The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Lost City of Shadows
The elven encampment is definitely one of the nicer part of Neverwinter Wood. Not that I know much about the woods, and it’s still misty and dark and the trees are absolutely gigantic. Still, a lot of the foreboding and dread that was omnipresent since we entered the forest drops away, like a stench you don’t know was there until it’s gone. And here I had been thinking that was just what being in a forest was like!
The Neverwinter wood elves are nomadic, as far as I can tell. They live in tents made of some kind of lightweight fabric that sheds the moisture of the mist but can be rolled up tightly when you want to take it down. They seem to be made for trancing while prone, which I’ve noticed a lot of surface elves seem to prefer. I vary it up, myself. Some days I sit in a meditation posture, and some days I lay down. Races that have to sleep seem very uncomfortable doing it while sitting, which is why human homes always have some kind of a bed.
Okay, sorry, I know that’s as boring as a day anywhere other than the Abyss after spending a day in the Abyss.
Anyway, our hosts are up and about with morning campfires lit by the time I finish and Valtha and Marcus get up. I don’t think Branwen actually got any rest. Valtha’s morning rituals involve a lot of bones and leather and chanting with her bone mask and skeleton. Mine are a little more active, as I do some stretches and a little light jogging. I think I accidentally flash Marcus as I clean up. Whoops! Anyway, we all finally get ourselves assembled and talk about what to do next.
Horst has some business he needs to take care of and makes a rapid departure. I think he convinced one of the elves to guide him out. The rest of is make a circle around a fire.
Marcus starts out by asking what any of us hopes to accomplish in the long run. Over the past tendays we’ve gotten a better idea how many threats are positioned to destroy Neverwinter, and it’s significant. He points out that we’re outside the city, and could easily head south and leave it all behind. Let one of the many dooms destroy the place. He says the Harpers think Neverwinter’s a lost cause and have ordered an evacuation.
Just as I’m marveling at this outbreak of common sense and self-preservation, Marcus makes a pitch to establish some sort of Neverwinter preservation secret society. Okay, just speaking as a professional bard, I probably would have inserted some kind of note of hope before proceeding from “all is doomed” to “so here’s how we fight it.” Needs a better transition. 4 out of 10, at best.
Anyway Marcus says we have secret societies willing to exploit Neverwinter, and “we” need one that’s willing to protect Neverwinter. Valtha and I are wondering how all this is going to work, but Branwen jumps in and asks about the Sons of Alagondar and asks if they aren’t a group that is protecting Neverwinter and why don’t we just work to make them stronger. Marcus says they’re one of the groups that we need to protect Neverwinter from, pointing out their deal with the Dead Rats. Branwen says they just need to be reminded of what they’re fighting for.
Marcus says that if this is to work, it can’t be political. Branwen says everything is political. Just trying to protect Neverwinter is already a political goal, all by itself. If we succeed, Neverember will try to claim credit, and we’ll end up helping him. Everyone sees the discussion is going nowhere, though, and we break off the organizational discussion. My personal take is that it might be nice to have some sort of public adventuring company identity for purposes of branding, but I don’t much care for secret societies. I can do intrigue, but I don’t like it. I don’t enjoy remembering which lie to tell and constantly trying to balance my loyalties. That was least fun part about my old home — well, okay, behind the constant obedience to minions of our dark Demon Goddess, the intrigue was the second least fun part.
Speaking of threats, we decide to go down the list of major power players in the region and their known pawns:
- The Abolethic Sovereignty: Many Arrows*
- Thay: Ashmadai, Dead Rats?
- Netheril: Gray Wolf tribe of the Uthgardt
- Maegera the Inferno: The Fires Below
- Iliyanbruen: Micar’eyl
* Or, perhaps the expedition in the River District; hopefully not the whole kingdom
Ho-ho-ho at that last minion. In discussing it, we all agree that the Abolethic Sovereignty is probably the greatest threat. We figure it’s second in power to the trapped primordial, but far more active. However we just gave them a good punch in the noise, so it might be prudent to push on one of the others.
But since I’m the pawn of Iliyanbruen and all, I make the case for investigating the crashed Netherese city we’ve heard about. It could be two goblins, one blade, if we can get proof that the Netherese looted the Iliyanbruen ruins. Remove them as a threat to the city, get them to take out the Netherese (or at least help). Everyone agrees.
We head out for one day down Edel’s Creek and then set camp. There is a different sort of darkness clinging around us. The heat of the streams have made the forest misty and even humid, but now it turns cold and clammy. No sun breaches the canopy and it gets darker well before the sun is setting. It’s being influenced by the Shadowfell, but not bleeding in.
Trying to fill the silence, I ask Marcus if he likes religion. I notice he gets a sour look on his face when the gods are mentioned. He confirms my suspicions by saying there’s not much sense wasting time on the gods. I push back and ask if they aren’t our leaders. Marcus says leaders generally aren’t worth following. Branwen says that the gods can be useful and if you approach them properly, they will do things for you.
So then I ask Valtha why she follows Dumathoin, and Valtha says that at a certain point you must determine things that are true for you. She follows Dumathoin because she has decided to believe in him and what he stands for, even in the absence of any rewards for it. She says that everyone must anchor themselves on certain core beliefs, and asks if that isn’t the reason that Marcus does the things he does, because of a core belief that evil must be fought.
I wonder, what are my core beliefs? Let’s see what comes up, speaking off the top of my head: Lloth is terrifying, beautiful things need no justification, stick up for your allies, don’t let anyone cross you twice, and don’t spend your life doing things you don’t enjoy. Hmmm.
We continue travel the next day. As we come out of thick woods into a clearing, we are attacked by some werewolves and a small pack of regular wolves running with them. Not the easiest fight, but we manage to slay them all and it’s a sign we’re getting closer.
The next day Branwen follows some werewolf tracks and leads us to what we were looking for. We notice rotting smell first, and then the crows circling in the distance as the smell becomes much stronger. We come over a crest and see before us a forest covered in bodies that have been eviscerated and hung up. There are swarms of flies all over them and crows pecking at them. Well, what do you expect from the Netherese? Here’s the strange part, though: the bodies appear to be those of the werewolf barbarians, but there are also living werewolves roaming around the area on patrols, seemingly unbothered by their strung up tribespeople. Branwen also notices humanoid and canine tracks that seem to hover around the edge of the forest of bodies like they’re sneaking up on it. The obvious conclusion is that the werewolves are in some kind of civil war where there is a faction supporting the Netherese and a faction working against them.
There is also a cliff that comes jutting out of the forest beyond the corpses. It’s a huge circle, and we presume that it’s the edge of a mountain the the ruined flying city rests on top of.
Branwen sends her cat Moonshine in to scout, but the werewolves get its scent and chase it out. She is all ready to charge in to the werewolves to rescue her cat, but I wrestle her down and don’t let her. It’s just an animal in the end! Not worth getting herself and maybe all of us killed over, if she drags in more werewolves than we can handle. She doesn’t seem to see it that way and we have an argument, ending with her stalking off to try and track down her cat wherever the chase led. I ask Marcus and Valtha if this is a case of me being an insensitive, evil drow who doesn’t understand the great natural value that surface-dwellers put on the lives of animals. They tell me that I was reasonable, which I guess is reassuring.
Not sure how we’d even start following Branwen, Marcus climbs a tree to get a better look at the cliffs. He spots ruins of a city on top of it, with griffons and the like nesting near the edge. Score! Branwen comes back with her cat. Apparently she ran into Horst and he helped?
We make a plan to track the splinter werewolf faction back to their camp and enlist their help. We find them, but we are followed by the Netherese-aligned werewolves and there is a battle as we arrive at the camp. We our help the rebel werewolves win, and their speaker, Thalos Oathbreaker, comes out to talk with us.
He recognizes Valtha as a necromancer, and assumes that we’ve been sent by Thay. Once we finally convince him that we’re not Thayans, he tells us that the Netherese are indeed looting Iliyanbruen artifacts for residuum to rebuild their mythallar. Their main project is to raise the city. They’ll destroy Neverwinter with it as an afterthought. Once they’ve restored Xinlenal, the shadow will fall upon the Sword Coast. Right now they are importing supplies in through the Shadowfell and seem to be focusing on the interior of the city with few guards on the edge.
All the werewolves we’ve seen are of the Gray Wolf tribe. Some work for the Netherese and some do not. The ones loyal to Netheril call these barbarians the Forsworn, and give people like Thalos names like “Oathbreaker,” but Thalos says he never swore any oaths to Netheril.
We ask why so many of his tribe feel differently. Many have joined the Netherese with glee because they’re cruel and ruthless. They like to torture their prey. They rejoice in bloodshed. Thalos says this is not the way of any healthy wolf. The Forsworn have tried to show their people that the Netherese lie, but Thalos doesn’t think that matters to them. They want to kill, and the Netherese give them that. According to the traditions of his tribe, if you challenge one of the pack leaders at the totem pit in Vellosk you can take his place.
We are invited to enjoy the hospitality of the Forsworn. We stay to plan our attack. We spend a couple of days there and find out what they’re up to. Vellosk, the closest thing the Gray Wolf tribe has to a regular settlement, is right across the river. They are an extreme even among the Uthgardt tribes in eschewing the work of human hands.
The old Netherese enclaves were constructed using mythallar, which could mass produce magical items, though they only worked within the mythallar’s radius. The enclave was a clever use of that, where an archmage would turn the top of a mountain in to a magic item. Shear the top off, levitate it, and flip it over, then build a city on top. Xinlenal was the very first. Layout is generally in a circle, following the mythallar’s radius, with the mythallar in its center. The mythallar is housed in a grand central building in the center of the city. The expedition seems to be starting its efforts in the center. As you get out to the edge, it’s just ruins. More recently an enormous web of stone hovers over the center of the city with constructs that reach into the city and work to rebuild it.
Branwen and I talk about my little dream of making the Bregan D’aerthe as respected a term among non-drow as Drizzt Do’Urden. She’s all, well, that means being a hero like Drizzt. I try to tell her that it’s not that easy and that people shouldn’t have to be heroes to be accepted. Branwen tells me a personal story about how she feels like she’s living in her cousin’s shadow. Her cousin led a war against “the King of Shadows,” and then the Betrayer’s Crusade that pulled down the Wall of the Faithless. I tell her that she should worry about fulfilling her own goals in life and not going down in legend.
Then she asks me outright why I’m always praising Lloth. I give it to her straight. Lloth gets the souls of drow, full stop, and if I don’t make some effort to please her while alive I will only suffer all the more once I’m dead. I know some drow think they can flee to other gods, but I don’t think too many gods would go to bat for a drow soul. Most that would are inferior to Lloth, who at least is a strong and beautiful force of evil power. I mean, what, am I going to sell my soul to Asmodeus? Sheesh.
So then Branwen says something amazing. She says that the goddess Eilistraee — the daughter of Corellon Larethian and Lloth — made her father swear to take in the souls of drow who tried to live by her dogma. Before her death, obviously (or at least shortly after her death — gods are weird). To let us into Arvandor.
That’s ridiculous! No one back home ever said … ah, well, they probably wouldn’t, would they? I need some time to process this. Is there really an alternative? And if so, do I want to take it? Can I take it? I’ve already pledged to Lloth a long time. And how much do I really have in common with Corellon’s followers? Can I change myself that much? Do I want to? I need to think.
Anyway, we decide it’s time to execute our mission. Our goal is simple: get in, find an artifact that is without dispute from the ruins of Iliyanbruen, and smuggle it out as proof. The Forsworn have one among them with a mother from the Griffon tribe, and they all think that makes it perfectly natural that he’s got a griffon friend nesting on the edge of Xinlenal. The beast swoops down when he calls, though, and gives each of us a flight to the ruined city. Valtha stumbles and makes some noise, drawing the attention of guards mounted on flying monsters. Valtha leaves Indrek out as a decoy, and we flee without him while the guards are distracted, moving inside the city.
We see thaaluds tromping around. Normally, thaaluds are 15-foot tall constructs left over from ancient Netheril. The Shadovar aren’t quite able to match that, though. These thaaluds are only 8 feet tall. They still have the maws in their stomachs, though. Pretty dangerous. Marcus is able to figure out there is a significant force here. This is no mere archeological expedition — this is a reclamation force, a major investment. From the symbols we are seeing, one of the Princes of Shade is here. So like, at a minimum, the 13th most dangerous Shadovar in the world! I wouldn’t even want to face the 13th most dangerous goblin in the world, and this is worse. A lot worse.
Fools that we are, we continue to sneak in.
Branwen tracks us to the sources of the heavy wagons carrying artifacts and determines it comes from below. There’s a mythallar being reconstructed and the arcanists are pouring residuum into it. Off to the side, other ritualists are bringing in magic items of every type you can imagine, reducing them to residuum, and dropping them into the mythalar. It’s a true magico-industrial process they’ve got going here. We find the storerooms where they’re storing the magic items and don’t care about sorting them. I find a mirror that looks into the Feywild. This is unmistakably Iliyanbruen, so we head out.
Our luck turns, and we raise the alarm on the way out and make a running retreat. Marcus deliberately stays behind to distract the enemy and tells us to keep going. Then Branwen falls behind as we scatter in all directions. I make it to the edge of the cliff and ride the griffon down, then Valtha does the same. We wait, and wait, but neither Branwen nor Marcus appear.
They’ve been captured.