Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 3
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 river.

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 again.

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, Arriane Maerdrym.
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…

Chapter 7...

DM's Notes

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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