Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger

Book 1
Chapter 6 - The Red Wizard of Thay (1359DR, 20th-21st Flamerule)

Colatto reached the top of the tower almost before we had begun the ascent. Shifting back to his human form he went in from the walkway from which the mage had launched his initial attack, into the tower itself. A stone column in the centre of the tower supported a set of stairs leading down... Finding himself in an old study he arrived in time to spot a red-haired man casting a spell, presumably another symbol of power, onto the trap door that led up from the lower levels. An well-aimed dagger both disrupted the casting and drew the mage's attention to Colatto's presence.

By then Bazil had scaled the tower walls; invisible, and with his Derro crossbow readied, he stole in after Colatto. The enraged mage dropped the illusions which hide his true form, that of one of the infamous Red Wizards of Thay, and turned on Colatto. Instead of attacking, the mage calmly stood his ground as Colatto moved in, 'Sarth' in one hand and a dagger in another. Colatto felt movements in the air around him and quickly decided to slash at them with his knife, making solid contact with an unseen presence. It was now that the mage made his move, using his magic in an attempt to overwhelm his enemy's will, so he would let him leave. Colatto was made of sterner stuff then the wizard suspected and was able to throw off the suggestion without difficulty.

Below, Moneetha, Primrose and myself had reached the top of the stairs, unfortunately the staircase did not run the length of the tower and we had to look for another one to continue our ascent. The interior of the tower was unlit but I called upon Silvanus to dispel the darkness with a miracle of light. What was revealed was a straight corridor leading into darkness, lined with decaying tapestries. Upstairs Bazil reached Colatto and the mage in time to see the latter's unseen bodyguards, a group of animated skeletons - revealed as they attacked on our companion with antique shortswords. Quickly Bazil snapped of two shots from his crossbow, both bolts struck the mage, both were tipped with drow sleeping poison but the Red Wizard was able to fight off their effects. Colatto surged through the skeletons to reach their master only to have Sarth deflected off a magical aura that protected the mage. Now Colatto found he was set upon from all sides and was hard pressed to defend himself.

By this time Primrose and Moneetha had surged ahead to find a new staircase. They had barely gone thirty feet when the tapestries were thrown aside by another group of skeletons waiting in what appeared to have once been sleeping quarters. Above, a determined Colatto continued to press the attack on the mage and, despite the skeletons attacking from his flanks and rear, a few slashes with his dagger got through the wizard's defences but Sarth was turned aside again and again. From his elevated position on the stairs leading to the walkway Bazil tried to line up for two more shots but was unwilling to risk hitting Colatto by mistake...

Moneetha called upon the divine powers of Tyr to keep the skeletons at bay but they were blocking up the narrow corridor that was the only route to our friends. Calling for Primrose and Moneetha to take cover in one of the side chambers I called upon Silvanus to give me fire with which to purge the abominations from the face of the Realms. After turning a blind eye to the Baelnorn in The Vale of Lost Voices it was gratifying to watch the skeletons being reduced to ashes. Moneetha, Primrose, Amber, who had now joined up with us, and her faithful onyx-dog 'Dwindar' rushed down the corridor, eager to link up with our missing companions. I followed on a few paces behind and could hear Baldric coming up the stairs after us. In the study the Red-Wizard had taken advantage of the confused melee to cast a pair of spells. The first appeared to have no immediate effect but the second was a swarm of bolts of magical energy which he directed at both Bazil and, the seriously injured, Colatto. A few seconds latter Colatto was brought down by the weight of his injuries, it was down to Bazil to face the wizard alone until the rest of us could get there....

Bazil rose to the occasion and fired off two more drugged bolts only to have them stopped by the enchantment of proof against missiles that the mage had added to the other protective auras about him. Quickly the halfling drew a pair of short-swords and moved to go toe-to-toe with his enemy only to have the mage's skeletal defenders joined by an equal number of battleaxe wielding gnolls! To Bazil's surprise, and no doubt relief, the gnolls attacked not him but the skeletons. Unseen by all Faergil had reconsidered his exit from the field of battle and, employing spells of invisibility and flight had entered the tower from the top. Seeing his friends' struggle, but injured and low on spells, he had employed one of the few he had left to summon the gnolls to fight for him. No longer having to worry about the skeletons Bazil pressed his attack on the mage, the two trading blows with sword and staff. While he made some headway with one of his short-swords his enchanted blade, Kithril, seemed unable to touch the mage. It was then that the copper-piece dropped for Bazil, one of the spells that protected the mage rendered him immune to magical or enchanted weapons!

Down below luck was not on our side as we found that this second staircase didn't go high enough either ending on a landing. The final ascent into the wizard's study where Bazil fought for his own and Colatto's life had once been up a ladder and through a trap door but the ladder had rotted away with time. Putting my height to good use I quickly boosted Amber up to the trap door. As she flipped it open Amber laid eyes on the unconscious form of Colatto, she quickly manhandled him through the hole and down to Baldric who was able to heal his life-threatening wounds. Eager to get as many of us as possible, as quickly as possible through the small trap door I called up to Amber to dismiss Dwindar so Moneetha could pass the onyx figurine which was his link to this plane up to her. Meanwhile I called upon the powers of Silvanus one more time to shed my half-dragon form and become a small, climbing lizard.

Battling for his life, Bazil quickly re-sheathed Kithril and produced a dagger but it was too late and the wizard brought him down with another swarm of magical darts. At the sight of her dear friend being struck down Amber saw red. Forgetting about Dwindar she hurled herself at the mage. If the Red Wizard though he would be protected by his layers of warding spells he was in for a shock as it was then that Faergil unleashed another of his rapidly diminishing spells and dispelled both the Wizards Ghostly Armour and his protection from Magical Weaponry!

Two mighty blows from Amber brought the wizard crashing down to his knees but he was not out of tricks yet and, with a short invocation, teleported away. By now Both myself and the nimble Primrose had made it into the room and, quickly returning to my true form I was able to revive Bazil with a miracle of healing. As Baldric and Moneetha helped the injured Colatto and themselves up into the study the rest of us surveyed the scene of the battle. Three tomes had been removed from one of the bookshelves and lay open beside a reading table that had been knocked over during the fight. We suspected that these had been the mage's objective but could not read them because they were in Thorass - old-common, a language none of us were familiar with. Faergil told us that he had detected magical energies from behind a door and was concerned that the mage had not teleported far. As he went to open the door I realised that I had left my staff behind when I had changed form. The only weapons that were left to me were my own taloned hands and the idea of rending flesh and bone with them was something I didn't find appealing. Luckily Amber produced an oaken club from her belt and offered it to me.

Behind the door was not a vengeful wizard but a small cupboard. The magical aura Faergil had detected came from a rotting leather satchel containing a number of potions. Despite two of our number being seriously injured we felt it would not be wise to stay in the tower overnight and headed back to the orc camp. On our way back Baldric investigated the sleeping chambers from which the skeletons had emerged and found evidence that the original inhabitants had been murdered in their sleep, like the castle another bloody reminder of man's history in the Lost-Dale...

Back at the camp it was decided that we would head east, pressing on for the few miles to the edge of Cormantor before making camp for the night. I decided that I would leave a Harper mark on the old cottage in which the wizard's tent was pitched to warn of the danger it posed only to discover that the tent gone. Reading the tracks about it Amber and Colatto agreed that the wizard had appeared nearby, taken down his tent and teleported away again. Secretly I wasn't displeased with the way things had turned out, none of us were dead and the wizard seemed to have been thwarted in doing whatever he had come to do. Despite his necromantic tendencies I had harboured no burning desire to kill the man unless it had been absolutely nessary.

It was nightful by the time we reached the eves of the great forest and Amber quickly found us an excellent campsite. Amber and myself took watch that night, unusually I had avoided any serious injury that day and, while she was badly hurt Amber was stubborn enough not to be dissuaded from taking a watch. I found it refreshing to body and soul to be surrounded by a world unsullied by the hand of man again, and the new day found me in good humour. Under the warmth of a summer sun, the morning was spent in study and prayer. As noon approached Colatto cast a spell which allowed him to translate the books we had taken from the tower. They had been written by one "Vangta the Bold", who described himself as the advisor and court mage to "The Dusk Lord", the Ruler of Sessrendale. They were notes and strategies for summoning and making deals with creatures from the lower planes, something we knew the drow were interested in. Colatto burnt the books to stop them from falling into the wrong hands but when I heard this I could not help but be concerned; surely the drow and the Red Wizards knew all about such practices already so why had they been interested in the books? Could there have been something else in them we hadn't discovered something we might need to know in the future? Bazil and Faergil bent their minds, and taste buds, to the task of identifying the potions from the tower. A little after noon, once Baldric and myself had done what we could for our companions' injuries, we set off through the forest. The trees were far enough apart for us to ride for the time being and close enough together to shade us from the summer sun. By Colatto's calculation it would, baring any unforeseen problems, take us a day and a half to reach the source of the Deeping Stream and our long delayed meeting with Azagartha Nimune....

Chapter 7

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Volos Guide to the Dalelands: Information on Sessrendale
Forgotten Realms box sets (both past and present): General information on the Dalelands.
Dreams of the Red Wizards: Information on the Wizards of Thay, as well as some nifty spells...

The fight with the Red Wizard proved difficult to run. Roy was very efficient at making the mage's life as difficult as possible, and mages never fair well in melee. Fortunately for the Wizard he had more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
The skeletons the other characters met were just normal undead. Even at their level you don't need spectres and vampires to create an interesting encounter. Anyway, they served the purpose of slowing down the cavalry and putting the pressure on Collato and Bazil.
Faergil turned up just in time with a Monster Summoning. The others had a trapdoor with no ladder to contend with. I knew that once every else got involved the fight would be over. The Wizard didn't hang around to get minced...
The characters were lucky to get out of the Tower and Keep before darkness fell. Both places were haunted and would have made for an ugly (and aging) encounter.

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