Chapter 7- The Death of Arriane (1359DR, 11th - 23rd Marponeth)
Effortlessly Xrakvar lifted Arriane off her feet, simultaneously crushing
her body with his massive pincers and raking at her flesh his claws. With
a few arcane words Faergil sent a swarm of magical darts flying at Xrakvar,
all five struck unerringly but he didn't even seem to feel them, protected
by that strange anti-magic possessed by his kind.
Ignoring the elf Xrakvar turned his attention of Brother Baldric. The
fiend spoke a single word of power and Baldric was struck senseless, the
priest swayed on his feet like a drunkard and Twin-Death fell limply from
Charging forward with a look of purpose and dread on her face Primrose
struck a two handed blow with The Tears of Tymora, the blade connected
in a shower of silver sparks but the fiend was unhurt. Colatto moved in
swinging Faervian, The Mage's Blade in an arc of purple flame but, for
all his size, Xrakvar was like quicksilver and Colatto missed. Bazil had
moved in to flank the fiend and launched a daring but futile attack with
both Kithril and Evaelathil.
Xrakvar threw Arriane to the floor, taking the opportunity to rake his
claws and pincers through her flesh one more time. Angrily Colatto and
the valiant Bazil struck again but again they missed. Faergil unleashed
more magical darts, this time they penetrated Xrakvar's defences and the
fiend roared with anger. Xrakvar turned his dog-like head towards Faergil
and uttered the power-filled but seemingly noiseless word he had used
on Baldric, stunning the mage.
During this time I had been thinking of some strategy to take against
the fiend. As with our other battles with Tanar'ri the gifts of Silvanus
were of little direct use. Flames were of no use against a creature of
The Abyss, surrounded by the stone of Rucien-Xan I was denied the power
of the Earthmaw and any animal I called to our aid would stand no chance
against the unholy might of Xrakvar. However the power of Silvanus could
be used to aid my companions. Quickly I unwrapped Dragathil and called
out to Primrose. Sheathing her own blade she ran over and took The Lovers'
Blade. As she did so I called out to Silvanus to bless her. The blessing
is a complicated one to describe. It takes a few moments to take effect
and only lasts a few more however during those seconds the recipient can
uses a small fraction of The Oak Father's dominion over the flow of time
to guide themselves to a future to their liking.
Before the blessing could even take effect Primrose was back the middle
of the melee, swinging a crimson arc with Dragathil that both hit and
hurt the fiend causing Xrakvar cry out in both pain and no small amount
By now Baldric was coming to his senses but before he could fully recover
the fiend was upon him. Baldric's elven armour did little to protect him
as Xrakvar struck with claws, pincers and a viscous bite. At the same
time the fiend used his word of power for a third time, striking down
Primrose before she could attack again. Bazil staged a cunning attack
at the fiend's rear but his skill did not on par with his bravery and
he missed both times. Quickly I moved in and blessed the heroic halfling
as I had the now helpless Primrose. Colatto unleashed a magical dart of
acid but it too missed. Baldric was luckier as he successfully called
upon Tymora to sap Xrakvar's magical defences.
Despite the obvious might of his enemy Bazil pressed his attack but even
with the aid of Silvanus hitting Xrakvar was trying to catch a moon beam.
The fiend continued to rain blow after punishing blow down on Baldric.
Colatto unleashed a wave of arcane darts, injuring the suddenly vulnerable
fiend. Xrakvar seemed confident however and his reason soon became clear
as a tall, gangly form half hopped, half flew into the chamber, a Vrock
Now that Xrakvar had moved forward to engage Baldric I could reach the
torn figure of Arriane. Despite her injuries she was not only still alive
but semiconscious. With each ragged breath she took blood welled up in
her mouth in testament to her internal injuries. As I knelt down to heal
her she began to speak. She asked me not to help her, that she welcomed
the release. I asked her if there was another way out of the chamber but
by now she had drifted into the relief of unconsciousness. Death could
not be far behind.
Baldric brought the power of Tymora to bare on his foe, it was clear
that the fight was very personal one for both fiend and priest, in an
attempt to drag Xrakvar fully onto this plane of existence and there by
reduce the Tanar'ri's power. With a supreme effort Xrakvar was able to
resist the magic.
Colatto tried to follow-up the success of his magical darts with a bolt
of lightning but it had little if any effect on the fiend. Seconds later
the Vrock had reached Colatto and began tear into him with talons and
beak. Xrakvar used his magic to grow to twice his height, so large that
he had to crouch down to continue his murderous attack on Baldric. Bazil
called for us to retreat. His words made sense. He led the way, attempting
to drive back the Vrock that blocked our retreat. It looked like Primrose
was starting to come to her senses but Faergil wasn't so I headed across
to the senseless elf and began to half carry, half drag him to safety.
Ahead of me Bazil and Colatto were battling the Vrock but it was simply
proving to fast for them to hit. The fiend had no such problem and while
it concentrated most of its attacks on Colatto it still found time to
take the occasional swing at Captain Stringfellow.
Heedless of Bazil's words Primrose renewed her attack on Xrakvar, thrusting
Dragathil deep into the fiend's leg to leave a hole edged in crimson flame.
Curiously Xrakvar seemed to have no internal organs. Instead, like a hollow
statue he was empty, containing an infinite void. This gave Baldric the
opportunity to snatch up Twin-Death and attack but he found his nemesis
just as mercurial as Bazil and Colatto had.
Xrakvar was clearly beginning to feel his injuries though. With a final
taunt to Baldric that "she" would suffer a thousand-fold the
pains that the fiend had endured Xrakvar quite literally disappeared in
a cloud of brimstone.
Xrakvar hadn't left without a parting gift. From the shadows of the chamber
began to form creatures I had once encountered during The Time of Troubles
and hope I would never to see again. They were yet another of the countless
hordes of The Abyss. Ape-like they were shorter then a human but powerfully
built with long arms ending in six digits. They were covered in a course
red-brown fur and their eyes burn with an unholy light. As the six of
them shambled towards us we could all hear their voices in our minds.
They were eager to taste our flesh. We were surrounded.
The Vrock continued its attack on Colatto who was now looking bloodied
and torn. Bazil stabbed at the fiend with Kithril but missed. A second
later he executed a masterful, if unorthodox, cleaving attack with Evaelathil
that cut into the emaciated torso of the Vrock and blasted all the way
through, destroying it. Free of his opponent Colatto attacked the one
of the new arrivals with a punishing thrust of Faervian.
Baldric invoked the power of Tymora that withdrew him from the normal
flow of time. To us he seemed to flicker. From his point of view the melee
slowed to a crawl giving him time to heal himself. He also healed some
of Colatto's injuries sustained in battle with the Vrock but in doing
so Baldric ended the miracle and was shunted back into the normal flow
Still carrying Faergil I had backed up to Primrose and called upon Silvanus
to aid her. Empowered she closed on the nearest Ape-Fiend and obliterated
it with a powerful sweep of Dragathil. I moved in behind her and called
down the blessing for a forth and final time that night. I had barely
done so when the five remaining Ape-Fiends counter-attacked. One each
attacked Baldric, Captain Stringfellow, Colatto and myself with tooth
and claw. Every time their foul flesh touched our own we felt an unnerving
fear that threatened to overwhelm us but we stood our ground. More importantly
one was tearing lumps out of the helpless Faergil.
Bazil fought back at the fiend that had injured him, missing with Kithril
but scoring a deep wound with the green-flaming Evaelathil. In response
the Tanar'ri disappeared, as did the ones attacking myself and Colatto.
Baldric's didn't and he swung wildly, and ineffectively, at it. A second
latter Primrose was at its flank and once again proved that elven magic
and the blessing of Silvanus was a potent combination, killed the Ape-Fiend
with two quick attacks.
The Ape-Fiend attacking Faergil showed no signs of disappearing. While
my own staff was enchanted I felt that I would need a little more power
if I were to save Faergil. Abandoning my own weapon I snatched up Colatto's
staff and brought it crashing down across the back of the fiend. As I
did so I called out the staff's command word. There was a flash of blue
light and the Ape-Fiends reeled back, injured but alive.
The situation began to change very rapidly, and not for the better. Two
Ape-Fiends appeared either side of Primrose while over a dozen more began
to rush into the room. Bazil called out that we should try to fight our
way to freedom as he and Baldric moved to defend Primrose. Again I used
Faergil's staff against the Ape-Fiend, delivering a punishing blow but
not killing it. Colatto unleashed a blast of arctic cold into the advancing
masses but they carried on seemingly oblivious.
No sooner had Bazil led Baldric and Primrose in despatching the two Ape-Fiends
that had appeared next to Primrose than the horde was upon us. We were
attacked from all sides at once by tearing, rending teeth and claws. Again
Bazil ordered that we somehow fight through the mob to the door. Colatto
unleashed an ineffective burst of magical darts into the nearest patch
of red fur, Primrose and Bazil hacked at Ape-Fiends but their blows seemed
to have no effect. Faergil was starting to come around but it seemed it
would only be in time to die on his feet with the rest of us.
Desperate to find another way of I pulled out my magical lens and began
to look around for any sign of a concealed exit. It was through the lens
that I saw what Bazil was beginning to suspect, with the exception of
the one that I had been hitting with Colatto's staff all the Ape-Fiends
were phantasms. Their source seemed to be another of the ape-like Tanar'ri,
the third of those that had vanished, that stood near one of the many
statues in the chamber, invisible. With this realisation the illusion
lost all hold on my mind and the phantom wounds I had suffered at the
hands of the mob evaporated. Quickly I shouted this discovery to my fellows.
I was halfway through telling them about the invisible Ape-Fiend when
the only other real one jumped me. Fearless as ever Bazil was at the Ape-Fiend
in a second, driving it back with thrusts of his twin blades. The badly
injured Colatto joined him. The mage had had cast his "vampiric touch"
and drained what little life there was left out of the Ape-Fiend. Baldric
dashed over to the statue to attack the invisible Ape-Fiend. Unfortunately
it was the wrong statue.
The Ape-Fiend gave away its location a moment later when it enveloped
the area around it in darkness. If it believed that this would shield
it from the lens it was mistaken. I saw the fiend dash towards me claws
at the ready. Desperately I tried to interpose Faergil's staff one handed
but the Ape-Fiend ploughed through my defences and almost bowled me over.
Before it could do much harm Primrose finished the fiend off with Dragathil.
Silence. The fight was over.
Giving Faergil his staff back and stooping to pick up my own I went over
to where Arriane lay. She was dead. I closed her eyes, straighten her
limbs and left her at the foot of Corellon Larethian's statue. Primrose
brought over Dragathil and, with a reverence I had seldom felt for a weapon,
I re-wrapped it and tied it across my back. With little in the way of
conversation we left the chamber where we had fought the Tanar'ri and
Arriane's long wait had come to an end.
It was night and we all needed to rest and heal. I was for leaving Rucien-Xan
and returning to our camp at the foot of the waterfall but Bazil and Baldric
argue that we should stay in the city and find a defensible room. Given
our enemies habit of appearing and disappearing into thin air the idea
that we could defend a position from them struck me as being unlikely.
However we did find a chamber near a bridge and small waterfall. Much
of my divine favour with Silvanus had been used up in the battle; I did
what I could Primrose's, Faergil's and my own injuries but we were far
For a while we talked about our next move. We needed to get a boat and
get back to The Dalelands as soon as we could, time was slipping away
from us. If we headed back to Nimpeth we were guaranteed a boat but, we
were certain, that meant running the gauntlet of Obarmar and his priests
of Tempus. Rather we decided to head north and east to the Free-city (and
port) of Reth. Rather then head north through Chondalwood we would continue
east until we came out the other side and skirt along between the foothills
of the mountains and the forest until we came again to the plains that
ran all the way north to the sea. Colatto was eager to return to Nimpeth,
Baldric and Bazil argued that we didn't have the time if we were to stop
the Drow. He agreed to postpone his final decision until we reached the
coast. Without horses this was going to be a long journey and I wondered
if I could come up with something a little quicker.
Leaving the confines of Rucien-Xan I re-entered the eaves of ancient
Chondalwood and began praying to Silvanus. As I prayed my consciousness
began to expand, my spirit left the puny shell of skin and bone that was
its prison and merging with the vastness of the forest. I was the forest
for miles in every direction and the forest was I. I searched for any
creature (or creatures) that could carry us out of the forest, perhaps
even to the coast. Nothing; no giant eagles that (according to the tales)
lived with elves, none of the giant owls that haunt the deep forests far
from the sight of civilisation. No good dragons either. There was a pair
of centaurs but they could not help us much. The only glimmer of hope
was the presence of a Druid, Tamoki, living near by.
I headed back to the others to share what I had learnt and proposed that
in the morning I would try to find Tamoki and ask for his help.
For me sleep was a long time coming that night. At one point during the
night the cooshee howled a lament for their dead mistress, their melancholy
notes matched my mood. My input into the fight with the Tanar'ri had been
minimal. The power of Silvanus was the power of nature itself, irresistible,
unstoppable but slow. And my own grasp of that power was far from perfect.
I knew, instinctively that there were miracles that were just beyond my
reach, if only I had the insight, the discipline to understand them. My
trusty old staff had served me well against lesser dangers but seemed
a meagre thing against the enemies we now faced. My half-dragon heritage
gave me options denied to many but were they enough compared to the diabolical
power of the Tanar'ri or the dark magics of the Drow? Why had this task
come to me when there must be hundreds of Silvanus's faithful better equipped
to carry it out? I took some solace from what mentor, the Druid Gillian,
had once told me; it wasn't the amount of gifts that defined us but how
we used the ones we had.
I was not the only one who had a bad night's sleep. Baldric looked pale
and drawn the next morning and though he would not speak of the problem
I knew that Xrakvar was the root of it.
While the other had breakfast I headed out to a balcony overlooking the
falls and preyed to Silvanus to send me help. A small flock of brightly
coloured birds responded to my call. Using another miracle I was able
to speak to them and asked if they could take me to see Tamoki. The birds
with their incessant squabbling were a refreshing change from the death
and doom of the previous night. They agreed to take me and, taking on
one of their forms I flew after them. Together we flew up to the plateau
from which the waterfall fell. It was not, as I had supposed, the source
of the Arran but a wide delta where the river broke into hundreds of smaller
streams that emptied into the plateau on three sides. There were numerous
islands in the shallow waters of the plateau that had been linked by bridges
in the past but now time had taken it's toll and the bridges had collapsed.
I found Tamoki spear fishing on one of these islands. He was a skinny
man, nothing more then skin and bones. He was clad only in a loincloth.
His skin was caked in mud but whether this had a ritual significance or
was just to protect him from the sun I could not tell, and his hair was
a wild, knotted mess. My conversation with Tamoki didn't go smoothly.
The Druid was a hermit, he did not want to be disturbed and he did not
want to help us. Surprisingly he was not a member of The Emerald Enclave,
who he considered bullies and busybodies (something I'm sure Colatto would
have been pleased to hear). When I mentioned Arriane Maerdrym his "crazy
hermit" act slipped a little but I could not change his mind. With
some difficulty I managed to learn that the mountains were three days
journey away and that there were giant eagles living amongst their peaks.
With Tamoki waving a spear (still with a fish impaled on the end) at me
I took the form of a bat and flew back to my companions.
It was late morning when we left Rucien-Xan. We climbed up a great stone
staircase towards the plateau. The city, as beautifully crafted as it
was, was now a tomb, there was no sign of the cooshee and when we left
nothing would remain. Bazil and Baldric were eager to take some souvenir
of Rucien-Xan with them. The pair found a small pond into which emptied
a waterfall. At the bottom of the pool were several figures carved into
the shape of elven men and women. Bazil waded in and passed one of the
figurines to a waiting Baldric. Primrose wasn't too happy with this and
Faergil pointed out that the figures were probably offering by the elves
to remember the passing of loved ones. Reluctantly the pair put their
find back into the water.
Upon reaching the plateau we had left Rucien-Xan. No sooner had the last
of us left when a fog seemed to roll over the scene and the elven city
faded from sight just as it had appeared the night before. The ornately
carved staircase we had ascended became a rough mountain track. The two
noble elven sentinels were once more two fingers of jagged rock. A fog
also rolled over our minds. In the days that followed much of the detail
of Rucien-Xan faded from our memories like a dream; a flash of colour
here, a detail there was all that remained. If it weren't for the swords
and other artefacts that we had been given (not to mention the wounds
we had received) it would be easy to believe we had never been there at
Wading through or jumping over the many small rivers of the delta we
headed towards the mountains far ahead.
The woods were just as thick, the trees just as dense and the heat just
a stifling as before. My companions made slow progress through the curtains
of moss and tangles of roots. Clearly Tamoki's "three days"
was by a Druids' standard of travel through the forest. In the afternoon
of our first day's travel we heard a strange, rushing noise coming from
some way ahead. It was not the river, which was some way to our right
and was running quite slowly. Trusting to our elven cloaks to shield us
from unfriendly eyes we moved cautiously forwards until we came across
a clearing. It was clear that the clearing was not a natural one. It was
filled with grass a deep blue in colour and in the centre of it was a
storm of swirling, multi-coloured leaves. The leaves were every shade
of every colour I could imagine and were spinning in a tight spiral as
if trapped in a whirlwind; it was the source of the rushing noise. Both
Colatto and Faergil reported that they could feel a strange energy in
the air. This suggested to me that we could have found one of the areas
of Wild Magic the satyrs had mentioned. The mages agreed and we detoured
around the area.
That evening we heard drums echoing through the forest. It was impossible
to guess the distance or direction of the drumming. Our best guess is
it was ogres. I called upon the power of Silvanus and our camp was assembled
for us as if by a dozen, invisible hands. This was not simply a matter
of laziness; the magically constructed camp blended well into its surroundings
making us harder to find by our mysterious drummers. Baldric and myself
employed the powers of our respective gods to treat our friends' injuries.
We only called upon minor miracles so we would not have to invest hours
the next morning renewing our divine favour.
The second day of our journey to the mountains passed without incident
other then the discovery of somebody's, most likely the drummers from
the night before, boundary markers. These were wooden stakes driven into
the ground and topped with animal skulls and pelts decorated with natural
On the third day of our journey we encountered the beings whose territory
we had invaded. Despite all our attempts at caution they caught us completely
off guard as they leapt up out of the brush and down from the branches
of trees. They were not ogres. Indeed it is harder to imagine beings less
like ogres. They stood three feet tall and were humanoid in appearance.
Their skin was brown and instead of hair they had a growth of green tendrils,
which they wore in a topknot, sprouting from their heads. Their fingers
ended in thorn-like claws. They were naked, sexless and carried short
stone tipped spears.
Two dozen of the beings had formed a ring around us but they did not
attack straight away. After a few moments one a head taller then the others
walked forwards and produced a stick from a pouch which "he"
began to beat rhythmically on a stone, occasionally punctuating this by
thumping his chest. A closer look at the spokesperson showed that these
beings were vegetable rather then animal, though I had never heard of
anything like them. Cautiously Baldric began to invoke a miracle of many
tongues. The plant-men looked intrigued by the hand jesters that went
with the invocation but did not seem to comprehend what Baldric was doing.
It occurred to me that the plant-men might be deaf or hear in a very different
way to the way other humanoids do, perhaps registering vibrations through
Baldric opened a dialogue with the plant-men, who were becoming rather
impatient that we were not replying to their demands. After a few moments
Baldric announced that they would let us pass if we let them have "the
golden one", namely me, to eat. Wererats, Thri-Kreen, Ape-Fiends
and now these strange beings; did everything in The Reach want to eat
Working through Baldric we tried to negotiate our way out of the situation
and when that failed we tried to intimidate our way out. Unlike the fiends
these plant-men were very vulnerable to the powers of The Oak Father but
I did not want to hurt them if I could at all help it. When it looked
like words had failed I called upon the protection of Silvanus, invoking
an invisible globe of protection around both myself and my allies that
no animate plant could enter. Slowly I began to walk forwards; the plant-men
found themselves being pushed gently but firmly aside. Confused and annoyed
they threw themselves ineffectively against the barrier. It did not take
them long however to realise that their spears could pass through the
barrier. Luckily these were too short for the plant-men to simply thrust
them at us but at a command from their leader they hurled them at us instead.
They weren't great marksmen and the spears that did hit were not overly
effective. Bloodied from the onslaught but alive we quickly grabbed up
their spears and, as they were all the plant-men possessed, they could
only stand helplessly by as we made our escape.
That night was the first of the full moon. Unfortunately for me there
were no oak trees from which to harvest the sacred mistletoe. Bazil looked
increasingly nervous and ill at easy as the night drew in. The wererat
within him was being stirred by the siren call of the full moon but The
Torc of the Earth-Mother kept it in check.
During the fourth day it became more and more apparent we were in the
mountains' foothills, all though they were still tree-covered foothills.
Towards evening the trees began to thin. We were out of mighty Chondalwood!
From our elevated position we looked back across the ancient forest in
the last rays of the setting sun. It spread out to the north, south and
west as far as we could see, an unbroken ocean of green. I can truly say
that I was sad to be leaving it behind.
That evening was cold, easily the coldest we had endured since our arrival
in The Reach. We built a fire for the first time since leaving Rucien-Xan.
The quiet of the night, away from the forest, seemed almost jarring. Around
the fire we discussed our plans. In the morning I would go looking for
the giant eagles to enlist their aid. A campfire would have to be kept
burning to help me find my way back.
The next day dawned slowly, the sun blocked by the range of mountains
to our east. And what mountains they were! Snow-capped titans of stone
that filled out field of vision. Tamoki had said that the mountains were
impassable and it was clear that he had not been exaggerating. It occurred
to us that, sandwiched between unscaleable mountains and a forbidden forest,
that we might be the first people to ever stand where we now stood. Taking
the form of an eagle I took to the wing to find the giant eagles. If it
was at all possible the mountains seemed even more formidable from the
air. It took me most of the morning but at last I saw one of the eagles
in the distance. I followed him back to his nesting sight and found a
suitable ledge on which to land and resume my natural form. Instantly
I was assailed by the wind. It caught in my cloak and for a heart stopping
moment I felt myself being dragged towards the edge of the ledge and the
thousand-foot drop below. Wrapping my cloak about me to keep out wind
and numbing cold I called out to the eagles by the holy name of Silvanus
to aid me. Eight of the birds responded and within moments they had landed
in a rough circle around me, their powerful talons finding purchase on
the mountainside. What creatures they were, fireside tales just didn't
do them justice. Each stood ten feet in height and had a wingspan of nearly
thirty feet. Their plumage was many shades of brown with a white chest.
Their muscular legs ended in fearsome talons that could easily of torn
me from my purchase on the ledge and I did not want to think of the damage
they could inflict with their hooked, yellow beaks. Their eyes, orbs of
flawless obsidian, sparkled with intelligence. I asked the eagles to take
me back to my companions and then to a human city by the coast. One of
the eight moved forward and allowed me to mount his back. With a lunge
all eight took to the skies and we sped back they way I had come, quickly
covering the distance.
The ride back was exhilarating. As we circled down on our camp I waved
a perhaps unwise greeting to my friends that forced me to grip on when
I felt myself sliding off the eagle's back. With more enthusiasm then
grace I dismounted and we formed our plans. During my absence Colatto
had been hunting and a mountain-goat was roasting over the camp fire.
Rather helpfully the eagles could speak the elven tongue. Their leader,
the eagle who had carried me, was called Nirafar. Nirafar knew of Reth
and he and his fellows would carry us to a pinnacle of rock just to the
east of what they called The Snake Wood. After examining his map Bazil
suggested that The Snake Wood was probably "Nunn Wood", a little
south of Reth. We stowed all unnecessary weight in Faergil's portable
hole and managed to get ourselves onto four of the eight eagles. Once
we were all mounted the majestic lords of the skies launched themselves
into the air and we began our journey north. Our lives were in the eagles'
hand (so to speak) but they did everything to make sure we didn't fall
off. The cold was intense and we bundled up in cloaks and blankets. The
theory with riding four of the eight eagles was so that they could take
it in turns, alternating between carry us and resting (or go hunting).
But I had completely underestimated the eagles' incredible stamina. They
flew through the day without signs of tiring. Towards evening we had left
Chondalwood far behind and as the sun set we caught a glimpse of a vast
plain populated by wild horses. The eagles carried us on through the night.
In the morning we could see the green of a forest far ahead and to our
left and another mountain range to our right. By midmorning we had reached
the southern edge of The Snake Wood and the eagles began to descend, landing
on a lonely pinnacle of rock that thrust up into the air.
Dismounting we had time to thank the eagles before they were off once
more, disappearing into the vast blue sky. Weary and sore after the journey
we spent the rest of the day camped at the base of the pinnacle.
The next day we set off. Soon we came to a well-used trail that cut between
the mountains and the forest and by that evening we had reached the city
walls of Reth with their red, dragon banners. The gates were guarded by
a small group of soldiers in the short tunics common to The Reach. They
were armed with spears and wore open-faced helms topped with manes of
hair as well as breastplates sculpted to resemble a chest.
As we entered the city we walked straight into a market that was closing
up for the evening. The cooling air rang with the shrill cry of seagulls
and we could smell the salty scent of the sea. From some of the locals
Bazil got directions to the "Hawk's Blade", the finest inn in
The Hawk's Blade was certainly a fine establishment, it's taproom was
more like a noble's feast hall then a bar and it had an adjoining bathhouse.
After the last ride in the wilds of Chondalwood it seemed strange to be
surrounded by so many people. That night we slept on real beds. I had
trouble sleeping, the bed was too soft and the streets were noisy. Reth,
it seemed, never slept.
The next morning, as we enjoyed breakfast, a lone seagull flew into the
main room of the Hawk's Blade. It took a moment to look around before
returning to her true form, that of Lady Shadowmoon. The other patron's
decided that this was quite certainly none of their business as the Druidess
walked over to join us. Once we had retired to the (comparative) privacy
of our rooms Lady Shadowmoon explained her purpose in coming. Since our
last encounter she had sent out agents to see what was happening beyond
The Reach and, against the judgement of The Emerald Enclave, had come
to give us news. She had learnt the Drow's purpose. I was surprised when
Baldric pointed out that the Drow's purpose was to capture The Legacy
of Shrinshee. Clearly he hadn't thought it through, The Legacy was simply
the tool by which the dark elves could achieve some greater and more terrible
objective. The Druidess agreed; the Drows were intending to make war on
Evermeet itself! This was why she had come to warn us, she had she said
"an interest" in Evermeet's future. As she was an elf it was
easy to imagine that she had loved ones that had travelled into the west
and would take The Retreat herself one day. It was then that it occurred
to me that I had never heard of a full-blooded elf being a member of The
Oaken Priesthood before (though I was hardly one to talk
Shadowmoon went on to tell us that Lolth, The Demon Goddess of Spiders,
was leading the Drow forces who had, as we were already aware, made alliances
with many Tanar'ri and The Red Wizards of Thay. Further more the Drow
were now openly at war with the countries of the north. Why this sudden
dropping of secrecy by the Drow we could only guess at but it did not
bode well. We told her of our intention to leave for Cormyr as soon as
we could get a ship. Lady Shadowmoon advised against it; we would find
it almost impossible to find a captain willing to go north. The season
had turned and the stretch of water called The Neck would soon be freezing
over, even if a ship made it through the crew would be unable to return
home until the spring. Instead she recommended that we head by sea to
Delthuntle. It was close to Aglarond, the land of The Witch-Queen - The
Simbul. If we could prove ourselves to be enemies of the Red-Wizards The
Simbul might be willing to help us. And, as Bazil reminded us, she was
his close and personal friend!
Before she left we enquired what had become of Obarmar and the priests
of Tempus. Lady Shadowmoon replied that half of the priests had been dashed
on the rocks as they travelled up river to Chondalwood. Obarmar and those
that remained were camped in Elbader vainly awaiting our return. With
that the Druidess transformed into a swirling gust of wind and disappeared.
We made for the harbour master's office. Reth was a bustling city. We
had been told it was called "The First City of the Reach", the
first stopping place for traders from across the Inner Sea. The city was
dominated by a vast, elliptical building decorated with many dragon banners.
This we learnt was The Northshire Coliseum, reminding us that Reth was
Nimpeth's biggest buyer of slaves. Every now and again a mighty roaring
and cheering could be heard from within.
From the harbour master's office we were directed to ask for "Kreodo"
at the Lusty Mermaid. The Lusty Mermaid was more the sought of spit, sawdust
and blood tavern we were used to. Even as we entered there was a fight
going on. A tall, pale-skinned woman with a single, long braid of black
hair was demonstrating the finer points of the short-sword to man armed
with a pair of daggers while a crowd watched on. Surprisingly the fight
was more friendly then first appeared and, once the woman had proved her
point, the combatants parted amicably. On a hunch I asked one of the patrons
if she was Kreodo. Indeed she was.
Heading over we introduced ourselves and made our preposition, passage
to Delthuntle. Close up it was clear that Kreodo was not entirely human
but had, perhaps, orc blood running through her veins. I was surprised
to discover that Kreodo was not herself captain of a ship. Instead she
owned the four massive, twin-marst drommonds we had seen in the harbour
and was the leader of a group she called "The Wraiths of the Inner
Sea". The name meant little to me but conjured up images of pirates
and buccaneers. After a little haggling Baldric and Kreodo agreed on a
price of 1600 pieces of gold for our passage. We would leave on the morning
tide on the "Sea Horse".
We spent much of the remainder of the day shopping in Reth's extensive
market places. I was able to purchase several rare herbs that I had not
had the time to look for while travelling through the Golden Plains and
Chondalwood as well as some of the harder to find miraculous offerings.
During the day Baldric was able to confirm our suspicions that "The
Wraiths of the Inner Sea" were indeed privateers in the pay of Reth,
and the Empire of Chessenta.
In the pre-dawn light of the next morning we were back down by the docks.
One of the four drommonds, clearly The Sea Horse, had separated from the
others. The ship was huge, far larger then The Undying Gaze; the caravel
we had travelled to the Vilhon Reach in. It was close to two hundred feet
in length with two massive marsts, black sails and fifty oars to a side.
It had both a fore and aft castle and we could see at least two ballista's.
At its prow, down by the waterline, was a huge ram. A longboat crewed
by dangerous looking mariners was waiting for us. Silently they rowed
us over to the ship. Ropes were dropped to pull up the launch but we had
to scramble up a rope ladder, some of us less gracefully then others,
to the deck. Such a massive ship had an equally massive crew. There were
close to two hundred sailors, all armed, above decks and that didn't include
those in the rowing galley below. We caught sight of the ship's captain,
Morgalshym, as he gave the order to cast-off and leave the port. He was
a tall figure with a black moustache and numerous scars and burns on his
Our course was north and east. To the north of us was Wave Crest Island,
on our way into The Reach we had passed on the far side of it, and ahead
was The Straight of Silvanus. As we passed through it we could sense elemental
forces of water and air hurrying us on our way.
On 23rd of Marponeth we left The Vilhon Reach. Were we, clad in our grey
cloaks and bearing talismans of ancient eleven magics, the same people
who had entered two months ago? One of us had found his destiny, another
had left to look for hers alone. Arriane Maerdrym had told us that each
had a part to play in the drama that lay ahead of us. What these were
we could only guess and speculate at but, ready or not, each day brought
us closer to our destinies.
Return the the Journey
I used the following references:
Vilhon Reach. - Information on Reth
Old Empires - Information on Chessenta and Reth (see below)
Dreams of the Red Wizards - Information on Delthuntle and Aglarond
Spellbound - Information on Aglarond and The Simbul
The fight was a tough one. Xrakvar - a Glabezu Tanar-ri had power-word
Stun (no save remember!) and used it on anyone he considered a threat.
Grim indeed. Fortunately the number of rounds rolled for duration were
It was the Vrock that summoned the Bar-lgua Tanar-ri and though they aren't
that powerful they still offered a challenge. They can cause fear by touch
- fortunately the characters made their saves.
The encounter with the Vegepygmys (for that is what they were) was
weird. I didn't really want to start another fight (they would have been
no challenge) but still wanted to create a challenge of some kind. It
was a spur of the moment descision that they wanted to eat Thorn (Vegepygmys
eat ANYTHING) but proved quite funny to the rest of the players! It was
rather pathetic after Thorn cast Plant Barrier. The leader decided to
'let them go' then - like there was anything they could do!
Animal Summoning can summon Giant Eagles - useful fact for you. Especially
if you're stuck in the mountains!
I have found a big disgrepancy in the Realms sourcebooks. Reth is
mentioned in both the Vilhon Reach and the Old Empires sourcebooks. In
the former it is a free city with an gladiatorial arena. In the latter
it is a port of Chessenta, protected by the 'Wraith of the Inner Sea'.
I decided to combine the two and realised it by saying that Reth threatened
by invasion from Chondath (which I have always inferred is an old spider
of an Empire seeking to snatch up the juicy flies of free cities around
it) decided to become part of Chessenta.
BTW Bazil did meet the Simbul and got on very well with her. He also
seems to be the 'Close and Personal Friend' of pretty much very powerful
entity in the Realms!
And the cost of passage - 1600gp! Well its their money! ;-)
So they have the swords, they have some idea of what the Drow are
up to, and they are heading back to the Darkwatch in the Dalelands to
stop them. Of course they still don't know what the Legacy of Shrinshee
Return to Journey...