Forgotten Realms: Empire of Ashes
The Sword Coast
The second major city to find itself in the shadow of a Black Citadel, Luskan fell without much of a fight. Already hearing stories of the fall of Silverymoon, Luskan’s lords and military leaders turned immediately to the Arcane Brotherhood for guidance, only to find their wizardly “advisers” fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. With the many prisons, dungeons, and slave pens maintained by the city’s previous rulers (all “former” pirate lords and slavers), Luskan has made a natural prison city for the Empire. Walled with the black crystal that the Netherese seem able to grow at will, patrolled by Imperial Legionaries and servitor-beings, the city is one big prison camp. More dangerous and important prisoners are kept within the dungeons below the city, which have been renovated, reinforced, and warded by Netherese magic.
The Arcane Brotherhood – The purging of the Arcane Brotherhood, sorcerous secret society and power-behind-the-throne of Luskan’s nominal leadership, demonstrated the Empire’s ruthless efficiency at cutting through even the most well-planned and paranoid magical defenses of mortal wizards. No members of the Brotherhood are known to have escaped the public executions – even those who tried to teleport out of the city simply appeared within magically sealed Imperial cells, to be helplessly marched before the captive populace for a gruesome and agonizing death.
Receiving reports of the fates of Silverymoon and Luskan, the Lords’ Alliance between the city-states of the North made ready its first stand at Neverwinter. The armies of that city, bolstered by the vanguards of Waterdeep’s hastily mobilized forces, and the tattered remnants of Silverymoon’s defenders, provided a good afternoon’s diversion for the Empire – and the first real demonstration of what the Legions could do to a conventional army on the open battlefield. The route of the Lords’ Alliance was followed by the increasingly familiar purging of the city’s leaders, mages, priests, and – with greatest zeal – anyone with any hint of elvish blood. Those that weren’t executed in the streets were marched into the Black Citadels, never to be heard from again.
Although many chose to stay and die rather than see their city in the hands of an invading force, some of the mages, holy men, and heroes that made their homes in Waterdeep managed to lead a significant portion of the populace to escape in the most unexpected way – into Undermountain. Half expecting to die in the treacherous depths of the deepest dungeon, they instead found safe passage, escaping through the various portals, while those pursuing them seemed to fall afoul of every trap and creature, their magic often failing them … this has led many to speculate that Halaster the Mad Mage – legendary (fictitious?) archmage of the Underhalls – helped to save the people of Waterdeep.
Undermountain & Skullport – According to some, the continued independence of Skullport, and the relative ease with which the forces and spies of the Moonshae Alliance navigate the passages to and from the city above, suggests that they have an unspoken ally in the Mad Mage of Undermountain. While the city above remains firmly in the hands of the Empire, it also maintains a thriving rebel underground, literally beneath its streets.
The assault on Baldur’s Gate didn’t end with the breaking of their forces. The armies and government were given no chance to surrender, but murdered in their houses; the populace was not held as in the cities before, but instead driven from their homes. As they fled, survivors told of seeing their city ripped up by its roots, obsidian-like structures sprouting from the buildings and the inverted mountain of earth and stone upon which the city rested. This became another of the Empire’s Black Citadels, in apparent response to the destruction of another of the cities by Elminster, in the Stand of the Dales.
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