Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger

Book 2
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 Dwindar.

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...

Chapter 3...

DM's Notes

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...

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