In the aftermath of the Party’s final confrontation with the paladin Shane “Bane” Justus, High Inquisitor of the Order of the Fist of Tyr, a decision still needed to be made regarding where to go in search of the next piece of the Wand of Orcus. The Party’s options seemed limited.
The closest location geographically is Hillsfar, on the northern coast of the Moonsea. The Party’s knowledge of the location revealed that it is a trade superpower only opposed by Zhentil Keep at this point in time, and non-humans are strictly forbidden. The racial restriction would prove particularly troublesome for the Party, since there are only two humans (Mystra and Dastan). However, rumors have been heard that Hillsfar’s annual week-long gladiatorial competitions are scheduled to begin in about 2 days time based on estimates heard a few days ago from the rumors in Mulmaster. The Party is weary of showing up at the Arena games given the presence of high profile dignitaries, military personnel, and merchants who also have an interest in the games. By now, the wanted posters for the Party have been widely distributed among the metropolis cities around the Moonsea for nearly a month.
The other option considered is Whitehorn, the farthest location, which is a small village northeast of the Border Forest and a location very close to Evangelyne’s home. This location is tempting due to its low profile. Historically, Whitehorn served as a center of trade for those who either traveled too far north from the populated Dalelands or migrated south from the Great Glacier. The Party seriously considered this option, until Darian Skullbasher quietly recounted a tale he heard in Mulmaster about the entire population of Whitehorn being decimated in recent times by an enemy that left no trace.
A third option briefly considered was temporarily putting off the task of the Wand of Orcus and seeking out the Sword of Darkness (SoD), which is located in the Tower of Skulls within the Moonsea. Gruuntham Bronzerunner currently holds the Sword of Light (SoL), which was given to him by The Guardian of Mystra’s holiest temple. Gruuntham conferred with the SoL, and it explained to him that it seeks the destruction of its sister sword above all other tasks. However, the SoD can only be procured by summoning the Tower of Skulls with a scroll that only Mystra can scribe. In order to scribe such a scroll, the Party must secure a quill from one of the most ancient abyssal creatures that still reside in Faerun. Its lair is located in the Flooded Forest, and it is guarded by both the creature itself and its numerous spawn that have evolved over the ages. Mathias Thunderheart was able to confirm that he had heard of such a creature, and its primary traits are most similar to that of a basilisk.
Gruuntham quietly isolated himself from the Party and called upon the wisdom of his deity Haela Brightaxe for advice regarding Hillsfar and the dangers therein. The answer received was both cryptic and ominous:
“Death awaits your dreaded fable
Conflict there is only inevitable
Test your mettle against your fear
Death at your hands can only draw near”
With that, Gruuntham left his fate to chance and with the roll of a knucklebone determined that the Party ought to head to Hillsfar. The only matter left to resolve was how to gain access to a place that prohibits non-humans…