Perilous Gateways

The Trail of Tears

By Eric L. Boyd

The Fog of War (EL 15)

Although the church of Tempus originally believed that the Lord of Battles first appeared in the Realms during the Time of Troubles in Battledale, they now think his first appearance was in the Fields of the Dead, although even that has not yet been firmly established. The first portal in the chain known as the Trail of Tears connects an unnamed, low, flat-topped hillock in the Fields of the Dead to the caverns beneath the Abbey of the Sword in Battledale {{link to part 2}}. The portal appears only on the night of the full moon, and then it is present only for seven consecutive rounds beginning at midnight. The portal resembles a circle of ghostly, incorporeal helmets lain on the ground. The exact location of the portal varies on each occasion, but it always appears somewhere atop the hillock.

On nights when the portal appears, a small company of 20 Cormyrean swordwraiths appears atop the hill at dusk. (Use the sample swordwraith statistics.) The Cormyrean swordwraiths are committed to defending the hill against a larger company of Calishite swordwraiths who inevitably attack. The Cormyreans accept allies in defense of the hillock, including those seeking to pass through the portal, but they refuse to pass through the portal themselves. If slain, their bodies and their items immediately vanish, but they reappear, fully restored, on the night of the following full moon. The Cormyreans lack a commander and are happy to obey orders given by an ally. The Cormyreans never remember the tactics previously employed or the outcome of past battles, nor do they ever recall that the Calishites have a powerful commander. They do know, however, that they will be attacked by a slightly larger number of attackers at some point after dusk shortly before midnight, and that the portal appears exactly at midnight.

The hillock itself is roughly circular and has an 80-foot diameter on top. The top of the hillock is roughly 20 feet above the surrounding terrain, and the inclination of the sides is roughly 30 degrees. In addition to providing defenders the tactical advantage of higher ground (see Table 8-8 in the Player's Handbook, page 132), there are five large boulders scattered around the perimeter of the hill. Each boulder is firmly imbedded within the earth and weighs several tons. Each boulder is roughly equivalent to a 10-foot-long, 3-foot-high wall providing one-quarter cover for two defenders (see Table 8-9 in the Player's Handbook, page 133). The hillock is otherwise unremarkable. The portal appears in a random location atop the hill.

The 30 Calishite swordwraiths never appear at the same location in the Fields of the Dead, but they always appear close enough to mount an attack on the hill defended by the Cormyreans shortly before midnight. (Use the sample swordwraith statistics, but replace the longswords with scimitars and the heavy crossbows with shortbows and raise the weapon enhancement bonuses to +2.) Like their Cormyrean counterparts, the Calishite swordwraiths vanish if slain, along with their possessions, but reappear, fully restored, on the night of the next full moon. The Calishites never remember the tactics employed or the outcome of past battles either, but they too know of the existence of the portal. The inviolable military objective of the Calishite swordwraiths is to command the hillock by the time the portal appears and allow no creature to pass through it.

Unlike the Cormyrean company, the Calishites have a commander, one Malik yn Memnon adh Shoon, a mameluk commander of the Shoon Empire in life. Thanks to Malik's tactical skills, the Calishite company often overruns the hill unless the Cormyreans gain the aid of one or more other individuals who can provide commensurate fighting prowess and tactical support. Malik relies on the chaos of battle to undo the plans of the Cormyreans and their allies. Prior to the attack, he drinks his potion of bull's strength and casts invisibility on himself. He casts a separate invisibility spell on his eversmoking bottle. Then, just prior to the beginning of battle, he casts ghost sound and dancing lights to confuse where the attack is coming from. As the Calishites charge from hiding up the hill, he tosses the invisible eversmoking bottle approximately onto the center of the hillock, followed immediately by a series of fireballs (spells and necklace variants). The eversmoking bottle usually lands within 20 feet of the center of the hill, but the exact location varies. Finding the bottle requires looking in the 5-foot square it occupies and still requires a Search check (DC 30). Once battle is joined, Malik charges into the mix. Although he is not too concerned with finding the portal itself, as the eversmoking bottle obscures the randomly appearing portal from friend and foe alike, he does so eventually with his locate object spell. Once located, Malik moves to defend the portal along with any allies in his immediate vicinity.

The goal of this first battle along the Trail of Tears is to instruct the Foehammer's followers in the inevitable confusion and unpredictability of war. In the words of the Foehammer, "War is fair in that it oppresses all sides equally and that in any given battle, a mortal may be slain or become a great leader among his or her companions." Should someone win their way through the portal and then return to do it again, replace Malik with a different commander of the DM's devising.

The Trail of Tears