Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 3
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 his hands.

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 of fear.

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 Tanar'ri.

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 of time.

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 form healed.

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 all.

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 dyes.

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 the ground.

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 us?

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 city.

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…). Lady 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 face.

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

DM's Notes

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 pretty low.
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 is...

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