Chapter 6 - Rucien Xan (1359DR, 11th - 17th Marponeth)
Chondalwood assailed our senses. It was all we could see, all we could
hear. It's scents filled our lungs and we could taste its dust and miasma
every time we opened our mouths. There was no path and my companions found
the going hard, constantly pushing through curtains of moss, thick undergrowth
and roots and stepping over fallen logs. The noises we made as we travelled
seemed somehow flat and deadened as it the trees were trying to deny our
presence. All the time we felt that we were being watched, weighed, judged
by the forest and what lived within its boundaries.
The expressions on my companions faces were determination, to get the
task finished, and concern at what lurked out of sight within the forest.
I felt these too but they were blended with an almost euphoric joy, never
had I seen the works of Silvanus so masterfully demonstrated.
Once satisfied that the miracle he had invoked was sufficient to allow
him to wear plate armour in the heat of the forest Baldric offered the
same to Primrose. We all had to drink a lot as we travelled through the
heat of the forest and our water skins often required refilling from the
What I had heard and seen of "The Satyr Wood" made me concerned
that we should attempt to make contact with the satyrs before they found
us. On more then one occasion in the past The Company had been ambushed
by Wild Elves for trespassing through their lands and I could imagine
the same thing happening here. I suggested to my friends that I entreat
Silvanus to call some satyrs to us so we could plead our case but they
decided that it would probably do more harm then good.
As the afternoon passed it felt like we were making no headway at all,
my companions fighting against the living wall of Chondalwood with every
step they took. We travelled as close to the river as we were able but
its banks were thick with the roots of the ancient trees. Towards evening
we heard the crash of a waterfall. Investigation showed it to be the one
I had seen two days before on my scouting mission. The land rose steeply
here and for a few minutes we had to scramble up using the roots for handholds.
When the land levelled out again we pushed on for another hundred yards
or so before making camp. It was about then that Bazil caught a fleeting
glimpse of a humanoid figure in the woods.
Though we gathered some deadwood we didn't make a fire, as the night
was warm beneath the canopy of trees. We ate trail rations and I produced
boiled water by using a miracle to warm my knife to a red heat and then
placing it in a pan of water.
When the sun had set the forest had been plunged into an inky darkness.
The sounds of the forest had increased tenfold. We had no fire but all
of us possessed the elven sight, except Colatto and Baldric and indeed
Colatto used The Art to temporarily endow himself with night vision.
Sleep was hard. The night was full of a ghostly wailing and laughing
that called to mind tales of Banshees and yet seemed to have a sense of
purpose and intelligence. Once, suspecting that it might be an attempt
to communicate with us, I called out for whoever was out there to show
themselves. The noise abruptly stopped for a few seconds but soon restarted.
I was on second watch. It is possible that I wasn't being as attentive
as I could have been, as I watched the drama of nocturnal life in Chondalwood
play out before me. I was moving to wake Faergil, who the third and last
watch, when I noticed that our possessions had been disturbed. Colatto's,
Faergil's and my packs were gone and Baldric's had been moved, even though
he had been using it as a pillow! Quickly I woke the others. Colatto was
livid; his pack contained his spell book. I could see by the look on Faergil's
face that he was in a similar position.
Colatto pulled out a pair of his light stones. By their intense light
we could clearly see that the trees had shifted during the night, forming
a loose ring round us. Leaving one with Baldric Colatto scoured the nearby
ground until he found tracks, goat-like cloven hooves but belonging to
bipedal creatures and began to follow. Faergil raced to keep pace with
him, eager to regain his spell book, while I followed to make sure things
didn't go badly when the pair caught up with the satyrs. Baldric, Primrose
and Bazil broke camp and followed as soon as they could.
It rapidly became clear that the trail was leading us back the way we
came. The satyrs were doing their best to guide us back out of Chondalwood.
Twice we passed some of our possessions discarded by the wayside, a pair
of Colatto's leggings and Faergil's portable hole. After a couple of hours
we came to a clearing, or rather an area where the trese were less densely
packed. Our three packs were hung from a tree. All of us suspected a trap
and Colatto spotted it, a large vine net between our possessions and us.
By now the other had caught up and Bazil moved in on a cat-like tread
to examine the trap and then disable it. The two mages all but dived into
their packs to make sure their spell books were undamaged.
This finally convinced my friends that we had to at least try to bargain
with the satyrs. Sitting upon the floor I produced an offering of pine
cones and holly berries from my pouched and called out to Silvanus. After
a few minutes my prayers were answered as first one then another and then
another satyr arrived until there was over two dozen of then.
Physically the satyrs looked like others of their race I had seen, almost
as tall as a human with the lower bodies of goats and the upper bodies
of handsome, muscular men. But the satyrs of Chondalwood were the first
I had seen carrying weapons, curved short bows and broad-bladed short
swords. There were far more then the miracle could have called, the majority
must have come to see what was going on.
We spent many minutes, some of them quite tense, negotiating with the
satyrs. Two, called Barbacus and Silashus, had clearly responded to the
call of Silvanus and were eager to help when I explained that we only
wanted to pass through the forest without causing trouble and asked for
guides. A third satyr, called Dromius, spoke on behalf of the others.
Lady Shadowmoon had told them that we would be coming and they had given
her their word that they would not harm us. However they did not want
us in the forest and would do everything short of attacking us to encourage
us to leave. We could get no compromise out of Dromius, his distrust for
all from beyond the forest was too ingrained. After a while they departed
leaving Barbacus and Silashus.
We rested for the remainder of the night and then set off again in the
morning. The satyrs were excellent guides and even though we had to cover
old ground they led us far further in the second day then we had managed
to travel in the first. From our guides we learnt of some of the dangers
that lay ahead. The satyrs kept to the borders of the forest both to keep
an eye out for intruders and to avoid the creatures that lived at the
forest's heart, nagas, ogres and even dragons.
During the afternoon we came across an amazing spectacle. Amongst the
branches flew a group of snakes, some six to eight feet in length, brightly
coloured and held aloft by gossamer wings. The snakes were behaving mush
like bees, flying to large, white flowers high in the trees and drinking
their nectar. While they didn't appear aggressive our guides warned us
that they were dangerous if roused and we moved on quickly.
By nightfall Barbacus and Silashus had brought us to the edge of the
lands they were familiar with. Though I suspected that they would have
contained to travel with us if I had asked we had already agreed that
this where they would turn back. They did warn us that the other satyrs
could still be a problem and we set double watches that night, keeping
a careful eye on our possessions.
The satyrs did try to disrupt us again that night but this time they
used the fabled magic of their pipes. As Baldric and myself were handing
over to Faergil and Colatto we heard a haunting melody drifting through
the trees. Th effect on my companions was instant. A nervous look came
to Colatto's eyes while the two halflings stirred uneasily in their sleep.
For Baldric and Faergil it was more intense. All their unconscious fears
of the trees around us seemed to be realised in an instant. Faergil cowered
under his elven cloak, his wand at the ready to defend himself. Baldric
began swinging wildly with Twin-Death to "drive the trees back".
The grace of Silvanus meant that I was immune to the magic of the pipes
and I was just, gingerly, manoeuvring into position to grapple and disarm
Baldric when Colatto cast a spell, dispelling the satyrs' enchantment.
The next day we pressed on, ever deeper into Chondalwood. The hanging
vines that we constantly passed under reminded me of the vicious Grell
we had encountered in The Vast Swamp, many months ago. As we travelled
I noticed that the wild animals that we saw had taken on a darker coloration,
symptomatic I supposed of the damage done to the wood in ages passed.
By this time Colatto had begun casting a long lasting spell upon himself
to increase his strength.
By noon we had broken out into a massive forested basin that stretched
for miles ahead of us. As we moved throw it we suddenly heard a number
of loud bestial cries of anger, surprise and pain from close ahead. We
waited for a few moments before pushing on and soon came to the largest
clearing we had yet encountered in the forest. Scattered about the glade
were eleven dead ogres, killed by the largest arrows we had ever seen.
The arrow shafts were a good four feet in length and proportionally thick.
We were moving, carefully, across the clearing when an arrow flew out
of the trees and imbedded itself into a tree trunk next to Baldric with
incredible force. Most of us took cover behind trees but Colatto stood
his ground, peering into the undergrowth. For a second he saw the archer,
or perhaps I should say the archer let himself be seen. The being was
a humanoid ten feet in height with a large, hairless head and almost elven
ears. The gigantic figure fired a warning shot at Colatto before disappearing
into the forest. For a moment there was silence then a deep voice spoke
to us in elven, not to threaten but to warn us to be on our guard for
ogres. As we cast about to find this strange being he dropped down in
our midst. His ability to move unseen and unheard through the brush was
nothing short of magical.
The giant woodsman spoke good elven but poor common so I addressed him
in the former with Colatto giving my companions a running commentary.
His name was Kish of a race known to themselves as the Voadkyn but called
by the wild elves "Forest Giants". The Emerald Enclave had apparently
told him about us and that made us his friends. He warned us again about
the ogres adding that they commanded the evil spirits of their own dead.
As protection he gave me a fetish made from the leg bone of a cat. I asked
him if he could help us to make contact with the wild elves but he told
us that they had all gone from the woods.
That evening, the third since our arrival in the mighty Chondalwood,
I asked Faergil if he could use his crystal ball to determine where High
Battle-Guard Obarmar was. Unfortunately the ball revealed nothing. Just
as Faergil was putting it away we heard a persistent, wooden creaking
noise coming through the trees. Within moments a tree walked up to our
camp. Wary I approached; Treants are not the only walking trees. I asked
if in the language of Treants if I was addressing one of the noble herders
of trees. The Treant responded in the same tongue, putting my fears to
rest. The Treant had come to tell us that himself and his brothers would
not tolerate fires. I assured him that we understood and would be careful.
I explained tat we needed to reach Rucien-Xan. Unsurprisingly the Treant
knew of the elven city but told us that "only one" would be
allowed to go there. I told him that our need was great and asked if that
one was "the Slaver King" of Arriane's ballad. The Treant seemed
surprised that we knew of the ballad and asked me to tell him of my companions.
He seemed to be particularly interested in Colatto. His curiosity satisfied
the Treant departed with one final piece of wisdom, that we would bring
a long postponed doom to Rucien-Xan.
As I contemplated the Treant's words some long held suspicions came back
to me. My companions who accused me of having "one of those expressions",
however, interrupted my train of thought. Apparently my friends associate
"one of those expressions" with me knowing something and not
telling them. Chastised I put forward my theory that "the Slaver-King"
that Arriane Maerdrym fell in love with may have been a ruler of Nimpeth
seven hundred years hence. This would explain why she travelled to The
Reach following the fall of Myth Drannor and why the map to Rucien-Xan
was in Nimpeth.
The forth day of travel saw the forest open up, though we were still
travelling through the basin. The number of flies seemed to have increased,
or perhaps we just growing less tolerant of them, and we spent much of
the day swatting them off our bodies.
Just after lunch we saw ahead, through a break in the trees, a ruined
tower. It was crumbling in places, had tumbled down all together in others
and had the remains of an arch jutting out of one side suggesting that
it was once attached to a larger structure. As we waited a hundred feet
or so back Bazil moved silently forward to see what he could see, Faergil
keeping an eye on him with the crystal ball. As Bazil got closer he saw
a doorway and the glitter of gold and silver within. As he crept closer
still he saw coins within the building with a few scattered out the threshold.
Weary of a trap he lent down to have a closer look at the nearest coin
and discovered that it was a blank, featureless disk of gold. With a knife
he flicked it over, it was blank on the other side too. He had barely
had time to notice this when six magical darts flew out of the door and
struck Bazil. A second later two purple/black faces appeared in the doorway
as a pair of nagas slithered out. They were unpleasant to behold; human
heads on long, serpentine bodies with a ridge or crest that ran from forehead
to the tips of their tails, which ended in a blood red stinger. Their
skin the colour of bruised flesh.
Bazil turned and fled back towards us, calling out to warn us of the
danger. My companions seemed moment off their guard but I called upon
the power of Silvanus to aid Bazil. The Oak Father heard my prayer and
the grass and roots around the two nagas animated in an attempt to grapple
them. One naga wormed it's was free but the other was trapped. Seconds
later Bazil had made it back to the group and Primrose stepped forward
to intercept the approaching naga. Before it could reach her Faergil fire
a volley of magical darts into it but some unseen force deflected them.
Primrose. Bazil and Baldric all attacked the naga, injuring it severely.
The naga retaliated with The Art, casting a spell on Baldric that rendered
him blind. Meanwhile something had occurred to release the second naga.
After creating a number of illusionary decoys of itself it moved in to
join it's companion. I hadn't been inactive during this time but called
upon Silvanus once more for aid. Suddenly the nagas stopped their attack
and began to sway, mesmerised, back and forth. I knew that the serpents
would not be charmed for long and called out to my friends that we should
leave. It was then that Baldric revealed his condition to us. A second
latter three magical darts flashed out of the undergrowth, they hit me
but were absorbed by my Harpers' pin. With Faergil a short way behind
him Colatto ran to the source of the magical darts and found a third naga
concealed amongst the trees. He delivered a powerful blow with his magically
enhanced strength but didn't kill it. Almost simultaneously Faergil and
the third naga unleashed more magical darts, Faergil's against the naga
had no effect but those of the serpent struck home on Colatto. Bazil and
Primrose had killed the first naga and were quickly working their way
through the second's illusionary decoys until they found the real one.
I made my way over to an unsteady Baldric but by the time I reached him
he had prayed to Tymora who had restored his sight.
Almost simultaneously Faergil dispatched the third naga using a spell
of Frost Fingers and Bazil ran through the second with Kithril. As the
pair died the tower disappeared, an illusion designed to lure in the unwary.
We had no time to recover though. No sooner had the last naga perished
then we all heard a malicious, venomous voice in our heads. It accused
us of breaking it's pets and for that we would suffer. Out of the forest,
no more then a dozen yards away, rose a green dragon. The dragon wasn't
the largest we had ever seen, its body was close to fifty feet in length
with another sixty feet of tail, but it was big enough. The fact that
something so massive could have got so close was staggering. We all felt
a wave of terror, the infamous "Dragon Fear", at the sight of
this imposing creature. Primrose, who I believe had never been so close
to a dragon before, almost wilted in its presence. Bazil, Faergil and
myself quickly moved off in different directions to reduce the chance
of us all being caught by its deadly breath. Colatto employed the art
and conjured six illusionary decoys of himself. Baldric took a different
tack and, gambling that the dragon was an illusion perhaps created by
yet another naga, called upon Tymora to dispel any magics in the area
taken up by the wyrm. Unfortunately the dragon didn't disappear. Instead
it exhaled a cloud of thick, vile, venomous gas that rolled over Primrose,
Baldric and Colatto. The three gagged and coughed as the poison took its
toll but they survived. In a show of bravery Bazil begun our counter attack
by hurling a dagger at the dragon but it did not get through it's scaly
skin. Colatto pulled a potion from his pouches and drank it, it was a
potion of quickness that would double his speed. I called upon the Earthmaw,
it erupted out of the ground beneath the dragon but the stone teeth could
not bite through the dragon's scales. Primrose made a desperate attack
with her magical blade but it too was turned aside. When it looked like
there was nothing we could do to even scratch the leviathan Faergil cast
a lightning bolt at the dragon, sending it reeling. The dragon turned
on the elf, transfixing Faergil with his baleful stare and declaring that
the mage had made an enemy of "Carakuras the Skurge". Contemptuously
Carakuras knocked Primrose aside with a slash of a claw and then bit down
of Faergil, leaving the mage blooded but still hanging on to life. As
most of us were arrayed to either side of the dragon Carakuras swept down
with his wings, crashing then down on to Colatto, Baldric and myself.
Faergil, Colatto and myself fought back with The Art and miracles and
the dragon was pierced, frozen and bitten by magical darts, a cone or
arctic wind and a second (successful) Earthmaw. This last attack brought
Carakuras 's attention to me. With a lightning fast lunge he snapped at
the "nasty little half-human", biting deeply into my leg. At
the same time he clawed at Colatto (he had no trouble telling the real
mage from his duplicates) and the already injured Faergil and buffeted
Baldric with a wing. Primrose tried to attack the dragon from the flank
but once again the blade was thwarted. Faergil produced the wand and blasted
Carakuras but it seemed to have no effect.
After throwing his dagger Bazil had got the same idea as Baldric, that
the dragon might be an illusion, and he had snuck around Carakuras to
see what he could see. Bazil found enough disruption to the undergrowth
and footprints to convince him that the dragon was all too real so he
had drawn his short swords and moved in to attack from the rear. Unfortunately
the dragon had sensed his approach and, with a swipe of his tail, Carakuras
sent the halfling flying. Bazil sailed through the air and crashed into
a tree with stunning force.
Carakuras , myself, my companions. All of us were badly injured. The
fight would soon be over one way or another. Up till then Baldric had
kept out of the fight as best he could. Instead of attacking he had called
down a pair of powerful blessings on to himself from The Lady. Now he
was ready to act. Charging up to the bloodied and torn dragon he delivered
a devastating, bone-splitting attack with Twin-Death. The dragon looked
shocked for a second and then Carakuras fell to the ground, never to rise
As quickly as our injured bodies would allow we pulled ourselves together.
Colatto went to retrieve Bazil. A number of my companions cut souvenirs
off of the dragon. Colatto spoke of getting some dragon-scale armour forged
while Faergil wanted rare components for magical research.
After Baldric and myself did a little to soothe our companions' wounds
we pressed on. The dragon's tracks led back the way we were going and
for a while we followed them. It was surprising how little disturbance
the passage of Carakuras had caused. After about a hundred yards it turned
away from the river. Colatto and Bazil were eager to follow the dragon's
tracks in the hope that it led us to Carakuras's lair. I was equally eager
to get on to Rucien-Xan but figured that ten minutes wouldn't hurt. The
trail led us for about a mile, going up hill all the time. We broke out
of the forest to the foot or a rocky outcrop. Carefully Bazil went on
ahead. He returned a few minutes later with mixed news. There was no lair
and it appeared from the tracks that Carakuras had landed there. On the
plus side from the top of the outcrop he had spotted a waterfall along
the river. We headed back up to the raised ground with Bazil and, borrowing
Faergil's spyglass, he looked along the river. There was a waterfall but
only one, not the three we were looking for.
The rest of the day passed without danger. That night (and the next morning)
Baldric and myself continued to tend to our injuries. Once again Faergil
used the crystal ball. This time he saw an image of Obarmar in a large
tent praying to his god.
Day five began with much praying and studying as Baldric and myself renewed
our holy vows and the mages studied their spell books. After that we continued
to follow the river. The far wall of the basin that we were in was slowly
drawing closer but we would not reach it that day. By early afternoon
we had reached the waterfall Bazil had spotted the day before. The spray
it gave off was very welcome. Still entertaining ideas of finding the
dragon's lair (and his hoard) Bazil and Colatto looked for signs of a
cave behind the waterfall. What they found were a pair of staircases carved
out of rock. The longer one went up the side of the waterfall but the
shorter went behind the cascading waters into a cave. Curious about the
discovery I followed the pair in. The entrance to the cave was far too
small for a dragon. It was decorated with fetishes of bone and feather
and the edges of the entrance were marked with patterns in plant-based
dyes. The chamber beyond was circular. It was eight feet high but its
width gave it the impression of being low. There was a fire pit in the
centre, old sleeping furs and an empty, wooden weapons rack. As we took
in the view there came a growl from the shadows at the back of the cave.
We saw movement and a large dog limped into view. It was four feet tall
at the shoulder with green fur with brown mottling, one of the famous
Elven Dogs or "Cooshee". Speaking calmly in elven I walked slowly
over to the dog so I could examine its wound. There was a large cut on
its front leg, probably a blade stroke. Calling upon the power of Silvanus
I treated the wound. It was clear from its reactions to me talking to
it that the cooshee understood the elven tongue. At the mention of Rucien-Xan
it was eager to be on it's way and for us to follow.
We took the longer stairs up the waterfall and carried on for the rest
of the day. The cooshee stayed close to me and I made a fuss of it. It
was only a shame that Amber was no longer with us, her heart would have
gone out to it at once.
That night, as we slept, the darkness with filled by a bellowing cry of
rage, anger and grief. Only a dragon could have made such a noise. Carakuras
, it seemed, had a mate. We heard the noise once or twice more that night
but it did not seem to be getting any closer.
The sixth day of our journey was an easy one. A wind blowing from the
mountains to the east cooled the air nicely. As we walked we heard the
distant murmuring of Treants. In the late afternoon we swept aside a curtain
of moss and a spectacular sight greeted us. A magical, sylvan scene that
was only surpassed to my mind by the time I had spent in The Unicorn Run.
Ahead was the wall of the basin. Several hundred feet above us was a plateau
into which hundreds of rivers drained. Their combined waters cascaded
down from the plateau as a magnificent waterfall to form the thunderous
source of the river Arran. But two great fingers of rock thrust out of
the waterfall cutting the one sheet of water into three falls from which
sprang dozens of vivid rainbows. After six days we had found the place
marked on Arriane's map!
Now all we had to do was wait for the sun to set. We spent the rest of
the day relaxing. Colatto managed to catch some fish and we had our first
hot meal in almost a ride. Faergil employed the crystal ball again, this
time getting an image of Obarmar in a temple talking to another priest
of Tempus. Where could he be?
Soon enough night fell. Corellon's Tears were almost directly overhead
and that night seemed to burn even brighter and more terrible then before,
or perhaps that was just my imagination. As it said on the map Faergil
called out the name of Arriane Maerdrym. Nothing happened. On a hunch
I suggested that Colatto do like wise. For a second nothing changed then
suddenly there was a shimmering as the cliff-face that had been hidden
by illusion came into sight. It was pitted with dozens, perhaps hundreds
of caves. As we looked on we realised that the caves were not entirely
natural but had been worked to form doorways and windows interconnected
by graceful stairways and punctuated by carvings and statues. Greatest
of these statues were the two fingers of rock revealed now to be great
elven sentinels. Here was Rucien-Xan!
Before we could finish taking it all in we became aware of movement coming
down the face of the cliff towards us. It was a dozen more cooshee. Our
travelling companion ran to meet them and they barked happy greetings
to each other. The pack of cooshee then came over to us and, tails wagging,
they led us up into Rucien-Xan. Though in my limited experience I had
never know them to work in stone it was clear that the elven city was
crafted by wild-elves. The designs carved into the cliff-face were simultaneously
simplistic and yet deeply profound. Our strange escort led us up and up
through an almost dream-like city until they brought us into the presence
of Rucien-Xan's single inhabitant, or perhaps I should say custodian,
I had expected her, like her brother and sister in The Vale of Lost Voices,
to be a Balnorn but it was clear that Arriane was very much alive. She
was a Moon Elf clad in a pale, green dress. She was also the single most
ancient member of her kind I had ever seen. Elves do not diminish with
age as humans do, instead Arriane shone with an inner beauty that only
centuries of wisdom could bring. Initially her attention was wholly on
Colatto, she glided towards him, cupped his face in her hands and, with
tears running down her cheeks, declared "I knew you would come".
More then ever I was convinced that if we were too look back along Colatto's
family tree we would find elven blood.
After a few moments of contemplation her mind returned to the here and
now and she regarded us all. I think she was pleased with what she saw.
Faergil produced the golden bracer that her brother had given him as a
token of our honesty. However Arriane didn't seem to need it, in fact
she removed a matching bracer from her own arm and gave it to Faergil.
She told us that time was short and that we all had a part to play if
the plans of the Drow were to be thwarted. She also confirmed what the
Treant had told me, after tonight she and Rucien-Xan would pass forever
from this land and mortal memory.
She led us deeper into Rucien-Xan until we finally reached a great meeting
hall of white and pink marble. In alcoves along the wall stood statues
of the elven gods. At the far end stood a statue of noble Corellon Larethian,
chief of the elven gods, his arms held in front of him as if to embrace
someone. Across the arms were lain three grey wrapped bundles. One at
a time she unwrapped and brought forth what we had travelled so far to
recover; three of the legendary Bane Blades of Demron.
The first was a short-sword. Its hilt was worked into the shape of a
tree, the branches forming the guard and extending up the blade. Green
flame dancer along its length. Arriane named it as "Evaelathil"
also known as "Flame Bane" or "The Scout Blade". She
presented it to Bazil. It could have been made for him, not simply physically
but spiritually too. As he held it Captain Sir Bazildon Stringfellow III
looked every inch the hero and adventurer that those of us who travelled
in his company knew him to be.
The second sword was a long-sword seemingly forged from a single piece
of burnished steel. It had a simple globe guard to protect the users hand
but as Arriane lifted it a single eye rotated across the guard's surface.
Purple flame played along the blade's length. Arriane named it as "Faervian"
also known as "Battlebane" or "The Mages Blade". She
presented it to Colatto.
The third sword was also a long sword. It had a slight curve to its blade
and an intricate basket hilt of gold decorated with harps, roses and thorns.
The blade was inlayed with rubies and was caressed by crimson flame. Arriane
named it as "Dragathil" the blade of love. So this was the Dragathil
of the ballad, I had thought that it might be a place or maybe a person
but I had never even suspected the truth. As Arriane lifted the blade
it flared red and for a few long seconds a stream of flame connected her
and Colatto, I cannot tell what passed in those moments but a deeply profound
look could be seen on their faces.
The moment passed and Arriane seemed somehow different, as if some ancient
promise had finally been fulfilled. She passed the blade to me charging
us all with finding one worthy to carry it. She also handed each of us
one of the grey shrouds, in fact a cloak of exquisite craftsmanship. It,
like the bracers Faergil now wore, was part of the uniform of the Akh
Faer, the ancient defenders of Myth Drannor.
She had barely done this when a black cloud seemed to form around her.
Within seconds, before our shocked eyes, the cloud solidified into the
most nightmarish creature I had seen since our fateful final night in
the Dalelands. It was a Tanar'ri almost fifteen feet in height. Its muscular
frame was black as pitch; it had four arms, two of which ended in monstrous
pincers and a face the horror of which cannot be put into words. It pinned
Arriane to its chest and looked at us contemptuously.
Why, it asked, did we still oppose his when he had shown us so much mercy
up till now? It had a voice like crushed rocks. Now, it went on, we would
pay for our stupidity and die at the hands of Xrakvar.
Xrakvar! I knew the name and so did Baldric, Elladyr's dream had mentioned
"Xrakvar's Bane" and it was the demon who held the soul of Baldric's
lost love in bondage.
With little thought for the danger we faced my companions and I steeled
ourselves for combat with this terror from the Lower Planes
I used the following references:
Vilhon Reach. - Information on Chondalwood - though not alot. Most of
it was my own.
Cormanthyr - Information on the Maerdrym Clan and the Akh Faer
Anybody else noticed that Nicks write ups are getting longer...? ;-) Actually,
I did start the game promptly and we finished late - I had a lot to cram
in. In fact a dropped a couple of encounters.
I went to town on describing the forest (probably too much - I tend
to ramble) as I wanted to really bring it alive.
The satyr encounter(s) went rather well, and even though Thorn cast 'Call
Woodland Beings' I knew that it wouldn't be easy to obtain help from them.
They had suffered too greatly.
The flying snakes are 'Winged Snakes' from the Monster Manual.
The Nagas used Spectral Force to create the Tower. It was a spontaneous
thing on my part. The encounter with the Dragon didn't last too long -
but there was a frightening amount of damage being thrown about. The PC's
got the change to flex their muscles. All of them were badly wounded by
the time Carakarus was killed.
The encounter with the Treant was also a spur of the moment thing
(as was the first Cooshee encounter). I make up a lot of stuff spontaneously
when running Realms. Running off the cuff is the challenge for me - and
anyway my notes are a mess! Now the players are speculating on Colattos
ancestry, and it all seems to fit together.
My inspiration for the look of Rucien Xan? Tarzan the Disney animation.
The plateau, the waterfalls. I thought it was beautifully done when I
first saw it and knew it would be perfect for an elven settlement. Hey
us DMs need to get our ideas from somewhere!
Arriane Maerdrym is a tragic figure. She has a part to play, and she
knows it. I don't think that came across too well, but all is not lost.
The Ballad, in case you haven't read all the previous chapters can
be viewed here.
FYI. Baldric fell in love with a Witch many adventures ago. Her soul
was taken by Xrakvar when she died, and the players now speculate on how
Baldric can free her from Torment. The Reference to 'Xrakvars Bane' came
from Ellidyr the Traitor of Nimpeth - See Book 2 Chapter 8.
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