These people haven’t the slightest understanding of the power accumulating in the earth beneath them—power we must have. A pity that they stand in our way, but who knows? After some time under the earth, perhaps they, too, can be useful to us.
No nation is as loathed or feared throughout Faerûn as the necromantic magocracy of Thay. In the remote Neverwinter region, far west of Thay’s borders, opposition to Szass Tam’s empire takes many forms. Upstanding citizens and would-be tyrants find themselves on the same side in an effort to fend off and repel the shambling undead creatures that slink through forests and brush along the outskirts of urban areas. Whispers course through the region’s cityfolk, nomadic tribes, and wandering travelers. No one feels safe. Thay is watching, Thay is plotting, and Thayan operatives are working inside the city.
How much more fear—how much more hate— would the people feel if they knew Thay was responsible for Neverwinter’s devastation? What if they knew Thay still sought to take advantage of its earlier failures, to squeeze out the region’s remaining resources at the expense of more lives?
Valindra Shadowmantle—wizard, lich, and hand of Szass Tam—oversees Thay’s interests in the region. And even though many locals know Thayans are skulking about, none realize how large Valindra’s force is, nor how far-reaching her machinations.
Plenty of power remains to be harvested in northwest Faerûn—some that was partly unleashed when the primordial rose and Neverwinter fell, and some that lies quiescent beneath the region’s soil. Valindra intends to mine both sources and deliver the bounty to her master.
Restore the Ring
A circular fortress of broken stones and jagged, shattered towers stands deep in Neverwinter Wood. This Dread Ring (detailed further in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide) was intentionally constructed atop a site leaking powerful magic into the world. Szass Tam, Thay’s regent, had this and other rings built to act as a focus in his scheme to attain godhood. Tam needed an abundance of magic to power such an involved ritual, so Thayan agents
awoke the primordial buried deep in the region’s earth. The regent hoped its rise would cause enough death to power the ring. At the last minute, Tam’s plan was foiled, which sent the primordial back into slumber. Of course, much of Neverwinter was destroyed despite Thay’s failure.
To date, it has proved impossible for any Dread Ring to be used twice. The ritual that empowers each does not allow for second chances. The ring in Neverwinter Wood is also severely damaged. However, Valindra makes use of the fortress’s usable areas, and her dedicated rebuilding crew (see “Writhing Walls,” page 181 Neverwinter Campaign Guide) works tirelessly to repair its damaged sections.
In her spare time, Valindra studies the Dread Ring’s nature and the broken currents of power still flowing through it. She is determined to restore the ring to its former purpose or find it a new one.
Wake the Dead
One of Valindra’s many sanctums lies hidden within the shaded, echoing crypts beneath Castle Never. Here, the lich and her servants carefully prepare the bodies of local heroes, the Neverwinter Nine (page 108, Neverwinter Campaign Guide), for a special sort of animation. Elsewhere, such as in Neverwinter’s graveyard, they animate dozens of bodies at a time. Then they use a ritual to march the undead through the Shadowfell to join the evergrowing labor force at the Dread Ring or the fighting forces battling the Netherese in the Shadowfell and
on Thay’s borders.
But for all of Valindra’s attentions, these necromantic horrors are a means, not an end. Her shining vision isn’t about a mere human. The vessel for her crowning reanimation rests in his grave far below the Dread Ring.
Valindra discovered a while ago why this location was perfect for the Dread Ring’s construction, why the land surged with magical energy. Deep in the soil lie the bones of Lorragauth, a black dragon of incalculable age. For centuries, his body has leached magic into the earth. Now Valindra wants to dig up his remains and, with the reluctant aid of the Cult of the Dragon, raise Lorragauth as a mighty dracolich fettered to her will.
As terrifying as the notion of a dracolich beholden to Szass Tam’s servant might be, even this is not the limit of Valindra’s vision. She intends not only to use others’ knowledge and magic to raise the wyrm, but to master such techniques herself. Lorragauth is to be the first in an undead flight that will one day sweep Faerûn’s skies and obliterate everyone who stands against Thay. Valindra’s agents scour the land in search of dragons, so they can be ready when that grand day arrives.
Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to Valindra’s success is that the ritual to create a dracolich cannot be used on a dead dragon. She must either find a way to alter the ritual, or she must resurrect a creature that has been dead for ages before transforming it into an undead.
Valindra hopes to use the Dread Ring’s remaining power or the imprisoned primordial’s energy to “supercharge” her magic so she can raise Lorragauth despite the corpse’s incredible age. A practical and thorough planner, Valindra also acknowledges that neither path might win her the day, so she and her lieutenants continue searching for other powerful magic sources and new ways to achieve her goals.
Control the Cult
Valindra needs help fulfilling her plans. And what she needs, she takes. The lich has “acquired” the services of a cell of the Cult of the Dragon. These zealots are the only people in the region who know how to create dracoliches. Normally, the fanatics refuse to aid outsiders, but the cell’s leader, Adimond Kroskas, has reluctantly agreed to assist Valindra. Of course, she does possess his symbol of office, a ring of dragons.
Kroskas cannot afford to let Valindra damage the ring, nor does he want his superiors to learn she took it. Losing the ring was a dire failure, but giving Valindra the power to raise dracoliches under her control would be far worse. T he cultists that Kroskas commands know this. So he plays a dangerous game, pitting their loyalty to him and their fear of Valindra against their convictions. For the time being, he and his underlings live in shame as they work for the hand of Szass Tam. Despite his ignoble position, Kroskas can take comfort in the little setbacks and inconspicuous accidents he orchestrates to delay Valindra’s efforts. Under his charge, ritual preparations and the gathering of reagents and components proceed unexpectedly slowly, and unusual ingredients prove almost impossible to find. Desperate to find some way out of his predicament, Kroskas might be willing to ally with other enemies of Thay, such as the adventurers.
Of course, characters who fully trust a cultist are fools. While Kroskas would rather wear his own entrails than see Thay gain the services of a dracolich, he would be thrilled to have Lorragauth reappear under the aegis of the Cult of the Dragon. And he’d betray anyone to make it so.
Seek out the Primordial
Although Maegera returned to slumber before it could fully awaken, the magic it unleashed during its brief period of semiconsciousness lingers in the region and in the Dread Ring. If Valindra cannot refuel the ring, she might be able to build devices to tap into its remaining energy. Perhaps she could follow Gauntlgrym’s example and draw power directly from the entombed primordial. She would have to find a new way into Gauntlgrym to do this, though, because the path she previously took to the lost city before the cataclysm has since collapsed.
Even though it’s not high on her list, Valindra nonetheless has several lieutenants researching elemental energy, particularly around Mount Hotenow and the Neverwinter River.
The Thayans have no true allies in the region. They have those they use, those they fight, and those they study.
New Neverwinter: Lord Neverember has ordered a probe into Thayan activities in the city. His people haven’t yet discovered that the Thayans are stealing corpses from Neverwinter’s graveyard, and Valindra wants to ensure that they remain ignorant of such escapades. So Thay is providing weapons and tactical support to the Sons of Alagondar’s Nasher rebels, who do an admirable job of distracting Lord Neverember. In exchange, the rebels give Valindra information about Neverwinter’s goings-on.
Abolethic Sovereignty: Valindra is only vaguely aware of the Sovereignty’s activities, and this lack of information bothers her. She hates that a powerful faction is operating here without her knowledge and has assigned several underlings to investigate. So far, they’ve had little success.
Ashmadai: Due to arrangements made by Valindra’s superiors, the local Ashmadai cultists are
ostensibly allies—that is, tools—of the lich. She occasionally orders them to serve as guards, enforcers, and assassins, or to do other scut work with which she cannot be bothered. Valindra keeps them largely in the dark about her plans, and she is aware they have their own schemes that do not involve Thay’s goals.
Netherese: The Thayans and the Netherese are at war. Initially a squabble over territory—in both Toril and the Shadowfell—the quarrel has since exploded into a full-fledged conflict. The fighting has even reached Thay’s borders. Valindra throws undead legions at the Netherese and worries that their interference is going to ruin her plans. She’d love to see them obliterated.
Many-Arrows Orcs: Orc hunting parties have encroached on Valindra’s territory in Neverwinter Wood several times, leading to armed conflict. For now, though, the lich sees the Many-Arrows orcs as an irritation rather than a real threat. If King Obould XVII were convinced to marshal his forces against Thay (perhaps after being told of the Thayans’ culpability in the primordial’s rise), the orcs would warrant more of her attention.