Several weeks ago, a volcano appeared northeast of Neverwinter to the surprise of almost everyone. A couple of weeks later, three highly valued magic weapons named Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor disappeared from the vaults of their owners. Not a single clue was turned up until the weapons’ former owners each received a copy of the following note:
Search ye far or search ye near
You’ll find no trace of the three
Unless you follow instructions clear
For the weapons abide with me.
North past forest, farm and furrow
You must go to the feathered mound
Then down away from the sun you’ll burrow
Forget life, forget light, forget sound.
To rescue Wave, you must do battle
With the Beast in the Boiling Bubble
Crost cavern vast, where chain-links rattle
Lies Whelm, past water-spouts double.
Blackrazor yet remains to be won
Underneath inverted ziggurat.
That garnered, think not that you’re done
For now you’ll find you are caught
I care not, former owners brave
What heroes you seek to hire.
Though mighty, I’ll make each one my slave
Or send him to the fire.
AII the notes were signed with the symbol of Keraptis, a wizard from ancient times thought long dead. White Plume Mountain was tentatively identified as the “feathered mound” of the poem. The wealthy collectors promised to grant anyone who can retrieve these priceless relics whatever they desire, if it is within their power to do so.
The adventurers were sitting at a table in the Muddy Mallard Tavern, having arrived to hear out another offer of employment. They were there to meet with an obviously foreign wizard named Kelvan and his scholarly companion Hildehrune.
The strange, foreign wizard paid for food and drink before launching into his pitch. “I am so contented that you have concurred to allow the job I proffer. I am Kelvan, but you know that already.” Gesturing to his companion, he continued, “This is Hildehrune, she’s a priestess of Siloon and an expert of Nethereel.” The woman, whose dress made it obvious that she was born of the north, nodded stiffly at you but remains silent.
“As I think you know, a mountain has appeared in the Crags northeast of Neverwinter. I’ve come to the area to study the mountain and found an entrance that was blocked by esoteric magic. I would like to study the mountain, as I find the idea of a teleporting – or possibly even planeshifting – mountain fascinating. The warded entrance has piqued my curiosity even more. It’s old but somehow familiar in a way I can’t place.
“I have examined the wards and think I can breach them. I wish to hire you to acquire something that I need to complete the task. The ritual to bypass the wards requires a piece of ‘caged night’ – a fragment of elemental darkness held within an object. I will leave elaboration on that matter to Hildehrune – an expert on things related to Nethereel and Shar.”
Hildehrune nodded and took over the narrative. There is an ancient Netherese outpost, a vault of sorts, called the Umbral Repository. The Vault was built upon an earthmote, but like many of its kind that have fallen since the Sundering when Toril and Abeir separated, the vault slowly drifted to the ground in the Sword Mountains.
“I have been to the earthmote via a teleportation circle and know it to be intact. Though I have never attempted to breach it, I have inspected the entrance to the Vault and disclosed the circle’s sigil sequence to Kelvan, who will teleport you to the Vault. Inside the Vault is rumored to be one of the fabled gloomblades – perverted mirrors of the elven moonblades. A sword made from a piece of frozen darkness brought from the Shadowfell, it should suffice for Kelvan’s ritual. The sword is likely tainted by evil – reflective of Shar’s mission to unmake the world. I am happy to see it put to some good rather than left where it may fall into less scrupulous hands.”
Kelvan nodded. “Thank you, Hildehrune. I am offering five hundred gold up front and a pair of boots of speed if you retrieve the gloomblade for me. I want you to meet me the day after tomorrow.”
The party asked what they should expect in the Netherese vault, and Hildehrune suggested that it could be magically trapped or guarded by undead or constructs – beings that needed no sustenance to survive. When no more questions followed, and they’d agreed to the task, Kelvan provided them with a wooden case containing five gold trade bars, as promised. In addition, he gave them a magical crystal, explaining that if they broke the crystal while standing in the teleportation circle near the earthmote, it would teleport them all to a circle that he would be inscribing at the mountain in the crags where he and Hildehrune would be waiting.
* * *
The following morning, the foreign scholar cast the spell that would send them to the Umbral Repository. They stood in a glowing circle of runes located on the edge of a precipice. The floor sloped slightly away from the drop and the mountainside below, towards a pair of black doors covered in writing that had been inset a dagger’s toss into the side of the fallen earthmote. Approaching the entrance, they found the doors were ten-feet wide, fifteen-feet tall, and appeared to be made of solid obsidian. They stood at the end of a short corridor. They were covered in symbols of darkness, night, Shar and Netheril.
Seebo’s enchanted helm translated a sentence in Ancient Netherese inscribed on the door. “Walk in Darkness and be saved,” he read for the others’ benefit. “I don’t see any traps,” he added.
“Okay,” said Sylus, pulling out his lockpicks and placing them into the keyhole. The tools produced a satisfying click a few moments later, and the rogue pulled open the door. A glyph glowed brightly as he did. The thunderous explosion that followed was not much of a surprise. It did, however, hurt.
They patched up the bruises caused by the spell trap and entered the door. They found themselves in a featureless hallway some thirty feet long that ended in another plain-looking door. Sylus inspected it for traps anyway, no longer trusting Seebo’s eyes for the task. When he was satisfied, he pushed it open.
The walls of the long room beyond were made of tightly-fitted black bricks. The floor consisted of solid sheets of black metal with white spirals painted upon them. Beams of light lanced down from three different unseen sources. A round door with arcane symbols was set in the far wall. Once they had all entered the room, the door slammed shut behind them before vanishing. The adventurers exchanged concerned glances before shrugging it off.
Deciding to heed the warning on the entrance to the vault, they decided to try avoiding the light. Even moving slowly and along the path marked by the painted spirals, Sylus failed to evade a beam. It burned him quite badly, and halfway across the room, he narrowly missed falling into a pit as a trapdoor gave way. It slammed shut and apparently latched a moment later.
Seebo was burned crossing to Sylus’ side to offer a prayer of guidance as the rogue worked to prevent the trap door from opening again. He was successful, and the party crossed the room without further incident. Nin even performed the crossing with an acrobatic flourish.
The door at the far end of the room was circular with a roughly hand-sized crescent depression in the center. There were no obvious handle, lock, or hinges. The bard cast detect magic, noting that both the door and the beams of light were magical. With an effort of will he dispelled the evocation magic of the beams of light, rendering them harmless. Seebo dispelled the magic on the door and pried it off the wall, but they found no passageway on the other side. The dwarf struck the wall a mighty blow with his warhammer, but it only cracked a bit, and he didn’t feel like he would make any further progress that way.
After they had exhaustively searched the room over again, Sylus returned to the pit trap, the only other feature of note. He unjammed the trap door and kicked it open, noting an impenetrable darkness where before he had seen into the pit. Shadowy claws reached up and raked the swashbuckler, drawing the party’s attention to the shadow demons lurking below. The fiends scored a couple of minor hits from shadows, but they did not last long against the seasoned adventurers.
Seebo had dispelled the magical darkness during the fight and noticed something on the floor. He sent his rope of climbing down the twenty feet to the bottom of the pit, and Sylus climbed down to investigate. He found a metal vial on the floor to the side of a painting of a symbol on the floor depicting a black skull with a key in its mouth, covered in arcane looking runes. He pushed on the crescent, which caused it to spring out, the backside possessing a handle so that it could be used like a key.
He pocketed the vial, which contained a potion of greater healing. Then he climbed back up, placed the crescent key into the door (which the adventurers had put back against the wall, and it opened to reveal a hallway where only a wall had been before. It appeared that solving the puzzle of each chamber would be the only way to proceed.
They rested for a few minutes to recover from the encounter with the shadow demons then opened the door to the next room. A pedestal stood in each corner, sprouting a metal rod that supported a large black mirror. In the center of the room was a large cauldron with a bright flame burning within. On the wall to their right was a round door like the one they had entered. The room smelled strongly of lamp oil. Predictably, the door behind them slammed shut and vanished, leaving them sealed in the room.
Sylus approached the cauldron, which was lit by a magical flame that did not radiate heat. Nin approached the nearest mirror pedestal to the left, while Seebo and Neurion inspected the one on the right. Each mirror pedestal consisted of two cylindrical pieces of flinty rock stacked on top of each other. An iron rod impaled them vertically through the center, joining them together so they could not be separated. At the top of the rod was a five-by-five-foot mirror. The bottom stone was affixed to the floor and the top stone and mirror could be rotated around the metal pole. Both cylinders were covered in oil that was apparently magically produced from and oozed down the upper stone.
It was clear that the mirrors were meant to be turned to a certain direction, but the adventurers also suspected that doing so would cause a spark that would ignite the oil. Neurion warned his fellows away from the back left pedestal then seized it with telekinetic force and twisted it around so that the mirror was facing the cauldron. Before it had spun all the way around, the sparks caused an explosion that erupted from the pedestal in a ten-foot radius. “I could move the others like that, too, but it would cost me about half of my power for the day," he said. The others nodded and decided on a more cautious approach.
Seebo was the first to figure out how to slowly and safely rotate the pedestal. Nin did the same on a third, following the plan to point all of the mirrors at the cauldron. Neurion struggled with the final one, but quick reflexes and his ring of fire resistance protected him from most of the flames. He was set on fire briefly, but quickly put himself out. His second attempt was successful.
Once all four mirrors were facing the cauldron, the light in the room turned deep purple. It illuminated a door that hadn’t been in the middle of the north wall before and at the same time, they realized that the light hurt! The necrotic glow sapped their life force and slowed them down, but several seconds later, they’d all stumbled through the secret door into the safety of the next hallway.
Once they felt ready to continue, they opened the next door. The walls, floor and thirty-foot-high ceiling of the chilly room were painted black and covered with purple writing and symbols, seemingly at random. There was a double door with a large handle on the wall opposite their entrance. Small holes, the diameter of a climbing rope, were equally spaced around the frame. The doors were engraved with pictures of scrolls. The room was cold and getting colder by the minute.
Nin and Neurion crossed the room to check the doors, while Seebo inspected the writing and symbols on the walls, and Sylus inspected the floor. The double doors were engraved with the image of fifty scrolls which had been painted the colors of precious metals, ten each of copper, silver, electrum, gold, and platinum. The symbols on them looked arcane, as though they depicted spell scrolls. The cleric couldn’t make heads or tales of the walls, so he joined his companions at the doors. Sylus produced a key from a small hidden trap door in the floor. Neurion found another such key, and Seebo found a third.
After his companions had retreated to the far wall, Neurion tried the first key in the lock. As he turned it, several of the holes surrounding the door released a cone of frost that chilled the length of the room. The others huddled in the corners near the locked door when Sylus tried his key. He was the only one in harm’s way as another freezing blast erupted from the holes. Nin volunteered to use Seebo’s key, though they all suspected the result wouldn’t be any different. They were not surprised to be right.
Since none of the keys had worked, Seebo suggested Sylus just pick the lock. He tried, and a net made of thin, metal that fired from one of the holes around the frame. It wrapped him up tight and coursed with electricity, stunning the swashbuckler. Then, a five-foot radius sphere of magical darkness appeared around the netbound Sylus and levitated fifteen feet into the air. Seebo dispelled the darkness, and Nin tried to cut his friend free, but couldn’t damage the metal net without cutting Sylus. The rogue waved him off, and managed to free himself, falling to the floor.
While this was going on, the cold started getting to Neurion and Seebo. Sylus tried to pick the lock again with similar results, and after that Seebo made an attempt. He succeeded in bypassing the lock and dodged another net. Then, when he opened the door to find another blank wall (and dodging yet another net), they realized they weren’t going to have to figure out the actual key.
Seebo passed his helm of comprehend languages to Neurion, who couldn’t find any more significance in the scribblings than the dwarf had. Sylus took a turn next and found a few fragments that seemed to be significant because of their punctuation. He recited for the others:
The Dark shares…
…The Key is not hidden…
…The Tool shall suffice…
…The Art is the key.
The spellcasters knew that the Art was an archaic way to reference the practice of magic. Seebo touched the door and willed spell energy into it without giving it form. When he did, the door disappeared, and the next hallway was revealed. The party exited the freezing chamber.
Once they felt ready, they opened the door at the end of the hallway. Interlocking gears, coiled springs, and other gewgaws covered the walls in a dense mass of clockworks. Throughout the room dozens of small handled drawers were inset into the largest cogs. Six vaguely draconic contraptions, three to each side, flanked the approach up to a gray metal pedestal with a large red lever protruding from it. Several keyholes could be seen on the pedestal.
When they entered, the door slammed closed, and the machinations sprang into motion. As they watched, with a tick that matched the click of the massive clockwork machine, the lever dropped one third of the way to the floor. Then the nearest clockwork wyvern animated!
The mechanisms on the floor threatened to stab, slice, or crush the adventurers’ feet. Sylus deftly stepped around such hazards and attacked the winged construct with his enchanted rapiers. Neurion sprouted wings and began to hover above floor to avoid the treacherous gears there. Nin walked up the wall and tested the construct’s resilience against psychic damage. It proved completely immune, and the bard nodded, unsurprised.
Seebo, exhausted from the cold of the previous chamber, could not seem to keep his feet out of the gears. He winced in pain but summoned up the will for a spiritual guardians spell. The holy magic began to wear down the clockwork wyvern as it took flight and focused its attention on Neurion. The elf was raked by the automaton’s claws and stabbed by its tail, which then injected him with poison! He weathered the worst of the assault, but it cost him his psychic focus. The lever clicked down another third of the way.
Sylus continued his assault, and Neurion, not remembering Nin’s psychic attack had failed, tried his own against the metal wyvern. He cursed, glancing over at the lever and called to Nin to push it back up. The bard nodded, leaping off the wall and crossing the moving room to the pedestal. He wrenched the lever back to the top and nodded in satisfaction. Seebo, stumbling from the pain of his latest floor-wrought injury, brought his warhammer to bear against the construct. It continued attacking Neurion, though the elf managed to avoid its strikes.
Then a second clockwork wyvern animated and rose to attack. The fight grew more desperate, with Sylus swinging his rapiers fast and furiously, Neurion using his mind powers to knock the wyverns out of the air, Nin struggling to keep the lever at the top, and Seebo just doing his best not to be ground up by the floor. Two more clockwork wyverns animated, and the bard could no longer focus his attention on the lever. He fell from construct-inflicted wounds, and Sylus used the healing potion he’d found in the pit earlier to revive the dragonborn. When it finally hit the bottom, something unexpected happened – a door opened on the far wall. They fought a retreating action into the hall beyond, with Sylus covering their escape and finishing off the last of the wyverns.
They spent a good deal of time and healing resources recovering from the hall of gears. Hesitantly, they opened the door at the far end of the corridor. The simple door opened to a small dimly lit room. In the center there was a block of stone, upon which lay a book, a pile of gems in a bronze bowl, and a longsword with a blade black as night. They very thoroughly searched the room for hazards or traps but found none.
Nin inspected the book, but found it written in a language he did not recognize. He handed it to Seebo, whose helm translated the Ancient Netherese. The Shadow Tome, it was called, a book of history and spells from a wizard of ancient Netheril. They collected the bowl and gemstones, and then Sylus considered the gloomblade. It evoked feelings of wistful sadness within him, which gave him momentary pause before he reached over and picked it up.
Immediately, a deep sense of despair and emptiness washed over him, as if all hope had been drained from his soul in an instant. Seeing the change in his demeanor, Neurion suggested he hand it over. “I don’t see the point, but okay,” said the swashbuckler, holding the gloomblade out. The mystic took it in a telekinetic grip and deposited it safely inside his bag of holding. Sylus shook off the bleak emotions infused into him by the Netherese blade, and the party looked back at the door.
They noticed that all of the doors from the previous rooms had reappeared and lay open. They made their way cautiously toward the exit, but the dangers of the various rooms had apparently been terminated. They’d reached the teleportation circle outside, and realized that it had only been about an hour and a half. They decided to spend the rest of the day camped on the mountain, to give Kelvan time to finish his own circle at White Plume Mountain.
* * *
The next morning, they broke the magical globe and were magically transported to a freshly inscribed teleportation circle at a cave entrance on the side of a mountain. Kelvan and Hildehrune were there, inspecting their work. Kelvan smiled at their appearance. “Ah, excellent. It is good to witness that you have entered. I knew I chose the accurate adventurers. Did you find the blade?"
Nin provided a heavily edited account of their trials within the Umbral Repository, making it seem challenging, but not as daunting as it actually had been. The foreign wizard was appropriately appreciative of the adventurers daring and competence. Neurion produced the gloomblade, handling it with telekinesis as before, and placing it on the ground before Kelvan. Sylus offered a word of warning about the effects of holding the blade, and Kelvan nodded, reaching down to gingerly take it by the hilt. His expression showed that the blade’s effect on him was no different than it had been on the swashbuckler.
Kelvan steeled himself against the onslaught of negative emotion and held the blade gently toward Hildebrand to inspect. The priestess nodded, and the wizard smiled. “Thank you, friends. Hildehrune, give them their prize. They have earned it.” The priestess handed over a sack containing the promised boots of speed.
“So, what happens now?” Sylus wanted to know. “We have a job to retrieve the artifacts that are supposed to have been taken inside. Did you want to head straight in?”
“Oh, well," said Kelvan. "If this works and opens the way, you can enter the mountain in your own time. My own research will require a lot of time and study of whatever I find inside, so I would hate to hold you back. Now, if you would please step back away from the door in case anything goes wrong, Hildebrand will attempt to enact a spell to open the entrance.”
The adventurers complied, standing back near the teleportation circle. They watched as Kelvan began his ritual, chanting in concert with the priestess, focusing their energy on the gloomblade. When the incantation was complete, the Netherese artifact shattered and there was a flash accompanied by a loud crack in reality. When the adventurers vision had cleared he way was clear, but Kelvan and Hildehrune were nowhere to be seen.
They felt bad for the wizard and his companion, but there seemed little enough they could do for them. They had their own business to attend to.