The survivors, Lester and Genive, find a wall and slide to the floor. White Jade’s story echoes in their bewildered, exhausted minds. They reflect on it, making sense of the rush of information.
This story had many pieces in play… The Gnomes, legitimately buying up more and more of Khör’s minerals and processed metals, leaving less to sell to Corinthia. There were the rumours of an alliance between Fire Giants and Dwarves, spread wide through Corinthia and even believed by the Lord of War, Sir Vendec. And of course there was the right combination of military might and the lust for power within the Decade of Lords, in Meridian.
Sir Ashburne, Lord of Commerce, was the puppet-master. The vast flow of war profit from Corinthia’s many entanglements along its borders was dwindling, as the supply of metals for instruments of war went instead to the Gnomes. Fearing for his kingdom’s wealth and his cut thereof, the Lord of Commerce set in motion a plan – a scheme to open a profitable new war front and secure Corinthia’s resource needs for at least another century.
All that was needed was a false flag attack against Corinthia, allegedly by Khör.
A series of letters bearing falsified seals were sent forth. Here, Genive realizes what she had seen from the papers taken from the base commander’s office on the 4th Underground level. The Heroes, having met Sir Vendec, were peripherally aware that the Lord of War was left-handed and wore his signet ring on that hand. Those seals made by Vendec on mundane correspondence, such as the promotion of a Moonwatch officer months ago, bore the indication of a left-hand twist when the wax seal was pressed.
All of the recent, relevant orders from the Lord of War, such as the seals on the order to establish an Exclusion Zone, the orders sending the bulk of Moonwatch’s garrison north (to be ambushed and slain by Four Nations barbarians en route to Skywatch Tower), and even the Heroes’ contract for this mission, bear a right-hand twist.
Genive had looked at it but not seen it. And she realizes that the company clerk Sergeant Dell of Ridgeway, who has seen official seals thousands of times in his work, noticed something odd when they showed him their contract. The Spymaster knows instantly that there had been less obvious indications that the Lord of Diplomacy’s seal on the message requesting the aid of Khör Dwarves, was also a fake.
The Lord of Commerce orchestrated almost everything. He arranged for mercenaries to contact a war band of Four Nations barbarians; bribe them for an undertaking with Corinthian military-cut gems; and escort them safely into an ambush spot in northeastern Corinthia. Then Ashburne delivered an unwitting and outnumbered company of traveling Moonwatch soldiers to be slaughtered. On their company Commander was a key to Moonwatch.
Dwarf mercenaries living outside of Khör, and Hill Giants, were hired to stake out the perimeter of Moonwatch and intercept scouts. These mercs were also the ones who contacted the Duergar forces for their well-paid support.
The Barbarians and Duergar, bribed together as allies, took over the fortress. During the capture, the signal beacons went dark. The Lord of War was convinced that there had been an incursion, his mind fixed on the rumours of Dwarves and Fire Giants in league. Through him the Lord of Commerce engineered the deployment of three Divisions of soldiers to destroy Moonwatch if a special team of operatives, the Party, could not take back the base.
White Jade wondered aloud if the Heroes know how many soldiers are in a standard Corinthian Division (Genive knew; Jaques and Lester did not). And then, further to that question, the Monk assassin asked why the Heroes might think it necessary to employ 45,000 soldiers to destroy one fortress, when a few hundred Barbarians and Duergar had captured it with ease.
Lester understands. He had figured it out a couple days ago and not known for sure, but now it all fell into place. Casus Belli. Case for war. The Four Nations barbarians, taking Moonwatch, had abandoned their inferior weapons and armor and shields for those of the Corinthian Military in the armories – for all intents and purposes, their corpses would appear to be Moonwatch soldiers, not so different from those genuine soldiers that had died defending the base.
The Duergar, cousins to normal Dwarfs, would be regarded as Dwarfs nonetheless. Lester himself had been mistaken for a Dwarf countless times in the journey here from Meridian. For certain when the attacking army of Corinthian soldiers sunders and searches Moonwatch fortress, they will find dead human Moonwatch soldiers (genuine and Barbarian), and they will find a lot of Dwarfs (genuine and Duergar).
The Heroes’ role, of course, had been to meet with, win the trust of, and escort actual Khör Dwarf soldiers into Moonwatch. And unwittingly assist the Khör Dwarfs in penetrating every room and corridor and level of the fortress, thereby leaving as much genuine physical evidence of Khör’s supposed invasion of eastern Corinthia and Moonwatch as possible.
Beyond this, the Heroes were not meant to succeed in preventing the Corinthian military from attacking. White Jade suspects the Heroes already discovered that the scrolls of True Resurrection given them by the Lord of Commerce were fakes. As are the Scrolls of Everburning Torch that the Heroes might have tried to use to re-light the signal beacons. Even the government-issue Potions were mislabeled; each of the Cure potions was actually of a lesser grade or different potion entirely. In fact, the Potions of Cure Light Wounds were all, in fact, Potions of Aid. The Silver Raven messenger token, given to the Party as a means to communicate their findings, is only a carved replica.
White Jade admits that he had a real Silver Raven messenger token. When he heard the commotion coming from the Barbarians’ leadership council when the Heroes attacked, he used it to send a message to the Lord of Commerce. This message suggested that now was the time for the military might amassing just out of sight of Moonwatch Tower to begin its march against the fortress. Within the hour it is likely that the forward forces of this army will be fully mobilized, and the bulk of the forces close behind by mid-day.
As this army approaches, White Jade mentioned a “special assistant” that will clean up any loose ends (which Lester and Genive will come to understand means “Clayton” the Clay Golem, constructed to look like a Khör-made heavy unit) and make sure the fortress is full of dead Dwarfs, Duergar, and soldier-like Barbarians when the Corinthian army arrives. White Jade himself was tasked with dealing with the Heroes as he sees fit.
Then the stage is truly set. Based on the soldiers’ findings on-scene and reports to the Lord of War when they re-take the fortress, the evidence inside Moonwatch will implicate Khör in an apparent invasion attempt against Corinthia.
With three Divisions of soldiers provoked and enraged by confirmation of the rumours and the discoveries both outside Moonwatch (“Fire Giants” and Dwarfs) and inside, this army will immediately thrust into unsuspecting Khör, exacting revenge for the Dwarves’ invasion, and annexing their unsuspecting former-allies.
As the Lord of Commerce intends, Khör’s invaluable mineral wealth and related resources will then fall under the control of Corinthia.