The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Crown of Neverwinter
How do you decide who’s in charge? No, wait, Branwen would probably have said that’s the wrong question. How do people, as a group, decide what kind of collective action they should take and what sort of standards they should be held to?
Having a king is a pretty popular solution. We drow don’t go in for kings so much. Even once you get beyond the “dominated by a demon goddess” thing, we tend to run our leadership more like that children’s game I’ve seen humans call “king of the hill.” The one in charge is whoever stands above the others, but she doesn’t have any inherent right to rule, and there are always challengers.
Anyway, it’s amazing how fast people will bow down to a ruler if that ruler will only promise stability and peace and some legitimacy that allows you to stop worrying about the question of who should be in charge. I think that’s the real critique of Branwen’s anarchism, that it requires more than a lot of people want to give. Better the horrors of a king than the horrors of having to take responsibility for everything. That’s not sarcasm. Kings exist because people want them to exist. But I get ahead of myself.
So as I left off last time, we stepped through a portal back into the good old Prime Material in the ruins of Sharandar. Still mostly ruins of a once-fabulous city, but you can see where the Iliyanbruen are starting to reoccupy. Merrisara Winterwhite has come with us to call off the guards and share the news about how we have unseated Malabog. Of course what we’re all eager for is news of Neverwinter, but we have to wait on that a while longer.
The troops don’t know much about what’s been going on in a human city on the other side of the woods. They’ve been occupied with waves of aberrant creatures running through the woods since about three days ago. And what a surprise, when we do some checking on dates it’s only 3 days since we left. We spend way more time than that dealing with Malabog so for once, the weird time flow of Faerie is working in our favor.
The creatures are heading east and away from Neverwinter, which puts them vaguely in the direction of XInlenal. Or at least, such is the natural suspicion. It’s more dangerous in the woods than usual, but we decide to chance it and follow the Neverwinter River out.
We see the horrible aberrant creatures, but they don’t seem to care about us much and we’re able to slip past them. There are plaguechanged goblins, giant scorpions, even a dragon. Then there are things we can’t identify, some sort of terrible experiments that look like they were stitched together. After a couple of days we make it out of the forest only to find the countryside more abandoned than usual. We see smoke rising from Neverwinter in the distance, and another day’s travel gets us back to the city gates just four days after the attack. Things have changed.
We elect to head through the gate leading into the Protector’s Enclave, but it’s guarded by some armed Neverwintans. Rodrik tries to figure out who they’re working for, and after some frustrated back and forth determines the answer is no one. They’re just some folks who decided it would be a good idea to guard the gates, given that the city is in chaos and there is fighting everywhere. They positively sneer when Rodrik mentions Lord Neverember, saying that he’s holed up in the Hall of Justice protecting no one but himself.
Surprisingly, it’s my Bregan D’aerthe connection that gets us through. My brothers are still active and fighting monsters, which is good enough for our gate guards. We pass on in with Rodrik grumbling about having been made a fool of, which is maybe ¾ his imagination, though I think there’s a case those guards were having a little fun being obtuse to some Waterdavian noble. I would have in their place!
Inside it’s chaos. Buildings are on fire, and people are running through the streets in armed groups that have obviously been involved in heavy fighting. At a quick glance we see dwarves, Bregan D’aerthe, people who look like the guards we met at the gate (which is to say a rag-tag militia), the Zhentarim, and this group I’ve never seen before, people that are really well-armored with red accents on all their stuff. I’m going to say right now that I figured they were agents of Klauth as soon as I saw them. I was expecting some kind of move like this from him, which is why I’ve been spending so much effort trying to uncover his secrets.
The group splits up. Rodrik leads Seipora and Cefrey to reinforce the Wall, as we hear cries they are being overrun by plaguechanged monsters, including umber hulks. Me, I decide I ought to do a little intelligence-gathering first, and of the three of us I’m the only one who knows she has allies in the city right now.
I find Dinin Dhuunyl leading a squad of Bregan D’aerthe laying siege to a building. Apparently there’s some kind of devil inside throwing fireballs about. As we defeat it I get the full story from him. The Bregan D’aerthe were guarding the shadow crossings and killed “thousands” of Netherese when they started pouring out during the invasion. Adjust that down for a soldier’s exaggeration, and I suspect we still took out hundreds.
The problem is, there were also a lot of unguarded crossings and even with support from the Greycloak militia things were looking pretty dicey. Then a massive force of orcs poured out of the River District. They were mostly attacking the Netherese, but they weren’t exactly on good terms with anybody. Then devils showed up fighting the orcs, which I assume means the Ashmadai. They’re apparently claiming that they’re only here to help, but they are devils, so most everyone is pretty much attacking them on sight. Whatever temporary use they might be, they’re still servants of Asmodeus, so I see little point in trying to convince Dinnin to trust them at all.
Then the red-marked militia, calling themselves the Red Brigade, showed up. The dwarves that were in town planning that expedition to Gauntlgrym pitched in as well. Oh, and did I mention that the horde of monsters pouring out of the chasm increased by a factor of like 50 times, and they’re now attacking and fighting everyone?
We didn’t really anticipate this last reaction when we put our plan into motion a week ago. I assumed, and I think Seipora and Rodrik did too, that the aboleth reaction would be more … restrained. The Netherese broke their treaty, but it’s not like no one has ever intruded on the Chasm before and we weren’t all that deep. Instead they seem to have gone absolutely crazy and intent on wiping out everyone, Netherese or Neverwintan. It’s hard to tell exactly what their goal is, and certainly a lot of their monsters are heading east away from the city (as we saw in the woods), but there are plenty attacking everyone on in the city as well.
As far as people who are on “our side” (meaning the Bregan D’aerthe), the Neverwinter militias (plural, because they’re unorganized by nature and doing whatever the hell they feel like), the dwarves, the returning Mintarn army, the Zhentarim mercenaries, and the Red Brigade are all more or less refraining from attacking each other. Against us are the orcs, the aberrants, and the surviving Netherese (who aren’t retreating into the Shadowfell for some reason). The devils would like not to be fighting us, but no one is obliging because, again, they are devils.
The Good Girls (meaning our quasi-alliance, which I am hereby naming) have most of the Protector’s Enclave apart from a few holdouts. The Blacklake District is block-by-block fighting. The River District is overrun by orcs. There is a massive force on the Wall fighting off plaguechanged monsters. Dinin is planning to lead troops into Blacklake, but I convince him to lend me some archers to reinforce the Wall.
We show up in the Moongleam Tower in the nick of time, driving back a wave of harpies. Seems like significant percentage of Neverwinter’s population is there. I join the rest of the Northern Five on the Wall, and we beat back a force of harpies and monsters with an umber hulk as their heavy armored destroyer. We mostly resist the mental effects, though Cefrey briefly gets controlled again and hits Seipora hard.
After that the wave abates enough for us to rest and recover, but that’s worrying in itself. See, with some time to look around I realize that the aboleths have amped their miasma way up. The same effect that was driving fighters on the Wall insane is now spreading through the entire city, and even if we hold out physically it may drive everyone mad if it goes on much longer.
Not to mention that both Crefrey and Rodrik are showing signs of infection from aboleth madness with bouts of nightmares and occasional mild hallucinations. I convince them to seek treatment and Rodrik appears stable, but I don’t know about Cefrey.
We meet back up at the Moonstone Mask, where Rodrik shares the unwelcome news that Neverember is deeply freaked out about all this and is about to execute a mass slaughter as a way to “take control of the city” from the militia.
Then Brandis Vrye visits us, flanked by two Red Brigade members. As suspected, they work for Klauth, and seem to know they work for Klaiuth when Rodrik calls them on it. Old Snarl is stepping out of the shadows, most definitely. Anyway, as usual, Brandis has a proposal for us.
The aboleths have something called the Source Stone at the bottom of the Chasm, which is the focus for many of their efforts in the area. They think they can use it to unmake reality, or at least make it easier for our local slumbering primordial (once they drive it insane) to unmake reality. Short bardic history, many aeons ago this region was ruled by one of the creator races called the sarrukh, the progenitor of many modern day reptilian races (elves are not a creator race; we come from elsewhere). For reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time, they created a magical artifact containing an entire alternate dimension and retreated into it. This was the Source Stone, which was also responsible for the Wailing Death back in the days of Nasher Alagondar. Then the Spellplague hit, and the alternate dimension of magic became an alternate dimension of Spellplague energy, which attracted more than a bit of interest from the Abolethic Sovereignty.
Brandis is a little more forthcoming, sort of, when we ask again about Klauth’s motives. He claims that Klauth was promised he would be the agent of the aboleths’ destruction, and this may come through his tools — like, say, us. Brandis says Klauth was promised this by the Creators, and I don’t even know what that means. He doesn’t seem to mean the gods. One of the Creator Races?
Anyway, Brandis claims that Klauth has scryed the Chasm extensively, that scrying is one of Klauth’s main tools, in fact (note to self: get lead walls). Brandis claims that three-quarters of the abolethic forces have been drawn to Xinlenal. Klauth is reluctant to fight them there, as they might imply he in some way wants to help the Netherese. However it does open a chance for a small party to penetrate to the bottom of the Chasm and destroy the Source Stone. Klauth even offers magical treasure from his hoard for doing this “favor.”
Not that it’s going to be easy. The abolethic miasma will be much worse down there, not to mention all the other effects on a mind and leftover monsters. Brandis warns us that the Chasm has a decoy bottom to deceive explorers and that the Source Stone is further down than that. More, it’s at the bottom of an underground lake. And no, he doesn’t know how to destroy it, it being a magical rock the size of a wagon.
Yet we all agree this needs to be done. If nothing else, the aboleths will eventually drive the entire city mad. We strategize and Rodrik suggests going in through Helm’s Hold as a back entrance, but we suspect that would be too far. We decide to take a couple of days before heading down into the Chasm.
Cefrey goes off to hunt Shadovar. I work on planning with Seipora. Thinking about how to survive the Chasm, I have an idea. Those dreamthief dolls the aboleths created could be just the solution. They were meant to help spread madness into citizens away from the Wall, but we could turn them against the purpose of their creators and use them to hold back the madess in the deepest parts of the Chasm. Seipora is reluctant at first, but I convince her we can find volunteers who will take this on as their way of contributing to the fight. So we spend some time on that.
Meanwhile Rodrik races to prevent Neverember’s massacre. With some help from Seipora’s printing press and a little song composing by yours truly, he manages to get a mob of drunken Mintarns to rise up at Rodrik’s command and turn against Neverember. Before their commanders can bring them to heel, the mob swarms the Hall of Justice and busts open its vaults. Most of the treasure is gone, looted by the Netherese during their invasion (which we now realize was probably a priority for them). One thing remains, however: the wooden box used to summon the crown of Neverwinter.
Things move quickly, as revolutions and coups often do. Gaining momentum and supporters by the minute, Rodrik confronts Dagult Neverember in the streets. Rodrik challenges Neverember to put on the crown and when Neverember refuses Rodrik places it upon his own head. This is the crown, remember, enchanted specially to kill anyone who is not the blood heir of Nasher Alagondar. And Rodrik does not die.
Instantly, even in the midst of the fighting and the chaos, Rodrik Thann, now called Rodrik Alagondar, is hailed as the new king of Neverwinter. Well, by some people. A lot of people. The anarchist militias don’t all look thrilled, but that’s a fight for another day. The general attitude seems to be to give King Rodrik a chance and see if he can overcome the current crisis.
One of his Majesty’s first actions is to call for a meeting of the leaders of the Good Girls factions. The militias don’t really have a leader, but we get the Mintarn, the Red Brigade, the Zhentarim, and myself representing the Bregan D’aerthe. The Red Brigade and the Zhentarim promptly agree to fight for free, which is hard to compete with. The Mintarns and my brothers want to be paid.
Fortunately Rodrik is sensible enough to realize that “free” never is, and he obviously doesn’t trust Klauth or the vampire overlords of the Black Network. However, he’s out of funds right now, what with the New Neverwinter treasury looted. Presumably the Thanns will send him some money as soon as he can make contact, and it’s likely he can sell the Mintarns on accepting some letters of credit until then. After all, they’d look pretty foolish toppling him immediately after being mostly responsible for his elevation.
That would be a hard sell to my brothers, but I arrive with a solution in hand. I propose that in return for our service, Rodrik can use his kingly authority to grant us large tracts of lands in the River District. We can sell them for money later, once the city is back on its feet, and in the meantime it gives the Bregan D’aerthe a motivation to see Neverwinter prosper. Still a hard sell, but I can probably get my guys to agree.
In our discussions, I can tell Rodrik seems unsure what kind of king he wants to be. He even seems open to negotiating away some of his authority if he could get more of the anarchists to support his government. It will be interesting to see the form his monarchy takes.
That still leaves the expedition to the Chasm. Cefrey is violently against my plan to use the dolls, even in the face of testimony from Ayesha Wasatho about her willingness to stand guard over the new king. I get a little upset and question her own competence to go with us, given how much the aboleths appear to be affecting her mind and temperament.
We leave things unsettled, catching rest before the expedition tomorrow.