The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Host Tower
We travel in the dark, the lights of Gauntlgrym now far behind us. For the benefit of the group’s three humans, I create an arcane ball of light to illuminate our path. Everyone’s features look washed out and grey in the cold blue light… maybe I should have learned to create a light with more yellows and oranges. Ah, well.
It’s odd traveling with so many drow after spending so long in a human city. Not that there’s much conversation going on in my native tongue. Guldor and Faeryl make sure to stay far apart from each other, my kind’s instinctive mutual distrust keeping them on edge. Would have been a lot easier if Jarlaxle could have gotten us all out, but I guess whatever method he has for entering Gauntlgrym works for himself and himself alone.
I suppose I should say something about our path. When Valtha called this a root connecting the tower and the forge, it was more literal than I thought. This place is just like the interior of a tree root if it were made of stone, and hollow on the inside. It’s remarkably straight for the Underdark, wide enough for two to walk abreast at an uncomfortable squeeze, so mostly we stay in single file.
There are no intentional branches, but occasionally there are breaks in the walls as if one of the Underdark’s great burrowing beasts crashed through as they chewed their random paths through the stone of the world. I mean, probably not “as if.” Probably that’s exactly what happened.
We travel in the darkness for a full day and part of another before reaching a point where the tunnel has completely caved in. The cave-in looks pretty old, probably from the eruption 30 years ago. Luckily for us, Valtha is able to call on her dwarven knowledge and improvise some tools and a plan to clear it out. With some muscle work from Seipora, Cefrey, and Rodrik (us elves not quite matching raw human strength) we open up a narrow path through. To my surprise, Valtha is insistent on collapsing the tunnel behind us so that the path to Gauntlgrym isn’t left open. Well, I suppose our improvised excavation wasn’t all that stable in the first place.
We proceed on, happy to have a clear shot on out to the Host Tower until we hit the next collapsed area of the tunnel. Moondark! Going through just one of those cave-ins was a difficult feat of planning and labor, and now it looks like there are who knows how many. If we keep having to stop and clear the way then not only will it take forever, but sooner or later our luck will run out and we’ll have the whole place fall on our heads. We are seriously considering finding one of those places where a monster broke through and taking our chances in the wilds of the Underdark when there is a noise to our rear.
We’re all bracing for a monster attack, but what emerges from the darkness turns out to be the best possible luck. It’s a xorn, one of those bizarre multi-armed creatures from the elemental planes that occasionally falls through a planar convergence and ends up in the Prime Material. They can eat their way through the hardest rock easily, but it’s gems and metals, and especially magic items made of metal, that they crave. He must have been attracted by how much of his favorite food we’re carrying with us, trailing us in the dark for who knows how long before this block stopped us and gave him a chance to catch up to us. Best of all, they’re intelligent but not particularly aggressive. They can be bargained with.
This one croaks at us in what I assume is a dialect of Primordial, but it responds positively to us when I speak to it in the trade tongue, Undercommon. I guess it’s been here long enough to pick up the local dialect. It introduces itself with a name I immediately forget and demands the metal and magic it smells on us. A trade pidgin has many weaknesses, but it works well enough for striking deals, and we soon make one. If it will clear the rock cave-in blocking us, we’ll give it one metal magic item to eat. If it will follow us and continue clearing obstacles, we’ll give it more.
A greedier creature might have bargained harder, sensing our desperation, but apparently xorns aren’t interested in driving hard bargains. It agrees readily enough and clears the blockage in front of us after Cefrey tosses it some magical trinket she had little use for.
The next day (we think, time being difficult to calculate) Seipora declares that it is probably somewhere around Highharvesttide. This is a time of celebration on the surface when the weather turns for the year and a chill sets in. Apparently the tradition is that dwarves drink only water and elves only dew on this day. We make what limited merry we can, and in a fit of generosity dip one of Cefrey’s spare iron daggers in oil and feed it to the xorn, a treat it appreciates. Seipora is moved to talk about the future and how she would like to someday live with the Uthgardt tribes for a time and learn their ways.
After a half day we reach yet another collapsed area, but the xorn eats through it easily after I hand over my Thieves’ Eye Ring. I had grown less enchanted with it after pondering the limited usefulness of seeing through your finger rather than your eye. Another day, another block, and Rodrik gives up his magic shield to get us through.
Then finally we emerge into a large cavern and the xorn leaves us. We have arrived at the deepest roots of the Host Tower of the Arcane. The cavern is filled with skeletons, and by that I mean the animated sort. In the center a horde of skeletons are around a platform where there is a bigger, meaner skeleton. We can only assume they are an undead horde raised by Valindra Shadowmantle.
Cefrey recognizes the skeletons as dressed in tattered armor of Uthgardt styles and recognizes the central one as the remains of the hero Morgur, the earthly brother of Uthgar. The recovery of his bones is the very quest that first brought her south and into our midst! Well, so I am reminded later. To be honest I had sort of forgotten what she was on about all this time.
Needless to say, battle is quickly joined to the tune of a barbarian warcry. Moved by emotion, Cefrey cuts down the skeletons in great sweeps with the rest of us doing little more than playing cleanup. After we defeat them, however, there is a problem. Cefrey wants to match the skeletons back together while she can still recall how, so that they can be buried as individuals rather than one large mass of bones. It quickly becomes evident that this is going to take a while, more time than we have. I figure that we have to have tripped some sort of alarm with this battle, and the longer we wait the more time the upper floors will have to prepare defenses against us.
We urge Cefeyr to go, but she won’t, and we begin arguing amongst ourselves. Guldor especially has apparently come to admire Cefrey a great deal and defends her to Faeryl, who is disgusted that waiting is even a question. Ah, sis, don’t be such a goblin! Rodrik is very against leaving, but it is Cefrey herself who settles the question. She tells us to go on and clear the path, and she will catch up. It’s tearing Rodrik apart, but he leads us to the next level.
We have a running fight through the next several levels of basement, hacking apart undead and leaping through teleport bridges between one floor and the next. Luck is with us, however, and the fight goes very well indeed. We are able to take a quick breather, then ascend stairs to what proves to be the ground floor.
There is a massive horde of zombies milling about, including a zombie dragon. They seem to draw power from the Host Tower, some of them rising up again when we slay them. It’s a difficult fight, and Guldor nearly gets himself killed when he gets paranoid about Faeryl trying to kill him just because she accidentally put one crossbow bolt in his back. Archery is difficult in a huge melee! Not to mention Rodrik trying to keep the zombie dragon occupied singlehandedly. It’s tougher fight, but I pull out some of my big boom magic and I think Valtha does some kind of necromancy to make the zombies easier to kill. Eventually we’re left holding the ground floor, wondering what to do next.
We could escape outside. There are some undead trees barring the way, but if we can get off this island then I happen to know that Beniago Kurth, High Captain of Ship Kurth based right across that little stretch of water on Closeguard Island, is actually a Bregan D’aerthe agent in disguise. He could shelter us. Not without Cefrey of course, but it appears she’s been hauling bags of skeletons behind us and we’re able to get her and her heavy, heavy load up to the door.
Or… we could go up. We don’t know what kind of defenses Valindra has prepared, but she hasn’t had that long in the tower and the ghosts of Marcus and Branwen told us that she has her phylactery here. We have beaten her before, and this might be our chance to take her out for good. On the negative side, we don’t have any idea how many minions she still has. Some of us are pretty worn out, and Rodrik looks barely able to rally himself for another fight, though Cefrey is pretty fresh. It would be a big gamble.
Ah, whatever. Nobody lives forever. Of course we go up. Of course we do. Have you not been paying attention? We’re the stlarning Northern Five! All seven of us at this moment. Shut up, it’s just a name.
We fight through two gargoyles and a flesh golem on our way to the spires. Guldor is particularly aggressive, winning Cefrey’s admiration. Plan romance coming along nicely!
Soon enough we have to pick our spire. Valtha considers for a moment, then declares that an egotistical lich would go nowhere other than the very top. So we head there and burst into Valindra Shadowmantle’s chambers. She’s waiting for us there, but she’s not alone.
She’s got a summoned devil, an erinyes, fighting on her side. Just think of it as a fiendish bird-woman, okay? But that’s not all. Out of the shadows steps a second lich! It’s Valindra’s husband, Arklem Greeth, founder of the Arcane Brotherhood. He’s supposed to be dead and trapped, but it seems that she’s finally been able to restore him. He announces himself by hurling a fireball at us.
I’m not one for narrating the back and forth of battles, at least not unless I’m trying to impress an audience. It’s a tough fight. We nearly die, but in the end we don’t. Faeryl gets the killing shot on Valindra with her hand crossbow. Very nice, sister! I guess the Blood of the Abyss family is just as tough as our house name sounds.
After their defeat, Valtha’s necromantic senses lead us to two fist-sized rubies carved like skulls, glowing with an inner life. Unfortunately there are too many defensive spells to destroy them on the spot, but Valtha is able to use some necromancy to seal the liches within their phylacteries. We’ll destroy them in the Great Forge of Gauntlgrym when we get a chance.
Seipora loots some of the books she’s been looking for from the lich’s library. She seems very excited.
Anyway, we make our way out to Ship Kurth. Beniago gets in touch with Houn Lharaendo, who can take us back to Neverwinter once Rodrik provides some assurances that he won’t be taken into custody for it.
Neverwinter is still a smoking ruin of a city, but I kind of miss it. Its ugliness grows on you after a while. It’ll be good to get … home.