Web Enhancements07/12/2005

Champions of Ruin

The Church of Shar has long held power up and down the Sword Coast. At one point, the scion of House Moonstar converted to the worship of Shar, creating a schism in the house that has never been healed. But what has become of Lord Vanrak Moonstar, now known as the Dark Ranger? Is it he who has been recruiting krinth who have escaped from the City of Shade? Where has he based his thriving evil cult, and how can the followers of the Moonmaiden deal their rivals a telling blow? Eric L. Boyd offers an adventure for 17th-level characters detailing the lair of the Dark Ranger and his minions and incorporating new material from Champions of Ruin. So download this web enhancement now and let your PCs explore the deepest evil in Vanrakdoom!

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Adherents of the Nightmaiden have long been active in the shadow of Mount Waterdeep, and their missions have been quite varied. However, the Waterdhavian Church of Shar traces its origins back to a disastrous expedition into the Black Jungles mounted in the Year of Dark Dawn (1104 DR) by Lord Vanrak Moonstar, a noted explorer in his day. Formerly a charismatic, outgoing swashbuckler, Vanrak was but a pale shadow of his former self when he returned. A scant few tendays later, Lord Andvarran Moonstar, the family patriarch, died of a strange wasting disease that was unknown to Waterdeep's healers and strangely resistant to their spells.

Upon assuming leadership of House Moonstar, Lord Vanrak publicly broke with the priests of the High House of Stars (the temple of Selûne that preceded the House of the Moon), whom he blamed for his father's untimely death. Consumed with bitterness, the Dark Ranger, as Vanrak came to be known, secretly embraced Selûne's ancient enemy, the Lady of Loss.

By the Year of the Howling Moon (1130 DR), House Moonstar was in open schism. Those nobles who still venerated Selûne aligned themselves with Lord Vanrak's sister, Lady Alathene, and the Moonmaiden's priests, most of whom had taken refuge in the High House of Stars. Meanwhile, at the Moonstar Villa in Dock Ward (now the Blushing Mermaid Festhall), Lord Vanrak and his followers extended their dark influence over much of the city's harbor with the aid of a small army of mercenaries and priests of Shar.

On the night of the seventh full moon of the year, Lady Alathene appeared in open court and asked the Lords of Waterdeep to strip her brother of his title and banish him from the city. To demonstrate the need for such drastic action, she presented evidence of her brother's numerous crimes, including slavery, arson, theft, and murder. The Lords ordered the Dark Ranger's immediate capture, but by the time the Watch had breached the gates of the Moonstar Villa, Lord Vanrak and his followers had disappeared.

During their absence from view, the Dark Ranger and his cult established a highly defensible stronghold from which they could launch missions against their ancient enemies. The Church of Shar achieved its most dramatic success in the Year of the Tomb (1182 DR), when Vanrak's followers managed to infiltrate the High House of Stars through its cellars and slaughter most of the inhabitants before they could raise an alarm. By the time the Watch arrived, the temple was a towering inferno of shadow magic darkfire, which appeared impervious to magic, especially to the ill-prepared firefighters. In recent years, Lord Vanrak's followers have failed to execute several important plans. In the Year of the Saddle (1345 DR), the Dark Army of the Night tried but failed to set the House of the Moon afire as part of the so-called Night of Temple Fires. In the Year of Shadows (1358 DR), the avatar of Shar attempted to subvert the Moonmaiden's church by masquerading as the moon goddess and imprisoning the avatar of Selûne. Driven from the city after followers of the Moonmaiden freed Selûne from Shar's clutches, Shar's faithful were forced to nurse their bitterness anew in the darkness of Vanrakdoom.

Now it seems that Lord Vanrak has embraced yet another dark mission, but its exact nature remains a mystery. Heroes are needed to locate Vanrak's hidden cell of Shar worshipers and scour it clean of the Nightmaiden's taint.

About the Authors

Eric L. Boyd has been a fan of the Forgotten Realms product line since the first time Elminster graced the pages of Dragon magazine. When he's not playing the role of software development manager or dad, Eric enjoys writing about Faerûn late into the night and knitting together obscure bits of Realmslore. Eric has written or coauthored nearly a dozen books about Faerûn and contributed to many more. His most recent credits include Faiths and Pantheons, Races of Faerûn, Serpent Kingdoms, Champions of Ruin, and the upcoming City of Splendors: Waterdeep.

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