Chapter 8- The Ballad of Arriane (1359DR, 23rd-24th Flamerule)
In the form of a wolf I kept a vigil over my companions, the village and
the lake, attentive for any sound or scent which might indicate that the
drows' search for Azagartha might have got a step nearer to its goal.
Thankfully I found nothing and was left alone with only my thoughts for
company. From the small camp-fire which burnt outside the mage's cottage
all night I could see that my companions had mounted a watch of their
own; for them it was a night for talking. My keen wolf ears could make
out hear the sound of Colatto and Alias's voices carrying long over the
lake, though I what they said I couldn't tell.
I allowed myself the indulgence of watching a beautiful sunrise over
the lake before starting to cook breakfast. I invited Azagartha to join
us and, seeing her cabin in the light of the sun for the first time, noticed
the Harper symbol for "haven" carved on its doorframe. Primrose completed
the cooking while I slept a short, dreamless, sleep and then began prayers
to Silvanus. My companions spent the day in restful pursuits, Faergil,
Colatto and Azagartha swapped spells, Basil and Primrose took a long stroll
around the pond with a picnic, and Amber hunted for most of the morning.
Once I had finished my devotions it was almost noon. The lake looked tempting
in the summer sun but Azagartha had asked us not to disturb the villagers
and I saw several of them either at the water's edge or crossing it in
delicate elven boats. Instead I tinkered with some of the rarer herbs
I had found on our journey, with rather disappointing results.
By the time I had finished Amber, having taken Faergil's advice was
returning from a bath in the lake looking refreshed and a little more
like her old self. I took the opportunity to talk to her. We spoke about
our past and our future; she made it clear that she believed that we belonged
to two different worlds now. I was able to share with her my fears about
the Darkwatch and tried to get her to share the dream she had had in the
Vale of Lost Voices; stubbornly she said it was not worth remembering.
Her lack of trust hurt. I also asked her if she could speak with the increasingly
morose Moneetha since my attempts had been fruitless. Towards dusk Alias
and Dragonbait returned from patrolling the forest. The bodies of the
spiders still lay where they fell and there was no sign of the drow that
had been with them. Faergil told us of the almost divine healing and restorative
powers the lake's waters had for those of elven heritage.Over our evening
meal we discussed what our next move would be. Azagartha would take us
to see the sage Rhauntides, a journey that would take a day, but could
not risk entering Highmoon. We speculated about how to deal with the disguised
Red Wizard and the Herald who held Lord Ulath's ear, the only conclusion
we came to was that we had no real idea. Dragonbait offered the hand of
friendship to Amber, who had made no effort to hide her distrust of him,
by healing some of her injuries with a touch.
That night passed very much like the last. The sound of Alias's and Colatto's
voices raised the ghost of sweet-memories but I had to harden myself,
that chapter of my life was closed to me now whatever I may have wanted.
In the morning Amber told me that she had spoken to Moneetha but only
time would tell if she had got through to her. The next day was one of
high-spirited travel through the eves of the forest along a woodland track.
I spent much of the day talking to Azagartha about life within Deepingdale,
quite understandably the closer we got to Highmoon the more nervous she
became. Alias and Dragonbait came along too. The sun had set and a glorious
full moon risen above the trees before we reached the abode of Rhauntides.
There were a few outbuildings but our attention was drawn to the sage's
tower. It must have been sixty feet tall though somehow it gave the impression
of being squat. It had six sides and the stone work was covered in carvings
of the moon and stars. Apart from several small windows the only entrance
was a featureless black slab which Azagartha told us was a door. The tower
stood on the top of an escarpment. A steep but passable path ran down
the slope to the waters of The Wineflow across from which was the town
of Highmoon itself. After a wait and a few knocks upon a door that seemed
as solid as a mountain we came to the conclusion that the sage was not
Colatto, Moneetha, Bazil and Primrose set off for the town to see if
the sage was there, Colatto disguised by his cloak and Bazil invisible
in case they were spotted by the Red Wizard. Baldric placed an enchantment
on Basil that would alert him if the halfling found himself in danger.
I took the opportunity to head into the forest and, by the silver light
of the full moon I harvested some sacred sprigs of mistletoe. I also took
the opportunity to plan for the dangers that lay ahead by placing an enchantment
on the largest oak-tree I could find, an enchantment that would lay dormant
until I needed it. The forest was cool and comforting and I longed to
stay. I returned to the tower, perhaps an hour after I left, to see a
very unusual sight. Four small balls of light were dancing around the
clearing to the commands of Bazil who was waving his arms around with
all the pomp and gravity of Waterdeep's greatest conductor of music. Amber
clearly found it all very amusing and seemed to be releasing every laugh
she had suppressed for the last few rides. The event s leading up this
spectacle were as follows; as Basil had been crossing the Wineflow he
had suddenly been shot ten feet into the air and then fell back to earth
with a splash. Rather then be injured by his flight Bazil had been magically
healed of his old injuries and, after some confusion the four had continued
on their mission. They had found Highmoon to be full of refugees from
Sembia and entertainers preparing for the Midsummer festival at the end
of the month, the two inns and the caravan fields were packed out. Highmoon's
citizens were an almost equal split of elves and humans and the design
of the town reflected this, a mix of human practicality and elven beauty.
They had made their way to The Tower of the Rising Moon, the lord's residence,
the only trouble they had enroute was a young pick-pocket who took an
interest in Moneetha's pouches. The tower was alive with flowing water
and plant life but a baleful red light shone from one window and Moneetha
sensed the presence of a strong, evil force. Colatto made small talk with
two of the tower guards, the sage was not in audience with the lord but
tended to spend nights like this soaring through the skies above the town
with his lady, Sharnil Tharn.
The four returned to the tower and imparted this intelligence. When Bazil
described what had happened to him in stream Azagartha explained that
he had received the blessing of "The Laughing Princess". None, not even
Rhauntides, understood why it occurred but every now and then someone
who didn't have magic of their own would receive this gift; their wounds
would be healed and they would be given a spell. Eager to see this magical
gift the group had stood gathered around Bazil who rose admirably to the
occasion with a display of nonsense hand waving, chanting and intense
concentration which resulted in the appearance of the glowing orbs of
light. A few moments after I returned to witness Bazil's moment of glory
Rhauntides and Sharnil Tharm flew down out of the night sky, something
which Bazil instantly took credit for. Rhauntides looked a lot like Khelben
Blackstaff of Waterdeep, tall, dark, and muscular for a mage with a neatly
trimmed beard. An eye-catching belt that seemed to glow with a thousand
stars contained within it highlighted his dark robes. His lady-friend
possessed a beauty which would have been rare even for an elf, she was
tall a graceful human with long black hair. Colatto was immediately captivated
by her charm. Rhauntides had heard of The Company of the Silvercoin and
invited us in. With a gesture and flash of blue light the black door simply
vanished and we entered the tower. The room beyond was part study and
part sitting room. Books lined the walls, there was a staircase heading
up and what could only be stone golems stood in each corner.Azagartha
quickly outlined why we had come and we asked if he could help.
The sage knew much about the Darkwatch and everything I heard made me
more and more concerned. The lands now called the Darkwatch were settled
by the Tsornyl clan of Moon-Elves 84 years before the placing of the Standing
Stone and the start of Dalereckoning. In 75 DR the land had come under
attack by the Rot God Moander, It's forces had slipped past the Moonshadows,
who had come to live in the area, and attacked the Tsornyl with terrible,
corrupting magics. By the time the other elves arrived to help, the land
had been corrupted almost beyond recognition and those elves unfortunate
enough to have survived Moander's initial attack had been likewise transformed,
becoming shambling-mounds, sundews and other twisted mockeries of nature.
The elves were able to call upon their ancient High Magic and seal the
corruption into a black rift torn into the living earth, though the effort
cost the lives of many. That rift is what is had become known as the Darkwatch.
Over the ages it's power had grown, it's corruption spread little by little,
animals which died near-by would rise from the ground as undead, sylvan
creatures who spent too long within it's boarders quickly became corrupt
of body and soul. The Darkwatch also played tricks on those who looked
for it so that only a few had ever found it.
Rhauntides expanded on what Azagartha had told us about The Shrinshee.
During her eventful life, and un-life as a Baelnorn, she had been entrusted
with guardianship of "The Vault of Ages" which was said to contain all
the wisdom and knowledge of world. No one now knew where it could be found
but perhaps the planar-gate which we had been told of was it's entrance
and, Rhauntides speculated, perhaps the Tsornyl had settled where they
had to be close to it. When it came to Arriane Maerdrym and the Blades
of Demron, the sage's knowledge failed him, he knew the legend of course
but nothing beyond that. Enlightenment came from the one place I would
never have guessed. As if in a trance Alias stood and sung a haunting
ballad about Arriane and her search for a love she could never find. Her
singing voice was like nothing I had ever heard from human or elf and
it's beauty, and the melancholy of her song brought tears to my eyes.
When asked who taught her the song Alias only replied, after subtle glances
at Dragonbait and Colatto, that her father had...
Rhauntides recognised a place mentioned in the ballad, Rucien-Xan, as
being many leagues away across the Sea of Fallen Stars and beyond the
Vilhon Reach. With the way ahead seeming a little clearer we turned our
attention to things closer to hand, Highmoon. With guidance from Colatto,
Faergil created a magical image of the Red wizard as Colatto had seen
him in the tower. Rhauntides confirmed that it was indeed Garalan. He
encouraged us to find Rucien-Xan and leave The Herald to himself, Sharmil
Tharn and Azagartha. As powerful as the Thayvian wizard was he was but
a mere servant of The Herald who was in fact a Tanar'ri; a demonic fiend
from the lower-planes! Not only that but she was protected by a handful
of other, lesser but still powerful Tanar'ri...
Baldric and Bazil pored over the halfling's maps plotting our route as
least as far of as the Vilhon Reach. Colatto bargained with Rhauntides
for rare spell components whilst the sage simultaneously listened with
keen interest to Amber's description of the elven ruins which lay within
The Vast Swamp, her enthusiasm making up for the lack of any real native
talent as a story teller. This left me alone with my thoughts. Everything
I heard about the Darkwatch seemed to reinforce my fears. The Gem of Seeing
which Elminster had entrusted to me would let me guide my companions there,
that I knew, but what more could I do? A few rides before, when I had
drawn close to the Circle of the Battledale Seven, the corruption of the
land had been so great that Silvanus's voice would not be heard there.
I had been rendered powerless when my companions had needed my support,
would this be the same? I could prepare in advance, create herbal potions
and place dormant enchantments ready to be called forth when I needed
them, as well the primordial power of my dragon heritage. But against
drow, Tanar'ri, Red-wizards and the corruption of Moander it seemed to
be little protection. And there was the Darkwatch itself, I couldn't shake
the feeling that it threatened me on a very personal level. My worries
were not purely of myself. The "Vault of Ages" brought to mind Faergil's
nightmare of being destroyed by magical forces beyond his power to control,
I hoped for his peace of mind he hadn't made the same connection.
I was snapped out of my meditations by a sudden warning from Rhauntides.
With a voice that almost seemed to chill the very air he told us to ready
our weapons and be prepared to either run or fight for our lives - "She
has come". Barely had he said these words when the tower's door disappeared
and in the doorway was the cloaked figure of a woman, at her back a pack
shadowy figures; The Herald had found us!!
I used the following references:
Volos Guide to the Dalelands: Information on Bristar, Eredruie, Highmoon,
and everywhere else they went.
Forgotten Realms box sets (both past and present): Stats for Azagartha
Heroes Lorebook: Stats for Alias and Dragonbait
Azure Bonds (Novel): Roleplaying tips for Alias and Dragonbait, general
Plus other sourcebook that might give too much away if mentioned!
The time in Bristar was a chance to rest and I used it as a opportunity
to award experience points. The game had been going on for 8 weeks by
this time, and I wanted the characters to at least have a chance of gaining
a level, etc
The water from Lake Eredruie heals elves and half-elves as described in
Volos Guide to the Dalelands.
As written, only a few of the characters actually entered Highmoon, the
rest stayed by the Tower, and there was a small encounter in the town
where Bazil noticed a pickpocket heading for the characters.
The Ford. Again, I kept this as is in Volos Guide. As Bazil was the only
non-spellcaster in the group(!) it was only he that could be affected
by its strange property. This was supposed to be a bit of fun, and it
was. Basically he would receive a one-off spell, and it took me ages to
decide which one to give him. I settled on Dancing Lights. Not powerful,
but thats not the point - I didn't want him acidentally fireballing everyone!.
Bazil (Edd) played it well and it was genuinely funny.
I keep close note of the calendar and noticed that Midsummer was
only a few days away so had the town preparing for the festival. There
were a couple of encounters in amongst the travelling entertainers, but
the PCs never went near them.
The encounter with Rhauntides was very important, because it answered
a number of questions and proposed a course of action for the characters.
The Darkwatch is described in Volos Guide (as well as a couple of other,
Again, the Blades of Demron are important to the plot (and yes, they are
real Realms items) so it was necessary to provide some connection here.
The Ballad of Arriane is fundamental to the story. Everything else
revolves around it. Rucien Xan, Dragothil are also mentioned in the books,
but I'm not giving that away just yet.
I think the best part of this game for me was using Alias to sing the
song. I hadn't, surprisingly (looking back), introduced her for this purpose,
but it came to me just before the game, that she would 'know' a number
of songs no longer remembered (especially if this one was written by the
Nameless Bard), so this fitted so well.
So. basically, the Company have to find the Swords of Demron, then travel
to the Darkwatch to stop the Drow finding the Legacy of Shrinshee. Easy!
Then to cap it all, the Tanar'ri turned up...
Return to The Journey...