Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 5

Chapter 4- The Slaver King and the City of Song

With the crimson scaled juggernaut less then one hundred feet away Bazil, rather unnecessarily to my mind, called for us to scatter. Bazil and Primrose ran in one direction, Baldric a second and myself a third. I caught a glimpse of Faergil hesitate for a moment (he was still under the effects of the polymorph spell and weighing the edge changing shape would give to his escape against the time the change would take) before running for cover too.
As I ran I considered my options; since our journey back in time I was unable to call upon the Earthmaw or invoke a Thorn Spray or a Needle Storm. The vengeful flames of Silvanus would avail me nothing against a red dragon. I didn’t have ten minutes to call down a lightning-bolt. There wasn’t even a handy rainbow for the obscure “Rainbow” prayer. Any of Silvanus’s children that I called to help would be throwing their lives away. On the whole not a promising start. Best to play it defensively, use the bounty of Silvanus to strengthen the true warriors in our group.
By now I was behind a tree. I risked a glance round and my heart, once gain, skipped a beat. Amber, Baynar and Colatto were running into the obscuring smoke straight towards the dragon. I was about to start moving closer to get a better view when I heard the booming voice of the dragon demand to know what was going on. The voice shock the ground with its anger but didn’t have the same malice I had heard in the voices of evil dragons in the past. Puzzled by this, and the lack of the sound of combat, I began to prey to Silvanus and asked him to reveal to me anyone of evil heart. Intriguingly the red dragon, a symbol of terror and destruction the length and the breadth of the Realms, did not appear to be evil. Arriane, Josiah and Mulag, who had stood their ground ready to take the dragon’s charge, were now starting to walk (not run I noted) towards him. I decided to join them and spotting as I did my other companions starting to peer out from behind cover looking a little confused. As I closed in I heard the dragon demand to know who had destroyed the village and could just about heard Colatto’s reply that it was an army of goblinoids. From the shaking of the ground alone it was clear that the dragon was on the move again but this time at a walking pace. I heard the dragon telling someone “Don’t do that again”; apparently Baynar, still confused by the dragon’s demeanour, had taken an ineffective swing at a leg. The dragon came to a stop in front of the Maerdrym sisters. There was clearly recognition and respect on both sides and I heard Arriane calling the dragon “Garnet”. Garnet spoke, with growing anger, about what he called the northern massacres, a large tribe of satyrs had been already killed and the army responsible was marching on Myth Drannor. Garnet, who was clearly seething with anger, blamed himself. He claimed responsibility for releasing the Khov Anilessa from what he described as their “cage” and now was going to make amends the only was he knew, by challenging the three nycaloths and their army. By now we were all standing within the shadow cast by Garnet. He towered over us and, if anything, my initial estimate of his length had been on the conservative side. Compared to Garnet the green dragon we had fought in Chondal Forest had been a pussycat. Amber was doing her best to dissuade Garnet from what certainly seemed to me to be a suicide mission and instead combine his obvious might with that of the Akh’Velahr and Akh’Faer to defend Myth Drannor. He replied that he was a dragon, a creature of instance and those same instincts demanded that he act and act now. Bazil asked how and when he had released the nycaloths. He replied that every time he had unwittingly flown over their magical cage he had weakened its enchantments until they had escaped some three winters ago. With a sardonic laugh he commented that the creators of the cage had never realised that one of his kind (a red dragon) could be “made of good heart” as Master Ammath had to him. After a few seconds the name of his apparent master rung a bell, it was Faergil’s family name.
It was then that Colatto opened his mouth and, metaphorically, knocked the rest of The Company’s legs out from under us. He began to agree with Amber stating that he knew for certain that Myth Drannor was going to fall. His pronouncement was cut short when he was rendered speechless by a miracle of Baldric’s. Unfortunately Colatto had managed to partially resist the miracle, rather then the zone of silence being “attached” to him it was centred behind the mage so all he had to do was take a few steps to one side and begin his speech again. Baldric was just as determined however and invoked the same miracle a second time, this time with full effect. Mulag and the Maedryms were clearly confused by what was going on but were concentrating on trying to dissuade Garnet from flying to his death. Colatto stalked over to Baldric, clearly offended by the priests actions and began to lay into him with his fists. Possibly trying to retain the moral high ground Baldric didn’t strike back but instead concentrated, rather poorly, on trying to defend himself. Seeing Baldric’s plight and appreciating how he had got into it, Baynar and myself intervened, grabbing an arm each and dragging Colatto back. It had been quite a while since I had been with a zone of silence, the product of a fairly common clerical prayer, and I had forgotten how disconcerting it was, how isolating. Rendered deaf by the spell the first I was aware of Garnet leaving was the earth and ash being churned up by the beat of his powerful wings.
I released Colatto but was ready to grab him again if he resumed his attack on Baldric. Inwardly I was torn. I knew Colatto’s temperament; nothing was going to turn him from his chosen course of action, confessing all. I had this one chance to stop him but it would take drastic action, I would have to silence him forever. Even if I was physically capable of such a feat (Colatto was a formidable foe, I doubt I could beat him in a fair fight) did I have the will to do it? I had been able to kill my own mentor, the man who had been like a father to me, but could I really kill Colatto? I had known him for two lifetimes, fought beside him in the Wolf-Lord War and against The Cult of the Dragon. He had taken blows meant for me in The Dark Watch. No, Silvanus help me, I couldn’t do it. Looking back now I have to wonder, even if I had been strong enough and ruthless enough to kill Colatto, would it have simply made the situation much worse, alienating our new friends and shattering the already strained unity of The Company. I think it would have but perhaps I want to believe that to excuse my short-fallings as a Druid. I could have tried to use the powers of Silvanus to twist his mind and bring him around to my way of thinking. But no, if anything that would have been worse then killing him. The die was cast and I, and The Realms, would have to live with the consequences.

It was getting dark and the decision had been made to leave Dysrisa and find a place to camp. Baldric, probably in an attempt to extend the olive branch to Colatto, dispelled the miracle of silence. I held my breath. Colatto picked up right where he had left off and told our knew friends, Arriane in particular, that we were from the future, that, in our history, Myth Drannor had been destroyed but if they put their minds to it the city could be saved. The effects were devastating. Arriane, Josiah and Mulag looked like they had been struck dumb as Colatto went into further detail. My companions, especially Baldric, implored him to shut up but he pressed on regardless. Colatto spoke without any hint of self-doubt, justifying his actions by expounding “personal choice”; that history hadn’t been written yet and that we were free to act as we saw fit. I hope you will indulge me when I take a moment from my narrative to say that I have never liked judging my companions, particularly to people who were not there at the time and could not truly understand the conditions their choices were made under. However I cannot do justice to the events of that evening without elaborating on the thoughts that passed through my mind and the light they cast Colatto in, for good or ill. “Personal choice”? It is very hard to argue with someone who claimed to be championing free will without appearing a tyrant but to my mind freedom of choice goes hand-in-hand with the responsibility of using it wisely and I saw little wisdom in Colatto’s actions. Looking deeper into his words I began to wonder, only a ride ago he had angrily railed against what he saw was the unfair hand of Fate meddling in our lives. Could his actions in some way be his method of lashing out against that same force, a desperate attempt to fight off that feeling of powerlessness and regain control of his life for and damn the consequences? Colatto put forward his interpretation of Labelas Enoreth’s message to Faergil: when he said not for us to get lost in memory we shouldn’t be bound by what we “knew” to be the future course of events. His words were, to my ear, ironic; Colatto’s actions were clearly being guided by his knowledge of the fate of Myth Drannor, he had become ensnared in the very trap he was purporting to escape.
All to soon his tail was told. You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. Arriane took Colatto by the hand and, gently, asked him to come with her. The pair walked to a discreet distance and began to talk. Josiah and Mulag stood around moodily, not making eye contact with anyone. My companions were equally silent, from the looks on their faces I could see that Colatto’s decision, his apparent disregard for their feelings in this matter, had wounded them. My eye fell on Faergil. As a Chosen of Labelas Enaroth he might have the weight to discredit Colatto’s claims but, though I was fairly certain that I could have talked him into it, it seemed very unfair to make Faergil betray the elves’ trust. After ten to fifteen minutes of talking Arriane embraced Colatto and led him back to us. She told us that Colatto had promised that he would let her decide how and when our knowledge of the future would be broken to the people to Myth Drannor and then went to speak with her sister. She had barely gone when Primrose rounded on Colatto. With anger in her voice and the trace of tears in her eyes she begged Colatto to make her understand why he had done what he had. She had thought that only the gods had the power to dictate the flow of history, did that mean that Colatto had put himself up among the gods too? Colatto fell back on his mantra of “personal choice”.

As much to escape the atmosphere of anger that hung over us as the smoke of fallen Dysrisa we trudged on for about an hour before making camp. As we travelled there was a streak of silver above us. Craning our necks we caught a glimpse of a silver, draconian form flying towards Dysrisa. Arriane identified it as “Silverlithan”. No sooner had we stopped that I left my friends to be on my own with my troubled thoughts. I found the biggest, oldest oak tree I could and prayed to Silvanus to forgive my weakness. I had foreseen this happening (though I would have put money on it being Faergil to give us away) but when the crisis came I had been frozen. I had let sentiment undermine my resolve. It would have been too easy to blame my half-dragon heritage for my weakness, my forebears on my father’s side were goodness and compassion personified and their blood ran in my veins. But no, I would not take that route. The failure was mine and mine alone to carry. Angrily I remembered how eager I had been to carry the title and responsibilities of Druid, so much so I had killed Gillian to achieve it but now, when faced by the ultimate test, I had fallen short. If Silvanus had answers for me I was too caught up in self-reproach to hear them.
I spent the night sleeping at the base of the tree and therefore did not learn straight way of the tales Arriane told. She told us of the Khov Anilessa, the tale pieced together from her own knowledge and what Garnet had told her. It was said that they were unleashed by the arch-mages of Netheril to test the power of the elven mages. Nycaloths were not famous for their ability to get along but the trio was different, working together as Strategist, Warrior and Berserker to achieve their goal. In their onslaught they killed hundreds of elves, satyrs and at least two of the green dragons that made their lair in Cormanthyr and fought their way to within one hundred yards of Cormanthor (the original name for Myth Drannor before in a time before the casting of the Mythal). In the final battle the elven casualties were staggering but at last the Khov Anilessa were thrown down by use of the N'Quor'Kaor high magic, and imprisoned them in an invisible cage above Myth Drannor. But part of the enchantment was that the spell would be broken when a red dragon of pure heart flew over the Coronal’s house, something that high magics of th time must have considered impossible.
Arriane then went on to tell us about Garnet, how Master Saevsl Ammath had obtained the egg of a red dragon. Before it hatched he had used The Art to draw the evil and malice from the unborn dragon. Since then Garnet had grown to be one of Myth Drannor’s greatest defenders and the pair inseparable companions, until now. Baldric made clear his disapproval of Ammath’s actions. Convincing a dragon to give up its evil ways might have been one thing but to use magic to twist it’s nature seemed wrong. It was a sentiment I echoed when I latter heard the tale. The story also struck an unpleasant cord with me, the magic Ammath used seemed too much like the power of the accursed Book of Thorns for my comfort.
Throughout the evening, while Arriane drew closer to Colatto, Josiah and Mulag drew further from the group. Mulag spent most of his time eating and drinking in silence. Josiah spent a long time gazing into the fire and poked it with a stick, sending up bursts of sparks. Virtually the only time she spoke was when she accused The Company of enjoying the power our knowledge gave us over her and her people. Primrose later told me that Brother Baldric made a surprisingly eloquent rebuttal to her claims, highlighting the sense of responsibility he had felt after he realised we had travelled in time and the conflict between conscious and duty. Addressing Colatto Josiah told him “it can be an advantage if the future can be changed. If it can’t it (Colatto’s warning) will have enslaved us all”. Her words brought to my mind, and I guess one or two of my friends too, the line from Arriane’s Ballard about the “Slaver King”.

The new day found my mood somewhat improved. I had convinced myself that (despite recent evidence to the contrary) what was done was done and couldn’t be undone. If history was immutable Colatto had done no harm. Indeed his actions seemed to support this idea as his honestly had simultaneously endeared him to Arriane (who seemed destined to love him) and alienated Josiah (who seemed equally destined to dislike him). But if history could be changed and the fall of Myth Drannor averted what then? My duty was clear if unpleasant, best only to think of it if the worst happened. Instead I thought again about The Eight and the Drow’s plans. They were, after all, why we were here and it wouldn’t pay to get distracted. But where were they? Perhaps Myth Drannor, if it didn’t descend into chaos at Colatto’s news, had the resources to track them down. Since the cat was out of the bag maybe we could get Elminster and the Harpers to help us locate them. But what were the dark elves up too? It seemed very odd to me that they would raise an army of Fiends, make alliances with The Red Wizards and practically declare open war with The Dalelands (I smiled at Amber’s comment of a few nights previously; that re-capturing the Twisted Tower seemed to be a national past-time among the Drow) only to abandon it all to travel back in time. I was more convinced then ever that they had returned to the past to find something specific and then would travel back to the future. What could it be? The Nether Scrolls perhaps? Or maybe the secret of how the Khov Anilessa’s army would penetrate the mythal? Perhaps they were one in the same? That it was some form of magic seemed likely, why else send back a group made solely of arch-mages when from, what little I knew of Drow society, it was the priestess (and indeed women in general) who wielded the power? Would they try to make contact with the dark elves of this time or operate independently?

I found most of my companions asleep and began to cook breakfast. Soon enough our journey continued. It was bitterly cold, I had to wrap my blankets around me foe extra warmth, but not cold enough to freeze the numbing mud we walked through. It snowed but only a light sprinkling that hardly reached the forest floor. About midmorning a sense of unease began to creep over me, like an electrical charge in the air. I glanced at my companions. They looked concerned to. Suddenly there was a flash in the sky and a roll of thunder. Seconds latter the clouds above our heads raced as a short but intense northerly wind, or perhaps a shock wave, roared by rustling the limbs of the ancient trees. I suspected that far to the north Garnet had found the Khov Anilessa.
As we pushed westwards the forest was getting slowly thicker. I began to notice plants and animals that I would not expect to find in early winter but then I remembered the unexpected full moons and asked Arriane what the month was. I was not too surprised to learn that it was not Uctar, as it had been when we entered The Dark Watch, but Hammer. Doing a little subtraction I concluded that we had appeared in Elven Court on the first day of the new year, a significant date but for whom?
As we travelled I learnt more about Myth Drannor from Arriane. Since hearing that poisons were ineffective there I had been a little concerned how this effected the various animals that relied on poison for attack or, like bees, defend themselves. Arriane corrected my misunderstanding; it was only elves that couldn’t be poisoned within the boundaries of the mythal. Colatto’s attempts to make a snowman from the small amount of snow that had settled (a “snow gnome” he called it) got Arriane talking about another wonder of Myth Drannor, something she called “Snow Shields”. Snow Shields were invisible, shaped magical fields that caught snow. As the snow covered the shield it became visible revealing a statue. I found the idea rather enchanting and asked her what her favourite snow shield was.Her eyes distant and sparkling at the memory, Arriane recalled one shaped like a dragon hidden upon a bridge. The more I leant of Arriane and the city she lived in the more I was impressed with both. Fate had dealt them a bad hand but I could not let sentiment undermine me again, history didn’t play favourites and I couldn’t afford to either. Faergil spent his evenings reading the spell books Bazil had salvaged for him from the ruins of Dysrisa. Once or twice on our journey a sharp comment by Brother Baldric reminded us all that he was still very angry about Colatto’s behaviour.
Two days from Dysriasa we came across a trail that crossed us from north to south. It was the North Trail that led north to Hillsafar and south down to The Abbey of the Golden Sheath. The familiarity of both names, particularly the later, lifted my spirits. The track had been in recent use, it’s wet, clinging mud had clearly been churned up by wagon wheels and booted feet. The trained eyes of Amber saw more then I however and pointed out that many of the foot prints were those of gobliniods rather then men or elves; scouts for the Khov Anilessa perhaps.
A day latter we came across a second track. Again there were lots of tracks but these had been made by cloven-hoofed humanoids, satyrs; probably (Josiah suggested) members of the Dancing Hoof clan seeking sanctuary from the raiders. Colatto’s indifference to their flight annoyed me a little; he still had an axe to grind from our encounter with satyrs in Chondal Wood (even though it was us who had been the invaders in their domain).

It was a couple of days after passing this second track, as we were settling down for the night, when the comparative peace of the last five days was shattered. I was trying to get a fire lit when suddenly Amber spray to her feet, drawing her weapons and calling a warning. Baynar was a second behind her. Glancing about in surprise I spotted the danger that had crept up on us, a mixed group of humanoid creatures hiding amongst the trees. Amber had only taken a few steps towards the interlopers when a blazing column of flame fell from the darkening sky towards her. She leapt to one side but was unable to evade it completely, a cry escaped her lips as her left leg and arm was caught in the flame. As I scrambled to get to my feet a rain of arrows fell down upon us. Their suits of elven chain mail protected most of my companions but one found a home in my calf and Baynar was also wounded. Gritting my teeth I tried to take account off the enemy. I could just about make out ten to twelve hobgoblins armed with bows, perhaps the same number of gnolls and five, hulking ogres armed with great clubs. I kept looking; my suspicion aroused by the flaming column. Yes there “he” was, the Insect Demon Nishrach. He was much as had been described. A large insect-man about my height covered in an armour of chitin the colour of dirty ivory and holding a great, serrated edged two-handed sword in its long arms (I was a little surprised to note that, unlike a thri-kreen, he only had two arms and two legs). His eyes were an unusually shape, I could only call them “crescent shaped” and seemed to merge with the horns atop of his head.
While the rest of us floundered Amber and Baynar closed on the ogres and, in a flurry of blows, the pair had sent two toppling to the ground like rotten logs. The three remanding ogres, clearly enraged the death of two of their number closed around the warrior and ranger and rained blows down on then. Despite the ogres’ great strength Amber’s armour proved too tough and her feet too nimble and she avoided the blows. Baynar was able to defend himself against one ogre but, possibly missing his shield (and arm), was caught off guard by a second and took a punishing blow.
I’ve never been a fan of any kind of fight but this kind of close combat least of all. Taking a risk I began a prayer to Silvanus hoping to transform the hobgoblin’s bows into snakes. It was a gamble, if I got hit before finishing the invocation it would be ruined. Primrose had by now snatched up her sword and was dashing to join the fray while Brother Baldric unleashed the power of Tymora. A bolt of pure white light flew between the priest and Baynar, a miraculous blessing called a Luckbolt that would give superhuman skill to a warrior. At the same time Baldric shouted at Baynar to head for the Insect Demon. Unfortunately the Insect Demon was no fool and quickly cast a spell of anti-magic, dispelling the blessing (as well as temporarily suppressing the enchantment of Baynar’s sword). The archers unleashed as second volley of arrows into our midst. An arrow sailed past me and most of my companions were able to dodge or where wearing enough armour to be safe. However Faergil, Colatto and Arriane all took minor wounds. Hot on the heels of the arrows came the gnolls. One ran straight towards me swinging a poleaxe. I saw the blow coming and fell back before it, taking only a shallow cut to my chest but it was enough to ruin my invocation. Bazil, Baldric and Colatto were all wounded in the gnolls’ charge but not seriously. Primrose was less lucky as an axe blow opened a deep wound in her arm. Arriane took a hit, ruining the spell she was casting. Josiah was being attacked by two gnolls; with tremendous dexterity she evaded one but took a flesh wound from the second.

Amber fought back against the two ogres impaling one with a double thrust of her longswords and then decapitating the second with a sweep of The Lover’s Blade, it’s rosy flame forming an arc behind it. Baynar and the remaining ogre fought on, each drawing flesh blood but unable to finish the other off.
Josiah was by then leading our fight back against the gnolls cutting down her two opponents with two acrobatic thrusts of her longsword, one attack flowing seamlessly into another. Bazil cut down a gnoll with The Scout’s Blade but his attempt to attack the one threatening Primrose was repulsed. Primrose was also finding it hard to make an opening in the gnoll’s guard. Colatto, ignoring his own opponent, closed on the gnoll attacking Arriane and dispatched it with his bastard sword. He paid the price a few seconds later as the gnoll he had turned his back on drew blood with his axe. On his second attempt Mulag was able to force his way through his opponent’s defences and dispatch it with a crushing blow of his war hammer. Brother Baldric smashed another gnoll with his mace, injuring but not killing it. Faergil unleashed a spell at the Insect Demon to destroy its mind but it seemed to have no effect (something that became a reoccurring feature of the fight).

Both Colatto and Faergil started to cast spells. The Insect Demon was slightly quicker and created five illusionary decoys. A second latter five magical darts leapt from Faergil’s hands, destroying the decoys, followed an instant later by a lightning bolt hurled by Colatto. The bolt of electricity crashed into the Insect Demon but seemed to be absorbed into his sword. Baynar parried a blow from his opponent and, dodging around the ogre, made straight for the Insect Demon. The ogre lumbered along in pursuit. A new gnoll charged in to the fight. This one seemed taller then the rest and his presence seemed to fortify his brethren. Within moments Baldric, Colatto and Primrose had fresh wounds and Faergil was sent reeling under an axe blow. Another gnoll had replaced the one attacking Arriane but she managed to fend it off. This leader made for Josiah, who was a blur of silver amongst the melee. It turned out to be a fatal choice as she crippled him with one blow and finished it of with a second. Baldric once more called upon The Lady, this time to rob The Fiend of its resilience to magic (a tactic he had used before to great success) but as far as I could tell it had no effect. With a flash of green flame Bazil finished off the gnoll attacking Primrose but was driven back when he attacked the one on Faergil. Mulag had come to Arriane’s aid, driving the gnoll threatening away her with a blow of his hammer. This gave her space to cast spells and she unleashed five magical darts of her own. The darts split into two groups. Three slammed into the Gnoll attacking Colatto, killing him, while the other two injured Faergil’s assailant.
I had come to the conclusion that there was no way I could try to invoke the power of Silvanus while in such a chaotic melee. I briefly considered changing into a wild beast, a lion or grizzly bear perhaps. No, that would take precious seconds and prevent me from using my Divine Favour until I changed back (not to mention loosing my resistance to fire, a handy asset if the Insect Demon called down another column of flame). Instead I pulled out my oaken club and attacked. I felt the sting of the gnoll’s axe as I ducked within his guard and delivered a double-handed blow with all my strength. The gnoll reeled and for a second I thought he would go down but then he steadied himself and took a firm grip of his poleaxe. Over my enemy’s shoulder I saw Baldric have more luck, finishing off his gnoll with a second blow.
Baynar charged straight at the line of archers that separated him from the Insect Demon. About half the archers, panicking fired at the knight at almost point blank range. While one arrow hit most went wild and two even wounded the ogre that was chasing Baynar. The rest of the archers held their nerve and fired at Amber who was closing rapidly on the last ogre. Most of their arrows broke against her elven chain. An instant later Amber was up behind the ogre and finished it off with a blow of her sword before effortlessly dispatching one of the hobgoblin archers. Baynar dashed through the archers and reached the Insect Demon. His sword thrust was true but the blade, robbed of its enchantment, passed through Nishrach as if it were wisp of smoke. Seeing this Amber forgot about the archers and lunged at the Insect Demon, Dragathil held in front of her like a flaming lance. The blade crashed through the Fiend’s armoured shell and unleashed a spray of black, foul smelling blood.

There were now only three of the dozen or so gnolls left. Arriane called upon The Art again, unleashing another volley of darts that spread out about the battlefield and finished all three gnolls off. Now without an opponent I tried to take stock of the fight. It looked like the skirmish had swung decisively in our favour. I saw Amber swing again with Dragathil but this time her enemy parried the strike. The sword in her left, one of the enchanted blades she had salvaged from the drow battle, found it’s mark but was as ineffective as Baynars had been. Most of my companions were moving in to support Amber and Baynar. Colatto, however, was running at the archers trying to make himself as menacing as possible. Having seen their (much larger) comrades cut down with ease the Hobgoblins moral had been broken and they turned to flee. For a moment I considered Colatto; the battle was not yet over and the fresh bloodstains on his cloths reminded me that (unlike most of my companions) his sword was the only protection he had against the blows of our enemies. I could help him but did I want too? If Baldric and I withheld the renewing powers of our patrons (and I suspected Baldric would) then, given the violent nature of our travels, we would be effectively condemning Colatto to a slow death, his great stamina whittled away a little at a time with each skirmish. But, as I have said, I never waste time in hating and Colatto’s death (quick or long) wouldn’t undo the harm he had done. My mind made up I ran over to Colatto and, calling upon Silvanus, placed a protective barkskin blessing on him.
Faergil unleashed a pair of flaming darts at the Insect Demon but again it was unaffected. Baynar, proving that he had guile as well as brawn, struck at the Fiend’s sword in a valiant attempt to disarm him. Sparks flew as the two blades scrapped along each other but the Insect Demon held firm, indeed his counter thrust almost tore Baynar’s sword from his grasp. Amber swung again with Dragathil, this time opening a new wound, while dropping the useless sword in her left hand. This might have been a mistake as the Insect Demon swung at her now unprotected left. Amber’s elven chain took the brunt of the blow but the sheer force was enough to crack a few ribs and bring blood to her lips. My companions who were close to the Insect Demon told me that at this point they heard the Fiend’s voice, dry and mocking, in their minds. It promised them that they would not destroy him but rather his masters would destroy us all. His actions however rather undermined this threat as he was clearly backing away from Amber and, unknowingly, towards Bazil who launched an attack from the rear with The Scout’s Blade. As the Insect reeled from the attack Baynar tried again, unsuccessfully, to knock his sword from his grasp and Faergil unleashed another, equally ineffective, volley of magical darts.

After finishing off his gnoll Baldric had been praying to Tymora and now he strode towards the Insect Demon, his hand virtually seething with holy power that would drive the Fiend from our world. Before he could reach him however Amber had drawn her curved elven dagger, the bane of so many spiders in Elven Court, and drove it deep into the Insect Demon’s chest, killing it.

In the silence that followed I regarded the remains of the Insect Demon, perhaps it had been Nishrach who had led the massacre at Dysria or perhaps there was more then one of his kind about. Either way he had clearly been impervious to the enchanted weapons of my companions (except of course The Blades of Demron and Amber’s dagger) which meant that it would also have been immune to my shillelagh. With a wry smile I remembered my (over) confidence on the night we had met Arriane and the others. The blessings of Silvanus, my dragon blood and a dose of luck was all I said I needed but now I would have to add a magical weapon to the list too. Now was not the time for such thoughts however. Perhaps rather unnecessarily to my mind (but then I’m not a military man) Baynar had pursued the hobgoblins into the forest. Brother Baldric and I set to work healing our friends. I noticed that Baldric didn’t heal Amber, though whether that was because I had already treated most of her wounds or because he was still angry with her I couldn’t tell, and didn’t go anywhere near Colatto, leaving me to treat the mage’s wounds.
Baynar returned from finishing off the hobgoblins. He had no fresh injuries but I did what I could for the old ones.
Bazil declared that we had gone some way to avenging the destruction of Dysrisa. Smeared with dirt and blood (mostly his enemies) and with the blazing Evaelathil in his grasp Bazil had a striking presence. I had a fleeting image in my head of him leading elves and men into legendary battle at the fall of Myth Drannor and, despite his lack of stature, he looked every inch the hero amongst them. Despite this image, however, I could not agree with his words; I could see no way in which thirty more deaths made up for the six hundred at Dysrisa.
Arriane was clearly impressed by my companions’ skill with The Blades of Demron and asked what we knew of their powers (Colatto had told that we had carried them for sometime in the future). There were still some abilities of Dragathil that we had never divined so Arriane explained that, as “Hate Bane”, the sword was intended to incapacitate a foe without necessarily killing then. We already knew of it’s powers to bind an enemy in illusions but it also had a power called “The Crystal Parry” that would turn a parried weapon into brittle crystal. The sword was also a Dancing Blade. This meant that the wielder, once the fight had started, could leave the sword to fight on it’s own.
If Arriane was impressed by our battle prowess then Faergil was, quite understandably, impressed by Josiah. He enquired if she was one of the Blade Singers to which she replied she was.

The day after the attack our travels took us to an old, disused track. In fact it was so disused and over grown I cannot really say how long we were following it before I realised what it was. Asking Josiah about the track she replied that it once led straight from Cormanthor to Elven Court (which explained why no one now used it) and eventually connected with “The Street of Song”, the main street of Myth Drannor. Amber asked why it was called The Street of Song and Mulag, with a rather worn tone in his voice, replied that we would find out soon enough.
We followed the track for several days. At one point Bazil made a point of pulling Amber and I to one side. He had been thinking about what lay ahead in Myth Drannor and was not entirely sure that its rulers were going to let us keep our liberty. Instead they might want to keep us close to hand to harvest our knowledge of future events. The hobbit was not going to stand for any attempt to put himself or Primrose in a cage no matter how golden it might be. After all, Bazil pointed out to me later, it is amazing what good people were prepared to do in the name of the “greater good” and the rulers of Myth Drannor were probably those who Srinshee had claimed were not worthy to hold the Ruler’s Blade. Thank the gods for Bazil’s suspicious mind, the idea had never occurred to me. I agreed with Bazil but asked if the worst happened he try not to kill too many people while making his escape.
I took the opportunity to share with Amber and Bazil my latest thoughts on what the Drow were up to and latter on I informed most of my companions. While I had developed a great respect for Arriane, one that was growing with each day of travel, some instinct told me it wasn’t the right time to talk about The Eight with her or Josiah and Mulag. As such I didn’t go out of my way to talk to Colatto about it either.

After five cold days on the trail, as the sun was boiling away into the west and shortly after noticing a slight rise in temperature, we saw Myth Drannor for the first time. We spotted it first through a break in the trees, a graceful, semi-arboreal city. With quickening steps we moved forward and as we did so more of it came into view. With hungry eyes I tried to take in as much of The City of Bards as I could. In the trees were intricately carved wooden hoses connected by wooden walkways. No, “carved” seemed too crude a term to describe structures with such graceful curves. They seemed almost to a have flowed into their current shapes. In the distance I could make out thin towers that seemed too fragile to support their own weight but gave the impression of being stronger then mountains.
Below the trees were houses of wood and, though they were no less airy then the wooden ones, stone too as well as roads, avenues and bridges of fine, white marble. Above the trees, and intertwining with the branches, was what looked to my companions without “elven sight” to be a light mist the colour of moonbeams. To the rest of us however it’s true beauty was revealed as a multihued aura of white, silver and golden points of light. Above it all were the stars, their radiance seemingly magnified to a sharpness I cannot put into words.
Such was the mesmerising splendour of the panorama before me it that I didn’t at once see the figures moving through it. People of all races walked, strolled and (yes) skipped along the streets and walkways. In places they were also floating up into the air to reach the branches or floating equally nonchalantly down to the streets while here and there elves flew through the sky like fish in a clear, starry sea. And the music! It was so all-pervasive that it seemed to make up the very air around us, entering and effusing my being with every breath.
This was The City of Song of legend, Myth Drannor the fabled City of Bards from a lost golden age of inter-racial co-operation. And, one way or another, it was doomed.

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Cormanthyr - Information Myth Drannor, the Ammath Family,
Fall of Myth Drannor - The Khov’ Anilessa, Garnet and Saevel Ammath and the Blades of Demron

I knew it would come out. Thats the one thing I did predict those years ago when I dreamed up the plot. And I was right, in every way...There was some intense role-playing and some anger in the group this evening, and it was not always pleasant. Colatto's descision to tell all was not the rest of the groups and it showed. Running a time-travelling campaign was always going to be a risk, and I thought long and hard before doing so. I haven't thought of everything and will always have to think on my feet, assuming the campaign doesn't self-destruct; something I consider a great possibility at the present time. I have been accused overtly or otherwise of 'rail-roading' - at least thats the impression I get from things that have been said. Personally I don't agree with this, the PCs undertook this quest, and I've rarely (but note: I won't say never) forced them. If any of them dislike the game, don't play. Because it IS only a game and I value their friendship more. I can run shallow adventures, cheapened with simple plots like everyone else. If thats what you demand then so be it. I've worked long and hard at this - I do take it seriously, but will stop it as soon as I'm asked to. I'm proud of what I've achieved so far, and I'm not looking for validation..

Anyway, The Red Dragon Garnet is from the Fall of Myth Drannor sourcebook and did have a part to play in the release of the Nycaloths. I was somewhat disappointed to see a couple of the PCs squabble, but considering what Colatto had just revealed and what the others thought of it, it was inevitable.

The fight was never really meant to be a problem, a few Gnolls, hobgoblins and ogres isn't really a challenge to 9-12th level characters. The 'Insect Demon' is a Mezzolith - a lesser Yugoloth.

Many years ago, when I told my players that this would be the last of my Realms campaigns, I asked them what that wanted from the game. One (I can't remember who) said that they wanted to see Myth Drannor - arguably the most famouse 'site' in the Forgotten Realms. I decided to run with that, but in a completely different way.

Will Myth Drannor fall? Has Colatto cast the stone to make the wide ripples that will change (or create) history? Its too early to tell. Stick around and you might find out, though I can't promise anything.

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