The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Bookstore Bandits
I’m considering putting together an expedition out to Neverwinter Wood. I mean a serious one, not poking around the edges like when I nearly got killed by those eladrin. There seems to be more going on in that wood then there are demons in the Abyss, and I can’t say I have a firm grasp on what’s going on with this city unless I know what’s hiding there.
Problem: I’m not exactly a wilderness expert. I mean, I’m not even the handiest drow in a cavern, much less trees!
Solution: I know a wood elf who is.
While I was at it, I got her to talk to me a little about her political troubles. Brawen, Branwen… why are you so concerned with what is basically a human political problem? I know you think Neverwinter is “your” city, but it’s a human city, really. Whatever the results of your meddling, it’ll all be different before a half century has passed. But I digress. Anyway, apparently the Sons of Alagondar are making an alliance with that Luskan gang, the Dead Rats. I pointed out to her that if she hates it so much, she should find some dirt on the Rats that will convince her allies to sell them out. Whining about the morality of some muggers to a gang of revolutionaries = impressing no one. I steered her to Horst, since he seems to know something about the internal politics of the Rats. (Must see if I can get him to open up more.)
Not too long after I come back and find “some human with a jaunty hat” has left a package for me. Lloth’s fangs, Jarlaxle. You come by to make a personal delivery, and then leave a valuable magic item with the tavern owner? I am sure you are making some kind of subtle point about trust and vulnerability which completely escapes me.
It’s a pretty cool magic item, though. But I’m going to need a little practice before I’m ready to bring it out for real. I guess I can try burning rats alive and find out where all the rat tunnels are? Of course the real purpose was to order me to look into a pirate named Reginar Blackstrand who has been attacking shipping lanes and see if putting him out of business could bring in some business (to us) from Neverember.
I continue my inquiries into the looted Iliyanbruen artifacts with a weapons dealer named Rimardo Astorio. He claims that not only are there no elven artifacts on the market, but there is no magic anywhere on the market. Some party or parties unknown is vacuuming up every bit of magic for sale. Now that… is interesting. Still, I need to check from more than one source and check with a dealer who has been in business a little longer. After all, supposedly those artifacts were looted years ago. Rimardo recommends a fellow named Urth who has a shop by the docks.
After that we talk a little more business. Rimardo wants to sell weapons to Bregan D’aerthe. I barely manage not to laugh in his face. Like we’re going to use some inferior human weapons? Might as well pick up a sharp rock off the ground. I hedge that maybe we could buy some disposable arrow tips and throwing knives and such. For use by slaves, I do not say. On the plus side, he also has some business connections for operations down in Baldur’s Gate. I am not sure exactly who is in charge of our operations there, but I take the contact information to pass along in my next report. I love it when I bring in business! I can practically hear the spilled human blood turning into gold when it hits the ground. Praise Lloth!
I head over to this Urth human’s business, Hagen’s Imports. (Maybe Hagen is his master? I don’t know) Ships I pass at the dock include the Squire, Sune’s Smile, and the Serene Aasimar, and a couple of others I couldn’t be bothered to check. Even though I’m here all the time I always feel a little exposed on the street. I get surprisingly little trouble being a drow — I assume because humans understand that we are a superior race who will meet any insult with death. (Praise Lloth!) But there are always those jealous individuals who will try to tear down their betters.
So Urth is behind the counter polishing things. He confirms that there has been no large-scale dumping of magical artifacts all at once in the market any time the last couple of decades, much less elven magic. He does confirm, however, though that magical items are flying off the shelves. I propose some cooperation with him. I bring a magic item to sell, and he alerts me when the buyer inevitably shows up. The least sniff of profit and he jumped on it. I know they say mercenaries are money obsessed, but we have nothing on shopkeepers. Or is it just human greed?
I go to the necromancer Valtha and get her to make the magic item for me. It’s important that it can’t be too good or a legitimate buyer might purchase it. I need something only someone who wants all the magic would buy, and I figure she’ll produce something suitably awful. I also bring Branwen in for her tracking abilities. I don’t even have to pay them. I make the legitimate case that both of them are going to want to know who is stockpiling all the magic.
Then the wizard Horst flags me down. Very interesting stuff! He is apparently in deep enough with the Dead Rats to be in on a Traveler’s Dust smuggling operation. (I will refrain from rant wondering why the weak minded are not allowed to poison themselves and merely note the surface realm is a strange place.) Anyway, he wants to blow the operation while framing one of his fellow members and asks that I be the one to tip off the Mintarn guard, Darvin Evensea (the Sunken Flagon’s watchdog). The treachery warms my heart so much that I ask only the token of his help on my magic item tracking in return.
I slip a note to Evensea and meet him later a few blocks down. This is a good opportunity to establish myself as a reliable source of information. Apparently news of the Dead Rats’ arrival in town has not trickled down to the regular guard yet, because he is quite surprised. Evensea is a blockhead so I ostentatiously warn him to be careful not to injure the one-eyed man we are framing and let nature take its course.
The next morning, Branwen shows up at my home (well, my residence) first thing in the morning. I let her in through the window. Apparently she is planning an expedition to a ruined bookstore in the monster-infested area beyond the Wall and it is leaving this morning. She wants to reunite the dragonslaying crew for it, minus the genasi. (the Netherese mage-slaying crew then?) Well, hey, it sounds like fun I guess. She says it is to help Valtha find Gauntlgrym, which can only be good for me. When I press, though, Branwen tells me there is this rare political tract that she is looking to find and that’s why she’s so eager.
I agree, on the condition that she share some gossip on the Sons of Alagondar, the group that she is totally not a part of except everyone knows she is. Branwen agrees surprisingly easily. I guess I don’t look like a New Neverwinter spy to her (well, I’m not).
So we head off on the expedition. The gang reunites! Plus this news human swordswoman named Luusi that Branwen is dragging along. I suppose she thinks we need more meat shields. Our destination used to be called Maskado’s Maps and Legends Bookshop when it wasn’t a ruined wreck. I ask Horst how things went the night before, and apparently it wasn’t great. The Traveler’s Dust got busted by the guard, but all his Dead Rat (non-)friends got away. Maybe humans shouldn’t play at treachery. They don’t seem very good at it.
Branwen takes us to the Wall. Apparently the old House of Knowledge can be used as a sort of gatehouse, though Branwen seems unfamiliar with the crowd holding it. We take them some supplies as a sort of peace offering. When we get there, a lot of folks appear led by a tiefling named Lerissa. She claims the Abolethic Sovereignty are responsible for the monsters and is quite enthusiastic about the city standing together against them. She gets in some nice digs at the Sons of Alagondar for dividing the city, which is hilarious as Branwen suffers in silence.
We ask more about the fish (as I pithily term the Abolethic Sovereignty, and yes I know they aren’t fish but it’s funny). She thinks that they’re interested in something called the Source Stone underneath Neverwinter, which as I recall was also mentioned as a clue to the paths to Gauntlgrym. She does not explain where she got this information. I take the opportunity to do some advertising on how by hiring some drow mercenaries for one big push she could wipe out the Sovereignty in Neverwinter and encourage her to look for funding to buy the dream! Though honestly, I’m not sure if that’s good work for us. Killing humans is one thing, but the fish are serious dawn-of-time dangerous.
As we proceed to the bookstore, we are attacked by plaguechanged monsters at the entrance. After a scuffle we flee inside and Horst uses a hold portal spell to seal them out. There are a few inside as well, but they’re easily dealt with. Valtha does some death magic and claims that one she ‘sampled’ was a human made into a monster only a year ago. That’s not supposed to be still a thing.
Anyway, we snipe the ones outside but more are on their way. A lot more … and I begin to understand why this whole area wasn’t looted years ago. Luusi does some kind of daring retrieval of the bones of Valtha’s skeletal minion, so that’s nice of her I guess. We still have a problem, though, as hold portal only lasts ten minutes. Luckily, what we are after is in the storage catacombs beneath the shop. We can just duck down there and find another exit. So we run downstairs.
We all do some rummaging around. Marcus seems to have found some building plans. What are you up to, I wonder, mysterious man? Valtha finds a treatise about roads through the Shadowfell (“the Paths in the Dark”). There’s a chart of one from Thay to Neverwinter and one that goes through the Underdark and a place in the Feydark called Mag Tureah that goes to Gauntlgrym. I try looking for genealogy records on the former rulers of Neverwinter, as that appears to be something that people are paying well for. Nothing. Branwen doesn’t find her book either.
So then it’s time to leave and — oh, uh, er. All right, see, drow would have had another way out. I might perhaps have forgotten that this was a human shop for a surface race and that below ground storage would just be storage rather than the primary way in and out. Because humans suck and Lloth should eat them all praise Lloth.
Fortunately, Horst offers to use some magical rituals to disguise us all as plaguechanged monsters so we can sneak out. Unfortunately it involves defiling out bodies with Spellplague-twisted monster guts and- — no. I am a drow, and I am not covering myself with diseased, twisted monster parts even if it means my death. I do some stretching and prepare to run for my life. Luckily Valtha knows a spell to make someone look like a zombie and offers to use it on me as clean magic that does not involve covering myself in monster guts. I gracefully agree, and I suppose I owe her a debt now.
We make it back to the House of Learning. I am unsure what is up with these people, so I find one of them who looks separated from the others (dissention in ranks = opportunity). He is Hargul Half-Elf, and apparently the other half is orc. I contain my disgust. Probably surface elves have been mingling with orcs for generations. Hargul complains that the others are devil-worshipers ( Ashmadai), followers of Asmodeus. I try not to giggle.
Asmodeus? Oh, oh the lord of the devils whose power comes from his mighty rod with the ruby knob at the end (snicker)! Wow, what an accomplishment, ruling over a race of fiends with “born to be slaves” inscribed on them when they’re pulled off the devil assembly line. Who huddles down at the bottom of the Nine Hells like a turtle hiding as deep within its shell as it can sink. Famous for his “deals”! Oh no, nothing scarier than the god of lawyers (snicker)!
I guess it’s slim picking for the lesser races since Lloth won’t have them. Just to say, Lloth rules over a layer of the Abyss, which makes the Hells look like a child’s nursery. Lloth rules over demons, proud and violent beings whose obedience can only be commanded by constant displays of power and might that make it clear the slightest disobedience is death. Lloth does not make deals. And Lloth’s power … does not come from a rod.
The rod is his penis (also an actual rod, but we all know).
Anywaaaaay. So Hargul is from the Many Arrows group of orcs who took over a section of the city. He tells me that his father Ghorn the Sly assigned him to be here, and that Ghorn is the only orc not entranced by the monsters of the Chasm. I point out that he is not doing a lot to break the control here, and offer to talk to Ghorn. Business! No but seriously, if the Abolethic Soverignty is taking over the orcs, that is very bad news. The fish are menace to everyone. Apparently Ghorn is the chief tactical advisor to Vansi Bloodscar, leader of the orcish expedition. I ask Hargul for a sign to take to his father, and he cuts off a piece of his skin and hands it to me. Oooookay.
Anyway, we go home and I put into action my plan to track the people buying magical items. Valtha has made this crappy magic rock that plays dwarven death chants, so you know no sane person is going to be rushing to buy that thing. Sure enough the buyer shows up, and Branwen tracks him into the River District to the Shard of Night, a black tower floating above the river district, where anyone beneath it casts no shadows. There the guy she is following disappears.
Quick primer on the Shard of Night: it’s a mysterious object that appeared after the Spellplague, a bleak tower of black stone sheared off at its base, so not even technically an earth mote. No one who investigated in early years ever returned so people leave it alone. Any creature passing under it sees its own shadow disappear. No one or thing is ever seen to come or go but sounds sometimes echo down from the base.
Screams Netherese to me now that we know someone is living there.
I make contact again with Darvin Eversea and ask to be introduced to some of Neverember’s people. Need to build those business contacts.
|Marcus Greycloak||Over the Wall|
|Branwen Farlong||The Cause of Liberty|