At least, not if you do not give in…
- …to depression;
- …to oppression; or
- …to the idea you cannot live heroically.
Grigore was awakened from a disturbing dream with a summons from the Lord Warden.
“I know you probably don’t know the answer to the question I am about to ask you,” Faren Markelhay told him. "But I have to ask you anyway. Do you know where my daughter is?
The 15-year-old girl took out her treasure box. Inside was a crystal ball and a variety of ritual casting materials. She did not seem all that worried about the cost of such materials. Not because she was rich, although her parents — Lady Alyssa and Lord Warden Markelhay — are quite wealthy. Belinda did not worry about the cost because of her income, income which came from her adventures. Belinda’s parents worried so much about the dangers her adventures brought, they didn’t even think about the income such adventures might be bringing in. And that was just fine with Belinda.
It turned out that the Lord Warden had been moved by Grigore request for Belinda to help with his effort to bring his wife and children out of the Shadowfell. They were lodged there with Grigore’s tyrannical mother at the Goldforge family estate in the Dust Quarter of Gloomwrought.
But Lord Markelhay was not about to send his daughter off to another plane just because Grigore needed her there. He had all the assets to extract the family: His wife could provide the transport; his spymaster could perform the extraction; and Roland’s chief aid could convince Grigore’s wife they were acting on Grigore’s instructions.
But Belinda had resources of her own.
Belinda’s parents had shooed her out of the audience hall when Grigore and her other friends had showed up. But that wasn’t why she was getting out her scrying equipment. She was used to being told that she should not be around when grownups were discussing their adventures. Belinda was spying on the audience chamber because she had seen Roland and Madras heading for the chamber. And Belinda was very interested in what Roland was doing there.
Meanwhile, back in Overlook, Elyas and Magdalene were initiating long-term plans to rebuild their respective temples in the dwarven city. Matron Volorvyn, the matriarch of the Raven Queen’s temple in the Boneyard, was killed by Githyanki puppetmasters who needed her authority to start a fifth column in the city during the war just finished. And, while Lavinya was one of the few major religious leaders to avoid this fate, she had sworn to replace Haelyn at a small shrine in Tradetown.
This left a leadership vacuum at both temples. And Elyas and Magdalene were quick to step in. Lavinya appointed Elyas to rebuild the crumbling Temple of Erathis in Nine Bells, while Maggie volunteer herself as a principle advisor to the new, inexperienced Matron in the Boneyard.
Magdalene saw that the war had left many bodies to be buried and many survivors to be comforted. She quickly mobilized the resources of the Temple of the Raven Queen to their traditional tasks: funerals and caring for the widows and orphans. Taking advantage of the fundraising possibilities in the real needs of these people, establishing a reputation for the temple that could be seen throughout the city.
The young assassin also saw that a political vacuum had opened on the High Council when the Order of the Black Feather’s strike team was unable to save Councillor Itrika Mountainhome from her burning mansion. The council is considering who to replace Mountainhome with.
And Maggie discovered that a surprise candidate has arisen. And Amyria the girl from the Platinum Sword is just the kind of blank slate that Magdalene is looking for: someone who is open to the influence of The Order of the Black Feather.
Belinda was puzzled at first as she stared into her crystal ball. Grigore was talking about her. And about his wife. She didn’t understand at first because Grigore was doing something adults seldom did: He was trying to talk her father into taking her with him on an adventure. A mission to bring back his wife and children. Grigore must really love his family. He needed her. Grigore was admitting that he needed Belinda to take him to the Shadowfell, to bring back his wife and children.
Waiting for Roland and Madras — and Belinda! — was hard. And Grigore’s dream were wracked with more scenes of Hope’s Hollow.
He dreamt of lovers abandoning their loves. He dreamt of sons convinced by their girlfriends to demand their fathers give them their inheritance early. Suicide and murder were all around. Despair overwhelmed hope.
A great place to be an undertaker. His family would have loved it if he had the kind of success he found in these dreams of Hope’s Hollow. But he could not enjoy such success, founded as it was on the temptations and failures of others. Not in his dreams.
Not in real life either.
Grigore found his paragon path in those dreams: “Despair has no hold when I am near,” he heard his uncle’s voice say. And he realized that his uncle would have sought out the source of these temptations — an erodaemon, sucking the hope out of Hope’s Hollow by seducing young men into temptation.
Every time he thought about it he knew what his uncle would have done: Seek out the demoness and resist her temptations and destroy her, ending her depredations forever.
Belinda was sure her father would never agree to let her go to the Shadowfell, but she was amazed that Grigore would even ask. He must be really desperate. She knew he really loved his wife, but he must know how unlikely it would be for her father to agree to such an idea. To her surprise, Lord Markelhay dismissed Grigore and told the ardent-healer that he would think about it. Maybe Grigore was using his mental powers on her father.
Zumos had accompanied Grigore to Fallcrest and was trying to convince the Lord Warden that the Tower of the Septarchs represented a threat inside the city walls if it was not manned by skilled portal masters who could seal it should someone attempt to teleport an army inside the city.
Especially now that the city walls of the Lower Fallcrest district were being rebuilt.
But Lady Alyssa was two steps ahead of him. She had already told her husband that the tower was a security risk. And it didn’t take a portal master like Alyssa Markelhay to tell the current Septarch was a doddering old fool.
Zumos began the daunting task of teaching the Septarch’s apprentice the true art of wizardry. He also began sounding out the Lord Warden on the granting of the title back to the true owner: The Order of the Septarchs from the far South.
It turned out the High Warden was amenable to such overtures, especially if they could enhance Fallcrest’s position as a trade center. But the Warden Markelhay was limited in his ability to restore other towers leading all the way to the south by the size of his own power. And he wanted Zumos’s help in increase that.
It seems that the Lord Warden has committed to a long-term project for increasing his prestige by helping the City of Argent restore its former glory. Argent may be able to assist in this project if the Lord Warden can convince his peers to contribute the kind of aid they once provided to Argent.
That project is going well (thanks, in part, to the support The Order of the Black Feather has lent it). But Argent may face a more immediate threat. Obanar, the Last Guardian of Argent has sent a desperate message to Lord Padraig, asking for help. The messenger waits at Winterhaven with a scroll that will take them all back to Argent.
When Grigore was gone, Belinda scryed her father turning to Roland and saying, “I have a mission for you: an extraction mission.” Then he turned to Madras, “Can you fake a letter from Grigore to his wife?” Madras smiled. Of course, he could. He told the Lord Warden that the hobbit Samwise had Grigore’s handwritten will. He was quite sure the lengthy document would have enough handwriting to use to fake the ardent’s hand. “I want you to leave tonight,” the Lord Warden said to Roland. The spymaster and his assistant both nodded. They could leave immediately.
Once Grigore’s family was brought to him (and Belinda safely returned), he took them to Overlook to see the play. And he set Jerath the task of finding a house for Grigore and his family to live. In the meantime, they stayed in Jerath’s suite in a fancy Elftown inn.
But Grigore’s dreams continued to haunt him. Now, Hope’s Hollow was replaced by Overlook and the shadows closing in on the city threatened his family as well.
Magdalene came to understand that promoting the power of the Order in Overlook meant doing things that would promote the power of Overlook. The Council seems to think that helping the Lord Warden’s grand project in Argent will increase their standing in Nentir Vale as well as Elsir Vale. And promoting the power of the Order will help Maggie’s own grand project.
Elyas was recruited to provide the portals which would get them all to Winterhaven, where they got the scroll which took them to Argent. Not long after they arrived in Argent, it became clear the city was under assault.
Belinda gasped. Roland was going into danger to prevent her from risking her life. And she knew what she had to do.
At first, it looked like the defenses of Argent could hold. But they failed somehow and bullettes were able to dig tunnels into the plaza where the heroes had arrived.
Despite Sam’s entreaties, Zumos dumped all his dailies on the bullettes before other attackers swarmed out of the holes. He even hit some of his own party members with his massive attacks.
Eventually Obanar was able to seal the tunnels and drive back the attackers at the gates. And the party was able to finish off those attackers left in the plaza.