Part 64: Interlude - The Story Continues
With the defeat of the githyanki sword stalkers and the destruction of their portal, Calliope and her friends had earned a reprieve. Their rest was interrupted, however, when Torio Claven, ambassador to the neighbouring city of Luskan, accused Calliope of the slaughter of the village of Ember.
Lord Nasher was swift to act. Calliope was made a squire of Neverwinter, protecting her from immediate extradition and buying her time to investigate the massacre and determine the true culprit. In this she was assisted by Sand, secretly an agent in the employ of Neverwinter, and the farmer-turned-warrior Shandra Jerro, whom she had rescued from the clutches of the githyanki.
It was amidst the ruins of Ember that Calliope discovered the evidence necessary to prove her innocence.
Calliope confronted Torio in court, revealing to the people of Neverwinter that Ember had been destroyed as part of a Luskan plot to eliminate Calliope and weaken Neverwinter. Torio attempted to deflect Calliope's accusations with lies and wordplay, but she was unsuccessful...
...as was Lorne, her cohort and the one who really destroyed the village of Ember. Calliope defeated Lorne in a trial-by-combat, vindicating her in totality and giving Nasher excuse to expel Torio and her Luskan allies from Neverwinter.
Torio's replacement, Sydney Natale, came to Nasher with apologies, excuses, and a gift: Torio's manipulations were part of a larger plan by the rogue Luskan mage, Black Garius, who had entered into a dark deal with a malevolent power in an attempt to seize control of the Sword Coast. With Lorne dead, Torio in chains and disavowed by Luskan, Garius was on his own.
Sydney then revealed Garius' location to Calliope and Nasher: Crossroad Keep, a ruined castle left over from the war with the King of Shadows over a generation ago. There, Garius was attempting a ritual to steal power from his dark master - and should he be successful, nothing would be able to stop him.
It was close, but Calliope managed to find Garius in time and disrupt the ritual, consuming the rogue mageling and his followers in the process. Neverwinter had been saved.
In payment for her efforts, Lord Nasher granted Calliope the title and position of Captain of Crossroad Keep. This was a prestigious position, for the Captain of the Keep commanded the defence of Neverwinter's southern lands and the High Road that ran to Waterdeep.
Calliope quickly set about marshalling her forces and repairing the ruined keep. Although Garius and his Luskans had been defeated, the King of Shadows was still at large - and his presence was beginning to be felt deep within the Mere of Dead Men...
Peace refused to settle over the city of Neverwinter. A dark cult was unearthed amongst the children of the nobility of Blacklake. In another incident, a nobleman was murdered by demonic creatures. This was the third in a series of similar murders that had initially closed off Blacklake so many weeks ago.
The three men had been friends during the War of Shadows, along with a fourth, Lord Tavorick. Tavorick and his friends possessed a silver shard, taken from the last battle of the war against the King of Shadows. They had been passing it along between each other, just ahead of the foul forces that were murdering them one by one.
Nasher ordered Calliope to defend Tavorick from the murderer pursuing the silver shard. In a siege that lasted all night, Calliope and her friends defended Tavorick from an attack led by a powerful hezrou and his minions, only to discover that Tavorick no longer had the shard - it had been secretly given to Melia, a member of the elite Neverwinter Nine. Nasher had believed the shard to be safer in Melia's custody than in the hands of an old nobleman.
Calliope rushed to Melia's aid, but to no avail; the Warlock responsible for the murders had killed her and her guards, taken the shard and fled before Calliope could stop him.
But there were triumphs as well. Calliope had made the acquaintance of a woman named Zhjaeve, a former prisoner of Black Garius and a githzerai mystic. Githzerai were cousins to the githyanki, but where the githyanki were violent and hateful, githzerai were peaceful and calm.
Zhjaeve's original mission was to spy on the githyanki and uncover their reasons for sacking Calliope's home village of West Harbor. When she learned that they sought to reassemble a mighty silver sword and use it to fight the King of Shadows, she resolved to make that mission her own as well. Her methods were kinder than those of the githyanki - as Calliope had a silver shard embedded in her chest, the githyanki had planned to vivisect her; Zhjaeve believed however that Calliope could become an embodiment of the sword itself. This was possible due to one important fact: the silver sword was the original sword of Gith herself, founder of the race.
Although capture by Garius had hindered her progress, Zhjaeve was able to make great progress by allying with Calliope. Together they journeyed to the ruined Illefarn city of Arvahn. There they discovered the origins of the King of Shadows as the magic-fuelled Guardian of Illefarn which had been corrupted by the power of the Shadow Weave. Aware of their Guardian's fall, the Illefarn Empire created five Statues of Purification which contained five special powers that could be used to unmake the King of Shadows.
However, Calliope and Zhjaeve were thwarted in their efforts by the unexpected return of Garius and his followers. The ritual in Crossroad Keep had not truly been disrupted - in fact, it was a complete success. Garius and his henchmen had been transformed into shadow reavers, powerful, intelligent, immortal undead servitors, all blindly loyal to the King of Shadows.
One of these shadow reavers had located a Statue of Purification and destroyed it before Calliope and Zhjaeve could acquire its power. Its victory was not complete, though, as another entity had accessed the Statue and taken its power. If Calliope and Zhjaeve could find this person, then together they would possess all parts of the Ritual of Purification and be able to defeat the King of Shadows.
After many long weeks of research, the wise sage Aldanon finally uncovered the location of Ammon Jerro's Haven. This long-abandoned relic of Shandra's grandfather contained comprehensive information on githyanki silver swords. Once inside, Calliope could unlock the power of the silver shards she had collected on her journey and possibly even reforge the Sword of Gith.
Ammon Jerro's Haven was heavily warded and protected, and entry required a drop of blood from a Jerro family member. Shandra bravely stepped up to the task - only to be teleported away from her friends, leaving Calliope and the party to explore the Haven alone.
While Calliope wandered the halls of the Haven, Shandra uncovered an unpleasant truth: the Haven was no longer abandoned. Six demons were trapped within summoning circles inside the Haven, and their energies were being used to power the Haven and its current lord and master. Together they manipulated Calliope and Shandra into believing that the Haven had been conquered by the King of Shadows...
...only to discover that the demons were commanded by the Warlock responsible for the Blacklake murders.
Calliope and her friends fought the Warlock with all their strength, but to no avail - with the energies of the fiends powering him, the Warlock was almost indestructible, rising from every defeat anew. Too late, Calliope and Shandra learned the ugly truth: the Warlock was not the King of Shadows, but rather Ammon Jerro, Shandra's grandfather and the man who defeated the King of Shadows twenty years ago.
With Calliope inches from death, Shandra took the only course of action possible: using her blood to erase the magical binding circles that trapped the fiends protecting her grandfather. Weakened, Ammon abandoned his fight with Calliope and chased Shandra through the tunnels of his Haven, each time arriving too late to stop the enslaved demons from escaping their circles.
Finally, with the last demon released, Ammon caught up with Shandra. Blinded by rage, he struck her down and killed her in revenge for destroying his Haven and undoing his life's work. Only after Shandra fell to the floor, murmuring apologies with her last breath, did he realise that he had murdered his granddaughter and last surviving descendant.
Utterly defeated, Ammon allowed Calliope to take him back to Crossroad Keep. There, grudgingly, he aligned himself with Calliope's cause, vowing to aid her in defending Neverwinter from the dark designs of the King of Shadows.
Shortly afterwards, a messenger from Lord Nasher arrived, calling Calliope back to Neverwinter on urgent business. Fort Locke had fallen to undead; the King of Shadows was on the move.
Calliope had no choice but to depart immediately. Ammon was left to stare into the fireplace, to ponder on the tragic events of the past few days.
And all of us now wonder what is yet to come.