The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Attack of the Ashmadai
So it’s late night at the Sunken Flagon and the dining room is closed. The usual gang, minus Horst who has been out for a while, and minus Valtha, who is off on her own business, is playing cards in the conference room. Then there is a crashing sound from outside and we all realize we’re under attack. It’s bad; they hit us from both directions and are throwing around fire like there’s no tomorrow. Burning down the inn seems to be as much their objective as killing us.
So which of our many enemies is coming after us? Is it the Netherese, as payback for our raid on Xinlenal? Maybe Thay after we killed several of their wizards? Or maybe the Abolethic Sovereignty coming to drag us for brain-eating? A straight up raid by New Neverwinter?
Nah, it’s the Ashmadai.
“Wait, who?” I know you are saying. Yes, that Asmodeus-worshipping cult that has been around for a while, who seem to be in Thay’s pocket, and with whom we have actually had very little interaction. I mean, we killed some cultists in the woods, but who hasn’t done that?
It’s them sure enough, though. As if the cultists and devil sign aren’t bad enough, they’ve brought fiends to the party. I help kill a cambion, I I see Branwen fighting a canoloth, and Marcus is up against a legion devil near the end of the fight.
We eventually drop all the fiend-lovers and their friends. With the help of the Flagon’s sole guest, a ship captain named Jing Mei, and the bouncer Melech Vrago, we are able to stop the fires before the place completely burns down. It still took a lot of damage, though, and rebuilding will take money that Branwen doesn’t have.
In the post-fight discussion, I talk about how Aerlyse got killed by the Ashmadai. Now that I’m making the connection I did give her name to that dwarf hermit in the woods, Favria, who we’re pretty sure is a devil-worshipper. No idea why that would make her want to kill us all, though. I start to make a case that we should go after the House of Knowledge, as it’s the one Ashmadai stronghold we know about. It doesn’t seem like a popular plan, though.
Then we’re interupted by Melech, who did I mention is a tiefling? I mean not to indulge in racial prejudice about them all being devil worshipers, but this is a tense time. I mean, they say that all tieflings are devil worshipers just like they say all drow are demon worshipers, which we are, so I assume it’s true about tieflings too.
Anyway, Melech tells us about a guy Mordai Vell, who is an aristocrat who has connections to the movers and shakers in the city (and oh yeah, he’s a tiefling, too). Branwen might be able to obtain a loan from him to rebuild the tavern, so she goes off the next day to see about that. Meanwhile Marcus and I go to check out the Many-Arrows orcs.
Oh, you thought I forgot about that, did you? Nah, there’s been a lot going on and I didn’t have time, but I don’t need a bunch of brain-slurped orcs on our heels. The furthest we can get into Many-Arrows territory is the Fallen Tower, a place that used to be a wizard’s tower and is now an orc-operated tavern. It’s the edge of where the orcs allow non-orcs to go.
The Fallen Tower is run by an orc called Vagdru One-Ear. It’s kind of a shit place, the kind of place that thinks a half-orc dancer will appeal to humans and orcs. Instead of, you know, neither. I pay off Vagdru to send a message to Ghorn the Sly, chief tactical adviser of Vansi Bloodscar, the leader of the Many-Arrows orcs. Marcus does some eavesdropping while we wait and tells me that this place gets its food and wine as payoff from New Neverwinter in return for not raiding deeper into the city.
Which I think is pretty smart of old Neverember, but Marcus thinks it would be politically embarrassing. Consider my eyes rolled in exasperation.
Ghorn shows up and I show him the skin from his son and make a pitch to help him out with his fish problem if he helps us out. He tells us this was not supposed to be an invasion but a reconnaissance for the Many-Arrows kingdom. Pop in, look around, and leave. Then Vansi showed up with a spellscar and declared they were settled in for a long occupation. More and more warriors started to show up with spellscars. Ghorn followed Vansi in secret one day and found her visiting things down in the chasm that must have control over her mind. It’s the Abolethic Soverignty, probably the same power as in Helm’s Hold. The Many-Arrows orcs are being hollowed out, used as puppets.
Ghorn can’t do anything. It’s all he can do to keep making excuses to stay away from the Chasm so as not to get brain-sucked himself. He’s not in a position to challenge Vansi, but Besk Eyegounger is. His great-grandfather was some famous warlord around Old Owl Well, and there’s an Eye of Grumush who had a vision that Besk would be the next Obould Many-Arrows.
He wants a messenger to Dark Arrow Keep. There is a guy close to the king named Orrusk the Old. If we get him word of what’s going on, he’ll take it to the king. I make a deal to send the message via my Underdark contacts and in return he gives us information on the Ashmadai.
The Ashmadai have two factions. One that Ghorn’s son Hargul is watching is the muscle. They answer to Thay. They are the bulk of the ones out in Neverwinter Wood. They’re led by a crazy dwarf hermit named Favria. She doesn’t want anyone who has seen her face to be alive. Oh well, that explains matters, I guess.
There is another faction that’s a lot more sneaky and is into the political end, trying to infiltrate high society and rule from the shadows. They’re against the aboleths. They’re led, ultimately, by Mordai Vell, the tiefling in Blacklake. They only care about a path to power, not Thay or Asmodeus. Favria and Vell are competitors, allies, and enemies.
I know what you’re saying, isn’t that name “Mordai” familiar as well? Why yes it is! It’s the tiefling that Branwen went to see. Of course it is. Sigh.
For lack of a better place to meet, I have Branwen and Marcus over to my tiny apartment for a catch-up session. We tell Branwen about Mordai, and apparently she found him totally charming and he agreed to help her rebuild. Sigh. We also go over our next move. There are a lot of problems we’re dealing with now, but Thay’s plot to raise this dracolich is maybe the most pressing. But to stop that we need to stop their leader, Valindra Shadowmantle, and she being a lich and all, to stop her we need her phylactery.
There are two groups who might know something about that: the Cult of the Dragon and the Ashmadai. We decide that of the two, we have more immediate connections to the Ashmadai. So we make plans to pay Mordai Vell a return visit the next day. In the meantime I draw a picture and description of Favria that we can use as a threat. Get off our backs or we drop copies to every rumormonger in the city.
The place is a fortress, like Vell’s prepared to resist an army or something. We have a little trouble getting back in because Vell is a busy man, but his butler eventually escorts us in. I lay things out for him and after some plausible deniability he dispenses with the pretense and admits to being an Ashmadai leader. Marcus asks him why they’re fighting the aboleths and he gets into this whole theology discussion about how Asmodeus is all about justice, and how real justice would see every last one of us flayed alive. Favria’s people wish to see those who have wronged them destroyed, even if they’re destroyed in the process. Vell cares about a path to power. I don’t know, I don’t really care that much about his motivations.
We ask what the Abolethic Sovereignty wants. They appear to be focusing on kidnapping individuals to grow their chorus. He warns us about speculating too much about what horrible aberrations want, but when we press him tells us this crazy story that this is not the first time the universe has cycled through existence and that this has all happened before. The aboleths unraveled reality and great heroes seeded the cosmos with hints on how to stop it. Now they want to try it again. But you know, maybe that’s just a crazy story.
The Ashmadai do not know where the phylacerty is. If they did, they would seize it for themselves. His best guess is that is inside the Dread Ring in Neverwinter Wood or in Surcross, a fortress in Thay given entirely to her command, at the other end of the Shadowfell Road.
Marcus asks what we should be looking for. Vell tells me that Jarlaxle is familiar with Valindra’s phylactery. Kimmuriel obtained the matching gems that she and Arklem Greeth used for phylacteries (how romantic). As for the Ruby Rod, no one has seen that in quite some time. Apparently Valindra used to carry it around like a swagger stick to threaten the Ashmadai with but hasn’t done that for many years.
We also get more of the story of how Thay caused the eruption in Gauntlgrym thirty years ago to wipe out all life in this city. It was Thay trying to empower their Dread Ring with the annihilation of Neverwinter. The lever released the primordial.
Vell knows the paths to Gauntlegrym. We have a common enemy in Thay. He agrees making a raid on the Dread Ring would be valuable even if it does not yield the phylactery. If we make the raid and it is fruitful (by which we mean hurts Thay in some way), he will tells us where path to Gauntlegrym is. Valtha will sure be happy about that!
Pleasantries and information exchange complete, the butler sees us out into the street in Blacklake. We all do our separate investigation over the next week or so.
Marcus finds out a couple of suspected Masked Lords with the expedition who are working with the Zhentarim. The strange thing being that the Zhents are doing the work pro bono, or at least at a very steep discount. Now Sabine wants to bring in more Zhents, and pare down the Bregan D’aerthe contract. Vell is pushing Sabine on that (according to his contacts). Vell might be nervous about to many Bregan D’aerthe in the city, too.
I manage to get a meeting with Jarlaxle, who tells me that the phylacteries are pair of rubies about the size of your fist, carved like skulls. Valindra’s might be the only one still existing, as no one has heard about Arklem for a long time. Valindra was completely insane after the Spellplague, but has regained the use of her faculties since. She was a moon elf when she was alive, an Overwizard of the Host Tower of the Arcane and Master of the North Tower. She was Arklam Greeth’s wife (the founder of the brotherhood). Now she’s the Hand of Szass Tam, one of his most trusted lieutenants.
As a final piece of advice Jaxarle tells me about Eldenser, the dragon who killed Lorragauth, He’s called “the Wyrm that Hides in Blades,” jumping from magical sword to magical sword. He might have an interest in preventing the dracolich from rising again.
Shit, what do we do next?