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
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
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.
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.
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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