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?