Prologue – 972 YK, the year of the secession.
Restas il d’Thuranni, assassin of House Phiarlan, brother-in-law to Apophre, played by Edbury
Apophre il d’ Thuranni, assassin of House Phiarlan, brother-in-law to Restas, played by Will
Kelilas d’Paelion – Head of House Paelion, a prominent familial line within House Phiarlan, played by Jon
Ki’lye d’Paelion, daughter of Kelilas, played by James
Unnamed infant son of Ki’lye, present but not played
The war among the Five Nations for dominion over the entire Kingdom of Galifar rages on, abetted in various ways by the mercantile powers of the twelve Dragonmarked Houses. Within these houses themselves is a microcosm of the larger conflict, although solidarity and unity usually wins out. Usually. On one dark night in the ancestral compound of House Paelion of House Phiarlan, assassins from House Thuranni of House Phiarlan fell upon the Paelion bloodline in an orgy of strangulation and throat-cutting. Heirlooms were seized and the compound was set ablaze. At the last, House Thuranni lieutenants Apophre and his brother-in-law Restas stood eye to eye with the head of House Paelion and his daughter and her infant son.
Despite knowing the location of the Circlet of Kelilas, a fragment of the ancient Elven artifact known as Liryana’tani – or Arkantaash, the Ashen Crown, to its later goblin masters of the Dhakaani Empire – Kelilas does not divulge its whereabouts or attempt to use it to bargain with the assassins. It is revealed that the child is actually not a pure blooded Paelion child, as it comes from a liaison between Ki’Lye and the Thuranni assassin Restas. In the final confrontation, all are mortally wounded except Apophre and the child. Apophre takes the infant, which he now knows to be his nephew and the fruit of Restas’s betrayal of Apophre’s sister, strips it of identifying marks and leaves it in an orphanage in the Lhazaar Principalities.
Present day – 998 YK, Armistice Day, Breland, city of Sharn
In a public square of one of the lower wards of Sharn, insurgents of an unknown stripe begin raining bombs on the city on its crowded, celebratory day. In the ensuing chaos, five travelers are pushed together in a tavern by Sharn security forces who are clearing the street: our four adventurers and Adolphus Maypole, oculist at large. Over casual drinks and conversation, Maypole invites them back to his apartment, accessible through the innards of the skyscraper whose ground floor they were then on. There, Maypole was struck down by assassins clearly conducting a search of his dwelling. Our adventurers rushed to Maypole’s defense, and defeated the assassins, only to discover that they were rotting undead moving under a cloak of illusion spells to conceal their true nature.
Conducting their own very thorough search of Maypole’s dwelling, our party discovers hidden in a small secret compartment a small scrawled note that reads “Dannae is Demise. Why Emerald Claw?”, and an ancient magical blade of some sort. Gift d’Thuranni also takes some papers and books belonging to Maypole, notably Maypole’s self-penned tome Diseases of the Eye. Then they call the authorities to report the murder, and all four of our heroes give statements to the police. Gift also gives notice of his intent to bid on Maypole’s property when and if it comes up for auction.
Our heroes return to their quarters for the night, but not before vowing to reunite the next day to inquire into this mystery into which they have unexpectedly been thrust. In the morning, Gift d’Thuranni wakes in his room in the Thurannni Club and is greeted by Stugsworth with his breakfast and the morning paper, the Sharn Inquisitor, which contains articles about the previous night’s terrorist assault, the murder of Adolphus Maypole, and a work stoppage in a Sharn foundry, all written by one Rinaldus Whetbone. Leaving the club, he reunites with his new companions and they set off to Morgrave University to seek professor Gydd Nephret, professor of antiquities.
Though she is on sabbatical, our adventurers track her down to her faculty housing in Shaver House, where they are met by the building’s RA, Dala Arand, who tells them Nephret already has a guest, one Lady Dannae Ulyan of Aerenal and her companion Janaeus. Our heroes charged up the stairs to Nephret’s room on the third floor – and found the door unlocked and the room empty. The began a search while a flustered Dala Arand tried to get them to leave. She departed and then returned moments to inform our heroes that the reason Professor Nephret was not in her room was that she was having tea with Lady Ulyan in the common area. The adventurers left off ransacking her belongings to join her.
The professor, Lady Ulyan, and her companion Janaeus, all rose to greet the adventurers pleasantly and politely, and the conversation turned toward artifacts. Ulyan strongly implied she knew the heroes possessed an artifact called Ashurta’s Blade – and that she would pay 2000 gp for it. After Ulyan departed, Nephret – who described herself as an expert on ancient relics of the Dhakaani Empire – told the story of Arkantaash, the Ashen Crown: originally an elven artifact that would give its wearer power over death, it had fallen into the possession of the goblins during their ascendancy. The goblins embellished the crown with an artifact of their own: Ashurta’s Blade. As their empire declined, the crown was broken into five pieces and the pieces were given to five goblin warlords to insure the crown itself would never entirely fall into enemy hands. That was over a thousand years ago.
Nephret verified that the blade our heroes had found in Adolphus Maypole’s home was in fact a genuine fragment of the crown, formerly possessed by Ashurta. She also revealed that as far as she knew, she was the sole living person with knowledge of how to reassemble the crown once all the pieces were reunited, which had been derived from her lifelong researches. She had committed this knowledge to paper in the ritual Rite of Arkantaash, which she gladly gave to the adventurers. Gift d’Thuranni transcribed the ritual on the first blank page before the title page of Diseases of the Eye. Our heroes give Nephret Gift’s address at the club and warn her that her life may be in danger.
From there they are summoned by Sharn’s chief of police, Captain Saj Kalaes. The adventurers are greeted and vetted by Corporal Bronal Tuck and then permitted to speak with Kalaes personally. He informs them of a task of espionage he’d like them to assist with: the goblins must reclaim Arkantaash, specifically the goblin voting bloc known as the Kech Volaar, the “Wordbearers”, well known goblin moderates who seek to legitimize their political power by possessing ancient relics from the heyday of the Dhakaani Empire. Competing with the Wordbearers are the Kech Sharaat, the “Bladebearers”, a martial but perennially popular faction in goblin political discourse that seeks to claim the crown for themselves or simply destroy it. Breland’s relations with neighboring Darguun are fraught with danger and peril, and it would be preferable if alliances could be struck with the numerous goblins of that state. No alliance is possible or desirable with the Kech Sharaat, so the Kech Volaar must come to ascendancy.
Above all, Kalaes stresses, the Kech Volaar must not know that the assistance they are receiving is coming from the state of Breland. This is why those with an official connection to Brelish military or politics cannot be employed for this task. The Wordbearers must not feel to be they are being guided or manipulated by a foreign power. With this, he gives them tickets for passage on the airship Concentration bound for Ardev with a layover in Galethspyre and wishes them good luck.