Chapter 2- Thunder Gap and the return to Arabel (1359DR, 26th-30th Flamerule)
Quickly I got my companion's attention by thumped on the side of the
wagon, shouting a warning that the bugbears had returned, before turning
my attention back to the advancing creatures.
Bazil and Primrose were the first ones out of the caravan; within moments
Bazil had disappeared from sight thanks to his skill and the magic of
his ring. At the same time Baldric cried out the bugbears, warning them
that they would find only death if they came any further. In response
the closest four bugbears threw heavy spears back but they were too far
out to be accurate and clattered harmlessly around the priest. Quickly
Brother Baldric called upon the Lady's blessing. I took the opportunity
to call upon Silavanus's divine favour one more time, a miracle of protection,
but the wind whipped my words away and rain caught in my throat and the
prayer was ruined. By now Faergil was out of the wagon and with him his
bag of stones enchanted to give off light as bright as the sun, illuminating
our adversaries which numbered about a dozen. Not in the right position
to get out as quickly as the others, Amber dropped an onyx figurine out
under the wagon's coverings and within moments it had turned in the war-hound
The bugbears seemed hesitant, perhaps deterred by a mixture of the sudden
light and unexpected bravado by their intended prey. Baldric called at
them again to leave but the two largest of their number barked orders
and it became very clear they were not going to back down when a new volley
of spears flew our way. I was already beginning to change shape by then,
taking on the form of a lion, and a spear grazed my side and a second
struck Dwindar. The rest went wide of their mark, though a few stuck in
the wagon's coverings. Even as the spears flew Baldric was on the offensive,
dashing forward into their midst with the mighty Twin-Death, Primrose
was as close behind him as she could get, ready to protect his back with
her blessed blade. Faergil tried to cast a spell but fell foul of the
weather as I had seconds before. By now I had completed my transformation
and took as second to assess the battle. Baldric had already killed one
of the Bugbears and had moved on to a second, Primrose had also struck
home but had been unable to finish off her bugbear. Faergil was coughing
up water after a second failed attempt to cast a spell and Amber, after
sending Dwindar to guard the horses, was rapidly closing in on the melee.
I had no particular desire to fight, I was still weak from the battle
with the fiends and the act of shape changing no longer had the benefit
of knitting together wounds, so I hung back a few moments. Unfortunately
it was clear that all the bugbears had not been engaged in combat and
a few were attempting to outflank my friends either to catch them in a
pincer movement or to reach the wagon. I leapt on the closest, clawing
at his chest and bringing him to the ground under my weight. I tried to
clamp my jaws around his throat but the bugbear was strong enough to first
hold me back and then tightened his grip on my throat. At the world began
to fade into black I desperately racked at his stomach with my hind legs,
inflicting terrible injuries, but he clung on and I passed out.
I awoke sometime after dawn the next day. I was very weak and could
hardly speak but my life had been saved by Faergil and Colatto's quick
action. I had been the only serious injury of the battle. At least on
our side; the bugbears had all been killed.
The storm had passed, for now, and we set off deeper into the pass.
I spent the day, which became increasingly hot as it went by, resting
in the Ernest's wagon. Colatto had leant me his magical Periapt, which
did a lot to ease my pain. As the day wore on I learnt how the fight had
gone after I had blacked out. Baldric and Primrose had fought on valiantly
in the heart of the melee. They had been greatly aided by a series of
lethal hit-and-run attacks by Bazil. Faergil had taken cover from the
rain under the wagon and cast spells from there. Colatto, who had remained
in the wagon to protect Ernest and the others, had cast a pair of spells
that created a ghostly hand that could leech the life from those who touched
it and that he could direct to fly around the battle. But it was Amber,
with her great strength and skill that had, if not won the battle, certainly
shortened it considerably by cutting down bugbears right and left. Bazil
had found a couple of small gems on the bugbears bodies but more importantly
Baldric had noticed that many of our attackers had worn broaches with
the insignia of Zhental Keep. Whether it was simply common practice to
the Zhents to sponsor bandits on the mayor trade routes into Cormyr or
the bugbears were left over from their forces in the Wolflord War or something
more sinister we couldn't decide.
By that evening I was feeling stronger particularly after Baldric invoked
the healing power of Tymora on my behalf. I used some more of my dwindling
supply of mirenna berries to make another healing draught, this one for
myself. As the sun set the temperature began to drop drastically and as
storm began to descend. We found some shelter where the pass did a sharp
turn, shelter that Faergil improved upon by creating a stone wall by the
power of The Art. As we prepared for the night a sharp cry was heard in
the mountains. For a moment I thought it was one of the vulture fiends
but it seemed less bird-like and more reptilian, a wyvern perhaps. Before
I drifted off to sleep Colatto kindly offered to cast a long lasting spell
of protection on me.
I spent the morning of our third day in the Thunder Gap travelling in
the wagon again. Not as an invalid this time but so I could do my full
devotions to Silvanus for the first time in several days. It felt heartening
to renew my vows to The Oak Father, especially surrounded by the breath-taking
majesty of the crimson Thunder Peaks. Before we left Amber dedicated a
small shrine to Windstrum in Faergil's shelter and he left one of his
magical light stones behind for travellers. By noon I had finished my
devotions and had returned to riding Greymane, the horse had not quite
forgiven me for the incident at the Wineflow. By then the pass had narrowed
considerably on either side of us. Some of our number had begun to spot
movement high above us. After a while we began to make out that we were
being observed by strange bird-men. I found them fascinating to watch.
Brother Baldric explained that they were Aarakocra, reclusive, territorial
but generally peace-loving creatures and indeed they caused us no trouble.
Soon the pass began to widen, first to its usual width and then wider
still. Ahead we could make out the eves of Hullack Forest, where I had
been initiated into the priesthood of Silvanus, and wagons coming up the
track towards us. Not far out of the mountains we stopped for food. Amber
and Colatto went hunting, Colatto returned with a wild sheep but Amber
returned empty handed but looking a pale and drawn. She was clearly troubled
but seemed unwilling to talk about it, which was hardly unusual. After
a hearty lunch we said goodbye to Ernest, Carmilla and Hendry, who under
Baldric's care had made a quick recovery from his injuries. There was
a slight problem with Colatto not wanting to take Ernest's money but we
were soon on our way again.
Now I was back in Cormyr I felt is was my obligation to warn The Druids
of what we had learnt in the Dalelands and perhaps find some aid in our
quest to find the three elven blades. I told my companions that I would
head off for the Druid Circle based in the forest that night. Since Midsummer's
Night was almost upon us I told my companions I would stay at the circle
for a few days and then catch up with them in Arabel. Not long after leaving
the merchant we came upon a patrol of The Purple Dragons. They were initially
a little sceptical about Bazil's claims to being a captain in the Dragons
but once he had shown them his badge, or rather ring, of office they were
convinced. Amber took the opportunity to inform them that she had run
into a bear trapper a little while earlier. She was sketchy about the
details of the encounter, it seemed that she had saved the bear he had
been trying to kill but let the man go, but the Dragons recognised his
description as a notoriously cruel and unlicensed hunter. As the day drew
on we were well within Hullack Forest. When it became too dark to travel
we set up camp at one of the many clearings by the track intended for
that purpose. Wanting to make things a little easier for my friends before
my departure I used a small portion of Silvanus's power to erect the camp
and then saw to my companions, and my own, injuries. After supper I took
my leave and, taking the form of an owl, flew off for the Druid Circle.
The simple act of being an owl, gliding between the trees at night,
at one with nature, is one that there are no words in the many languages
I speak to accurately describe. All to quickly, since it meant my flight
would have to end, I arrived at a small ring of ancient stones standing
in a clearing in the forest with a small selection of worn and weathered
huts a respectful distance away. My first thought was it had not changed
at all since I left, as if Silvanus had suspended the flow time there
the second my back had been turned. Then I noticed something had changed;
there was no one in sight. Carefully I circled the community. There was
nothing amiss except the place seemed deserted. Concern growing inside
me I alighted and returned to my true form for a closer look, there was
no sign of any catastrophe having occurred there but there was not movement,
not even the smoke of camp fires. Yet with Midsummer so near the Circle
should have been a hive of activity. I was able to find an elderly wolf
who, though being more interested in getting back to sleep, informed me
that a couple of days ago someone had arrived at the Circle and the Druids
and Initiates had simply left. I was giving serious consideration to heading
straight for Cormyr's main Druid Circle in the King's Forest when a soft
feminine voice called out to me. The voice belonged to a creature possessing
a delicate, elven beauty that eclipsed any mortal woman. Her skin, barley
covered by a thin green tunic, was lightly tanned and flawless and her
hair the vibrant green of oak leaves in summer, she was a Dryad. She was
leaning against a tree and studying me with a coy smile. I greeted her
as a Daughter of Silvanus and asked if she knew where everyone had gone.
She recognised me despite the change in y appearance. Luckily she was
more informed about human affairs then the wolf; it had been decided that
this Midsummer's Night celebration would include "The Dryad Dance", a
tantric ritual of renewal, and all of the priesthood of Silvanus had travelled
to the King's Forest in preparation. My worries laid to rest I thanked
the Dryad and expressed my hope that we would meet again in two nights
and, taking the form of a bat, returned to my companions.
We departed early the next morning. I was not the only member of our
company who wanted to get somewhere by Midsummer; Baldric wanted to get
to the Temple of The Lady in Arabel before night fall. We pushed the horses
hard and by mid-day, to my sorrow, we had left the forest behind us. Baldric
pushed for us to travel on all that day, his enthusiasm irritating Amber
who was concerned for the horses. During the day we passed over the Immerflow
river, which now had an ornamental bridge depicting the battle between
the Wolf Lord and the Unicorn Queen earlier that year. We rode on beyond
sunset and arrived at Arabel, which had been the site of so many important
happenings in the history of The Company of the Silvercoin, in darkness.
The city was surrounded by a second city, a city of tents; travellers,
merchants and entertainers had come from far and wide for the Midsummer
festival. Enquiring with the guards at the gate we were not surprised
to find that most of the inns were full. We were pointed in the direction
of the rather shady Wild Goose, a haunt of adventurers. Baldric didn't
seem taken with the place and went to see if he could find anything better
while Amber and Colatto went inside to see what the room prices were like.
I took the opportunity to look over our horses, they were tired but unharmed
from the ride. A good day's rest and they would be right as rain.
After some hard bargaining Amber and Colatto booked the attic as well
as stabling and food. As the others went in I volunteered to go find Baldric.
When the pair of us finally arrived in the attic it seemed that Bazil
and a bricked-up door in the chimney were the centre of attention. Intrigued
by a door that led nowhere Bazil had tried to lock it only to discover
that it kept unlocking itself. Dismantling the lock he had discovered
a trick mechanism which automatically unlocked the door once it had been
locked, though in the process he had broken one of his picks and cut his
thumb twice. When the barman, and owner of the Wild Goose, arrived with
fresh blankets Bazil asked about the door. The barman offered to tell
us the door's purpose and the inn's "secret" for five pieces of gold each.
This did not please several members of the group who believed we had given
the inn keeper far to much of our gold already but my curiosity was piqued
and I offered him a cut topaz I possessed which was worth at least fifty
pieces of gold. Out of respect to our host of that night I will not repeat
everything we were told except to say that the Wild Goose occupied the
same space as the mythical, cross-planner World Serpent Inn. The bricked
up door was a back-entrance that had to be sealed following an incident
with some drunken beholders. He also told us how we could enter the Inn
for ourselves, but I will not repeat that here. Bazil and Colatto were
instantly hooked and suggested that we go there at once, Faergil and Amber
were more sceptical but agreed to go with them to see what happened. Baldric
stated that he would have liked to come but felt he had to visit the Temple
to Tymora first. As for myself, I had no interest in other planes; this
world has wonders and dangers enough for me, so I decided to stay behind,
though not before I performed an Augury in case there was a danger any
more drunken beholders turned up. Heading down stairs, first Colatto,
then Bazil and Primrose, and then Amber and Faergil carried out the bar
keeper's instructions and disappeared from this plane...
I used the following references:
Elminsters Ecologies; information on the denizens of the Thunder peaks
The Forgotten Realms Hardback: Excellent information on Arabel.
Volos Guide to Cormyr: Useful, but not greatly. We were adventuring in
Cormyr long before this book came out and some of it conflicts with the
campaign world we have. Nice amount of info on the World Serpent Inn though.
Plus the Forgotten Realms box sets (both past and present) Though
I couldn't find or remember the Zhentilar emblem. I think theres a card
with it on in the second box set...
The fight with the bugbears was pretty chaotic, and especially nasty
for spellcasters because of the wind and rain. I called for Wisdom checks
- which were universally failed!
There were 14 bugbears in all; 12 plus two leaders, though a couple where
wounded from a previous encounter with the wagon guards.
Thorn was very unlucky with his bugbear. He started of on only 12hp, took
6 from the spear, and another 7 when the bugbear crushed his throat. Also
he raked as a lion for 19hp - unfortunately missing with the bite attack.
The bugbear started the combat with 20hp...
Faergil had a near miss. He crawled under the wagon in the hope he would
be able to successfully cast a spell, and waited for a bugbear to come
to him. The bugbear decided to swing at the wagon wheel with his footmans
mace, hoping to knock it off and bring the thing down on the elf (actually
I think this is a bit too clever for a bugbear - but hell, it put the
pressure on). At the last moment Faergil hit him with Frost Fingers for
about 22-23hp. The bugbear failed his save and popsicled.
The bugbear leaders dropped easily. One was vampiric-touched (via spectral
hand) by Collato, then promptly hacked to bits by Amber. The other was
ganged up on by the halflings, Bazil and Primrose.
Now the party had time to rest and learn curative spells and over the
next day these came thick and fast.
I wanted to get them into Cormyr quickly now and sembian merchant (who
I think I roleplayed far too nice!) thanked them and gave them the money
as they stopped for lunch.
Amber actually had an encounter with a trapper and an injured grizly,
which gave her a chance to flex her Ranger muscles. As well as cast a
spell from the Complete Rangers that transfers HPs from the ranger. This
is why she was looking poorly on her return.
There is a running joke with how hard sheep are in AD&D (2HD, ram
for 1-4), so Collato HAD to come across a wild herd whilst hunting...
I was considering an encounter whilst they travelled through Hullack Forest,
but time was pressing so I kept play at a high rate.
It's always fun returning to Arabel, as the characters know it well, particulary
Baldric. I wanted to emphasis the festival as there had been a war in
Cormyr earlier in the year, so people wanted to celebrate peace and lurve...
I dropped in the idea that Inns lit sconces to indicate vacancies (thinking
that blinking signs might be too tongue in cheek) and this worked OK.
Baldric went looking for rooms at a couple of other Inns, only to find
the torches out.
The door in the attic was a spur-of-moment thing and caused Bazil (and
Edd!) all kinds of fun and irritation!
As for the secret of getting into the World Serpent Inn. Well thats in
Volos guide to Cormyr...
Return to The Journey...