Chapter 8 - The Falls of Tumbling Stars (1359DR, 18th-23rd Uktar)
With a blood-chilling cry the Vrock hurled itself onto Baynar, knocking
aside his defences and tearing at flesh with beak and talons. The Lionar
staggered under the attack but didn’t falter and retaliated with
a powerful sword blow. At the same time Dwindar, at a command from Amber,
hurled himself at the Vrock’s legs in a vain attempt to trip it,
he might as well have thrown himself at a mighty oak tree for all the
effect it had.
As I squared up against my Drow opponent Josh darted in from the side,
moving quickly despite his injuries, and felled the dark elf with a sweep
of his Flame-Blade. Temporarily free of trouble I looked across the melee;
at the sight of the fiend Faergil had cast a warding spell to protect
him from extra-planal beings but he was still under attack from a dark
elf. Bazil had just finish off another dark elf with a deadly, double
strike from Kithril and The Scout Blade. Colatto had drawn out a bow and
was taking careful aim at the levitating priestess. Primrose was locked
in combat and, her reactions slowed by the spider venom, looked like she
was having a hard time. In lion form I literally sprang to her rescue.
Knocking the dark elf from his feet and tearing through his armour to
rend flesh and bone. In an instant he was dead. With a nod of acknowledgement
Primrose moved, slowly, to help Faergil.
Noticing Colatto, the Drow priestess, her arms covered in a black flame,
hurled a ball of fire his way. Colatto unleashed an arrow the same instant.
The arrow deflected harmlessly off of her armour but the flame flew true,
burning Colatto badly. Despite the pain Colatto unleashed a second arrow
but once again he was unable to find a chink in the priestess’s
armour. The other Drow were counter-attacking too. Feyondra was hit again
but somehow was still on her feet. Faergil’s opponent pressed the
attack but only found one of the mage’s decoys. A new opponent ran
to intercept Bazil while another dark elf, I think it was the one I had
abandoned to help Josh, attacked my flank only to be killed an instant
later by two arrows.
Baynar continued to press the attack on the Vrock with a tenacity that
I believe the fiend actually found worrying. He was no longer fighting
alone, Amber had joined the melee, unleashing three powerful attacks with
dazzling speed, but despite her martial skill the Vrock proved too agile
for her. The fiend lashed out with the blinding speed we had come to dread,
drawing blood from Baynar, Amber and Dwindar all in the blink of an eye.
Then it seemed to hop back to give itself room and emitted a piercing
cry. I physically recoiled under the assault to my ears but I weathered
it. Many of my companions weren’t so lucky and it was several minutes
before Faergil, Colatto and Amber got their hearing back.
My thoughts turned to Dragothil, lying among my possessions. Did I have
time to get it and deliver it to someone who could use it? Decided that
it would take too long I instead moved to aid Bazil. I tore at the Drow
with tooth and claw but he was able to twist away before I could finish
him. Bazil darted in with his twin blades. The Drow staggered, weak but
alive and retaliated against the hobbit, missing with a clumsy thrust
with his short sword but drawing blood with his dagger.
Feyondra took two more hits. Whatever magic was sustaining her clearly
had its limits and she was having trouble standing. Perhaps she had exhausted
her own supply of spells or maybe she had realised how resilient to magic
the dark elves were but for whatever reason Feyondra had now resorted
to attacking with a dagger. Primrose had reached the fight but her initial
blows were deflected off the Drow’s armour. I also saw Josh moving
to assist the War Wizard, something that made me inwardly wince as I remembered
how bad his own injuries were.
Faergil tired to use The Art on his attacker but, due to his deafness,
his speech was slurred and he couldn’t quite manage to complex incantation.
The spell failed.
The Drow priestess was now starting to float to the ground. As she did
so she hurled more fire at Colatto, this time not only burning flesh but
also destroying his bow. Throwing aside the ruined piece of wood Colatto
began a sudden sprint across the melee and leaped up at her in an attempt
to grab hold of the priestess’s legs. It was an unconventional and
daring tactic, something I had come to admire in Colatto, and one that
deserved to work but instead he misjudged the angle and sailed past her.
Amber hammered again and again at the Vrock. Her right sword missed but
the left finally made contact with the fiend. Unfortunately this blade
only had a weak enchantment and it passed through the body of the Vrock
without leaving a wound. Then the right stuck again, hacking off one of
the Vrock’s wings. It slumped to the ground dead.
Once more Faergil, who was now down to only one decoy, tried to cast a
spell at his attacker but once again his deafness defeated him. As the
Drow prepared to attack again he was struck from behind by Twin-Death.
Brother Baldric, finding himself free of an opponent had used his time
wisely by first purging the spider venom from his body and then invoking
the miracle of Barkskin on himself. Unfortunately if Baldric had hoped
for a quick take-down he was disappointed. Faergil’s opponent had
been, until then, unwounded and span to face his new opponent. The Drow’s
dagger was unable to penetrate Baldric’s toughened skin but the
short sword drew blood.
In the instant the Vrock had been killed Baynar had switched targets,
closing on the Drow priestess and cleaving through her armour with his
blade. Though she hissed with pain the priestess not only stood her ground
but also hurled black flame at the knight. Baynar, already torn and bloody
from his fight with the Vrock fell to his knees but drew himself back
to his feet with grim determination. As Baynar had done seconds before
Amber dashed over to join Colatto and Baynar in battle with the priestess.
As only Amber could she delivered three powerful blows in the blink of
an eye. The priestess was knocked back and forth but only one attack managed
to draw blood. Colatto, Baynar and Amber now surrounded the Priestess.
Colatto made a tentative thrust with The Mage’s Blade but couldn’t
get through the priestess’s formidable defences. Baynar had no such
problems and, ignoring the pain of his injuries made two attacks in quick
succession, the second seeming to flow naturally out of the first. It
was this second attack that ended the battle, severing the priestess’s
head from her shoulders.
With deadly efficiency Captain Stringfellow finished off the Drow we were
facing. I could see Feyondra couldn’t last much longer. Like I had
with Primrose’s foe I sprang across the campsite throwing my full
weight against the Drow. We collapsed into a ball and I tore without restraint
at the dark elf, ripping flesh from bone. I was vaguely aware of Feyondra
joining the brutal melee, stabbing with her dagger. In seconds the dark
elf was limp and broken.
Now there was only one dark elf left, the one that faced Faergil and Bazil.
Perhaps he didn’t realise the fate of his companions or perhaps
he knew no fear but for whatever reason he pressed his attack. Brother
Baldric and the dark elf traded blows but it was Faergil, summoning the
power of his magical staff, who ended the fight by splitting the Drow’s
The fight over I shrugged off the form of a lion and returned to my natural
shape. One though was at the forefront of my mind; Amber was back. Captain
Tanner had said she had ridden in this direction when she left the Undying
Gaze but I could not have guessed we would meet her. Perhaps I had been
naïve; most of what The Company did seemed preordained, as if we
were following a trail set down by Fate, and Amber still had her role
to play. I took a moment to examine my feelings towards Amber; did I still
love her? No. What ever had motivated her to say it, insight or spite,
Amber had been right that night so many months ago in Essembra when she
said I had changed too much both inside and out. I was (for all intents)
unique, neither one thing nor another. Not human but not a dragon, a druid
but one who would never be fully accepted. An outsider. A misfit. I had
a great fondness for Amber, perhaps more so then for any of my companions,
but I did not love her. I wondered how Amber had faired since she left
us, if her mighty heart had healed it’s mostly self-inflicted wounds.
I called out to Amber in greeting but her attention was else where as
she saw to the safety of the band of warriors who had arrived with her.
That band was a lot smaller now. Five of them, perhaps half their number,
had fallen to the Drow’s blades. Amber called for Baldric to help
with the injuries of the rest. My thoughts turned to the wounds of my
companions; we had all suffered in the fight. I began with Josh. His injures
were extensive but the power of Silvanus did much to ease them. He had
fought well and bravely but, though it went against the grain, I would
have to reign him in if he was to get back to Cormyr alive. While I healed
her I asked Feyondra how she had survived so many attacks when I was sure
I had seen her run through at least half a dozen times but she was tight-lipped
on the subject. I was also able to purge the venom from Primrose’s
By now the two groups, The Company and the archers, had come together.
The archers were a serious, stony-faced group but I doubted that Amber
would be in their company if they were not noble of heart. Their leader
was called Jared, a dark haired man with stony grey eyes. Amber stuck
close to him and the pair exchanged whispered conversations often. Jared
wanted to know what we were doing and where we were going. Perhaps reacting
to his authoritative tone my companions answers where not overly helpful.
Sensing things were going nowhere and we were in danger of alienating
a potential friend I laid our cards on the table. We were going to the
Darkwatch with the hope of thwarting the Drow, we had a fair idea of how
dangerous the road through Tilver’s Gap was but had no choice. Could
From the look in Amber’s eyes it seemed to me she had been expecting
the request. She told the others, whom we now realised were all rangers
of Mielikki, that she would guide us to The Darkwatch. Clearly this meant
us travelling along secret trails that the rangers were not happy about
outsiders knowing about. Amber confirmed Baldric’s rather light-hearted
suggestion that we would have to go part of the way blindfolded and warned
us in the most serious terms that we should not abuse the trust being
placed in us. Once or twice the rangers mentioned “The Hawk of the
Lady” a term for a priest or priestess of Mielikki. I was rather
curious to hear them refer to Amber at least once as “The Finder
of the Way”.
Jared was eager to move on. We buried the dead rangers under hastily assembled
cairns of stones and rounded up the horses. We were still glowing from
the Drow priestess’s Faerie Fire and both Faergil and Feyondra tried
and failed to dismiss it. Amber, Jared and the others lead us southwards
along a pass through the foothills. They pushed on at a hard pace, Primrose
had to ride or she would have been left behind and the pace, and the cold,
aggravated our wounds. As we walked through the dark the story of Bazil
and his ring was told yet again. I decided that it was time to mention
to Bazil something that had been on my mind for a while; perhaps the ring
would come off if Bazil apologised to Brandobaris. I was disappointed
but not really surprised when Bazil replied that, as far as he could see
he had nothing to apologise for.
After about an hour we reached the rangers camp. Their horses, including
Fleetfoot, were waiting for them there. I took the opportunity to do what
I could for the burns our mounts had sustained when the web caught fire
but my Divine Favour was greatly depleted after healing my companions.
Amber however, using a miraculous power I believe is unique to rangers,
was able to take the horse’s wounds onto herself. We stopped only
long enough for the rangers to break camp and collect their horses before
we were off again into the dark night. At one point, a little before dawn,
Josh suggested that he go scouting off a little way in case there were
more Drow or other dangers about. I suggested that he check with Amber
or Jared first so not to cause offence. He did so and, taking the form
of an owl, disappeared into the gloom.
As the sun broke over the horizon we were in the hills to the south of
Tilverton. To the south, some fifteen miles away was a range of mountains
while to the east was the Thunderpeaks, the sky above it black with storms,
and to our west stretched the barren wilderness of The Stone Lands. We
were all tired, cold and sore. Jared gave us four hours to rest before
we would have to push on again. Sometime while I was sleeping Josh returned;
he had found no sign of danger.
All to soon we were on our way again. Feyondra told us that, by no-doubt
arcane means, she had informed Vandaghast of the situation in Tilver’s
Gap. Amazingly the Drow priestess’s Faerie Fire was still on us,
though it was less noticeable in daylight. We pressed on through the entirety
of that day. Jared sent three of the remaining rangers back the way we
had come to obscure our trail to throw any pursuit off the track. We ascended
steadily through the day. Noon saw us passing along a narrow valley of
rock and rubble, as we came out the other side we could see for miles,
almost to the Stormhorns some 60 miles away. It was a hard days journey
and by the end of it we were happy to make camp despite the chill of the
night. Brother Baldric did what he could for our injuries, stinging as
they were from the cold. Other then a quick conversation with first Primrose
and the Bazil I had noticed that Amber had kept away from most of The
Company, her emotional defences always up. The only time she seemed to
relax at all was with Jared. We managed to get perhaps seven hours of
interrupted sleep, not enough for the mages to relearn spells.
The next day was very much like the last. A long journey through cold
and hard lands. Despite everything the land wasn’t barren of life
and here and there plants clung stubbornly to existence in small patches
of shelter. Amongst the plants I saw were Minenna and Bryony both of which
had interesting properties in the hands of a skilled herbalist.
A little before noon we reached a plateau. To our left was a breath-taking
view of the Thunder Peaks. Running across the plateau from left to right
was a small brook, the source of the Immerflow. It was now that we would
have to go blindfolded. One of the rangers cut a blanket into strips and
we were each trusted to blindfold ourselves. Some of The Company were
still not happy with the idea but there seemed to be no point in trying
to change the rangers’ minds. It also seemed a little ungrateful
to try as it seemed, from conversations I had heard among the rangers,
that they were breaking their own traditions doing as much for us as they
had. We would have to lead the horses but Amber, using her Gift, told
them that they would be fine.
The journey was a curious one; we continued up at a gradient for a short
while and then suddenly it seemed that we were inside; the wind disappeared
and the sounds of our footfalls echoed around us. At times the path became
quite steep and at other times we stumbled but always there were unseen
hands waiting to aid us. After a while we were out into the open again.
We could feel the sun on our faces and, breathing deeply I could smell
the scents of spring or perhaps summer rather then a stark winter. Despite
the warnings I felt the urge to remove my blindfold and feast my eyes
on what all my other senses told me was a rare treasure. Our journey seemed
to be paralleling a river and at one point we crossed a wooden bridge.
Ahead I could hear the sounds of waterfalls and soon we reached a set
of steps leading to a path that, rising all the time, snaked back and
forth between the falls; “The Falls of Tumbling Stars” Amber
called them. When we reached the top we were greeted by a blast of icy
wind. Spring had returned once more to winter and there was now snow under
foot. We travelled on for a short while and then Jared told us we could
remove our blindfolds. I looked back but all that could be seen was a
stony, snow sprinkled pass. It was now time for Jared and the other rangers
to leave. Though she must have been preparing for it since the fight with
the Drow it was clearly a wrench for Amber to leave them but she was determined
to guide us to The Darkwatch. I thanked Jared and his men for their assistance
and asked what they would do next, Jared said that they would return to
what they had been doing; trying to protect Tilverton and Tilver’s
Gap from the Drow.
It was now getting late and we decided to make camp pretty much where
we were. There were a few tense minutes between Amber and Feyondra after
the War Wizard idly speculated if King Azune knew of the hidden valley
we had passed through. When we were settled Amber finally told us what
had befallen her since we had parted company in Nimpeth. As we already
knew she had sailed back to Cormyr on the Undying Gaze and collected Fleetfoot
from the royal stables. While she had a notion of returning to Hap she
had been, for the most part lost and directionless. Suddenly she had felt
a compulsion to travel north and east. She had travelled on and on until
she was exhausted and, when she could not take another step, Windstrom
had appeared to her. He had guided her to The Falls of the Tumbling Stars
where she could rest and heal. He also gave her a Gift; the reason that
the rangers had called her The Finder of the Way, no matter where she
wanted to go her feet would always find the right path. It was this Gift
that would lead her to The Darkwatch despite all the tricks and deceptions
that it used to conceal itself. Her tale reminded my of Elladyr’s
vision and it’s reference to “The Guide”. Thinking of
the Vilhon Reach reminded me of Dragothil, also known as “Hate Bane”
and “The Blade of Love”, and the charge that Arriane had placed
on me to find someone to wield it. The seemed little doubt that Amber
was such a person and that Arriane had known that we would cross her path
again. I handed over the sword, with its accompanying cloak, and explained
what we knew of its powers. At some point Colatto had decided that, despite
being a mage of rare talent, he was going to rely more on his skill-at-arms.
He had salvaged a buckler from one of the Drow and done his best to obscure
the design on the front of it. As we camped that night he was able to
get a set of studded leather armour from Baldric and a short bow from
Bazil. Despite the howling wind all the priests and mages in our group
got a good night’s sleep thanks to the miraculous powers of Silvanus.
The next day’s travel began well. Faergil was finally able to dispel
the Faerie Fire that had marked us since the fight in Tilver’s Gap.
We set off at a good pace, travelling along a narrow pass, but by midday
we had been hit by a blizzard. It howled down from the mountain peaks
like a pack of hungry wolves and within moments we could hear and see
next to nothing. We roped ourselves together and did our best to push
on through the storm with Amber leading the way. After what seemed life
a lifetime of fighting the elements it became clear that it was a fight
we could not hope to win. Amber found us what shelter was available but
it wasn’t much and it soon became clear that we would need to call
upon the power of the gods if we were all going to make it through the
night. Following Baldric’s lead Josh and myself invoked a protective
miracle called Aura of Comfort on all of our companions and our mounts,
shielding them from the deadly cold. Only Feyondra turned down the blessing
saying, rather enigmatically, that her cloak would protect her.
The next morning we needed to dig our way out of the shallow cave that
Amber had found for us. Once free we gazed upon a vast expanse of virgin
white snow that stretched as far as we could see. The blizzard came and
went throughout that day as we continued down the pass and we needed to
renew our protective auras periodically. In the late afternoon, during
a brief let-up in the snow, we came across a worrying sight, a large patch
of snow ahead was churned up, in places it was stained red and there were
clumps of fur. Signalling for us to keep back Amber moved forward to read
the signs in the snow. The fur had belonged to a brown bear that had recently
been attacked by a large lizard. We all must have though the same thing;
a dragon. I glanced around the narrow pass, if a dragon attacked us there
we would be at a serious disadvantage. Even as I thought this we heard,
as if carried on the wind, a powerful roar. It was a noise that only a
dragon could have made. Quickly we began to move again, dragging the horses
along with us. It was already starting to snow again and our visibility
was dropping away fast. We had been going for no more then five minutes
when we heard the dragon roar again. There could be no doubt that this
time the dragon was a lot closer. The horses began to panic. Bazil, Faergil
and Baldric began to lose control of their horses, though The Luck Bringer
was able to calm his mount, Storm, down with a small miracle. Suddenly,
through the haze of snow, we became aware of a ghostly, glow from above
us and once again we heard the dragon roaring, apparently from the same
direction. I had thought that a white dragon was hunting us but now a
new idea crossed my mind; could it be Yiarni the Crystal Dragon that we
had saved from giants in The Lost Dale? I called out to the glow in the
tongue of dragons and a familiar voice called back. It was indeed Yiarni
as we could see when she landed a little way along the pass; a slim, wingless
dragon some forty feet in length whose body seemed to be spun from flawless
glass. She had picked up our trail while hunting and was concerned for
our safety in such harsh weather. She offered to lead us to a cave, the
one that the bear had once used, so we could ride out the rest of the
storm. She considered herself in our debt for saving her from the giants
and was eager to discharge what she saw as her obligations. With remarkable
grace considering the narrowness of the pass Yiarni turned around and
guided us to the cave, which still smelt strongly of it’s former
occupant. Once she saw us safely inside she headed off into the snowstorm,
which was rapidly turning into another blizzard. We had just managed to
get a fire going from things lying around the cave (mostly bear dung)
when there were two thuds outside. Venturing out into the blizzard I was
just in time to see the dragon slipping away into the storm, flicking
this way and that like a fish riding a current. At my feet were two, freshly
killed sheep. From their red-brown fur they were clearly “Red Sheep”
a species unique to the Thunder Peaks. We dragged them inside and Amber
and Primrose butchered and cooked them.
That night in the bear cave was the most comfortable we spent in the mountains.
Amber summoned Dwindar, who had recovered from his injuries sustained
in the fight with the Vrock, and introduced him to Baynar, Josh and Feyondra.
I told Amber, and anyone else who would listen, tales of a few of the
places we had visited and thing we had seen in our recent travels. We
set watches but the night passed without incident.
The next day was cold but not unpleasant. The smell of the air told me
that the snowstorms were over for the time being and we set off feeling
refreshed and rested. We were now noticeably going downwards. After a
while the pass that we had been following for close to two days opened
up. We were on a plateau nestled in the arms of two mountain ranges. Ahead
of us was a beautiful, panoramic view. Stretching for leagues ahead of
us were the foothills of the Thunder Peaks and beyond them, stretching
from north to south as far as we could see, even elevated as we were,
was the mighty Cormanthor forest, a patchwork of brown and green. Within
the forest we could see the glimmer of Lake Sember sparkling in the winter
sunlight and somewhere close to that, hidden like a vast spider in a web
of sorcery, would be The Darkwatch.
Half a year ago our enemies had driven us from these lands but now we
had returned to The Dalelands to finish what we had started....
I used the following references:
Faiths and Avatars - Info on the faith of Mielikki and the Falls
of Tumbling Stars.
Drow of the Underdark - Drow and Drow Spells
Elminsters Ecologies - Info on the Thunder Peaks and the Flora and Fauna
(including the Dragon therein)
It was the first week after quite a long break and I had to start
in the middle of a fight - not fun, but it went OK.There were lots a few
Drow spells cast - Dark Fire, Spell web (previous week) amongst others...
Baynar took something like 48hp in one round off the Vrock! Not nice.
Fortunately for him other companions joined the fray before he was killed.
The Falls of Tumbling Stars are Faiths and Avatars, and the whole
blinded folded journey was somewhat cliched for me (aka Faramir - The
Two Towers). But it worked and the vales importance to the faith of Mielikki
cannot be understated. Surprisingly there wasn't any real arguments from
Ya know, if you want to freeze your characters half to death up a
mountain don't take along Priests with the Travellers sphere! All too
I think the Dragon encounter worked OK. I do try for continuity;
I think it makes the whole whole seem more real. The original encounter
can be read here.
Return to Journey...