Much has happened since last I told our tale. Fortunately, our mage has found time amid his study of things arcane to pick up the story:
From the Journal of Tipwill Erevard
I must accept that it is true. I have been made, this flesh and these bones assembled by Art of a magnitude I cannot guess at. Some form of … living construct. My progenitor, my “grandfather” Muldaven, built my mother. My mother was built in grief over the shade’s lost daughter … but was I so built, or am I truly my Father’s son – some birthed half-construct? And what is this oft hinted-at hidden purpose I am intended to fulfill?
I have been fortunate in falling-in with capable, dependable companions once more. Can this be mere coincidence? Judging by my ‘facility’ with folk, I could certainly expect to be travelling this road alone. Yet it has never been so, and it is doubtful I’d be penning this now had things been otherwise.
The dog-headed demon awakened us from our sorcerous 160-year torpor. That I cannot gainsay. But why?
Since our flight from Zareth’s dungeon, events have largely spun outside our control, with little time for planning, or to reclaim the initiative. We had to get free of the Shadovar dungeon. In our ignorance of this new world, we stumbled into the desert and I was blinded (along with Liam) by sand-scorpions while saving a merchant named Shaffar. Joining Shaffar’s ‘caravan’ we then stumbled into a deadly shade-infested sandstorm. Forced to bargain with an illithid at the oasis, allowing the alien being to scan our minds (though I did my best to shield my innermost secrets) we renewed our sight. Knowing the illithid was apt to betray us for coin, since we refused to pay its absurd demands to buy its silence, we knew we could not tarry at the oasis. It was time we made plans and became actors in this deadly play, rather than forever reacting to our opponents
During our travels our Kara-Turan companion Shinzu revealed one layer of the mystery, speaking of a Tesseract Mirror that holds Memnon the fabled Efreet trapped. The Shade Emperor seeks it, and hating Shade Shinzu wants it, to shatter it and open the Dragon Door between worlds (and go back in time). Shinzu said she has been tasked by one Zhian Go, to pass through that Door and prevent the return of Aumanator’s Crown to the Matins. This would rebalance the world’s Powers, for Shar gained mightily from the sudden fall of Sune, Selune, and especially Lathander Morninglord.
Taking the initiative, as we thought, we forwent Shaffar’s advice to travel to Shazuul, and instead pursued a more dangerous plan. I recalled the hidden enclave of my old master Pendaster, a place I had seen mere glimpses of as a student – but I was convinced the old mage kept a prodigious cache of lore there, and would have kept compiling more until the end. I convinced my companions to accompany me there and we teleported to Silverymoon – to a familiar place from my youth, a rocky cleft in the woods outside town.
There we assisted the dwarf-mage Erised with some orc-trouble, and made another ally (a rare thing in this time). Erised, a temperamental but ultimately benign fellow, knew of Arnold’s uncle Reggie. Thanks to Arnold’s nigh-mystical ability to charm folk, Erised gifted us with information and a coin of teleportation (of a single use).
Silverymoon, my beautiful, dear old home, was now a shadowy industrial wasteland ruled by Shade. Entering the Lady’s College by stealth, Amra’s wild-magic, and teleportation, we evaded a horrid ghostly mother-with-child apparition that doggedly followed us. Inside, an awful demon of might known as a bebelith assailed us, and we defeated it, largely by the strength of arms of Shinzu and Liam. This bebelith was not ‘ordinary’ though – rather it was of shadowy aspect, and haunted our dreams for a night – until I removed the curse by arcane force.
I bypassed my old master’s puzzles and traps, and freed Arnold and Liam from the magical ‘punishment cubicle for misbehaving students’ used by my old master, whom it must be admitted had a twisted sense of humor. Moving down into Pendaster’s secret stronghold, we encountered a clan of bizarre mushroom-men, myconids to be precise, which was time-consuming and unfortunate (for them). The caryatid columns triggered by Amra’s earth-gliding trespass were far deadlier, but by dint of the druid’s powerful magics and the formidable rebounding death-stone Arnold casts at enemies, the constructs were rubble soon, and we stood – alive, if not unhurt. Thanks be, as ever, that we had Amra’s healing to put us back on our feet!
In my old master’s library and study I found much lore and arcane spells, many more questions than answers, but we had new choices now. Also, we had a hidden base should we be able to hold it. I scanned the most important-seeming pennings in Pendaster’s journal first, and although most of it was puzzling, these things were clear:
x – Uncle Reggie did not die, at least not when Arnold thought, and was a Harper, along with Pendaster.
x – Reggie travelled with a friendly Drow (the famed Drizzt Do’Urden?), and spoke of another same named Phlugarr, who lived with the High Forest with the Wood Elves.
x – Reggie was last known to be in the Anauroch with a drow companion, seeking Memnon beneath the Finger Obelisk, to free him and awaken a ‘Thing of the Deeper Dark’.
x – Reggie requested Water Breathing, Flying, Fire Protection spells, as well as a ‘Ring Arcane’ as a key.
x – Reggie suspected Memnon’s Tomb lay beneath the Anauroch lakes known as the ‘Hand of Amaunator’.
x – Pendaster, apparently now in the dungeons beneath Candlekeep, had undergone a ‘transformation’ to stay alive. Lichdom Perhaps? The process seems to have addled his mind…
x – Pendaster seeks me, and there seemed some belief that I was the Emperor of Shade? Is this madness?
We had little time for contemplation or research, though, for when we’d awakened from a much-needed rest recovering from the bloody wounds of battle, we soon noted Shinzu’s absence.
Descending into the chasm (for that way did Shinzu’s tracks lead) as soon as I had a chance to prepare my spells for the day, Amra transported the party to the base of the dark cleft some 150 feet below in wind-elemental form. We soon found the missing Shinzu, but were far from prepared for this deep cavern’s inhabitant, Shinzu’s abductor.
A black-scaled dragon of majestic size strode forth from the darkness casually, releasing Shinzu disdainfully and breathing gouts of flame playfully above our heads. When the beast dispelled two of my defensive spells I knew we were in deep trouble. Liam attempted parlay but that is ever a suicidal option, where such a mighty foe is concerned. Indeed I turned invisible (successfully, I might add), preparing for the worst sort of fight, and when the dragon looked me straight in the eye I fairly assumed death was soon to follow. This was an Underworld Dragon, as far as I could tell, an evil and rare breed, not known to grow so large – of hope, I had little.
Thanks be to the glib tongue of Arnold Brandyken, who kept the monster entertained with his rapier wit long enough for me to speak our tale. When word of Uncle Reggie and Pendaster arose, the dragon’s demeanor gradually and shockingly changed to … almost friendly!
So it was that I learned that quiet, crotchety, oft-overlooked Jenkin, caretaker of the Lady’s College, turned out to be an ancient dragon of the Underdark. Moreover, this was a staunch ally of my old master’s, and by association Uncle Reggie. My mind still fairly reels … for this was not revelation enough: the dragon confirmed that my doppelganger was indeed Emperor Erevard, consort of Shar and Master of the World!
Jenkin, who preferred Fandruzsch, pledged his aid and counsel. But our next move was to address more immediate needs: we needed food, meat for Shuiba the tiger and sustenance for us all. We bade farewell to Fandruzsch and used Pendaster’s teleportation circle to appear in the Silverwood, seeking to hunt game and thence make way into Silverymoon as simple hunters. Shuiba was left behind to guard the library.
But this is a perilous world, now more than ever, and before the hunting could begin our scouts heard whimpering and crying ahead. Arnold disappeared into the wood with such skill a ghost would be jealous, and motioned for us to do the same. Acting as bait, something he would regret moments later, Liam stood the path with Kukri raised. A band of orcs rushed him when they saw the fighter, and they brought friends: a great 2-headed ettin, a pair of ogres, and a fell orc-witch of some sort. I cast Mirror Image and waited.
The skiprock of Arnold rained death in the ensuing ambush, and Liam and Sinzu held the center, raining deadly fists and razor-sharp blades. But the tide soon turned: massive strikes from the ogre and ettin drew wells of blood from Liam; Shinzu tripped on a loose stone and faltered in her dance through the monsters’ guard, drawing easy strikes from them in succession that reduced her to near-unconsciousness. With the fighters near death, another blow came in the form of a massive Flame Strike as the orc shamaness called upon her evil deities to annihilate us. I was caught in the center, deeply burned by the unholy flame, and reeling. This was not going well…
We gathered ourselves, rallying behind the bravery of the fighters, the hit-and-fade tactics of the deadly rock-throwing halfling, and the lightning-strikes called down from an angry sky by Amra the druid. I myself released my doubts and focused on raining destruction on these evil orcs! First, an ice-ball to kill and extinguish the unholy flames that had caught in the trees. Next a Chain Lightning to seize hearts and thews.
Amra leapt ahead in wind-elemental form to assail the dangerous orc-witch, while Shinzu and Liam fought with every last breath, near to death but unbowed. Shinzu, I am certain would have died – but she seemed to have some astounding ‘self-healing’ power. The orc-witch was cunning, though, and cast a spell of Confusion on the half-orc druid. I myself was watching my mirror-images dwindle as the ogre and orcs scythed at me, but I slowly withdrew and maneuvered to assail the witch.
It was a desperate battle with inches dictating the difference between life and death, but ultimately Arnold, Shinzu, and Liam cleaned-up the orcs, ettin, and ogres.
Seeing me approaching, the orc-witch quaffed a potion and became invisible. But I was prepared: I cast Glitterdust immediately and she reappeared, blinded by the glitter as was her orc-bodyguard. Amra warned the approaching Shinzu that he was not in his right mind, but he fought the confusion spell well, ultimately finding the will to pick-up the hapless orc-witch in a whirlwind. Her death came soon after as the party converged on her with intense prejudice.
Sadly, this fight caused be to use up my much-valued Snapleaf and a Potion of Flying to escape from Orcish axes. The Potion of Invisibility we found among their treasures was only partial compensation for this (although my life was well worth the saving!).
In any case, back to Tipwill’s tale:
We kept one blinded orc to question, which turned out to be fruitless, but the source of the whimpering was revealed to be 6 human waifs taken as captives, who begged only to be returned home. Liam, bloodied as he was, nevertheless focused on the sextet enthusiastically. In questioning the girls gently, we learned:
x – Mysha (16) is the leader; we are headed for her parents’ rented farmstead. Her parents are Kourosh (father) and Nedah (mother). She has bright blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and speaks with a lisp.
x – Kala (18), daughter of Malakai, a smith in Silverymoon. Her mother has been missing for 16 years, believed dead. Her long, red, curly hair is in tangles, and she keeps trying to untangle it, cursing under her breath.
x – Kymm (17) an orphan; she worked at the ‘Tall Halfling Rooming and Public House’ as a kitchen wench. The owner, an unusually tall halfling by the name of Grindelman, was kindly and took her in off the streets 3 years ago, and has been like a father to her. Kymm mentions Grindleman has no love for the Shadovaar. She is the smallest of the girls, her fine features framed by pin straight, jet black hair.
x – BreAnn (19), the tallest of the group, stands nearly 6 feet tall. Her brown hair is tied back in a long, now-unkempt braid. Her parents own a small home in Silverymoon. She comes from means, but does not know what her father, Eustace, or mother, Perinel, do for a living. Eustace does disappear for weeks at a time and often return with large amounts of coin and baubles for his daughter.
x – Vekken (17) barely speaks, and is constantly playing with her brown hair when she’s not chewing it. Terribly shy, and shaken by the experience, her eyes constantly well up with tears. She, barely audibly, told us her parents are Phogrun (father) and Morridan (mother). Phrogun and Morridan both work as custodians Rhyester’s Matins.
x – Petula (18) is a buxom, raven haired girl. She was very obviously lying when she told us of her parents and described them as spice merchants. Kymm whispered to us that she recognizes her as a ‘working girl’ from ‘The Alleys’: the seedier part of Silverymoon where Kymm, herself, was saved by Grindelman.
What next, you might ask? On that I’ve had some ideas. Rescuing these poor young women may prove to be luckier for us than finding a three-eyed pelican in a shoebox, if not more so! I’m think our plan might look something like this:
We must continue to impress on the girls the need for secrecy. We assess if any might be recruited into a spy network of sorts (“Liam’s Angels”)—certainly Mysha, Kymm, and Petula, and possibly Kala. We’ll need to assess how willing and reliable they seem. We can arrange a system of drops where they might leave information for us.
The next morning, we lead the remaining girls into the city. We and they go in some disguise, and we perhaps briefly split the party, so as to not arouse attention.
Within Silverymoon, I believe we should first approach Grindelman (Kymm’s guardian), who has no love for the Shadowvar and who has also an inn that we might use as a local safehouse. As an innkeeper he would also be an excellent source of information.
We also seek what information he might have on the airships (without giving away our ignorance of such things).
We then return the other girls (or let them return). We ask Petula where it is she lives—making it clear we know she’s not telling the truth, and that honesty is her best policy.
If Grindelman is agreeable, I might permanently rent a room from him. This would be our teleport point. I would claim to be his idiot cousin, and occasionally work in his inn (while collecting information).
We collect what materials we need, and sell some of our excess equipment. We might investigate the slavers, but our priority remains the Dragon Door (although I’ll admit more doubts in that regard than a bee has knees). I think our next visit should be the Candlekeep, likely via airship, but I’m content to let Tipwill and Shinzu decide our grand strategy, since they knows far more of these things than I do.
Finally, we ask our redoubtable druid Amra to pay careful notes of the location of local vegetation in these and all our travels, so that he might recall it should he (and we) ever need to travel by plant (a remarkable ability he claims to have).