Neverwinter

The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Homecoming

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Homecoming

This may be the last entry I get around to making for a while. I’m busier than ever these days, but a lot of my job involves endless writing and I’m disinclined to spend my off-hours at it as well. It also helps that I have friends I can talk to these days and less need to talk to myself.

Ahem. I tell you now the story of the final adventure of the Northern Five. More final for some of us than others. I tell you now of the final adventure of Valtha Bonecarver, may her reborn god clutch her soul to his secretive bosom. Of the end of the crown of Neverwinter, but not of a lord’s rule, and the great experiment that has begun in half the city.

But maybe I should start by picking up where I left off, in Luskan. Having defeated our foe, we took shelter with the Bregan D’aerthe’s allied gang, Ship Kurth, on Closeguard Island. They were pleased to see the last of Valindra Shadowmantle and perfectly willing to put us up while we arranged passage back to Neverwinter and send a messenger to let the dwarven expedition know what was up.

I used the time to think long and hard about Faeryl and House Auvrymtor and what she wants for the future and what I want. I have no interest in returning to Menzoberranzan and trying to rebuild a great house in that Lloth-ruled place, but it’s not for me to order my sister around. The point was to rescue her from slavery, not to make her my slave, doing what I think is best. I decide I owe her my support and I tell her so.

Faeryl is pleased, but I try to be clear about the ground rules. This is her quest, not mine. I will give her a safe haven and what support I can, maybe even help out on a mission if it seems like a good idea, but I am not a full partner in this. Furthermore she has to respect my allies and my resources and behave herself around Neverwinter and my allies. I won’t tolerate her going around insulting and killing my friends. She agrees to this, though she’s not pleased when I make her demonstrate her commitment by apologizing to Guldor.

I know what you’re wondering: isn’t this some grand plot to manipulate her? I don’t have a twelve step plan to turn her away from Lloth. It may very well be that this plan will only drag her deeper into Lloth’s darkness, embracing the worst of our people. But maybe it won’t! Perhaps if I show her some unconditional sisterly love and support, if I don’t try to change her but instead support her, she’ll get used to having someone around who actually cares about her. She won’t have to cling so hard to a dream of power that got her through days of slavery, because she can cling to me instead. That would be nice.

And if not, then when Lloth demands she sacrifice me to prove her commitment to the faith, I’ll be ready for it and give her a good spanking.

So we catch a ride back to Neverwinter in the good ship Grim Belt with Captain Houn Lharaendo. Rodrik promises him we didn’t see any smuggling! We are assaulted on our way back by a pirate ship. It is the Umberlee’s Revenge, the ship of the infamous Reginar Blackstrand.

I lead off with a fireball spell I picked up recently and Cefrey boards the Umberlee’s Revenge and begins killing all the pirates and soon enough Rodrik convinces them to surrender. We hand the prize over to Houn with a privateer’s license and the understanding he’s free to attack pirates, Netherese flags, and ships from Lylorn.

When we get back there are Zhentarim patrolling the docks, which is slightly ominous as Rodrik had point-blank refused to hire them. We move to the Hall of Justice, happening on a meeting of Regent Lander Greycastle, Minister Jelvus Grinch, Maspero of Ererlund (our Zhentarim contact), and Donn Stormchapel. Lander welcomes us back and tells us what’s up, and wow, a lot is up!

According to Lander, the Brightwoods had a scheme to start riots through the city by distributing free food (uh-huh). “Fortunately” a prominent citizen named Falken Bryce sent his house guards to stem the tide of … rebellious food distribution, I guess. Many of the Brightwood not-leaders got hauled off to prison, including Arlon.

Then Cale Dalren, a rich man with anarchist sympathies, spent his money to buy the loyalty of the Mintarns and get them to step aside and allow a raid on the prison that freed everyone in there, both Brightwoods and common criminals. Lander responded by declaring the Brightwoods an illegal criminal organization. They tried to fortify in Blacklake but Mordai Vell gave them trouble on the regent’s behalf, so they all fled to the River District, where they’ve barricaded themselves. Lander obviously couldn’t trust the Mintarns, so he hired the Zhentarim to help keep the peace. The meeting we interrupted was a planning meeting on marching to the River District and taking it back by force.

Rodrik decides to get Donn Stormchapel’s version of events. Donn tells us that his son Luth is involved with the Brigthwoods and they had indeed announced plans to distribute food for free. Lander thinks that this would have caused riots, but that is not exactly an undisputed conclusion. Falken Bryce tried to confiscate the food before it could be distributed, which some might call “theft.” Rodrik orders everyone on our side to stand down and take no further actions while he tries to cool the situation down, then calls Falken Bryce to the Hall of Justice for a quiet word about stealing food and what Rodrik thinks of that.

Seipora checks in with her people and finds out the Waterclock has been running a story about how Bryce saw the error of his ways and distributed the food. Must be a heck of a story behind that! They print both sides of the controversy, both the Brightwoods side and the Lander Greycastle side.

I suppose I will never understand Cefrey, as she is surprisingly critical of the prison raid. She seems to buy into Lander’s story that there has been a crime wave where murderers and rapists were unleashed onto the unsuspecting populace and holds the Brightwoods responsible for any damage that was done by those released from the prison.

After taking some time for everybody to check in and take stock of the situation, we all head up to the barricades with Donn Stormchapel. There’s a bit of jeering and some of them shout “the King is Coming.” Eventually Arlon and Donn’s son Luth show up. Arlon tells us they held off on open revolution to see if Lander was acting with Rodik’s permission. Rodrik tells them that he wants to make peace and invites them down to talk.

They’re wary of a trap, so Cefrey promises to chop up anyone who tries to take them to prison. I think Arlon knows that’s not our style, though.

So now we get the Brightwood side of the story. They made some deals with the local farmers and brought food in. Falken Bryce sent his house guards to steal it. A fight broke out, and the regent took Bryce’s side afterwards. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for him to think the Brightwoods were at fault. Luth was one of the ones taken into jail but Donn had him released. Two of their friends stole the food back and distributed it, forcing Bryce to pretend he had authorized its distribution rather than embarrass himself by admitting he had been thwarted. I knew there was a story behind it!

Lander still felt they were responsible for sowing discord in the city and kept them in prison, so a friend spent the money to buy the Mintarns. They’re mercenaries, of course, and already sympathetic to the cause to boot. They made a good bit of gold to just stand by while the Brightwoods threw open the gaol. They took the liberty of ending that “immoral practice of imprisonment” and let everyone else loose at the same time. Lander wants to terrorize everyone and claimed a crime spree followed, blaming every bad thing on the people they let free. They would have been happy to help with the so-called crime wave, but had been trapped by the regent’s forces.

Seipora’s research shows that both sides were both right and both wrong. Some of the released people committed crimes and some went to Helm’s Hold. Some of it is the Dead Rats making a move, taking advantage of the fears Lander fanned and sticking the Brightwoods with the blame, but there’s at least one murder committed by a man who never should have been set free. The Brightwoods are being a little naïve, and the Regent is being a bit of a fearmonger. Seipora reads her reports to both Arlon and Rodrik.

Rodrik announces a general amnesty for all but the most serious crimes and cuts a deal with the Brightwoods. They will be “exiled” to the River District and be able to run it their way, trying to prove that life without a government can actually work. In return, they stay out of Rodrik’s hair in the rest of the city and allow him to prove that life with a government works better. I mean, Rodrik doesn’t say it that openly but that’s the gist.

Naturally Arlon has to take it to his people, but they agree with a surprisingly small amount of discussion. Rodrik is a pretty sharp guy, and I think he knew that a contest of ideas would appeal to them. Maybe there will still be a confrontation someday, but it goes a long way to averting a civil war right now.

Cefrey is still really upset about the crime wave and gets her Uthgardt warrior friends to serve up some rough justice to the streets. Just as Seipora said, it turns out to be a real mix of troubles. Some of it is the Dead Rats and others using the cover of a “crime wave” to commit their own crimes, but there is genuinely at least one murderer out there.

After things in the city calm down, we decide to go explore the Waterclock Guild Crypt in Neverdeath. Remember, we still have a bowl to fix, and Jarlaxle said this was the place where we might find the answers to do it. Neverdeath is not nearly as covered in undead as it used to be, thanks to our efforts and those of the Black Blades.

It’s a fairly plain-looking mausoleum. The doors are sealed, but there are two bowls on either side. Seipora pours water into the first bowl and it shifts down and the other one shifts up. Then the water pours out. Eventually Valtha does some engineering like a waterlock artisan using pipes in the inlay and gets the bowls to balance, making the doors open.

Inside it’s just a simple mausoleum. It’s a few crypts and that’s it. Seipora takes a look at it and notices pipes running between the crypts. They themselves are waterclocks. It’s a sealed system. There is some something like water moving around. I realize there is a tiny water elemental running around the pipe. The whole system is rigged to gears that will reveals stairs down if we can get the water elemental to spread out over the entire system. I use a little magic to convince it to follow me as I run around the pipes in an undignified manner, and stairs down open up.

When we go down, we start to explore when water elementals appear. Seipora tells us that the water elementals were dealt with by the waterclock guild and are here to ensure that their secrets are not plundered by tomb raiders. They’re probably the ones make the whole place run. We fight them and then have to activate four magical circles at once (including fighting animated statues). Cefrey is briefly stuck behind a blood barrier and it starts to flood around her when we strike down the last of the elementals, but we disarm the magic in time to prevent her from drowning.

We study the books we found. The founder of the Waterclock Guild, Rolen Nightstar, was very interested in the old lore kept at the Host Tower, especially the Illuskan mages who helped build Gauntlgrym. He has a lot of notes about how Gauntlgrym was formed and the systems that trapped Maegera. He has notes about how to repair elements of that system. Bowls of commanding water elementals are standard, but the ones in Gauntlgrym were grounded by bringing them out of the mountain itself. That was done by using powerful earth magic to craft water magic to trap fire magic of the highest order. The key to repairing it would be high level earth magic. It’s not just a matter of shaping bowls, it’s bowls that are shaped from the deepest heart of the mountain. Rolen was fascinated by the way that earth and water magic could be used in conjunction rather than being opposed. He has notes in the margin about “must give earth tome to Horst for study.”

“Arathluth will trade tome for card, must find card.” is another note. Seipora uses pull with the Harpers to ask about Arthluth and Luusi comes to talk to her. She asks where we heard the name, and eventually reveals that it’s the name of a malaugrym, a race of powerful, shapeshifting, magical creatures that came through the Shadowfell. Luusi told her the story of the Harpstar Wars — forty years of conflict between the Harpers and the malaugrym, in which they ravaged much of Faerûn. Luusi said that the malaugrym did not come from the Shadowfell, but passed through it to Toril from someplace else, someplace that they’re now cut off from. She guessed that this Arathluth was interested in the deck of many things in the hopes that he would get a wish spell and open the way to the malaugrym home plane once more.

We need to find a powerful earth mage, and archmagi are thin on the ground these days, much less ones specialized in elemental earth specifically. A divine caster might be able to help, but we have even less clue where to go on that one. So those are our options, and we don’t like any of them. Who knows how long it will take to find these guys and convince them to help, with Maegera’s escape still looming at any moment. Not to mention that we saw what happened the last time Rodrik left Neverwinter, so forget about him coming along on this quest.

Then Valtha takes it out of our hands.

See, while all these investigations were going on I called in some favors and helped Valtha get that teleportation circle set up to Gauntlgrym. Valtha puts it in the shrine to Dumathoin in the River District, the one we discovered in our first adventure together when we slew the volcano dragon Koravakarios. For more than one reason, i think. Putting the lifeline to Gauntlgrym in an area not controlled by any government — but I digress.

Anyway, the dwarven expedition makes their way back and goes through the circle, now calling themselves New Delzoun. They begin the hard work of securing Gauntlgrym. Once things are stable enough, Valtha visits the shrine to Dumathoin in Gauntlgrym and takes Cefrey her. Remember that the Sharn told her that Dumathoin was hiding in the Spellplague and could be reborn once dwarves occupied Gauntlgrym again. Cefrey was spellscarred after throwing off the aboleth’s madness, so she could maybe be a conduit to Dumathoin.

“Well, it’s worth a try I guess.” I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was words to that effect. That was the last thing I ever said to Valtha, the last time I saw her alive.

Cefrey has been reluctant to talk in great detail about it, but the short version is that they went to the temple and were offered a choice. Dumathoin could be reborn if Cefrey would be the channel for his rebirth, but she would have to be transformed into a dwarf. Valtha’s life would be the fuel to make it happen. She would have to die. Both of them said yes. Filled with divine power, dwarf-Cefrey descended to the Great Forge and repaired the bowl of elemental water using Maegera’s own primordial power to carve the rock. Once more the prison is secure. Then she collapsed, drained of elemental fire, but still a dwarf. They say that Indrek descended into the catacombs and laid himself to rest once more in the tomb carved for him.

Cefrey says she’s a cleric of Dumathoin now, his first true cleric since his death. I’m not sure if she’s happy exactly, but it is a new start for her. She no longer talks of dying, and the Delzoun honor her. She even let slip to me that she’s fertile again. Cefrey, I know it’s not the life that you imagined but it is life instead of death. And as a dwarf, you get to drink all the booze you want. Bonus!

The Delzoun also honor Valtha as the savior of their people, and have given her a fine tomb. I’ve even seen it. I’m the only drow allowed in Gauntlgrym. Ancestor worship seems on the rise there, as they seek wisdom in the ghosts of their past. Perhaps we will hear from Valtha again. Dumathoin will surely reward her hard work with more hard work to do. That is, after all, the way of dwarves.

Well, that takes the looming doomsday out from over our heads. The aboleths are still out there, but they’ll have to find some other way to destroy the world. The war with Netheril grinds on. The shadow of Klauth hangs over our head.

Oh yes, Klauth. I learned some things about him, I did.

  1. Ander Brightwood had an encounter with Klauth during his adventures long ago. Klauth’s behavior started to change after that. Seipora eventually tracks down a source, she says it was Ander himself, and apparently Klauth got his hands on the Words of Power crafted by the Sarrukh, and they revealed to him his role in the universe.
  2. Klauth does want to take over Neverwinter, probably in the service of some grander plan, but it’s important to him that his rule not be entirely by fear. Hence the currying of favor with the people.
  3. He has some experience with that, as I find out when an agent reports back from the Klauthen Vale. It’s home to a fire giant tribe loyal to Klauth. The tribe has a village of human vassals that live there. It’s a training ground for agents like Brandis Vrye who have been sent to cities across the North. It’s not just Neverwinter Klauth wants to take over, though he does seem to be using Neverwinter in particular as a testing ground to try out his ideas on how to gain the loyalty and worship of humans.
  4. Klauth is providing patronage to dozens of adventuring parties to see which will be powerful enough to send to Returned Abeir first. He is very interested in Returned Abeir in every way. The Northern Five would be his first choice, except he doesn’t trust us.
  5. So what’s he after? There’s some dragon empress in Returned Abeir who has an artifact called the wyrmcrown. Any dragon wearing it can instantly kill any other dragon, at any distance, if they have tasted that dragon’s blood. Klauth is scared spitless of it, and he won’t feel safe until he wears the wyrmcrown.

He’s right to be frightened. I consulted with Jarlaxle. The Bregan D’aerthe will make it a priority to get a sample of Klauth’s blood. He’s fighting enough monsters in public these days that there’s bound to be some on a tooth or fang.

So what else?

Given some breathing space, Rodrik refines his approach to rulership, He wants to be first among equals in the city and persuade people rather than rule with an iron fist. To demonstrate this, he has the crown of Neverwinter melted down in the forge of Gauntlgrym and forsakes the title of king, now calling himself only “Lord Alagondar.” Well let’s face it, the “king” title was always a little pretentious for the ruler of a small city-state, wasn’t it?

He ends up marrying Grandthur’s daughter, an Uthgardt tribal leader (I don’t understand their leadership structure exactly). I don’t know how much it helps him diplomatically, but she’s a pretty formidable woman.

Seipora is continuing to publish her newspaper, but she’s also working on a book about the Northern Five and our adventures. I fill her in on the parts she missed.

As for me? Well, I consider going underground to fight Klauth, but I’m really more valuable to both the Bregan D’aerthe and to Rodrik where I am. I’ll just have to hoard what I know (like a dragon) and try to intervene at the right time. Hopefully there will be some up and coming adventurers who can continue the fight. So First Secretary Micar’eyl it is. Somehow trying to balance that with the Bregan D’aerthe, to whom I will always be grateful.

I turned the Moongleam Tower over to the church for good. It belongs to Selûne, and after all I’m a mere lay worshiper. I’m just glad she let me use it for a time. It floats over Neverwinter still, a symbol of the Moon Maiden’s protection and our watchtower in the sky.

Now I’m going to put my pen down, maybe for good. I have an appointment with an old friend. Horst and I are the last ones alive from those first days when these adventures began, the last two who remember the beginning. Marcus. Branwen. Valtha. I miss you all. So I’m going to see Horst and reminiscence, and we’re going to meet at the Sunken Flagon.

He’s an evil man and a crime lord. I am a … sigh … a reformed drow and I suppose on the side of helping the helpless and fighting evil and general do-goodery. Not to mention being part of the law around here. But that doesn’t mean Horst and I can’t share a drink tonight, even if we fight tomorrow.

Look at me rambling on. Time to go. Time for new heroes to step up.

Micar’eyl Auvrymtor

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: The Host Tower

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.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: My Sister, Faeryl

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: My Sister, Faeryl

So we’re still in the Great Forge of Gauntlgrym, deciding what to do next. I’m beginning to feel pretty heat-exhausted and beginning to lose focus.

I’m barely aware that Seipora is droning on about how the genealogies she took from the tombs shows that the Delzoun dwarves didn’t use hereditary monarchy. Yes, Seipora, I’m sure Ohgma will pat you on the head for documenting the governmental system of a long-dead dwarven state. I do wonder if it was a frustrated king candidate who let the orcs in so long ago.

Valtha is doing some sort of necromancy, questioning dwarven ghosts who apparently haven’t heard that there’s a whole afterlife out there and departed to it forthwith. She thinks she can forge the ghosts into magical weapons for the colonization expedition, assuming we can ever get them in here. You would think that would be blasphemous and wrong or something, but I suppose she’s the expert on dwarven soul ethics.

I’m not going to stay in this heat while she does it, though. Seipora, Rodrik, and I leave to scout a good place to try and set up that teleportation circle while Cefrey assists Valtha in making the soul-blades.

My studies with the Illiyanbruen have helped me bone up on enough teleportation magic to realize that the key component is a vial of liquid silver. This is what House Xorlarrin was going to use to connect the circle here to the circle back wherever they have their base (probably Menzoberranzan). I figure we’ll have to find a substitute before we can make our own circle, something we can key to the other side.

While the three of us are putzing around the temple area trying to figure things out, we get attacked by a small pack of dire corbies. Even with only half the group present we’re dispatching them pretty handily (Seipora makes a great wall). As we do so, though, there are some serious tremors as the entire cavern shakes. Since the heat and pressure here are not due to any natural elemental forces, but rather the presence of Maegera, that’s even more disturbing than you might expect at first.

Rodrik runs off to the Forge to see if he can help. Me, I don’t rush. I figure if it’s all going up there’s nothing I can do, so I might as well avoid dying tired. Instead Seipora and I take the time to scout out the temple to Moradin and conclude that would be the best place to lay the Gauntlgrym side of our circle. The tremors do indeed cease after a short while.

Sauntering back over to the forge, we meet up with Valatha, Cefrey, and Rodrik. Apparently making the weapons drew a little too much on Maegera’s power and risked wakening her. It? Cefrey is quite steamed about the whole thing, and I mean that both literally and figuratively as she is both angry at Valtha and physically smoldering. Apparently she and Guldor were exposed to a lot of elemental fire in the process of helping shut Maegera down. That kind of power leaves a mark. I think both of them will always be touched by primordial power from now on. It looks good on them, I think: gives their eyes an interesting golden glow in the darkness. Not that Gauntlegrym is dark, because obviously the humans in the group have required no light source ever since we got down here, not at all.

Anyway, Valtha is forced to agree about where to put the teleportation circle, though we can tell her heart wishes it could be the temple of Dumathoin. So the next step is to get some appropriate metal as a substitute. Most of the precious metals around here were looted by the duergar. As we had about decided we need to go through them anyway to get out, that wraps up quite neatly. So to review what we know about the duergar, they have a sizable population of slaves mining hellthorn, including dire corbies, kobolds, and some others picked up from Underdark slave markets.

That’s when a certain drow of my acquaintance appears in front of us. It’s Jarlaxle Baenre of Bregan D’aerthe, at our service! I think I’m happier to see the boss than everyone else, which is fair enough, but I know having him at our sides ups our odds considerably. I introduce him to our new recruit Guldor. Naturally everyone wants to know how he got inside, but he is typically Jarlaxle-evasive about it. I don’t even try. He probably hid himself in one of the duergar supply caravans or utilized some personal magics he doesn’t want to talk about or something like that.

I brief the boss on the situation with Maegera and how we could be looking at doom in less than a year. He’s able to offer a little insight on where we might find the mechanisms to repair the broken bowl. According to Seipora, the magical style behind the elemental water bindings looks an awful lot like the constructs of Neverwinter’s old Waterclock Guild. Jarlaxle tells us that Lucan Greenharrow, a former member of the Arcane Brotherhood, helped start the Waterclock Guild. Many of the Brotherhood’s secrets (and remember they are the heirs of the Grand Cabal, ancient Illuskan liches who were privy to the very magics used to raise the Host Tower in the first place) made their way south with him. Greenharrow himself is long dead, but there is a crypt in Neverwinter’s graveyard where they have buried many of their arcane secrets.

We talk about getting some help on this, but the boss is skeptical. He claims that many would actually want to release the primordial. Certainly Thay and Netheril and the aboleths all would welcome it. Presumably with the former two not believing it would actually end the world, but rather just result in the Sword Coast getting a good stomping before the gods bind up Maegera again.

Of course in explaining all this, we touch on Jarlaxle’s previous visit to Gauntlgrym. Visits, plural, in fact. Valtha demands details the and boss obliges. The first time he came was 30 years ago, when he and a dwarf friend of his named Athrogate were brought in by the Thayans. He thought they were just being hired as mercenaries, as you do, but it turns out the Thayans wanted to use Athrogate’s Delzoun heritage to release Maegera. They used some sort of enchantment to control him and forced him to activate the mechanism. The idea was that Maegera’s rampage would cause enough death to activate their Dread Ring, which Szass Tam could use for a second bid at godhood. Jarlaxle is a little vague on how it all played out, but apparently it was only a partial success. They caused the eruption but failed to release the primordial. Jarlaxle promised Athrogate that they would put things right.

Jarlaxle came back about ten years ago (again, he is vague on how he got in), fighting the Thayans again and apparently putting an end to their access to Gauntlgrym once and for all. He found the broken bowl at that time and has been trying to figure out what to do about it ever since. Valtha is pretty sarcastic about him not managing to accomplish more in ten years, but Jarlaxle argues back that he’s been busy stalemating all the parties who want to release Maegera so she should just back off.

Personally, I get it. It’s not like the Bregan D’aerthe are his servants, so the boss had to do a lot of this himself. Not knowing who to trust, trying to juggle a lot of things … I can sympathize. As usual Jarlaxle is trying to play it all light-hearted and pretending he doesn’t take it too seriously, but I see through him. All of this business really matters to him. By Selûne boss, who are you trying to fool? Really, I don’t know why some people have to play everything off all the time and can’t admit when they care.

Cefrey is not so understanding. She flips her shit when she finds out that Jarlaxle was involved in the eruption, even if he protests he was merely a pawn of the Thayans (like the Uthgardt, he points out). You know, the eruption where her husband and child died and she plunged into a years-long despair? Okay, I get why she’s mad and wants someone to take it out on. She calls Jarlaxle worthless and tries to punch him, but he smoothly sidesteps. Luckily she doesn’t try to escalate to her axe — her creepy newly ghost-haunted axe — and actually make this a fight. Instead she declares she’s not going to talk to him anymore.

Rodrik and Seipora are just kind of, “Uh, we don’t want to be involved in this.” I sympathize.

Anyway, drama worked out for the moment, we go to fight a bunch of duergar who have gathered in the plaza in response to the tremors. A bunch of them are riding their giant spider steeders. We defeat them pretty handily with Jarlaxle on our side. Not to get all soppy, but his bladework is like a dance. He hops around the battlefield and evil dwarves and spiders fall down dead in his wake. He does it all with such style, too. What a guy! Days like this it’s easy to see how he’s able to lead the Bregan D’aerthe so easily. It’s just that few people can challenge him, but you sort of don’t want to. You’d rather see what he’s going to do next.

Then the boss drops a drama bomb on me, which you know he had been saving until it was most amusing. He tells me that among the duergar slaves is Faeryl Auvrymtor, my little sister. I take a moment to process this. I was never exactly close to my family — that’s not something that Menzoberranzan really encourages — but still, we were the only people each other could count on. Me against my sister, my sister and I against our Matron Mother, and me, my sister, and our Matron Mother against the world, as the saying goes. There’s an awful lot of world.

Faeryl was just a brat when the house fell. I can’t imagine she’s grown very magnificent in slavery. Yet still, after turning it over in my mind, I want to see her. I brief Rodrik and explain that rescuing Faeryl has to be a mission priority. Thankfully he doesn’t give me any guff about it.

On that theory and because we want to cause some chaos, we head to the slave warrens first once we’re in the duergar mines. Faeryl is indeed there and we are able to free her and I guess some other slaves I don’t really care about. Oh well, Rodrik helps by being all inspirational and getting the slaves to trust us and rise against their masters so we don’t have beat them down when we free them. We keep Faeryl and send the others off to kill duergar and fight for freedom.

Faeryl’s story is pretty short. She was bought at the slave market after the fall of the house and has been abused horribly as a slave ever since. The end. Uh, wow, kind of disappointing. I mean, I’m not blaming her, but I was nurturing a sort of hope that she had some kind of incredible career of adventure and daring deeds and was but briefly captured as a slave a short time ago, already planning her escape. Her actual story is just sad and depressing. I guess I’ll have to take responsibility and look after her until I can get her on her feet and ready to make a place in the world.

An unfortunate corollary is that she has in no way shaken off the Lloth bullshit we were fed. In fact, living as a slave has made her basically mythologize her life in House Auvrymtor as the only time she was happy and powerful (and the two are completely inseparable to her), and she is all about us teaming up to raise it up and bring it back. Which is not going to happen, but I feel so bad about telling her that. I temporize by telling her she should take a year off to recover and live it up.

Faeryl doesn’t have much useful to say about how she got into Gauntlgrym. Apparently they were brought in blindfolded and muzzled. She doesn’t know much about the interior of the mines, but we can guess there is a pretty good size colony of duergar, maybe 1,000 of them and 3,000 slaves. A slave rebellion might solve our problem, but only if we can decapitate their leadership.

We head to their central temple to Asmodeus and fight their high priest, who summons a devil in his defense. I give Faeryl a dagger, not expecting her to use it, but she rushes into the fight looking for her chance to get some revenge. Nearly gets herself killed too, because apparently her time as a slave has erased nearly all her useful combat skills. I’m only barely able to save her with some healing magic. On the plus side, she is the one to stab and kill the high priest when he tries to turn invisible and escape. And continues to stab him. And continues with the stabbing more and more … I think she has some things to work out here, so I leave her to mutilating the corpse. Hopefully it brings her some peace.

Well, I’m papering things over. The truth is Faeryl and I argue again after the fight. I guess I’ve never been much of a bullshitter, always had trouble holding my tongue. I tell her the truth about Lloth and Menzoberranzan. She’s not happy to hear it. I don’t know; maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but maybe this is the best time to try to get new ideas in her head. Anyway one thing we can both agree on is screw House Xorlarrin. She’s at least on board with giving the city to the dwarves if it keeps it out of their hands.

We find the precious metals we need and bring it back to Moradin’s central temple in the Iron Tabernacle to inlay the teleportation circle. That goes pretty well, but it doesn’t get us out of the city.

That’s when a duergar shows up under a flag of truce. He tells us his name is is Nimor Ironvice and he can see the winds of change are blowing even down here. He knows we need a way out and he knows the way out. In return he wants us to stop our campaign against Mordai Vell in Neverwinter (that is, Rodrik needs to call off his investigation) and recognize his claim on the hellthorn mines.

There is some back and forth on this. Valtha is negotiating pretty strongly, bargaining him down to one hellthorn mine, owned by a Delzoun dwarf of Nimor’s choosing, with the option to buy more as any other dwarven citizen might. That’s pretty good! Rodrik is less willing, but he might have come around if Seipora hadn’t made this inspiring speech about how we don’t need to make deals with evil and we can find our own way out. So in the end we tell Goodsir Ironvice where he can stick his deal. Faeryl and Cefrey kind of want to kill him, but that wouldn’t be honorable under a flag of truce, so he walks out unharmed.

I follow him and kill him. I think that’s within the bounds of honor? What? We let him leave the building and walk away. If he wanted to be safe after that he should have got himself a better escort We’re at war with the duergar and under no obligation to give him safety forever. Aw, look at me, the old Selûne-worshipping softie. I can’t believe I’m feeling the need to justify a killing! Of a duergar, no less!

Totally justified. Be part of a society that keeps my sister as a slave, will you, asshole?

We make an attempt to find our way out, but as Ironvice suggested, it’s not that easy. There’s apparently a reason that hundreds of dwarves searching for decades couldn’t find a way in here. Jarlaxle seems to slip away easily enough, though.

Seipora comes through on her promise, though. She realizes that there is one path we can follow: the elemental connection between the Great Forge and the Host Tower of the Arcane. The elemental power flowing through it is like a guideline we can use to keep us from veering off track. We can follow it through the Underdark and emerge in Luskan, the brutal City of Anarchy, Neverwinter’s most ancient and hated enemy, inside the huge dungeon controlled by a mad lich who now has no other agendas, interests, or hobbies but our destruction — but beggars can’t be choosers. Well, we would have had to take on Valindra sooner or later anyway.

To Luskan we go!

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Gauntlgrym

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Gauntlgrym

When I said we arrived at the gates of Gauntlgrym, I might perhaps have been exaggerating a little. What I meant is that the river of flame deposits us in a great cavern containing the mithril gates of Gauntlgrym, which we see gleaming in the distance.

There is more light than you generally find in the Underdark, sourced from the flame river behind us, from volcanic lava flows far in the distance, and gleaming crystal formations that I suspect are not entirely natural. Enough light to see into the distant reaches of the cave, far beyond where my darkvision could gaze. The aforementioned mithril doors tower hundreds of feet high in a far wall, I swear at least a quarter of a mile away. The center of the cavern is dominated by a large lake, no doubt acting as a heat sink for the fire and lava and preventing this cavern from becoming an oven.

Valtha reverently recites an old dwarf poem: “Silver halls and mithril doors, stone walls to seal the cavern.” She tells us the gates were enchanted to keep them hidden and bar enemies. History says it fell only by treachery, some nameless fool inside frightened or bribed into allowing entrance to the orc horde that destroyed it. Orc hordes — is there anything they can’t ruin?

Valtha is visibly excited and more talkative than is normal, clearly eager at being so close to the completion of her mission. When we ask what she knows of the layout of the city, she talks about an Iron Tabernacle, home to many shrines to Moradin and his vassal gods. Beyond it are city streets and buildings where the Delzoun dwarves once lived, and beyond that are the mines from which they extracted mithril and iron and the Great Forge that supposedly created magical weapons as easily as mundane forges make horseshoes and knives. A forge we now know to be connected to the bound Maegera the Inferno, primordial of fire.

But the forge was only one of Gauntlgrym’s treasures. Please allow me to wax historical, combining what Valtha tells us and some things I already knew. The original Northkingdom of Delzoun lay under the Silver Marches. This was in the time of the human Netherese empire, and they gained much of their wealth trading the products of Underdark mines with the archmagi above. The story is that the dwarves were forced to abandon their original kingdom and flee, leading to the founding of Gauntlgrym as a great refuge deliberately hidden from the world. I suspect that is compressing the historical narrative a bit, and at least the mines of Gauntlgrym must have been opened during the time of the original kingdom.

The Delzoun are known throughout the Northdark primarily for the subterranean highways and roads they left behind. Some of them connect to Gauntlgrym, though the passes were carefully concealed so as not invite invasion from people like … well, like my people.

Anyway, the secret to Gauntlgrym’s construction is that the human Netherese mages (before their fall) and the Illiyanbruen elves (before their retreat) also helped build it. It was a cooperation between those three races, each bringing their own talents, that led to the greatest city the Shield Dwarves ever built and the reason that they have never been able to duplicate it since. But for all that humans and elves contributed, at its core this is a dwarven city, with its enchantments tied to the bloodline of the Delzoun dwarves and them alone. Valtha tells me that even other dwarves whose connection to the old Delzoun families are too weak will be denied.

Cefrey has a Gauntlgrym story to tell, too. Apparently humans who lived in Gauntlgrym fled the fall of the city and spent a time roaming through the Underdark, during which time they were infected with lycanthropy. When they emerged onto the surface they were adopted by the Uthgardt Gray Wolf tribe. The tribe’s patron helped them adapt to their curse, but also spread it to the entire tribe, creating the band of lycanthropic barbarians we know and love (to kill) today. The songs and stories I know suggest that probably happened during an attempt to resettle Gauntlgrym after its initial fall, as lycanthropes were involved in the destruction of the resettlement effort. Again, compressing of the historical narrative isn’t too surprising.

As we proceed through the cavern, we see the remnants of the battle with the orc horde that originally smashed Gauntlgrym. There are bones everywhere. As we rest for a while, I ask Valtha what our objective is. What are we trying to accomplish? Valtha says we should explore the city and make sure it’s safe for the dwarven expedition, or at least that we properly understand its dangers, then leave and find as safe a path as possible back to territory we know. Hopefully we can stake out some sort of beachhead area that they can use to fully retake the city from whomever or whatever holds it now.

We come to a giant stalagmite carved into a fortress. There are bones indicating a particularly fierce point in the battle. As we go over a bridge, I get grabbed by some tentacles from a roper concealed as another stalagmite in the water. Then a bunch of haggard brutes jump out, led by a tiefling. They have brand of Asmodeus. After a fierce battle, we slay them all.

We look in the filthy redoubt and realize they have been living in here for a long time. There’s a little altar to Asmodeus and signs of long term occupation. Someone finds a diary tucked away that apparently belonged to the tiefling leader. The later entries are nothing but mad rantings, but it starts with dates from 20 years ago (ten years after the eruption). They came here with Valindra Shadowmantle and were left behind. The first six years chronicle their attempts to find a way out through the tunnels and desperate battles with Underdark creatures (including a few encounters with drow). After years of failure they convinced themselves they were here to guard the gates for Asmodeus. They do have a rack of trophies in the corner, evidently from prior explorers that they kept from the gates for the Lord of Sin.

Among the trophies I see a sigil of House Xorlarrin, reminding me that I should warn everybody about them more explicitly. So I tell everybody about Xorlarrin, who as far as my connections tell me is still one of the eight noble houses of Menzoberranzan (though i can’t be bothered to recall their current ranking and indeed that fact is pleasingly irrelevant to my life now). I tell them about how they destroyed my house — well, I summarize, anyway. These friends of mine have no interest or context for the two years of back-and-forth in a not-quite-open war, the slow grinding down of our resources and sacrifice of our slaves and males to hold them off another day, until the day for the assault when my mother killed herself in shame. Killed herself knowing that Lloth has no mercy for losers but hoping that her final act of spite against the enemy might buy her some sort of small favor in the Demonweb Pits. Nor is it useful to report that I was recruited by the same Bregan D’aerthe mercenaries who were hired by Xorlarrin to help wipe out House Auvrymtor, the same offer that my cousins refused and ended in their deaths.

The Bregan Da’erthe do things differently. They didn’t demand that I kill those who refused to turn as a sign of my new loyalty. I appreciate that. It was my first evidence that Jarlaxle may be a bad man by many standards, but he is far from the frothing madness of most of my Lloth-maddened race. Selûne have mercy on us all, even those who never see the moon.

Oh, uh, where was I? Yeah, I tell everybody is that House Xorlarrin is good at magic and they’ve been poking around here.

I scout ahead to the doors looking for more ambushers, but there doesn’t appear to be anyone else around. So we all head up to the gates and have a look. I worry at first that opening the gates will be a signal to everyone in the city that trespassers have arrived, but after wracking our brains for a few minutes we can’t think of any other way inside. I suppose if it were that easy, there would be little point in having doors.

Cefrey has to have her try at opening the gates, but she strains her muscles and they don’t so much as quiver. For Valtha it is a different matter, however, and they open easily at her touch. Easily and soundlessly, these massive gates moving like they’re gliding on ice and no more weighty than a house door. I begin to think I was over-worried. If no one is looking at the gates as we happen to open them—

Then a squad of warriors from House Xorlarrin led by one of their mage commanders rush the gate. Ah well, oops. Looks like their stealth was better than my scouting. They might have done us a lot of damage, but luckily they seem far more interested in rushing past us and into the city. We don’t let them do that. One of their fighters and the mage-commander soon die, and Valtha sensibly pulls the gate closed behind us before the others can get inside.

That leaves one still alive and inside the gates with us, and he attempts to flee into the city. Cefrey immediately chases after him. Fortunately there is light in here as well. She manages to tackle and capture him before he can disappear from sight. We take our prisoner to what must be some kind of old customs inspection room near the gate and work out what to do next.

A search of the mage reveals he has all the reagents and scrolls necessary to set up a teleportation circle, and Valtha and I realize what is up. Teleportation is difficult in the Underdark because of faerzress, and the radiation around Gauntlgrym is especially (and probably artificially) strong in stopping space magic. If Xorlarrin could set up a teleportation circle, though, that would allow them to set up a locked arrival point that they could use to bring inside as many people as they want. First they have to get past the gates, though. No wonder they didn’t care about hurting us, just getting past us.

I introduce myself to our prisoner and learn his name is Guldor. Our conversation after that is a little… I’ve been with the Bregan D’Aerthe for many years now and dealing with surface folk almost as long. It’s a shock having to deal once more with a drow who hasn’t, who hasn’t had a chance to look past the blend of lies and half-truths that the priestesses of Lloth feed us our entire lives. I mean, I know now that the surface races aren’t all genocidal monsters who chased us into the Underdark long ago and still yearn to take away what small territory we have in the least desirable land in the world, but it took me a while figure that out, to have it really sink in how much crap I was fed.

Guldor asks me about the armies of elves who live to murder drow and I recall that oh yeah, that was a thing I used to believe, wasn’t it? Well, I mean, not to let surface elves off the hook because screw those guys (the Illiyanbruen are as much fae as elf by now) but they are at least as scared of us as we are of them.

So I offer Guldor the same path to salvation I was once given: I recruit him to the Bregan D’aerthe. The recruitment pitch just pours out of me. His house will think him dead. Why not let them be right? I can’t even be mad at him as a soldier of House Xorlarrin. He’s just a poor, dumb male of the lower ranks, little better than a sword in the hands of their matron mother and whatever archmage male she allows the illusion of power. It takes a little bit of back-and-forth, but soon he agrees to sign up.

So we ask Guldor if Xorlarrin has any intelligence in what’s going on in Gauntlgrym. He says they believe an illithid colony has tunnels that go up into Gauntlgrym, and the main Xorlarrin base has been trying to take control of those tunnels from the mind flayers. They had some people watching the doors, and the crazed Ashmadai guarding the doors, just in case. Every once in a while some explorers show up and try to open the gates and fail. When we succeeded they were honestly shocked and gathered themselves to charge. Since we left a few on the other side of the wall, Guldor guesses their orders will be to step up patrols and send more people so that if anyone comes out they’re ready to try again in greater numbers — which we take to mean we’ll need to find some other way out.

The other tidbit he offers is that there have also been duergar in the area who may or may not be getting into Gauntlgrym by some other paths.

We all talk it over, and I put forth an interesting idea. Here Valtha and I have all the fixings for a teleportation circle, courtesy of our dead mage. It’s a great plan — why don’t we use it? We can set up the circle ourselves, change the sigils so only we know the code to it, then after we escape the city we can set up the other end of the circle elsewhere, maybe in Neverwinter itself, maybe in that old Delzoun outpost beneath the River District where we slew the volcano dragon Koravakarios, and bring in the dwarves that way.

That brings us back to the “escape the city” part of the plan. Going through both the illithids and the House Xorlarrin expedition, and ending up pretty deep in the Underdark, doesn’t sound like the best idea.

We continue on exploring while we consider. At the end of the great hall is a large round chamber with a throne. The dwarven runes say that only a king of Delzoun blood can sit upon the throne. It is definitely magical according to Valtha. Her family legends say that her ancestor Indrek (the skeleton she has following everywhere) was descended from the rulers of Gauntlgrym, so Valtha chances it and sits on the throne.

She tells us that on the throne she is connected to the entire city and aware of all within it. There is a colony of duergar serving Asmodeus and mining hellthorn, the drow are trying to get in but have not succeeded, and the wards binding Maegera are weakening. He will escape if something is not done.

She knows the way to the Iron Tabernacle, and from there we can go to the Great Forge. There are water and fire elementals in the forge, but it is not too dangerous. The duergar in the mines are much more dangerous. They are working their slaves to death mining hellthorn. The illithid colony has fallen under the sway of the Abolethic Sovereignty and are sending plaguechanged monsters up into Gauntlgrym.

By the silver light of the moon, the Abolethic Sovereignty again! Seems like we can’t get away from those bozos.

Valtha looks deeper at the failing wards. In the past when Gauntlgrym was created, mages from the city of Illusk proposed to build the Host Tower, which would channel the ocean from the Sea of Swords into Gauntlgrym, and by that power open portals to the Elemental Plane of Water itself to bind Maegera. One of the foci in Gauntlgrym are a series of bowls that keep water elementals bound. One of the bowls was destroyed in the eruption, and since then magical pressure has been building.

Okay, yeah that is bad news for a number of reasons. For one, we know the lich Valindra is holding the Host Tower. If it’s key to binding Maegera, that is bad news. For another, Maegera is close to escaping. That is double bad news. And third, the broken bowl isn’t just a bowl we can swap out for a new one. It’s worked out of the very stone of the mountain itself, which makes replacing it … well, let’s be optimistic and just call it “problematic.”

We elect to explore the Iron Tabernacle first. Automatic carts still travel the rails, and there are big sweeping arches and temples everywhere. We can see how much of the mithril and gems have been chipped out by robbers and defilers, especially in the temples. One temple of Dumathoin has been smashed up, with the symbol of Asmodeus smeared over it. Valtha insists on taking the time to clean it up. There are carvings in the walls and we head down into the tombs.

Duergar warriors riding giant tarantulas drop down from the ceiling. We defeat them. It is so satisfying to kill spiders, I swear! The tombs are pretty well kept. We see the scary dwarven ghosts standing guard over them, but they seem to have a pretty good rapport with Valtha and let us be. I don’t imagine they were quite so amicable with the duergar. Many of the tombs have dwarven descriptions that declare their lineage, and Seipora gets all excited about how she could use this information to reconstruct a map of Delzoun society. We take a long rest from our battles, but we still have to drag her away to check out the forge.

We see a fire elemental fighting its water elemental enemies. Unfortunately the water elementals see us as little more than fleshy water-bags who’ve come to help them, and we have to fight them both. With a little effort we are able to stay out of the path of other elementals in the area and check out the forge and its seals. Valtha is able to find the broken bowl.

Seipora says she has seen something like this before. It reminds her of the famous Neverwintan waterclocks she named her newspaper after. We estimate that the magic system is stressed to the breaking point. Lots of people vying to control the primordial are pumping power into the system: the Thayans, the aboleths, the Fires Below, they each had their own plans for Maegera and what his release would mean for them, and though we’ve dealt each of them serious blows in turn, their efforts have left a mark. Things are getting dire here. It could be less than a year before it all breaks down. We discuss if there’s a way to release the pressure, but there’s no obvious safe solution.

Seipora has an idea that we should release information about the situation to Faerûn at large and let the assembled sages of the world have a crack at the solution. I kind of like the idea, but Rodrik, Cefrey, and Valtha are much colder it it. They’re worried the bad guys would find a way to use the information to bad ends. I personally think that most bad guys don’t want Maegera released, either. Anyway, we table the discussion until we are actually able to escape.

We also take a look at the forge itself. It still looks operational after all this time, and Valtha says it would still be possible to use it to produce magic weapons. An interesting idea, though I don’t know if we have the time to be fooling around with that right now. We take another rest and consider our next move.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: The Fires of Mount Hotenow

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Fires of Mount Hotenow

Who are you more scared of: a giant red dragon or your grandmother? It was a close thing, but Rodrik seems to have decided he’s more scared of his grandmother, or at least the results of taking House Thann’s money to rebuild Neverwinter. I’m not quite sure of all the politics, but apparently it would have meant having to marry Nharaen Wands, a woman he’s sure wants him dead. So instead he took Klauth’s money, and the results of that … remain to be seen. Selûne help us all.

Rodrik, Valtha, and Cefrey were all showing signs of infection from the aboleths’ madness, so I used a healing ritual on them (though I think Rodrik might have been recovering on his own). Valtha seems fully cured, but I was only able to push the infection back in Cefrey’s case. Hopefully she can fight off the rest on her own.

Speaking of, what has everyone else been doing while Rodrik and I play at government? Cefrey has been obsessively slaying the remaining plaguechanged monsters as people fight to reclaim the Chasm. Seipora has put out two issues of the Waterclock. The first one chronicled our liberation of the Chasm — including the fact that the Sharn have taken over the Source Stone, which took a little of the shine off our achievement. The second contained a screed against monarchy, saying that Nasher Alagondar was corrupted by his power and that Rodrik is doomed to the same path. I suppose that depends on what you mean by “corrupted.” Anyway, Rodrik isn’t terribly pleased and starts looking into putting out his own broadsheet to fire back, though I bet Seipora would publish his response herself if he asked.

As for Valtha, she’s been working with those dwarves on the Gauntlgrym expedition, and soon enough she accompanies Thoradin Hardhammer to the Hall of Justice. The Mirabar dwarves are ready to head out to Mount Hotenow. He makes some comments about how they helped save the city and he hopes we are suitably grateful, which is fair enough. There is some discussion about how we might help repay them, which Rodrik steers away from paying their supply debts and more towards sending support.

Specifically, sending the Northern Five. Including Rodrik. Yes, and doesn’t that cause quite a snit-fit of discussion. He makes the case that it’s important symbolism. He needs to be personally involved in the recovery of Gauntlgrym, which will forever after link it to Neverwinter, or at least as long as the stories endure, and, well, here’s what I think:

You can call Neverwinter a “kingdom” if you want, but it’s a mostly-ruined city of little importance to anyone not living here. The supply of highly competent and exceptional people we have to draw on is not that large. If Rodrik wants to get anything done, he probably does need to do it himself. If it’s a choice on where to spend his time, the day-to-day administration is easier to find someone who can take care of it than the big, sweeping stuff that requires heroism. Of course, it would be nice if he could find time to father an heir in the middle of all that.

That does leave the question of who will be in charge while he’s gone. His First Secretary is going with him, so I guess my glorious drow imperium will just have to wait. Grinch would be the obvious next choice, but we don’t trust him enough yet. So Rodrik names that paladin of Amaunator named Lander Greycastle as Minister of Justice and makes him regent. I suppose it’s the best out of limited choices. Greycastle is unlikely to make a play for the throne himself. He’ll probably give the Brightwoods a lot of shit, but I hope being a paladin means he will refrain from massacres and mass hangings and keep to things that Rodrik can reverse to make himself look good when he comes back.

Right before we leave I get a private visit from Jarlaxle. He tries to play it off as no big deal and make it sound like I should be the one who wants to go to Gauntlgrym to get vengeance for my clan (as indeed I do). I can tell that he’s far more invested than he wants to let on, though. Whatever happened the last time he was in Gauntlgrym, he wants to correct it or balance the scales or avenge himself or something like that. And he’s worried about Maegera, as anyone aware of Maegera would be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shadows us and makes a traditional Jarlaxle surprise appearance eventually.

So, Gauntlgrym … how are we going to find it? What separates us out from others searching for Gauntlgrym is that everyone else is looking farther north. We know that the partial routes we have encountered all seem to pass through the Crags. Our other big clue is that we believe Gauntlgrym’s legendary forge that supposedly spit out magic items like a fountain was/is fueled by the primordial at Mount Hotenow’s roots. The obvious answer is to go to Mount Hotenow and search for ways down into the Underdark from there.

We decide to head up the coast, with the Northern Five serving as the advance scout for the approximately 100 dwarves making up the greater expedition behind us. When we get far enough north, we’ll break off to the east and approach Mount Hotenow from its western face. That minimizes the amount of time we have to spend trudging through the mountains.

Our first obstacle is a swarm of plaguechanged bears. Dangerous to fight, but right now they seem to have no guiding intelligence. I take a chance and try using a variation on the Abolethic Sovereignty’s song I’ve been experimenting with to send them a simple command: “Go into the ocean.” It works fine, and they swarm their way to the shore and out to sea — and keep going. Don’t seem to be sinking, they just keep going. Wow, hope they don’t make it all the way to Returned Abeir…

Then we come to the small town of Port Llast. Since the eruption the harbor has been filled with silt and most of its citizens abandoned it. It’s now a ghost town, with legends of dark sacrifices to evil sea monsters within. I try to sneak in to scout around, but I make some wrong turns and get surrounded by sahuagin. They’ve got me trussed up and ready for sacrifice when the others burst into town and help fight them off. That was a close one!

There are more sahuagin out there, but they’re not going to mess with 100 dwarves, especially considering we’re only staying the night. In the meantime we look around the town. We also find signs that the Cult of Umberlee is active, and also smugglers. They bring goods in here, then take it over land to Neverwinter to avoid the tariffs. Clever.

The next day we head into the woods. That’s going all right until the ghost of our old (dead) friend Marcus de Tylmarande appears out of nowhere! It seems that Valtha conjured him up recently to satisfy this halfling air pirate looking for the card from the Deck of Many Things that Marcus briefly possessed. We all wag our fingers at Valtha for that.

But rather than heading directly back to the moon to bask eternally in Selûne’s radiance (I assume) Marcus realized that something was wrong. His body does not rest and is coming after us. Someone, specifically the lich Valindra Shadowmantle, raised it as a horrible undead wight and is coming after us. The same thing has been done to Branwen Farlong.

We continue on into the mountains and find a place to hole up and wait for the attack. Valindra appears accompanied by her two wights, but the ghosts of Branwen and Marcus show up to fight on our side. That’s enough to allow us to turn the tide and defeat Valindra again. Of course, she’s not permanently gone. Ghost-Marcus warns us that she has moved her phylactery into the Host Tower of the Arcane in Luskan, where she is presumably consolidating power, though ghost-Marcus does not say that.

We say the farewells that the suddenness of death prevented us from saying the first time around. Marcus tells Seipora to take care of Seldra and thanks her for continuing their work in Neverwinter. Branwen gives an indictment of the path that Rodrik has chosen, telling him it will lead to no good end. Uh, thanks Branwen. Marcus wishes that Valtha hadn’t raised him, but it turned out well. Branwen tells me she’s glad I’m trying to be all heroic in her place, which I am suitably embarrassed by, and I promise to look in on the Sunken Flagon every once in a while and make sure Moonshine is doing well.

The next day we reach Mount Hotenow. It is the tallest mountain in the Crags, and it belches forth fire and smoke continuously. Magma falls back into giant cracks and crevices that surround the mountain. We heard there was another group of dwarves that headed out for the Crags, but that was several months ago and no one has seen them since. Valtha finds some signs that lead us to a cave where there is a small fortified dwarf camp. There are about a dozen of them still alive, and they are overjoyed to see Valtha and hear that dwarven reinforcements are on the way.

They explain that they have been under assault from fire elementals and fire giants for weeks now. We are introduced to Vandra Hillborn, their leader elected in Neverwinter. Also keeping their spirits up is Kathra Barrelhelm, a priestess of Moradin who was sent by Moradin personally. She explains that Gauntlgrym may not be Moradin’s highest priority, but it is the mission that he personally assigned to her. Valtha looks — I don’t know. Jealous? Sympathetic? I can’t read it, but I know she feels something.

They are all on the edge and one of them in particular, Gurdis Grimtor, seems to be losing it a little. He keeps babbling on about how maybe the Fires Below are right and another eruption by Maegera is the only way to find the path to Gauntlgrym. I recognize when a morale-booster is called for and I begin strumming the melody to a traditional dwarven song. One-by-one, all the dwarves gradually raise their voices and join in, reminding themselves of why they are here and what they are fighting for.

Vandra tells us the fire elementals seem to act out of the hall of King Gommoth, their fire giant lord, who keeps a temple deeper in the mountain. That night Vandra confesses that some dwarves have not been killed but instead defected to join the Fires Below. Valtha attributes it to the psychic remnants of the primordial infecting everyone. Still, my song appears to have strengthened their spirits enough that Gurdis does not disappear during the night.

We head into the caverns the next day. We fight several fire elementals and dwarven defectors and a salamander. Seipora and Valtha have an argument about whether the dwarven defectors should be hated as traitors or pitied for being under mind control. Valtha is of the opinion that they are damned for abandoning their sacred duties, while Seipora opines that the only difference between them and Valtha is that Valtha has friends capable of pulling her back from the madness.

Then we fight the fire giant leader and his fire giant cultists and slay the leader of the Fires Below. The cult is somewhat broken. We go through their documents and religious texts about the ecstasy of Maegera’s awakening. We also read about the river of liquid flame and how it winds past the red dragon’s lair to the cavern where stands the doors to the city of the jailers (that is, Gauntlgrym).

When the rest of the dwarven expedition catches up with us we discuss the next steps. There is no clear path through the tunnels beneath, but this river of liquid flame could get a few of us (that is, the Northern Five) where we need to go. If we can find Gauntlgrym we can back-track along the tunnels and find the path the full expedition needs to take to get there. The dwarves can build us a boat of metal capable of enduring the trip, but Valtha and I have to put our heads together on a way for us to survive without baking alive. Ice and cold magic is something that neither of us specialize in, and the heat will be insane. Finally I’m able to use a spell of communing with magic items to modify some potions of fire resistance we found in the cult hoard to help us survive the trip.

We sail down the river of fire. It is a miserable, burning trip and I can feel my stamina leaking away. Just as the Cult documents hinted, we are ambushed by the red dragon along the way. We land the boat and fight her in a furious back-and-forth that nearly sees Cefrey’s death. In the end we win and examine a glowing multi-colored orb she possessed, apparently an orb that allows communing with Tiamat herself. It can also serve as an engine of destruction when fed with gold.

Rodrik wants to use it for some reason but fears Klauth watching (which tells me an awful lot about why he wants to use it). Valtha wants to destroy it, but I talk her out of it for the moment. We don’t need to make Tiamat our enemy for no reason. Well, I mean she’s probably our enemy in that everyone is her enemy, but we don’t need her to take an immediate interest in us.

We find a few magic items in the dragon’s hoard, of which we take what we can use and conceal the rest. I get a sweet pair of elven stealth boots that are just my size. I am invisible! I am inaudible! I am the night! Hah, just kidding. It’s funny, I never thought of myself as a sneak next to some real rogues I’ve known, but the magic that has come my way seems to push me there.

There are also 13 red dragon eggs in the nest. Klauth eats those to stay alive, you know. We take them with us for now. I have an interesting idea or two about them.

Anyway, we get back on the boat and endure more fire hell before finally arriving at the gates of Gauntlgrym.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Side Notes - Governmental Business

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Side Notes —
Governmental Business

A few notes for my journal about the first days of the new Kingdom of Neverwinter (which succeeds the kingdom of New Neverwinter). I’m going to keep this brief and “just the facts” unless I get inspired to blab about something.

I, Micar’eyl Auvrymtor, am First Secretary and therefore responsible for taking notes for King Rodrik Alagondar I of Neverwinter. Rodrik wants to be a really idealistic king; therefore when someone wants to bribe me I will have them owe me favors rather than actually allowing cash or physical objects to change hands. I understand this is how it is done in the more high-minded kingdoms.

Rodrik has appointed Donn Stormchapel as his spymaster and political advisor. He was on my shortlist, so I don’t disapprove of the decision. Beyond that we’re retaining a lot of Neverember’s old bureaucracy, even bringing “First Citizen” Jelvus Grinch back in as Minister of Trade.

Regarding Arlon Bladeshaper and the other Brightwoods (including Seipora Gend), Rodrik has ordered a hands-off posture. He doesn’t want anyone suppressing them for their beliefs, which I take to be both an expression of his ideals and a political strategy of making it look like they are the unreasonable assholes to his open-handed attempts to help the city. He is taking some of Arlon’s less crazy policy proposals “under advisement”, mostly in the vein of letting them have a try at avoiding a City Watch.

At Rodrik’s direction I have written to the Iliyanbruen expressing his continued support for the war against Netheril. They wrote back agreeing to send an emissary for further talks and even dangling the possibility of a marriage alliance with Lady Keyleth.

Which is very interesting, as everyone is pressuring Rodrik to get married and have an heir. His grandmother wants him to marry Nharaen Wands. He is trying to duck the issue and has thrown it on me to make arrangements. Groan! Fine, if he insists on having me deal with this then I’ll deal with it.

Most of the temples are falling in line behind Rodrik, but Luth Helder in the Temple of Amaunator is questioning the basis of his legitimacy. This is another one of those things where he wants to back off and let the other party look like an asshole, so no concrete action right now.

Rodrik being a noted anti- Ashmadai crusader, the question came up of if he wants to move against Mordai Vell. Well he won’t let me just kill Vell, which I was planning to do before it became an issue of “government,” and he doesn’t feel he can bring Vell to trial, so right now it’s all “watch and gather information.”

The Order of Blue Fire is being allowed to establish a house in Neverwinter.

The Many Arrows orcs are being allowed to establish an embassy in the Cloak Tower they were just kicked out of. Meet the new boss, same as the old…

The Zhentarim are being told we don’t need their help.

We signed a trade alliance with the city of Tarmalune in Returned Abeir. I’m informed that many of its inhabitants consider it to be a rival to Waterdeep.

Rodrik decided to allow Lord Leyton Amcathra to continue to hold Crossroad Keep and accept his fealty in spite of his previous ties to Neverember.

Per the King, our current priorities are to win the war with Netheril and make Neverwinter prosperous again.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Liberation Day

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Liberation Day

Going to have to rank this one at least an 8 on a 1 to 10 scale of “completely suicidal ventures.” Rank 10 will, of course, have to be awarded posthumously.

So I asked His Majesty King Rodrik (hah, just kidding, I’m going to keep calling him “Rodrik”) for an office I can use, and he gives me the mayor’s office. Now vacant, since apparently Rodrik took one look at Soman Galt and had him removed as mayor and packed off to Helm’s Hold for treatment. I wish I could say it was cushy, but Galt didn’t put a lot of effort into luxury-ing up the place. That’s not even mentioning all the crazy insane-o ramblings he’s got filling countless sheets of paper. Meh, it’s a desk and some writing utensils and a place to sort things out. Does this make me interim mayor?

Dinin comes in and tells me that there’s this half-orc paladin who wants to see me. I give him some shit about if he’s my butler now, and he razzes me right back. I really like that guy! Maybe I should invite him out when we’ve got some downtime.

Anyway, the half-orc is Kosef Targana, one of the paladins working beyond the Wall at the Redoubt of the Threefold God. He tells me that Valtha has turned up alive, and they’ve got her in a room there. I was more worried than I was letting on, so that’s great news. We take the Moongleam Tower over there, using it as an opportunity to ship in some supplies. Some harpies remind us it’s still a warzone, but archery support from the Shining Serpent Inn drives them off.

Drayton Ashensmith has Valtha laid up in a room where she’s been unconscious since being found. She was coughed up out of a pit of tarlike goo nearby, about to be eaten by monsters before the paladins rescued her. Seems like I got to the inn just in time (or maybe she was waiting on me) because Valtha wakes up just as I get there. When she opens her eyes, her left eye is completely black, which is freaky. Freakier still is her story.

Apparently she was rescued (or maybe kidnapped; I still say the transport to Faerie would have grabbed her if something hadn’t interfered) by the Sharn. Yes, the Sharn. Quick history lesson! Back during the Crown Wars there were two drow kingdoms, a bigger and a smaller one. The smaller one was wiped out near the end of the wars, but right before that several archmagi cast a spell that melded most of the population into one gestalt entity. I know that seems details-light, but we’re talking about a conflict that lasted 3,000 years and ended well over 10,000 years ago. I do know considerably more than most any human historian, but the motives of the proto-Sharn elude me.

Anyway, the Sharn have existed since then as this virtually immortal shapeshifting entity or entities (they sometimes seem able to act as multiple beings). Since then elves, dwarves, humans, and centaurs have joined the Sharn. They worship/serve “the Pentad,” an alliance of deities including elven, dwarven, and human deities specifically tied to magic and knowledge, like Mystra, Oghma, Corellon, and Dumathoin.

So what do the Sharn want? They want to be taken to the Source Stone. Upon hearing that I put a bedsheet over the head of Valtha and myself, since I figure every bit helps and I definitely do not want the aboleths to hear anything about this. Apparently they have also claimed, as extra motivation, that Valtha’s dead god is alive and hiding in the Spellplague. Huh. Well, we are going to the Source Stone anyway as per Klauth’s plan. We didn’t actually have a plan to destroy it, so this seems like a step forward.

Oh, and the Sharn are totally hiding in Valtha’s eye. That was obvious, right? I thought it was obvious.

Back at the Hall of Justice, Rodrik gets a visit from Sand, Branwen’s uncle and an elven wizard who has lived in Neverwinter for a few centuries, and apparently had some adventures in his younger days. I wasn’t there for the meeting, but here is the story I get later: Sand has a modification regarding our plan to have volunteers shoulder the aboleth mental assault when we enter the Chasm. He has created four new dreamthief dolls, each tied to 1,000 volunteers. Instead of putting the whole blow in one person, it is split 1,000 ways. We could have half the population with us going into the Chasm. He had to turn away volunteers. Rodrik is skeptical about extending the aboleth’s influence to so many people. He was not comfortable with the plan when he was talking about four volunteers, but he acknowledges that you don’t go to an expert to ignore his advice. He reluctantly consents.

The plan is the united forces of Neverwinter go over the Wall to provide a distraction while we go in. They are depending on us to win for them to survive. No pressure or anything.

I clean up before I go by taking care of business that Galt left half-done after his sudden dismissal, basically just stamping a lot of documents with the mayoral seal and signing them as mayor. Wielding unjustified authority soothes my troubled mind.

Speaking of unjustified authority, a little bird (by which I mean Dinin listening at a door) tells me that Rodrik asked Arlon to take over as interim mayor and doesn’t get the warmest reception. Apparently Arlon was not interested in accepting Rodrik’s authority to appoint him as mayor. Sorry, Rodrik — it was a good plan!

On the appointed day, everyone is lined up for battle on the Wall. There are banners of the new Kingdom of Neverwinter and the banners of the Brightwoods. Also the red banners of the Servants of Klauth. A few Bregan D’aerthe banners as well, though we aren’t much for banners. After some discussion, we decide not to take Cefrey with the Northern Five portion of the mission. The abolethic infection in her mind is too advanced for us to trust her down in the depths, especially as she has refused to use the dolls. It’ll just be me, Rodrik, Seipora, and Valtha.

We plunge into the conflict, fighting through two plaguechanged trolls, spending a lot of time defeating them. We see plaguechanged harpies and monsters with wings of blue flame. We reach the edge of the chasm where there are harpies flying all around and have another battle to prevent them from alerting guards further on in. Finally we make it to the edge of the Chasm proper.

We stand at the edge of the Chasm, a huge rift in the earth with earth motes everywhere. There are jets of azure flame shooting plaguechanged monsters up and seams opening with blue fire. It’ll get harder the closer we get.

After a very difficult journey we get to the false bottom of the Chasm. I know that’s ingoring a lot of stuff, but I’m not great at those kind of battle descriptions! I sneak, Rodrik leads, Seipora inspires, and Valtha gets us some help from the Sharn, okay?

We ignore the giant crystal pulsing with blue fire that is the obvious “source” of the Spellplague energy. Trap! We would have fallen into it if not for Klauth’s warnings. Valtha tries to find the tunnels leading further down, but I guess dwarves are just a little too near the surface, if you know what I mean. My tunnel instincts are able to find what we’re looking for. Yeah, I’m going to be giving Valtha the business about that every time we tell this story for decades to come.

We go through a warren of monster wombs below, then activate the monsters by having Valtha fry their psychic network. Then we find the path to the lake below. There are five aboleths swimming over the Source Stone and we realize we have no chance against them. Ooops! Well, this is the part of the plan that we didn’t really have a good answer for. All we could do was hope that they wouldn’t have five aboleths waiting, but they did. We would have been pretty screwed if not for the Sharn.

So we work together to fulfill the demands of the Sharn and get Valtha past the aboleths and down to the Source Stone. Valtha disappears and enters a plane of pure psychic energy. The Sharn take over the Source Stone and turn it black. It pulls the aboleths in, killing them in a very satisfying way.

Then the tentacles pull us all in with Valtha. Fortunately the Sharn appear to be in a good mood from their victory and not inclined to forcefully subsume us into their group mind. Instead they give us some valuable information. Apparently Dumathoin is in hiding and will not return until his faithful restore Gauntlgrym. Speaking of which, they give us directions how to travel to Gauntlgrym. How very accommodating of them. I assume they have something to gain from this.

Above the plaguechanged monsters lose the will to fight as the forces that drove them disappear. As the Neverwintan forces go through the cavern, they find a bubbling pit of tar with us four members of the Northern Five arranged around it and covered in black tar. We recover in the Hall of Justice.

Ghorn the Sly takes over from the orcs and they abandon the River District entirely. They head back to Many Arrows. The Netherese have been rooted out. The devils have been destroyed, though the cultists are still present in the city. The various menacing shadows hanging over Neverwinter appear less shadowy than they have in a long, long time.

Rodrik declares that today will be a day of celebration, known from this day forth as Liberation Day, to be celebrated every year. I’m reluctant, but the others push me and I finally give in and agree to hold our personal celebration at the Sunken Flagon. It’s … not as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe it helps that we’re coming back in victory, having saved the city like Branwen and Marcus always wanted. I mean, sure, it won’t stay saved. There are still a lot of dangers out there, still many menaces on the horizon. The aboleths and Netherese still plot, who knows what Klauth or the Sharn want, and there are so many other blastglobes sitting on slanted shelves, but for the moment, we can celebrate.

From wine truth, and we talk about what kind of king Rodrik wants to be. Seipora pushes for anarchy with Rodrik as a mere ceremonial king, but Rodrik thinks that someone has to be in charge I surprise myself and ask him for an appointment in his government. Not as mayor, but as something we eventually decide on calling “First Secretary.” Someone who can help manage things for him, write his letters, and be his spare brain. I take up the position on a whim, but I think I can do a decent job, and hey, it’s a great position for a spy! Ooops, I mean salesgirl. I mean — I’ll keep the Bregan D’aerthe apprised of things as necessary. It’ll be a fun hobby for a decade or two, I guess.

Valtha asks to be put in charge of cleaning up the graveyard. Seipora declines a government position, as you might expect, and we toast the night away until tomorrow comes.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: The Crown of Neverwinter

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Crown of Neverwinter

How do you decide who’s in charge? No, wait, Branwen would probably have said that’s the wrong question. How do people, as a group, decide what kind of collective action they should take and what sort of standards they should be held to?

Having a king is a pretty popular solution. We drow don’t go in for kings so much. Even once you get beyond the “dominated by a demon goddess” thing, we tend to run our leadership more like that children’s game I’ve seen humans call “king of the hill.” The one in charge is whoever stands above the others, but she doesn’t have any inherent right to rule, and there are always challengers.

Anyway, it’s amazing how fast people will bow down to a ruler if that ruler will only promise stability and peace and some legitimacy that allows you to stop worrying about the question of who should be in charge. I think that’s the real critique of Branwen’s anarchism, that it requires more than a lot of people want to give. Better the horrors of a king than the horrors of having to take responsibility for everything. That’s not sarcasm. Kings exist because people want them to exist. But I get ahead of myself.

So as I left off last time, we stepped through a portal back into the good old Prime Material in the ruins of Sharandar. Still mostly ruins of a once-fabulous city, but you can see where the Iliyanbruen are starting to reoccupy. Merrisara Winterwhite has come with us to call off the guards and share the news about how we have unseated Malabog. Of course what we’re all eager for is news of Neverwinter, but we have to wait on that a while longer.

The troops don’t know much about what’s been going on in a human city on the other side of the woods. They’ve been occupied with waves of aberrant creatures running through the woods since about three days ago. And what a surprise, when we do some checking on dates it’s only 3 days since we left. We spend way more time than that dealing with Malabog so for once, the weird time flow of Faerie is working in our favor.

The creatures are heading east and away from Neverwinter, which puts them vaguely in the direction of XInlenal. Or at least, such is the natural suspicion. It’s more dangerous in the woods than usual, but we decide to chance it and follow the Neverwinter River out.

We see the horrible aberrant creatures, but they don’t seem to care about us much and we’re able to slip past them. There are plaguechanged goblins, giant scorpions, even a dragon. Then there are things we can’t identify, some sort of terrible experiments that look like they were stitched together. After a couple of days we make it out of the forest only to find the countryside more abandoned than usual. We see smoke rising from Neverwinter in the distance, and another day’s travel gets us back to the city gates just four days after the attack. Things have changed.

We elect to head through the gate leading into the Protector’s Enclave, but it’s guarded by some armed Neverwintans. Rodrik tries to figure out who they’re working for, and after some frustrated back and forth determines the answer is no one. They’re just some folks who decided it would be a good idea to guard the gates, given that the city is in chaos and there is fighting everywhere. They positively sneer when Rodrik mentions Lord Neverember, saying that he’s holed up in the Hall of Justice protecting no one but himself.

Surprisingly, it’s my Bregan D’aerthe connection that gets us through. My brothers are still active and fighting monsters, which is good enough for our gate guards. We pass on in with Rodrik grumbling about having been made a fool of, which is maybe ¾ his imagination, though I think there’s a case those guards were having a little fun being obtuse to some Waterdavian noble. I would have in their place!

Inside it’s chaos. Buildings are on fire, and people are running through the streets in armed groups that have obviously been involved in heavy fighting. At a quick glance we see dwarves, Bregan D’aerthe, people who look like the guards we met at the gate (which is to say a rag-tag militia), the Zhentarim, and this group I’ve never seen before, people that are really well-armored with red accents on all their stuff. I’m going to say right now that I figured they were agents of Klauth as soon as I saw them. I was expecting some kind of move like this from him, which is why I’ve been spending so much effort trying to uncover his secrets.

The group splits up. Rodrik leads Seipora and Cefrey to reinforce the Wall, as we hear cries they are being overrun by plaguechanged monsters, including umber hulks. Me, I decide I ought to do a little intelligence-gathering first, and of the three of us I’m the only one who knows she has allies in the city right now.

I find Dinin Dhuunyl leading a squad of Bregan D’aerthe laying siege to a building. Apparently there’s some kind of devil inside throwing fireballs about. As we defeat it I get the full story from him. The Bregan D’aerthe were guarding the shadow crossings and killed “thousands” of Netherese when they started pouring out during the invasion. Adjust that down for a soldier’s exaggeration, and I suspect we still took out hundreds.

The problem is, there were also a lot of unguarded crossings and even with support from the Greycloak militia things were looking pretty dicey. Then a massive force of orcs poured out of the River District. They were mostly attacking the Netherese, but they weren’t exactly on good terms with anybody. Then devils showed up fighting the orcs, which I assume means the Ashmadai. They’re apparently claiming that they’re only here to help, but they are devils, so most everyone is pretty much attacking them on sight. Whatever temporary use they might be, they’re still servants of Asmodeus, so I see little point in trying to convince Dinnin to trust them at all.

Then the red-marked militia, calling themselves the Red Brigade, showed up. The dwarves that were in town planning that expedition to Gauntlgrym pitched in as well. Oh, and did I mention that the horde of monsters pouring out of the chasm increased by a factor of like 50 times, and they’re now attacking and fighting everyone?

We didn’t really anticipate this last reaction when we put our plan into motion a week ago. I assumed, and I think Seipora and Rodrik did too, that the aboleth reaction would be more … restrained. The Netherese broke their treaty, but it’s not like no one has ever intruded on the Chasm before and we weren’t all that deep. Instead they seem to have gone absolutely crazy and intent on wiping out everyone, Netherese or Neverwintan. It’s hard to tell exactly what their goal is, and certainly a lot of their monsters are heading east away from the city (as we saw in the woods), but there are plenty attacking everyone on in the city as well.

As far as people who are on “our side” (meaning the Bregan D’aerthe), the Neverwinter militias (plural, because they’re unorganized by nature and doing whatever the hell they feel like), the dwarves, the returning Mintarn army, the Zhentarim mercenaries, and the Red Brigade are all more or less refraining from attacking each other. Against us are the orcs, the aberrants, and the surviving Netherese (who aren’t retreating into the Shadowfell for some reason). The devils would like not to be fighting us, but no one is obliging because, again, they are devils.

The Good Girls (meaning our quasi-alliance, which I am hereby naming) have most of the Protector’s Enclave apart from a few holdouts. The Blacklake District is block-by-block fighting. The River District is overrun by orcs. There is a massive force on the Wall fighting off plaguechanged monsters. Dinin is planning to lead troops into Blacklake, but I convince him to lend me some archers to reinforce the Wall.

We show up in the Moongleam Tower in the nick of time, driving back a wave of harpies. Seems like significant percentage of Neverwinter’s population is there. I join the rest of the Northern Five on the Wall, and we beat back a force of harpies and monsters with an umber hulk as their heavy armored destroyer. We mostly resist the mental effects, though Cefrey briefly gets controlled again and hits Seipora hard.

After that the wave abates enough for us to rest and recover, but that’s worrying in itself. See, with some time to look around I realize that the aboleths have amped their miasma way up. The same effect that was driving fighters on the Wall insane is now spreading through the entire city, and even if we hold out physically it may drive everyone mad if it goes on much longer.

Not to mention that both Crefrey and Rodrik are showing signs of infection from aboleth madness with bouts of nightmares and occasional mild hallucinations. I convince them to seek treatment and Rodrik appears stable, but I don’t know about Cefrey.

We meet back up at the Moonstone Mask, where Rodrik shares the unwelcome news that Neverember is deeply freaked out about all this and is about to execute a mass slaughter as a way to “take control of the city” from the militia.

Then Brandis Vrye visits us, flanked by two Red Brigade members. As suspected, they work for Klauth, and seem to know they work for Klaiuth when Rodrik calls them on it. Old Snarl is stepping out of the shadows, most definitely. Anyway, as usual, Brandis has a proposal for us.

The aboleths have something called the Source Stone at the bottom of the Chasm, which is the focus for many of their efforts in the area. They think they can use it to unmake reality, or at least make it easier for our local slumbering primordial (once they drive it insane) to unmake reality. Short bardic history, many aeons ago this region was ruled by one of the creator races called the sarrukh, the progenitor of many modern day reptilian races (elves are not a creator race; we come from elsewhere). For reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time, they created a magical artifact containing an entire alternate dimension and retreated into it. This was the Source Stone, which was also responsible for the Wailing Death back in the days of Nasher Alagondar. Then the Spellplague hit, and the alternate dimension of magic became an alternate dimension of Spellplague energy, which attracted more than a bit of interest from the Abolethic Sovereignty.

Brandis is a little more forthcoming, sort of, when we ask again about Klauth’s motives. He claims that Klauth was promised he would be the agent of the aboleths’ destruction, and this may come through his tools — like, say, us. Brandis says Klauth was promised this by the Creators, and I don’t even know what that means. He doesn’t seem to mean the gods. One of the Creator Races?

Anyway, Brandis claims that Klauth has scryed the Chasm extensively, that scrying is one of Klauth’s main tools, in fact (note to self: get lead walls). Brandis claims that three-quarters of the abolethic forces have been drawn to Xinlenal. Klauth is reluctant to fight them there, as they might imply he in some way wants to help the Netherese. However it does open a chance for a small party to penetrate to the bottom of the Chasm and destroy the Source Stone. Klauth even offers magical treasure from his hoard for doing this “favor.”

Not that it’s going to be easy. The abolethic miasma will be much worse down there, not to mention all the other effects on a mind and leftover monsters. Brandis warns us that the Chasm has a decoy bottom to deceive explorers and that the Source Stone is further down than that. More, it’s at the bottom of an underground lake. And no, he doesn’t know how to destroy it, it being a magical rock the size of a wagon.

Yet we all agree this needs to be done. If nothing else, the aboleths will eventually drive the entire city mad. We strategize and Rodrik suggests going in through Helm’s Hold as a back entrance, but we suspect that would be too far. We decide to take a couple of days before heading down into the Chasm.

Cefrey goes off to hunt Shadovar. I work on planning with Seipora. Thinking about how to survive the Chasm, I have an idea. Those dreamthief dolls the aboleths created could be just the solution. They were meant to help spread madness into citizens away from the Wall, but we could turn them against the purpose of their creators and use them to hold back the madess in the deepest parts of the Chasm. Seipora is reluctant at first, but I convince her we can find volunteers who will take this on as their way of contributing to the fight. So we spend some time on that.

Meanwhile Rodrik races to prevent Neverember’s massacre. With some help from Seipora’s printing press and a little song composing by yours truly, he manages to get a mob of drunken Mintarns to rise up at Rodrik’s command and turn against Neverember. Before their commanders can bring them to heel, the mob swarms the Hall of Justice and busts open its vaults. Most of the treasure is gone, looted by the Netherese during their invasion (which we now realize was probably a priority for them). One thing remains, however: the wooden box used to summon the crown of Neverwinter.

Things move quickly, as revolutions and coups often do. Gaining momentum and supporters by the minute, Rodrik confronts Dagult Neverember in the streets. Rodrik challenges Neverember to put on the crown and when Neverember refuses Rodrik places it upon his own head. This is the crown, remember, enchanted specially to kill anyone who is not the blood heir of Nasher Alagondar. And Rodrik does not die.

Instantly, even in the midst of the fighting and the chaos, Rodrik Thann, now called Rodrik Alagondar, is hailed as the new king of Neverwinter. Well, by some people. A lot of people. The anarchist militias don’t all look thrilled, but that’s a fight for another day. The general attitude seems to be to give King Rodrik a chance and see if he can overcome the current crisis.

One of his Majesty’s first actions is to call for a meeting of the leaders of the Good Girls factions. The militias don’t really have a leader, but we get the Mintarn, the Red Brigade, the Zhentarim, and myself representing the Bregan D’aerthe. The Red Brigade and the Zhentarim promptly agree to fight for free, which is hard to compete with. The Mintarns and my brothers want to be paid.

Fortunately Rodrik is sensible enough to realize that “free” never is, and he obviously doesn’t trust Klauth or the vampire overlords of the Black Network. However, he’s out of funds right now, what with the New Neverwinter treasury looted. Presumably the Thanns will send him some money as soon as he can make contact, and it’s likely he can sell the Mintarns on accepting some letters of credit until then. After all, they’d look pretty foolish toppling him immediately after being mostly responsible for his elevation.

That would be a hard sell to my brothers, but I arrive with a solution in hand. I propose that in return for our service, Rodrik can use his kingly authority to grant us large tracts of lands in the River District. We can sell them for money later, once the city is back on its feet, and in the meantime it gives the Bregan D’aerthe a motivation to see Neverwinter prosper. Still a hard sell, but I can probably get my guys to agree.

In our discussions, I can tell Rodrik seems unsure what kind of king he wants to be. He even seems open to negotiating away some of his authority if he could get more of the anarchists to support his government. It will be interesting to see the form his monarchy takes.

That still leaves the expedition to the Chasm. Cefrey is violently against my plan to use the dolls, even in the face of testimony from Ayesha Wasatho about her willingness to stand guard over the new king. I get a little upset and question her own competence to go with us, given how much the aboleths appear to be affecting her mind and temperament.

We leave things unsettled, catching rest before the expedition tomorrow.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Making the Mushroom Kingdom

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Making the Mushroom Kingdom

We pop into the Feywild hundreds of feet into the air and fall to our deaths okay, not to our deaths but into a deep green lake in an underground cavern. I’ll drop this here even though it took a while to notice, but Valtha and my Bregan D’aerthe accomplice (whose name I totally remember, shut up) seem to have disappeared in the transition. Hazards of dimensional travel, I guess. I trust they ended up somewhere safer than we did.

Anyway, before I can get my bearings a bunch of tentacles shoot out of the water and grab at us. While Rodrik, Seipora, and Cefrey hack at the lake monster, I swim to shore. Sniping at a distance is my usual preferred strategy. In this case it proves to maybe not be the smartest move in the world, though, because there are redcaps waiting to ambush me. I get treated like a riding lizard being broken to saddle and have kind of a miserable time of it before my companions manage to defeat the lake monster and come rescue me. I am left with a burning, eternal hatred of redcaps. Fuck those guys!

So surrounded by dead redcaps, we rest and take stock of the situation. There’s sunlight glimmering far overhead, but the cavern walls are steep and don’t look particularly climbable. No guarantee we’d land in the lake again, either. Lacking better alternatives, we plunge into the Faerie Underdark, or “Feydark,” as some call it. Follow the tunnels long enough, and we’ll eventually find our way to the surface, and from there to the Iliyanbruen outpost for a ride home.

Like most things in other dimensions, the Feydark is an inferior version of its counterpart location on the prime material plane. Okay, sure, the rugged natural beauty of the crystalline walls and energetic growth of underground plants and critters bursts with life in a way you see in only a few places in the Underdark, but it lacks the stability and stillness of the true Underdark. Instead of being in the roots of the world, I feel like I’m in the roots of a plant.

Well. Poet hat off then.

At a ford crossing an underground river, we encounter a guard patrol of three cyclopes who work for a formorian named Malabog. It’s more of a straight-up fight than I would have wanted, but we defeat them pretty handily. The problem is, it seems like the direction we’re headed is going to take us into a section of sealed or guarded caverns that seem to comprise some sort of underground fortress (presumably belonging to Malabog). Other options are going back the way we came or sweeping through a fungus-heavy area of cavern that the patrols seem to avoid.

While thinking about what to do next, we take the time to make a raid on an area where some Feydark crystals are growing. Lots of potential mystical uses for those. If nothing else we might be able to trade them. We have to fight another three cyclopes on our way out.

After that, there’s really only one option. We decide to head through the mushrooms. As we travel, there’s an uncomfortable tension in the air like we do not belong. From what I know of Feywild lore, the fomorians basically rule the lower reaches of the Feydark, but one of the groups that contest their rule are the mushroom people known as the myconids. The myconids normally inhabit the higher levels, meaning that we’re going in the right direction, but they can be a problem all on their own. They communicate through passing spores back and forth, which I figure is probably the almost emotional tinge we’re all feeling in the air. Most of them don’t speak or understand our language.

I let off a song of diplomacy in the general direction we’re heading, just in case they have someone who can translate. Doesn’t seem like we have any luck, though, as there’s no response. Then things sort of go to the Abyss. We stumble into a cavern where the spores are so thick that all four of us start to hallucinate and start attacking each other. And there are myconids, and I take a swipe at them and nearly get eaten to death, and eventually none of us were capable of acting rationally. We all closed our eyes, not even coherent enough to be afraid about how we’re probably going to die.

We do wake up, though, in undersized beds with our wounds stitched over with mushrooms. I’m afraid my account is going to get a little hazy and abbreviated from here, though. The truth is, I wasn’t reacting too well to the fungus in my body. I think it was a combination of a mental hangover from hallucinating out and some kind of a physical reaction to all the mushrooms. I found my attention drifting in and out, and I had a hard time pulling my thoughts together for some time afterwards.

So we were rescued by gnomes. We awoke in a gnome village or trading stop or output or something — not quite sure. One of the gnomes, named Colmarr, did most of the talking and he told us we are in a place called Baile. The gnomes have some kind of trading arrangement with the myconids and stopped by for a visit after we collapsed. The myconids didn’t know what we were, and the gnomes told them not eat us.

Cefrey and Rodrik did a lot of talking with them. I didn’t catch most of it. Eventually we tell them we are heading towards the Illiyanbruen. Colmarr knows about them; tells us that they are east of here attempting to establish New Sharandar. Apparently this is causing a lot of tension with something called “the Sea Lords.”

Anyway, the forest where New Sharandar sits is under siege from a spriggan (a.k.a. redcap) army. They work for Lord Malabog, the fomorian whose territory we skirted in the deep Feydark. He is apparently allied with Netheril, who I guess have tendrils everywhere.

The gnome is quite a chatterbox, as he also tells us a lot of stuff going on with fomorian politics. Another more powerful fomorian named Thrumbolg is edging in on this territory too. He’s the the First Lord of Mag Tureah and he holds a seat in the Court of Stars. Thrumbolg sent Malabog’s son, Raghnall, here to overthrow his father, which is apparently what you do if you’re a fomorian.

Cue yet another side discussion that Thrumbolg also has a son looking to destroy him, who apparently is prophesied to do in his old man with with a magic sword called Fragarach, or “the Answerer”. Thrumbolg’s son worked with some cyclopes to forge it, a sword which apparently looks exactly like that snazzy new sword of Seipora’s. But Colmarr assures us that it’s probably just a replica, of which there are many floating around. Not that Thrumbolg isn’t just as industrious about sweeping up and destroying replicas, just in case.

I miss how we talk them into it (a little out of it, recall) but gnome commandos sneak us into the forest around New Sharandar. The fortress of New Sharandar looks pretty hastily constructed with not so much of the usual eladrin attention to architecture. It’s more about fighting than looks. On the plus side of seeing a friendly face, Merrisara Winterwhite is there and she greets us and gives us hospitality. Well, greets me anyway. Due to what I will non-emotionally call “personnel turnover,” I am the only one of the group who has met her before.

We explain what happened, and she tells us a story that matches what Colmarr already filled us in on. This Malabog commands some powerful forces. When the Illiyanbruen first came to New Sharandar they fought spriggans led by a coven of hags. They pushed their enemies back at first, but have been attacked in wave after wave of monsters. It’s Lord Malabog behind it, no doubt at least partially because of his alliance with Netheril. This is why Iliyanbruen hasn’t been more active in the war to date — apparently they’ve had their own side conflict going on here in the Feywild, caught up with Netheril’s dark fey allies.

So then there’s a long-ass discussion about what to do. Rodrik sort of wants to head immediately back to Neverwinter, but I make the case that these are his allies in the fight against Netheril, and we have to do something to help them. Then we consider trying to find Malabog’s son Raghnall and prop him up in place of his father. Which admittedly he isn’t going to be any nicer, but at least he wouldn’t have an existing Netherese alliance.

But Cefrey doesn’t like that either because she’s sick of ‘helping evil’, and I’m burning up from the spores in my blood and can no longer care. FInally Cefrey and Rodrik tell Seipora and me that the plan is to make an alliance with the myconids. We help them kill Malabog and they spread their spores over his territory and turn it into a mushroom kingdom. I hate the idea of exposing myself to fungus again but can’t muster up a rational argument against it, so I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.”

The gnomes agree to interpret for us with the myconids and even have some kind of device that can help spread spores. But for this to work, we have to get an agreement from the Carrion King, the myconid archfey who rules over them. Only he can empower the mushroom people to spread aggressively enough for this to work. We figure he’s likely to be positive about this, as his long term goals are for the myconids to infect and take over every corner of land in every realm of existence — in the very long term, of course.

I’m just glad we’re dealing with him instead of Zuggtmoy the dread and fell ruler of the 222nd ghastly plane of the Abyss, who is also considered the lord of rot and fungus. Or at least, I presume they’re different people. Hard to tell with these godlike extraplanar entities sometimes.

We sneak through the forest and back to the myconids. The gnomes give us some masks to wear that will protect against the spores, then lead us into a big chamber where an enormous mushroom thing grows out of the ground. It sprouts a head that comes towards us. We tell the Carrion King what we want. There’s a lot of confused back and forth, then finally he agrees. Then he forces mushrooms down our throat that will allow us to communicate with the myconids and access the mycelium network that lets them share life force with each other. Ugggh.

I am pouring ten anti-fungal potions down my throat when we get back to Neverwinter. I swear I am.

We lead the myconid charge and bust through Malabog’s fortress. The cyclopes are literally eaten alive by fungus almost before they can take action. Finally we get to the throne room where we face Malabog and his elite cyclops guards. We’re sure it’ll be the fight of our lives.

Then our myconid allies poison Malabog and his troops, and they spend more time beating on each other than us. It’s a very familiar fight, except this time our enemies are the ones killing each other, with some slight assistance from the Northern Five. Even a surprise lake monster pet doesn’t do much to stop us. After Malabog dies the myconids explode, spreading their spores all around.

Up above the Iliyanbruen push back the dark fey, though that coven of hags is back to pick up their spriggan troops again. Merrisara promises that this will free them up to fight more in Toril and provide more help against Netheril. I snag some favors and get help from a few of their technicians to set up a teleportation circle in the Moongleam Tower so we don’t have to use the flying carpet or ropes to access it all the time. They really know their teleportation magic, the eladrin do.

Then at long last they transport us to the Prime Material plane, and we head back to discover what has become of Neverwinter in our absence.

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The Journal of Micar'eyl Auvrymtor: Invasion from the Shadows

The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Invasion from the Shadows

One of the tasks I take upon myself before we leave Waterdeep is to find a local informant for Seipora Gend’s broadsheet, The Waterclock. Why this unusual act of generosity, you ask? Well, I figure he can also be my informant. I should be more on top of what’s going on in neighboring cities, and this seems like a good way to make sure information comes to me directly. After some poking around, I find a likely-looking guy namedStedd Grifstone. He works for some other broadsheet already, but he’s happy to make some extra coin passing information to us as well.

On the way back, Rodrik briefs us all on what’s going on with this magic crown the ruler of Neverwinter is supposed to wear. The crown was made by dwarven smiths from Mirabar and is tied to the Alagondar bloodline. Apparently before the eruption, they made a magic box that can summon the crown. You transport the box, then summon the crown into it once it gets to a safe location. That way the crown itself isn’t risked during transport. Seems kind of over-elaborate to me. You’re going to move a crown enough times that it’s worth making a magic artifact for that special purpose? I mean, these guys ruled a city-state, not an empire. Get over yourselves, Alagondar family! You aren’t that special!

Well, anyway, there was an incident last year where the Sons of Alagondar found the box. Long story, blah-blah-blah, but Rucas Sarfael (the guy leading the Blade Blades group who helped me with Valindra Shadowmantle) was a spy working for Neverember’s spymaster, but the spymaster was secretly a Red Wizard, which just goes to show that maybe you shouldn’t entrust posts like that to people whose background you don’t know. -2 competence points, Dagger.

Anyway, Sarfael was not down with working for Thay and betrayed the spymaster to save Neverember’s life. Being allowed to form the Black Blades was his reward for saving Neverember. Which, okay, his “reward” was being able to form a special undead-killing unit. That makes Dagger look good. +2 points back, Neverember.

So it’s “commonly believed” that the box and the crown ended up in Neverember’s possession (among the tiny set of people who know anything at all about such things). If he has them, he most likely has them in the vaults below the Hall of Justice. There’s also Seldra de Tylmarande’s cursed fake crown floating around. Anyway.

We get back to Neverwinter and then split off individually to check on things. I take a visit to the Hall of Justice to see how the troops are getting on. There’s not much news, except that everybody is complaining about three murders in the Enclave where the bodies are half-eaten. Naturally everybody thinks “ghouls” and is pressuring for something to be done about the graveyard. Fortunately that’s Black Blades territory, so it’s them who looks incompetent, not my Bregan D’aerthe brethern. I also stop by the Moonstone Mask for the latest rumors now that I’m all Harper-approved and everything. The war is apparently going pretty well, and the Mintarns are pushing the frontlines back into Neverwinter Wood. Yeah, good luck with that!

Well it turns out I’m right to be suspicious. When everybody turns back up where I’ve got the Moongleam Tower parked, Cefrey has dragged in Arlon Bladeshaper. He’s been scouting in Evernight and has what I’m going to charitably call “bad news.” Netheril is massing an army there that’s going to invade Neverwinter through every shadow and dark alley in a matter of days. Apparently now that the Thayans are out of the way, the balance of power forcing them to stay neutral in Evernight was broken and they’re able to use it as a staging ground. Oh wow, guess that’s all the fault of whomever took out the Thayans. Watch me look away and whistle innocently.

Maybe Dagult Neverember’s whining about us messing with the counter-balancing force against Netheril had a little bit of a point, but in fairness, he’s still a jerk.

Anyway, Arlon estimates the attacking force to be “thousands.” Not a problem, right? We’ve got our army … who are on the front line … which has been pushed back to half a tenday’s march away. Yeah. He’s rallying that Greycloak militia deal the Sons have going, but let’s face it, they’re enthusiastic amateurs at best. The only force that’s really left to protect the Protector’s Enclave is, well, the Bregan D’aerthe. So much for that sweet and easy guard gig, well away from the front lines of the war!

On a positive note, Valtha shows her face again. Apparently she’s been hanging out with this dwarven expedition that’s going to be trying to find Gauntlgrym. Big group, scores of dwarves, which means everything moves slow. They’re unlikely to be out of the city before this invasion hits, which means that Valtha is definitely in on stopping it.

So we put her to work trying to smoke out shadow crossings. After a hard day’s effort she finds 18 of them just in the areas of the city we can safely explore, and that’s unlikely to be all of them. When this goes down, the Netherese are going to pour out of every place marked by death in a city full of them. Seipora makes some remark about it being like a nightmare under your bed, and I learn that for a lot of human children, bad dreams (I am not sure I totally understand the concept of dreaming) can be worse than the waking world, leading to anxiety about imaginary monsters under your bed. Humans be crazy, yo. And sleep is really weird.

So I do my duty and meet with Dinin Dhuunyl, one of our senior captains. We josh a little, then start planning on how to intercept the Netherese and to best use the Greycloaks. And also how my boys can get the hell out if the invasion proves unstoppable.

I know what you’re saying. Micar’eyl, how does that fit with the new, moral, stupid heroics attitude you have been adopting? Look, the Bregan D’aerthe are still my brothers. If I want to get myself killed doing something stupid that’s fine. It’s my life. I don’t want to get them killed doing something stupidly heroic.

We make the rounds, and Luusi is able to fill us in on some information that helps make sense of what’s going on. Remember how [[The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Death of Branwen Farlong | we led that Netherese expedition to Ellyn’taal and betrayed them to Fulminorax]]? And one of them was Katryn Ulfbinder? Remember how her father, Parise Ulfbinder, is one of the lords of Netheril? Well, he’s pretty mad about that. Pay any price for our heads mad. And Netheril is at war with Neverwinter, and hasn’t yet scored any major victories, so Parise’s personal lust for vengeance aligns well with the empire’s larger ambitions right now. If we killed him we might at least slow it down. Prince Clariburnus would want to destroy Neverwinter, too, but he wouldn’t bring the personal fervor to it that Parise does.

We talk a lot about whether we should make a play for Parise in advance of the invasion or wait until it’s underway and then jump him, taking advantage of the fact that his troops will all be tied up. Cefrey and Rodrik’s tactical assessment is that decapitating the leadership plus being ready for them might be enough to stave off the invasion.

Of course we could always use more troops, and there’s one other army still inside the city: the Many-Arrows orcs. Sure they’re controlled by the Abolethic Sovereignty, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to tolerate a Netherese invasion, right? Yeah, bad news, they are totally willing to tolerate a Netherese invasion.

Okay, let me back that up. I snag Cefrey and go see Ghorn the Sly, mostly because I want to see if she digs grizzled orcs who aren’t as dumb as most orcs. Ghorn is just full or terrible news. First, that letter I had sent to Orrusk the Old has apparently gotten zero response and he’s getting pretty worried. In more immediate concerns, apparently Vansi Bloodscar has ordered the orcs to stand down from any fight with the Netherese, which naturally means that the order comes from the fish with the tentacles up her puppet ass.

Apparently the Abolethic Sovereignty has a sort of non-aggression pact with the Netherese, at least locally. As long as the Netherese stay out of the Chasm, they don’t care what the Shadovar do. The Netherese definitely don’t want to be fighting the aboleths, so they’re all about that and not about to do anything to break the pact. We briefly discuss trying to fake a breach, but the trouble is that the aboleths don’t care about orc lives. The Netherese are welcome to kill a few orcs as long as they stay out of the Chasm. So how in the Abyss are we going to get the Netherese to go to the one place where they are forbidden to go, which is also a horrible place that no one would want to go? What would they want badly enough to—

Yeah, that’s when the torch lit over my head. Pay any price for our heads mad, remember? Parise would totally come into the Chasm to get us. If we could start a fight between the Abolethic Sovereignty and Netheril, there would be a force counter-balancing them to replace Thay. It would help push the war back into our favor. At the very least, the response will likely be enough to push back the invasion as all those neutral orcs are suddenly ordered to kill shadow people.

Of course Ghorn thinks the Sovereignty will totally destroy the local Netherese, but let me say this with absolutely no anti-orc hatred: what the hell does this guy know? The aboleths are this big, huge menace up in his face and occupying his nightmares, while the the Netherese are far away. He’s not in a great position to know who’od win if they face off.

The problem here is that this plan requires us to be in the Chasm. You know, the hole in the ground full of monsters that no sane person wants to go? Rodrik works some of his military intelligence magic and is able to suss out through some scouts that the attack will happen on Midsummer’s Eve, an hour after sunset. Which is really helpful for a number of reasons. In addition to helping our forces be ready, it means we can go to the Chasm just as the invasion starts. From there we signal Parise “come and get us” and hopefully fight him spending minimal time in the Chasm.

It’s funny, every time I write “the Chasm” I have to control my fingers from writing “the Abyss”. No idea why I keep conflating the two in my head. No. Idea.

Luckily it’s possible to get what you would call “local guides”. There’s this what humans consider to be ancient (a few hundred years, how cute) inn called the Shining Serpent that was maintained by this halfling family for generations. And still is, behind the Wall. They don’t do a lot of casual business these days, but they exist as this sort of fortified enclave where people trapped between the Wall and the Chasm can go for refuge. We figure they’re most likely to know routes into the Abyss and head over to consult.

So we manage to find the place and are greeted by this Uthgardt barbarian woman named Betha that Cefrey exchanges some greetings with. She leads us on in where we’re introduced to Drayton Ashensmith, the halfling keeping the Shining Serpent going. He’s kind of crazy, which I guess you already knew, but he’s also been driven insane by the psychic energies of the aboleths. Talking to invisible people crazy. Anyway, he tells us to wait on his son Seldon, who is their best scout. I dicker a little with him about using the Moongleam Tower to make some supply drops after this invasion business calms down. It won’t be super-safe because there are colonies of harpies, but with a little ranged weapon support it would be manageable.

It’s not going to be profitable, but I guess I’ll be paid in gratitude. Assuming I’m still alive.

While waiting we meet a group of paladins who belong to something called the heresy of the Threefold God, and have retaken the neighboring temple. Apparently they believe that Helm, Torm, and Tyr are all the same god. Eh, I’m not in a position to say they’re right or wrong. They seem to be welcomed like heroes in the inn. Their leader, Gorstag Brightwood, approaches us and introduces himself and his group: a half-orc named Kosef , an aasimar named Arizima, and another human named Tenoch.

Gorstag tells us that all along the edge of the Chasm there are harpy colonies (all spellscarred and plaguechanged). There are a few paths going down, but if we want the paladins are willing to lead and accompany us. Having more fighters sounds pretty attractive, so we’re thinking seriously about it but decide to wait and see what Seldon says.

Finally the aforementioned halfling shows up. He’s kind of dismissive of the paladins, saying that he can sneak us past the harpies without a fight, which they could never manage. However he’s only a guide. He won’t help us fight the Netherese or whatever monsters pop out. Rodrik does his tactical thing and decides that avoiding the harpies is worth more than the back-up, so we decide to go with Seldon.

We head back to the city and spend the next couple of days preparing, then head to the inn the day of the invasion. The plan is for Seldon to lead us out as the sun is setting, so that we’ll be in place when the invasion hits. All six of us. See, of course I briefed Dinin on the plan so that he’d know what to expect. He said I was crazy, but he said it in the good way rather than the bad way. And then he asked around and found a Bregan D’aerthe crazy enough to accompany me as back-up. Guys! Awww, I’m going to get all choked up.

Seldon leads us in past the harpies as promised. At the edge of the chasm things are freaky. The whole area glows with an azure light, and things constantly crawl out of the chasm, some blown up by gouts of blue flame. Earth motes fly unstably. Seldon points us at three earth motes that are relatively lightly populated and are near each other. It puts us out in the open, but it keeps the monsters from swarming us. I convince him to stay around and watch what happens, so at least someone will know what happened if we can’t return ourselves.

So we send the message to Parise, and we wait. While we wait an endless horde of plaguechanged monsters start climbing over the edge of the earth motes and we’re having a “fun” time holding them back. I try my anti-aboleth song again, and it seems to help a little. Just as we’re seriously starting to get worried, a bunch of Netherese start shadow-teleporting in. Chain guys, armor guys, and wizard guys. No Parise, though. Looks like he had just enough sense to send his troops (at least for the first wave) rather than come himself.

Then the aboleths show up.

Funny, as much as we’ve talked about the fish, I haven’t seen them before. Kind of glad about that. They’re completely disgusting and completely horrible. I get the sense that even one of them would be more than a match for the Northern Five, and six of them float up around us. It’s moondark terrifying (I’m trying out curses from my new religion). They rip through the Netherese like nobody’s business, and as the shadowy gibbets start hitting the earth motes they looking inquiringly at us like we’re a spill they’re going to need to clean up. Running from flying fish impossible.

Luckily, sister Micar’eyl had planned for this. Oh yeah. I hit up some of my Illyanbruen contacts and got a one-use harp to send us all to the Faewild. A quick song, and we leave the fish and their horrible Abyss Chasm behind. I don’t know what the equivalent area in the Feywild will be like, but it’s got to be better than this, right?

Right?

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