Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 2
Chapter 8- Nimpeth and the Traitor (1359DR, 13th Eleint - 16th Eleint)

Journey continues...

A wave of bone-chilling fear rolled over Colatto but the wizard was able to throw it off through force of will. A second latter the intruder, cloaked in an impenetrable darkness, attacked only to have its sword blow turned aside by Colatto's Stoneskin spell. As he drew his wits together Colatto became aware of movement and sound all around in the darkness. Lunging forward Colatto slapped his hand against scaly flesh and activated Korlanthian's old magical ring, on lone from Baldric, blasting his attacker with lightning. Before his opponent recovered he quickly cast a spell, creating multiple illusionary decoys of himself. He began casting again but had the spell ruined when his attacked hit him again, though luckily his Stoneskin absorbed the blow once more.

By now almost everyone below decks was awake, roused not by the sounds of combat by the sting of snakebites. Up on deck I was rudely awoken by a similar sting and found myself in utter darkness. Luckily clean living and the blessing and favour of Silvanus meant that the poison did not take a hold of me, though my leg ached for several hours afterwards. I was bitten again before Amber produced one of the "light stones" that Faergil had created, dispelling the darkness and revealing perhaps thirty small snakes with green and orange scales, Kraits, moving about the deck attacking anyone who got in their way.

At about the same time Faergil produced another light stone below. The hold seethed with three times as many of the snakes as there were on deck. Half-asleep crewmembers attempted to throw them off their bodies and out of their hair. Many suffered from the wracking agonies of snake venom. In the centre of the chaos was Colatto's attacker. I only ever saw its corpse but in life "he" must have been a fearsome sight; a serpent over ten feet in length and as thick as a man's torso, its head held eight feet in the air. In coloration it matched the serpents that had accompanied it and it had a pair of muscular arms in which it gripped a vicious scimitar.

I said earlier that everyone below decks was awake but in fact two people were yet to rouse, Primrose and Baldric. Seeing Primrose at the mercy of the serpents Bazil leapt on her, violently sweeping the snakes off of her. In doing some he received numerous bites but the venom was no match for the famous iron constitution of Captain Stringfellow. The assassin swung again at Colatto, this time hitting one of the magical decoys, a second latter he retaliated with a magical dart of acid only to have it slide off the creature like water off a ducks back.

Up on deck Amber and I had been entreating the favour of our patron deities. Silvanus answered my prayers and brought into being a hypnotic pattern. The sight of it mesmerised the snakes and they stopped and began to sway back and forth contently. Amber was granted invisibility to the serpents and began to make her way below decks. A painful swelling in her leg slowed her movement; she had not been so lucky with the snakebites. I moved to join her but my gaze fell on a pair of The Undying Gaze's crewmembers who lay sprawled on the deck, felled by the snakes. Trusting my companions to be able to protect themselves, particularly with a limping and enraged Amber on the way, I went to the sailor's aid, calling upon Silvanus once more to stem the flow of poison in their system.

By now, below decks, battle had been joined in full force. Faergil, for reasons I could never quite understand, had cast a spell to allow him to fly and then unleashed a volley of magical darts into the serpent creature. They unerringly struck the creature but seemed to have no effect other then to anger it. The assassin retaliated with a sweep of its scimitar; passing within inches of the elf's head and allowing him to spot that the blade was covered in some form of venom. This took the pressure off of Colatto long enough for him to risk casting another spell. Primrose and Baldric were now coming to their senses. Baldric pulled out Twin Death and using it like an iron club started to swing at the serpents all around him.

Now that Primrose was able to defend herself Bazil darted into the melee but his deft sword thrust was turned away by the serpent-man's scaly hide. Faergil kept up the pressure with another volley of magical darts, with a similar lack of success, and Colatto struck at it's exposed flank with his "Vampiric Touch" ripping away a portion of it's life force. The creature backed away warily but whatever counter offensive it may have planned, it never had time to execute as at that moment Amber came down the stair behind it and with a powerful swing cleaved it in two.

With the death of their leader the Kraits lost all co-ordination and began to make an escape by whatever means they could find, within moments they were gone leaving only people with swollen and discoloured skin to show that they had ever been. Baldric and myself began doing what we could for the poisoned crewmembers. Primrose was suffering particularly badly but Silvanus was able to soothe her injuries. Amber and Colatto dumped the body of the serpent-man, identified by the crew as a Yuan-Ti from the emerald city across the water, into the bay (but only after Faergil salvaged a few parts of its anatomy). As we did so Captain Tanner called for all hands on deck, The Undying Gaze was leaving port at once! With the ship's crew diminished still further those of us who were fit and able manned the ship though out the night.

By sunrise the fantastic city was out of sight, though I regretted not having taken the opportunity to explore it. Colatto took the opportunity to inform us what the Yuan-Ti had said to him before it attacked. Baldric took the opportunity to hand each of the Company one of the vials of holy-water he had obtained while in Arabel, since I already had a couple I passed mine on to Bazil. I'm also told that Baldric and Amber got into a forthright discussion about custody of a potion of healing that Baldric had been given by the church but by then I was asleep. Exhausted I slept for the remainder of the day.

That evening, after some discussion with Colatto, Faergil had decided to cast an unusual spell on Colatto's cloak. As I understood it the spell would allow Faergil to see the last minutes in the life of the cloaks previous owner. The image he got tallied a lot with Colatto's dreams as he had described them to me; a hall of white illuminated by high windows and decorated by banners and flags. In the chamber were four men. Two wore elaborate red armour with an emblem of flame on the chest. The soldiers were restraining another man, he had grey hair, a pure white cloak and upon his head a crown of flame. Standing opposite him was a man in black robes with long black hair. On the floor nearby were the bodies of two dead children. As the man in black stepped over the dead children he contemptuously asked where the remainder of the prisoner's "brood" were hiding. Enraged the prisoner lashed out against the man in black, sending fingers of flame arching out of the crown to rack his enemy. The man in black was hurt but not killed and at a command one of the solders stunned the man with the crown with a blow to the head. Taunting the prisoner, presumably Lord Carifer, that his "line ends here" the man in black, Lord Woren we guessed, gave another signal to the same soldier; a blond man. The knight drew his sword but could not bring himself to strike the fatal blow. Enraged Woren snatched the sword from the knight, who he referred to as Elladyr, and finished of Carifer himself. As the old ruler's lifeblood ran away it stained the man's cloak from white to red. That should have been the end of the spell but Faergil then received another image. A woman was teaching a young man how to cast a spell. Perverted by wild magic the spell went out of control; the young man's hair was incinerated as beams of light flew from his hands. The woman was transfixed by the light, her soul torn from her body and absorbed into her pupil's scarlet cloak. As the image faded Faergil heard a woman's voice calling out Colatto's name.

Faergil told us what he had seen. With some reluctance Colatto admitted that the man in the second vision was him, when he had been learning magic during the Time of Troubles. It was clear he did not want to discuss the event further and we respected his wish. The first image, along with Colatto's dreams, the strange uneasiness of the sailor Abar (who identified the red knights for us as The Circle of Flame, Lord Carifer's personal honour guard) and the words of the Yuan-Ti all pointed to the same conclusion, that Colatto was the missing heir of Lord Carifer! Whether it was true or not clearly powerful and dangerous people believed it, which meant Colatto would be in danger as long as we were near Nimpeth. The next two days, the last two of the voyage, were bright, very hot and all too short. Baldric and I saw to our comrades' injuries and I enlisted the aid of the ship's rats to make sure that there were no snakes left onboard. Two days after leaving the city of the Yuan-Ti, and flying the pennant of Cormyr, The Undying Gaze sailed into Nimpeth.

Nimpeth, I had discovered from the crew, was famous for it's wine (the grapes for which grew on a headland to the north of the city) and its slaves. Lord Woren hadn't introduced slavery to the city-state but under his ruler the lot of the slaves had degenerated from a life of indentured servitude to one of vile brutality. The city was mostly made up of whitewashed buildings with flat roofs crowded around narrow streets. On a hill above the city sat the Citidel of Conifar, abode of Lord Woren. The emblem of Nimpeth, an ornate vase overflowing with grapes, adorned the flags of many of the ships in the harbour including the flag of the vessel we moored up next to. Onto this ship a seemingly endless line of slaves was being marched.

Our voyage was over! We took a while saying our goodbyes to Captain Tannor and his crew, who we had come to know well over the many days and shared hardships at sea. Baldric embedded a holy-symbol of The Lady into the mast as a parting gift. As we said our goodbyes a group of guardsmen, lead by a man called Orrin Jakke, came to question the captain about his business, cargo etc. As we disembarked Primrose quietly spread the word that Bazil had noticed that a beggar on the dock front had been paying close attention to The Undying Gaze and that Bazil had gone to keep an eye on him. He had told Primrose to leave a message as to where we were going with the crew of The Undying Gaze and then go. Bazil would follow the beggar and see what he did. From Orrin Jakke we had learnt the name of a good place to get rooms, "The Sailors Rest", and made our way there through the rather pungent streets of Nimpeth.

Unaware that he was being spied on the beggar, who with his staff and bandaged face was pretending to be a blind man, followed us to The Sailor's Rest which rather then an inn (as I had imagined) was a lodging house. With some haggling Amber hired us a common room. Once inside, but wary of eavesdroppers, we planned our next move. Baldric had noticed that the beggar was outside and Amber was keen to grab him and demand answers. The rest of us disagreed, we didn't know if the beggar was just one man or represented some hidden force who might oppose our purpose and Bazil probably had everything under control. We had learnt that there was a large temple to Tempus in the city and we decided to go there to see if they knew anything of Rucien-Xan or could get us into Lord Woren's library. (Something which seemed rather more difficult, following recent events, then when we first heard of it.) Amber rather pointedly decided to stay behind in our room in case of uninvited guests. Faergil created an illusion of her to come with us in her stead, to deceive the beggar, and Colatto hide his cloak and polymorphed himself into a woman.

As we made our way to the temple it was clear that slaves were big business in the city. Several times I saw slaves who had not got out of the way of freeman and freewomen being casually knocked to the ground, I helped them up where I could. Each incident made Baldric's blood boil. The beggar discreetly followed us still unaware that Bazil was following him. The Temple to Tempest was easily the second largest building we had seen in the city, it was a solidly built structure; part temple, part training camp and part fortress. Even standing outside we could hear the sounds of swords against sword and armour. Inside and out of the sun was, thankfully, a little cooler and decorated with the trappings of war, statues of mighty warriors, tapestries depicting scenes of battle and endless racks of weapons. Things didn't go well with heavily armoured (quite a feat in considering the heat) priest of Tempest who came to ask us what we wanted. My fault I'm afraid, I got the title of the head priest wrong. Luckily Colatto's quick wits saved the day and he challenged the priest to combat for the right to see the High Battleguard. His challenge was excepted, the weapons would be two-handed swords and the fight would be to first blood. The priest was far quicker and familiar with the great blade and blasted through Colatto's defences only to have the blade turned aside by the Stoneskin spell, before the priest could recover Colatto had punched in the face, bloodying his nose. The duel was won.

An hour or so latter we were permitted to see the High Battleguard. He was a massive and grizzled old warrior-priest in full-plate armour. Resting nearby where the symbols of his office, a huge spiked gauntlet, a wicked looking axe, and an impressively wrought helm with dragon's wings. As we entered the room Faergil's illusion and Colatto's magical disguise fell away. Initially the priest showed no interest in helping us, but our tale of a quest to locate powerful magical swords and use them to battle with drow and worse got his attention, for good or ill. He claimed to have no knowledge of Rucien-Xan but he would see what he could do about getting us access to Lord Woren's library. I suggested that, once we found out where we were going, that some of Tempus's faithful might want to come with us, to "practice what they preached" so to speak. He asked us to return tomorrow. As our audience with ended I asked the High Battleguard if he knew anything about a blind beggar who had been harassing us since we landed. He identified him as Bann, a mad man who had spent everyday at the dock front for over a decade. This was enough to convince me that the blind man was not some agent of Lord Woren (or, if he was, a very dedicated one) and prompt other, more interesting ideas.

As we left the temple Primrose asked if had been a good idea to entrust the priest of tempest with as many of our secrets as we had. They were a notoriously unpredictable lot and while not aligned to the forces of evil neither did they serve the forces of good. Primrose was probably right so, to dodge the question, I pointed out Bann and suggested that we, or rather Colatto, go and have a word with him. As I, and no doubt many of my companions, suspected, the "blind madman" (who was neither mad nor blind) had been waiting for over twenty years for the return of Karafa's heir and that person was Colatto!

After so may years of waiting Bann, was eager to tell his story and probably would have done so then and there if I hadn't suggested we go somewhere more private. Bann told us to head back to our rooms and he would join us there. We got back to the Sailor's Rest to find Amber and her possessions had gone. There was no sign of a struggle but something told me that we had to find her right away. I asked the hostelry manager if he had seen Amber leave; yes he had, she had left on her own about an hour ago. I waited impatiently for first Bann and the Bazil to turn up and, leaving the others to listen to Ban's tale Bazil and I went to look for Amber. Bann, who proved to be Elladyr the Traitor, had been captain of The Circle of Flame and a paladin. He was sworn to serve and protect his master but had become be-witched by Woren and turned on Carifer. Woren had used The Circle of Flame as scapegoats, painting them as traitors who had risen up against the ruler and killed him, while Worren was the hero who had caught, tried and executed the usurpers and had to (no-doubt reluctantly) assume rulership. Only one of Carifer's children had escaped, whisked away by his concubine, Jemel. Somehow Bann had escaped the capture of his man and beside himself with guilt had thrown himself into the sea. He did not die but washed up on a beach days later. Again he sort to take his own life and fell upon his sword. Again he did not die but received a vision from Helm who told him that he would live until the true heir returned. Bann should watch the sea until the heir returned "under the banner of a dragon". Travelling with him would be "a dragon by blood and a dragon by deed" as well as "The Keeper of Lore", "The Bearer of Tracked Water", "The finder of the Way" and "Xrakvars Bane". Only when this had come to pass would he be granted release. The long suffering man was full of questions for Colatto; was he the heir?, did he have the cloak?, was he here to take back his birthright? and, most importantly of all, would Colatto put him out of his suffering! Colatto simply replied that he had a lot to think about and would give Bann, and us, his decision in the morning.

During this time Bazil and I had found Amber. It had been easy enough once I had slipped into a side alley and shed my half-dragon form for that of a bloodhound and, despite the cities powerful odours, followed her scent. After so long in one form it was a joy to take on another and I bounded along through a world of sensations that no human could imagine. I was a little concerned when our path took us back to the docks, could I have been following her trail from earlier that morning when we came ashore? It seemed even more likely that this was so when we reached The Undying Gaze but there Amber was, standing at the prow of the ship, as she had so many nights during our voyage, looking out to sea. Carefully we made our way on board. Returning to my true form I stayed by the gang-plank while Bazil went over to speak with her. I didn't need to hear her words to know what was in Amber's mind, it was written in the way she stood, the way she stared out across the waters; she had had enough, she wanted to leave, she wanted to go home...

The next chapter will be posted in a week on or about the 29th April.

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Faiths and Avatars: General Information on the Faith of Tempus
Vilhon Reach.
Good overview of Nimpeth, however I have pretty much completely re-written the City - other than the facts that it currently ruled by Lord Woren, deals in slaves, and makes famous wines...

The first week of Realms after a break is always a little more difficult than the ones that follow, I suppose this is the same as any game, however, I thought the evening generally went quite well.
The encounter with the Abomination Yuan-ti went pretty much as I expected. I made a call on the Mirror Image spell that Collato cast whilst the Darkness was in effect, deciding that the creature, relying on smell, would not be affected. This changed when the lights came on...
The spell that Faergil cast on the cloak is Past Life as per the Tome of Magic, and proved as blessing as far as the plot was concerned. It gave me a chance to re-play the last minute of Lord Carifers life, and death at the hands of Lord Woren. It also strongly suggested that Collato might be a lost heir to the throne of Nimpeth! This I had been fore-shadowing for some time (read some of the old notes)
Of course with suggest an interesting 'reading' Ian (Faergil) then said, "Cool! I'll cast that on all our magic items!" Arrghh!! Give me a little notice first!
Finally the characters reached Nimpeth and the end of their sea voyage. However with Collato potentially being the true heir to the throne gaining entry to Worens library had taken an interesting turn.
High Fantasy is full of cliches and this evening was no exception. The beggar on the docks was a bit cheesey in my opinion, but seemed to work OK so I ran with it.
The encounter in the Temple of Tempus was fun, Roy (Collato) was on the ball and quickly challenged a priest to a fight for the right to speak the High Battleguard, of course the priest agreed, but Collato still had a Stoneskin spell on and even though was hit, there was no blood. He just punched the other guy. Winning. Nice
Personally I'm not sure that Nick (Thorn) explaining the plot to the High Battleguard of Tempus was such a good idea, but hey, time to have some fun <evil grin>
I came up with cryptic terms used to the describe the other characters, some obvious others less so. The only ones I am prepared to divulge at present are 'Dragon by Deed' - Bazil is a Purple Dragon in the Cormyrean Army, 'Dragon by Blood' - Thorn is a half-dragon, and 'Keeper of the Tracked Water' - Primose has been given the Tears of Tymora a Luckblade. The players decided decided that 'The finder of the Way' is Amber; she's a Ranger, 'The keeper of Lore' is Faergil because... actually I'm not sure why, and finally 'Xrakvars Bane' is Baldric, or possibly his rod of flailing 'Twin Death', again I'm not sure why.
As to whether they're right...I'm keeping my mouth shut.
The final thing that happened was Traycie (Amber) deciding to leave the group. This was not something I had planned for.

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