The party stands shocked as they come out of Xale’s portal. The House of Wonder is in flames, the inferno engulfing the entire room and who knows how far beyond. They turn in a panic as they realize that Tiramus did not make it out with them, and that he might be trapped in another dimension. Pippy tells everyone that the fire might be tampering with the enchantments around the temple and they had best be on their guard. They have little time to worry about Tiarmus as a group of magmin erupt from the flames and attack them.
Panicking about the state of Tiarmus, Arius cleaves his way through the elementals quickly and presses through the fire. Faenor and Arius quickly become fatigued as their armors weigh them down in the heat.
Not recalling the way they came and having to navigate through debris and smoke, the party arrives at what was once an arcane locked door. The once inscribed glyph of warding had been disabled by the fire, allowing the party to enter.
Inside they find a lab equipped with several tank of unknown fluid and a half-disassembled flesh golem. A massive pile of bones adorns the corner. The three-headed Skull Lord guarding the room moved forward to welcome the party to their doom.
The Skull Lord raises a serpentir from the pile of bones and opens the mouths of its three heads, drawing out shards of bones from Arius and Smiggly as the splinters tear through their skin toward the undead’s mouth. Faenor and Pippy engage the summoned serpentir as Arius closes on the Skull Lord, taking several blows from its bone staff. After a very close battle all three of the vile creature’s heads are destroyed. Several of the fluid-filled tanks explode, caving in the ceiling and sending the PCs running for their lives through the burning hallways of the House of Wonder.
Finally seeing the light of day, the party emerges in a panic from the front entrance of the temple. They stand in awe as the towering Walking Statues of Waterdeep douse the burning temple with hundreds of thousands of gallons of collected rain water. Naneatha runs up to Smiggly, wiping the dust and grime from his hair.
“Are you all right?! I feared the worst. Xale did not return and…”
On obviously enraged man wearing elaborate magical robes steps up to the group, his goatee curling in anger as his long finger pokes towards Naneatha’s face.
“Xale? Xale?! This is why we need no affiliation with your church, Selunite! That fool Xale obviously brought your enemies to my doorstep!”
Faenor steps between the irate mage and Naneatha, planting his hand on the man’s chest. Without a word the man grabs Faenor’s wrist and seeps the strength from him, sending the dwarf rolling down the temple stairs to the street. He turns back to Naneatha.
“I want no relations with you or yours. The Church of Mystra was well and good before the Order of the Blue Moon!“
He looks at the party.
“And just who in the Hells are you?!”
After a few snide remarks to Smiggly, the man realized that Pippy is a member of the Church of Mystra. His demeanor lightened ever so lightly as he introduces himself as Meleghost Starseer, Magister of the House of Wonder. He tells the party he much desires to speak with Xale of the Starry Glen, and that he will pay them ten thousand gold and a magic item for each of them if they can find and return him.
Clerics of the House of Wonder revive Faenor and apologize for Meleghost’s actions. They note that they have all lost much in the fire.
At that time both Naneatha and Meleghost note two figures walking through a parting crowd. Smiggly notes to the group that the first is Piergienon the Paladinson, follower of Tyr and Open Lord of Waterdeep. The second is Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun, the most influential mage in the city.
As Naneatha and Meleghost approach the men another figure approaches the party. He is clad in a gray cloak that covers his face and is upon them quickly.
“Well met. I am Larion Shadowfriend of Force Gray. I understand you were the last to see Xale of the Starry Glen.”
When the party confirms this Larion asks them to lead him to the portal. Upon walking back into the temple they watch Khelben say something quick and short to Meleghost, silencing the magister. After blowing through some debris with an explosive device they reach the room. Larion confirms that a battle had taken place in the room, but there we no human fatalities. He tells the party that the portal can be keyed to several different locations, and that Tiarmus must have been caught somewhere else when the fire disrupted the portal. He tells them he will be investigating Xale’s whereabouts himself, and will share the information with them if the Lords see fit.
When the party exits the temple Naneatha is waiting for them once again. She tells them this entire situation is all too familiar, and that they need to speak with Lady Alathene Moonstar at the Blushing Mermaid in Dock Ward tomorrow.
Returning to the Titty and Whistle, Smiggly discovers that Alathene Moonstar is several generations old, too old for any human’s natural lifespan. Nonetheless the party ventures to the Blushing Mermaid.
There they are greeted by a servant who takes them to a private room. Waiting for them is an elderly but very beautiful woman. She greets the party warmly and tells them that she and Naneatha are very close. Bewildered and suspect, Smiggly casts detect alignment. Though good, Lady Alathene admits she is a lich and begins her tale…
Adherents of the Nightmaiden have long been active in the shadow of Mount Waterdeep, and their missions have been quite varied. However, the Waterdhavian Church of Shar traces its origins back to a disastrous expedition into the Black Jungles mounted in the Year of Dark Dawn (1104 DR) by Lord Vanrak Moonstar, a noted explorer in his day. Formerly a charismatic, outgoing swashbuckler, Vanrak was but a pale shadow of his former self when he returned. A scant few tendays later, Lord Andvarran Moonstar, the family patriarch, died of a strange wasting disease that was unknown to Waterdeep’s healers and strangely resistant to their spells.
Upon assuming leadership of House Moonstar, Lord Vanrak publicly broke with the priests of the High House of Stars (the temple of Selûne that preceded the House of the Moon), whom he blamed for his father’s untimely death. Consumed with bitterness, the Dark Ranger, as Vanrak came to be known, secretly embraced Selûne’s ancient enemy, the Lady of Loss.
By the Year of the Howling Moon (1130 DR), House Moonstar was in open schism. Those nobles who still venerated Selûne aligned themselves with Lord Vanrak’s sister, Lady Alathene, and the Moonmaiden’s priests, most of whom had taken refuge in the High House of Stars. Meanwhile, at the Moonstar Villa in Dock Ward (now the Blushing Mermaid Festhall), Lord Vanrak and his followers extended their dark influence over much of the city’s harbor with the aid of a small army of mercenaries and priests of Shar.
On the night of the seventh full moon of the year, Lady Alathene appeared in open court and asked the Lords of Waterdeep to strip her brother of his title and banish him from the city. To demonstrate the need for such drastic action, she presented evidence of her brother’s numerous crimes, including slavery, arson, theft, and murder. The Lords ordered the Dark Ranger’s immediate capture, but by the time the Watch had breached the gates of the Moonstar Villa, Lord Vanrak and his followers had disappeared.
During their absence from view, the Dark Ranger and his cult established a highly defensible stronghold from which they could launch missions against their ancient enemies. The Church of Shar achieved its most dramatic success in the Year of the Tomb (1182 DR), when Vanrak’s followers managed to infiltrate the High House of Stars through its cellars and slaughter most of the inhabitants before they could raise an alarm. By the time the Watch arrived, the temple was a towering inferno of shadow magic darkfire, which appeared impervious to magic, especially to the ill-prepared firefighters. In recent years, Lord Vanrak’s followers have failed to execute several important plans. In the Year of the Saddle (1345 DR), the Dark Army of the Night tried but failed to set the House of the Moon afire as part of the so-called Night of Temple Fires. In the Year of Shadows (1358 DR), the avatar of Shar attempted to subvert the Moonmaiden’s church by masquerading as the moon goddess and imprisoning the avatar of Selûne. Driven from the city after followers of the Moonmaiden freed Selûne from Shar’s clutches, Shar’s faithful were forced to nurse their bitterness anew in the darkness of Vanrakdoom.
Now it seems that Lord Vanrak has embraced yet another dark mission, but its exact nature remains a mystery. Heroes are needed to locate Vanrak’s hidden cell of Shar worshipers and scour it clean of the Nightmaiden’s taint.
Satisfied with the information and explanation of her undead state, the party stands and leaves the Blushing Mermaid. Night falls shortly after, leaving them in a dark alley in Dock Ward. Suddenly a dark figure rises from the ground, its intangible form passing through Pippy and sapping his strength.
The heroes close around the Greater Shadow, unleashing a volley of attacks that pass through the ethereal form. After draining Arius’ strength, the shadow creature identifies Smiggly as the real threat. Plunging its shadowy hand through the gnome’s heart, he lets out a scream as he falls. In a blind fury Arius and Faenor rip through the shadow, their weapons finally striking too late. Smiggly was dead.