The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Death of Branwen Farlong
Here we are again. Another entry, another dead friend. Branwen Farlong is dead.
Once upon a time I warned Branwen to remember our mortality. Surviving one fight or a dozen fights doesn’t mean that a single lucky blow can’t send one into an eternal sleep. She learned the truth of that at the semi-material tendrils of an illithid ghost.
So how did this all start? I suppose it began when Rodrik Thann, scion of that powerful house from Waterdeep, showed up at the Sunken Flagon. Rodrik was an acquaintance of both myself and Branwen. House Thann sells a lot of the wine we sell at the Flagon, and Rodrik was their face. Usually a hired laborer does the deliveries, but he’s the man for negotiating prices and stopping by to check in with customers. In addition, I once did a little consulting for his family to educate him on matters related to the Realms Below.
Rodrik is a real go-getter for a human, decisive and highly educated. He’s what people expect out of noble families but rarely get, a man born to lead. Quite charming, in an earnest way.
Anyway he showed up with a bottle of House Thann’s finest as a gift and asked to speak to Branwen alone. They discuss matters for a little while while I fend off another visit from Darvin Envensea in the front room, but soon enough I get called back to be briefed on the situation. It’s not great.
Apparently Thay is aware that the Northern Five were behind the raid on their Dread Ring and have sent an unofficial demand to Lord Neverember that we be handed over. At the moment that would mean Branwen and myself, since Marcus is dead, Horst has been missing for some time, and Valtha has run off with some dwarves from Mirabar and no one knows where to find her. Apparently Cefrey is wanted as well. Neverember assigned Rodrik the task of luring the three of us into Neverdeath at night so that the Thayans can execute an ambush.
I ask the sensible question: why has Rodrik betrayed Neverember by telling us all this? He looks disgusted and says that he will not be a part of handing “his people” (meaning I suppose anyone in Neverwinter) over to Thay. He then offers to help us escape this trap.
It’s not so easy, though If the attempt to take us fails, Thay might well carry through on their threat to declare open war. Or if not that, simply assault us one day with forces gathered in the city. The Sunken Flagon had already been attacked once, remember, and the Ashmadai had far less reason to do so than Thay. I began tentatively suggesting to Branwen that we head underground (possibly literally) and make it harder to find us. I could tell she hated the idea.
That’s when Brandis Vrye arrived, Cefrey in tow from the front room, with another favorable offer from the red dragon Klauth. Aparently Klauth was aware we have attracted the attention of a powerful individual recently, and he had a fairly complex plan to offer.
Brandis tells us we have attracted the attention of Valindra Shadowmantle, the leader of Thay’s forces on the Sword Coast. She throws herself into suicidal risks because of her confidence in the absolute security of her phylactery in the personal possession of Szass Tam himself. Well that makes some sense. Simultaneously most secure from everyone else, but also allowing Tam his personal control over her.
Klauth is unwilling to kill Valindra right now, since it would have no permanent effect. However Valindra is not the only high-ranking Thayan on the Sword Coast. There is an accomplished Blue Dragon wizard named Fulminorax. If Fulminorax were in charge, Klauth would come in and smash him. The key is that to effect this change in power, we would need to tip the scales in Fulminorax’s favor by helping him gain a significant victory in the war with the Netherese, a war which Szass would rather not fight and already blames Valindra for starting. If Fulminorax had a victory, then he might be put in charge and even get Valindra’s phylactery as a prize from Tam to control her.
If that were the case then Klauth could burst into the Dread Ring, kill Fulminorax, and destroy Valindra’s phylactery. So how do we arrange for Fulminorax to get his victory?
One of the Princes of Shade, Clariburnus Tanthul, is after Ioualum, creator of Xinlenal, who is rumored to still be alive. Brandis tells us the truth behind this rumor, that Ioulum became the undead elder brain of an entire city of illithid liches, who were all slain, and they all became ghosts.
We should enter Evernight, contact the Netherese consulate and convince them to lead an expedition to Ioulum, which we will then betray to Fulminorax. The Netherese would trust us to lead this expedition because we have the knowledge. We explain the deal with Klauth to Cefrey, including how Klauth initially offered to destroy the Uthgardt horde. She is agaisnt “allying with evil” and aggressive against Brandis. Rodrik (who has somehow been invited to this discussion) doesn’t think this would knock the Thayans out completely, but it would end their dracolich plans and reduce them to a shattered remnant.
As is his usual wont, Brandis leaves us to discuss whether to take the offer. We don’t really want to go along with Klauth’s plans, but eventually we decide to do so, as every other alternative seems worse. Without Klauth’s plan we have no realistic way of getting Valindra off our trail and would have to effectively go into permanent hiding from her.
Rodrik agrees to help with all of this, so I ask him about what he wants. He purports to be simply a noble from House Thann who came to expand the family business in the North. He says that if he can help then he should. You can’t send someone off to be killed and not lend a hand. It wouldn’t be right, says he. I nod my head for the moment, figuring he might trust us more after we have fought together.
Since Rodrik has been so helpful, we decide to preserve his reputation by going into Neverdeath that night and springing the trap. After all, Rodrik can hardly be blamed if we are able to fight off the ambush. At first it goes well, as we drop two Red wizards and cut down their zombie servants without too much effort.
Then Valindra herself shows up, using some kind of necromantic teleportation effect to spring out of a Red Wizard’s corpse. Even alone she’s quite a formidable opponent, and we’re lucky that the Black Blades shows up to help in the fight. As we fight, I taunt her (figuring that she can’t want us any deader). She’s a tough nut to crack, but eventually I get under her decaying skin enough that she lets slip she’s wearing a ring of dragons, which she uses to ‘encourage’ the Cult of the Dragon to work with her.
Well, well, well. I suppose you should expect a certain pattern from people. They stick with what works well. The Ashmadai and their Ruby Rod, now the Cult of the Dragon and their ring. Valindra does like blackmailing people to work with her.
With the Black Blades we are finally able to strike Valindra down, and Cefrey tosses the ring to me, which saves me the trouble of finagling to get my hands on it. From what little I know you can use it to talk with dragons, it can be used to summon evil dragons, and it can be used to create an illusion of a dragon. We also get another couple of Evernight ID amulets from the dead Red Wizards.
In the aftermath of the fight we go with the Black Blades to the Temple of Kelemvor. We tell them about Thay and what Thay is plotting in the Dread Ring, then they go off to see to their injured comrade.
I take the chance to talk to Rodrik again, and in the flush of victory after defeating a lich he’s much more open. He tells us one of the reasons he came to Neverwinter was to learn about his real family. He was adopted by the Thanns but his true mother is an Alagondar, the last ruling family of Neverwinter. His mother made it out of the eruption, and fled to the Thanns.
In the interests of honesty and openness among comrades, I tell him about Branwen being a terrorist leader. As usual, she immediately denies being a leader and less vehemently being a terrorist. Oh Branwen, how I’ll miss that. Apparently Nevermeber only suspects Rodrik’s heritage but doesn’t know for sure, explaining why he hasn’t killed him. There are a few ways that Rodrik could prove his claim come to that, though there supposedly is this lost crown that destroys anyone who wears it who who isn’t the rightful king.
We go through the Shadow Crossing in the Neverdeath graveyard and come out into Evernight. We’re in a bustling Corpse Market where the trade of the city is conducted. We see ghouls and other undead offering zombie servitors, rotting flesh, burial goods, and anything else you could imagine dead people wanting. Cefrey goes into a normal-looking store and comes out with an answer that the consultate is right outside the corpse market.
Accordingly we head out and promptly tromp into the Netherese embassy. There is a Dark Creeper at the desk who is awful sassy when I tell him we’re not Thayan at all and that we want to see his boss. Still, when I mention Ioualum he gets cooperative real quick and goes to get his boss — who turns out to be Parise Ulfbinder, accompanied by his daughter Katryn.
Katryn Ulfbinder was the lead interrogator for Branwen and Marcus when they were captive in Xinlenal. She was the one who flayed Branwen’s cousin alive, and now Branwen can barely look at her. Anyway, I lay out the deal as per Klauth’s advice. I am forced to bring Klauth into the conversation directly, as I need a credible source to convince Ulfbinder that we know how to find Ioualum, but otherwise it goes pretty well. I stress we just want the hunt on us called off and protection from Valindra. Katryn can’t resist the chance to turn the knife on Branwen, though, asking if she’ll publicly recant her opposition to the Netherese.
The matter is settled and we each are given our own guest room in preparation for setting out the next day. Cefrey apparently sets hers on fire for some reason? But no one seems to care. Katyrn will lead the expedition. A shadar-kai assassin named Alessoria Talens is the prince’s eyes and ears with us, and ahalf-orc shadovar named Quentin Croft is the real muscle.
Branwen was the one who memorized the map Brandis gave us, so she guides us out of the city, back into the real world and into the mountains and then into the Underdark. We move through it to find the lost city. In the depths of the city there is a giant undead brain in a bloody pool.
Katryn tries a respectful greeting, but it looks like the crazy undead elder brain only wants to kill us all. Who would have thought? Before that can get started, though, Fulminorax and an extremely familiar dracolich burst through the wall to attack. Wanting to be on Fulminorax’s good side we turn on the Netherese and attack them. They go down quickly enough, but the elder brain is a tougher nut to crack. It keeps dominating the dragons and nearly killing the rest of us with the mere backwash of its mental attacks. Not to mention the three ghost illithids serving it.
Branwen is able to spot the magical circle directing the flow of blood for the undead brain’s
life death support system and the dragons smash it. That weakens the brains enough that the dragons are able to finish it off.
However we still have to fight the ghosts, and as we have them nearly beaten one strikes out at Branwen and kills her. She dies instantly, no lingering.
The dracolich flies us back home.
We hold a wake afterwards. There is a will. Branwen left the Sunken Flagon to her bartender, Renno Lynneth. I think I’m done with the place myself.
So who is to blame for her death? Well, I’m going to be terribly unfair and blame Klauth. I’m going to find out what that old devil is up to and put a stop to it. And the first step is finding out more about him. To start with, that means consulting with the Cult of the Dragon…
Goodbye, Branwen. It appears that it truly is only the good who die young. You can tell because this wicked drow is still around.