Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 2
Chapter 9- Revenant and the Wererats(1359DR, 16th Eleint)

The catacombs

Bazil sat beside Amber talking to her for a while and then came back, alone, to join me by the gangplank. Together we walked, in silence, back to the Sailor's Rest. I could go on at length about my feelings over Amber's imminent departure. First and foremost I would miss her companionship (all of my travelling companions had become like a family too me, even though I had known none for more then a year and a half). We would all miss her courage, skill and strength in the trying times to come. My mind drifted back to a year (and a lifetime) ago when I had left the Company for a time in an attempt to find something I felt was missing. Amber had been there to see me on my way and though she had not blessed my decision at least she had respected it. How could I not extend her the same courtesy?

Bazil broke the news to the others; his announcement was met with the predictable amount of surprise and concern. Even Primrose, who had known her the shortest time, found it hard to think of The Company of the Silvercoin without Amber. Faergil, more practically, was worried for the outcome of the quest. Bazil and I were quickly filled in on Bann's tale. Since Colatto didn't want to announce his attentions until the next day and the priests of Tempus also didn't want to see us till then I decided that it was time to explore Nimpeth. Concerned about the dangers of this city of slavers Bazil volunteered to come with me, starting an avalanche of agreement which soon meant that only Colatto and Bann weren't coming along.

We began our explorations by visiting the worst side of the city, the slave district. There was no market that day, just cage upon cage of humanity reduced by their fellows, in their greed, to just human merchandise. The sight of it all, the arrogance, the casual brutality sickened me and made my blood boil. It was only the thought that Colatto was better placed to make a meaningful difference then myself that prevented me from doing something rash. I could see that Baldric shared my feelings. Faergil trawled the cages looking for any elves that he could arrange to purchase and somehow free (simply freeing a slave, Bann had told us, was a crime punishable by slavery). He found none. We caught sight of a few members of The Undying Gaze's crew, inspired by Faergil's suggestion of buying some slaves to replace missing crewmen and then giving them their freedom when back in Cormyr, also checking what was on offer.

From the slave district we headed north toward the wine district. The two areas of the city were divided by a bizzare. Colourful and energetic it was, for me, the highpoint of the afternoon's exploration. Amongst the cloths, utensils and other items we discovered a new delicacy; a succulent fruit called a melon. As we enjoyed the melon's juicy flesh, and Faergil shopped around unsuccessfully for interesting maps, we spotted a number of family groups burning food on small fires. The act had the look of a ritual and, my curiosity aroused, I asked a couple what they were doing only to discover that they were making a sacrifice to "The One Father" or, as I knew, him Silvanus!. I took the opportunity to learn how Silvanus was venerated in this land so far from where I had been born. I had already noted that offerings were burnt, something we were sternly taught not to do. Soon I discovered that these folk viewed the Goddesses Eldath and Mielikki as aspects of The Oak Father rather then entities in their own right (something I'm sure Amber would have had something to say about!). Another thing I was a little disappointed, though not surprised, to discover was that when they spoke of The Emerald Enclave their respect was mixed with a high level of fear.

In the wine district Faergil got to indulge his second greatest passion after magic and was soon at work buying the local vintage as well as selling on a few hand casks of wine he had purchased in his travels. Even amongst the refined sellers of wine we had reminders of the crueler side of the city. Slaves, a high number of whom were dwarves, were strapped into purpose built racks and hard at work crushing the local grapes. Once Faergil was finished we circled to the west and then south. We travelled through the residential areas of the cities were the well-to-do lived. It was here that we began to see horses for the first time. The horses were noble creatures (nobler then the mental image I had constructed of their owners) and my heart leapt back to far off Cormyr where I had left gentle-natured Greymane. Also in this area we chanced across an area of open ground where a gruesome contraption was being used to train slaves to fight. While Nimpeth itself didn't hold gladiatorial blood-sports some of the neighbouring free-cities did and it was to these arenas that the poor souls we watched ducking and weaving past bludgeons and flails were headed.

Finally our walk took us through the southern part of the city back to The Sailor's Rest. We walked through the roughest area of the city (at least the roughest above ground); the area unofficially called The Mercenaries District. Nimpeth, like many of the free-cities, was in a constant state of war or near war with its neighbours, Bann had told us. This attracted a lot of swords-for-hire who were employed more often then not by Duke Folkwain. Folkwain seemed to be Woren's right hand man and head of "The Company of Crushed Grape", the city's elite guard (Brother Baldric found the name particularly amusing, though I thought it refreshing to come across soldiers who didn't need to put something dramatic like "Flaming" or "Lightning" in their name). Throughout the walk I kept a keen eye out for Harper Marks, one of the main reasons I had toured the city to begin with, in the hope of recruiting some allies. Unfortunately I found none.

Once we were back at our room Colatto had an announcement. After long consideration he had decided that his family had been subject to a grave injustice and it was his duty to avenge it by reclaiming the Lordship of Nimpeth. I doubt that this decision had come as much of a surprise to those of us who knew him and during our walk I had contemplated how I would respond when he made his announcement. As a priest of Silvanus such transient things as kings and lords should only come into my sphere of notice if they impacted on the sacred Balance of Nature. But on the other hand supporting Colatto did offer a way into Woren's library and the next stage on our quest to thwart the drow and, perhaps, reclaim the Darkwatch. Added to that was my oath of allegiance to The Harpers (who stood firm against tyrants and slavers) and last but by no means least the fact that Colatto was my friend and would need all the support he could get. Bann had already suggested that the best supporter that Colatto could recruit was The Revenant, the ruthless leader of Nimpeth's many thieves and, known only to a few, Lord Carifar's old chancellor. After a fish supper at the tavern next to The Sailor's Rest Bazil volunteered to try to make contact with Revenant's thieves' guild. He spent the next hour talking to the local beggars and other nair-do-wells until he got the name of a tavern, "The Shackles", were Revenants men could be found.

I was by no means inert during this time. With help from Primrose I confirmed that the wards which protected the pouch around my neck (which contained among other things the seed which Chauntea had entrusted to me) were no more. They had almost certainly been dispelled when I entered the presence of the High Battleguard that morning and so I replaced them. I also wanted to search the dock front for a type of seaweed called Degik that was said to have great power to slow the onset of poison. Colatto offered to come with me. The dock front was just a pungent as it had been all day but now the tide was out. The wall that ran along the front of the docks was old, worn and about twelve feet tall (or deep, as we were standing at its top). At its base it joined a steep slope of natural stone which lead down to a plain of dark, damp sand. After a short stroll I spotted a clump of the seaweed and Colatto and I headed for the nearest set of steps to the base of the wall. The ground, as I have said, slooped away from us at a steep angle and was slick with water. I had to use my staff several times to keep my footing. As such it was no great surprise that, while I was inspecting a magnificent cluster of Degik, I heard Colatto tumble down the slope. I was halfway down the traitorous rocks to aid Colatto when I got my first hint that something was amiss. He was hurriedly casting a spell but he never got a chance to finish it as the air around him seemed to move and some unseen force struck him a mighty blow. Quickly I drew some foxfire from one of my many pouches and intoned a prayer to Silvanus. A heatless blue flame, a flame that within seconds spread across the area outlining everything in blue, consumed the foxfire. The flame revealed that a strange, semi-humaniod creature standing eight feet tall was rearing over Colatto getting ready to deliver a third attack. Now with a target in sight Colatto launched a volley of magical darts, they struck home but did not stop its attack. By now I had reached level ground and struck at the flank of the being in an attempt to draw it away. Despite a vortex of wind that surrounded the assassin I struck home but I could not get its attention. As Colatto took another punishing blow he drew out his sword and returned in kind. In the face of the relentless attack on Colatto I called upon Silvanus and, forcing my hand against the entity, called upon The Oak Father to smite it. I felt the surge of divine energies through my being but assassin just shrugged it off. Colatto and his attacker traded blows and, as I pondered my next move, I tried again with my staff, missing. Colatto was looking in a bad way. He was as tough as my old trekking boots but he was no Amber and his injuries were starting to tell.

I was moving around to heal him when Colatto thwarted my plans by creating several illusionary duplicates. This seemed to make our unknown attacker pause and gave me the opening I needed. Pulling a wolf's tooth from a different pouch and casting it to the wet sand I called upon Silvanus to unleash the power of The Earth Maw. The sand formed itself into a long tentacle that terminated in a vicious mouth. The Earth Maw lunged forward like a striking snake and bit deep into our attacker. There was a sound like a howling wind and the assassin's outline vanished. Colatto and I didn't wait around to "see" if the invisible attacker as on its own, harvesting some Degik we headed back for our room, trying to ignore the stares and whispered comments that our flaming blue aura's provoked in the people of Nimpeth.

Once out of the public eye I called upon Silvanus to ease Colatto's wounds. Based on our description of the attacker Faergil suggested that it could be an "Invisible Stalker", a being from the elemental plane of air which could be summoned by powerful mages to perform a service. Did this mean that Woren was aware of Colatto's return? Or had the Yuan-Ti sent it after him? Or both? (or neither, we had enemies enough even before we came to Nimpeth) The aura's had faded about half-an-hour later when Bazil had returned to tell us what he had learnt. He suggested that he and Colatto go to make contact with The Revenant on their own. Concerned for their safety Baldric invoked the power of Tymora to place a charm on Colatto that would alert the priest if Colatto found himself in danger. Since we didn't know where The Shackles was I took the form of a local bird and followed Bazil and Colatto as they headed into The Mercenary District, Bazil getting directions from one of Nimpeth's many beggars.

The Shackles Tavern was just the sort of rough establishment its name suggested. Only the lewd music was missing, in fact no music played at all within to entertain the customers. Perched on a nearby roof I watched my two companions enter the inn and then riding the breezes of the rapidly approaching evening, I flew back to The Sailor's Rest. Once inside The Shackle it didn't take Bazil and Colatto long to get the attention of a couple of the patrons. After a quick dialogue (sprinkled with a little of the famous Thieves Cant) the two men, who went by the names Raff and Brac, agreed to take Colatto and Bazil to see The Revenant in exchange for twenty pieces of gold. The foursome wove a stealthy trail through the back streets of Nimpeth until they reached a grate in the floor of a discreet blind alley. After Raff and Brac lifted the grate the four began to descend a metal ladder in to the underbelly of the city. The ladder led into a room with an iron-shod door. Producing a candle and a key, Raff led the way through a series of subterranean passages. All the while Bazil and Colatto had the feeling of eyes watching them from the indigo darkness which surrounded them. Eventually the four reached another door. Raff and Brac went forward as if to examine it but as soon as they were a safe distance from Bazil and Colatto a heavy net fell from the unseen ceiling unto my companions.

As the two rogues drew their weapons, slim long-swords and long daggers, Bazil angrily warned them that The Revenant would not be pleased with them if he missed out on the golden opportunity he and Colatto represented. The pair only laughed that they cared nothing for The Revenant and before my companion's eyes began to change shape; their faces elongated, they grew rough, greasy fur, long hairless tails and all the other physical characteristics of wererats! During this time Colatto had managed to get out one of the Light Stones, illuminating the chamber and revealing the arrival of six more wererats and with them a veritable living carpet of rats, some plain-old sewer rats while other as large as a dog. The rats fell onto Bazil and Colatto like a wave as the pair tried to cut their way free of the net. They were free in moments but not before they suffered dozens of bites from the rats, Colatto taking more then Bazil as the Stoneskin spell he had cast on the halfling fended off the first half-dozen or so bites. No sooner where they free then two pairs of the wererats engaged then. Bazil's agility allowed him to escape with only a nick but Collato was struck three times. Bazil repaid one of his attackers in kind, felling it with a thrust of his short-sword and dagger. This provoked the other wererats to join the fight.

My companions were pressed hard; Colatto was struck during casting of a spell, disrupting it. During this time the rats had pulled back forming a circle around the melee to prevent Bazil and Colatto escaping. Despite this Colatto and Bazil managed to manoeuvre themselves so that all the wererats were in front of them. At that point Colatto cast a spell unleashing a blast of arctic wind, killing three of the remaining wererats, as well as numerous rats, followed up quickly with a barrage of magical darts which dropped a fourth. The remaining pair of wererats turned to flee back the way they came sending the rats to delay their intended victims. Bazil leapt forward and was able to give one a vicious wound as it fled but the wererats were too fast for him. Colatto, bleeding heavily from his injuries, let them go. After reclaiming Bazil's twenty pieces of gold (Raff was amongst the dead) as well as a few loose coins and the key the pair made their way back the way they came.

They made it back to the chamber that connected to the one into which the ladder descended before they ran into more trouble. Two men confronted them, one with a cocked crossbow trained directly at Bazil, demanding to know what Bazil and Colatto were doing there. A moment latter a third man made himself known when he snuck up behind Colatto and put a knife to his throat. Guessing correctly that the three were part of The Revenant's thieves' guild Bazil explained that he and Colatto had were looking for Revenant to give him valuable information that only they possessed and the master thief would want. The rather strained negotiations were starting to go in Bazil's favour when someone tried to open the door that connected their room with the ladder room. Silently one of the three thieves took up position beside the door while the one which had the crossbow trained at Bazil moved around so he could cover both the hobbit and the door.

Back in the Sailor's Rest we hadn't been idle this whole time. About half-an-hour after my return Baldric suddenly started. The charm he had placed on Colatto told him that our friend was in trouble and he had received an image of a dark, stone room and a net. Primrose and I were out the door in a flash with the others were only two steps behind us. Unfortunately Primrose's speed didn't match her enthusiasm. Passing my staff to Bann, who looked ready to fight to the death for his liege but lacked a weapon, I gave her a lift, carrying Primrose piggy-back through the mercenary district until we reached The Shackles. To find our companions I needed to track and, as I had already taken the form of a mammal once that day, I turned onto a snake. Tasting the air with my forked tongue I led the way through the increasingly crowded streets. To my serpent senses a ghostly after-image of both Colatto and Bazil, formed not of light but a strange hybrid of scent and taste, hung in the air before me. I could follow the route the pair had taken as easily as if I had been with them at the time. Soon we reached the grill where the four had headed underground. With difficulty Primrose and Baldric opened it and, as Baldric headed down the ladder I slithered onto his shoulder. Once down below we found the door through which Bazil and Colatto had passed.

Baldric tried the door, and after a push found it to be locked. With no other recourse open to him Baldric put his faith in The Lady and threw himself against the heavy door. Tymora smiled on her priest and the lock snapped along a line of weakness. A second later a crossbow bolt struck Baldric a glancing blow prompting him to dive into the room. The thief who had his knife at Colatto's throat whispered to him to inform us to leave or die. When he complied Faergil replied that it was us and pulled out one of his light stones. In the magical light we could now see the situation with Colatto and Bazil as well as the fact that the thief by the door had a rapier at Baldric's throat. A tense stand off followed but Bazil persevered with his negotiations and was successful, though he had to hand over his precious short-sword Kithral as a token of his honesty. During this time I had remained unseen in my snake form. I considered staying incognito, an ace-in-the-hole, but decided instead to shift back to my natural form.

So my sudden appearance didn't upset the thieves and ruin Bazil's negotiations (and also to keep my shape-changing ability a secret) I headed back into the "ladder room" to change. There I noticed that Bann was putting his Bandages back on ready to take on his guise as a blind beggar. The leader of the three thieves, who we later learnt was called Andal, sent one of his men ahead to inform The Revenant of our arrival. The other two led us back the way Bazil and Colatto had come, through the double doors in the room that the pair had been ambushed by the wererats and deeper into the maze of tunnels. And deeper. And deeper. Beyond the double-doors the nature of the tunnels changed. They were clearly more man-made and had intricate carvings about halfway up them. These carvings were more then just decorations, Bazil pointed out concealed holes from which some form of trap could spring as well as the flag stones which would trigger them.

Eventually we reached a chamber containing twenty or so men one of who was The Revenant. He was a tall, imposing figure, his face concealed behind a leather mask. In a voice, which rung with the suggestion of a slow and nasty death, The Revenant asked us to justify our presence. Here Colatto came to the fore. He began by suggesting that the two of them should talk "if not in private then somewhere a little less public". Revenant ordered that the rest of us be searched and then taken away. They did the former which expert efficiency; removing our packs, weapons, spell components and even holy-symbols. Then they led us away to a nearby room where six thieves remained to guard us. After a few minutes Andle and a pair of heavys came to collect Bann, answering my enquiry as to where they were taking him with threats of violence. Now I began to get worried. If Revenant had learnt that Bann was really the traitor Elladyr I wasn't entirely sure that Colatto would be able to restrain him even if the master thief believed him! To dispel my feeling of powerlessness I tried to strike up a relationship with our guards. I managed to establish a tentative dialogue with a couple but the others kept them in line.

Several long minutes latter Andal returned and we were led into the room where we had left Colatto to find him, Bann and our possessions untouched. Left on our own Colatto filled us in on what had happened. At first Revenant didn't believe him and considered Colatto a fraud, a spy for Lord Woren or a madman. When Colatto had begun talking about Elladyr, The Revenant had become suspicious of Bann's presence in our little company and had him summoned. Initally it looked like death for Bann but the pair had worked on bringing The Revenant around, retelling the story of how Colatto had escaped the death of his family. After considering their tale the master thief had dismissed Andal. When the three were alone The Revenant had removed his mask, revealing himself to be Lord Carifar's Chancellor; Mourenes, and visibly shrunk before them. Unsurprisingly he was an old man, worn down by both the weight of years and the role he had to play every day to keep the thieves in line. He confessed that he believed Colatto and swore loyalty to him. The three began to discuss how Woren could be overthrown. Revenant pointed out that Duke Folkwain was an important political figure in the city, which we knew, as was an Admiral Taramont. But most off all Colatto would have to persuade the other noble families of the city and to do that he would need the Crown of Fire. The Crown, which Colatto and Faergil had glimpsed in dreams and visions, was the symbol of the Carifar line and only one of their blood could use its power. Woren had hated and feared it but, unable to destroy the crown, was believed to have hidden it somewhere in the citadel.

Revenant, upon hearing Colatto's decision to reclaim the Crown of Fire, said his men could led us close to the citadel via the underground passages as well as get us a map of the fortress itself. What he couldn't do was help us with the catacombs and dungeons beneath the citadel since not one of his men had ever returned alive from there. He would also let us rest before we made the attempt to steal-back the crown. As he summoned Andal our newest recruit to the rebellion reminded Colatto that the thieves must believe that "The Revenant" was still in command. If they were to lose their fear of him then his, and our, lives would suddenly become very short. As Colatto finished his story I took the opportunity to, once more, call upon Silvanus to ease his injuries while Brother Baldric called upon The Lady to purify Colatto and Bazil of any infection they may have picked up from the rats. Then, somewhere far below the streets of Nimpeth, we settled back too rest for the test that lay ahead.

Chapter 10...

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Vilhon Reach.
Didn't use much in the way of resources this week (other than the normal three - PHB, DMG, MM), as it was all my own stuff.

Traycie has decided to stop playing Realms for a while, so the PCs might now have a problem with muscle in the group. Only time will tell.

I thought the evening went quite well, starting with the characters exploring the city. Pretty much all the details of Nimpeth, I made up myself as the characters walked through the streets. The subject of slaves is a difficult one to handle in a story, as it normally is the representation of an evil society. This was not what I wanted for the game, and Nimpeth has had slaves for hundreds of years, so I decided that live as a slave has got much worse under the rulership of Woren. What is interesting is what Collato - a good aligned character will do if he manages to gain control of the city.
I spoke to Roy during to week before the game to find out what his intentions were - obviously so that I could prepare for the game. Basically the game would have been different had he decided not to try and gain rulership of the city.
I was somewhat surprised when Bazil and Collato went off on their own to find Revenant, and the wererat encounter proved to be very difficult for the two characters. Collato - who had been injured during the attack by the Invisible Stalker - was ultimately reduced to 7hp by the attack.The two characters, once they had managed to escape from the ropes, were surrounded by eight wererats any only through clever tactics managed to get the creatures in front of them. Collatos Cone of Cold blasted through the ranks of the lycanthropes and turned the tide of the combat. At that point the wererats - cowards that they are - turned and ran.
The rest of the group were aware of this because of Baldric's spell and sped to the rescue.
The encounter with the thieves was rather tense but the characters managed to persuade them to led them to Revenant.
I used a variety of maps from the Internet (I think the Wizards website) for the catacombs. The map at the top of this page shows a fragment of the maps.
The evening ended with the conversation with Revenant, which became very strained when Collato mentioned that he had spoken with Elladyr the Traitor. Obviously Mourenes was betrayed all those years ago when Woren took over and wanted to vent his anger against the ex-paladin.
Fortunately his hatred for Woren was greater and he vowed to help Collato overthrow the current Lord.

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