The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Memories of Menzoberranzan
Okay, Micar’eyl ’fessing up here. Time for some true talk. I know very well that drow society, or at least Menzoberranzan society (and all evidence says it holds true for at least my fellow drow on this continent) is kind of a hot mess. I know that.
I don’t like to say that. I don’t like other people saying it even more, especially when the so-called “good societies” have enough warts for a hag coven. But hey, I get it. I’m a drow of the world here. I’ve seen societies that aren’t built around betrayal, enslavement, and murder, and yes they’re nicer to live in. I’m not enough of a monster to be glad my house was destroyed, because that was my family and I care about them. I still want revenge for them. That said, I’m not sorry the Bregan D’aerthe took me in and I’m double-plus not sorry I got to meet all the people I’ve met since then and made all the friends (if I must admit it) that I have.
Individual responsibility and all that to one side, though, I think we all know where a lot of the blame for this has to go. Watch me wave eight fingers in the air suggestively. Yeah, you get it.
So I’m not exactly happy when some outside force scrambles the brains of me and my friends and forces us to revisit the days of my schoolyard youth by killing each other. But more on that as our narrative continues.
Where were we? Oh yes, hanging over the River District in the Shard of Night. Well not for very long! Yeah, first order of business was to rename it. From now on we call this floating temple the Moongleam Tower. Mind you, I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to publicize that name. Maybe we could paint it on the side?
So the Moongleam Tower joins three other earthmotes in Neverwinter’s vicinity: Fisher’s Float (bunch of fishermen live there), Pirate’s Skyhold (supposedly abandoned), and the Moonstone Mask (a festhall). Okay, I don’t think the Moongleam Tower is an earthmote by precise arcane definitions (it’s a technical difference due to the fact that there is no large clump of earth attached), but close enough for a bard song, you know what I’m saying?
So what are we going to do with this thing? It could be a useful place to launch operations from. Or should we turn it over to the Hallowed Temple of Selûne in the Blacklake District? It’s dedicated to their goddess after all, though I guess that Marcus is a Selûnite now, too. For lack of a better idea, Marcus takes it towards the shore. It’s not very fast, moving at a walking pace, ponderously but steady. But high above the city as we are, there are no obstacles to dodge and no one to avoid. Or so we think. As we get closer to the sea, we hear someone coming up our steps. In the air!
I have hunch and shout for everyone to beware a wereowl. Sometimes my hunches are bad. It is not a wereowl. (Though owls are totally predator enough to be a strain of lycanthropy.)
It is Randar Rheligonther, the High Moon Priest of Neverwinter. He’s like, so who who are you guys and why are you flying this dread tower over everyone scaring them? I bring him up to speed on us taking the tower back from the Netherese, cleansing it, and all that. He is very impressed and says we’re worthy of praise and glory. I might have blushed, so I made some smart-ass remark to deflect like usual.
As for how Randar got up here, apparently flying magic (or rather walking on air) is one of his gifts from the Moon Maiden. Those high level clerics, you never know what kind of magic they’re going to pull out next. He saw the tower floating by with the darkness banished and decided to check it out. So he asks what we’re doing next and if he can help. Branwen mentions we want to take on the kraken and he’s like, “Whoa you did one heroic deed and you’re already thinking about the next? What awesome hero types are you?”
We mention that only Marcus can move the tower, and that brings up the whole story of Marcus’s conversion, which I had left out because I figured that was Marcus’s story to tell. But Marcus spills it, and that does make Randar pretty happy.
What Randar says next, though, that’s pretty shocking. Are you ready for this? He says Selûne used to be an ally of Eilistraee. You know, the Lloth’s dancing-naked-in-moonlight, “let’s all be happy on the surface”, drow goddess of (let me give you the complete list): song, dance, swordwork, hunting, moonlight, goodness, and beauty? Also, currently, dead?
Randar says Selûne is totally willing to take anyone who would otherwise be worshipping Eilistraee. Meaning drow who would otherwise be stuck with Lloth.
Well, well, well. Have to be honest, I was not exactly jumping on the Corellon Larethian bandwagon. Wasn’t super-keen on worshiping a patriarchal pantheon head. Sure he’s taking in drow because of a promise, but let me fill you in on a little detail: Corellon’s worshipers have probably killed more drow, acting in his name, than just about anyone else. It’s an actual, literal, holy crusade. And no, I assure you, they do not tend to pause to conduct a survey and ask each drow how they feel about Lloth and if they like the society they were born into before shooting their arrows.
So yeah, highly interested in this Selûne possibility. Liking the night goddess of the moon part, because I’ve never become fond of the sun. Liking how she has everybody make their own path. I wonder if we still have to dance naked if we come in through Eilistraee? Strike that, I wonder if we get to dance naked. I am going to organize a Northern Five naked dance party. Believe it! I am off-topic.
Anyway, I play it cool and say I’ll think about it. Don’t want to be over-eager, and besides I should check out the naked dancing ratio of worship activities first.
So we’re considering where to park the tower, which presents a problem because we have to leave it on the ground to get to it, which means other people can get to it. But there Randar is able to help us. He gives us — just straight up gives us — a flying carpet. Amnian. Has a funny onion pattern.
You sit on it, think where you want to go, and it goes there. We ask what happens if different people are thinking about different directions, and he says don’t do that. If everybody pulls in different directions, nothing happens. Metaphor much? Anyway, the carpet will let us get to the tower and back. We thank Randar and decide to park Moongleam Tower over Neverwinter Harbor. We take the rug down to the streets of Neverwinter under cover of night and convene in the Sunken Flagon, which is a few days from its grand re-opening.
A couple of days later we have that meeting with Palas Aumble, the leader of the halfling gang running the Swamped Docks, or previously running it. Less running things now, with the sahuagin and the Dead Rats both pushing in on them. He brings along his lieutenants, Gosson Bramblefoot and Rosinden Merrymar. I make the pitch that they should put us in touch with the sahaguin, but Palas says that the fish-men are not the chatty sort and he doesn’t know about talking to them. He does know they worship a shark devil god, and from what he’s seen they’re trying to perform a ritual to summon their shark devil god (or at least its champion) to hunt the kraken and kill it. They’ve been kidnapping people as sacrifices so offering them bodies to sacrifice would be the best way to make contact with them.
Sacrificing people to dark gods is the sort of thing I’m trying to leave behind, but I play it cool and let Marcus and Branwen be the one to say that. I’m supposed to be the pragmatist here. Anyway, Palas isn’t a complete loss as he’s willing to show us how to get through the ruins and catch some of the sahaguin by surprise. We figure we’ll beat them up and ask questions of the survivors.
We ambush the six sahaguin and capture one, killing the others. (Well, one gets away.) I get to try out my spiffy new magic wand and make one of them shoot another, which is fun. We also end up saving 4 out of 6 of the sacrifices, mostly due to Valtha and her undead dragging people out of the water.
Now here is where my salesgirl instincts kick in. I force Branwen to take a pose as we free the captives and tell them they were rescued by the Sons of Alagondar. She’s pretty stiff at first, but she manages to warm up and make some inspirational remarks about us looking after each other and that’s what the Sons represent and all that. This is the stuff she needs to do if Branwen wants to sell people on her movement.
Anyway, the captives skeedaddle. I’ll jump out of the chronology and let you know that we eventually hear they organized some citizen patrols and helped put a stop to the kidnappings. That’s the power of a little showmanship and promotion.
Marcus interrogates the sahuagin in Aquan, which none of the rest of us speak. They confirm their plans are to summon their shark god to eat the kraken. They say the kraken seems insane. The way it acts is crazy, wiping out villages of sahaguin just to hear the screams. Marcus kicks the captive into the water after he says that he has no authority to stop the sacrifices and only his Baron, the ruler of his tribe, could do that.
We talk again about how to stop the kraken on our way back to the Flagon. A lot of crazy ideas about luring it into an elemental vortex or finding another kraken to fight it (there was an old lady who swallowed a fly…) or my favorite, which is to attack it from the Moongleam Tower.
Before we can settle on anything we get another visit from Brandis Vrye, the dragon raiser. He tells us that his master, the red dragon Klauth, has allowed him to approach us more openly. Yes, that’s right, he fesses up that his master is the ancient red dragon Klauth, “Old Snarl,” terror of the North for many generations even by my people’s reckoning.
Klauth-through-Brandis has a hell of an offer for us. He tells us that in history Klauth has destroyed a number of vicious hordes for funsies and he’s willing to do it again. That is, he offers to straight up destroy that army of Urthgardt barbarians that we heard is planning to march on Neverwinter. His only price for this favor is to have a bard (meaning me) spread the story of his deed. We ask why, and Brandis says that even Klauth’s long lifespan is running out and he wants to leave a legacy of himself in the form of songs and legends.
Uh-huh. Brandis says he’ll give us the night to think about it and come back in the morning to hear our answer.
We have a long, long discussion in which everybody makes some good points. I say that maybe Klauth wants to destroy the Urthgardt for his own reasons and just wants to spread some propaganda so no one questions his true motivation. Marcus is worried that maybe we’re jumping the gun on this invasion thing and we should wait for more invasion before unleashing a red dragon on people who haven’t done anything yet. Branwen’s operative Arlon is still out there too, but more on that later. Valtha and I are ready to take the deal and Branwen is wavering too, but then the tide of the discussion shifts back the other way.
I am flat out against simply rejecting Klauth, because who wants that kind of enemy? I push a compromise that we ask for Klauth’s help in destroying the kraken instead of the Urthgardt, and offer to write a song about that. If Klauth refuses, that will tell us this is really about destroying the barbarian tribes. If he accepts, hey, the kraken definitely needs killing. Marcus is still not entirely happy, but that’s what compromise is, and he commits to the plan.
Brandis comes back the next day and we put the deal to him after feeding him a nice breakfast. He says he’ll have to take it to Klauth and leaves for a while. Branwen’s cat tracks him and he does indeed go back to his rookery, which at least precludes the possibility that he was just running around the corner and pretending to “consult with Klauth.” We were a little worried he was the red dragon himself in disguise. Or, I was. I’m still not discounting the possibility he’s a dragon in disguise, but I don’t rate it highly. Dragons don’t like to work for each other, which is the main reason they don’t rule the world.
Brandis shows back up around lunch and says it’s a go as long as we can get the kraken to surface, which means baiting it with a ship. But he even helps with that part, promising Jing Mei that Klauth will personally guarantee to buy her a new ship if hers is destroyed. She takes a little convincing, but she really wants to get out of the harbor, so the next day we’re sailing with her on the Hateful Journeyman to Waterdeep.
Klauth himself does show up as soon as we’re in the open ocean. Until that moment I wasn’t totally sure this wasn’t all a trick, but there he was, huge and red. He affirms the deal and then starts circling high up in the sky, tracking our movements. A couple of days later the kraken attacks, and Klauth pulls it out of the sea. He rips it apart with jelly and gore splashing everywhere. I take notes.
The ship is continuing to Waterdeep so we get on our flying carpet and head back to Neverwinter. Back in the Sunken Flagon Renno has four chests waiting for us delivered from Goodman Vrye. We open them and there is a note on top of a pile of coins, 250 toals each. Klauth is actually going so far as to make up for the reward we won’t be getting from Neverember.
Wow. Nothing more nerve-wracking than a benevolent red dragon. On a scale of “things that frighten Micar’eyl” I think I rate him below the primordial (because primordial), the lich, and the Prince of Shade, but above just about everything else.
So after all that I figure I totally better keep my end of the deal. I come up with three versions of the song about Klauth’s victory over the kraken. One is in Illuskan (to make it popular in the north), one in Elven (for historical remembrance), and one in the Common trade pidgin that will be simplified and rhyming so it can be carried south. I spend a few days spreading that around.
Marcus inquires through his contacts about why the Uthgardt are invading. Apparently the Thunderbeast tribe was shown evidence that Neverember ordered the pillaging of Morgur’s Mound, this place where the bones of their tribal totem was buried, because of his love of gold. Which seems totally in character for him, but from the way that Netheril showed up and offered to help them get revenge, we smell a frame job. Not quite all of the tribes are invading, but the Netherese roped in a few others. Some tribes were more taken by the “we are your ancestors” claim. Some just wanted a chance to raid.
So we’re all worried about that, and then Arlon Bladeshaper returns with news that the horde has fallen apart. You remember Arlon? Former Gnasher faction leader, I busted him out of prison and gave him a lecture about how he should totally listen to Branwen. I’m not saying I deserve credit for everything he does, but I think I definitely get some reflected glory points here, because he stopped the invasion!
When he first arrived they were going to kill him, but he was able to get the aid of this Thunderbeast warrior named Cefrey. Somehow or other she was suspicious of the Netherese, and together they were able to prove that the Netherese “evidence” of Neverember raiding the mound was all faked. Cefrey’s support made her chief listen, especially to the part about how the Netherese were just repeating a trick they already tried with the Iliyanbruen. Together they were able to recover some Thunderbeast bones from Netherese control. After that the whole tribe turned against Netheril. The rest of the horde started falling apart. Even the Grey Wolves were disturbed and are now divided. The Thunderbeast tribe has pledged to fight on the side of the men of Neverwinter against the Netherese.
So good job Arlon and Cefrey!
So what next? Well now that the kraken has been dealt with, we plan another expedition into Neverwinter Woods to make a raid on the Thayan dread ring. Or at least scout it, followed shortly by a raid if someone can reassure me the lich is not in residence.
The day before we depart there is a visitor for Marcus. It’s Shill Yargo, the halfling air pirate. She asks if Marcus has found her card, and oh yes, apparently Marcus is going to get that card he had from the Deck of Many Things for her. The one he lost. And had no intention of getting for her. Oh, Marcus, that is going to explode in our faces.
Shill also tells us about Pirate’s Skyhold. She says there is a black dragon up there. If they cleared it out, Company Yargo could take possession of it and have a significant toehold in the region. I would kind of like to take out a black dragon. Could be fun! No one else seems enthused, though. Anyway, Shill departs peacefully … this time.
We head out on our expedition, figuring we can reach Helm’s Hold in a day and stop there for the night before hitting the woods. But when we reach it, it’s under siege by the Mintarns. They say that it is under quarantine and the Spellplague has become contagious. Branwen thinks they’re lying. We tell them we’re going to the woods and and we’re just going to swing around and bypass the city.
So of course, we go through the Warrens (which apparently are now fully under Baga’s control, since we helped the kobolds come up to the surface). When we come out the citizens of Helm’s Hold are patrolling the streets, looking for Mintarns trying to slip in. Our names carry a lot of weight, though, especially Branwen’s, and they take us straight to the town council. They’re basically the same people we met before, except the former commander of the Mintarn mercenaries has joined them against Neverember. So why the blockade?
Well they’re trying to put Branwen’s anarchist ideals into practice, and that has Lord Neverember very spooked. He does not like the idea a people without a ruler and rather than simply wait for it to fall apart, he panicked and ordered the Mintarns to blockade the town. We offer to help Helm’s Hold by smuggling out a lot of letters to Neverwinter to let everyone know what is really going on.
I can tell Branwen wants to do more, but she and Marcus get into an argument about it and I decide to duck out on that debate and take a walk around the town. Clear my head.
As I’m by Helm’s Cathedral, I hear some commotion within. I rush inside and see an abyssal ghoul, an orc, and a gibbering mouther fighting each other. I rush back out and rustle up one of those patrols to help me. No way am I fighting those things alone! Luckily (or so I think at the time) they seem turned on each other. The gibbering mouther breaks and flees and I chase it out into the street and down it. The patrol puts down the orc with some arrows and chases the ghoul deeper into the building.
And then the fog lifts, and the mouther is Marcus, the orc is Branwen, and the ghoul is Valtha. Friends turning on each other. It’s like I’m back in Menzoberranzan. Ouch.
I am pretty angry at whomever cast that illusion on us, which we strongly suspect is the Abolethic Sovereignty. That was not fun. The only bright spot is that I technically won, but I take very little joy in that. Like, just a “bright spot” worth of joy, not celebrating that I won or anything. I mean, apparently I was the last to shake off the illusion so the others weren’t even trying. Not to mention the support of that patrol. So the fact that I won is only a technicality and is really only good in the sense that I don’t feel as bad as if I had lost. Which I didn’t.
But yes, that was pretty crappy and I am glad I didn’t kill Marcus even though I tried very hard.
Later Valtha fills us in that she interrogated a ghost and the aboleths have mostly moved on to other piorities, but left their focus here guarded by “the green elf.”
Valtha also had a flash of insight and put together the pieces on what they’re really up to. The goal of the Abolethic Soverignty is to gather their choir to sing their song of madness which will gain possession of Maegera the Inferno. They figure his power will tear apart the fabric of reality and make the universe itself unravel.
I am very skeptical about that plan working to the “unravel reality” level, but “merely” an insane primordial would still be very bad. So we should probably do something about that.