Hammer 9, Year of Three Sailing Ships, 1492 DR
Drysmorlin of House Duskryn was not bothered by the wintery Hammer winds that tried to tear his cloak off his slender shoulders. The cold didn’t bother the drow, as parts some caverns within the Underdark were as cold as any weather topside. What is more, Drysmorlin was thankful for the thick gray-black clouds that dulled the sky at the base of the Graypeaks, blocking out the vicious sun. As the emissary crunched delicately over the snowy hills, he was delighted that this part of his mission, at least, had been relatively painless.
Cresting the last of the hills that lay before the Graypeaks, Drysmorlin was taken aback by the army that sprawled before him in their “camp”. The entire spectacle was disjointed, with the forces of the Hobgoblin Chief Gantes dispersed around their regimented fires. On the eastern flank of the camp, Bugbears adorned in uncured furs and bone trophies lazed about in a disheveled heap, trash and debris cluttering the areas where they now napped. To the west Drysmorlin could just make the ranging forms of huge, cruel-fanged wolves, with goblins sitting atop their back. In all, Gantes had gathered an army of nearly fifty thousand for his winter campaign, and the Sword Coast had no idea the army was about to descend upon them.
Sometime later Drysmorlin sat in the command tent of Gantes. The wool walls of the tent were weather-stained, with only the cold keeping the splotches of mildew from spreading. Thick pillaged carpets, caked in grime, and stinking of rotting fabric, adorned the floors, and when Drysmorlin sat upon them, a cloud of lice erupted around him. After a time Gantes made his entrance.
Drysmorlin saw that Gantes was thick, even for a hobgoblin. His ugly orange-furred face was a ruin behind a scar that ran from his chin to wear his left ear must have once been. He wore a long lamellar coat of black leather, and yeti furred boots caked in mud. A huge stark white pelt of a winter wolf draped from his broad shoulders. A thick-bladed cleaver and shield hung over his back, clacking loudly with each of his heavy steps.
Gantes took no notice of the drow. Instead, the chief marched past the waiting emissary and sat down loudly atop a hardwood stool that was likely looted from dwarves. Gantes splayed his thick knees out in front of him and hunched over heavily, resting his thick chin in an even thicker scarred hand.
“Hail Chief-” Drysmorlin began with a supplicating dip of his slender chin.
“Drow wait,” Gantes commanded in broken common. His heavy voice seemed to reverberate the tent walls. “Others come. Then we hear words of liars.”
Drysmorlin capitulated with another nod. Showing no sign of offense at the chieftain’s barb.
Drysmorlin and Gantes sat in silence for a time, all the while the chief held the drow in his stare. Drysmordin was happy to hear the tent flap open behind him, and he could feel the chill wind and specks of snow as they was blown in.
First a bugbear clopped past the drow. The beast reeked of moldering fur and the spoiling remains of the hunks of meat and and entrails that matted his fur. The bugbear wore none of the heavy winter clothing that would be expected. Instead he wore iron shod boots and a thick leather belt that held up a moldering loan cloth. Heads, mostly elven and dwarves, hung from a broad studded-leather belt, all in various states of decay. As the bugbear passed Drysmorlin almost gagged from the stench. A thick garrote of spiked steel was looped around his belt, stained with dried blood and thick with rust. The creature nodded lazily to the chief before sitting down with a great thud, cross legged on the Gantes left. Redistributing his sizable girth, the bugbear paid no mind to the drow. Instead he began scratching at what little his loin cloth covered, before eating the lice that he had produced from his nethers.
“Him ”/characters/klarg" class=“wiki-content-link”>Klarg," Gantes barked. “She coming is Marrowsipper.”
No sooner had he said her name then a huge wolf padded into the tent. Not a wolf, Drysmorlin realized from the goblinoid features mixed with the lupine face, a barghest. The creature padded into the tent and stopped breifly to snuff at the drow. Without breaking stride she assumed her goblin form and sat on Gantes’s right. She wore a coat like Gantes, and thick boots, as well as a strange fur-trimmed conical helm that ended in a vicious spike.
“We all here,” Gantes said. "Cupbearer! As is custom, bring the drink so we may begin.
A bedraggled looking goblin ran into the room with a bladder full to bursting. He quickly placed four rough wooden cups in front of the those in attendance and began sluicing out a clumpy, curdled, drink that smelled strongly of spoiled milk. Drysmorlin waited for the others to toss back their cups. The liquid was thick and chunky, and the drow had to choke it down.
Klarg watched the slender face of the emissary and whooped a resonant chuckle. “Him no like fermented wolf’s milk.”
Choking down the last of the chunky liquid, Drysmorlin began anew. “Hail Chieftan Gantes, I offer good fortune from House Duskryn. I appreciate being granted this audience, and wish to congratulate you on this most impressive army.”
Gantes sat quietly for a moment and Drysmorlin was unsure whether to continue. Finally the chieftain spoke, and Drsymolin could swear his bones rattled.
“Drow slavers of the people. Drow killers. Drow tricksters. Drow no want anything that doesn’t benefit drow. House no matter. You want something. I decide if I want it. Or if I have Klarg choke the life out of you and add your head to his belt.”
Klarg perked up a little at the threat of his chieftain.
“Very well,” Drysmordin continued, letting all semblance of niceties vanish. “We do want something, and we have something to give. I see your maps, and plans,” the Drow said nodding towards some scrawled upon hides that roughly resembled the Sword Coast. You march upon Secomber next. It should fall quickly with your assembled might. However to do so, you must travel the corridor between the High Forrest and the Southwood. A force of this size will not easily go undetected by the woodland denizens within. Our house will cause distractions from the Highmoor, and the Evermoors, respectively. We orchestrate monsters launching raids into the forrest, pulling the attention away from the corridor for a time, allowing you to pass unmolested to Secomber. There is unrest within the Dessarin Valley that should allow you pass further west without much resilience, and from there you are nearly to the coast, and your goal."
“What is House’s ask?” Gantes asked after a time, his expression betraying none of his thoughts.
“In return,” Drysmorlin continued, his voice bereft of anything other than smug satisfaction, “We ask that you pass through the Dessarin Valley quickly. My master has interests there that are being pursued. There is no interest in having your creatures potentially destroy the plans. In addition, my master wishes you to route your course through a town known as ”/wikis/phandalin" class=“wiki-page-link”> Phandalin, and obliterate it and its people."
At the mention of Phandlain, Klarg’s mangled ears twitched. “I know this Phandalin, from my days with the Cragmaw. I had people to kill there, but they went and got themselves dead before I could. If you want Chieftain,” Klarg said turning to Gantes, “I can show the way.”
Gantes sat quietly, all the while with his gaze resting heavily on the drow. “Is that all?” He finally spoke.
“It is,” Drysmorlin responded. “But I offer you a warning as well. Do not break this pact, and once through, do not return to Dessarin Valley. My master cares not for the conquest of you and your rabble, save that if you return to the valley the skies will spit lightening, the rivers will rise and dash your soldiers, fire will rage where it was not, and the very earth will open to swallow you. Your horde is mighty Gantes, but my master’s power is mightier.”
Gantes dipped his chin in acknowledgement then said, “I will give your master my answer.”
Drysmordin smelled Klarg’s approach too late. He couldn’t comprehend how the slovenly creature had been able to maneuver behind him undetected so quickly, yet there it was. The drow felt the spiked wire of the bugbear’s garrote bite deeply into his flesh. Almost by instinct the drow shot his hands up to create space between his throat and the wire, but was forced to watch horrified as Klarg gave a quick tug, and the black skinned digits fell to the drow’s feet, severed at the knuckle.
Gantes rose and strolled toward the drow, gasping wetly for breath. Already the furs of his cloak were slick with his blood as the garrote cut into the slender neck. The hobgoblin chief produced a slim bladed dirk from his weapons-belt. With a grunt the hobgoblin ripped open drow’s garments, revealing the black chain shirt beneath.
Gantes looked disappointed briefly, then his eyes fell on the face of the suffocating emissary. He smiled, revealing broken and jagged yellow teeth, before raising the blade to Drysmorlin’s forehead and carving in the flesh, “I accept.”
As the blade parted his skin, and the life fled him, the last thing Drysmorlin heard was the throaty voice of Klarg sighing heavily before saying disappointedly. “Head has the message so Klarg can’t keep it.”