The Rise of Tiamat
A year and a half ago, Tiamat thundered through a portal opened to summon her in the Well of Dragons, laying waste to a wide swath of land and countless numbers of Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Giants. The Cult of the Dragon, led by the fanatic Severin, was able to scrape together the resources and materials needed to summon the Queen of Dragons, however they were unable to control her as they expected. Upon her arrival in Faerun, she quickly annihilated what remained of the Cult along with all opposing forces. The Well of Dragons, once a long-dormant volcano, erupted back to life, blanketing hundreds of the square miles in a thick, choking ash while hellish legions of Abishai claw through the portal before it collapses.
In the areas where the ash falls, plagues and strange diseases break out. The worst of these effects is the phenomenon of the Soulless – children born without souls, alive and normal in appearance and health but scarcely humanoid beyond that. They do not cry. They do not laugh. They are the Soulless.
Tiamat’s main force departs the Well and heads southwest towards Baldur’s Gate. They encounter little significant resistance on the road, but are soon stopped in their tracks as they near the city. An overwhelming majority of the armies of the Alliance had abandoned the fight and were retreating to Waterdeep in the north, leaving Baldur’s Gate wide open to occupation by Thay.
Led by Tharconsul Yeth and supported by legions of undead, Thay offered the citizens and rulers of Baldur’s Gate a choice: Surrender the city to Szass Tam in exchange for protection from Tiamat’s legion, or face Tiamat alone and die in dragon fire. Baldur’s Gate surrendered, and true to their word, Thay fended off the dragon army. Instrumental in this defeat was Thay’s newest weapon: Wraith-dragons.
As soon as Tiamat’s armies left the region surrounding the Well, a large contingent of Thayans appeared through a massive shadowfell gate and remove the corpses of recently-slain dragons from the battlefield. The most powerful wizards among them resurrected these corpses and turned them into Wraith-dragons. These terrible creatures are Thay’s secret weapon in the defense and takeover of Baldur’s Gate. Even Tiamat’s most loyal commanders could scarcely stand to see their fallen become shadows turned back against their own forces. For every dragon felled, the Thayan wizards quickly added another Wraith-dragon to their ranks.
Tiamat’s forces withdrew to Candlekeep in the south. There, they are gathering strength and wait for their opportunity to strike back. In the meantime, Baldur’s Gate has become the crown jewel in Thay’s burgeoning empire.
The Winds of Change
In the intervening 18 months the forces of the Alliance have been busy recovering from the war. The Alliance is stronger than ever politically but militarily in crisis. All of the factions faced severe losses during the war and, unwilling to stretch themselves too thin, have recalled their armies in defense of their homelands.
Baldur’s Gate is now a horrendous place to call home. Fascism runs rampant, unlicensed magic is a capital offense, and legions of undead patrol the streets. Tharconsul Yeth rules with an iron fist.
Waterdeep has fared better, primarily through the support and protection of her powerful friends. Not even Tiamat dares attempt to move forces against the consolidated forces of Waterdeep. Trade still exists between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate, though it is shaky at best. Agriculture is still possible in regions not razed by armies or choked by the Ash. The effects of the Ash Plagues have been felt far beyond the borders of Tiamat’s realm.
Major roads are clogged with refugees and the displaced. Bandits run rampant. Dragons and Abishai patrols are numerous and deadly, seeking to grow their mistress’ hoard. The Ash Plague travels quickly in the veins of the refugees, and with it the Plague of the Soulless.
Violence and mistrust are a way of life.
Whether a rumor or actual prophecy, many have come to believe that one amongst the Dragonborn will become Bahamut’s Avatar and defeat Tiamat. Adherents to this prophecy wander the Sword Coast attempting to spread Bahamut’s faith in hopes that he will save the world from his ancient nemesis. Naturally, Tiamat’s forces hunt them relentlessly and all Dragonborn are wise to stay hidden.
To add to all of this calamity, the weather along the Sword Coast has gone wild. Freak storms, tornadoes, and unseasonable temperatures stretch far and wide with no apparent cause. Most attribute the strange weather patterns to the Ash Plagues, but no one knows for sure.
The quiet northern town of Red Larch sits at the edge of the recent carnage to the south. It is mostly known as a relatively safe and warm place to stop for the night on one’s way somewhere more important. Five unique individuals find themselves called to this sleepy waystation, but for what we do not know…
Amergin Glunmar, a charismatic Half-Elven Bard, recently took up residence as the town’s official entertainer. He bounces back and forth between the town’s only Inn and only Tavern, recounting daring tales of wartime heroism to any who will listen. He also collects stories of the storms that have been ravaging the Sword Coast these last 6 months, becoming somewhat of a repository of local information. He is getting restless though – his soul yearns for adventure once more and he feels an overwhelming urge to strike again amongst heroes and write new songs to be sung throughout the ages.
Bakhadur is a Dragonborn Paladin of Kelemvor. He carries the skeletal arms and scales of his god in an emblem upon his chest and wields a great sword with devastating effect. He has a commanding presence and is quiet about his past, sharing only that he fought at the Well of Dragons and was fortunate enough to survive. He comes to Red Larch escorting the priest Piotr, a fellow resident of the temple in Waterdeep. The two like and respect each other, although they have differing opinions on certain religious matters. Piotr is on his way to serve at the local temple and Bakhadur has been charged with escorting him there and providing protection upon arrival.
Flinar is a loner, a hermetic Wood Elf Monk that raised himself in isolation in the woods of High Forest. He was orphaned at a young age and taken in by a nearby monastery, but he left at the age of 12 and has been a hermit ever since. He is now 280 and prefers to commune only with nature, far away from civilization. He has never had any interest in the affairs of others but he believes his isolation has given him great insight into evil and that only he can truly destroy it. This insight led him out of the forest where he crossed paths with the leader of the Emerald Enclave, a druid named Darovik. Darovik heard his story and advised Flinar to seek out answers in Red Larch.
Piotr Fenebrescu has lived nearly his entire life up to now under Thayan rule. Ethnically Rashemi, living in lands now permanently occupied by Thay, he was relegated to the lowest class of free Thayan society, barely higher on the social ladder than a common slave. For years, he worked as an embalmer and gravedigger in the local temple of Jergal, until recently exhibiting a small spark of the divine – seemingly a blessing from the Lord of the End of All allowing Piotr to manipulate the power of death itself. Recognizing the opportunity to expand their ranks, the priests of Jergal sent Piotr to Waterdeep to train to join the Holy Order of the Scriveners of Doom. He has now set forth on his first mission to offer services to the small town of Red Larch, escorted by his friend and sparring partner, Bakhadur, a Dragonborn Paladin of Kelemvor.
Pierce Elkheart is something of a mystery. A soldier by trade, he carries a shield and a longsword with great prowess, often placing himself bodily between his enemies and allies. His memory has become unreliable since taking a severe blow during the Battle of Westbridge. Since that encounter he has wandered in a haze, unsure of where to go or what to do next. Despite his current mental state he is sure of one thing: evil must be vanquished, and the world is full of evil. Late one evening he finds himself entering the Swinging Sword Inn in Red Larch, where he quickly gets wrapped up in our story.