Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 5

Chapter 1 - Through the Void

Beyond the glowing portal there was only a void and the sensation of falling. Then came images or perhaps I should call them emotions given form. Like clouds of luminous gas they swirled around me. They embraced the full range of human (elven?) experience, from soul crushing despair to a joy that could lift you to the heavens.
Then the void was replaced with substance.
Few of us arrived at our destination in the same place and only Amber and Baynar appeared at the same time. Looking back at the events of that night I think I have managed to put them into some semblance of order based on the accounts of my friends and companions. It went like this…
Colatto was the first to appear. He found himself in a large room, though how large was hard to tell due to the amount of thick curtains of cobwebs that surrounded him. The cobwebs weren’t the only sign of ruin in the chamber; the floor had once been covered by a mosaic but the claws of a huge beast hard torn it up. There were columns, carved into the forms of elves, but they had been toppled to the ground. Some way ahead Colatto could see a strange, purple glow. About his feet were large, fuzzy white balls, the eggs of gigantic spiders and he caught a glimpse of one of the parents. It was a spider with a body some six to seven feet in diameter with a span of legs some twenty feet across and it was moving straight towards him with death in it’s many eyes and venom on it’s fangs. Colatto tried to dodge back as it bit down towards him but he became momentarily entangled in the mat of webbing at his feet and the spider managed to drive it’s fangs into the top of his head. Colatto’s vision swam as the venom entered his system. His first though was typical of the unconventional thinking that had served him so well, he would centre a fireball on himself, gambling all on the fact he could weather the blaster better then the spider, and any others that still lurked unseen in the webbing. But no sooner had he decided upon this course of action he realised that, somehow, between jumping into the portal in Tsornyl and emerging where he now stood he had forgotten all the spells he had memorised. His problems only increased when he grasped for the hilt of The Mage’s Blade only to find it was missing. Luckily he still carried his bastard sword and in a flash it was in his hand. Colatto took the offensive with a powerful swing that opened a gash in the spider’s carapace that oozed green fluids. As he did so Colatto caught a glance of eight shadowy figures moving towards the purple glow.
It was about then, I think, that Bazil appeared in the same chamber a little way behind Colatto and his enemy. Bazil moved to back up his companion, calling out to alert Colatto that he was there, when he realised that The Scout Blade and Kithril were no longer in his hands (as they had been when he jumped through the portal). Quickly he pulled out his spare short-sword and one of his many daggers and moved to aid Colatto. Before he could reach him the spider had tried to bite again but this time Colatto had dodged to safety. Bazil moved in on its flank. His dagger thrust failed to pierce its armour but the short-sword drew blood and a second later Colatto finished the spider off with a sweep of his sword. Even as the spider crumpled lifeless to the ground Primrose’s voice, calling out for Bazil, heralded her arrival. The three moved closer together for better defence. It was dawning on them that all their magical items were gone including Bazil’s bag of holding, Primrose’s armour, the Tears of Tymora and (proving that it is indeed an ill wind that blows no good at all) Bazil’s “cursed” ring of invisibility.
I think it must have been about then that I appeared. Unlike Colatto, Bazil and Primrose I didn’t appear in the web-filled chamber. Instead I appeared in a broad plaza. I had only moments to get impressions of my surroundings; trees, vines, a fountain, when I was flung by some unseen force thirty feet into the air. At the zenith of my unexpected flight I hung for a moment and then crashed down into the ground with a bone shaking impact. I didn’t even get time to draw breath before I was hurled skywards again this time to land with in a tangle of vines at the tree-lined boarder of the plaza, vines that seemed to twine themselves around me with a malicious purpose.
Back in the chamber of webs Bazil, Colatto and Primrose decided to move toward the purple light. Bazil too had seen figures moving that way and they believed that it was The Eight. Primrose, disarmed by the disappearance of The Tears of Tymora, was now armed with another of Bazil’s daggers. She would soon need it as three more spiders, easily as large as the first, closed in around them. The lead one lunged at Colatto but he turned its attack aside with his blade. This gave Bazil an opening and he drove his short-sword home, a deep but not fatal blow. Primrose struck at its other flank but her thrust was turned aside.
About the same time this was happening Faergil appeared in a darkened room. His first sensation was one of tremendous pain, as if half his soul had been torn away, and he collapsed to his knees. The pain was caused by the severing of his link to his familiar, now that he was over a mile a way from it. I hope you will indulge me for a moment as I break from my narrative to say that this was not the first time that a member of the Company of the Silvercoin had lost a familiar in this manner. Kolanthian, the elven mage who had honoured my by calling me “brother” and, despite the many sages, arch-mages and dragons I have met is still the most insightful person I have ever known, lost his owl in almost identical circumstances. Early in my travels I too had a familiar of sorts when a miracle that no longer exists since the Time of Troubles bound my soul to an Elven Cat. A “helpful” teleportation out of a collapsed cave network from a Silver Dragon had separated the pair of us hundred of miles. For me the shattering of the bond had been painful but had no lasting effects (other then on my self-confidence) but for Faergil, as Kolanthian before him, the pain was like a body blow that could easily have been fatal and would never completely leave him.
Faergil soon had other things to distract him. He had fallen at the feet of a statue. It was carved in the likeness of a one-eyed, elven man, Faergil’s patron the elven god Labelas Enoreth. An attempt had been made at some point to destroy the image but it still stood, weathered but defiant. Before his eyes the statue seemed to take on the semblance of life and he heard a clear, elven voice in his head. The voice promised him a “new beginning” and charged him with “saving his people”. To do this he would have to “return what was lost” but avoid becoming “lost in memories”. Suddenly he felt himself filled with new vigour. He felt himself almost swelling with power, his left eye burst (he now matched his patron, probably not a coincidence) and a yellow light shone from the empty socket.

I threw the vines of away from me and scrabbled away. As I fought for breath I looked at the vines and chastised myself for panicking. They weren’t moving at all, I had let my imagination and disorientation get the better of me. For the first time I could really take in my surroundings. It was nighttime, and an overcast one at that, but thanks to my dragon blood I could see fine. The plaza seemed to be part of an elven city of great age into which a forest had encroached over who knew how many centuries. The trees had a dark, twisted look about them that I found instinctively both offensive and melancholy. I could only see two buildings. Both had facades that would have been magnificent in their youth but were now crumbled and ruined. One was a two-storey structure. The other was much larger. It had once been crowned with five spires but now only three remained. In the centre of the plaza still stood a fountain. It had once been decorated by a sculpture of two swans but their heads had been removed and a foul purple water oozed from their necks as if the city bled like a dying man. Everywhere was signs of war and destruction. It was easy to imagine that titans had battled here in the past, shattering the buildings and the streets underfoot without noticing. No, I corrected myself; at least some of the destruction had been hatefully, spitefully deliberate. I was taking the vista in when I spotted the head and shoulders of a dark elf above a pile of rubble across the plaza. The Drow moved forwards. There seemed an unnatural smoothness to the way he walked. The reason for this became clear as he came out from behind cover. From the waist down he was a gigantic spider!

Back in the web filled chamber Colatto and the hobbits were trying to finish off their spider before its two companions could join it. The spider’s hard exoskeleton was making things tough for Colatto and Bazil but Primrose, ducking to avoid a bite, got underneath it’s bloated body and stabbed up into it’s underbelly. Sensing a moment of weakness Bazil renewed his attacks, again his short-sword was blocked by the spider’s armour but his dagger dug home and finished it off. The two other spiders had now reached the melee. One attacked Bazil but he was too fleet-footed for it. The second, however, buried its fangs into Primrose. Primrose hacked franticly at it but in her haste the dagger slipped from her fingers. Colatto was at her side in a flash and tried to drive it back with is sword but it bounced harmlessly of the spider’s shell.

The Drow-spider hybrid, which I latter learnt was called a “Drider”, was carrying a short bow and I had no illusions that he would use it if he saw me. I reached to pull my elven cloak around me only to discover it was missing. Hurriedly I hunkered down behind cover, putting a fallen wall between the pair of us. I glanced around for inspiration or any sign of my friends. Before my eyes Brother Baldric, without any pyrotechnics or fanfare, appeared some thirty feet away. When I noticed that my friend was not wearing his elven plate-mail and Twin-Death was not in the hand he brought up in a defensive posture I began to get an inclining of what had happened to my cloak and my staff. Baldric did the obvious thing, but one that made me wince under the circumstances, he called out the names of the rest of The Company. Within moments a pair of large spiders scuttled out of the rubble and headed towards him with deadly intent.

By now Amber and Baynar, the later barely able to stand due to his injuries, had arrived. They found themselves standing outside what appeared to be a two-storey temple. The area around them had the same desolate and overgrown feel as the plaza I had appeared in. Hanging on Amber’s shoulder Baynar was looking at a thick patch of vines when he noticed their yellow flowers begin to unfurl and twist unnaturally in the stillness of the night until they were “looking” at the pair. There was soft “puffing” noise as the flowers filled the air with a heavy, scented pollen. For a few moments Baynar felt dizzy, and not just from lose of blood, but he was able to clear his head. The effect on Amber was more dramatic though. Suddenly she let go of Baynar, who almost fell to the ground and began to walk, like someone in a trance, towards the vines. Baynar says the flowers vibrate with what to him seemed anticipation and short tendrils on the vines reach out to receive their victim.

A scraping noise brought Faergil back to reality. He and the statue were in the ruined remains of a feast hall. A large table dominated the room on which were golden bowls of fruit and entire, unprepared carcasses of deer. Littered around the room were the bodies of several dead elves, including one dark elf but most importantly of all crouching on the table was a hunched stone figure, a gargoyle. The gargoyle, sensing live prey, lunged for Faergil, a slashing mass of talons, teeth and scorpion-like tail. The mage no longer had his magical bracers to protect him but he was still faster on his feet then most humans and managed to dodge back avoiding all but one claw and the tail. Faergil, bleeding from these new wounds tried to hurl a lightning-bolt at the creature only to find, as Colatto had, he had forgotten all his spells. An experienced adventurer Faergil knew that only spells or an enchanted weapon could mark the living stone that made the flesh of a gargoyle and without either he did the only thing he could and fled, the gargoyle in close pursuit. With a lunge it took to the air and crashed, slashing, into the elf’s back knocking him to the ground and opening fresh wounds. As Faergil scrabbled to get to his feet the gargoyle laughed at his prey’s efforts to escape. A chilling sound that no human, or elven, voice could hope to mimic.

Bazil, Colatto and Primrose were now locked in a desperate struggle but were starting to turn the battle around. Colatto cleaved again and again into one of the spiders cutting it to pieces while Bazil and Primrose, armed with yet another of Bazil’s daggers, attacked the other from all sides until it succumb to it’s injuries. Defiantly the three continued toward the purple glow that was their only real fixed point in a sea of cobwebs.

The two spiders closed in on Baldric who, unslinging his old mace, met them head on. He stuck one full in the face as they pounced but the blow bounced harmlessly aside. Without armour Baldric was soon bleeding from two bite marks. I called upon the power of Silvanus to try and blind one of the spiders (I really don’t like killing when I have the power to incapacitate) only to discover that my Divine Favour had been stripped from me. Steeling myself I pulled out my trusty old oaken club and ran to Baldric’s aid. Before I could closed the distance Baldric was bitten a second time but he was giving as well as he got, cracking one of the spiders exo-skeleton with a powerful blow to release a burst of green fluid. I made straight for that spider and, taking a double-handed grip on my club, added a second wound.

The gargoyle’s gloating gave Faergil time to scrabble to his feet and dash for the nearest exit; a large hole smashed through the wall of what we came to call the “feast hall”. He was barely across the threshold when he almost ran head long into a dark elf. Luckily for Faergil the Drow seemed oblivious to his presence as he walked slowly along with a black bladed short-sword in one hand. Indeed the Drow didn’t look well at all, in what little moonlight there was Faergil briefly noticed that the elf had a gaudiest look to his ebony skin and a distinct yellow sheen in his eyes. Faergil tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the Drow between himself and the gargoyle and ended up with yet more claw wounds for his trouble. However this manoeuvre did have an unexpected side effect. By effectively following the dark elf Faergil rounded a corner and spotted Amber and Baynar.

Despite her legendary strength and his own injuries Baynar was actually succeeding in pulling Amber back away from the vines and their insidious pollen (perhaps, as paladins like to say, virtue does give the strength of ten). He probably couldn’t have restrained her for long but he held on long enough for Amber to regain her senses. The pair took stock of their surroundings and noticed the dark elf, Faergil (who by then looked like he had been mauled by a mountain lion) and the gargoyle. Reacting with a warrior’s instincts Amber attacked the Drow. Both her magical swords were missing but she still had the longsword she had been wielding when we met her in the mountains. A gift from King Azoun it was a finely crafted blade with excellent balance. In one motion she drove it into the body of the dark elf who didn’t even flinch at the wound.

Another blow from Baldric’s mace finished off the spider and I turned my attention on the second, delivering a good strike with my club. It turned on me and I felt two points of pain as the fangs bit home injecting me with venom. Luckily, despite its size, the spider venom was weak and I was able to fight off its effects. Baldric kept up the pressure and finished off the spider with a crushing blow to its head with his mace. Concerned that the drider had noticed our skirmish I quickly pulled Baldric behind cover. Hurriedly the pair of us compared notes. Like myself Baldric had discovered that his Divine Favour was no more and all his magical items were gone. He also showed me the grim relic he had been holding in his off hand; Baynar’s severed arm. For a moment my blood child as I imagined Baynar and Amber standing alone against the Fiend but I pushed it aside, we did not have time for the luxury of sentiment. Without the aid of Tymora’s miracles Baldric fell back on his healer’s training to try and draw the spider venom from his system but it was too late. Carefully I raised my head above cover and peered into the darkness. There was no sign of the drider but on the far side of the plaza I could just make out Amber, Baynar, Faergil and their opponents.

Amber was faced by a tough choice. Out of herself, Baynar and Faergil she was the only one that was armed and they were facing two opponents, one of which she knew to be immune to her mundane steel. Leaving the dark elf she called to Faergil to see to Baynar and charged at the gargoyle. Her blade sparked as it repeatedly bounced off the beast’s stone skin but at least she drew its attention from Faergil. Amber also had another advantage; she was the only member of the Company at the time that regularly wore non-enchanted armour, her fine elven chain. The gargoyle’s claws, fangs and tail tore against the chain-mail but couldn’t penetrate it. Faergil had started going through Baynar’s backpack in the (vain) hope of finding the Lionar a healing potion when the dark elf, ignoring the gaping stomach wound Amber had given him, walked up to Baynar and stabbed him. This new wound proved too much for the battered warrior and he passed-out. Ignoring Faergil the dark elf began to drag Baynar towards the vines. Amber switched opponents yet again and cut the Drow down. She then snatched up his short-sword and turned to face the Gargoyle once more. As before her longsword proved ineffective but when the short-sword struck it bit into the gargoyles flesh, wounding it for the first time. Despite this turn of events Amber didn’t want to fight the gargoyle in the open and, with Faergil dragging the unconscious Baynar, they fell back to the feast hall where Amber made her stand in the doorway. The gargoyle attacked. Amber deftly parried it’s claws but it drew blood with it’s tail. An instant later she struck again with the Drow blade, opening a second wound. Warily the gargoyle backed away.

Baldric and myself had been skirting the plaza (I didn’t feel like another ride through the air) and closed in on our friends. In hushed tones we tried to plan what we could do without miracles or magic weapons against a gargoyle. Baldric suggested lighting a brand and trying to burn it. The only idea I had was to overbear and restrain the gargoyle, a desperate plan at best as neither of us had any notion how strong a gargoyle might be. We reached the corner I had seen our friend’s retreat around and peering round I saw the gargoyle backing away from the building. Suddenly both Baldric and I felt light-headed. Shaking my head to clear it I noticed the yellow blooms close by and recognised the plant for what it was, a deadly yellow-musk creeper. I had hoped to wait safely where I was until the gargoyle had gone and then link up with Amber and the others but I for one didn’t want to become another mindless, yellow-eyed slave of the yellow-musk creeper, a risk we ran by staying in range of it’s pollen. Luckily I still had a trick up my sleeve and, walking towards the gargoyle I exhaled a blast of flame over it. Already weakened by two sword blows and caught off-guard by my attack the gargoyle didn’t stand a chance and quickly collapsed into a pile of scorched rubble allowing Baldric and myself to nip into the feast hall.

During this time Bazil, Colatto and Primrose had found the source of the purple light. What they could see were two stone pillars that had been reshaped, presumably by magic, to form a large, stone web some forty feet across. At the very centre of the web blazed a maelstrom of clashing purple energies that seemed to leak evil into the chamber. Even as they took in the sight they saw one of The Eight climbing along the web to reach its centre. He touched the maelstrom and disappeared. Colatto was eager to peruse him (and presumably the seven that had preceded him) while Bazil suggested trying to find the rest of us. The maelstrom flared and another giant spider appeared where the dark elf had been seconds before. The three braced themselves for the spider’s attack. Bazil made two ineffectual strikes as the spider rammed into Primrose but Colatto sent it crashing to the ground with a powerful stroke of his bastard sword, it’s death throws sending a multitude of smaller spiders scurrying from their concealment in the webbing. Carefully Colatto examined the remains of the spider to see if he could tell if it was simply as it appeared or if the maelstrom had somehow transformed the Drow arch-mage into a spider.
The three decided it was time to get outside. Looking up Bazil spotted wooden support beams and, following them, led the others to one wall. They followed this round until they found a way out, a large hole smashed through the wall. Beyond they found themselves in the same ruins that we had just left. Colatto was rummaging through his backpack for a torch and tinderbox when they spotted movement. Finding what cover they could the three waited as the drider scuttled into sight. As silently as he could Colatto produced his bow and arrows but the drider passed by apparently without spotting them.
Quickly the three agreed that being out in the open was unsafe and they made for the only other building they could see, the feast hall. They were half way there, keeping to the deep shadows as best they could, when a gargoyle flew over head and landed on the roof of the feast hall and then, with a screech disappeared inside.

With the gargoyle incinerated Amber, Faergil, Brother Baldric and myself tried to decide what to do next. The building had was a two storey structure but the upper floor had collapsed in at some unknown time in the past leaving it a single, large chamber. The roof was full of holes and we could see the cloud covered sky above. Amber was eager for someone to see to Baynar’s wounds (and what terrible wounds they were, his left arm had be cleaved straight through midway between his shoulder and elbow) and perhaps bring him around but without our divine gifts there was nothing Baldric and I could do. Faergil had been examining the room and it’s dead occupants. He announced that from his non-existent left eye he could see magical auras (and oddly enough he still had normal depth perception). The room seemed to be full of magic, particularly the table. This probably explained why the food and corpses showed no sign of rooting. Amber went to work to see if the dead elves had anything of use on them. Many of the bodies were wearing armour, leather and elven chain, but it wouldn’t have fitted any of us except Faergil. As he had no spells Faergil elected, with some trepidation, to wear the dead Drow’s chain mail which, he informed us was enchanted for provide extra protection. I went through my backpack to see what I did and didn’t still have. As well as one or two mundane items all my potions were gone, including the oil of impact Bazil had given me. Also missing as was Lord Woren’s cloak (on loan from Bazil) and even the bone fetish that the forest giant had given me (though I wasn’t really sure it had any true power). I like to think that I’m not too concerned with material things but I was stung by the loss of my Harper’s Badge and The Torc of the Earth Mother.
Faergil took the opportunity to tell us what had happened to him when he had first appeared in the chamber in which we now stood. Up until then I had thought that his “eye wound” had been sustained in combat with the gargoyle. At the risk of sounding a know-all Faergil’s tale wasn’t completely a surprise. While I had no way of knowing the details of how it would happen Faergil’s account of his dream in The Vale of Lost Voices (backed up by a few cryptic remarks by Elminster and the arch-mage Mordenkainen) had hinted as to what lay in the elf’s future. At the time I presumed that Faergil now existed in a state akin to a Chosen of Mystra or The Grand Cabal of the Emerald Enclave.
Baldric pointed out that he had spotted a few constellations he recognised during the brief times the clouds had parted suggesting that where ever we were it was still on the Realms. Faergil aired his belief that we were in the legendary elven-city of Myth Drannor. His theory was backed up by his discovery of tattoos on one of the dead elves, a wild elf, which indicated he was part of the Myth Drannor army. I mulled this over in my mind; could The Legacy of Shrinshee “just” be a magical gateway between Tsornyl and Myth Drannor? I say “just”, it was still an impressive feat of magic but could it really be called “the greatest feat of magic by the greatest elven mage”? And if it was why hadn’t the Baelnorn in the Vale of Lost Voices told us; after all they had claimed to be keeping “alive” the memory of Myth Drannor. I tried to recall the strange emotions (or were they memories?) I had felt after crossing that glowing portal. It seemed to me that memory was very important to the ancient elves, did they have some significance that was lost to my non-elven mind? And then there was the matter of The Swords of Demron. It certainly looked to me that these blades had opened the portal for anyone, including The Eight, to pass through. So why had The Baelnorn suggested that we bring them to the one place they would do the most harm? Had they too, for all their ancient knowledge and undead arrogance, been manipulated by the dark elves or did they have their own agenda? No, no, no, that wouldn’t do at all; I realised that I was letting my own prejudices about the elven liches cloud my judgement. Best to put it aside and think about the problem later.
We were torn as what to do next, should we brave the ruins again to find Bazil and the others or hide out till dawn and then search, perhaps after reviving Baynar. Our deliberations were interrupted by a predatory screech from above. We looked upwards just in time to see a new gargoyle dive down towards Amber. It drew blood with it’s stone teeth and claws before Amber had a chance to bring the short-sword into play and cut a wound of her own in it’s flesh. With the pair locked in close combat I didn’t want to use my breath weapon again. Instead, as I was crouched beside my open pack, I pulled out my ceremonial druid’s robes and threw them over the gargoyle’s head like a makeshift net. I hung on for grim life, doing my best to stop the gargoyle from throwing off the robe while Amber attacked. Baldric (who with no armour, no shield, no magical weapons and no miracles) also got stuck in despite the fact the best he could achieve was make himself a target. Disappointingly, considering my close proximity to a raging gargoyle, they both missed. There was a noise of rending cloth and the creature was free, tearing my robes apart and knocking me to the floor in the process. Bounding back to my feet I grabbed hold of the gargoyle’s tail and shouted to Baldric to grab an arm, perhaps we could immobilise it while Amber finished it off. Before the others could react however the gargoyle, perhaps unused to facing a blade that could actually hurt it, began to fly back upwards. For a second I felt myself being pulled off my feet but I had had quite enough of falling from high places for one night and let go.
This attack made up our mind; we would try to find the other and a more defendable position. There was only one other building in sight so, with Baldric carrying Baynar and Amber and myself on point, we headed for that. As we went I pulled out a pair of wooden darts from a pouch and anointed them with a sleeping poison. Usually I would use have used the miracle of Thorn Spray to project such darts at my enemies but for the moment I would have to rely on my own pitching arm. Not that I expected it to have any effect on a gargoyle but that drider was still about somewhere. Just as we reached the imposing pile that was, we later discovered, a temple to Corellon Larethian; first among the elven gods, we heard a short but insistent whisper; it was Bazil calling out Amber’s name. After seeing the gargoyle enter the feast hall the three had decided against going there and fell back to the temple to find a place to hold-up until the day. They told us about the spiders and the stone web. Colatto was eager to return to it straight way to continue the pursuit of The Eight. While I could empathise with his desire to catch up with the dark elves it was clear that we were in no condition to do battle with such forces, Baynar was unconscious and all of us were suffering from multiple wounds. Many of my companions, particularly Colatto, Brother Baldric and Primrose, were looking pale and feverish from the spider venom in their system.
Now that were all back together we felt (perhaps foolishly as we still only had one magic weapon between us) that we could now defend the feast hall and we headed back there. With Amber, Bazil and Primrose on watch the mages and priests tried to get to sleep. As I drifted off my mind still wrestled with recent events. The Legacy of Srinshee, Myth Drannor (if that was where we were), Faergil’s epiphany, a glowing portal to who knew where; they all whirled about in my mind as I tried to squash them into a cohesive pattern. I ended up with several different patterns but I seemed to be lacking facts and theories without fact are, as Gillian had taught me, like webs spun in the air. But facts seemed to be thin on the ground. I felt like a pawn being pushed around a vast board by unseen hands. There was one fact I knew though however, The Eight had gone through the maelstrom and if we wanted to challenge them we would have to follow.

Despite my troubles the pale, cold light of day found me rested enough to prey heartily to Silvanus. I felt my link to The Oak Father being renewed but instinctively I knew that my Divine Favour would be limited that day. Only the more common miracles, invoked by priests and clerics across the world would be mine to call upon, not the more specialist miracles of Silvanus. A quick check with Brother Baldric revealed that he felt the same way. The two mages also had their share of problems. Since the incident with the satyrs Faergil must have moved his spell book into his portable hole which meant it had gone missing along with it. The pair were sharing Colatto’s spell book but they had found entire sections of it were now blank. These inconveniences, along with the disappearance of our magical items, we could only attribute to the Mythal, the magical aura that was supposed to protect Myth Drannor but, according to popular legend, had become corrupted since its fall.
While we preyed and studied, which took a little over five hours in total, the others caught up on their sleep. Bazil also found time climb to the highest point of the feast hall and look around. We were in a vast forest that stretched as far as the eye could see (Cormanthor, if we were right about being in Myth Drannor). We seemed to be pretty much in the centre of a ring of blighted trees that stretched hundreds of yards in all directions. In that shadow on the land Bazil could make out broken masonry but no other complete buildings. We were also no alone. He saw numerous gargoyles and spiders of varying size (but all abnormally large if he could see them from afar). He also spotted three of what might be hill giants; hulking figures some fifteen feet in height but unlike hill giants any of us had seen before disproportionate of limb and malformed. Despite Amber’s hope had not be a gargoyle’s “nest” on the roof with treasures taken from its victims.
Bazil also had time to figure out an interesting fact; while the first through the Legacy of Srinshee had appeared in the temple the others had appeared increasingly further and further from it with Amber and Barynar (the last through) furthest away.
Before leaving the feast hall Baldric and myself invested much our divine favour to see to The Company’s many wounds. Indeed I left myself quite drained and would have very limited options for at least the rest of the day but I figured getting my friends as close to fighting fit as possible was worth it. Unsurprisingly we concentrated a lot of Baynar who, I must say, was putting on a brave, almost sunny, face about losing his arm. I dimly remembered the months during which I had only had one eye (it seemed to have happened to an entirely different person), for the first few weeks I had been badly shaken by the wound.

We made the short walk back to the temple. Seeing Myth Drannor, and few of us doubted that was where we were, by the light of day was a melancholy spectacle. In fireside tales I heard in my youth it had been a beacon to the races of The Realms, a golden kingdom of art, philosophy and learning. A city founded by the elves but where all races were equal (though if Faergil’s researches were true some of the elves though themselves more equal then others). Was this ravaged, monster-infested corpse of a city really all that was left of “The City of Bards”? Perhaps, ultimately, that was the tragic flaw of those elven visionaries; with their vast life-spans maybe they had expected everything else to last forever too and had given no thought to what the younger races would do with their legacy after they were gone.

Soon enough we were before the massive entrance to the temple. A few of my companions, especially Primrose, had looked a little concerned at the thought facing the colony of gigantic spiders that lurked within. Some of us had wanted to go in through the gap in the side (through which Bazil, Colatto and Primrose had exited) as it was closer to the web but Amber was keen to search as much of the temple as possible. After all, she pointed out, our vanished stuff had to be somewhere so why not there? The gates were missing and the chamber beyond was obscured behind layer upon layer of cobwebs. Some thought had been given to simply torching the webs and then going in after the fire had burnt itself out but Baldric, after quizzing those of us that had been inside, pointed out that the roof supports were wooden and we would almost certainly bring down the entire temple.
We had barely begun to climb the steps up to the temple when a swarm of black, hairy spiders rushed like a tide out of the gateway. The spiders were only a few inches across but they must have numbered in the thousands. We all backed away. All that is except Faergil who demonstrated that his recent brush with divinity hadn’t diminished his well-honed instinct for self-preservation by running for all he was worth. Strangely the spiders seemed to be homing-in on the elf but before they could get too far from the doorway Colatto trapped them behind a wall of fire and incinerated the lot. I had a moment to consider the spider’s actions; they seemed to be moving with a distinct purpose and it occurred to me that the drider was still unaccounted for. Then someone pointed out that the heat from Colatto’s wall of flame could easily ignite the webbing beyond the gateway and bring down the temple. Quickly we dashed along the side of the temple and entered through the hole. On the threshold I hesitated long enough to call upon Silvanus and invoke a miracle of Bark-Skin. Inside we followed the directions of Bazil and the others as we pushed our way through clinging curtains of webbing. In a couple of minutes we were in the chamber with the stone web, it was just as intriguing and baleful as the three had described. I considered what I saw. Had it been here before we arrived or has the arch-mages spun it with their magic after being dropped here by The Legacy of Srinshee? No, both Colatto and Bazil had seen the purple glow at the same time they had seen what was surely The Eight slip from the room in which they had appeared and anyway wouldn’t they (like us) have materialised with their magics stripped away? Could the portal be the reason they had come and The Legacy just a method to get near it or was it simply a convenient way to escape after snatching some additional (as yet unseen) component of The Legacy?
As always seems the way, just like the day before as we stood looking across at the Legacy of Shrinshee from the edge of the void, Colatto acted while I mused. Without hesitation he made straight for the web and the maelstrom at its heart. As soon as he touched the stone strands six giant spiders, as large as the ones the three had fought the day before, appeared out of thin air. Quickly we went of the offensive. The few of our diminished supply of weapons we had changed hands once or twice that morning and looking back on it I have a hard time remembering who was armed with what. Amber’s longsword was being held by Primrose, who was a specialist in their use. Amber herself was armed with the Drow short-sword and, I think, a dagger. Colatto had handed his bastard sword to Baynar (again, he had a particular familiarity with that type of sword) and I think was now only armed with a dagger, as was Faergil. Baldric, Bazil and myself had the weapons we had used the night before.
Amber closed rapidly on the nearest spider, only one weapon hit but the wound was deep and almost instantly fatal. A second later Baynar was at her side and finished it off with a powerful stroke before turning on a second and wounding it severely. Despite his injury the knight was clearly eager to fight. Perhaps he wanted to prove that losing his arm was not going to slow him down. Perhaps he was simply a very brave and courageous warrior from a kingdom of warriors. Either way he had no armour and no shield. Quickly I moved up behind Baynar and blessed him with bark-skin too. And just in time too as a second later the spider tried to sink it’s fangs into Baynar only to be thwarted by his toughened skin. Bazil was tackling a third spider, one of his blades was turned aside but the second found a weak-spot in the spider’s armour and drew blood. The spider bit at him but the scout was too quick for it. Brother Baldric was not so lucky and took a bite. The battling priest returned the compliment with his mace. Primrose had by now caught up with Bazil and finished off his opponent with two deft thrust of Amber’s sword. Faergil had not been idle during this time but had been casting a, for him, surprisingly long spell he had learnt especially for a situation like this. Now it was complete and, with a wave of his hands, the spiders shrunk down to half their size. No sooner had he done so then four more spiders, smaller then the original six (before they had been shrunk) but still far too big for our liking, appeared. Later Faergil told me he felt that the maelstrom had somehow reacted to our use of magic to bring forth these new spiders. Colatto, ignoring two spiders that were sinking fangs into his legs, had been quickly scaling the web. Within seconds he had he had reached the maelstrom but no sooner had he touched it then there was a surge of arcane energy and he was hurled from the stone web to disappear from sight among the cobwebs. He had been hit so hard and so fast he didn’t even have time to scream.
Ignoring the dangers of turning your back on a live foe Brother Baldric turned on his heel and went in pursuit of Colatto. Amber had engaged a new spider and killing it with her short-sword. Without slowing she engaged a third, wounding it. With my Divine Favour depleted I could think of no way of stopping the spiders without killing them so I took a firm grip of my club and finished off the spider that was attacking Baynar. Baynar quickly closed on one of the newer spiders, wounding it with one blow and killing it with a second. By now Baldric had found Colatto, he was a gruesome sight with his cloths blackened and chard and his skin looking like someone had tried to flay it from his bones. From Baldric’s description of Colatto’s injuries I doubt that any of us but Amber (and maybe Baynar) could have survived them but somehow Colatto hung stubbornly to life as Baldric employed his talents as a healer. As he did so the spider he had abandoned a few moments earlier close in on Baldric’s back only to be distracted by Faergil, who was reluctant to use The Art in case it drew more spiders. There were now noticeably fewer spiders left. One bite Baynar while the other two tried and failed to get to grips with the hobbits, indeed Primrose’s retaliation severely injured the one attacking her.
Seeing that Baldric and Faergil were in trouble I quickly engaged their spider and finished it off. Bazil and Primrose both seemed to be having trouble with their spiders as attack after attack bounced off armoured carapaces. Baynar efficiently finished off his and then engaged and killed Primrose’s while Amber ploughed into the one attacking Bazil, driving it back but not killing it. That duty fell to Primrose as a second later she ran the last spider threw.
Baldric, aided by Faergil and Baynar, carried Colatto from the temple so he could property see to his companion’s injuries. Bazil, Amber and I moved, cautiously, towards the web. Being very careful not to get too close to the maelstrom Bazil inspected it for magical traps. What he found was not what I had hoped. The energy discharge that had defeated Colatto did not seem to be the result of some glyph or ward put there in an attempt to keep us from following. If it was Bazil could probably have removed it and opened the way. Rather it appeared that the maelstrom itself was simply too energetic, too destructive to let us safely pass through.
We left the temple to find the others. Whatever diabolical place The Eight had gone to it seemed clear we could not use the web to follow them. It appeared that the dark elves had won this battle and, I felt, unless we acted quickly, they might have won the war too.

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Ruins of Myth Drannor - Information on the Elven City
Eliminster Ecologies - Information on the Cormanthor
Fall of Myth Drannor - Information on the Fall and the Blades of Demron

Well, I was determined that the first week was not going to start slowly, and having the PCs dumped in the centre of an extremely dangerous ruin seemed to get it kicked off.

The loss of spells and magic items obvously caused problems, though Bazil seemed pleased at 'loosing' the ring of invisibility.

Baynar started the evening on 2HPs and the hit from the Drow yellow musk zombie was enough to take him down.

The Maelstrom did 70HPs of damage to Colatto putting him on -11HP Only our house rule of going to minus constitution before death saved him!

The PCs have a dilemma now. What to do next. They don't have any real answers at the moment, but that will come shortly...

Standby.

Return to Journey...