has bee whisked away by Gothyl, an arch-shadow. Long ago, Gothyl was a mage who attempted to achieve lichdom. Her attempt failed, and she was transformed into her current form instead. During the process, her essence was teleported into Shraevyn's tomb where she was able to inhabit the Sword of the Dales. Freed now from the tomb, she has taken Randal Morn to her ancient tower in Spiderhaunt Woods. Her goal is to lure the PCs to the tower for her own nefarious purpose.
The heroes proceed up the Tethyamar Trail, encountering monsters along the way. They reach the tomb at the same time as a Zhentarim patrol that was sent to block access to the tomb. The two Zhentarim wizards leading the patrol urge the fighters forward, and then teleport away to inform their bosses of the heroes' presence.
After a difficult battle, the heroes enter the tomb only to be attacked again by skeletal spiders. When those are dispatched, they have to solve a puzzle in order to reach the inner temple. Within, they discover the body of Shraevyn lying in his coffin, and upon his chest is the fabled Sword of the Dales, glowing with an eerie blue light. Before they can do anything, though, they are attacked by a group of skeletons and zombies that spring from hidden compartments within the walls. Only after the battle do they have time to read a note tied to the hilt of the sword. It's from Randal Morn, and says to seek him within the Spiderhaunt Woods.
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Their first night under the eaves of Spiderhaunt Woods, the heroes are sent a dream-vision of Gothyl's tower. The arch-shadow has stepped in to guide the heroes to her. The heroes proceed up the Arachnid Trail, and encounter the two Zhentarim wizards they saw at Shraevyn's tomb this time supported by a small band of mercenaries and two darkenbeasts. During the battle, the heroes see the Sword of the Dales absorb, and then reflect back, a pair of lightning bolts cast by the evil wizards. Thanks to the magic of the blade, they emerge from the battle victorious.
Proceeding down the path, the heroes next encounter thick webs across the trail and a bunch of irate hairy spiders. Afterwards, they find a gnome spiderhunter named Madarn, struggling with a captured spider. He tells them about the village of Stormpemhauder, where he lives, farther up the trail. The party may spend the night in Stormpemhauder as guests of the gnomes. There they meet the gnome priest, Telimas, and discover that he has had a vision of them being transformed into ravens.
During the night, Gothyl sends a group of undead creatures to attack the village and kill Telimas. The heroes are awakened to the sounds of battle, and must rush to the gnome's defense.
In the morning, Madarn leads them farther into the forest towards the old tower. Camping for the night, they encounter a pair of drunken ogres. Madarn insists on attacking them. The next morning, as they approach the tower, Madarn realizes that they are being tracked by a leopard. He insists that the heroes try to scare it off rather than attacking it.
When they reach the tower, a powerful sleep spell radiating from it causes them to fall asleep. During their sleep, they have another dream-vision of Randal Morn suffering agonies within the tower. On awakening, they find that it is dawn, and Madarn has been sitting watch over them through the night. He gives them a nettle to eat that will counter the sleep spell. They are able to enter the tower, but Madarn insists on staying behind.
Inside the tower, the heroes find a chute that takes them down to a chamber beneath the ground. There, they are confronted by Gothyl in the form a beautiful spirit named Hedistrin. She tells them that Zhentarim wizards are responsible for Randal's captivity, and the only way to free him is to speak the phrase, "Across the lands and rivers below," while touching one of the skulls in the room beyond. This is a lie, of course. Touching the skulls will cause the PCs to be attacked as if by a magic jar spell. The spirits of her long-dead apprentices inhabit the skulls, and Gothyl wants them to take possession of the heroes' bodies. Her goal is to resurrect her apprentices in this fashion, and then drain the life force from Randal Morn, allowing her to achieve the status of a demi-shade.
Just then, a group of Zhentarim begin coming down the chute to attack the heroes. A general melee breaks out, and the heroes must fend off the Zhentarim while attempting to free Randal. At the end, the Zhent wizard, Ilthond, shatters the globe encasing Randal Morn, and teleports away with his body, as well as any of the skulls that he can grab. He also tries to take the sword, but it does not teleport with him.
Gothyl maintains her guise as a benevolent spirit throughout the encounter, and after the battle explains that she has no idea why touching the skulls did not work as it should have. She wants to use the heroes to recover the skulls, and will continue to aid them towards that goal. She tells them more about the powers of the Sword of the Dale, including its ability to open all locks and loosen knots in a 30-ft radius when the word Merrydale is spoken. In order to recover Randal Morn, the heroes must go to the Zhentarim's base in Daggerdale: the town of Dagger Falls.
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The adventure begins with the heroes on the Tethyamar Trail, headed to Dagger Falls to rescue Randal Morn from the clutches of the Zhentarim. As they ride along, they are suddenly set upon by a large patrol of Zhentish cavalry urged on by the wizard Ilthond. If the heroes are victorious, they continue on to the Serpentsbridge where Ilthond has stationed a troop of hobgoblins.
Their next encounter is with a group of Freedom Riders led by Mestin "Troll" Durmark, part of Randal's group of rebels. She urges them to come with her to their base in the Dagger Hills and cooperate with their efforts to rescue Randal. At the camp, Ariton Delmis is in charge. He reveals that Randal is scheduled to be executed, and asks the heroes to infiltrate the town of Dagger Falls and report the Zhentarim troop strength to Dulwar, a leather worker, who will pass the word on to the Freedom Riders. Ariton is planning an attack on the town to free Randal.
The heroes are able to enter the town with no problem. Ilthond is having them watched, but he wants them taken alive. The heroes explore the town, making a count of the Zhentish troops. Finally, the report their count to Dulwar. Leaving his shop, they are surrounded by Zhent guards. The guards are armed with sleep-poisoned arrows, and take the players into custody.
The heroes awaken chained and shackled in the town garrison. They are interrogated by Guthbert Golthammer, the town constable, who strides up and down in front of them brandishing the Sword of the Dales. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and the heroes are easily able to trick him into saying the word Merrydale, releasing them from their bonds. They begin to battle with the constable, and Ilthond suddenly appears. Gothyl emerges from the sword and drains the life force from the wizard's body. She then disappears, having achieved the status of a demi-shade.
The heroes must fight their way through the garrison, searching for Randal Morn. They soon discover that he has been taken in a wagon from the jail. Outside in the town, they hear the sounds of battle as the Freedom Riders launch their assault. The Zhents in the cart are attempting to escape with their prize, and the heroes must give chase. The wagon overturns in the city, and the heroes wade through a hail of arrows to rescue Randal.
Once they have him safe, the sounds of battle begin to die down. There is still a good bit of clean up that must be done however. Randal dispatches the heroes to deal with two situations: one in which a group of Zhents are holed up in a tavern and determined to fight; and another in which a group have taken refuge in a warehouse, but are ready to surrender.
Meanwhile, a large army of orcs from the Shattered Stone tribe are massing for an attack in the Border Forest. After the heroes are given a chance to rest, Randal informs them that the orcs have reached the outskirts of the town and are about to launch their attack. He asks them to conduct a guerilla attack on the headquarters of the orc chieftain, hoping that killing him will cause the orcs to retreat. The heroes are led to an abandoned house outside the walls where they are able to hide as the orcs march past. As they are circling around to find the chieftain's headquarters, though, they spot a catapult launching flaming rocks into the town. Realizing that the town cannot survive such a weapon, the heroes must take care of this new threat before they can attack the chieftain's headquarters. The catapult neutralized and the chieftain cut down, the heroes suddenly hear the sound of brass trumpets ringing through the night. There is a flash of light as magic missiles streak through the air, and the sound of hoofbeats announces the arrival of new forces. Cavalry flying the banner of Shadowdale charges across the bridge south of town and falls upon the orcs. The Freedom Riders pour forth from the gates, crushing the orcs between them.
The adventure ends with an impromptu banquet. The heroes are rewarded by Randal, and contratulated by Elminster and Khelben Blackstaff, who have shown up for the occasion. The heroes have achieved fame and fortune, and may now go on to live happily ever after...
Or can they? Gothyl is still out there, and the party still possesses her "home", the Sword of the Dales. Have they figured out her real nature? What will they do with the sword now? Most importantly, what are her plans now that she is a demi-shade?
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