Amid the crowded noise of the Elfsong Tavern, two figures sat shrouded by tapestries in a corner booth. Shahnameh hunched over the table, softly communicating her plot to a fidgeting wood elf, Kh’ana. She was absentmindedly digging one of her daggers point-down into the worn table. She heard, but only partially listened to Shahnameh’s story, of a princeling, who had recently developed a track record for killing courtesans. The last victim, a close friend of Shahnameh, had mentioned a whispered conversation she had heard in bed, while he stood outside. Through the dimly lit crack in the door, she heard his name mentioned in the same sentence as " Zhentarim ". Two days later her found was found in the Baldur’s Gate sewer system. Pointed ears discussed how best to infiltrate the baron’s estate. Shahnameh proposed to hire herself as courtesan at his third bachelor party, and seduce him in his private quarters for information. Simultaneously, Kh’ana would dismantle the defenses in his study and seek documents mentioning Zhentarim. After a short pause, and a hidden smirk, Kh’ana agreed to sell out her services for any treasure found in the noble’s estate.
Five evenings on, one and a half elves sat at the boisterous table of a noble’s bachelor party, as red-faced men groped passing servant girls and guffawed bits of steak and pastry. Finally, Shahnameh gave her wink to the groom, and he promptly led her upstairs, sweating from his curling blonde hair. The princeling’s minstrel nervously left their bedroom. Finally alone, the half-elf seductress began pouring drinks, and downing hers out the window behind her as he inebriated himself. Suspicious but woozy, the noble averted her inquiries on Zhentarim. Misinterpreting her questions of power to refer to his physical prowess instead of his political influence, he stood up unsteadily and proceeded to give a show of his fencing technique. However, his coordination was poisoned by evermead, causing him to loose balance and fling his blade through his thigh. As he collapsed in pain, Shahnameh grabbed his crimson collar and demanded knowledge on his connection with the Zhentarim. Delirious from booze and agony, the noble proceeded to mention his purpose in a larger plot. He was just one of the many political figures that the Zhentarim influences to gain a foothold in Baldur’s Gate. They seek to ultimately conquer the city, yet only the Lords’ Alliance stands in their way. Sildar, previously stationed in Baldur’s Gate, was seen as the largest threat to their plot.
The impatient Kh’ana headed upstairs and peeked into the bedroom just as the seductress withdrew the stuck rapier and promptly flung it through his throat. As he gurgled on the floor, vibrant fresh blood blurred the gap between his crimson silk bachelor’s shirt and ruddy alcoholic complexion. Both women understood that after such a killing, there were only moments left before all hell broke loose. Kh’ana slunk down the hallway, while Shahnameh followed, just as the minstrel appeared at the top of the stairs, halting her in her tracks. They stood mere feet away, he clutching his lute and gasping, she holding her bayonetted heavy crossbow in bloodied hands. After an extended harrowing pause, the crossbow broke the silence with a crack, flinging a bold into his stomach and propelling the bard down the stairwell. Thudding ended with the “twang!” of a shattered lute, as his body landed at the food of the previously riotous men and wenches. Shahnameh sprinted into the noble’s study, flung open his desk drawers and skimmed through files. She soon found the word Zhentarim printed on parchment, pocketed it and followed Kh’ana’s supposed path upstairs. Kh’ana, however, had taken the time to collect a carved dragon painting and lockbox, opened the window and climbed up the piping to the next window. There she observed an armored guard stationed in large room, just as the half-elf assassin burst through the double doors behind him. He began to turn towards her, but noticed Kh’ana’s entrance through the window. Shahnameh scaled the wall, crossed her legs around a rafter, loaded her crossbow, and launched a bolt into his spine. He collapsed immediately, stunned, as Kh’ana thrust her dagger into his shoulder. He reached for his sword, but she sliced into his collar bone with a second flourish. As his breathing flickered and stuttered, Shahnameh launched her rope over the side of the opened window. She called the pickpocketing Kh’ana over just as guards burst down the door, and both assassins scaled down the stone masonry wall., hall
Shahnameh raced across the rooftops as Kh’ana sprinted below, towards the east gate. She noticed it partially open, blocked by a hay cart drawn by a single horse. A short portly man was scraping with a tool against the wall, his back to her as she climbed into the hay. Shahnah dropped into the hay cart with such a force to startle the horse and send it charging. Kh’ana took the reigns as the poor portly man called after them.
Days past along the High Road, yet the women avoided large towns or cities, settling on small farms to steal basic necessities from. They briefly spent a half-day in Waterdeep trading supplies before heading further north. Over a week later, they began to approach Neverwinter. Instead, they decided to steer north-east up the Triboar Trail. Their horse, bred for short distances, collapsed from exhaustion. Kh’ana headed off to the nearest farm to steal a horse while Shahnameh fed the injured horse and attempted to revive it. She was able to get it shakily to its feet, however it was in no shape to travel. Just as Kh’ana came back leading a muscular mount, the half-elf set the weak horse to rest in the farmer’s barn. They were off again, heading further up the Triboar Trail.
On a drizzling evening, the cloaked women arrived in Phandalin. They entered the Stonehill Inn and took up space at the bar. After a few drinks, Kh’ana loosely offered to sell her painting to the owner’s wife, Trilena. She said she could not afford such a work but mentioned a well off ex-adventurer who lives nearby, and said Elsa knows him. Before Shahnameh could inquire any further, Kh’ana lurched forwards to drunkenly pickpocket Trilena, instead roughly tugging at her blouse. A ruckus insued, causing Toblen Stonehill to enter as his wife fled in tears. He firmly stated that they wouldn’t tolerate any more , and if they were Redbrands they should leave immediately. Shahnameh hushed her ally-by-circumstance and explained they did not mean to cause trouble, soothing Toblen’s nerves somewhat. He called Elsa over to help Kh’ana upstairs to her room while explaining that this town was peaceful before the Redbrands moved in, and now they live in fear. Thel Drendar, a local woodcarver, stood up to the Redbrands a ten-day ago when they came by his shop and leered at his wife. The ruffians murdered him. Several townsfolk saw it happen. The Redbrands grabbed his body, and now his wife, daughter, and sone have gone missing too.
A few moments later, Shahnameh noticed Elsa speaking to a handsome, clean-cut dwarf in the corner. She sauntered over to him, driving the barmaid away. After flirting with him, she headed upstairs to her room to deal with her vomiting roommate.
In the morning, Shahnameh and Kh’ana headed downstairs for breakfast. She the bartender away from a black-garmented moon elf to request a hangover cure for the wood elf. Moments later Toblen returned with a beverage consisting of egg yolks, juice and spices. As Kh’ana sobered up, Shahnameh overheard the moon elf speaking to her crowd about Sildar Hallwinter. She confronted them about him, receiving a cursory and unsatisfactory answer. As the small band consisting of the moon elf, a halfling, sun elf and the clean-cut dwarf left, the two women followed close behind.
They were lead to the ruins of an estate, where the halfling had halted and was speaking to the others. Shahnameh took the initiative to warn the halfling about Sildar, which became misinterpreted as a threat. Simultaneously, Kh’ana attempted to swipe the moon elf’s bracelet, but she took notice and fired a ball of flame inches into a briar patch behind her. She then blasted her back with a blast of thunderous sound, into the flaming bush, where she lay incapacitated. The sun elf headed over to loot her body, prompting Shahnameh to aim her crossbow at his back. The halfling threw rope netting, restraining her. The moon elf lit her hands aflame, and threatened to kill her if she did not drop her giant crossbow. She protested that the sun elf was in the wrong, but it was no use and she complied. The three left her as she lay prone in the net and headed off towards to the ruined estate. Shahnameh cut herself from the net as the dwarf stayed behind to tend to Kh’ana. The three were left behind.