the final chapter

The cavern deep with in the earth was silent and dark, other than the occasional murmur of molten stone and the faint red glow the magma emitted. Who would want to come back to this place? It held only memories of endless torment, imprisonment, and death.

In one corner mirror lay cracked on the obsidian floor, its surface covered with a fine layer of volcanic dust.

Into this darkness, a single ray of light shone from its shattered glass—an unnatural light, as if comprised of all the colours of the spectrum yet none, the light of arcane magics refracted through a warped and broken lens.

Then a second, and a third. And finally a series of sounds—a sort of vwoooop! vwoooop!—almost comically out of place in the oppressive silence.

Where the cavern had been empty, there now stood two figures, weapons at the ready: one a huge, muscled half-orc, the other a battle-scarred human. Both were clearly warriors of some sort, clad in identical armour as black and forlorn as an endless nightmare. Around its neck the half-orc carried the mummified paw of a great cat attached to a golden necklace. The human wore a circlet of gems and ancient decaying teeth, torn from the skull of a past but not forgotten foe.

Moments later, there was more light, and more noises. vwoooop! vwoooop! vwoooop! vwoooop!  Four more figures, dressed in black as the first two had been, stood in this place of evil.

“Well, Professor, is this the place?” said the shortest but most commanding of the group, glancing at the mage standing nervously behind him. “And is this the time?”

The mage pulled out a device and consulted it intently as a dark and malformed rat scampered among the folds of his black cloak. “I believe so, Sir. I am almost certain.”

An sultry elf winked as she played with the whip in her hand, its tip a knot of sharpened blades. “Almost? You had best be right, professor. As you know, he doesn’t take failure well.”

The mage swallowed hard under the steely stare of the Mistress of Pain. His last mistake had taught him that lesson well. “I am certain.”

The halfling nodded in acknowledgement. “If that is so, how long will it take to make the journey?”

A drow ranger stepped forward, again in black, consulting a map. “Once we find the passage to the Underdark, two to three months. The horacalcum deposit, if the journal is to be believed, lies near Silverymoon. But I know the way.”

“Well, we all have time, don’t we?” The halfling laughed, as the others smiled at the irony of it all. “Above they’re at war. The efreet has been released. They’ve forgotten what they once knew. We shall journey to this place, and once we are there…”

The mage interrupted, clearly excited about the prospect. “Another month or two, Sir, to fashion the mirror, and test its properties. Then.. then, the time-portal will be ready.”

vwoooop! Beside the party a creature now appeared, lurking and cavorting in the shadows. It was goat of sorts, ebony in colour, fanged and horned, its eyes glowing with unnatural flames.

Their leader smiled. “Let us proceed, then. We have a worlds to conquer and bend to our will. And as for you, Carpini…”

With this Arnold glanced at the horned abomination in the shadows.

“…there will be souls enough for you along the way.”

 

Advertisements

from dark to shadow

The next parts of our adventures were recounted by the Great Narrator thusly:

The adventurers pressed forward, making camp in the caverns. With little between them and their potential pursues, the party could not help but stop and rest as exhaustion, thirst and hunger overcame them.

At least a restful night could be had in one of Tip’s rope tricks.

Moving on, hoping to find the light of day or some form of sustenance, the companions followed the only obvious passage in this grim, dead Underdark.

Finally the group found some signs of life: piles of offal and quasi digested filth riddled a cavern opening. Amra smelled it first, then the others saw the rotting scatological piles. Somewhere beyond could be heard the rushing of water. Could this be the salvation the party sought? Food and water to strengthen them for the journey forward.

The discovery was met with concern when, from behind, a horrid, blood curdling scream was heard. Could this be Netherese pursuers? Undiscovered enemies? The party did not want to find out…

dx20070518_otyughCreeping through the cavern, as best one can with the beacon of a torch, Arnold (once called ‘the lucky’, but may come to be known as ‘he who stumbles into every bad situation possible’) disturbed the garbage-pile-nest of a young Otyugh. Surely this must be the source of the massive piles of offal and detritus! The fight was on.

As they say “all that glitters is not gold”, so it can be said that “one small Otyugh can’t be responsible for all that shit”. When battle was joined, and the baby Otyugh was put down, with prejudice, it’s cries of pain and lament awoke it’s humongous mother. As Uncle Reggie Brandyken would often say: “The only thing ornerier than a crying baby, is it’s Momma.”

The party emerged victorious with Shuiba having suffered the only serious wounds, but the filth-covered Otyugh was surely diseased, so Amra used his magics to slow the progession of malady, and could only hope for a bit of luck that Shuiba would not be afflicted with sickness.
With food in their bellies (from the fish pond that fed the Otyugh) and their waterskins filled, finally the worst must be over?

metamastPushing forward the party finally found the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. A water-filled, skeleton-strewn, slug-cavern with an opening in its vaulted, cavernous ceiling. All would have been un eventful except for a very tempting pile of treasure in a back corner. What would have been a very peaceful escape turned into acid burns, salt lines and near drownings mixed with wild riches as past adventurers had lost their battles with the two giant slugs that occupied this area, and left behind treasures they carried.

Amongst the treasures, were 3 Ivory statuettes of little goats.

I did relatively little to inflict damage upon the slugs. I was pleased, however, with the discovery of the Ivory Goats!

With Tipwill’s and Amra’s magics the party emerged, finally to fresh air, sand and a ruined caravan beset upon by dire scorpions of wicked intellect, and a near-dead caravaneer. After the ensuing battle to save the Denezeir, Shaffar Al-Hjeez, the party found itself partially blind (as Tipwill and Liam succumbed to the poisonous blasts of wolf-sized scorpions) and sapped of strength (as Tipwill and Shinzu succumbed to the strength-draining poisonous tails of warhorse-sized scorpions). But they now had a new friend, who swore his life to his saviours, and they discovered they were indeed in the Anauroch.

I had been careful not to get too close to the beasties, and indeed hid stealthily among the rocks for much of the time. However, my sling had delivered quite a few heavy blows, bringing down two of the creatures.

It also had to be said how shadowy everything was. Even at midday, the sun was partially blotted out by veils of misty obscuration. At night, all was black: no stars could be seen in the skies above. The triumph of the Shadowvar had changed the very world itself.

Gaining trust in her new companions, Shinzu had revealed more of her tale, and the quest Xian Go had given her. To recover Memnon’s prison-mirror, the Tesseract Mirror, open a dragon door and return 100 years in the past to stop Ashton of Arn, former companion of Tipwill and Arnold, from returning the Crown of Amaunator to Rhyster’s Matins, and so end the Netherese blight upon the land.

urviving their encounter with the Scorpions, but badly hampered by two blinded party members, the party pressed forward at the urging of Shaffar, their new ally.

Harnessing their magics, the party conjured mounts to speed them through the desert, making for the Oasis of the Great Wyrm. As the shaded sun set, the companions decided to rest despite Shaffar’s urgings to continue, for he was deathly afraid of the Shadow Sand Storms that could catch them unawares.

Resting the night in the dark barrens of the Anauroch, the companions arose from Tip’s Rope Trick shelter and were set to beging the new day when Shaffar’s fear were given life. A Shadow Sand Storm swept in with unearthly speed from the horizon. The Arcane Storm bore down on the party and the Tortured Shadow Spirits that resided therein wailed their hungry cries. Unsure what to do with their blind companions, the party stood their ground, while Shaffar begged them to run.

article-1282835-09D4DC6E000005DC-639_964x304

This was not entirely as I remembered it. We indeed tried to run—but there seemed little point running with two blinded companions only able to stumble, not to mention my own slower pace. Tip had been in the process of conjuring us fast mounts as the storm hit us with surprising speed—almost as if it were alive.

Shadowy claws ripped at the adventurers draining the very strength from their corporeal forms. Battling valiantly, the emaciated, drained emerged triumphant. As the last of the hungry Shadow Spirits’ force was cut off from this world, the storm disipated, and all was calm again.

Amra’s magicks delivered strength to the battered party as the very force of nature itself filled the companions with vigour.

With more urging from Shaffar the group pressed on, making for the Oasis of the Great Wyrm.

artwork sand worms dune 1592x1000 wallpaper_www.animalhi.com_31Shaffar led the party in a song he taught them. The song of soothing he called it. An ancient dirge in the language of the Bedine, Shaffar insisted this would keep them safe as they traveled across the waterless plain before them. Despite rumblings in the ground, and great vibrations that shook the sands on the parched landscape, the party traveled unharmed to the edge of the Oasis.

The oasis is a place of salvation for the desert dwelling Bedine. A small caravan encampment was set there around the Oasis. Merchants making their way to the Black Road or returning to Shazuul pass through this Oasis in the plain of the Great Wyrms.

228_max

Here, it must be said, I got us all in some trouble…

How time flies…

ShinzuBreathing deep, Shinzu begins to tell us her tale of adventure, traveling from Kara-Tur to the Anauroch in search of Memnon’s Tomb… a long journey through the darkness where she encountered many Netherese and their allies (some of whom died at her hands), as well as friends of the light who were able to help her.

The Netherese Empire has surrounded and threatened my home with their campaign of conquest.  When first the ancient cities were raised, the Netherese appeared to be returning home from their Shadowy realm, but soon thereafter their true desire was revealed…conquest.  The Shadovaar rulers of the great floating cities were not content with a simple return to their long-lost homes, they were bent on conquest, and so the Shadow Wars begun.

As Amaunator took his place in Silverymoon , the Three slowly perished and their protections over their beloved Faerun disappeared.  The Shadow-Goddess Shar took the opportunity of this Sundering of the Pantheon to consolidate power and divine allies, thus began the Great Darkness.  Over the years, the Great Darkness grew until the World itself was shrouded as the barrier between this plane and Shar’s Domain became weak.    With the dimming of the light, the Shadovaar’s powers grew, as did their ranks with allies crossing from the Shadow Plane.

Decades passed and the Netherese conquered kingdom and country, mountain and valley, continent and ocean.  Still the people…some people remain strong.  Pockets of resistance can still be found, for the people are still good, but few have the power to face this Darkness, and those that do are often captured and placed in camps where they await execution after long questioning, or…worse.  A fate I suppose we have just been through.

Now, 100 years after the appearance of Shade, my Master, Xian Go the Enlightened One, one amongst the good denizens of this world who dares to fight against the dying of the light, discovered arcane knowledge that leads him to believe an answer to the Netherese conquerers lies hidden in Memnon’s Tomb.  Thus I was sent forth, for what has been done must be undone.  This great Evil of the Netherese must be stopped, and so, I must find the Tomb of Memnon.

I asked her the last date she remembered:

It was the spring of 1476, by the reckoning of the Dale, as I remember it.

Over a hundred years after Tipwell and I were in Waterdeep….

much has changed in my absence

 

30 Kythorn 1374

I have, at last, returned to Waterdeep. I have stopped to run errands in the city, while my companions have set off with Shen’s body to my birthplace of Brandykenthwaite-on-Trickle, so as seek his resurrection at the Temple of Yondalla there. I do hope that Most Venerable Hearthmistress Elise Willowgrove blesses them by granting this, our most ardent wish. I hope too that they all have time for a pint or six of ale at the Thirsty Terrasque.

Much has changed in Waterdeep, and not for the better.

The leadership of the Guild has been broken. Guildmaster Drovak has not been seen for months. Deputy Guildmaster Whisperdirk has been imprisoned, charged with the murder of a Calim spice merchant named Nazreen Al Fayed Ibn Fazulyeh—the very same Nazreen, it seems, that was allied with Muldaven. A new Guildmaster has taken over, known only as The Watcher. As his agent he has a a lithe, raven haired lady in tight-fitting green leather leggings, matching bodice, and adorned with a raven tattoo—the very same Cerynn, it seems who was tracking us months ago in the north. From the tales told of her by my fellow rogues, she is a formidable woman indeed.

As my mother used to say, this is more coincidences than you can fill a pillow with.

I’ve tried to leave the impression with Cerynn that I’m alienated from my erstwhile friends, and have become very much a halfling-for-hire. She may, or may not, have bought it. She certainly seems inordinately interested in them, although I’ve provided her with little real information.

Whisperdirk might know more of this—if only he could be freed from imprisonment. However, a direct assault on the the heavily-fortified main prison on Penal Isle is out of the question. Instead, I am considering whether something more round-about might work: some forged transfer orders, perhaps, or some other bureaucratic device to have him moved to the mainland. To this end I’ve identified a possible informant within the Palace of Justice: a grumpy, disgruntled, miserable clerk in the office of the High Magister named Archibald Inzay. Inzay keeps to himself, and seems that he spends almost all of his time working. Some joke that he must be an automaton or construct of some sort.  Rather oddly, he travels once a month to the City of the Dead. Perhaps there is something there I might use to enlist his aid, or to leverage into useful information.

It all makes my halfling head spin, even without the usual accompaniment of ale. One thought keeps returning, however, above all else: with so many shadowy threads of fate now knitting together, does it not seem likely that Uncle Reggie’s murderer might also be lurking nearby?