Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 4

Chapter 11 - The Legacy Unfolds (1359DR, 5-6th Nightal)

The whiplash speed with which the Drow moved into attack took many of us off guard. Josh was the first to react, trying to target one of the dark elves with a minor miracle of light to blind him. The light missed the fleeting figure but did mean that the chamber as better illumined. We could now see that there were four Drow, two coming from the left side of the room and two from the right. I began to recite a prayer of power to Silvanus but before I could finish they had reached us. Since we were in an archway they could only get to the two of us (Colatto and Baynar) who were at the front. As we had come to expect from dark elves they fought with a weapon in each hand. Blows rained down on Colatto but they were simply turned aside by the Stoneskin spell protecting him. Baynar’s armour deflected some of the attacks his pair of Drow launched at him but as the dark-elves moved back to reassess their targets I could see from the blood on their blades that they had wounded the knight. Primrose forced her way to the front of our group and engaged one of the Drow attacking Colatto, hacking through his black mail with a powerful, two-handed blow that, though it didn’t kill the dark elf certainly got his attention. By then I had finished my prayer and placed a curse of the Drow that would cause anything metal they carried to become blazing hot. Magical metals had some resistance to the miracle but I was sure I could get at least one. Colatto gripped his sword firmly and cast a spell though what it did was not instantly clear.
The rest of The Company were starting to recover from the speed of the Drow attack. Faergil unleashed a volley of five, magical darts into one of the two dark elves who had attacked Colatto. The dark elf cried out when the spell overcame his resistance to magic but he fought on. Josh quickly summoned a Flame Blade. Amber had moved to assist Baynar. As fast as her initial attacks were the dark elf was faster and she was able to connect with one glancing blow but that was enough to send the Drow reeling. I targeted that elf with a potent miracle of light but he recovered too quickly and dodged out of the way. I wasn’t too dismayed however as the miracle suddenly filled the room with daylight. The Drow flinched as if struck and did their best to shield their eyes. The second dark elf that had engaged Baynar suddenly twisted in pain as Bazil, exploiting his invisibility to get behind the elf, plunged Kithril deep into his lower back, an almost certainly fatal wound given time but the dark elf gritted his teeth and fought on. The fight seemed to be turning against the Drow but with the almost fanatical determination we had seen in the past the four fought on. The intense light was taking the edge off of their deadly speed and two of them were clearly in distress as their weapons and armour slowly became hotter and hotter. Colatto, Primrose and Baynar were able to parry and dodge the attacks aimed at them but Amber took a dagger hit. I heard Colatto call out one of the command phrases for The Mage’s Blade as he drove its blade into the chest of his opponent. The sword’s blue flame seemed to pulse as the spell of Shocking Grasp he had cast into it a few seconds before was unleashed. The Drow convulsed and then went limp, held up only by Colatto’s sword. A moment latter a second dark elf fell as Baynar finished off what Bazil had started. Without missing a beat Baynar then turned and delivered a powerful attack against Amber’s opponent. The strike drew blood but didn’t finish the Drow off. Primrose struck at her chosen foe but the blade was turned aside by the dark elf’s armour.
Baldric had heard the sounds of our fight from the other room and returned to help but confronted by the chaotic melee in the archway, had not been able to get close enough to assist.
Bazil tried another flanking attack, this time against Primrose’s foe, but the dark elf was ready for it and parried both of the hobbit’s blades before ducking under a swipe from Josh’s Flame Blade. Perhaps the dark elf considered Primrose the most dangerous of his three opponents because he focused his attacks on her. He drew blood with his shortsword but Primrose was able to not only parry the dagger but strike home with her counterattack. A moment latter Colatto, closing from the flank, finished off the dark elf. The remaining dark elf, unaware that he was now all alone, continued to attack; splitting his attention between Baynar and Amber. His sword thrust on Amber was turned aside by her mithril armour but the Drow’s dagger managed to find a chink in Baynar’s plate-mail and drew blood. This proved to be his last attack however as, caught between Amber and Baynar, he was cut down.

The fight over we surveyed the room again and our attention was drawn once more to the four platforms. The three, flickering lights clearly meant something but what? Before we could even begin to discuss a plan Colatto, in one of his characteristic bursts of action that would make a Luck-Bringer look cautious, mounted the platform that gave off the blue light. The light pulsed and both it and Colatto vanished. In the vain hope that he had just been made invisible I called out Colatto’s name but there was no reply. For a moment we stood in silence and glanced at each other, what should we do now? The blue light returned and then was replaced by Colatto, as he reappeared on the platform apparently none the worst for wear. As Colatto dismounted the platform the light appeared again. He told us that he had been transported to an identical platform in a large chamber. As he had stepped off the platform to take in his surroundings the light had reappeared (which, we guessed, had made the light reappear on our platform too) so he had got back onto the platform and reappeared back where he had started. At Amber’s suggestion Bazil climbed a wall to get a bird’s eye view of the four, irregularly shaped platforms. When he sketched out what he had seen Faergil identified them as glyphs used long ago by elven mages and corresponded with the four elements of water (the blue glow), fire (the red glow), air (the white glow) and earth (the one that didn’t glow at all). What followed next was, to be completely truthful, a bit of a mess. The Company of the Silvercoin always consisted of strong-willed individuals who were not afraid to act when they thought they were on to the right track. This was one of its strengths but also, at time like this, its weaknesses. For the next twenty minutes or so we argued and debated what to do. Between them Bazil, Colatto and Baldric started quick explorations via all three platforms that had a light. We also pondered the fourth, lightness platform, and why it wasn’t working. Should we forget about the platforms all together and return to exploring the rest of the building we were in? After a while The Company agreed to a proposal put forward by Amber and myself; the Drow had been specifically guarding the room with the platforms so The Eight had probably used one of them to continue their search for The Legacy. We had no idea why the fourth platform was not working (though a small prayer to Silvanus revealed to me that it wasn’t magical) so even if the Drow had used it then sealed it behind them we could not follow. This left the three remaining platforms that we explore one at a time as best we could.

We decided to start with “Air”. Bazil had already been to the other “end” of the teleportation so we knew roughly what to expect. We were at one end of a vast chamber with a high, vaulted ceiling. There were holes in the floor out of which issued a constant wind. The wind surged around the chamber filling it with a non-stop howling. In the light of Faergil’s light stone we could see tall candlesticks, of an ancient looking iron, lining the walls and the rotted remains of furnishings. At the edge of our light source, as Bazil had described, was a circle of gold inlayed into the floor surrounded by glyphs and sigils. As we approached it we could se a second circle a little way ahead. Even to my untrained eye it seemed to serve a different purpose to the other circle. Colatto explained that the first was a circle of protection while the second a summoning circle; a mage would have stood in the former while summoning extra-plainer beings that would have appeared, safely contained, in the later. Exploration of the extent of the room proved two ways out, other then the holes or vents in the floor, a normal sized door and a large, stone double-door held shut by a large box lock. A quick glance through the smaller door revealed a rather plain room with no exits. Bazil, with a little assistance from Colatto, and then Amber and Baynar invested quite a bit time in a failed attempt to open the door first by skill and then brute force. Since the door was locked from our side I considered it unlikely that The Eight had been that way and we were probably wasting our time. Colatto pointed out that we had come to find the Legacy of Srinshee not kill dark elves but I couldn’t shake the feeling that if we found the Drow arch-mages we would find The Legacy. In one of the few times I saw him smile Josh remarked that he could imagine the Drow having exactly the same conversation. While Amber and Baynar struggled heroically with the stone door Faergil and I quickly searched the side room for concealed exits; both pairs had the same lack of success.

Giving up on “Air” we turned our attention to “Fire”, which Colatto and Baldric had begun investigating earlier. The platform deposited us in a large chamber, though nowhere near as large as the wind filled chamber we had just left. The wall behind us had partially collapsed and we could just about make out a room beyond. Other then the hole in the wall there were two ways out, two doorways on opposite sides of the room. Around the edges of the room was a trough or gutter. When Colatto had first arrived this had been full of a thick, black liquid which, through experimentation, he had found was flammable. The flames were still burning when we returned forming what I could only describe as a flaming decoration.
We tried one of the doors. Beyond was a bare chamber. The guttering in which the fires burnt must somehow have gone under the door as it continued around the edge of the new room. The room had initially had only two ways out, the door through which we had entered and one at the opposite side of the room. However but at some point one wall had collapsed revealing a chamber beyond, perhaps a continuation of the room we had glimpsed through the broken wall in the room with the platform. Crossing the room and opening what was left of the door, which was made of rusted iron and fragments of rotting wood, we found a small room with no exits. We returned to the room with platform and crossed it to the second door. This opened into a large room that, like all those we had visited in “Fire” had nothing to indicate its former purpose. There were two doors on the wall facing us and, like many of the other rooms we had visited there were signs of structural collapse; a section of the wall to our left had collapsed to reveal a rough tunnel that led away (or perhaps into) the room. The sight of this tunnel, seemingly torn through the rock, brought to mind memories of the gigantic dragon-like reptile that had chased us through The Haunted Halls, smashing it’s way through walls and forcing open passageways as it went. A quick exploration through the two doors revealed identical twenty-foot by twenty-foot rooms with no other exits. The guttering in those rooms was not alight and Bazil took the opportunity to fill a jar with some of the black liquid before Colatto set it alight.
While we had been investigating the doors Baldric had been inspecting the tunnel. Looking down the tunnel, just as it began to turn out of sight, he saw a stationary figure, perhaps a statue. Calling out to the rest of us the Luck-Bringer had drawn out a light stone and gone to investigate. We had just reached the opening of the tunnel when Baldric returned with a worried expression; he had found not one but three “statues". All three were of dark elves; two with weapons drawn and one running. The implication was clear; there was something down there that could turn its prey to stone. This was our first sign of dark elves since the fight in the room of platforms but I doubt that any of us wanted to repeat the incident with Baynar and the Unseelie Fairies. We decided to leave “Fire” and return if we only if we had no other choice. At Amber’s suggestion I drew a Harper’s mark for “Dangerous Monster” on the platform leading to the chambers of fire to warn anyone who might follow in our footsteps.

“Water” had been Colatto’s destination the first time he had been transported by the platforms. We found ourselves in a large, rectangular room. The room was cold and from somewhere we could hear the noise of fast flowing water. All across the floor were pools of black, stagnant water in which things, perhaps more of the bloated leeches we had seen earlier, twitched. We made our way towards a doorway. Beyond that was a long, straight corridor that consisted of level sections interspersed with ramps that, from our end of the corridor, went downwards. Along the length of the corridor were alcoves that may once have contained statues but now only held rubble. Spaced along the top of the walls were pipes. From the beards of black damp that descended from them it seemed that they had once emptied water into the corridor. Carefully we descended; the floor of the corridor was icy and slick. As we progressed downwards the sound of water got more distinct and was joined by the noise of rocks, perhaps carried by the unseen flow, crashing into each other. We never found the water however as something, a green, humanoid figure, moved across the corridor at the extent of our light. We moved quickly to investigate and discovered a pair of doorways in opposite sides of the corridor. Glancing down the one to our right, through which the figure had gone, we saw the retreating back of a Shambling Mound but that was nothing compared to what lay beyond the left doorway.
The door opened onto a large chamber the floor of which was thick with a deep layer of decaying plant matter, flesh and offal. This sickening mass completely concealed the room’s floor and extended up the walls as if it was trying to reach the ceiling. Moving about the room in a constant, purposeless pattern was at least a dozen Shambling Mounds. In the centre of the chamber, some sixty feet away, the mass was heaped into a mountain about thirty feet high. With a sickened fascination my eyes were drawn to this mound. From this mountain of decay thick red tendrils, perhaps roots or the veins of a living creature, extended, weaving their way out into the room and becoming lost in the mass. After a few seconds it became clear that the mountain was not stationary but constantly shuddering and convulsing and as we watched a new Shambling Mound was vomited forth. There could be no doubt that this was the very heart of The Dark Watch. Faergil took the opportunity to remind us, perhaps unnecessarily, that The Dark Watch was created when part of Moander, drawn by the Legacy of Shrinshee, became trapped in Tsornyl. The others, quite understandably, wanted to back up the way we had come but I stood my ground. We had come to The Dark Watch to protect The Legacy and there-by thwart the Drow but for me there had been another reason. Months before, while I had recuperated after the showdown with The Cult of the Dragon in Battledale, I had been blessed by a visitation from Chauntea. She had given me a seed and told me that I would know when to use it. When I had later learnt that our path led to The Dark Watch I knew that it could not have been a coincidence. I opened the drawstring bag I had been wearing about my neck and emptied out the seed into my palm; it was a smooth ellipse about the size and shape of a large acorn. My instinct told me that I would have to take it to the Dark Heart that pulsed before of me but that would mean running the gauntlet of Shambling Mounds. My companions seemed to sense my resolve and Amber, Colatto and Primrose in particular took up guarding positions around me. I was just about to make a dash for the Heart when Baldric called for me to wait and began to place a blessing of The Lady upon me. Suddenly it seemed that the Dark Heart sensed the threat. We could feel a force in our minds trying to bind us to the spot but, with the exception of Josh, were all able to fight it off. Faergil quickly called up a few magical decoys for himself. A moment later a vast, tentacle the colour of decaying flesh rose out of the carpet of decay and darted towards Josh. Unable to move a muscle Josh could do nothing as the tentacle wrapped itself about him and lifted him from the ground. In a heartbeat Baynar was at his side and with one, powerful swing cut the tentacle in half. The Heart writhed in obverse pain and two more tentacles, this time ending in large maws, rose out of the muck. One sped towards Baynar, whipping around his shield as he tried to bloke it, and the mouth biting home to leave a large, bloody wound. The second went for Baldric, also drawing blood and in the process disrupting the priest’s ritual. With no point in staying and the danger increasing by the moment Amber, Colatto, Primrose and myself began our rush to The Heart. Most likely reacting to some unspoken command of The Heart the nearest Shambling Mounds began to close upon me but my three friends moved to intercept them. Colatto and Amber were able to drive two of the Mounds back but Primrose was engulfed by the third. Recovering from the pain of his injuries Brother Baldric swung with Twin-Death at the tentacle that had attacked him; he drove it back but it quickly recovered.
Faergil quickly employed the Art to place a spell of speed onto us all. Only Colatto, concerned I think about the fact the spell aged it’s recipients by a year, resisted it’s effects. With Amber and myself moving twice as fast thanks to Faergil’s spell and Colatto pushing himself to the limit to keep up we tried to close the remaining thirty feet, forcing our way through the thick, clinging carpet of decay. As we ran I saw traces of dark elf flesh and hair in the carpet of slime about me, clearly they had been this way. While we proved too fast for most of the Mounds we had to pass close to others and here I depended upon the skill and strength of Amber and Colatto as they hacked and sliced at any Mound that lunged at us. Amber’s swords, fast under normal circumstances, flew back and forth like twin bolts of lightning. At one point another tentacle ending in mouth reared up out of the ooze and flew towards me only to be blocked Colatto throwing himself in the way; a truly brave act even when you consider his Stoneskin spell.
Hearing my narrative you may consider me heartless for leaving Primrose trapped in the deadly embrace of the Shambling Mound but my attention was fixed upon the Dark Heart in front of me and the belief that, if I could just reach it our danger would be over. Anyway Primrose’s own guardian angel was already moving to her aid. After being dropped by the tentacle Josh, still paralysed, had started to sink into the slime. Bazil had pulled him out and, in an act that would have unforeseen consequences, dragged him out into the corridor. He released Josh just in time to hear Colatto and Amber calling out that Primrose was in danger and gone running to her aid. Bazil had found the twisting, struggling mass that held Primrose easily enough and, assisted by Faergil’s spell of speed, launched four attacks against the Mound in the blink of an eye. Despite the barrage of blows this Mound proved as resistant as those we had previously fought.
Both Baldric and Baynar continued to battle tentacles. Baynar deftly severed a second tentacle before starting across the sea of mulch to catch up with Amber, Colatto and I. Baldric was able to crush the tentacle menacing him with a powerful double blow from Twin-Death. The tentacle fell limply to the floor clearly “dead”; clear that is to everyone but Baldric who invested a few more moments bludgeoning it before heading over to help Bazil free Primrose.
Suddenly I was up against the pulsing, fleshy side of the Dark Heart. Up close it was easy to tell where the carpet of ooze ended and it’s vast grey-black bulk started. It was shot through with pulsing black veins and had numerous eyes, three of which were on tentacles, opening and closing on it’s body. However no two of the eyes looked the same; as if they had been stolen from the creatures it had killed. The skin of the Dark Heart was membranous and translucent. Growing within were not only dozens upon dozens of Shambling Mounds but, macabrely , I could see what looked like an Drow, naked and curled like an unborn child and, even more worryingly, what could only have been a Beholder. I had the idea of getting the seed inside The Dark Heart somehow but was dismayed to realise that the aperture through which we had seen the Shambling Mound being “born” was nowhere in sight. Desperately I racked my talons along the flabby side of the Dark Heart but, despite its apparent flimsiness, it didn’t yield. Suddenly I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my shoulder as a mouth-bearing tentacle grabbed hold of me. In a flash Amber was there, severing the tentacle with one quick slash of her sword.
My mind spun as I tried to consider my next move. I was vaguely aware of Baynar moving towards me, slashing at Mounds as he passed them, when suddenly Faergil’s light stone went out.
Faergil, ever cautious, had been watching the corridor through which we had entered when suddenly a four-foot wide sphere covered in thick, leathery skin had with a large mouth and many eyes had floated into view; a Beholder. Instantly the infamous magic negating effects of the Eye-Tyrant’s central eye had swept the first thirty feet or so of the room; the light stone had been dispelled, Faergil’s decoys had vanished and Bazil had reappeared when as his ring (like all magic items within range) stopped working. This didn’t stop Bazil, with his now non-magical blades, from hacking at the Mound that held Primrose; whose slowing movements suggested that she was running out of time.
Trusting my all to Silvanus and Chauntea I thrust the seed up against the jelly-like flesh of the Dark Heart. The effect was instant. The seed was literally sucked from my hand into the body of the Heart. The mass in front of me began to convulse and emit a nerve shredding noise that I could only compare to a thousand cats being tortured. Tentacles began to flail in all directions and the very ground heaved and pitched like a ship on a stormy sea. The wall of Shambling Mounds that had been pushing ever closer despite the heroic efforts of Amber, Colatto and now Baynar suddenly collapsed like puppets with their strings cut and began to unravel. This saved Primrose’s life as the Mound that held her came apart and Bazil was able to pull her limp body free.
Though we were not perhaps in the best position appreciate it The Dark Watch was dying. I had no doubt that with every second the final residue of Moander was being swept away and Chauntea was bringing forth new life. Perhaps Tsornyl itself would be returned to the surface and the light of day once again. Whatever good came of this the lion’s share of the thanks went to my friends, particularly Amber and Colatto, for risking their lives to get me that far.
Suddenly the shaking of the ground became more intense, far more then could be explained by the death throws of The Dark Heart of The Dark Watch and we realise that the chamber, perhaps the entire building, was collapsing. Particularly badly effected was the corridor we had entered through which disintegrated about Faergil’s ears. The mage made a desperate dash for safety but was soon bowled from his feet by falling debris. The Beholder was not as lucky and was completely buried, as was Josh! The next few minutes are a chaotic jumble in my mind. I remember chasing after Amber as she dashed back to the collapsed entrance. As the Dark Heart shrivelled I caught glimpses of corridors leading out of the chamber. I caught up with Amber just as she had pulled the badly bleeding Faergil free and the pair of us began to claw away at the seemingly numberless heap of rocks and masonry that now covered Josh. Within a few minutes we were joined by first Baynar, who began to us his shield as a shovel, and then, having revived Primrose, Baldric. After a hurried conversation with Faergil to get a better idea of where Josh had been Baldric began to call upon the divine power of The Lady for push back the rock to form a low tunnel. It was a tricky task that needed a cool head; too slow and Josh might die, too fast and the entire heap of stone might collapse upon us all. All the time more pieces of masonry were falling from the ceiling and I imagine only Bazil was nimble enough to avoid all of them. Amber pulled me aside and rather forcefully pointed out that Faergil needed his injuries treated if he was to make it out of the chamber alive. About this time Baldric found the crushed remains of a human hand and all hope of finding Josh alive deserted us. At the time I was too busy trying to stay alive to think too much about the death of my acolyte. Looking back now my feelings on the subject are, like many things in my life, contradictory. It is easy, sometimes foolishly so, to risk your own life. But all who aspire to serve The Oak Father must be prepared to make harder choices, to gamble with not only their own life but the lives of others to achieve Silvanus’s will. I had been under no illusions that by bringing him with The Company I would be taking Josh into one danger after another. Nor had I tried to conceal from him how small his chances, indeed any of our chances were of returning alive. Yet Josh had faced the hardship stoically; “we are where we need to be,” he had once said. As I had hoped the additional Divine Favour of Silvanus he had been able to channel had greatly aided our journey through The Dark Watch. But at the same time I could not escape the responsibility that if I hadn’t asked him too come Josh would still have been alive and well in Cormyr. Perhaps it was because his death had been down to shear bad luck, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that made it worse. I still wonder if it is my Druid half or dragon half that made me feel his lose so keenly.
For some time Colatto had been calling out from across the room that he had found a way out and so we ran in the direction of his voice. As we ran it became clear that all but one of the exits we had seen previously had collapsed. Why the tunnel by which Colatto, Bazil and Primrose stood was still intact became all to apparent when Colatto tried to run down it and bounced of an invisible barrier. Someone, no doubt one of The Eight, had placed a Wall of Force across the mouth of the tunnel. When Faergil tried and failed to dispel it I pulled a lump of clay from the very bottom of my backpack and began to prey. As I preyed to Silvanus I reshaped the clay with my hands and the mouth of the tunnel began to deform. I expanded the mouth to create a way around the Wall of Force. As the chamber began to cave in about us, the entire building seemed to be gripped by an earthquake, we slipped around the Wall of Force and ran down the tunnel.

For the next few minutes, until the shaking subsided, we dashed head long along a twisting corridor. Suddenly we exited the corridor and found ourselves on a great ledge overlooking an infinite void. The ledge was some eighty feet from side to side and we had come out somewhere in the middle. The floor (and ceiling) extended some thirty feet ahead of us and then came to a ragged edge, as if some unimaginably huge beast had bitten away half the room. Beyond that edge was…nothing. There was nothing below us, nothing above us, nothing in any direction. Nothing that is except a white gateway that hung in the air some ten feet from the end of the ledge. The gate was ten feet high and six feet wide. It seemed to be forged, or rather woven, from a pure white light. Indeed, as we looked closer, it became apparent that it was slightly translucent. Even those of us not knowledgeable of the Art could sense the power that seemed to flow from it like gentle ripples, magic more ancient, more profound then any I had ever felt. This could only be the magic of Srinshee, perhaps the Legacy itself.
Since it had been our first chance to rest, all be it for a minute, since the fight I took the opportunity to do what I could for my companions’ injuries. Always ready to leap into the unknown Colatto began to line himself up for a jump towards the Archway. He came to a sudden halt though when Faervian flared in his hand and a lance of purple-blue flame flew from the sword to the Archway. Quickly Amber and Bazil held up Evaelathil and Dragathil and two more streams of fire, one green the other rosy-red, joined the first. For a few seconds the silver Archway was wreathed in multicoloured flame and then it faded. For a moment nothing happened then a point of light appeared in the Archway. The point grew bigger, or closer, until it completely filled the Archway with a shimmering field of light. Tendrils of the light seemed to fall away from the Arch and float off into the void. I found the spectacle spellbinding. Colatto, always the man of action, once more prepared himself to jump when suddenly the ledge was plunged into total darkness!
A moment latter we heard a mocking, female laughter ringing not in our ears but in our very minds. Then there was the sound, a real sound this time, of running feet; despite the darkness Colatto was going to attempt the jump! As quickly as I dared I began to call upon Silvanus for a miracle of light to drive back the darkness. Before I could complete it we heard the unmistakable sound of swords slicing through the air. An instant later the prayer was finished and ledge was bathed in daylight. For an uncomfortable second I thought we might be in the presence of Lolth herself. The light revealed that while we weren’t in that much trouble the situation was still pretty bad. On the ledge with us was a being with the torso, head and arms of a human woman but the lower body of a giant snake. She was a Fiend. I had been attacked by one of her kind, perhaps this very one, once before. She had bested me as easily as I might overcome a child, perhaps even easier, and I had only been saved by the timely intervention of my father. Her head was level with my own (making her seven feet tall), her long hair was a fiery red and her face would have been considered beautiful by any standards if it had not been disfigured by an expression as total evil as any I had ever seen. From each of her shoulders extended three arms and in each hand she grasped a different weapon. She carried two scimitars (the edge of one of which seemed to be rendered indistinct by a constant vibration), a broadsword, a glowing longsword, a battleaxe and a long-bladed dagger that dripped with a black venom. On three of her weapons there was fresh blood and of Colatto there was no sign. Had he made it through the Archway or had the darkness and the Fiend’s attack knocked him off-course to fall, perhaps forever, into the void?
A quick glance over the edge revealed no clue as to Colatto’s fate but we did see eight, black cloaked figures rise up out of the void to hover level with us but on the far side of the Archway. Though they were completely swathed in their cloaks and hoods it was easy to guess their identities. They were The Eight and we had opened the way to their prize for them.
While this scene may have taken a few minutes to describe for us it only took an instant. With the barest of hesitation Baynar Truesilver ran, brandishing The Lictor, at the Fiend with Amber only a pace behind him. Before the pair could bring their weapons to bare the Fiend was taking the fight to them, blasting through their defences like a scythe through grass. Despite two fresh wounds each the pair fought on but the Fiend was as good in defence as attack, her six blades forming a seemingly impenetrable wall of whirling steel. A moment later she lunged forward with the speed of a striking cobra and caught Baynar in her coils, clearly intending to crush the life out of him. Even as Amber and Baynar had started their attack the Drow, in pairs, had begun to fly through the Archway, disappearing as they did so. Bazil called out that he was going after them. Fearing for his safety Primrose began to run for the edge too. I was sure that, given his acrobatic prowess, Bazil could make the jump but my heart missed a beat as Primrose, weighed down by armour and not possessing Bazil’s great (for a Halfling) speed, threw herself into the void. At the time I was amazed how easily she covered the distance and then she too disappeared through the light that filled the Archway. Baldric and Faergil had not been idle during this time. Faergil began to cast what was clearly a complicated spell. The Luck-Bringer had called upon Tymora to diminish the magical resistance that the Fiend, like all her kind, possessed. Then the priest invoked his patron’s name in an attempt to drive her from this plane but the Fiend’s unholy might proved too strong for him. Perhaps in response to Baldric’s efforts the Fiend called out something in her black speech and far above us a large, avian figure materialised. She had summoned a V’rock.
Once again I was face with choosing between my friends and the quest. While it was not a pleasant choice it wasn’t one that took me long to make. I was not so vain as to think my martial skill would prevail where such skilled warriors as Amber and Baynar were failing. On top of that most of The Eight were through the Archway. The only one of my companions who I knew to be on the other side to face them was Primrose; though I was confident that I would find Bazil on the other side and hoped that I would find Colatto too. It would be a hollow victory indeed if we were able to defeat the Fiends only to find that The Eight had achieved the Drows’ master plan. I fixed my eyes on the Archway, ran for the edge and jumped. I’m fairly certain I could have cleared the distance myself but I suddenly realised that the closer I got to the Archway the faster I was moving, as if it were drawing me in. A second after leaving the ledge I passed within the frame of the Archway and disappeared into the light.

What happened next on the ledge I did not learn until some time later. The Fiend and my two companions continued their very uneven dual. The scimitar that had seemed to blur in her hand in particular moved with devastating speed, almost quicker then the eye could follow. Again and again the knight and the ranger’s attacks were turned aside until, suddenly, Amber found an opening and struck home with Dragathil. The Fiend screamed with pain as the sword’s mystical aura burnt her flesh. Despite bleeding from multiple wounds and suffering who knew what internal injuries from the remorseless pressure of the Fiend’s crushing tail Baynar took advantage of his enemies distraction to plunge his own weapon home. Bearing two viscous wounds the Fiend was still keen to fight. For a moment she locked eyes with Baldric and he could hear her voice in his mind tempting him, “Xrakvar’s Bane”, not to fight her but join her. At that moment Faergil finished his spell and directed the power of his Art upon her. The two engaged in a short but fierce contest of sorcery but the mage was unable to dismiss her from that plane as he had hoped. Amber charged in to attack again but received only fresh wounds for her trouble. The Fiend suddenly released Baynar from her coils and lunged at Amber but the ranger was too fast and dodged back to safety. Baynar marshalled his failing strength and renewed his attack. The Fiend parried his attack, her longsword sliced back in response and cut cleanly through the knight’s upper arm, severing it from his body. Acting quickly Baldric, who had just finished casting a miracle of healing upon himself, dashed over to snatch up Baynar’s arm.
During this time the Vrock had closed most of the distance from the point of its arrival to the fight on the ledge and the last of The Eight had passed through the portal. His gambit failed Faergil made a dash for the edge and leapt through the Archway. Defiantly rebuffing the Fiend’s silken advances Baldric followed suit. Amber ran over to where Baynar had fallen. Pale with loss of blood the knight had somehow managed to open and consume a healing potion. This, with more then a little help from Amber, gave him the strength to stand. It is a testament to Baynar’s character that he was more concerned about fleeing from combat with a clearly superior enemy then loosing his arm. Blooded but defiant the pair dashed past the triumphant Fiend and threw themselves off the ledge into the silver embrace of the Archway.

This is the final Realms write-up. Will there be another? Truthfully, I haven't decided.

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Volos Guide to the Dalelands - Info on the Darkwatch
Cormanthyr - Background information on the Srinshee.

Faergil cast Haste on the party during the fight with what Thorn describes as the ‘Heart’. It was infact a huge Deepspawn, imbued with the power of Moander. Fortunately Nick guessed straight away what to do, otherwise things could have got very nasty (ok, well, even more nasty!)

Baldric used Stone Shape to create the tunnel in the collapsed passage to get to Josh. And again Thorn used the spell to literally get around the Wall of Force.

The ‘Fiend’ was of course a Marilith Tanar’ri. Fun!

Faergil used Dismissal on her, and with the Marilith affected by Baldrics Lower Resistance Spell, it came down to the Saving throw. I think they all really wanted her to fail it. She needed a 6, I rolled a 17. Better luck next time…

One of the Scimitars was a Scimitar of Speed. She also had a Dagger of Venom (and Amber was very lucky that she made the save!) and a Sword of Sharpness. Which she put to good use. Baynar was down to 2 HPs after that blow. It came very close…

And the Archway. The Legacy of Srinshee? Yes. I'll give you that one for free.

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