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Sembian Merchant in Suzail (Part 1)

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Some time ago I had my first attempt at DMing in the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms setting. I hadn't read through all of the lore, but in skimming over the details of the locations I latched onto the Netheril/Shadowvar occupation of Sembia. It sounded like a fun place to start an adventure. Flipping through a bunch of modules for quest hook ideas I put together a fairly decent story for my players to go through.

As I was typing up the story in case I wanted to reuse it later, I figured it might be something worth sharing. I also realized that there was a lot more to it than I initially suspected. So this will need to be done as multiple posts to prevent it from becoming an impenetrable wall of text.

The adventure starts in the city of Suzail in the kingdom of Cormyr. There lives a wealthy merchant named Deskyr, who was of Sembian descent. He despised the Shadowvar taking over his homeland and wishes to see them driven out so that he can return to his family's old estate.

Deskyr recently came into the posession of a magic item that reminded him of an old legend. This legend spoke of a pair of powerful magic items that combined to be supremely powerful. The items are the relics of an ancient and powerful sorcerer; the first was the mask that he used to channel all of his power through, the second was a vessel in which he stored his soul so that he could endure when his mortal body died. The legend tells of how these items can be brought together to return the sorcerer to life for a short time. This sorcerers power is still tremendous, and the legend includes tales of how he was unleashed to destroy entire armies or lay waste to entire cities.

Believing that what he's found is the vessel for the sorcerer's soul Deskyr quickly begins to think he's found a way to remove the Shadowvar from his homeland. If he's correct he could do it without furter ravaging the land with the death and destruction of a war.

I had it in mind that Deskyr wasn't evil, he was more naive about the forces he was meddling with. These two items were both sentient and definitely evil. Deskyr saw them merely as tools, and never considered that they'd try to act on their own and would balk at being controlled and used as he desired. He had reasonably good intentions, but was very far out of his depth in understanding magic and the nature of these two items.

Anyway, he needs additional information about these items before he can carry out his plan. He sends off the piece he has to be studied, he has some connections with a local wizard academy to have it researched. Which left the mask to be found, in his family's archives in their Sembian manor he was likely to find much more information about this legend. The trouble lies in reaching the vault. The part of Urmlaspyr where it is located is now haunted by shadow creatures and has been walled off to protect the rest of the city. Access to it is strictly denied, so Deskyr intends to hire a group of adventurers to sneak in and return with the information he needs.

Of course this is where the party comes in, they respond to his 'Help Wanted' ad and meet at his office where he explains the job. Deskyr does not reveal his plan, instead he say he wants his family's wealth returned to him and asks that they bring everything inside of the vault back. Deskyr promises them a share of all of the treasure that is found inside.

Presumably the party accepts the job and sets off for Urmlaspyr. They sneak into the vault without being caught by the guards that patrol the walls surrounding the haunted land, and battle through some of the shadow creatures to enter Deskyr's vault. Inside they find a few chests of gold and gems and several tomes and scrolls. They return to Deskyr with all that they recovered.

Deskyr praises them for recovering the wealth, but his true interest was the books they recovered. He asks that the party remain in town a few days, as he may have additional work for them soon.

After reading through the books Deskyr finds only some of the information he needs. He has a name for the mask, the Mask of Blood, but can't find anything on its location. What he finds instead is the legend of the oracle spirit in the ruins of Spellgard. If this spirit could be contacted it will answer one question for each person with the absolute truth.

Seeing this as a shorter route to finding the mask than weeks of researching the legends to find the location, he contacts the party and asks them to travel to the Spellgard ruins on his behalf. He tells them that he needs an answer that can be gotten there, but does not inform them the nature of his question. Instead he sends along one of his assistants who will ask the question for Deskyr. The party is responsible to protecting the assistant and helping him to contact the oracle spirit.

This is where I was running through the WotC module The Scepter Tower of Spellgard. Despite me giving up on typing the synopses, the adventure continued on for quite a while. I sent along the NPC assistant so that each of the player's could ask a question of the oracle, that and it allowed Deskyr to keep them in the dark about his true plans still. At the end I had the oracle give a warning about the dangers inherent in the mask, as well as give its location.

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