Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger

Book 3
Chapter 3 - The Nagaflow (1359DR, Harvestide - 4th Marponeth)

The first day of the Festival of the Rotting Dance dawned hot and humid. The first of three days of celebration in memory of the end of The Rotting War and the freedom it gave to cities like Nimpeth from The Empire of Chondath.

Up at the Citadel my companions celebrated in their own ways. Faergil spent most of the day in a final bid to add as many of Woren's spells to his own collection as he could, though he did find time to sample the best of Nimpeth's wines. Brother Baldric kept a low profile. Bazil had a busy day. He had found a stash of potions in Woren's old quarters and, after Baldric assured him that none of them were poisonous began experimenting to determine what they were. His pains were on the whole unsuccessful other then the conclusion that one would render the drinker invisible. After that he made his way through the partying masses to the temple of Tempus in an attempt to purchase some healing magics from them. The faithful were busy putting on re-enactments of the great battles of The Rotting War for the citizens of Nimpeth (and the glory of Tempus). A cleric that the halfling spoke to told him to return in the morning to discuss business.

Colatto had several public appearances to make and had to oversee the final preparations for our departure in the morning. He still found time to talk to Mourenes who was, quite understandably, concerned about the threats of the Emerald Enclave and advised Colatto that he should not go beyond Ormpetar, the capital of Sespech, until he heard from them.

As for myself the break of day found me in the form of a cat keeping a watch on the temple of Tempus. Before dawn two dozen riding horses and six ponies had been led into the compound. That seemed to confirm that The High Battle-Lord would be travelling by land. This gave us, in our boats, the advantage on the first leg of the journey but also meant that my options for delaying them were limited. At dawn the faithful of Tempus left the temple. The group were led by six magnificent war-horses, the foremost ridden by the High Battle-Lord who looked the very picture of martial prowess, then came twenty-four armour clad knights and finally the ponies carrying all their supplies. Quickly I took the form of a bird and followed them to Nimpeth's southern gate before overtaking them. I landed about a mile out of the city, forty feet or so from the road that they were taking. The area wasn't cultivated and was a harsh scrubland. Away from the city I was freer to act. I briefly considered invoking a mighty tempest and bringing its fury down on the priests and knights. I was confidant that The High Battle-Priest could weather it (if you pardon the pun) but his men would be scattered and some even killed. I'm sure there are many Initiates of Silvanus who would not hesitate to do so if they believed it nessary but I could not bring myself to kill these men (and just as importantly their horses) so casually. Instead I took a different approach. I needed to conceal myself so I called upon Silvanus who gave me the appearance of a tree. Within minutes the knights rode into view. I let the bulk of them pass until only the pack animals were left and then, returning to my true form invoked a powerful, destructive prayer before shifting as rapidly as I could into the form of a small lizard that could easily hide in the scrub. The prayer had the effect of instantly rotting all once-living matter carried by the pack animals. The packs they were carrying split open like over-ripe fruit, spilling out their contents. Food, clothing, tent poles; they all disintegrated almost before they hit the ground. The trail was soaked by the contents of many water barrels. The knights didn't seem to notice and rode on. Confident that I had added a few days to the High Battle-Lord's journey I returned to Nimpeth. It was a small start to correcting my mistake but I felt that I would have more and better options once we were in Chondal Wood.

I spent the day amongst the light hearted and wondrous festivities. At sun down I went with the masses to the Slave Market where a great bonfire had been built. Led by Colatto each of the cities inhabitants, free and slave alike, threw in a red dyed wooden disk (symbolic I believe of the sores caused by The Rotting Plague from which the war draws it's name) into the fire followed by rotting fruit and vegetables. I had intended to return to The Citadel that evening but there always seemed to be some new distraction to see, tale to hear, song to sing or vintage to sample so I didn't get back to my rooms until several hours past midnight.

After too few hours of sleep Primrose and Bazil woke me. Primrose gave me a stern lecture about my absenteeism over the last ride and the concerns it had engendered in my companions. My head pounding from too much of Nimpeth's finest I could do nothing but meekly except her reprimand.

She then went on to recount what had happened in The Citadel yesterday evening. Colatto had been presiding over a fine banquet for the nobles of Nimpeth when a fine, silver dust, apparently carried on the rays of the moon, had swirled in through a window and coalesced into the forms of Lady Shadowmoon and Tornbow. Initially, as before, Tormbow did most of the talking. They had come to deliver the verdict of The Emerald Enclave; Chondal Wood was barred to us. Colatto had produced Lady Kansel'yn's pendant and, with some confidence I understand, asked them if they would not reconsider. The effect on Lady Shadowmoon was quite remarkable, I am told. She suddenly became very interested in our quest, the Drow and the appearance of Lady Kansel'yn the night before. Bazil produced the map we had found in Woren's library and she studied it carefully before asking my companions about the nature of our quest. Once my companions and the emissaries had retired to a more private location (Colatto's chambers) Colatto and Baldric went over the events that had brought us to Nimpeth. The exchange of information was not all one sided, Lady Shadowmoon had heard of The Legacy of Shrinshee, she described it as "the greatest feat of magic by the greatest of the elven lords". Though she did not know what form this legacy took she knew for a fact that it was not "the Vault of Ages"; that was a separate legend that had become attributed to Shrinshee over the centuries. Reversing their previous stance the emissaries of the Emerald Enclave gave us their permission to enter Chondal Wood and search for Rucien-Xan. They even asked what they could do to aid us. Colatto replied that as time was now of the essence we needed to move quickly and something needed to be done about the High Battle-Lord. Before they left in the same manner they arrived Tornbow pointed out, with the slightest hint of a threat, that while we had their blessing to enter the wood the faithful of Tempus did not. Hearing this stirred in me memories of a tropical storm that was heard to rage a way to the south of the city last night. It was easy to imagine the High Battle-Lord receiving an ultimatum from Lady Shadowmoon and her companion and the hostilities that might have ensued. Even so I could not believe that we were now safe from the church of Tempus.

As we headed for the docks on the dawn of the second day of the festival a red, hazy glow hung over the city. The buildings themselves seemed to groan with the collective hangovers of Nimpeth's citizens. Bazil had already been to the temple of Tempus and purchased some healing potions from them. We would be travelling in two ships, both caravels like The Undying Gaze. One was "The Sea-Wind" under Captain Thal and the other "The Green Vine" under Captain Idan Villix. The latter seemed to sum up Nimpeth nicely and that was the one we all boarded. I was a little surprised to discover that Mourenes would be coming with us to see Foesmasher. With a few parting words to Elladyr Colatto gave the order and we were off.
Even in my slightly "delicate" condition it was good to be on the move again after some fifteen days in Nimpeth. We left the city with a good wind in our sails but even so we had been sailing for no more then an hour when strong wind whistled in from the north and we picked up speed considerably. The crew began to talk that, if the ships maintained this speed, we would knock two days off the eight-day journey to Ormpettar. I spent most of the day admiring the scenery as it went past. There were mountains far to the south and sun-backed plains, harsh but with their own beauty. Occasionally we passed fishing boats but for the most part we had the water to ourselves. Towards the end of the first day we entered The Nagaflow. Baldric was a little concerned by the river's name but the crew reassured him that we were unlikely to encounter Nagas this far north.
Our two-ship convoy didn't travel at night. No sooner had we weighed anchor than the wind, which had blow constantly all through the day, stopped, dismissing any doubt that it had been a gift from The Emerald Enclave. Without that wind the night was still and soon grew uncomfortably hot, so much so that I gave serious consideration to spending the night sleeping at the bottom of the river in an attempt to stay cool. Baldric went so far as to invoke Tymora's aid in keeping from overheating.
The next day, as the sails were being unfurled, the wind returned and we sped off again. Our speed was not due to the wind alone, on either side of the ships there were something in the water, things that was hard to distinguish from the waves themselves. They were almost certainly some manner of Water Elemental but whatever they were they carried the ship against the current at a high pace. During the day we passed a forest along one bank. A member of the crew named it as The Winterwood and for quite a while it claimed my attention. Try as I might I could not find anyone on board who could tell me how it came by that name. My companions were a little amused by my interest and obverse frustration that my curiosity could not be satisfied. To serve Silvanus is my privilege and honour but travel, to meet new people and seen new lands, is my passion and to be honest I found their disinterest just as unfathomable as they found my curiosity.

Over the course of the voyage I dabbled with some exotic herbs I had picked up on my travels, with poor results as it turned out.

By the evening of the second day we had left The Winterwood behind and entered a deep ravine with high walls of yellow rock. We were out of the wind, with the resulting increase in temperature, but still making good speed. Suddenly we became aware of what could only be described as a divine chorus. It seemed to be coming from all around, resonating out of the yellow cliffs themselves. The music was unearthly in its beauty. It was, literally captivating. Too late I felt its magic entering my mind, attempting to drive out all other thoughts. I would have succumbed if it hadn't been for the protection afforded by my Harpers' pin. Gathering my wits I glanced around, my companions had also been able to resist the magic of the song but we seemed to be almost the only ones on both ships who had. To make matter worse both The Sea-Wind and Green Vine were being steered towards to cliffs by enraptured sailors.

Colatto and myself had pretty much the same idea at the same time. Colatto dashed to the bridge of The Green Vine and wrestled the wheel from the first mate, a powerfully built, black-skinned man called A'Nimind whose tattoos suggested he was an ex-slave. I took on the form of a bird and flew back to The Sea-Wind and, reverting to my true form grabbed the wheel. Desperately we both tried to turn the ships around but it was too late. We didn't hit the cliffs head-on but at an angle and began, to the sound of splintering wood, to grind along the edge of the cliff.

During this time Brother Baldric had called upon Tymora's power and created a zone of silence on the deck of The Green Vine, freeing several of the crew from the spell of the music. Faergil, Primrose and, from his position in the crows-nest, Bazil had been looking for the source of the singing. Now they found it. Still singing a dozen beings took flight from the cliff tops. They had the wings and lower bodies of great birds of prey and the upper body and heads of women. They might have been called beautiful if their faces weren't twisted by a wicked hunger. They were creatures we had heard of only in tales, Harpies.
Acting quickly Faergil cast a spell, sending a fireball up to explode amongst the flock or harpies, killing two and injuring two more. On water and facing an air-borne foe my options were limited, I tried a less deadly approach than the elf and invoked a miracle of light in an attempt to blind one of the harpies, unfortunately it was too agile for me. A moment later the diving harpies descended on the sailors, in all but one case targeting beguiled crewmen who stood helpless on the decks. The one exception were the two that pounced on Bazil, one managing to hook him with a claw despite the halfling stabbing at it's legs with his short-sword and dagger. Seeing Bazil in peril Primrose ran for the rigging. Colatto launched a flurry of magical darts at one of the harpies that had been burnt by Faergil's fireball and finished it off. Following the impact of The Green Vine against the cliffs Baldric had run below decks to assess the damage. He found that the ship was taking on water and began to try to patch up the hull.

On The Sea-Wind things looked grim. All six harpies had grabbed a victim and were starting to make their way back up to the cliff tops with their unresisting prizes. A crewman who had resisted the power of the song had managed to load a balister and fired up at a retreating harpy, his shot going wide. Pulling six wooden darts from a belt pouch I called upon the power of Silvanus and threw them. The darts sped from my hand faster then an arrow from a bow, two zeroing in on each of the three harpies I could see and all but one finding their mark. The darts were small but each smeared with sleeping venom. Two of the harpies managed to shrug off the effects but the third succumbed, falling into the river with her prey.

On The Green Vine things were going better, thanks mainly to The Art of Colatto and Faergil who between them launched a storm magical darts into a harpy, killing her. Primrose was by now a third of the way to the crow's nest, too far to help Bazil who was doing his best to drive off two harpies. He injured one but the second consolidated its grip and pulled him into the air. The second turned her attention on Primrose who was able to fight her way to a crossbeam where she could draw The Tears of Tymora and struck at her attacker. Faergil cast another spell, firing two blazing arrows across the water and hitting but not killing two of the harpies attacking The Sea-Wind. Despite the precariousness of her position Primrose was able to go on the offensive and with two more strikes killed the harpy, which fell to the decks right on top of an entranced crewman. Baldric raced back up on deck and took the wheel of The Green Vine, steering it away from the cliff wall.

Back on The Sea-Wind I had attempted to blind a second harpy, with an equal lack of success, before deciding I needed a change of perspective. I intoned the prayer of air walking, sacrificing a sprig of thistledown and an oak leaf to the winds. As if mounting an invisible staircase I walked up into the air to survey the fight. There were four sailors floundering in the water, dropped by killed or incapacitated harpies. A similar number of their crewmates were already mounting a rescue and I was about to help when I noticed Bazil. As he was being carried skywards the valiant halfling was still stabbing at the harpy until it decided to let him go. Instead of pullulating towards the water, however, Bazil fell as if he weighed no more then a feather thanks to the magic ring he had got off Woren. He had barely touched the river's surface by the time I reached him and pulled him out.

By now only four of the harpies were still aloft, each carrying away on sailor. Colatto had cast a spell of Polymorphing and taking on the form of an eagle was in hot pursuit of two of the attackers. Faergil used an illusionary spell to trick the other two into dropping their victims, unfortunately this only prompted them to circle back to find more. Faergil blasted one of the pair with a cone of arctic cold but that was not enough to kill it.

Carrying Bazil I walked back through the air to arrive on the deck of The Sea-Wind just at the same time the two harpies did. Bazil was eager to continue the fight and engaged one with short-sword and dagger, hitting the harpy twice with each as it took hold of a sailor. I was unarmed, having left my staff back on The Green Vine, but tried to grapple the harpy so she couldn't fly away. Unfortunately I couldn't get inside the guard of her violently flapping wings. I wasn't the only one suffering poor luck, from The Green Vine Baldric had attempted to call upon Tymora to paralyse the two harpies but with no effect. Faergil faired better when he targeted the second harpy with a spell that sapped her strength. Weakened the harpy was unable to take to their air carrying it's prey and, switching opponents, Bazil attacked and killed it. From his position on The Green Vine Faergil was able to hit the remaining harpy as it made it's escape with a magical dart of acid, injuring but not killing it. Bazil and I set off in pursuit.

Colatto landed on a foul-smelling cliff top stained with the harpy colony's waste and leftovers. The pair of harpies he had chased were already rending away at the flesh of their (still alive) prey. As he returned to his human form one of the harpies spotted him and charged. Its attack was easily deflected by the "Stone Skin" spell he had cast upon himself before leaving Nimpeth but he was still shoved from the cliff, plummeting to the water below. Before he had returned to the surface Colatto had changed again, becoming a cormorant, and flew straight back up. This time he made sure to land so the harpies were between him and the river before changing back. This time both harpies spotted him and a vicious fight to the finish ensued. The Stone Skin was able to deflect the first few of the harpies frenzied attacks with claws, teeth and (in one case) a severed arm used like a club. Soon however the unarmoured Colatto was taking a beating. Still Colatto fought on and, in a fight were both sides were prepared to fight to the last, he was able to despatch his two foes. Checking over the two sailors Colatto discovered that he was too late to save one but the other, though he had terrible facial injuries, was alive. Changing once again Colatto flew himself and the seaman back to The Green Vine.

Carrying Bazil I headed off after the last of the harpies, the halfling was eager to settle the score with her and, while I didn't share that sentiment, I agreed with his desire to rescue the sailor. The harpy could fly a lot faster then I could run even if I wasn't carry Bazil but we managed to follow it to a narrow crevice some eighty feet above the waves. As I waited, with nothing but air between me and a long fall, Bazil slipped into the reeking hole. We had hoped that the harpy hadn't spotted our pursuit but it was upon Bazil almost as some as he was into the cramped cave. Luckily it had been badly burnt by Faergil's acid and after a short but vicious fight Bazil finished it off. Getting the sailor, whose name was Aaron, back was another matter. First we had to drag the harpy's corpse out of the way then we had to convince Aaron that it was perfectly safe for me to carry him back to the ship. Then I came back for Bazil.

The fight over we took stoke. Amazingly we had only lost one sailor. Baldric had healed the unlucky seaman who had been flattened by a falling harpy but was unable to do anything the sailor who Colatto had rescued, whose eyes had been ripped out by a harpy. I called upon the power of Silvanus to cure Primrose's and Colatto's injuries. Baldric's quick actions during the fight had saved The Green Vine from serious damage and The Sea-Wind had escaped serious damage in the collision with the cliff.
During the morning of our fourth day of travel we left the long canyon behind and entered a lake so vast that it was almost a miniature sea. This was The Nagawater. Fishing boats crossed and re-crossed its waters. We could make out small villages along the banks of the lake and beyond them vast, golden fields. It certainly looked an interesting place.

At noon we were approached by a ship of a kind I had not seen before, it was a large vessel with two, triangular sails and what appeared to be a second, narrow and unmanned hull attached to the main hull by long poles. The ship's flag had the image of a purple feather. The ship hailed us and when Captain Villix identified us we were informed that we had been expected and were to be escorted to the city. As the sun set on the fourth day of what was supposed to be an eight-day journey we pulled into the harbour of Ormpetar, capital of Sespech. It was clearly an ancient city, low, lazy and dusty looking even from a distance. It was a city of brass spires that caught the rays of the setting sun so they looked like red flame. A crowd was assembled at the dock front (which were deep enough for our ships to sail right up to) and at it's head was a powerfully built warrior clad in steel-plate with a longsword sheathed across his back and a mighty, flanged mace clasped in his hand. It could only be Duke Foesmasher himself.

Chapter 4...

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Villion Reach (Politics of the region, information on the Emerald Enclave.)
Faiths and Avatars (Information on Tempus and the Blood Halls)
Cormanther (Shrinshee information)

This game didn't go too bad actually. I started to enjoy myself.

Thorn came very close to being discovered trying to sabotege the Priests departure, and I have no doubt that he would have been quickly killed had that been the case.

The PC's gained a little more information about the Legacy of Shrinshee, and there have been a number of clues given about its nature in previous games. I'm not sure that they have worked it out yet. Don't bother looking it up - it's my own invention, as is the whole campaign (for those of you not keeping track!). Suffice to say that there are powerful forces at work here...

The Harpies. I enjoyed this encounter. The characters all made their saving throws (with the exception of Faergil, who as an elf is immune anyway (and yes I still had him make it. Adds to the tension), so they were really not in any danger. It was the fact that the enchanted sailors started to steer the ships towards the walls of the canyons. Then the monsters themselves came down and started to carrying people off. Only Bazil, up in a crows nest was really in any danger, but once the Harpie realised that he was rather dangerous, he was dropped. Thanks to the Ring of Feather Fall, he suffered no damage.

Baldric did the right thing here and went to check the condition of the hull. He soon started to organise repairs before too much damage was done.

Colatto went to the rescue of some of the sailors and was saved from really serious harm by his Stoneskin. I had to make a judgement call here. The spell description says 'attacks', and therefore would it protect against the falling damage. I decided that yes it would (I think the 'spirit' of the spell is kept).

The other main rules descision was whether Baldric's Heal spell would return a sailors eyes to him (they had been removed by a Harpie). I decided no - that would require a Regeneration Spell.

Return to The Journey...