Peril in Bloodstone
Recent History of the Region
Two Tumultuous Years
"Pray tell, fellow bard, where will thy horse fly?" asked the first. "To Damara to busy my pen. Tis said that more has happened in the last two years than in the last two centuries!" The second bard twirled his lute in excitement at the mere thought of entering the Bloodstone Lands.
"Then surely you have missed your time, good fellow," said the first, "for the Witch-King is dead and his armies scattered."
"Not so, not so," argued the second. "The issue is far from settled. And although the new heroes have lived more adventures in two years than most will see in a lifetime, they have many more before them." He spurred his horse and galloped away. The call, "Many more!" echoed back as he went.
This may be a typical scene among the bards of the Forgotten Realms these days, for indeed the bloodstone region has undergone tremendous changes since the victory of the Witch-King. Still more lie ahead before the situation stabilizes.
After the Witch-King secured his hold on northern Damara, he disappeared for a time, presumably to reevaluate the remaining strength of his forces and to plan out his next moves. Deliberately, he left a nation in disarray.
Zhengyi's decision to divide southern Damara into separate, independent baronies was shrewd indeed. In spite of the hardships descending on the conquered land, the puppet rulers of these baronies squabbled, conspiring against each other. Each one would gladly fight another over whatever might add to his own power and meager wealth.
Combined with the terrible tribute to the Witch-King, this disarray crushed the pride of the people of Damara. Under such ineffective rule, the entire southern region was quickly thrown into chaos, both political and economic. As he had planned, Zhengyi was left in peace to concentrate on his next moves.
In the security of his arrogance, Zhengyi took no notice of the actions of his cohorts, the bandit army of the Galena Mountains. Led by the Grandfather of Assassins, a High Priest of Orcus, and an Arch-mage who had once been Zhengyi's own personal advisor, a tribute of gold and even slaves was demanded from the poor people of the Barony of Bloodstone.
This proved to be the proverbial last straw. The bandit army's depredations bred an angry resolve in Baron Tranth and in all the people of Bloodstone. Perhaps because arrogance and evil so often go hand-in-hand, Zhengyi did not imagine mighty heroes might arise, but proud people can only be pushed so far. When a group of heroes emerged to lead them, the people of Bloodstone rose up and fought for their homes.
The heroic leaders were Gareth Dragonsbane and his company of six: Emelyn the Gray Friar Dugald, Celedon Kearney, Riordan Parnell, Olwen Forest-friend, and Kane, monk of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose. Men, women, and even children of Bloodstone Village followed them, and boldly faced the bandits, even standing proud against the horrible undead brigades of the evil priest, Banak. The sheer courage of the villagers rallied support, and groups of dwarves, halflings, and centaurs rolled up from the woodland clusters just south of Bloodstone Village. The Grandfather of Assassins was slain by the monk, Kane, and the bandit army was soundly defeated.
The most important result of the battle was that the races of the region had come together and mighty new leaders had been found. Quiet whispers spoke of hope when rumors circulated that Gareth Dragonsbane had fallen in love with the Lady Christine, Baron Tranth's daughter.
But just when Gareth and his friends seemed to have the region turned back toward the right course, bad luck and an unspeakable evil once again came crashing down.
First, torrential rains swept through Bloodstone for a full week in September, and after the storm came a sudden freeze. Unharvested wheat and hay rotted and died in the fields and the town feared another Wolf's Winter of hardship and starvation.
Second, a scream in the night came from the Abbey of St. Sollars, rousing the village. What looked like a simple worg attack was soon found to be something much more insidious when the symbol of Orcus, a horned goat's head, was discovered painted in blood on one of the Abbey's walls.
Everything pointed to the long-closed bloodstone mines as the source of the horror, prompting talks of a heroic adventure. Furthermore, all the people of the barony could see the possibilities of wealth if the mines could somehow be reopened. Although the monk Kane had been called back to the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, Gareth and his five remaining friends went boldly into the mines. With the help of a community of svirfneblin gnomes, they routed the minions of Orcus, a tribe of duergar dwarves.
The mines were promptly reopened and King Ruggedo, head of the svirfneblin, swore eternal friendship to the barony. Baron Tranth, confident of Bloodstone's bright future, gave to Gareth the hand of his daughter in marriage. As a dowry, he turned over rulership of the barony itself.
The people of Bloodstone dug in and fought through the savage winter. Under the leadership of the new baron, they were confident that the spring would bring new growth and hopeful about the wealth to be dug anew from the mines. The very next spring, the dwarves of Clan Orothiar and the svirfneblin brought out a million gold pieces worth of the fabled bloodstones.
With new wealth came new trouble. The promise of riches attracted thousands of new citizens to the barony. Perceptively, Gareth understood what was to come next. He promptly put the newcomers to work building new towns and new fortifications. Then the baron commissioned his friends as generals and bid them to build a great army. He recognized that Bloodstone was surrounded by the jealous lords of the other baronies and, of course, there was still the Witch-King.
William the Lazy, eighth Duke of Arcata, was first to strike. In league with the Grandfather of Assassins, his move began the Bloodstone Wars.
But William and the other leaders had no concept of the resolve of the barony, nor of the strength of its new-found leaders. Arcata fell, then Carmathan, and finally, the minor baronies of Ostel, Morov, and Polten. In a few short weeks, the southern provinces of the old Kingdom of Damara were united once again.
With so much in flux, the Witch-King finally turned his eyes back to Damara. Assessing the problem, Zhengyi sent his vast army south. He pulled the bandit army back into his fold, and attacked across the Galenas. But the swelling army of Bloodstone fought fiercely and drove back the Witch-King's soldiers. The forces reached a stalemate at the Ford of Goliad — ironically, the very site of the Witch-King's first victory over Damara. With each army in firm control of one bank of the river, there seemed no end in sight.
The stalemate was shattered by Gareth, Emelyn the Gray, Dugald, Celedon Kierney, Riordan Parnell, and Olwen Forest-friend. The six brave friends struck out at the heart of the Witch-King's power: at Orcus himself, ruler of the lower planes. The friends traveled to the Abyss and stole the demon-lord's wand, taking the vile instrument to the Seven Heavens where it was ultimately destroyed.
The adventure did not end there. Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, gave Gareth the Tree-Gem, and sent the victorious heroes back to Bloodstone. Once planted, the gem grew into a beautiful white tree, a symbol of hope with the power to forever banish Orcus and the other monsters of the Abyss from the Bloodstone Lands.
With the defeat of the demon-lord, the Witch-King lost the source of his dark power. Castle Perilous crumbled into ruins, the priests of the goat's head religion lost their strength, and the undead of the Vaasan army fell to dust. Gareth drove the confused remnants of the wretched forces of Vaasa back through Bloodstone Pass and into their dark holes in the north kingdom. Peace seemed, at last, to be at hand.