Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 5

Chapter 3- The Khov’ Anilessa

DThe smell of death hung about the woodland glade like a shroud. It was a cold night and as steam rose from the cooling corpses I imagined for a moment it was their souls leaving their mortal shells for the afterlife. Amber and I began the grim task of searching through the fallen for any survivors. I noticed that she was ignoring the Drow so I made them my priority. I found no survivors, perhaps it was for the best as it would have only caused discord amongst our numbers, but Amber’s call for Baldric alerted me to the fact she had found a live body amongst the carnage. Amber’s survivor was a dwarf, Mulag son of Velch. Baldric was able to bring him to consciousness with some of the restorative power of Tymora. Amber helped him over to where the elven sisters were resting.
Baynar, Bazil and Faergil (guided by his ability to see magical auras) had also been making their way, aided by a lantern Amber pulled form her backpack, through the fallen but their interest lay mainly with the arms and armour they had been carrying. Baynar found a serviceable set of elven chain mail being worn by one of the humans in Josiah’s band. His honour prevented him from simply taking the armour from the fallen warrior so he asked the Maerdrym sisters if he could use it. Josiah gave her consent not just to Baynar having the armour but for all of us to take what we needed though she made it clear that it was out of necessity rather then for our personal gain. My companions began to take what they needed. All the sets of chain mail, from the smallest Hobbit to the tallest human, were elven chain. Finely crafted from light but durable links they would have been a rare and much sought prize by warriors of my own time but here they seemed to be (literally) thick on the ground. Similarly all the weapons carried enchantments to keep their edges keen and to strike true. Baynar, Brother Baldric, Primrose and Amber all took sets of chain mail. Baynar also collected a bastard sword and (though he could not use it at the time) a magical shield. Brother Baldric took a mace; Primrose and Amber collected three longsword swords between them. Faergil acquired a dagger or two and made a more important discovery among the dead, a staff of silvery wood banded in silver that radiated a powerful magical aura. Bazil swapped all his daggers for magical ones, found a set of what he took to be magical bracers of protection (similar to the ones that both he and Faergil had lost), a short bow and quite a few potions. I “saw” Colatto (who was still invisible) handling a bow but what other items he took I could not tell at the time. Most of The Company clad themselves in elven cloaks and boots, though Amber drew the line at “dead man’s shoes”. From the battlefield I only collected the basics, some bedding (to replace those lost in the Dark Watch), a tinderbox and rations. Perhaps it was vanity or overconfidence on my part but I believed that the many Gifts of Silvanus, aided by my dragon blood and a healthy dose of luck, would see my through the dangers that lay ahead (though I still missed my Harper’s Pin and The Torc).
While this had been going on our three new friends had been recovering from both their injuries and the loss of their companions and were beginning to ask questions. By unspoken consent The Company had decided that now, if ever, was not the time to reveal that we had travelled from seven hundred years in the future. Baldric told them that we had been following a Drow mage and, passing through a magical portal, appeared in what we now knew to be Elven Court. The explanation was a good one, believable (after all it was almost the truth) but vague. Unfortunately this did nothing to explain some of the more outlandish of Faergil’s, and to a lesser extent, my own claim. I decided to play the fool in an attempt to discredit myself (it certainly worked with Josiah, who quickly decided I had “an illness of the brain”) and to give them something else to think about.
One question they stuck too was why we still had the Blades of Demron and, perhaps more importantly, why they had accepted us. We found this last a little puzzling but Arriane explained that the blades, rather like the legendary Moon Blades, were choosy about who they let weald them. Perhaps, I said, the blades were impressed by the way we had rescued them from the dark elves or perhaps it was simply Fate. Luckily the mere fact that Amber, Bazil and Colatto could safely carry them was enough to convince Arriane, Josiah and Mulag they we should keep hold of them. Bazil surprised me with an unexpected question, which among the fallen had been the previous owner of The Scout Blade. Mulag pointed out one of the two dead Hobbits and identified him as “Ilador Snowshoes”. In a rare, but welcome, display of sentimentality Bazil decided to bury the two Hobbits and scratch their names on a pair of improvised head stones.
We had been at the battle site for a fair while now and I was eager to get moving before scavengers got over their fear of the “flashes and bangs” of the fight and came sniffing around. We moved on as soon as the Hobbits had finished their death rites. Somewhere along the line it had been decided that we would head to Myth Drannor. Arriane was still very badly wounded so I took the form of a horse so she could ride rather then walk. The forest would have been too thick normally to allow a horse to be ridden with any practicality but thanks to the grace of Silvanus that proved no barrier for me.
As we went I split my mind between trying to make the journey as comfortable for my wounded charge as possible and wrestling once more with the complexities of time travel. Could the past really be changed or was everything we did now already factored into the history we knew? There certainly seemed to be some evidence of the latter; it seemed a million-to-one chance that the first two elves we met were ones we had met, in one form or another, in our past and their future. We had never (I mentally kicked myself for not asking when I had the chance, too caught up in the moment I guess) asked why Arriane had taken the Blades of Demron away from Myth Drannor in the first place. Then there was her reaction to the sight of Colatto; we had speculated that the “Slaver-King” she had fallen in love with was his ancestor but what if it was Colatto himself? As a Baelnorn Josiah had taken an immediate dislike to Colatto, could it be that she blamed him for Arriane’s decision not to join her and their brother in The Vale of Lost Voices? The memory of two things Arriane had said came to mind. Just before she had handed out the Swords of Demron she had noted that one of us was missing, had she expected to see Amber with us? When Faergil had pointed out that the elven cloaks that the swords were wrapped in were part of the uniform of the warriors and mages who protected Myth Drannor she had said that, before our tasks were done we would have earned the right to wear them. At the time I thought she was being metaphorical but what if she had been telling the literal truth and we were soon to join the ranks of that order? Of course taking that line of reasoning to it’s logical extent pointed to a rather unpleasant conclusion but I decided that I wouldn’t mention that to my friends, some of them were upset enough as it was.
We only travelled for about an hour; after all it had been after sun down when we met the dark elves leading to our encounter with Josiah and anyway Mulag was also slowed by his injuries. Mulag did find time, however, to comment on Baynar’s lost arm. He told us that there was a blue moss in Myth Drannor that would heal any wound that it covered, even to the degree of re-growing severed limbs. As a herbalist by training I knew that certain herbs had great healing powers that could be unlocked by someone skilled in their secrets but this was greater then anything I had yet heard of. We insisted that our three new friends should sleep through the night while we took watches. Josiah and Mulag were a little suspicious but Arriane talked them around. After all, she pointed out, considering our superior numbers and their injuries, if we meant them harm we didn’t have to wait till they were asleep.
The pair had been right to some degree though, we did have an ulterior motive for wanting them to go to sleep. Once they were asleep, leaving Baynar to guard, the rest of us moved quietly away to discuss our next move, something Primrose had clearly been bursting to ask since Josiah’s revelation about the date. Of course the main topic of conversation was time travel and how it factored into the Drow’s plans. I voiced what I saw as the two options available to the dark elves. Either they could change time (which I doubted) and were planning to alter it to their liking or they couldn’t change time and had come instead to retrieve something that had been lost to them in our present. Baldric pointed out that the dark elves were not known for their selflessness and it struck him that they would not attempt to create a future in which their own personal power was diminished or they might not even exist at all. Baldric had a good point, Drow priestesses might be fanatical enough to un-create themselves for the glory of Lolth but I doubted arch-mages would. I put forward my theory that we couldn’t change history but make it (and it was only a theory; certainly I wasn’t confident enough to start pushing historical figures out of tall towers to prove we couldn’t kill them prematurely). Faergil was keen to dismiss the dangers of altering time, after all there were potent spells (and miracles, though I doubt he knew that) which enabled a mage to create small nips-and-tucks in history so why couldn’t this be done on a larger scale. Faergil’s words brought back to mind my earlier concerns about my noble companions trying to “improve” history. Faergil, who had never even tried to hide his bias for his own people, was the one who had concerned me then most.
The subject of Faergil’s message from Labelas Enoreth came up and what it could mean. Amber suggested that it was a warning that we shouldn’t become constrained by what we believed the past to be but instead react to each occurrence as we normally would. Baldric suggested that, once we reached Myth Drannor, we confide our secret to the priests of Labelas and ask them to try and fathom the meaning of their god’s words. While it was an interesting idea we decided that it might cause more harm then good, for all we knew they consider us to have blasphemed time and try and destroy us.
Primrose rather forlornly pointed out that we were trapped in the past and that she would never see her family again. I did my best to cheer her up by reassuring her that, if I was right about the dark elves having come to collect something from the past, then they must have a way to return to the future. Baldric promptly undid all my hard work by pointing out that the Drow could simply bury whatever it was in a pre-determined spot and remain in the past. Our deliberations could have carried on all night but Bazil summed up our position nicely when he said that our objective hadn’t really changed since we followed The Eight into the Legacy; find them and stop them.

The next six days of travel were both pleasant and informative. It was two Rides travel from where we had met the elves to Myth Drannor. Josiah suggested we travel first to the green elven settlement of Dysrisa, a journey of some eight days and then on to Myth Drannor. Within a day or two Baldric and I had completely healed our band, though I noticed that he was still not prepared to heal Amber. The journey also encompassed the three nights of the full moon and I was able harvest dozens of sprigs of holy mistletoe from the vines that grew in abundance in mighty Cormanthor. Most importantly of all we learnt a great deal about our three new companions.
While I am a great admirer of the elven peoples even I have to admit that most of them that I had met up till then had suffered from a degree of smugness. The Maerdrym sisters had none of this, even going so far as to politely correct Amber when she had called herself “only part elven” (which raised my hopes that Myth Drannor really was the kingdom of inter-racial co-operation that legend said it was). Josiah was a little intense but by no means unfriendly. Arriane was more easy-going and I remember getting a warm, mirthful smile from her when, at the culmination of a conversation with Brother Baldric about Aurumvoraxs, I declared that I would never trust a bakery again. Amber was keen to make friends with Mulag, perhaps prompted by memories of her friendship with another dwarf; Bulosh Ironhammer.
Both Josiah and Mulag, who claimed to be an amazing four hundred years old, were members of Akh’Velahr, Myth Drannor’s standing army. Both were warriors and, though I didn’t see her look at a spell book, I suspected that Josiah was one of the famous Blade-Singers, an order of elven warrior-mages (after all, I had never heard of a lich that wasn’t a priest or a mage). Arianne wasn’t a member of the Akh’Velahr but a bard. She was clearly held in high esteem however considering the group that she, her sister and Mulag had been travelling with. It had contained three of the bearers of the six Blades of Demron as well as at least one ranking member of the Akh’Faer, Myth Drannor’s army of mages (the equivalent of The War Wizards of my native Cormyr, I supposed). The mage had been called Pyra and it was his “Staff of Power” that Faergil had found on the battlefield and was now carrying.
The three also confided in us the purpose of the mission they had been on before the Drow ambush. After centuries of peace the kingdom of Cormanthor was now troubled by rumours of an army to the north. Of the scouts that had been sent to investigate most had never been seen again and those that were had been able to give only scant details with their dying breaths. They had reported an army of massive proportions made up of the many goblinoid races. The news had sent an undercurrent of fear through the City of Bards; mages and priests had bent their minds to reading the fates and perceived dread omens; a great evil had been released and had turned its malice towards Myth Drannor. During this time of concern the rulers of Myth Drannor had received news of dark elves being seen near the ruins of Elven Court. A scouting party had been put together to investigate. When the three were out of earshot Amber marvelled at the might of the dark elves, the scouting party seemed to have contained some of Myth Drannor’s bravest and best but had been wiped out by a relatively small Drow force. I pointed out that she should never underestimate the effectiveness of a good ambush.
We also learnt some more about the stone web that we had found. It was called “The Spidergate” and would react to the presence of any elf or mage by spewing forth gigantic spiders (something we knew only too well). It had no known purpose, other then to perhaps to taunt the surface elves, but some said that it was a portal to “The Demonweb Pits”, the home of Lolth herself.

Early on the eighth day of our journey Arriane informed us that we would reach Dysrisa at about noon. The settlement, she told us, was built almost entirely in the treetops. When I confided in her my complete lack of talent at climbing trees she pointed out that Myth Drannor was also partly an arboreal city but I needed not worry as no one could fall there. I found this a little odd and asked why not to be told that anyone who fell from a dangerous height within the Mythal would come under the effect of a “Featherfall” spell and float gently to the ground. Faergil asked what other effects the Mythal had as he had only heard “legends” about it (inwardly I winced at his choice of words, Arriane clearly thought it was an odd phrase too but let it pass). As well as the Featherfall and creating and maintaining the blue moss that Mulag had mentioned the Mythal prevented the entry of all creatures of evil nature, no one could magical;y transport themselves into the area covered by the Mythal nor would “trans-locational” magics work within it’s boarders. No poison worked there and the city and it’s environs were protected from the extremes of hot or cold weather. Elves could fly simply by concentrating and, at night, the city was full of globes of light that would respond to your mental commands. Mages could channel the magics of the Mythal into “charged” magical items (such as wands) to renew them. Possibly most amazing of all was the fact that someone who spent five winters within the Mythal would stop aging until they left. Because of this we would see few children within Myth Drannor as their parents kept them outside the boundaries of the Mythal until they had reached adulthood. This then was the source of Mulag’s great longevity. Surely, I asked, over centuries the city would have become over populated but apparently, as the Mythal was about five miles in diameter, they had plenty of room to grow. Any way, I supposed, the elven population of Myth Drannor would still want to travel to Evermeet sooner or latter. One unexpected benefit of this prolonged life, Arriane pointed out (a little embarrassed I think as she didn’t want to appear condescending to the non-elves) was that the artisans from normally shorter-lived races had the time to practice their craft until they had reached the mastery of their elven comrades. This had lead to the greatest examples of human (and dwarven, hobbit, etc.) art and craftsmanship.

It was about noon the same day, while I for one was still mulling over what Arriane had told us, when we began to smell the unmistakable odour of wood-smoke. There was a thin haze of smoke in the air that seemed to becoming from ahead of us. Unpleasant memories rose in my mind of the senseless fires set in Cormyr by the Wolf-Lord and his allies during the war. According to Josiah we were only a couple of miles from Dysrisa and she was clearly worried that we had got so close without the settlements scouts challenging us. With Bazil scouting ahead about a hundred feet we pushed on quickly, all suspecting and fearing what we would find. The journey took about an hour and with each minute the smoke got thicker until, as we reached our destination, we were starting to cough and our eyes to sting and water.
I imagine, under normal circumstances, the settlement of Dysrisa would have been all but hidden from the casually viewer, so cunningly was it constructed in the branches of the great, Cormanthain trees. These, however, were not normal circumstances. The settlement was extensively fire damaged and, though I could see no actually fires, it’s blackened, charred remains were belching out clouds of acrid, grey smoke. The ground was littered with the bodies of dead elves but unlike the battlefield we has been lead to eight nights previously these were not only the bodies of soldiers and mages but also the very old, the very young and the infirm. The entire settlement had been put to the sword. Some of the elves had been strung up while other had been senselessly mutilated. Amongst the bodies were also the remains of Cooshee who had fought and died loyally beside their elven companions. The residence of Dysrisa and their allies were not the only bodies lying around; the attackers had left their own dead behind. The enemy troops seemed to have been mostly made up of jackal-headed humanoids, gnolls, but there were also goblins, their larger cousins hobgoblins and a few orcs. The largest body there, clearly slain by The Art, belonged to a huge hill giant who must have stood a towering sixteen feet high in life. A rough glance suggested that there were two dead aggressors for every elf.
Mulag and the Maerdryms were appalled at the carnage. Faergil and I quickly began to look for survivors within the smouldering wreckage. Faergil used a polymorph spell to take the form of a hawk and flew amongst the dwellings while I, after carefully climbing a rope ladder up to tree level, took on the form of a bloodhound and began to work my way through the wreckage. It was a long and grim task. After a couple of hours had passed we had found no survivors and accounted for nearly two hundred dead elves, almost the entire population of Dysrisa. I hoped that the few that we couldn’t find had fled deeper into the forest since the alternative was pretty unpleasant. By the time we had finished the others had cut down the strung up elves. Amber had been reading the tracks around the settlement; the enemy forces must have numbered some four hundred. They had moved in from the north about eleven hours ago (a few hours before dawn, that made sense with goblins in their numbers) and then headed back north after the massacre. Bazil had been looking for clues amongst the enemy forces. Though they were all surprisingly well equipped there was no sign of any uniform amongst them; instead they seemed to be of differing tribes. He had also salvaged some spell books from the wreckage that he gave to Faergil, who had been borrowing Colatto’s since the loss of his portable hole. From his bird’s-eye vantage point Faergil had noticed that the fires seemed to have been most intense at the top of the structures as if fire had rained down from above rather then being started at the base of the trees. Baynar speculated that perhaps the mysterious army to the north, prevented from attacking Myth Drannor by the Mythal, was trying to goad the Akh’Velahr and Akh’Faer into coming out to fight.
By now the initial dismay of our new companions was turning to anger. They were not alone in their rage, many of The Company had a look of death in their eyes. Amber was particularly enraged, if the invading army had returned then and there I’m sure she would have attacked it single-handedly without a moment’s hesitation. What was I feeling? I like to say that I’ve never wasted a second hating any living thing (undead are a different matter), all I could really felt was that six hundred lives, elves, gnolls and goblinoids alike, had been thrown away in a pointless, malicious act.
Baldric, with a certain amount of trepidation, asked Arriane and Josiah how badly they needed to know what had happened here as, if they wished, he could call back the soul of one of the fallen and ask it questions. Though they were angry they agreed and, searching amongst the bodies, they found the corpse of an elf called Jasalin who had been one of the village elders. Baldric preyed, reverently calling upon the soul of the departed. The sweet smell of incenses he lit for the ritual mixed with the stinging smell of wood smoke. Then a semblance of life returned to the corpse. Apologising for interrupting his journey to the other side Baldric asked his first question, who had led the attack? Jasalin replied that the commander of the force that put his town to sword was a creature of evil but he did not recognise it. In response to Baldric’s second question Jasalin described this dark captain as being insect-like, taller then the tallest man, armed with a huge sword and capable of calling fire from the sky. Next Baldric wanted to know how large the attacking force was. Jasalin replied that the attack had taken place in the dark hours before dawn (as Amber had deduced from the tracks) and he did not know exactly how many. It must have been hundreds at least, mainly gnolls. For his next question Baldric asked Jasalin if there was anything else that had occurred that he believed might help the peoples of Myth Drannor against this enemy. Jasalin told us that the insect-like captain, before it had slain him, had taunted him. Boldly the creature had named himself as Nishrach, captain of an army that would bring destruction to all and servant of “The Trio”. With the forth and final question answered the body became still once more.
At the mention of The Trio a look of confused recognition came to Arriane’s face. I asked her if the name meant anything to her, any bard worthy of the name was a storehouse of old myths and fireside tales. With some coaxing she replied that she had once heard of a “Khov’ Anilessa”, or “Trio Nefarious” in the common tongue. They had been three of a race called Nycaloths, extra-plainer beings akin to Baatezu and Tanar’ri but, if anything, both more evil and more powerful. Though she couldn’t remember how she believed that their history involved “The Nether Scrolls” an artefact that dated back to Netheril, the ancient kingdom of the first human mages. Arriane believed the Khov’ Anilessa had been banished or imprisoned centuries ago.
We speculated if there was anyone in Myth Drannor who could give us the complete story. Indeed there was she replied, there were numerous arch-mages and the sage Elminster. I will give Faergil the benefit of the doubt and said that he was still too upset by the massacre to think before he announced that we had met Elminster before. I was aware of a wave of winces, sighs and teeth grinding pass around my companions and I quickly added for Faergil that I doubted Elminster would remember us.
Any worries to our secret being under threat were suddenly driven from my mind by Primrose’s cry of alarm. We all wheeled, looking first at her and then off into the thick, obscuring clouds of smoke in the direction she was starring. Moving rapidly through the cloud was a dark mass, as if a small mountain was moving towards us. In the blink of an eye the shape’s leading edge broke through the smoke revealing a vast, reptilian head clad in red scales. As more of the leviathan came into view we say that the head was connected by a long, muscular neck to a huge, powerful body some one hundred feet in length with a further hundred feet of tail snaking away behind it. At the sight of it my heart skipped a beat, less then one hundred feet from us and closing fast was one of the most destructive beings in The Realms, a Red Dragon!

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Cormanthyr - Information on Elven Court, Myth Drannor, and the Mythal powers.
Eliminster Ecologies - Information on the Cormanthor
Fall of Myth Drannor - Information on the Fall, the Khov’ Anilessa, and the Blades of Demron

After a couple of weeks of almost constant fighting I decided to change the tempo somewhat this week. Give people a change to discuss what they'd learnt, the possible implications of time travel, and what they should do. It proved an interesting discussion for me, and some threads (that go back years of gaming) returned to the table.

Funnily enough I hadn't read up on Dysrisa (as initially I couldn't find any information on it beyond a map entry) so made it all up. Then as I was flicking through the Cormanthyr book, just as they reached it, I discovered the entry in the 'Tangled Trees' chapter! Quite amazingly my description did contradict the entry, in fact it was VERY similar, including the presence of Elven Dogs!

I was going to include another fight in the village with some humanoids, but it was getting late, so I jumped straight in with my old Red Dragon. Time to start running folks!!

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