The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: The Death of Marcus de Tylmarande
This is a difficult entry to write. I have said for some time now that Marcus seemed to me like a man with a deathwish. Well, he finally got his wish. Marcus is dead. I had hoped things were beginning to turn around for him with his embrace of Selûne, but I guess it was not to be. Farewell, Goodsir Greycloak. May you be on the moon a half hour before the demons of the Abyss know you’re dead.
As I recall, [[The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymor: Memories of Menzoberranzan | last entry]] left the group in Helm’s Hold. Minds free of hallucinations, we went to drink hot tea in the Old Dirty Dwarf and discuss what to do next. We had collected numerous letters from residents of Helm’s Hold apprising their friends and family in Neverwinter of the truth behind the “quarantine,” but the trouble was that our plans after that took us in the opposite direction from Neverwinter.
I suggested passing the letters on to Branwen’s tribe to take back to the city for us, which she eagerly jumped on. Marcus was worried that merely spreading the truth wouldn’t be enough and that Neverember would find some way to wriggle out of it and retaliate. Faced with Branwen’s demand that we do something, we compromised on sending a note asking Luusi to put some additional pressure on by threatening to reveal Neverember’s dealings with the orcs if he doesn’t submit to public pressure and end the quarantine.
We headed off eastward into the woods. On the second day, we came across an Urthgardt barbarian woman fighting a bunch of werewolves from the Grey Wolf tribe. Figuring that the enemy of my enemy is at least my enemy’s enemy, we helped her kill them. I note with some satisfaction that afterwards she cut out the heart of one of them and ate it. Guess my lycanthropy prevention methods are correct! She’s older for a human but evidently still pretty tough as I saw her hack down like three guys at once during the fight.
We introduce ourselves to her as the Northern Five, and it turns out has heard of us from Arlon. Well, mostly Branwen. She is Cefrey of the Thunderbeast tribe, the same one who helped Arlon expose the Netherese conspiracy in the north. She asks what we’re up to, and we tell her about Thay and all the other threats facing the North. There is a brief bit of cute exchanges where I have to convince her that Neverwinter is also part of “the North” and is not in fact “the South”.
So after that Cefrey is all, what the hell? Why has all of this been going on and no one has been doing anything about it? She’s especially disturbed to hear that Thay was behind the eruption of Mount Hotenow, as apparently she lost a husband during that one. Why is all of this happening now, she wants to know. No one really has a good answer, and for myself I don’t much care. Anyway, Cefrey agrees to come with us on our raid on the Dread Ring.
Later that day, we finally track down a member of Branwen’s tribe, but whoops, it’s that cousin Felwyn Calashadir whose twin brother got killed by the Netherese. She looks a little crazy-eyes and still isn’t too happy about Branwen traveling with a drow and a necromancer. Valtha tries to counsel her over her loss, but it doesn’t — how can I put this? — it doesn’t go well. Felwyn gets mad and calls Valtha evil, then for good measure she threatens to kill us all if we come back from the Dread Ring without Branwen.
She does agree to take our mail, though, so I guess mission accomplished!
We continue on towards the Dread Ring the next day, and the forest grows quiet. We see zombies everywhere and the vegetation becomes more and more diseased and blighted. There are obsidian black walls rising up. They are broken in places with growths like scabs, and there is a spire rising up in the center. The plain is dead with churned up mud. This has been a site of constant battle, but the gore on the ground does not match the amount of activity. There should be far more bodies. Guessing the Thayans are recycling their dead.
We (that is myself, Branwen, and Marcus) try to sneak in while things are calm but get chased off by skeletons, who are then in turn attacked by Grey Wolves. Security here is a lot tighter than I had anticipated, with the obsidian walls and cleared ground making stealth extremely difficult. Oh, and those ’scabs" on the holes in the walls? Masses of undead flesh fused into grasping arms and limbs.
We decide to wait until the next big battle, since that seems to be such a regular occurrence. While we’re waiting, we talk about our goals. The lich’s phylactery is the priority if it is there. I advise smashing it immediately rather than taking it as “leverage” as Marcus wants, but it’s a moot point unless we actually find it. Just to explain where I’m coming from here, I see too many ways things could go wrong if we try to use the phylactery to force the lich to do our bidding. Getting rid of her immortality altogether seems like the smarter move.
Eventually about 50 Grey Wolves attack the dread ring, and skeletons pour out to meet them. We slip past the battle while they’re fighting. The ‘scabs’ in the wall grab Branwen and then Cefrey when she frees Branwen, but I’m able to assist Valtha in using her necromancy to quiet it all down. They don’t call us “dark minstrels” because we don’t know dirges, is all I’m saying!
We look around once we’re inside. There are three places inside the ring that seem to matter: in the middle is a tower spire; then there’s a building of sharp metal at weird angles and walls that beats with a heart beat; and then taking most of the room is a huge excavation with a very large dragon skeleton almost completely exposed and laid out as if ready to be wired together. This is what’s going to be their dracolich, and work looks very far along indeed.
The giant excavation includes a system of pulleys and lifts with undead doing all the heavy lifting. One of the undead doing the work is the skeleton of this great animal that Cefrey tells us is the Thunderbeast from Morgur’s Mound. It’s what her entire tribe is named after, and now it’s been put to work as an undead beast of burden by Thay. Terrific. She is not happy to see it there, to put it mildly, and tells us she isn’t leaving without it.
Valtha tells us there is a lich in the spire at the center but no phylactery. Guess our lich foe isn’t keeping her immortality here after all. There is probably also a shadow crossing inside the tower that they presumably use for bringing in supplies. The smoke from the building says that they have necromantic reagents in there, so that’s probably where they craft their dead.
Then we have to hide as the skeletons pour back in and we talk about what to do next. There’s no phylactery to grab, so our next priority was to “cause trouble.” Taking their thunderbeast skeleton would do that nicely, especially as Cefrey isn’t leaving without it anyway. But is it possible?
Valtha says she might, might be able to make this happen, but it’s a long shot and we all have to help. Branwen sneaks into the building to gather ingredients from the vats in there, and reports to us later that the necromancers inside are guarded by a flesh golem. I help Valtha with the ritual. Marcus sneaks off to carve some runes around the pit and manages it, but in the process he’s seen and attacked by some skeletons, alerting security there are intruders. Cefrey allows the ritual to be channeled through her connection with her tribal totem.
Incredibly it all works. We pile on the back of the thunderbeast skeleton and ride it as it bursts right through the wall and into the woods, and for a moment it seems like we’re home free.
Then the dracolich shows up. Oh yeah, it turns out they already have a small (relatively speaking) dracolich, perhaps as a test run for Lorragauth, or perhaps simply thanks to their support from the Cult of the Dragon.
Cefrey tries to steer us under some trees for cover, but the dracolich is barely inconvenienced. It follows us on foot, opens its skeletal mouth, and breaths a cloud of necrotic mist at Valtha — only to have Marcus jump in front and take the hit. And die. Instantly.
Cefrey gets swatted onto the ground and for a moment it seems like we’re all dead, but somehow we tumble down a ravine and make it out with the rest of us alive, though battered and bruised. The dracolich turns away. I don’t know why, but it’s the only reason any of us survived.
So yeah. Let me just put it out there, I never wanted to mess with any kind of a lich, much less one that had been made from a dragon. We had been having so much success, and the Dread Ring just seemed like another place that everyone described as super dangerous, but we were going to run in and out. More the fool us.
Thay is a power that can afford to keep a dracolich, which let’s recall is a fully intelligent and malevolent undead full of ambition in its own right, as a watchdog. It can keep a wizard lich as a site supervisor. These are forces that could snuff any of us out as easily as a candle flame and we were fools not to realize that. Marcus’s death was a wake-up call. I am through sticking my nose into the Dread Ring or Xinlenal or any other place that is meant for beings way more powerful than I. And if they conquer the world because of that, then I guess they were always destined to.
We eventually limp back to Neverwinter. Valtha de-animates the thunderbeast in a safe spot we find outside the walls, and Cefrey makes arrangements to transport the bones back to her people. We hold a funeral for Marcus but hold off on the burial until his sister can be fetched from Seipora Gend’s care in Helm’s Hold.
Oh yeah, me. I visit Randar Rheligonther and go ahead and join to Selûne’s church. Uh, yeah. Suck it Lloth, I guess. I mean, not that I want to be saying that too loudly. There’s mortally insulting her by converting and then there’s mortally insulting her by converting and also making fun of her.
Wow, I thought this would be a more … joyous occasion, I guess. I was going to tease Marcus about it and have secret moon goddess conversations where we refused to include non-believers. It was going to be a blast, and now it feels more like mourning.
I’m happy. I feel like a weight is off my shoulders. I can finally clear the cobwebs out of my apartment. I can bathe in the silver light of the moon while drinking fine liqueur and toasting the moon goddess, so I guess that’s going to be fun. I can pray without feeling fear that I wasn’t obsequious enough. But I sort of thought I was going to share all this with Marcus and it makes me sad. I should do more reaching out to people while they’re alive, I think.
Marcus’s possessions were a little pitiful, you know. He had almost no personal items, just a flute and an old symbol of Tyr that Branwen says is probably a de Tylmarand family heirloom.
Stupid Thayans. Stupid self-sacrificing heroics. I toast Marcus’s memories and then I put on a grey cloak and go out at night and find some criminals to beat up. It’s what he would have wanted.