The following is known to all PCs. (As they participated in the War of the Dales.)
After inheriting the throne from his father Uluf, Lord Lashan Aumersair set about building Scardale’s power and wealth, intending to conquer all the southern Dales. In 1356 DR, he conquered Harrowdale, Featherdale, and, for a time, Battledale. He then moved against Mistledale and its ally Shadowdale, but was soundly defeated by a hasty alliance of Cormyr, Sembia, the Dales and the Moonsea cities, including Zhentil Keep. After overwhelming the central Dales, Lashan was turned back from Mistledale and Deepingdale by the combined might of all the enemies he had made. His “empire” collapsed overnight. Lashan disappeared in the confusion, as his mercenary army was cut up by the advancing forces.
The Dales and neighboring lands were scoured by the joint forces that had sundered Lord Lashan’s forces; all were focused on tracking down the tyrant and putting him to justice. He was vanished. No trace could be found of the would-be conqueror. Rumors began quickly, however. Whether it was his own hired swords who let slip his plans, spies, or magical scrying, it became known that Lashan had fled deep into the forests of Cormanthor.
With his army in tatters, Lashan went into hiding with what few bannermen and mercenaries he had left. Stubborn and bitter, he knew the only way to reclaim what was his was to find some small ruin in the forest to make his temporary headquarters and wait out the coming winter He needed to gather a new force in secret and find some sort of magical aid to better overcome his enemies.
Lashan set his sights on Myth Drannor and the power he knew remained undisturbed inside the tumbledown ruin. He planned to scour the ancient city for powerful magic and turn these things against the Dales as soon as he was able to rebuild his banners.
Written here is a brief summary of the events that lead up to the PCs return in Shadowdale, beginning with Scardales initial attack on Misteldale in Flamerule, 1356 until mid-November, when they are summoned by Elminster and Lord Mourngrym to beat Lashan of Scardale to the ruins of Myth Drannor.
Year of the Worm
Dale Reckoning, 1356
Flamerule (July): The forces of Scardale have attacked Mistledale, and been rebuffed by the dale militia, aided and led by troops of Shadowdale. Scardale briefly took the eastern half of the dale, but could not pass the ford, and was thrown back after two days of heavy fighting by the arrival of two hundred horsed lancers of Cormyr. Lashan of Scardale has proclaimed himself King of the Dales, and his armies have been reinforced in Essembra: six thousand men-of-foot from Impiltur and the Vilhon Reach have joined Lashan’s forces, arriving on the dozen ships now owned by Scardale, seeking lands and wealth in the new kingdom of the Dales in return for military service. Lashan has announced plans to occupy the Lost Vale, and settle many of his new citizens in the newly-conquered southern Dales (Battledale, Featherdale, and vicinity). Doubtless this last move is to strengthen his fledgling kingdom against possible attacks from Sembia to the south. Fey magic has destroyed a force of two hundred troops of Scardale who were exploring the fabled ruins of Myth Drannor. A later patrol found no traces of a struggle, or signs of any monsters, but only their horses and camp gear. None of the surrounding settlements report seeing any strangers; the missing warriors appear to have vanished without trace, not deserted. This is the second of two hosts that Lord Lashan has sent into Cormanthor to seek out what may lie hidden within the ruins. Scardale has sent an army along the Halfaxe Trail, attacking Mistledale again (where they were driven off by the Cormyrean garrison), and sent exploratory patrols westward to Deepingdale and Lake Sember. Warriors from all of the conquered Dales, led by the Battledale Seven (an adventuring company) and some adventurers of Mane’s Band, have gathered in Highmoon to halt Scardale’s advance. These anti-Scardale forces are being aided with money, provisions, and weaponry from Sembia.
Eleasias (August): Forces of Scardale have taken the fields of Battledale, and now hold Harrowdale, Featherdale and much of Battledale. The trade-road from Sembia to the Standing Stone has not yet been blocked, and Essembra is still nominally independent. Travelers on the road including caravans out of Hillsfar, Zhentil Keep, Cormyr, and Sembia have been stopped, harassed and searched by the largely mercenary forces of Lord Lashan. Those merchants and travelers that put up resistance were put to the sword.
Public statements have been made by the rulers of Zhentil Keep, Archendale, and Sembia that if the road is blocked—and the taking of Essembra, Archendale warns, is synonymous with blocking the road—Scardale will find itself at war with all three.
Scardale has sent an emissary to Shadowdale, offering an alliance. The offer was refused, and Lord Lashan has announced that his forces are now at war with Shadowdale. Any persons or property of the Dale that fall into their hands will be treated accordingly.
Eleint (September): Lord Manshoon of Zhentil Keep has ordered a proclamation read in Sembia, Scardale, Cormyr, and Archendale. The proclmation sums up the combined military power of all of Zhentil Keep’s holdings on the north coast of the Moonsea, and informs the world (and particular the rulers and adventurers of the places in which it was read) that any attack upon any of these locations will be considered an act of war, and will be crushed by the massed might that Lord Manshoon now commands. Manshoon’s host will then carry the battle back to the attacking country and conquer it in the name of Zhentil Keep. It is known that some attempt was made to arrest the crier of this message in Scardale. The crier disappeared in to thin air, after hurling some sort of incendiary magic at his attackers with deadly effect.
Marpenoth (October): A group of adventurers known as the Company of the Dragon is travelling south from Hillsfar, bent on meeting with the Elven High Court. All elves have disappeared from Hillsfar, including members of the city’s ruling council. Reports from Sembia to the north coast of the Moonsea indicate that many elves everywhere have vanished. It is said in Hillsfar that the Company of the Dragon is hurrying to be the first explorers of the fabled ruins of Myth Drannor. The hosts of King Lashan of Scardale have been destroyed in a swift series of battles with forces from Cormyr, Sembia, the united Dales, and the Moonsea cities (including Zhentil Keep). The capital of Scardale has fallen, the self-made King of the Dales’ armies disbanded and Lord Lashan Aumersair himself has disappeared. Scardale has been placed under joint occupancy by the combined forces until a stable government is formed.
Uktar (November): In a letter from Luvon Greencloak to the rulers of the Dalelands (including Lord Doust of Shadowdale), the Elven Court has announced their retreat from their native woods to “a further land from Man” (presumably Evermeet). The great majority of the elves have departed, though certain individuals remain, including those with close ties with certain Dalefolk or those who are duty-bound to watch over Cormanthor. Luvon notes that elves who wish to follow the Elven Court should contact him soon, and goes on to thank the Dalesmen for their good relationships in the days “since I have seen the planting of the Standing Stone.” Other nations and city-states—the Moonsea cities, Sembia, and Cormyr—have received no such messages. Also, disposition of the Elven territories and Myth Drannor were not mentioned in the letter.
Campaign begins: Elminster summons each of the characters to return to Shadowdale to attend a meeting with Lord Mourngrym in The Old Skull Inn. It is to the benefit of everyone that the PCs root out Lashan of Scardale from his holding within the forests of Cormanthor before he regathers his strength and makes another attempt to subjugate the Dalelands.