Forgotten Realms: Birthright

Destiny of Kings: Part 1
The Festival of the Moon

29th of Uktar, 1398 D.R.

Suzail thrums with anticipation. As the winter cold blows in over the bay, preparations are fully underway in the city, like many others across the land, for the Feast of the Moon. A festival marked by solemn remembrance of ancestors long departed, and family recently passed, followed by three days of feasting, song and a heartfelt celebration of life.

To Cormyrians, this festival is seen as one of the highlights of the year, and everywhere the people are hanging up their decorative lanterns and bunting. Soon the city will be brought to life by a sea of flickering lights and colour.

The air is filled with the inviting aromas and scents of hundreds of cooking fires. The streets are bustling with hawkers and merchants enticing the people with their various bits of festival merchandise. The unofficial week of drinking before the festival is already in full swing, with many establishments allowing their patrons to spill out into the streets, despite the cold.
The city has truly come to life.

Just after sunset, the festival will begin in earnest, with the Royal procession through the streets, to the royal tomb, where the Queen will lay a wreath of remembrance and ignite the great brazier of Selune. Temples will hold services, and the people will visit their family graves and decorate them with flowers and candles. This all culminates, at midnight, with the release of thousands of paper lanterns across the city.

It is assumed that, as with every year since their disappearance, the people of Suzail will show their respects at Nexus House, to pray for their safe return and give thanks for their sacrifice.

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The PCs gather at their favourite tavern near the docks, the “Laughing Lass”, to partake of the free-flowing ale, general festival mood, and good food. The place is like a second home. A tavern that has a long history not only in the city, but also with Nexus. It is a drunken den filled with misfits, labourers, sailors and adventurers. It doesn’t change much, and neither do the prices, and the clientele likes it that way.
A band of about fifteen minstrels calling themselves “The Dog’s Bollocks” is playing lively Festival songs adding to the festive, if somewhat raucous atmosphere.

The PC’s drink and catch up, discussing all manner of subjects, until the time comes to head out into the street, to join the rest of the city and watch the royal procession.

The last fading rays of the winter sun retreat over the city, leaving a purple twilight sky behind. The crowds gather along the procession route, in eager anticipation of the spectacle to come. People press together to catch a glimpse of their Queen as she passes.

Along the entire route, Purple Dragons stand to attention, keeping the crowds at bay. The atmosphere is electric.
In the distance it starts. A solemn drum beat. Soon it is joined by other instruments. The music is soon accompanied by the sound of marching feet, the clatter of hooves, and the grinding of carriage wheels on the cobbled streets.

The people respond with cheers and jubilation, waving small pennants as the front of the procession comes into view.
The procession is led by roughly one hundred Purple Dragons, marching in tight formation led by their commander on horseback. They are followed by royal musicians, drummers and trumpeters. Then the standard bearer of the Queen’s colours.

Then they see it, the gilded carriage of the Queen, with its royal escort, followed by several carriages of other dignitaries, knights on horseback, and ranks of Purple Dragons.
The carriages are all closed, and they can see Queen Tanalasta waving serenely from within as she passes by your position.

Suddenly a cry of panic goes up in the crowd. Several armed figures burst forth from the crowd and charge toward the royal carriage, screaming a battle cry. Purple Dragons move to intercept, cutting down four of them with quick efficient strokes. A fifth engages another in a tight melee, but a sixth manages to weave his way around their defenses and reach the carriage itself.
The stout figure produces a small item which he slams against the carriage. There is a bright flash of magical energies, and to those of you who understand such things, you see a brief force field outlined and then die. You recognize a dispel when you see it.

Screams and cries of alarm ripple through the crowd, and the Purple Dragons immediately move to finish off the sixth figure. The fifth attacker in a melee is impaled from behind by another soldier that joins the fray.

Valeria leaps into action, and rushes to defend the Queen’s carriage from the attackers. She helps usher the injured to safety, and returns to the street.

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At that moment, the PCs spot a figure on a rooftop across the street, a shadow flattened on the slate tiles. He fires a crossbow. The bolt pierces the carriage window. Two other bolts find their mark from different rooftops. Valeria watches helplessly as the Queen is impaled through the neck, and black malignant energies spread from the wound.

One of the carriage drivers stands up, revealing the robes of a War Wizard. She barks an arcane word, takes to the sky and begins casting at an unseen rooftop attacker.

Kyuubi spots a lone shadowy figure perched on a nearby spire observing the proceedings, who ducks out of view the moment the deed is done. Kyuubi rushes down the street in the direction of the mysterious figure, changing her disguise as she goes. Within moments, she has taken on the guise of a local street waif, and blends into the crowd. Rhiannon, Valeria and Peter follow suit. The figure emerges from the tall building at street level and attempts to blend into the crowd.

The PCs follow her down several streets, and eventually into an alley way that dead ends. They spot a manhole cover in the street, noting it has recently been moved, and continue down into the sewer below.

They see the figure attempting to flee down the long tunnel they drop into, and chase after her. The PCs fire several arrows at the fleeing figure, and two of the find their mark. The figure is felled, and falls face down in the muck, dead.

They retrieve everything of note they find, and bring it to the Purple Dragons busing themselves with managing the chaos that ensued after the assassination. The Purple Dragon commander thanks them for the their efforts.
Looking around, they note the crowd is in disarray. The Queen’s carriage on it’s way back to the palace, and slowly the panic of the crowd turns to mourning. The realization of the evening’s events only now sinking in.
Clearly there will be no celebration this year.

The following evening, the PCs are handed a message by an anonymous urchin. The note is an invitation to meet with none other than Baskor Tranth, the late Queen’s most trusted adviser.

The PCs decide to attend the meeting, albeit with some skepticism.

The meeting with the Royal Magician takes place in an Inn called the “Roving Dragon”, one week from the night of the assassination.
Baskor meets the PCs in a room he rented for this purpose. His apprentice guides the PC’s upstairs to meet him.

“Welcome, my friends. Your arrival is timely indeed and I thank you for your haste. By now, you have doubtless heard of the death of the Queen.
For over twenty years, I have served her as her chief adviser on the Royal Council. Through war and peace and feast and famine. I stood by her side until she was taken from us.
Now, I have my own investigations to perform, but given the sensitive nature of the information I am about to divulge, I will need you to decide now whether you wish to lend me, and this nation, your aid.
I have need of a group of discreet, independent agents such as yourselves, whom I can trust. I can think of no one I would rather trust than the children of the great heroes of Nexus, who have already shown courage in this matter.
Will you help me?”

Baskor hesitates to move forward, until the PCs agree to help, but relents eventually when he notes their doubts.

“I am deeply troubled by the manner of the Queen’s death. Not only was she assassinated by a group of very skilled and organized men, they used magic that was clearly beyond their ability to produce themselves.
Of the three bolts that pierced the carriage’s defenses, one found its mark. She was killed instantly. What saddens and baffles us even more, is that it was a potent magical item know as an Arrow of Slaying, which defies any attempts on our part to resurrect our beloved Queen.
The nation will have to mourn her passing. I cannot imagine her assassins picked that particular day by accident.

There’s more:
There is one in the realm who has shed no tears at the fall of Tanalasta. Prince Foril, the Queen’s older brother, has coveted the crown of Cormyr since his return but two years ago. It was originally believed he had died as a child, until he miraculously came back home after more than 60 years.
He was of course subjected to all manner of scrutiny, and there was no denying he was who he claimed to be, so he was given his estates, and position at court, and welcomed back by the royal family, although they kept him out of the public eye, and kept his duties to a minimum. He was, after all, an old man.
Then, a few months ago, he began to become more interested in the affairs of state, he asked to be invited to council meetings, and recruited a private bodyguard to man the walls of his estates. The queen reluctantly agreed.

Upon hearing of the queen’s death, he strode into the Royal Court with his retinue of guards to claim the throne. Only the sorrow or the people and the meager opposition offered by the council has halted his efforts thus far. Already he is claiming the title of regent of Cormyr.
And thus we come to the purpose of our being here. The only one who can challenge his claim to the throne, and save us, is the rightful heir, the crown prince Azoun. I seek now to ensure that he is spared the fate which I suspect his uncle is plotting for him.
For you see, Azoun is currently away on a pilgrimage. He set off roughly a tenday before the Festival of the Moon, toward the Dawn Font in the Sunset Foothills. For generations the heirs apparent of Cormyr have made this pilgrimage to the waters of Lathander’s spring. The sages say that drinking from the well bestows great wisdom and strength. I know not of this, but such devotion goes a great way to winning the hearts of the people.

We pray for his safe return, but we have reason to believe that he is not safe in the Duchy of Aris. Duke Vorik Aris , is a self seeking man who might turn a blind eye to the Prince’s welfare if it served his purpose. Worse still, we have reason to suspect that Duke Aris may be in league with Prince Foril. If this is true, then the Prince is in mortal danger. The Duke has sworn to protect the Prince, but to trust his word is to be less than a fool. Assassins may already be abroad in the duchy with the Duke’s blessing.
We do not know where Prince Azoun is at this time. Such is the nature of his pilgrimage. He travels inconspicuously on foot with only a few retainers in simple garb. By now he may have reached the Dawn Font. He may not have heard of his mother’s death. In any event, the prince must be returned safely to Suzail. If he dies, the realm may face dark times indeed.
On behalf of the Royal Council, and in the utmost secrecy, I am asking you to enter the Duchy of Aris and find Prince Azoun before it is too late. Anything you can learn of the Duke’s motives will also be of value to us, and we will pay well for such knowledge.
I suggest you begin your search at the Dawn Font, but you may hazard to venture into Castle Aris.
Whatever you do, remember this:
At no time should you reveal the nature of your quest. If you are taken and your mission discovered, your life may be forfeit, and the Royal Council’s position will become extremely difficult. I recommend concealing your identities. During this mission, the Purple Dragons are not to be informed of your true purpose. They are duty bound to honour Prince Foril’s claim regardless of their true affiliations, at least until Prince Azoun is crowned King or the issue of the succession has been resolved publicly.
Also mark well one other thing. In the whole Duchy of Aris, you can trust only two men: Dawnlord Velen, patriarch of the House of the Golden Dawn, and Gurenna, the Innkeeper of the Drake & Castle Inn. If you are in need, you may seek refuge in either place.
If you succeed in your mission, you have the undying gratitude of this Kingdom and the certain knowledge you have saved it. You will also be rewarded handsomely for your efforts.
I beg you accept this mission."

Baskor hands the PCs a small chest with 200gp, Royal Charters and a map. He also provides small portraits of Prince Azoun, and Gurenna, and a ribbon of golden silk to show Dawnlord Velen.
He also provides the group with fresh horses, complete with tack and harness.

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