Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger

Book 2
Chapter 1- Flight from Deepingdale(1359DR, 24-26th Flamerule)

View Map of Deepdale

And so our flight from Highmoon and the Dalelands began. We travelled as quickly as our injuries allowed through the light woodland; the burning remains of Rhauntides's tower behind us, the Thunderpeaks somewhere ahead of us and the Vulture Fiends searching for us. Several times that night we heard their baleful cries, sometimes no more then 500 yards behind us.

Amber led the way. It was a clear night with a full moon. Trees were scarce and we spent a lot of the time travelling across open farmland. We all felt exposed and vulnerable and tension rose in the group. Before long our journey met up with the Wineflow and we spent the rest of that night never too far from its bank. Across on the other side we could see a road that we knew could take us to Thunder-gap. As we debated the whether we should try to cross, sacrificing what little cover we had for the speed of travel by road, we heard the call of horns from behind us, a call that was returned from far and wide. Unable to ford the river at our current location we carried along on our original path. It was not long before we heard the sound of horses being ridden hard along the road. Luckily we were in a small copse of trees that, along with the darkness and distance we were from the road hid us from the riders' view.

They stopped at a building, a farmhouse we discovered, and summoned the farmer. Eager to learn what the purpose of their moonlight ride was I took the form of an owl and flew across the river to the farm. Unfortunately the riders had already imparted whatever message they carried to the farmer and were now galloping of up the road when I arrived. One of the farmhouse windows wasn't shuttered properly and peeping in I saw the farmer rummaging through a closet and bringing out a shortsword. For me this confirmed what I had dreaded since I had first heard the horns. The fiend, in her guise as Herald of Highmoon, had mobilised the kingdom's men-at-arms in a hunt for us, no doubt claiming we were murderers, spies or both. It would not be safe to travel the roads.

Amber and Colatto were not convinced when I returned and explained what I had seen and what I believed it ment, suggesting that the soldiers could simply be warning locals that there were fiends about. Somehow, I felt, it would take more then a shortsword to make me feel secure if I were a farmer and the Tanar'ri were abroad.

We carried on. Over time our route and the road diverged, Amber was unable to find a safe fording point across the river. We began to notice a light ahead that soon resolved itself into another farmhouse, this one on our side of the river. Bazil went ahead to look and we had to wait for long minutes before he returned. There had been a pair of riders at the farm when he had got there and Bazil had arrived in time to hear one of them warn the farmer about eight fugitives who had murdered Azagartha and burnt down Rhauntides' tower. Once the riders had left Bazil, reasoning that they had been part of the original group we had seen and that there must be a way to cross the river, had looked in vein for a fording point or bridge before returning.

We pushed on for a few more minutes until we found a stretch of the river where the banks were high enough to hide us from view if we camped at the water's edge. Bazil and Primrose fell asleep almost at once. Baldric and Faergil could barely move due to their injuries and I called upon the divine power of Silvanus to place them into a deep, soothing sleep. Colatto and Amber volunteered to take watch, Colatto rightly suggesting we should be travelling again before dawn when the farmers would be up. After checking over our horses, two of which were riderless with the deaths of poor Azagartha and Moneetha, I quickly did what I could to treat our two, valiant sentries' wounds and then placed myself into a deep sleep.

When I awoke an hour later, a few hours before dawn, the two halflings were still asleep, Baldric was in prayer to The Lady, faergil was studying his spellbook, and our two watchmen looked grey from lack of sleep. I snatched the time to give a few quick prayers to Silvanus, though I would have needed more time to renew the divine link that all clerics share with their deity. Amber had found some berries and called upon the power of Winstrum to charge them with enough nourishment that they would sustain a man for a whole day. I was impressed by how Amber's power had developed and reminded that I had a few magical "Goodberries" of my own, three of which I gave to Faergil to ease his pain. Having finished his prayers Brother Baldric called upon the power of The Lady to soothe some of our injuries; I covered my wounds with a fresh cloak and claimed I was well enough.

It had been decided that we would force a crossing where we were. The banks on the river were steep and the water deep enough that the horses would have to swim but it was only two of their lengths from bank to bank. Colatto's Fireheart leapt from one side to the other but Amber and I had to manhandle the rest across. I received a kick from Fleetfoot for my toubles, which Amber later treated with surprising and welcome tenderness. How the farmer whose land we were bordering didn't hear the din we made I will never know. Poor Greymane in particular didn't like the experience and I had to apologise to her, and the other horses, at length afterwards.

As the sun rose we finally took to the road and made for the border. Concerned that there could be trouble on the road ahead I took the form of a Kestrel and flew high above and a little way in front to keep an eye out of danger. It was invigorating to be airborne again and have the freedom of the skies. My companions road swiftly and we devoured miles of road. Twice as we passed farms by the road we heard horns ring out from within. Our flight was checked by, of all things, a flock of sheep being taken out to pasture.

As my companions navigated their horses through the flock I scouted out ahead and saw what I feared, a group of twelve riders galloping hard down from a small hamlet ringed by watchtowers, further up the road. I flew back to warn my friends but there seemed little time to form a plan other then to break up the group as they were looking for eight fugitives. Dragging the spare horses behind her Amber galloped off ahead while Baldric and Bazil followed at a slower pace behind and Faergil, Colatto and Primrose followed stayed put. I had doubts about the plan; there simply wasn't the time or space enough to separate ourselves sufficiently to make it look convincing. I decided to keep pace with the militiamen to see what happened as they encountered each group of my friends.

Amber ran into the riders first. Unsurprisingly they stopped and questioned her, Amber's naturally surly manner did little to help her cause and they were still demanding answers when Bazil and Baldric arrived, the three pretending that they didn't know each other. The leader of the patrol, a Gold Elf, ordered that the three would return with them to the hamlet ahead for further questioning. Almost as an after thought he sent two of his men further down the road to see if there was any more travellers. Wheeling back to where the two mages and Primrose had been I was a little surprised to notice that they had got off the road and were now in a field. Swooping low over them I gave a cry of warning. For a moment the field seemed to shimmer and the three and their two horses simply faded from view. As I hovered over the field pretending to look for food, I watched the two riders come up the road. As they reached the sheepherder they called out to him. I was not close enough to hear what they said but he pointed back the way they came and then across into the field where my three companions were concealed. The two patrolmen rode into the field, passing within two horse's lengths of the trio, and then out the other side. When the guards, and the sheepherder, were out of sight Faergil, Colatto and Primrose re-appeared. With his trademark quick wits and risk taking Colatto had torn a page from his spell book (something, I'm told, which could have destroyed much of it) and given it to Faergil to read like a scroll, creating the illusion of an empty field. Colatto himself had readied another illusionary spell to create eight riders in the distance and lure away the patrol, if it had become necessary. Returning to my natural form I quickly outlined what had happened to our companions and the four of us hastily formulated a plan.

Meanwhile Amber, Baldric and Bazil had been taken into the small hamlet, less then half a dozen buildings, of Hallow Creek where the Militia Captain escorted them to the carpenter's house for further questioning. While Amber and Bazil used pseudonyms ("Silas Rabbit-slayer" was Bazil's if memory serves) Baldric, possibly believing that it would be futile to deny that he was a priest of Tymora, gave his real name. This got the elf's attention, as did the contents of Bazil's backpack. I'm told that Bazil did a spirited job of explaining away the fortune in precious stones and gems and even the thief's tools but the halfling-sized uniform of a captain in the Purple Dragons stumped him. The elf suggested that if he were the famous Bazil the Quick of the Company of the Silvercoin he should come clean as only then could he help him. Bazil, Baldric and Amber dropped the charade. The elf, he never gave his name, confirmed that Scoril had named the Company specifically as being responsible for Azagartha's murder, the destruction of Rhauntides' tower and the disappearance of the sage. However he knew the truth about the Herald and wanted to help us so they planned the three fugitive's "escape".

Doubling up on horses Primrose, Colatto, Faergil and myself had circumvented Hallow Creek and it's watchtowers and were on the road out of town. What we didn't know was whether our three companions had made it out of the hamlet by their own devices or were still there. We didn't want to blunder in case we made the situation worse for them. Quickly it was decided that Primrose and Faergil would remain where they were in case the others came looking for us while Colatto rode into the hamlet to scout things out. If asked he would claim to be a mage coming from Cormyr to visit the famous sage Rhauntides, we figured that the patrols were looking for eight riders leaving Deepingdale not one coming in. I went along as his snake familiar. Once in Hallow Creek it was easy to spot our friend's horses hitched up outside the carpenter's house and the two guards standing outside. As we watched the two guards entered the building and were suddenly dragged out of sight. What they had seen when responding to their captain's summons was Baldric holding a knife to the elf's throat. Before they could react Amber and Bazil, who had been hiding either side of the door had pounced. As per their agreement with the elf the pair didn't do any serious damage to the guards. It was simplicity for a woman of Amber's skill and unusual strength to knockout one soldier with a blow to the head. The shorter Bazil sent his target reeling with a blow to the back of the knees before clubbing him with the pummel of his dagger and then quickly closing the door. Intrigued by the guards sudden departure I slithered over to a window for a closer look to see our three companions tying up the two guards and, after a quick discussion with the elf, Amber laying him out with a solid right hook. During this time Colatto had been untying the horses and the pair of us headed out of Hallow Creek. We looped back round again and joined up with all our companions, Faergil and Primrose and Amber, Bazil and Baldric, on the road.

We didn't time for a tearful reunion as, seconds after Colatto and I arrived, we heard horns being blown in Hallow Creek. As Baldric had had the foresight to steal the horn he had found on the elf, it must have been the pair of riders who had gone looking across the fields returning to find their colleges trussed up. We rode onwards. We were now ahead of the Highmoon militia and with superior horses and a friend in their ranks it seemed there was little danger of them catching us. As the day wore on we drew closer to the majestic red peaks of the Thunder Peaks. We could all see the clouds that boiled around the mountaintops, heavy with rain. They would reach us before too long. The presence of the vast mountains caused a premature sunset and we were soon riding in a gathering darkness. We caught glimpses of the famous red sheep of the Thunder Peaks but other then that we saw not another living thing.

We rode through the deepening gloom for hours. The hard riding was aggravating my wounds, so I ate my last two Goodberries. They helped a little. All the while we scanned the pass for signs of a suitable campsite, well aware of the gathering storm, which charged the air about us. We found none. As we reached an area where the pass was narrower we came across the aftermath of a battle. We slowed, wary of an ambush. The dead consisted of humans and a few Bugbears, hulking creatures at least my height but far more muscular. I had encountered their kind once before, shortly before The Time of Troubles. The entire dead, human and Bugbear alike, had been stripped of possessions. At Baldric's suggestion Amber dismounted and carefully walked amongst the dead, seeing if she could read what had happened in the ground. Even under these conditions she was able to tell that a wagon travelling from the Dalelands to Cormyr had been ambushed by the Bugbears. The humans had leapt from the wagon to defend it and the wagon itself had left at high speed either during or after the battle, neither option painted a pretty picture of the wagon owner's loyalty. As Colatto scouted ahead for shelter, with no luck, the rest of us built a carne for the fallen. Just as we had finished, and Colatto had returned, the storm hit in all it's primordial fury. I may have mentioned that I'm rather fond of storms, of thunder and lightning but you can have too much of a good thing. The wind was icy and threw hard-hitting rain with blistering force against exposed skin. Even through travelling cloaks it hurt. The howl of the wind drowned out everything but the sound of thunder and the explosive impact of lightning on the sides of the mountain, throwing hot chunks of rock into the air to rain down on us. Not only couldn't we hear but also we couldn't see more then six feet through the driving rain.

Since it was slightly less suicidal to press on then stay where we were we fought our way deeper into the pass, foot by torturous foot. We had to fight the horses every step of the way. By shouting directly into each other's ears the suggestion went round the group that we should try to find the Bugbears' lair and shelter there till the storm passed. Instead we found the next best thing, the wagon. It was firmly pegged down in the lea of a large rock. The one remaining horse hobbled and blinkered and a dim, flickering light was visible through the canvas. I think Colatto might have tried to hail the wagon but it was futile in the storm. Judging that there could be no more then two or three Bugbears in a wagon that size and suspecting that the occupants were probably humans who had survived the ambush anyway, I went forward to make contact. For my pains I got shot at with a crossbow from someone inside, luckily for me it missed. I shout back that we were no threat and we simply needed shelter. A man's voice told me in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome so I was forced to try to open up the back myself. Realising that this would leave me vulnerable to attacks by whoever was in the wagon, I reached into a pouch and found the leaf that I had taken from an oak the night before. By crushing the leaf I invoked the divine power I had placed in the tree creating a connection that would temporarily divert all damage I took to from me to it.

After a short tussle I got the flap open and was not surprised to find myself looking at the business end of a crossbow. The man of middling years who held it was unmoved by my request for aid until I offered to pay him for his help and then he relented. The man, I soon learnt that he was a Sembian merchant called Ernest, was not alone. There was also a young woman, his daughter Carmilla, and a badly injured man called Hendry, the last of Ernest's guards. We climbed in, grateful to be out of the rain and cold. Amber came in last after seeing to the horses. I am often taken off guard by people's reaction to my appearance and this time was no exception. Seeing me in the candlelight, with my hood thrown back Ernest went straight for his crossbow again before we managed to calm him down. Baldric was able to manoeuvre his way across the cramped caravan to where Hendry lay. Inspecting his wounds Baldric gave a grave prognosis. While I had all but exhausted all of my divine providence from Silvanus I still had my knowledge of what is called by some "Herbal Magic" to fall back on and the lush Dalelands had provided me with a supply of rare herbs. Mixing some specially prepared mirenna berries with water in a cup I passed it to Baldric who made the guard drink it. The power of the berries went to work at once and the man began to heal before our eyes, he was weak but he would live.

We passed the time with sporadic conversation. When Ernest discovered we were "adventurers" he offered us two hundred lions to escort his wagon through the mountains. Amber and Colatto, exhausted by two hard days without rest finally fell asleep and Faergil tried to read his spell book. After about an hour the thunder and lightning had stopped and the rain eased a little so I decided to slip outside to check on the horses. Baldric came with me, mostly to stretch his legs I think. My half-dragon eyes allowed me to see well in the dark and as I looked over our trusty mounts I began to notice movement in the pass, seven or eight hulking figures as tall as myself but far broader. The Bugbears had returned...

Chapter 2...

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Volo's guide to the Dalelands: information on Deepdale and Highmoon in particular
Elminsters Ecologies; information on the denizens of the Thunder peaks as well as startling information on lightning strikes (which I chose to ignore)
Plus the Forgotten Realms box sets (both past and present)

I figured early on that Scoril (the persona assumed by the Succubus) would use her position to send out a conventional search for the party, as well as the Vrocks. This complicated matters for the group and one of the discussions was how to handle a group of Deepingdale militia, should they be found. I recall that the party was split over whether they would kill any of these 'innocents'.
The other problem was one of resources. Pretty much all the spellcasters had cast most of their spells and HPs were very low for most people, a couple in single figures. They couldn't afford to stop to learn spells or rest.
The elven militia who arrested Baldric, Bazil and Amber was obviously working for someone else. I think most suspected the Harpers, but there was no evidence of this, and infact Bazil was convinced the elf was working for King Azoun of Cormyr, because of the manner he spoke to Bazil after finding out he was a Captain in the Purple Dragons.
They made very good time across Deepingdale, helped by the fact that the characters have excellent horses, which they pushed hard, and they soon made it to Thunder Gap.
The storm that brewed up probably happened a little too quickly - I did take some liberties with that, but hey this is fantasy!
They were having a hard time travelling once the storm hit and were elated when they encountered the wagon, though it was a very tight squeeze with everyone one in it...
Ernest the merchant was desperate for add after his guards had been killed to one (Hendry) which justifies the high price he was prepared to offer for their help. I didn't want him slowing them down too much though. They were being hunted and it wasn't just going to disappear because they passed through the Thunder Peaks.
The last encounter - the bugbears is obviously a led onto next week, though I didn't apply the bonuses that the monsters get to surprise. In fact I didn't even roll (I rarely do). I wanted them to be aware of the danger as the game ended.

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