Grond dropped to the floor, dead having plunged a dagger deep inside. The party was shocked, not a sound escaped their lips as they saw this warrior take his own life. They hadn’t heard the struggle in his mind, they didn’t know his pain, but in that brief instant, they felt a loss so profound, it almost broke them. LeShanna knew she had seen him gain control, at least in part, at the end of the fight. She had hopped that she would be able to help him fight Kas, free himself from the sword and its influence, and go on to fight many more battles. She was in shock and felt her emotions boil up inside. She had always trained to master these emotions, channel them and use them in battle. You should never let your emotions control you, but in that instant, it was like a dam bursting and she could not stop the flood.
LeShanna fell to her knees, dropping her axe, arms hanging limply at her side, and she started to cry. Not a wailing cry, or sobs, but simple tears running unabated down her face as she sat there, unable to move in her grief. The rest of the party turned and the sight of the towering elven warrior, the one who had always been the rock in the midst of the storm, the woman who had looked a green dragon in the eye without fear or concern and killed him where he stood, was crying. It was as if they were seeing tears come from a stone.
In that moment, the Metallic dragons that still patrolled the skies above Waterdeep bellowed a roar of pain and loss. They sensed the pain and loss somehow, though they were not linked to anyone. Sylina had never had to deal with such deep emotion. She had landed the blow that had seemingly killed the monster Grond had become, only to see LeShanna heal him and he take his own life. She didn’t know how to react; this wasn’t something she really understood or could deal with effectively. It was, unsettling. Seeing LeShanna cry further unnerved her and all she knew to do was to place her hand on her shoulder and be there for her friend.
The others quietly respected her pain, whispering to each other and trying to understand the events of the past few minutes. Tessa and Balefire helped Linara up as Quinn watched with a reserve that was unusual for the elf. After a few minutes that seemed like hours, LeShanna stood and went to Grond’s body, lifting him in her arms. She took him into the council chamber and laid his body on the large table, as if he were only sleeping. Slowly, she turned to Tessa
“Tessa, I do not wish to presume upon you,” LeShanna said, her voice wavering, betraying the deep emotion she was still feeling, “but could you please do me the favor of calling upon Kelemvor to help guide Grond to his wife and child?”
Tessa answered, “Of course, it my duty, no matter what I personally feel.” While Tessa personally felt he was wrong to make his close friends witness the taking of his own life, the act itself something she considered wrong at its core, she felt his life, service to the party, and the times he had helped keep her alive deserved her interceding on his behalf. Also, what sort of chosen of Kelemvor would she be if she did not have mercy for those she felt had died wrongly. She began to pray in the singsong language of the Doomguides, calling upon Kelmvor to help guide this lost soul home. In that moment, her mind was opened and she saw what was next for her. Kelemvor allowed her to see a small glimpse of a future that boggled her mind, one filled with laughing children and a place where none were turned away.
As Tessa continued to pray in the council chamber, Balefire removed the Sword of Kas from the wall, placing in the sheath he had retrieved from the floor where it had fallen. He was very careful as he had no desire to be the next victim of this tainted blade. What little he knew of the legend stated this sword could not be destroyed by anything less than what it had just destroyed, the eye and hand of Vecna. It was definitely a problem to be puzzled out. Balefire placed the scabbarded sword in his bag, knowing it was up to him to put it in a safe place. He had a feeling it was like most other artifacts. It seemed, no matter how hard you tried to eliminate them from the worlds, these items somehow always found their way back into someone’s unsuspecting hands. He decided to hold onto this sword until he could think about it at greater length. Today was not the day to do that. It was too… hard to think right now.
As the prayer ended, LeShanna approached Balefire.
“Balefire, is there any way you could transport me and Grond’s body to Mulmaster?” Leshanna asked. “It is or was Grond’s home, where his family is located, and where Caysst is entombed. I know he would want to be returned there to be placed along side of his wife.”
Balefire took a deep breath; he was so tired after the events of the day. “I might be able to do that if someone has a scroll with a teleportation spell for Mulmaster,” he said. “Without that, it will be tomorrow morning at the earliest before I could planeshift us.”
“Who’s shifting where?” Sylina asks in her typical straightforward way. When LeShanna explains what she wants to do, Sylina flatly states, “You’re not going anywhere without me!” Before long, all in the party have made similar statements, not wishing for any to make the trip without them.
“We all need to pay our respects to him and his family,” says Linara, still rubbing the side of her head where Grond had struck her.
One by one, everyone agreed that it was only fitting that they all go to explain to Grond’s family the events since his arrival at Waterdeep. Each, for their own reason, wanted to pay their respects and honor his contribution to saving the world from Tiamat and Vecna.
A voice from the door asks, “What has happened here?” Laural slowly makes her way into the council chamber, followed by members of the city watch. Slowly, the party tells her of their trip to Dracosee’ere, finding Mystra’s tomb and spellbook, and having it stolen by Rath Modar. When they described the changes to Rath while using the Eye and Hand, she shook her head sadly.
“I suppose something similar happened to him?” She gestures weakly to Grond’s body, “I was worried this might happen. Sentient artifacts, especially evil ones, are dangerous to wield. I was certain Tessa would fall prey to her sword at one point. I am quite happy she didn’t, but that is not the normal course of events. While I count us lucky to have only lost one of your number, it still saddens me.”
Looking the party over, she sensed the feeling of loss and pain from the party as they had to deal with an issue they had never faced before, the loss of one of their own.
“I will place a guard on this room and have the priests of Kelemvor and Bahamut come prepare his body. There is nothing more you can do tonight and we all need rest. Tomorrow morning, I will send word to the Zhentarim ambassador when he arrives back in town and help send you all to Mulmaster. I wish that I could come as well, but we are still deling with the political and social upheaval those damn cultists caused.” She said. “Go Rest as you are able and I will send you tomorrow myself.”
She told LeShanna, “You did the right thing by reviving Grond and giving him a chance. The others may not have understood, but I saw a glimpse of Grond before I went down. Grond looked right at me and he held back on the last blow as much as he could. I am grateful for that.” Linara went on, “LeShanna, life can be a difficult journey after watching your spouse die, but Grond is finally at peace with his family. Your actions allowed him to leave this life with a clear conscience and move on. Linara told her of her awareness that Grond had taken back control in the last seconds of the fight, and that I know he purposefully twisted the sword so I would survive the blow.”
“Grond was like that,” Leshanna replied. “It’s like this door knob he always carried, I can’t remember if he told you the story of how he came by it. He always had a soft spot for children and one day a child asked if he could hire his help. What the child needed wasn’t really important but he offered Grond his most precious possession, this large “diamond” as payment. Grond cared for the child and took the payment to keep from dishonoring the child. He always kept this as a reminder to help where he could,” LeShanna continued, tears welling up in her eyes once again. “I can’t stop wondering if there were more I could have done, some action I could have taken, that would have stopped these events from ever taking place.”
“Life is not something you can direct LeShanna,” mused Linara from beside the door. “It is not a battle you can direct. You can’t give it orders, nor can you stop its passing anymore than you could stop the ocean waves from crashing to the shore.” She walked over and placed a hand on LeShanna’s shoulder and said, “He made his choice and in the end, he chose to protect us at the cost of his own life. That was his decision, not yours and you can do nothing to change that now. So lift up that head ‘soldier’ and let us prepare for tomorrow. Worrying about what is past will never change the future.”
With that, Linara helped LeShanna finish packing the few remaining things and they went to their rooms to rest as they could until tomorrow.
The next morning, the heroes were gathered by the entrance to the council chambers, preparing to gather Grond’s body for transport when a clamor arose outside the Castle of Splendors. Dreading another fight, they ran outside, weapons drawn, to see a mountain of a man, clad in formal ornamental breastplate and a green and black tartan kilt. While shorter than Grond by a few inches, he is broader and has a bestial cast to his features. His face is disturbing to look at. Grond was an unattractive man. General Ogrekin, his father, makes him look attractive by comparison. He is surrounded by 50 of the toughest soldiers the party had ever seen and two people that had the look of high ranking wizards. The guards tell the group that this mass of armed men just appeared here. At that moment the Leader, steps forward, tilting his head to the side a bit as he approaches LeShanna. He holds out his hand and says to LeShanna, “ I am General Drathar Ogrekin, Gronds father. You must be LeShanna Nailo. Our son told us of your deeds in trying to rescue the citizens of Phlan as it fell to the Maimed Virulence. He spoke of you with great honor and demanded to be the one to come and unmask the traitor in your midst. I assume he fell into trouble and lost his life, which is why we are here. We have come to reclaim my son and take him to rest with his ancestors in Sengir Keep. Can I see him?”
The party took the General inside where a shroud covered form was lying in state in the council chamber. The General walked up to the body of his son, placing his hand on his son’s head, a single tear cascading down his cheek. Time passed as he stood there, saying nothing and only staring. After a while, he walked back to the party. LeShanna was a bit unsure of how to start when
A thin half-elf stepped forward and lowered her hood. “I am Linara Greystone,” she said somberly. “I am sorry for your loss.”
Linara moved back to allow the others to pay their respects. Grond’s father had given her little more than the barest of passing glances. She should have realized, should have remembered. At Aramis’ funeral, it took all her strength to simply exist. No doubt Grond’s parents, would noticed nothing but their own pain.
“I am Sylina Earthwanderer,” said a female halfling, extending her hand and eyes up, up, up. “Your son was a true warrior.”
Grond’s father silently nodded in acknowledgment and looked to LeShanna. “My son spoke highly of you and your honor. I was hoping to meet you someday, but not like this. Not like this…” he trailed off looking back toward the body of his son.
“I am….” sorry….so sorry….it’s my fault” ….that was what LeShana wanted to say, but couldn’t. She couldn’t get any words out. Even if she could…to say them out loud would make it too real. “I…., um, let me start from when Grond saved us from the traitor.”
LeShanna began the story of what had happened after Grond’s arrival, the fight with Tiamat, the sword she couldn’t get him to drop, the loss of the eye and hand of Vecna, the search for the spellbook, and the final fight with Grond. She left nothing out, but told the truth as she knew it, even as it seemed to damn her with her own words.
After the tale was finished, the General shakes his head saying “Grond never could stay out of trouble for long. I am beginning to believe the boy was cursed from birth, no matter what his Granny says.”
The General looks around at all of the party and says, “As Grond’s friends and battle companions, I invite you to accompany me back to Sengir Keep for the burial ceremony. The rest of the family will be in attendance as well as others of high reputation. They will want to meet those who Grond trusted. I know his mother will want to great each of you. I do need to warn you though,” he says, quickly looking over the party, but lingering a while on Tessa’s Holy Symbol of Kelemvor, “Grond may not have had a chance to tell all of you of the special nature of his Granny.”
“You mean, how she is an undead lich, directly in opposition to my faith and beliefs?” stated Tessa, stony faced, fighting hard to hold back her disgust.
“Um, yes, that would be it. I can understand if you would rather..” started General Ogrekin
Tessa interrupts him, “I know about her and while it galls me, I can keep the peace for a time, out of respect for Grond’s memory and my friends.”
The general looks at Tess and then at the rest of the party and states, “I can see clearly why Grond chose to fight along side all of you. I know I would hate to be on the opposite side of the field from you, that is certain.
It is time to go.”
The honor guard that accompanied the general forms around the party, with Grond’s shrouded body carried on a large shield bearing the crest of the Zhentarim in front of them, the wizards in the party weaved their spells around them and in the blink of the eye, they left the sunny coastal town of Waterdeep and found themselves in the gray, ominous skies of the Moonsea region.
The courtyard of Sengir Keep was crowded with people- A full squadron of soldiers dressed in Zhentarim military uniforms in perfect ranks . As the party came into view, an officer called them to attention. They all saluted, as if Grond had returned alive and they were showing their respect for his rank. A trio of soldiers to the side began playing a low mournful song on bagpipes, a traditional dirge common to the Inner Sea lands. At the front of the group stood two figures, the first is was a woman with pale blonde hair starting to fade to white. Already pale, her face whitened as she saw her son come into view. She wore simple but well- made black clothing and a mourner’s veil, which was certain to have been hiding free-flowing tears at the moment. Beside her the second figure seemed to radiate a sense of unease, possibly even dread despite being quite small and thin. Covered head to toe in heavy black robes with a matching opaque veil, it was impossible tell much about her appearance. However, as the wind blew the veil against her face, it was easy to note a skull-like outline. This was none other than Grandmother Sengir, Grond’s beloved granny.
As the party moved forward, the General held out his arm to the woman. By way of introduction, he says, “This is Grond’s mother and my wife, Thenatia" She bows her head in greeting and while it is softly spoken, she gives the group a muffled greeting. She quickly moves to Grond’s body. She gently caresses his shrouded cheek with one hand and sobs. Similar to the brief moments after his fall, the party stands by, saying nothing, as they watch a mother’s grief exposed and raw for all to see and know. After a few moments’ the General moves up beside her and places his large arms around her, holding her close as they both morn their son.
The party stands silently, paying respects to the family as they walk Grond to the chapel just ahead. Beside the chapel is a large mausoleum, where it is clear Grond will be laid to rest. Suddenly the party is startled by the silent approach of Grandmother Sengir. She looks at the party, slowly moving her eyes across each of the party.
She says, “So this is the group Grond left home and hearth to fight along side,” a hint of disdain in her voice. “I know each of you well, thanks to Grond. I hated to trick him as I did, but I wished to keep a track of my favorite. The eye patch he wore was also a scrying focus. It is how I knew to send his father to reclaim the body so quickly. Out of respect for Grond, I will hold my peace as I am sure you will as well, but I wish to speak with all of you after the ceremony and before the feast in his, and your honor.” She then glided off, possibly flying across the ground toward the chapel.
The party looks to each other and shrugs a bit, caught off guard by the frankness of the lich, but understanding there would be no fight this day. They approached the chapel and made their way inside. A priest of Bane and surprisingly a priest of Kelemvor that LeShanna instantly recognizes as Doomguide Yovir Glandon from Phlan, Cassyt’s mentor and friend. Sitting in the front row is a Knight, who looks a lot like Aleyd Burral and Ector Brahms, the former Lord regent of Phlan. LeShanna is distracted by this, but the memorial then starts. First the priest of Bane performs his ritual, then the Doomguide stands and speaks of Grond’s adventures in Phlan and how it was only by his and Cassyt’s help that he survived, telling of how Grond snuck back into Phlan one last time and found him, almost dead, deep in the catcombs under the keep. He speaks of how happy he was to participate in the wedding of Cassyt and Grond, only to be struck by grief so soon. He talked on about how Grod was consumed with hatred and was planning a one man assalt on the cult when he learned of a chance to go to Waterdeep and reunite with his good friend and fighting companion, LeShanna Nailo. Granny had evidently done as she said and passed the information on because the Doomguide continued to speak of the events of the fall of Tiamat and the discovery of Dracosee-ere and Grond’s final sacrifice. He spoke of duty and honor, family and friends, love and lives lost. He finished by saying, “While many may never understand why Grond did as he did at the end, and some may never fully forgive him, we all still owe him a debt as he understood that the only thing he had left to give in the defense of the lives for which he cared, was his own life. Let that be our memory of him.”
With that, the honor guard carried the shield into the mausoleum and laid the shield on a platform beside another shrouded body. After the guards retreated, the platform began to lower into the ground and was soon covered by a cap of black stone that shined with a brilliance that was almost miraculous. Tessa turned her head and saw Balefire wiggling his fingers and talking under his breath with a smile on his face. Evidently, he decided the event needed some pizzazz. After this, the group was escorted to the heart of Sengir Keep and give rooms together. A dinner celebrating Grond’s life and friends was planned for the evening, but for now, the family wanted time alone. The group was gathered together in Sylina’s sitting room when there was a knock on the door.
The door opened and Granny Sengir “floated” in as there was no other way to describe how she seemed to glide silently across the floor.
“I wanted to have a word with all of you concerning your actions and Grond’s life,” she says, her eyes peaking above the veil covering the lower half of her face. “I wear this veil out of respect for Grond and how you fought at his side, though it pains me a bit to do so. I am not used to ‘acquiescing’ to anyone,” she says with a bit of sarcasm in her voice. “Each of you fought well and deserve much honor and though it is hard for you to believe, know that I am not your normal ‘evil’ lich. I am not seeking to turn others into undead or corrupt life. I started that way, I must admit, but age has a way of helping you see what really matters most. My goal now is to protect my family and help them achieve great things,” she says as she looks over all of the party. While I know that doesn’t really change your view of me,” she says as she looks at Tessa, “know that I am not your enemy, not at the moment anyway.”
Tessa looks like she wants to retort, but true to her word, she bites her tongue and holds the peace.
“All of you were well liked by Grond,” she continues. “As such, I want to extend to each of you an honor and gift.”
Suddenly, a bag appears in her hand, startling everyone and she reaches in and brings out a small box plated in silver. She hands it to Sylina and tells her “This is what Grond promised you. Open it.”
Sylina slowly opens the box and inside are ten of the most beautiful snickerdoodles Sylina has ever seen. She takes one out and starts to eat but Granny holds up a finger to stop her.
“These are not your ordinary everyday Snickerdoodles. They are my own recipe, “she says, a hint of a laugh in her voice. “These have restorative powers. They can remove diseases, curses, and poisons from your system. They can also heal damage to your body. That is not all. The box containing them is magic. Every two ten days, the cookies will replenish back to a total of six. Now go ahead and taste.”
Sylina takes a bite and her eyes open wide and a smile breaks over her face. It’s easy to tell she would run forward and hug granny, if she weren’t a lich that was…
Granny reaches into the bag and hands everyone an identical box. Everyone looks in and sees identical cookies. It isn’t long before everyone has a mouthful of cookie and feeling much better than they had moments before.
Granny looks to LeShanna and says, “You fought by his side more than the others and I saw through his patch as you argued with him concerning the cursed sword. You truly cared for him as a brother and he for you as a sister. You blame yourself for his death. Stop it. You do him a dishonor by thinking that you in someway could have prevented him from making the choices he made. It was his choice to bond the sword, his choice to fight Vecna, and his choice to take his own life. You could not have prevented him from choosing any of it and it was not and is not your responsibility. His respected for you and what I saw of you though his eye patch is good enough for me. You still hold that eye patch. I want you to know that I have have broken the scrying link attached to that item, however I have left intact an alerting spell that comes directly to me. Should you ever find yourself or your compatriots in true need of assistance, no matter how great, speak your name and ask for me and I will send you all the help I can, including myself should the situation arise.”
Granny then looks over all of you and says, “You were his friends, and in many ways, his family. For whatever it is worth, you have my thanks and appreciation for helping him find the end he needed. While I dread death for myself, I am glad he found the rest of the grave and hope he is finally happy again. For him I believe death isn’t an ending, but only the end of the beginning” Granny then bows her head to each member of the party in turn and then leaves the room in silence.
Later that evening, after the feasting is complete, the guests and family sat around telling stories of their adventures and of Grond. They asked LeShanna to tell of their time in Phlan. LeShanna tells of Grond’s adventures, of meeting Cassyt in the catacombs and instantly being taken with her because she didn’t think he looked horrible. She described how they were fighting street toughs and giving Grond advice on where to take her for a date the next day. LeShanna almost laughed when she told of finding him in the twilight marsh, running for his life from the Lizard People’s self styled king as he was trying to rescue Caysst from their island in the marsh.
Doomguide Glandon took up the stories stories telling of his rescue and Grond’s escorting of refugees to Mulmaaster. Other members of the party tell their favorite Grond stories well into the night. In a lull in the stories, General Ogerkin starts to introduce Knight Aleyd Burral and Ector Brahms to the party, but Aleyd interrupts him to say, “LaShanna Nailo, the last time I saw you, I was dying.” This of course leads to the story of the fall of Phlan and how LeShanna and Grond, along with several others, saved so many lives as Phlan fell to the ancient Green Dragon, Vorgansharax, the Maimed Virulence. LeShanna actually acts embarrassed by all of the attention and tries to steer the conversation away from those events by talking about how Tessa had faced down a half-dragon named Resmir, not once, but twice, and how Sylina stood up to a Blue Half Dragon named Cyanwrath.
The General listens for a while but interrupts, takes on a serious look and says, “As you may know, we here in the Moonsea region were not hit as hard by the cult as most of the Sword Coast. This is because the Maimed Virulence and his iron clawed rule of the northern coast, including the remains of Zhentil Keep kept most of the cult at bay. It is roumored he has a Black and a white dracolich with him as well.”
Lord Ector Brahms speaks at this point saying, “Now that Tiamat has fallen and the main body of the cult is in disarray, we are starting a plan for an assault on Plan. We want to wrest it from the control of the dragon and make it habitable for people of the Moonsea region once again. We won’t be ready for quite some time, but we were wondering if all of you would be interested in leading our efforts to take back the city?”
Before any in the party can speak, Ector Brahms continues, “We don’t need your commitment now, just keep in touch with us and we will let you know when we are closer to being ready for the fight. It won’t be fast or easy, and it definitely won’t be fun, but in the end it will be good to rid this world of that dragon. Think on it and when we are prepared, you can tell us if you want to help with The Reclamation of Phlan.”
To be Continued….?