The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: Neverneath
Micar’eyl here. Plans can get overcome by events pretty quickly, so I think it’s important to active decisively when you see an opportunity. Of course, some folks have a different philosophy.
Now that we have a better idea what Thay is up to, Marcus is able to hit up some of his contacts and get a sense for how they’re doing on “plan dracolich.” They’re close, way closer than any of us are comfortable with.
In other news, the kraken has begun going up and down the Sword Coast ravaging ships. The ships that survived the attack are now stuck in the docks, huddling here until they find a way to leave with a reduced chance of being eaten. To boot, the kraken’s pushing some sahuagin into the Swamped Docks. It’s been a great entry point for smugglers. A (different) gang of halflings led by Palas Aumble have controlled that turf, but Horst tells us that Rsolk’s been planning on taking it over. And now there’s sahuagin pushing in, which is probably going to force New Neverwinter to step in.
We (that is, the Northern Five) decide to leave the kraken to the side for a while. Thay seems more important. We work out a plan to stake out the crossing to Evernight and try to capture some of the Thayans going in and out so that we can
torture question them. (I know, that’s practically the same word.)
That means heading into the Tomb of the Betrayers, which means dodging a mess of traps and restless spirits. Most of us make it through okay, though Valtha gets a good smack at one point. Eventually we get to the crossing point to the Shadowfell and stake it out. Sure enough, after a couple of tense hours of waiting a Red Wizard shows up with a load of corpses and a few undead guards. We execute our ambush and grab him without too much trouble.
I lay in some charm magic on him while he’s out, and we play out a little scene of me ‘protecting’ him when he wakes up. Makes him eager to talk to me me about Evernight, and it sure is interesting.
Evernight is populated primarily by undead, especially ghouls. The government is a tribunal of ghouls and a few assorted other undead of the eating-people variety. They apparently don’t do much. You can take your dispute to them, and they’ll render their decision by eating the person they decide against. Which helps keep the number of cases down. The shadow crossing leads to a place called “the Graveyard” where living people are brought to be specially prepared for being eaten. Like, dipping them in sauces and things I guess?
Living people can move around ‘safely’ only if they wear an amulet marking them as important to/property of (the distinction is murky) some powerful undead or faction. (The Red Wizard wears one with the symbol of Thay.) Anyone else is an open target for anything hungry. Though it’s not what you would call a highly policed city and they don’t really have checkpoints or anything, so most residents will just assume that you’re someone else’s business if they see you, since you’d have to be crazy to be out there otherwise.
Thay and Netheril are both active there, but they are definitely on probation as far as the tribunal is concerned. Apparently they’ve been told that if either side starts a fight, both of them get kicked out. Which, hmmm, that sure is interesting, isn’t it?
Our patsy also has more about Thay’s activities in general. Valindra (the lich leading the local Thayans) wants to resurrect the Neverwinter Nine as undead servitors. They’re doing this in Castle Never, or rather below it, where the crypts of the Neverwinter Nine lie. The Tomb of Halueth Never plus its ancient protections make for some powerful magic that can be twisted to use for the reanimation. Goodsir Patsy assures me that they will be no ordinary death knights when they arise, but something really special.
I know what you’re asking, who the hell are the Neverwinter Nine? Well apparently the original Neverwinter Nine were the long-ago adventurers who founded the city, except one of them was a traitor. Then Nasher Alagondar reused the term during his reign for an elite group of generals or bodyguards or heroes (I’m a little unclear). And even though there were only nine of them at one time, Nasher replaced them as slots opened up, so what I’m saying is that there could be a couple dozen or so of the Neverwinter Nine, easy, and all of them are these revered heroes of Neverwinter history that’ll get the locals all excited.
I tell the Red Wizard that I’ll tell the others I’m going to kill him, but really let him go. I actually kill him though.
As we try to leave, we are fighting our way out through zombies. A group comes to our rescue, a group of adventurers who specialize in patrolling the cemetery and fighting undead. They call themselves the Black Blades. Their leader, Rucas Sarfael, talks to us. Branwen gets all up in their face about working for Lord Neverember, but they push back that he was the only one willing to give them the resources they need and that Thay is the greater threat.
You know, it seems like we’re hearing that a lot. Neverember’s success is half due to his money. If Branwen wants to get rid of him, she’s going to need money of her own.
Anyway, instead of playing dumb we decide to just open up with the Black Blades about the intelligence we just got. They’re pretty horrified and make a push that we should go out to Castle Never first thing and stop the business with the Nine. They actually want to go that night, but we convince them to wait until the next morning.
I sneak out to Castle Never that night to try and meet with that fellow Bregan D’aerthe spy I’ve heard hangs out there. What I find are a camp full of rich-looking humans, but luckily the man I’m looking for spots me and leads me away before I have to answer questions. It’s Xalbyn Yaunyrr, who wears this hat of disguise to blend in as “Thom Kreel.” He tells me that the humans are mostly spoiled rich kids here out of some misguided sense of adventure.
Anyway, we talk and Xalbyn gives me the local lay of the land. The big one upstairs is Talgath, a beholder. He has harpies and other servitors. There is a nest of ettercaps that Talgath fights with. Their leader is Ryxfith. Talgath is the one that Valindra is concerned with, as he is a disruptive influence. She doesn’t care about the ettercaps. So she’s been weighing in against him, though not in any serious way.
You go down and the Thayans have power. They’ve gotten into the outer chambers, but they haven’t gotten into the inner vault yet. Neverneath (the labyrinth leading to the tombs) is a formidable maze. There are not a lot of people who can navigate it. There are a group of gnolls led by a minotaur named Kalad Uth-Koth. He says he’s descended from some minotaur that Nasher slew, way back at the start of his adventuring career. They were going to get their revenge by sacking Castle Never, but they ended up lost in Neverneath. Now, Xalbyn says, there might be a half dozen of them left alive, desperate, mad with hunger, and driven to cannibalism.
To avoid blowing his cover, Xalbyn asks us not to come through the courtyard. We have to take an alternate route through the Hall of Ash and Mirrors. Whenever a living being enters, the mirrors form images of living beings and the cataclysm replays and the glass shatters and the hall fills with lava.So don’t linger! I asks Xalbyn what I can do for him in exchange for all the help, but he says it’ll be helpful if we can put the kibosh on those Thayans.
The next morning I bring in some meat and supplies in case we meet the minotaur and his gnolls. Then I brief the Blades and other Northern Five members on what I found out. We head out to the castle and get a little lost in there, ending up running into a group of ettercaps. I really don’t want to fight these creatures and especially not their spider friends. Even if I’m maybe starting to think there are alternatives to the Spider Queen, that doesn’t mean I need to go out of my way to tick her off! So instead of killing them to the last woman, we use some chants and fire to scare the ettercaps, and I feed the spiders some of the meat I brought to get them to lay off. They’re pretty cute spiders. Nice, furry, and well-groomed.
We run through the Hall of Ash and Mirrors, then enter the labyrinth. Navigation is a bit tricky, but Rucas has a partial map. Branwen gets us past one of those magical lore traps by reciting the names of the loyal Nine at a statue I’ve always found those “knowledge test” type traps pretty dumb myself. I mean, I understand the basic logic, that it’s meant to let the faithful pass, but it’s not exactly putting real security as the primary concern.
Anyway, we get to the outer tomb without meeting the minotaur (so that’s good I guess), and we find a couple of Red Wizards and their undead guards working on the inner tomb doors. They are not pleased to see us and they have a seemingly infinite horde of zombies to throw at us. With some effort we kill them, and Branwen sets their zombie pile on fire, which results in thick smoke quickly filling the chamber.
In a sealed underground area like this, it’s going to be unbreathable for weeks, maybe months, until the air gradually circulates enough to be bearable. That will at least keep the Red Wizards out, other than Valindra obviously, and put a major delay on their work. Also we grab two more amulets from the wizards, meaning we now have three Evernight amulets.
The Black Blades are pretty pleased and grant that Valtha might be a necromancer who doesn’t need to die. Progress!
Horst was off doing his own thing, trying to track down some information. He tells us that the Ashmadai and the Cult of the Dragon are both very interested in finding Valindra’s phylactery. That’s something I’ll want to at least know more about before I even consider fighting her.