The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Rally Call to War
As a bard, I know a lot of stories. Many stories are about war because it’s exciting, so I can tell you a lot of stories about people going to war. In most of the them, people are pretty stupid and fight for all the wrong reasons, if they should even have fought at all. Spoiler alert: they usually shouldn’t have fought at all.
Just between you and me, journal, the people in this story I am telling you are going to war for all the wrong reasons. They’re going to war recklessly, out of anger and fear, and without sufficient forethought. I can’t call it a disappointment, though, because I’m the one who egged them on to do it. Because it suited my purposes and rescued some
friends comrades. Truly we drow are a wicked people.
So, where were we? Oh, yes, Valtha and I escaped from the city of shadows with our magic mirror prize and fled to our Forsworn allies. Thalos tells us we should consider Marcus and Branwen as good as dead, which seems pessimistic to me. He is all about attacking Xinlenal, though, if we can find allies to join in the battle.
Sharandar is a four day journey northwest, maybe longer seeing as how we have lost our ranger and neither Valtha nor I are expert woodsfolk. We talk about how hard we should push. We could kill ourselves to get there as fast as possible, but what then? There will have to be talking and debating and gathering forces and maybe getting other allies. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
I take heart in that the Netherese are still basically humans, so obviously they aren’t nearly as good at torture as drow. They probably cap out at sleep deprivation and starvation. Sure! Heck, I bet they throw Branwen in a cell for weeks and don’t even know what to do with her.
I sort of need to believe that, because three days later we hit the current encampment of the People of the Black Forest, and I have to explain all this to Maeve Tarnruth and Branwen’s family. They are none too pleased that I “left Brawnen behind”. Wait, why did I put that in quotes? They are none too pleased about me callously abandoning Branwen to her terrible fate. There, that seems more correct.
Anywhoo, I tell them it was all the plan, the plan, of course it was all part of the plan and Branwen would totally have left me behind and the best thing we can do for her is to get an Iliyanbruen invasion force going as soon as possible. So eventually they buy into that and we go to see the Iliyanbruen.
Except Branwen’s two cousins, Felwyn and Faelar. They head off on a rescue mission. Yeah, how is that supposed to work? You going to track her down with your magical wood elf senses and then fight your way through an army? I want to stop them, but I can’t. So I hope their failure doesn’t get them killed and we move on.
Sharandar turns out to be this grove of enormous trees with houses built into the side of them. Their glasswork is pretty good; really catches the light. Reminds me a lot of how some drow families have fortresses carved into giant stalactites in the caverns. Of course, wood isn’t as sturdy as stone, but that’s what you get for living on the surface: inferior materials.
A lot of Sharandar is still a mess, as you might imagine when a place is abandoned for centuries. It’s been picked apart by occasional looters, worn by the elements, and generally a lot of bird crap everywhere. I mean, the Netherese were unquestionably the biggest and most systematic looting, but we’re talking centuries of adventurers breaking into the odd tomb and swiping shinies even before that. High elves are everywhere, doing repairs and generally looking pretty busy. Boy, who would have expected I see the day when an eladrin does real work!
A group of archers approach. They’re led by a surly fellow named Olirien Mistcrown. Maeve intervenes before he can play his favorite game of “shoot the drow” and tells him we have something important for the Iliyanbruen leader, Merrisara Winterwhite, but Olirien says she is not here. She and my contact Caeradwyn are off in Neverwinter.
As they debate the matter, Maeve’s daughter tells me that Olirien is the leader of the faction who is in favor of sweeping in and killing everyone who isn’t an elf. Starting with everyone living in Neverwinter. Charming.
I see that Oilirien isn’t going to be convinced by a vague “something,” so I fess up to the evidence we have and how we want to present it to Merrisara. Of course he immediately concludes that I’m a lying drow and my possession of the mirror is proof that the drow were the ones who looted their abandoned home. (Still not getting how that’s even a crime.)
Maeve sticks up for us, telling him that things are different on Faerûn and that just because a drow’s lips are moving doesn’t mean she’s lying. Uh, thanks Maeve. I guess. Anyway, we all head off to Neverwinter.
It’s a few days travel, and I take the opportunity to charm the eladrin contingent as much as I can. I think most of them have never actually exchanged words with a drow before. Other than, I guess, if you count battle cries as you fire arrows at each other, which I don’t think really counts. I manage to break some ice and they’re laughing at my jokes and exchanging some songs. Not Olirien, though. That guy is an asshole.
As we march into Neverwinter, I point out all the humans trying to live their lives and ask Olirien if he really needs to kill all these people. Don’t humans die quickly as it is? He’s all, “Oh, it’s just exterminating vermin.” Hopeless. I think this guy just likes killing people.
I mean, there’s a place for people like that, but don’t put them in a leadership position! Unless Lloth is forcing you to put people like that in a leadership position, which she really likes to do.
So Merrisara is at, surprise, the Sunken Flagon. Why does everything seem to end up there, like a drain at the bottom of Neverwinter? I sneak a wave and a “how you doing” to Renno but refrain from breaking the bad news to him immediately. Or would he see it as bad news? Not sure who inherits the tavern. Maybe it’s him.
So we tell our story again and Olirien is a jerk again. He asks why the Netherese, with whom they have never had any quarrel, would have done this. I lose my patience and tell him that the Netherese are humans and humans take things because they want them, not because they need them or because they have some sort of grievance. An elf will kill because we enjoy it. A human will take everything you have because it doesn’t occur to him that you have any right to something he wants. That’s humans for you.
Merrisara says she is convinced. The important thing is that the story I am telling confirms what her own investigations have been finding out, so all the pieces fit together. She tells off Olirien and tells him he can get on board or get out. He gets on board.
So we all go into the Hall of Justice where Merrisara announces herself and the return of the Illyanbruen. I have to admit, it’s quite a show. All high elf magical power and overweening ancient faerie presence on display. Woman can exert herself.
After an appropriate stunned reaction from everybody present, Dagult Neverember comes out and greets her. Negotiations begin and we get his agreement to send General Sabine and make an attack on the Netherese. All of this takes a few days to coordinate, so Valtha and I have time to hang out in the city. Marathon, not a sprint, right?
I take the opportunity to go drinking with Luusi and fill her in. I feel like she’s got at least a claim to be part of whatever strange group I’ve gotten entangled with. She gets upset about Marcus and Branwen like I would if I weren’t too cool for that, and we hope together that they are alive and holding out.
Some of Branwen’s comrades (I suspect backed by Marcus’s Harper friends) approach us a little later. Apparently they’re organizing a sort of citizen militia, or maybe reviving one, called the ‘ Greycloaks’ and they want in on the attack. I’m not going to turn it down, and we even see an opportunity here. Valtha has developed a ritual that can take an attacking force into the Shadowfell. We use the Greycloaks to strike on that side while the other forces attack on the Prime Material.
The order of battle is something like this:
General Sabine leads her heavily armed and armored force around south edge of the forest and attacks from there. No way do the Netherese miss that, so they probably send out a response force. When they do and their city is vulnerable, the Iliyanbruen attack from the north in combination. Our Forsworn werewolves keep their werewolves busy, allowing the high elves to penetrate into the city and attack the mythallar directly. Destroy that and the Netherese have no reason to stay in the area. (Well, that’s my reason. The Iliyanbruen are more about damaging what the Lords of Shade prize the most, because they’re vengeance-crazed chuckleheads.)
Meanwhile, Valtha and I lead the Greycloaks into an attack through the Shadowfell. A lot of our troops fought with the Netherese a decade ago, so they know Shadovar tactics and weapons.
Okay, here’s the thing. No one has a good reason for this! The Illiyanbruen aren’t going to get their stuff back, and while vengeance is a noble cause, you want to do it without getting hurt yourself if at all possible. Open battle only favors the human shadow wizards. The Neverwinter troops are letting themselves get carried away by promises of glory and the political machinations of their leaders. The Greycloaks ought to let mercenaries do the dying for them. And the werewolves are killing their own clan.
But it suits my purposes, so I guess they can go ahead and die for this.
The attack in the shadow is rough. We didn’t bring nearly enough troops, and the Netherese are at their strongest. However, there is one welcome result. Marcus and Branwen show up in the middle, having escaped their cells. So they were prisoners there after all. My instincts said so, but I might have been wrong. With backup from those two, we manage to kill or drive off enough Netherese to win a respite.
When we go back to the shadow cells where Marcus was locked up, Valtha tells us that only someone with shadow in their soul can open them. That leaves us in a pickle until Marcus promptly opens them! He pulls out a Waterdhavian official named Stasi Grantham, a Netherese wizard criminal named Dreven, and Felwyn! Not the other one, though. Branwen tells us that Faelar didn’t make it, and she seemed like she’s about to cry.
We don’t have much time to consider, though, as we fight more Shadovar in the temple of Shar and use its shadow crossing to travel back to the Prime Material. Then we retreat off the cliff with the Iliyanbruen.
The end results are mixed. The mythallar was damaged, but not destroyed. The Forsworn camp was overrun by the other Greywolf Uthgardt. The Mintarns took heavy losses, though they put a lot of hurt on the Netherese, too.
And, well, this is the start of a real war and not just a raid. Apparently the peace with Netheril was only ever going to be temporary. Not alliances across Faerûn are kicking in. Most of the western continent is going to be at war on one side or another…
Says a lot about the ancient empire of Netheril that this one pathetic remnant is enough to fight everyone else simultaneously. We really do live in the ruins of greater, older civilizations.
Marcus is typically unhelpful about how he was able to open the cells. I suppose it is possible that Valtha was mistaken. However he shows us his card from the Deck of Many Things, and it has a dark smudge on it that can’t be rubbed off. That does not seem like a good sign…
As we regroup in Sharandar, I meet a high elf called Keyleth Audark who claims descent from the corolonals of ancient Illefarn. We kind of bond over ancient traditions, and I feel like I’ve got a real ally among the Iliyanbruen.
Now back to Neverwinter, to deal with the fallout — but also to celebrate! After all, we won! Didn’t we? I guess I won, as it seems like everyone else paid the price. I feel like that should please me more than it does.