Chapter 1: Visions
The alleyway was empty, save for the two figures silhouetted against the midday sun. The figures cut a stark contrast to one another; one standing tall, her armor shining in the dim light, while the other lay huddled upon the ground, drab and ragged. The cleric, for her amor clearly showed her profession, knelt besides the huddled figure while chanting quietly to herself. A pale blue glow soon emanated from her fingertips, snaking its way silently toward the prone figure on the ground. The soft blue light swirled around the huddled figure, before turning suddenly a deep black. The cleric sighed, shaking her head slowly. A detect life spell was perfect for finding those that clung to life by a thread, but it had shown this person to be quite gone. From the main street some distance away, came a voice rising above the din of the crowds there.
"Moonshadow! By the gods, Where have you wandered off to now? Gwenn! Gwenn!"
Gwenn stood and turned back toward the street. She glanced back to the poor soul that had expired in the alleyway, her eyes rimmed with the guilt she felt for this individual. It was never easy to be too late to save people, but it happened more often than Gwenn liked. Life in the city had improved in the days since Lord Neverember had taking over the administration of Neverwinter, but too many for Gwenn's liking still lived on the razor's edge of death. The poor soul in the alleyway had done nothing to deserve his fate, to die alone on the ground, but many more have shared that fate with many more likely too. Gwenn shook her head to clear her thoughts, and started back to the bustling street. She made a mental note to send the acolytes of the enclave back for the corpse, so that soul could at least have a decent burial. With that final thought, she strode back into the bright light of the bustling street.
Back in the street, Gwenn moved through the crowds with purpose, until she was standing before a man. This man, human by race but as humorless as an orc, stood glowering at her. His expression could be read by all nearby, and all that did gave the man a wide berth. As she approached, Gwenn dipped into a short bow before rising and speaking. " Father Wiltens, my apologies…" she began. Father Wiltens cut her off "Moonshadow! How many times must I tell you? You cannot just be wandering off! It is unseemly for a cleric of Selune to be rarely where she is supposed to be!" Gwenn could merely shrug." I am sorry father, but there are always those in the alleys that require aid. I was merely tending to those that needed the light of Selune. As a matter of fact, a poor soul has expired this day. We should dispatch the acolytes immediately." Father Wiltens visage did not soften." Gwenn Moonshadow, ever you have been headstrong in your pursuit of what you feel. You must learn your place as a cleric of our order. That place is not scampering about Neverwinter on some fools quest to save everyone. It is simply unrealistic. Now enough of this, let us complete our business and be back to the enclave."
The finality in his voice, as well as his callous disregard for those lives she seeks to save began to grate on her nerves, as it often did. In all the years that Gwenn had been in service to Father Wiltens, he often displayed a strong dislike for anyone not of his station. Gwenn saw this attitude as simply unacceptable in a follower of Selune. She believed the goddess they followed wished everyone to benefit from her gifts, not just those of a certain rank or station. But she had never made any headway with Father Wiltens on that front, or anyone else in the enclave for that matter. Gwenn was often told, berated about even, that the divine powers they were given could only be used on those most worthy of those gifts. Gwenn often suspected that worthiness coincided with who had the largest purse strings, but could never prove the correlation.
With Father Wiltens leading the way, they moved through the avenues of Neverwinter's market district. Of all the cities districts, this one was the most rebuilt from the cataclysm but still showed some signs of the damage from the event. The many stalls housed merchants from all corners of Faerun, selling their wares to an ever increasing population. Neverwinter had been truly devastated by the cataclysm of Mt. Hotenow's eruption. Little of the city had survived and the old districts had to be scrapped entirely, and the layout of the city replanned in the subsequent years. Compounding that job, was the fact that Neverwinter's citizenry had all but abandoned the city following the disaster, at least those that had survived. Only those with extreme loyalty to their city, and the extremely poor had remained. But in the years since, Neverwinter's people had shown their resilient and industrious nature, and rebuilt the city center and market district. Protector's enclave, as the city center was now called, bustled with citizens and adventurers alike as there was often work for both types of people available.
Lost in her own musings, Gwenn failed to notice that Father Wiltens had stopped. She walked squarely into his back, dropping him down to the cobblestone walkway. Suddenly finding himself on the ground, Father Wiltens sputtered some dirt from his mouth, before rolling onto his back and glaring threateningly at Gwenn. Gwenn knew the look to be little more than an idle threat, but bent and reached to help Father Wiltens to his feet. She stammered the expected apology as he brushed the road dust from his robes. Father Wiltens said nothing, and turned once again to face the other direction. Gwenn followed Father Wiltens turn, to find that he had stopped at a merchant's stall. However, this merchant seemed different from the rest. Where most of the merchants in the city put out brightly colored objects to try to attract attention, this merchant had very little actually on display. In fact, Gwenn could hardly tell this was a merchant's stall at all. The few items set out on display had heavy layers of dust and grime on them, and were certainly not meant to attract potential customers. Gwenn turned to Father Wiltens, with a confused look in her eye. " Father, what business have we here? Certainly there is nothing of value to us…" she began. Father Wiltens held up a hand to silence her, then looked to the merchant. " Have you the item, as was agreed?" he asked matter-of-factly. The merchant reached into a small crate that was behind the display counter, and produced a small package. The package was unremarkable, being only wrapped in brown paper and tied with some string. Gwenn studied the merchant carefully as he handed the package over, and Father Wiltens gave a sack of coins in return. Father Wiltens then turned and signaled to her that they were leaving the drab stall. As they left, the merchant called after them, " Wise is he that does not delve deeply, for he avoids the mistakes of his forebears!" Father Wiltens merely grunted at the man, and continued away. Gwenn was conflicted, she could feel that whatever lay within that package was indeed important and valuable, but also had a sense of overwhelming dread. Lost in her thoughts and inner conflicts, she struggled to keep pace with Father Wiltens. Soon, she had lost sight of him altogether. She paused in the street, and considered her next move. Father Wiltens was most assuredly going to the enclave, but she did not feel ready to return just yet. Instead, Gwenn made her way to the single large altar in Protector's Enclave. This was the one place she felt truly at peace and connected to her goddess. Not even the enclave grounds offered her that solace. The worship of the gods was different now, she had to remind herself, ever since the Wailing Death before her lifetime. That plague had been spread by false Helmites, and had caused a great distrust of priests and clerics in Neverwinter since. That distrust was evident, as religious orders were not afforded the same courtesies and respect as before that event. Despite that distrust Gwenn had chosen the life of a cleric, dedicating her life to the service of Selune. Now, as she had done countless times before, she reflected on that choice before the altar.
This time however, something was different. Gwenn could feel that the connection with her goddess was stronger this time, a sense that she didn't understand. As she tried to make sense of this feeling, she felt the pit of weightlessness in her stomach and her vision began to blur. Before she could react, her eyes told her she was in a small cottage. The air in the cottage hummed with power, and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. As Gwenn took stock of her surroundings, a woman entered from a door at the back of the cottage. The woman, a petite half-elven figure, moved through the cottage, and sat in one chair of pair on either side of a small table. She looked at Gwenn, smiled and gestured for Gwenn to sit in the other chair. Gwenn could sense the power radiating from the woman, and hesitated for a moment before sitting. Gwenn was very confused, and her thoughts raced with possibilities as to where she was. Preoccupied as she was, they sat in silence for several moments. Finally, the woman spoke. "Gwenn Moonshadow, be at peace. No harm will you find here." The woman's voice was warm and comforting, and Gwenn found that her fears and anxieties soon melted away. Gwenn turned to the woman, and studied her features for a moment. There was nothing remarkable about this woman's appearance, and yet Gwenn knew there was something special about her. The sheer force of the power radiating off this woman was nearly overwhelming, Gwenn had never encountered anything like it. Gwenn then decided it was time to get some answers. "Where am I" she asked softly, the power of this woman stealing some of her nerve. "This is a place between places" the woman answered, "It is neither here nor there, and exists solely for my purpose. In this place, we can talk without fear of interruption or problematic notions. Here we can be truly at peace." Gwenn had no idea what the women meant by her answer. A place between places? What did that even mean? To Gwenn, this place was certainly serene, but in an otherworldly way, and it made Gwenn nervous. She had been taught how otherworldly beings would try to trick you, so she was on high alert. The woman spoke again,"You are wise to be cautious, Gwenn Moonshadow, many are the things I could do." Gwenn did not doubt the words in the least, but was more taken aback that the woman could read minds! Gwenn, realizing that she could hide nothing from this being, steeled her nerves and spoke again. "Who are you?" She asked, a bit more reverently than she had intended. "What am I doing here?" The woman smiled, and held her arms out wide. " You are here because it was deemed necessary to talk. As to who I am, you may call me Califra."
" Califra…" Gwenn muttered to herself, still not sure what to make of this whole thing. Nothing made sense to her, yet she knew it all was right. She still had no idea where she was, or how she got here. Looking up from her thoughts, Gwenn steeled her nerve once again. "Okay" she said, " If I am here because we needed to talk, what is it we need to talk about?" Califra smiled, and leaned forward in the chair she was sitting in. "An excellent question, Gwenn Moonshadow. You worship and follow the will of Selune correct?" Gwenn's eyes widened at the mention of her goddess. "Of course", she said cautiously " What does that have to do with now?" Califra sighed, a long drawn out affair that showed her growing impatience. "You are aware of the item recently given to your orders possession?" Gwenn thought back to the merchants stall and the small wrapped item that Father Wiltens had purchased. " I am aware that the Father purchased an item; What it is and for what purpose I do not know." She answered honestly. " Is that what this is about?" Califra began to nod her head, " Indeed, that item is very important to our conversation." Gwenn was taken aback. Never before had she dealt with otherworldly beings, and now here was one concerned with what Father Wiltens was buying. What was in that package that was so important, as to draw the attention of this being? Califra stood suddenly, sweeping her arms out wide. " The item in question is a holy relic of Selune. It has been lost for ages, and its discovery now is no coincidence. That item has been cursed, and will bring nothing but misfortune to your order and Neverwinter as a whole." She paused for a moment to allow the information to sink in. " Selune herself has seen fit to intervene, and has sent me to charge you with the task of retrieving and cleansing the relic. The desecration shall not stand!" The sudden fire in Califra's voice threw Gwenn off her guard, such passion was rare amongst the otherworldly beings she had been taught about. But more importantly in that moment was that if this being was truthful, Selune herself had charged Gwenn with this task! Gwenn looked at Califra, doubt filling her heart. " Why me?", she asked meekly. Califra smiled once more, here power feeling more motherly than threatening. " Selune has watched you since you were a young girl. Your compassion for others, even those most would see as below them, has earned you the favor of your goddess. Why you? Because there is no other in your order that Selune favors. No, this task is yours." Gwenn was shocked by the revelation! Since she as young, she had worshiped Selune, but never did she think that Selune would actually notice her! She always thought her devotion was as a drop in a bucket, one amongst millions. But to learn otherwise, was truly shocking. Califra sat back in her chair, looking at and reading the thoughts flying though Gwenn's head. "Our business here is done, you have your task. By your life or death, see it done Gwenn Moonshadow!"
Once again, Gwenn felt the weightlessness in her gut, and her vision blurred. When her vision returned, she found not the cottage about her, but the open streets of Neverwinter. She was lying on her back before the gods altar, a crowd of concerned citizens surrounding her. Without a word, she rose to her feet, and dashed in the direction of her order's enclave in the city. Many things swirled through her mind, but one thing stood out in the tumult: She had to find that relic. She had to find it and see the mission given to her from her goddess through. Soon, she found herself at the gates of the enclave, but she wasn't sure how to proceed. Would the others listen to her story? Would they believe her? Shaking her head to clear the troublesome thoughts from her mind, she pushed open the gate and strode into the enclave.