The Trail of Tears
By Eric L. Boyd
A River of Blood (EL Variable)
Although Battledale boasts the bloodiest history of all the Dales, neighboring Mistledale has seen its share of strife as well. During the Time of Troubles, the Sword of the South, a 7,000 strong army of Sembian mercenaries led by Zhentarim officers, clashed with barely a hundred or so Riders of Mistledale, Harpers, and Knights of Myth Drannor on the banks of Swords Creek. Almost unbelievably, the defenders of Mistledale prevailed, thanks in large part to the self-sacrifice of one Baergil, priest of Tempus who gave his life to create a ring of skulls that hurled death all around. Baergil's sacrifice prompted an appearance of his patron deity, Tempus, once thought to be the first appearance of the Foehammer in the Realms during the Time of Troubles.
In the immediate wake of the Time of Troubles, Eldan Ambrose, an Amnian priest of Tempus, tracked the Foehammer's appearance in Mistledale back to the hold of Belarus, a long-dead worshiper of Tempus, by following a trail of red tears (gems) into Battledale. While standing within what was once the castle's great hall, Eldan received a vision from the Foehammer confirming that site was henceforth to be held sacred to the Lord of Battles. Eldan and his followers established the Abbey of the Sword and set about rebuilding the castle and sinking deep wells to reach a lake of cool, sweet water in the Underdark. The lake lay within a cavern network riddled with portals, including one portal through which the avatar of Tempus has reached Mistledale.
The portal from the Fields of the Dead exits amidst the cavern network beneath the Abbey of the Sword, now heavily guarded by soldiers from the fortress above. Anyone exiting this portal sees a trail of red tears leading away from the portal. Investigation reveals that these tears are permanent illusions (as the spell permanent image, 20th caster level) visible only to creatures that have passed through that specific portal. The trail leads through the cavern network and up a well into the heart of the Abbey of the Sword. (Further details on the Abbey of the Sword may be found in Faiths & Pantheons).
From there the trail leads west into Mistledale to Swords Creek, ending at the sight where Baergil sacrificed his life in defense of Mistledale. A ring of skulls still hovers 12 feet above the stream bank. The ring of skulls is actually a one-way portal, the second in the chain of portals that compose the Trail of Tears. The portal opens at midnight only if one or more persons are present who have passed through the previous portal. This portal also lasts only seven rounds, and passage through it requires one be bathed in blood, whether their own or that of another.
Three rounds before the portal opens, the blood-soaked land gives rises to a horde of bloodstained defenders. First to arise are 10 bloodstained zombies. The zombies are anywhere from 10 feet to 1,000 yards away from the ring of skulls and all begin immediately marching towards the beckoning portal, attacking anyone who stands in their way. Two rounds before the portal opens, the blood-soaked ground directly beneath the portal rises up directly in the form of a bloodstained greater earth elemental. Additionally, another 10 bloodstained zombies appear. The earth elemental immediately attacks anyone attempting to make his or her way to or through the portal. One round before the portal opens, Swords Creek itself seems to darken and flood, rising up in the form of a bloodstained greater water elemental. Along with this elemental appear 10 more bloodstained zombies. Anyone subject to the bloodstained water elemental's drench attack or anyone struck 3 or more times is bathed in blood for purposes of using the portal. For every ten rounds after this, 10 more bloodstained zombies rise from the ground.
The goal of this second battle along the Trail of Tears is to instruct the Foehammer's followers that they should be valorous, but not foolishly so. In the words of the Foehammer, which echo in the mind of anyone passing through the portal, "Acquit yourself honorably and tirelessly in battle, but do not fear to retreat from hopeless fights."