"As seen through my eyes, and told through my words,
is this tale of the adventuring group called The Knights Of Silver."
Yasraena T'Sarran - Drow Harper of Silverymoon
Hellgate Keep III: The Aftermath
Chapter One - A City Attacked
We enter Silverymoon to find it in utter ruins. Buildings have been blown apart and are still smoking, people are lying in the street, men, women and children, dead and mutilated from an all out attack. The scene is so awful to behold, that I am moved to tears.
We encounter a throng of survivors who immediately turn hostile towards me, even though I am known within the city. I have to use a sleep spell before they would stop. Luckily, a priest of the city temple to Mystra happens by right then and sees the predicament. After waking the crowd up and calming them down a bit, the priest and some of them tell us why the hostility was directed towards me. The perpetrators of the attack were a Drow and orc army. They gave no quarter, killing and maiming everyone and everything in their path.
“As you can see for yourself.” Says one burly man sitting on the remains of a curb with his head down. He raised it to finish what he had to say and you could see his face was sweat (or was it tear) streaked. His voice was on the verge of breaking as he spoke. “We were in the middle of claiming our dead when you came walking by. It was a reflex action my lady. All we saw was one of those who did this! A damned Drow elf!” He finished angrily. He then saw my face and saw that it had only sympathy, and then he hastily added “Your pardon, my lady Yasraena.” They also tell us of a sickness that has since spread throughout the city, one that has the majority of its people dying, and no magic or herb can cure it.
“It’s true.” said the priest, who we later found out was named Freman. “Even the high priests of the city cannot find a cure for it, though they have researched day and night since the first signs of it. Come now. I will escort you to the palace and to my master, who will no doubt wish to speak with you.”
We are taken to the palace by the priest, who then takes us to the high priest of the city, Ivy Iverson. He is aware of who we are and knows who we are.
“The master will want to see you, I know, regardless of the circumstances.”
On our way to the palace, he tells us that what is afflicting the city is not a disease or plague, but a poison. It had been introduced upriver and had insinuated itself into the drinking water of the city. This had just been recently discovered by the city’s agents. I thought to myself “This has to be the poison that we were forced to leave behind when we went through the portal.” When we arrive at Alustriel’s chamber, we enter to find the room’s windows open with a fresh breeze blowing through them as the sun warms and lights the room. Alustriel is lying in her bed, apparently asleep. But she is not alone. Beside her on the bed is a large black panther, and on the opposite side of the bed sitting in a decorative chair is a male Drow elf! He is about 5’6”, very muscular, but slim (typical Drow), wearing a chain shirt and sporting two scimitars at his sides. The panther raises its head at our arrival, looks us over, stops on me, then narrows its eyes and gives a low menacing growl, showing some very large and undoubtedly sharp teeth.
“Shhhh! Gwen! You’ll wake her! These are friends.” The sitting Drow says in a playful/scolding tone.
“Ahhh, Drizzt. Glad to know you are the one here with the lady.” The high priest says as he takes a seat of his own.
I finally get what’s going on. I look again at the lady lying in her bed, and see that she is very pale. No color at all. “No. No, don’t tell me she’s got it too!”
“I’m afraid so, Yasraena. There’s nothing we can do for her, that’s the worse thing!”
“Surely you’ve tried..” Wilfbrim starts to say, but is interrupted by the high priest who says in a very exhausted and frustrated voice, “We’ve tried everything! NOTHING works against this... this… thing!”
“With your permission, I would like to try something.” Wilfbrim up and says.
“Be my guest. Maybe a new perspective will help.” Says Ivy.
Wilfbrim and Ivy then go over to where Alustriel is lying and Wilfbrim begins to prepare a spell or something. Ivy shoos the cat away, and it jumps down and goes to lie in a corner.
As the two priests are making do with their preparations, Alustriel suddenly wakes. She sees us around her and summons us to her bedside. The lady is looking very weak and fragile, but she is able to sit up and speak with us. She is glad to see that we’ve returned and seems to rest a little easier when told of our success of the return of the sword to the queen. Her smile then turns to a very grave look and she pauses before she speaks again.
“My friends. This poison that has crept its way into this city and affected many, will soon affect the entire city if something is not done. My instincts tell me that this substance was brought forth by the very Drow who attacked the city. It has to be from Lolth herself to have even my high priests be unable to cure it. I must ask you to help me and my city by finding those responsible, and if there is an antidote, to get it for us. For without one, Silverymoon will surely fall.” She pauses a moment to catch her breath, then continues as she looks to the dark elf standing on the other side of the bed. “Drizzt here will help you in this task as he is able. He is a close friend to me and can tell you of information concerning the attack on our city.” She then drifts off in to unconsciousness again.
We leave her to rest as we retire to the bedroom foyer to continue the discussion. Drizzt tells us that the Drow that are a responsible for this are from a noble house called MouTi’Najere. He knows this because he found house insignia on several of the Drow that fell during the battle. He is sure about this because only noble houses carry house insignia.
“He’s right.” I say after examining the bauble. “Only nobles can carry house insignia; and this is definitely from a noble house.”
After the battle he had scouted the surrounding area for any signs of an encampment or base for these Lolth worshiping Drow. He says he thinks that there might be a possibility of a base to the northeast of the city. He had spied several humanoids milling about a large hill there and had a distinct feeling of evil from the area. There is also a large cambion army on the march to Sundabar. He must lead the Knights of Silver in an attempt to thwart this army from sacking the city, therefore he cannot accompany us on this mission. We decide to leave in one day. When we are done talking, the afore mentioned raven flies away unnoticed.
During this time, we have our spoils from the demons looked at and identified. There are some items that are incredibly and inherently evil, like Sarya’s life draining whip and scimitar, which we have destroyed outright. The other useful ones we divide amongst ourselves. I get my +9 L Sword, Anklet of Invisibility, Jewel of Flawlessness, Scarab of Protection and Ring of Stoneskin from these. There is no time to do much else except study spell books and rest.
Chapter Two - Raven
The following morning as we are preparing to leave, we are all in the common room of the inn we are staying at, having breakfast, when Malaci comes in looking rather haggard. My gaze lingers at him as he staggers in. I’m a little surprised that he would pick last night to go carousing, but, to each his own. I make a mental note to keep an eye on him today and see if last night’s revelry has any lingering effect on him.
“I thought we all had agreed to get some rest last night, my friend.” Wilfbrim says with a bit of sarcasm as he lays his hand on Malaci’s shoulder. “Do our group agreements mean so little to you?”
“Oh, shut up.” Malaci came back. “If you only knew what I went through last night.”
“Well pray tell.” Wilfbrim says as he opens his arms.” ”I’m all ears.”
“This ought to be good.” Fleabus was heard saying as he pulls up a chair.
“You think I went out carousing last night? Is that it?” Malaci asks in sincere surprise as he looked at all of us. “I’ll have you know I was almost killed last night by some Drow elf while I was getting ready for our little trip today. I’ve been out all night trying to find out who in the nine hells it was.”
“What in blazes are you talking about?” Fleabus all but yells at him.
Malaci looks at Fleabus for a second, and if looks could kill…. Finally, he takes a deep breath, lets it out, and then says to all of us “I was in my room last night, by myself, getting prepared for our trip. As I’m making sure my gear checks out, I hear a knock at the door. So naturally, I go over and open the door, expecting one of you to be there. What I find instead is one BIG drow, holding two long swords (one of which was glowing black) and wearing chain mail. He looks at me and says “Ever wonder what it feels like to die, Malaci?” I didn’t even think as I did a triple back flip from my door to the window and out to the street two stories below. I have been out and about ever since trying to find out who it was that tried to kill me.” He then looks Fleabus straight in the eye and finishes with a sarcastic tone that isn’t even remotely hidden, “THAT’S what in blazes I’m talking about!”
After a few dozen seconds of utter silence, I break it by asking “Malaci, why would a drow elf want to kill you? And why would he come here, to Silverymoon of all places, to do it?”
“How should I know?” Malaci replied, with a tone of utter frustration. “I’m just one man trying to make his way in the world the best he can. I’ve got demons after me on the right, I’ve got drow after me on the left, and I’m supposed to remember everyone I’ve ever fleece… uuuhhh… had business dealings with? Jeez, try and get a little sympathy from your friends after almost getting killed, and I end up getting the thir…”
“All right, all right!” I interrupt. “Sorry, no offense. But you have to admit that ones in your profession, they always seem to have things hidden. It comes with the vocation. So don’t fault me for thinking that you might have something to do with this guy coming after you.” I walk over to Malaci and put my hand on his shoulder and give it a gentle squeeze.
“Besides, you’re too good at what you do for me to not think that.” Then think to myself “By the goddess, can’t we go just one day without having something happening?”
Wilfbrim gets up and walks toward the bar, then extends an arm to Malaci, “Come my friend, you look like you could use a drink.” who slowly gives in and joins him on the next stool. Fleabus and I look at each other and shrug our shoulders in unison, then join our two friends at the bar.
After about an hour and a few well earned drinks and breakfast, we head on up to Malaci’s room with him to retrieve whatever is let of his belongings. Strangely, when we enter the room, he says that it’s exactly as he remembers leaving it. Nothing’s been touched. The only thing that isn’t as he left it is his bed. There is a single long black feather lying on it. Malaci goes to it, picks it up and brings it up to his face, twirling it in his fingers to get a look at it from all sides.
“That looks like a crow or raven feather.” Wilfbrim says matter of factly.
Malaci then lets the feather fall and drift to the floor. “Just what is going on here?” he asks to no one in particular
“I don’t know, but time will tell I’m afraid.” is all I say in reply.
We return downstairs to gather our things. We don’t say a lot as we do our final gear checks. I can’t speak for the rest of my party, but my thoughts were with Alustriel and on finding and destroying the Drow house (or houses) that attacked the city.
Our reverie is broken by a long and loud gong sound, which repeats every 5 seconds.
“Oh for the love of…” Malaci begins.
“It’s the town signal.” The barkeep suddenly says. As we look to him, his face is almost ashen, as if all the color has gone out it. “The last time I heard that was after the attack, to show our sadness and loss for the fallen. But now it means what it normally means. It means there’s an announcement, and for everyone to come to the palace square to hear it. Something tells me that we’re not going to like it.”
When we arrive, there is a large crowd milling about, waiting to see what they were called for. We see Ivy, the High Priest of Mystra for the city come out onto the high balcony. You could see his face and it was careworn, tired and streaked with tears. Throughout his announcement, you could hear his voice break ever so slightly.
“It is my sad duty to announce to you all that our beloved leader, Lady Alustriel Silverhand, has succumbed to the evil poison that is affecting the entire city. She went to Mystra at 10:45 this morning, exactly 30 minutes ago. She left as peacefully as can be under the circumstances.”
He paused for a moment. More to compose himself I think, than to let the news sink in, and then continued. You could hear the crowd murmuring along with gasps of surprise and sobs of sadness.
“We will keep you informed as to the repercussions of this tragic event on the city’s ruler ship. For now, until a more permanent replacement can be found, Lord High Mage, Taern Hornblade will step in for our too soon departed Lady. May Mystra help us all.” He then turns and leaves the balcony.
As everyone starts to react to this news and the crowd begins to break up, we see our priest friend, Freman, come toward us.
“Greetings my friends. I see we have all come to hear the sad news. I don’t know what we are going to do now that Alustriel is gone. It is truly a sad day for us all.”
I ask with a sort of desperate tone, “Surely there must be someone who can help us? In Waterdeep perhaps? Maybe Calimport or Cormyr?”
“I wouldn’t know,” answered Freman. “I don’t adventure as you do. But perhaps that is what my master wishes to speak with you about, as that is why I was looking for you in the first place. He wishes for me to bring you to him. He is waiting in the palace.”
As we follow him, I get a completely irrational feeling that we are going to see Alustriel, that she won’t be dead. I wisely keep it to myself. Freman leads us to the outside of Alustriel’s chambers, where Ivy is waiting for us. He greets us with a cautious smile.
“Thank you, Freman. That will be all.” He says to his underling, and then addresses us.
“I have something to show you all. Please follow me.” He says to us as he opens the door to Alustriels chambers and walks in. We follow him in and look to the only place we would look. The bed. We see Alustriel lying there, but her head turns ever so slowly as we enter the room to see us. I immediately run to her side and take her hand in mine as tears of happiness begin to flow.
“I knew it couldn’t be true! I knew you hadn’t given up yet! Not you!”
“I don’t understand. Why would you want everyone to think she’s dead?” asked Fleabus.
If her enemies thought she was dead, perhaps the city would be safe from any more harm for a while.” Answered Ivy. “If she’s dead, they might think twice about this being an easy target. This city would fight to the death if they came now, I believe. They would win, but it would cost them much more than they bargained for. They might take a few extra days to reinforce their army, adjust their attack, just to make sure.”
“Ivy is right my friends.” Alustriel suddenly says, and pulls her hand from mine. Her voice is so weak, it barely is audible. “I don’t know how much longer I can hold off this poison in me. It is strong. I feel its power is coming from somewhere or something else other than those who wielded it.”
Suddenly, a raven flies up and lands on the windowsill of Alustriels room. It has what appears to be a scroll in its beak, and it drops it on the floor with a loud ‘CAW!’. We all look at the bird as it sits there looking back at us. Ivy goes to pick up the scroll. It is sealed with wax. The seal is in the form of a raven. Ivey pauses to look at the raven. It is looking directly back at him. Ivy breaks the seal and unrolls the scroll. When it is open, the words disappear and a mouth appears on the parchment. It begins to speak in one of the most evil, condescending and superior voices imaginable, and this is what it said…
“Greetings Alustriel, Silverymoon hierarchy, mages and the rest of the population of what is left of the “Jewel of the North”!
It appears as though you have encountered your very own Time Of Troubles! What with the recent attacks upon your city and the illness that has befallen your people, it is truly unfortunate that the quality of health is on a downslide in your city. You would think that such a grand city and overseer would provide better healthcare to its populace than that which has been provided. But, then again, I would assume that your own condition is not at its best, either. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Most unfortunate. Most unfortunate indeed. For even if you summon the most powerful clerics in all the North; they will not reach you in time. For time is on our side. Given these circumstances, it would appear that you require better healthcare, and I am speaking to you now to offer the afore mentioned services. For a price, of course. I can provide you with the, shall we say, ‘antidote’ to your city’s demise, for the ever small price of…… your life. AND the expulsion from the city of every last current person residing there, wherein, we would take control and darken its towers and make it rise as the capitol of the newly adorned northern lands!
Simply write your reply and return it via my pet and I will respond with the details.
By the way, I heard the water tastes BAD up north!
The mouth then fades and writing materializes once again. This time there is only the following:
With magics and steel combined, a deadly duet I sing.
Wilfbrim’s reply was to cast an augmented Magic Missile at the raven in the window, who took more than a few hits before it flew away with a loud and painful SQUAWK!
Fleabus says “Well, I think it’s safe to say we now know who attacked Malaci last night.”
Alustriel weakly continues what she was saying once it is gone. “Please hurry, for me and for Silverymoon. Time is short. The city’s fate is in your hands now. Do not fail us!” She then falls back to unconsciousness.
We say our goodbyes to Ivey and Alustriel, then leave the palace.
Chapter Three - The Hunt and The Battle at the Cave
We are silent on our ride to the outskirts of the city, each of us lost in our own thoughts. As we crest a hill that overlooks the valley, I look back and see Silverymoon, its spires shining brightly in the mid morning sun. It is an inspiring sight. But, as I gaze back upon the city that has treated me like one of its own since I arrived as a complete stranger, I am suddenly aware that I may be seeing it for the last time. I know from firsthand experience what my kin are capable of, and it makes me fear for the survival of the city and its people I have come to love.
Surprisingly, the journey is an uneventful one. We don’t encounter a thing once we enter the wilderness, and after a day or so of absolutely no success at finding the drow lair, the party is at a loss as to how we should go about searching for this base without splitting up. But, we decide the only chance we have to find it is to do just that. We decide that a single, flying and invisible scout would be the best way to go. All eyes go to me, so I say I’ll be beck in no more than 1 hour, cast Fly and Invisibility on myself and proceed to do an aerial surveillance of the surrounding and outlying areas, while everyone else stays on the ground and discusses battle strategies. During the time I’m away from the rest of the party, they encounter a black bird, a raven, that appears to be watching their progress. The only reason they notice this bird is because they had a feeling they were being watched and when they looked around, they saw this black bird… it seemed to be staring at them. Not just staring at you like a bird will do sometimes, but with a sort of intelligence, like it was watching them for a reason. When Wilfbrim got a really good look at it through his telescope, its eyes were glowing. Wilfbrim decides this is no regular bird and casts a few magic missiles at the creature, which unerringly hit it. It gives a loud ‘SQUAWK!’ and hurredly flys away in a flurry of falling feathers.
While this is going on, I’m about a mile away and I spy what appears to be a large brush and tree covered hill. There are about a dozen trees surrounding the front of this hill, almost like a fence. They appear to be about 10 ft apart. As I move to get a closer look, I see the outline of two humanoids through the trees and brush below. I go down a little to get an even closer look. As I fly down into and through the trees, I see clearly that these two are guards of some sort as they are wearing armor and holding weapons, but not moving far from the space they’re standing in. I switch to infravision and check out the immediate area in hopes of catching some tell tale heat outlines hidden in the brush. My eyes slowly adjust and I then count not only the two in front of me, but about two dozen other heat shapes, several of which, I can’t tell what they are as their shapes don’t look normal. I switch back to normal vision to see these things as they truly are. They appear to be Drow from the waist up, but from the waist down they look like a giant serpent! What the hell!? Snake Drow?!?! This was something to ponder. I continue to fly around the area for the next 10-15 minutes. I keep switching back and forth between normal and infravision, getting a gist of what their numbers and possible capabilities are, looking for possible ambush/crossfire spots, and looking for anything that could give us an advantage on these vile creatures. I am also thinking to myself that I’m probably pushing it getting this close for this long without being discovered and should go back.
“One last pass, then I’m gone.” I say to myself and then begin. I notice the ‘snakedrow’ again I pass on my way back. They’re wearing what appears to be a gem over one of their eyes like an eye-patch. Funny… I don’t remember seeing those before.
“What in the world…?” I wonder to myself, when suddenly, the one I was looking at looks up and seems to look directly at me. I immediately stop. His eyes blink once, as if to make sure he’s not seeing things, then he gets a real serious expression on his twisted face as he yells out in the drow tongue, “Intrudersssss!”, draws his bow back and fires at me!
I knew I should have listened to my instincts!
I feel the wind of many arrows and hear the yells of the guards as I fly up and away from them. Damn it to hell! Damnit! Damnit! Damnit! I just cost us our surprise. Well, at least I found the place and have a good idea what we’re up against. I get back to my friends as fast as I can. When I return, I tell my friends of my discovery and of my intelligence gathering.
“The base looks to be in a cave in a grassy hill about a mile north east from here, the entrance of which is guarded by about 2 dozen orcs and 2…. creatures, all placed in strategic areas all around the entrance. They are armed with bows and various melee weapons.”
“What about these creatures you saw?” Asks Fleabus.
“They weren’t unlike driders actually.” I reply. "But instead of arachnid bodies, they had serpent bodies. And they each carried a bow and a short sword.”
“What about Drow? Did you see any Drow at all?” Malaci hurriedly asks.
“No, none at all. They must be below in the cave. It makes sense, though. Most noble drow would have their slaves as guards before their own blood. It’s beneath them.”
“Well, at least we have surprise on them.” Offers up Fleabus.
“Uhhhhh… not exactly.” I reply in an apologetic tone.
“And what does that mean?” Fleabus comes back. “Exactly?”
“Well, as I was about to say before I got interrupted, on my last pass I noticed something about the ‘driders’ that I thought strange other than the obvious.”
“And what pray tell was that?” Asks Wilfbrim.
“Each one was wearing a large gem over one of its eyes, like an eye-patch.”
“What in blazes does them wearing a gem over their eyes have anyth…” Fleabus starts to say before Malaci interrupts yet again.
“Son of a bitch!” He says as he looks up, with the same facial expression he had when he found out about the Bumpus’s little scheme. “Why didn’t we ever think of that! Gem Of Seeing! What a great idea!”
“Yeah, well, not so great for us, because the dung saw me, yelled and pointed, then him and a few of his fellow spider people got off more than a few bow shots at me.” I sarcastically replied. “I doubt if they saw what I was, or they wouldn’t have shot at me, but they know that someone is interested in what they’re doing now. Or at least knows the location of their base. Sorry guys.”
“No big deal, Yasraena.” Says Wilfbrim. “Contrary to what our dwarf friend thinks, I have a feeling that the drow, or this ‘Raven’ have been watching us. Or more precisely, his familiar has been watching us.”
“What? What do you mean?” I ask. Wilfbrim then fills me in on the encounter they had while I was away scouting.
“Glowing eyes, huh?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s what gave it away.” Replied Wilfbrim. “The next time I see it, it won’t have a chance to get away. Teach him to use his familiar as a spy!”
After discussing various tactics, we all decide that a stealthy approach to the cave, possibly sniping along the way, then a full frontal attack would be the best plan. Stealth would only work up to the point of attacking full force, as we assumed they knew we were coming and would probably be ready for us. Our plan was to approach the hill in a wide arc, with each of us around 75 feet apart, invisible and stalking or silenced. Knowing we would likely lose track of each other while invisible, we all agreed to go in a straight a line as possible so we all had an idea of where we all were. Hopefully we would be able to snipe at the guards while keeping relatively hidden, until I gave the signal to come out weapons and spells blazing.
“What’s the signal?” Fleabus starts to ask, then before I can answer, “Wait! Wait! I know! ‘You’ll know it when you see it.’”
Damned dwarf. I would have smacked him if he didn’t already know me so well.
I would be in the middle, Wilfbrim and Malaci to my left and Fleabus to my right. It was actually very amusing watching Fleabus’ attempt at being silent, let alone while in his armor. Needless to say, he was silenced. Malaci, on the other hand, I completely lost sight and hearing of the second we hit the brush. The same went for Shalar. That cat was in her element, I’m sure.
We approach the entrance for about 10 minutes, each of us going at his own pace. I lose sight of everyone eventually and head up on my own. I approach the entrance until I get about 100 feet from the fence of trees I saw earlier from the sky. I see now they’re about 50 ft tall each, their very tops reaching the top ledge of the hill itself, which afforded a great view of the surrounding area. I don’t see any driders up there, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. In between these trees are strands of webbing, like a giant spider had come and decided this was good place to set up house.
“Possibly create a diversion with those.” I thought. Then thought harder and came up with casting a wall of fire from my wand on the trees and webs. The area of effect would take up almost the whole ‘fence’. Hopefully the smoke and flames would prevent any snipers on the hill from shooting at us below and keep any reinforcements from exiting the cave until we finished with the ones on top.
I move to position myself for an optimal view of my target area, pull my wand, point it at the walls of webs, say a silent prayer to Eilistraee, then say the command word, “Tibia!” There is a loud “Fwooosh!” and a large wall of fire is up and burning the webs and surrounding trees. As soon as the spell takes effect, I hear a battle cry “THOOOOOOOORRRR!” and see a few orcs come flying out of the brush, large gashes across their chests.
I draw my weapons and scan the immediate area for close enemies. I see none nearby, so I stalk around until I am about 100’ directly in front of the cave entrance. Can’t see anything on top of the hill, where I expected to see the driders again, but there are a few orcs just coming out of the entrance, so I follow them to around the entrance and yell “Hey!! Over here!!” They turn to face their deaths, which I do not make quick.
The rest of the battle goes fairly easily, as I hear more battle cries from Fleabus, spellcasting from Wilfbrim and since I don’t see or hear Malaci, I know he’s doing what he does best. I encounter a few more orcs before the battle ends, bust see more than a few enemies retreat into the cave. I still saw no sign of the driders.
I met up with the rest of the group just outside the entrance. “Well that wasn’t very hard, was it?” Fleabus asks as we prepare to go into the cave.
“No it wasn’t.” I reply. “And that’s what concerns me. We’re probably walking right into a trap, you know.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. But what else are we going to do?” Says Malaci.
There is a long pause of silence.
“Well? What are we waiting for? A written invitation?” Asks Fleabus.
We slowly enter the darkness of the cave.
Chapter Four - The Lair of House Mou Ti’Najere
We enter the cave and proceed to explore it. Malaci has point, followed by me, Wilfbrim and Fleabus guarding the rear. Its walls are smooth and black, as if they were carved out of obsidian or marble. Very neat, only with a sand covered floor. There are two openings that lead to passageways about 50 feet down on either side of the tunnel. After them, it leads straight and down at a steady angle, ending at a golden metal door with what appear to be magical sigils and imbedded gems all around it. We attempt to open it by Fleabus, Wilfbrim and myself trying to lift it up. We get our grips and ready… 1..2..3! and we lift the door. About 3 seconds go by, when the raven flies out from under it, then right back through it again as Shalar bounds under and through the door, right on it’s tail. Before I could even mutter the beginnings of a “NO!, I instantly hear a loud “ZAP!” followed by a faint, but painful ‘Meowr!’ I’m sure my new feline friend has just met a painful end at the hands of our enemies. Bastards will pay for that! We drop the door and decide to approach this a little more cautiously.
We decide to double back and take the passage to our left. We follow the passage to a small cavern that houses somebody I never thought I’d ever see again. The Bumpus! We find him on an ‘island’ on the other side of a small pond, behind a makeshift cage of wooden stakes pounded into the ground in a half circle against the chamber wall. The makeshift cell is so small, he has no choice but to stand. When we approach the pond to speak with him, he begins to warn us away, but before he gets more than a few words out, two very large water elementals rise out of the pond and come towards us. I immediately draw my weapons and advance while Wilfbrim and Fleabus both start to cast spells. Luckily, my swords and Malaci’s arrows are enough to keep the creatures at bay for a few rounds until Fleabus’s fire and Wilfbrim’s earth elementals finally materialized and took over. The battle between them was awesome. Imagine if you will, four greater elementals fighting it out. Well actually only two because when the one fire and the one water collided, they both just blew apart, as if to cancel each other out. Of the remaining two, the earth won the day after getting nailed a few times in the process. After we all are recovered from the battle, the Bumpus begins to thank us for saving him, but Fleabus cuts him off.
“Where’s my money you little thief!” Fleabus yells at him.
Bumpus replies “I don’t have it.”
Fleabus comes back with “What do you mean you don’t have it? You took it didn’t you?“
Bumpus replies again “What part of “I don’t have it” didn’t you understand? Does it look like I have anything other than what I’m wearing at the moment? And no I didn’t take it. You gave it to me, remember?”
Fleabus “Don’t get smart with me you little goat faced dung! I’d take a good look at where you’re at right now, if I was you.”
I think to myself “I wonder if I should interrupt here before this gets out of hand.”
He begins to take his sling out of his pouch. He then picks up a small stone from the ground, puts it in the sling and continues speaking to Bumpus. “And please pay attention to what I am about to say, because it concerns you greatly.”
“Fleabus, don’t you think it would be a good idea if you……………” I begin to say.
He begins to spin the sling.
I finish a little more urgently, “......uhhhh, if you put that down before you hurt someone….…”
“Where is my money?” Fleabus asks Bumpus, polite as can be.
Bumpus cries out “But I already said I don’t have your money!”
Fleabus lets the stone fly. It unerringly hits the Bumpus square in the head, CRACK!
Bumpus yells out in pain “OWWW!”
I yell “FLEABUS!!…”
Fleabus seems to ignore me as he sighs and shakes his head, then stoops, picks up another stone, spins the sling and says in an almost apologetic tone “And I thought you’d be smarter. What with that little stunt you pulled on me and my friend Malaci over there. But I have been wrong before, you know. Now, lets try this again…”
Bumpus “But, but…!!”
Fleabus, as calm as can be “Bumpus, where is my money?”
Bumpus “But, but…!!”
Again there is a quick succession of
“Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh, WOOOSH!!!”
This continues for a few more minutes until the Bumpus is looking very much worse for the experience. I have to physically step in front of Fleabus and grab the sling to stop our pissed off Dwarf from eventually killing the defenseless satyr. Granted, when a dwarf gets his gold stolen from him, it’s bad enough. But when he gets charmed into giving it to someone, well…. let’s just say I understand where Fleabus was coming from. Regardless, no amount of money is worth this creature’s life and I told him so. He reluctantly walks away, but gets one last stone on the Bumpus, who is now propped up against the wooden stakes, unconscious. I try to heal the badly battered creature as best I can by giving him some herbs and first aid. When he comes to he seems grateful enough. Enough to tell me to “watch out for the ‘tentacle-head’ man. He gets inside your head.” As I begin to leave, he calls me over to him once more and says “I really don’t have his money, you know. I spent it having the best time in my life. Hahahahahcough….cough…cough….!” I have to smile at that last bit as I finally walk away. Then think to myself “Oh great. Mind Flayers. Just what we need on top of the drow.” I tell everyone what Bumpus told me and that if it’s true, there are a few things that we can do to keep the damage to a minimum. I don’t bother to tell Fleabus that last bit of new about his money just yet.
“If you feel anything strange in your head,” I begin to say, “yell out that you do. That thing is probably using its powers on you. If you can, fight it until the very end. You may yet break its hold on you.” That was all there was to say. We brace ourselves and continue through the passageway.
We come to a 4-way intersection, with the right and left tunnels going off to small caves with stalactites and stalagmites, go to each opening and decide to go in and explore each. We find nothing in either of them. We enter the forward tunnel and continue on for about 50 feet when from around the curve in front of us come 4 drow warriors, weapons drawn and advancing fast. Luckily, the corridor was only wide enough for two people at a time, and Wilfbrim and Fleabus were ahead of us, they held them off, while I begin to prepare a spell.
All of a sudden, Fleabus yells “Ahhhhh! There’s someone trying to get inside my head!” Luckily, our good dwarf’s stubbornness finally pays off as he doesn’t seem to be affected by the mind assault and without missing a beat, continues to battle the drow in front of him along with Wilfbrim. Malaci suggests we try and hunt the mind flayer before he gets another chance to affect us again. With my spell stopped, I agree and we both go invisible again, him still under the spider climb spell and me stalking. We make our way back along the path we had just come to the 4 way intersection. As we come into to corridor, we see the Ithilid standing down by the main door looking down the corridor directly at us, but apparently not seeing us. I sense Malaci right above me and decide to let him make the first move on this vile thing. I slowly draw my weapons and silently move towards the unsuspecting Ithilid. Just as I reach my intended position, I barely hear a soft ‘twang……twang’ from behind and above me, then see two arrows suddenly appear on the hideous thing’s chest. I don’t give him a moment to second guess himself as I step forward and in two strokes from each of my swords, cut open his stomach and throat. I swear I see a look of surprise in those milky white eyes of his as he falls to his knees, then backwards in a bloody heap. I hear a flapping noise by the door and immediately look over to see the damnable raven again sitting under the lifted door, its eyes glowing and looking directly at me. I then see several bright flashes of energy whiz by my head and strike the stupid bird yet again and with such force as to push it back under the door and beyond, wherein the door fell shut with loud “THUD!”
“SEE THAT RAVEN?!?!?!?!?” I yelled at the door. “YOU’RE NEXT YOU EVIL SHIT!!! YOU HEAR ME?!?!?!”
As Malaci comes up to me, he stares down at the very dead Mind Flayer at our feet. He then looks at me with a smile and says matter of factly “Damn, we make a good team.” As I wipe my blades on the dead creatures cloak and put them away, he bends down and begins going through the creatures’ now bloody clothes. As I stand there and watch him do this, I answer his question with a laugh. “That we do, my friend. That we do.”
We meet up with Wilfbrim and Fleabus back in the Bumpus room, then make our way through the other tunnel until we come into a small cavern, not unlike the one with the pond, only this one was dry and had 2 carts with large empty barrels on each, just like the ones we saw in Everwood. The green slimy residue on the rims confirms our suspicions. These are the same ones we saw there. Malaci scouts ahead to confirm what I suspected. That the forward passage leads to the main chamber.
“It’s really big.” He says to us when he returns. “And wait until you see the altar to Lolth. This is not a good place, guys.”
We prepare ourselves as well as possible by casting defensive and buffing spells. Malaci says that he will be better used if he just goes and hides up in the ceiling somewhere and snipes at whoever he feels would be a good target. “Know I’m there, even if you can’t see me.” He says. I heartily agree in that I know his strengths and weaknesses as well. We say our good lucks and Malaci vanishes. The rest of us calmly walk into the chamber.
We emerge into a fairly large cavern in an almost bulbous shape. The size of the cavern is easily 100-150 feet across by 200-250 ft long. The ceiling is only around 30 ft high, though. In front of us are eight large pillars that appear to be made of the same black stone the rest of the cavern is made from. They stand in the middle of the chamber in two rows. Each about 30 ft from the east and west walls, and about 10 ft from each other. As we go further out into the chamber, we see that there are 4 side passages on both the east and west walls, the top one on the west wall being the one we just emerged from. As I look across the cavern to the other side, I see that damnable raven yet again! He’s sitting in the middle of the right most passageway, eyes glowing and following my every move. All of a sudden I hear from down the cavern a voice that spewed forth from the magic mouth on the scroll from Alustriel’s bedroom. Immediately followed by another that I hadn’t heard since the Battle of Everwood.
Raven… and Xhal.
I turn to look down the cavern and see a sight that makes me flashback to my days in Ithilaughryn as a child and young drow. At the end of the cavern we are in, there is another cavern that is even larger. It houses a large stone foundation in the middle, with steps leading up to the giant statue of Lolth that is sitting there. I see directly in front of the statue is an incredibly beautiful Drow woman in very regal clothing holding what appears to be a rod with the heads of several snakes attached. This can only be the Matron Mother or a high ranking daughter of the house. Directly in front of her, but on the bottom of the stairs, is the source of the first voice. He is one of the largest drow males I have ever seen. He wears chain mail that is as black as our skin and bears two long swords in his hands; one of which glows with a dark energy. Directly to the matron mother’s left is the owner of the second voice. The Cambion necromancer, Xhal. In front of all of them are several drow warriors and two real driders, all of which are armed, weapons drawn and ready. As I take in the whole view of the cavern, I finally see the entire design of it all. It’s a spider! Body, legs, head, eyes. A damn, giant spider!
“So, I see you’ve finally made your way to our little place away in the hills.” Says Raven. “Too bad you couldn’t come in the fall. The colors are really gorgeous. Do you like the design? I thought it was a little too obvious, but, it does grow on you.”
“Enough with the small talk you fool.” Xhal yells at Raven. “Kill them now before they have a chance to do anything.”
“Perhaps you’re right after all, Xhal. Maybe we should kill them a..”
When suddenly from the behind me comes a loud “HSSSSSSSSSS! mmmmmmmrrrrrrrrrrrrRRROOOOWWWRRR!” and Shalar comes bounding out from behind one of the pillars and pounces on the raven in a jumble of flying feathers. The raven is so surprised that all it can do is utter a single surprised “SQWAWK?!” before being sent to birdie heaven. Or wherever birds go when they die. This seemed to have a very detrimental effect on Raven, as he screams in what I hope was intense agony and crumples to the ground.
I don’t get a chance to rejoice in our enemies’ sudden downfall or my furry friend’s sudden resurrection as I hear Xhall yell, “NOW!! KILL THEM ALL!!!”
As they advanced on us I could see Shalar from the corner of my eye disappear down the last corridor, towards the Bumpus room and outside. I think to my self “I hope I see her again.”
Then they were on us. Two each on myself, Fleabus and Wilfbrim, and a drider on Fleabus. I concentrate on my two and draw a defensive posture to gauge their ability. Both are accomplished swordsmen, exactly what I expect from my kinsmen. But not accomplished enough to face my resolve today, and they go down quickly. The drider comes to face me after seeing his comrades fall, leaving Fleabus with only the original two. The thing is even more hideous up close and is a very formidable opponent. It’s quickness with its weapons is staggering, considering it was not wearing any magical augmentation. I was put on the defensive for quite a while until I saw a repeating pattern in his movements. After that, it was just a matter of time before finding the opening and exploiting it.
During my battle, I can see both Fleabus and Wilfbrim battle their own adversaries. At one point, after he has taken care of his two enemies, Wilfbrim looks almost lost and ends up activating an item that either casts an illusion or actually transforms him into Sarya. Yes Sarya, the succubus that we killed on the Abyss. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this particular action, but I’m sure it didn’t get him the results he wanted, because a few moments later, a lightning bolt came from the end of the cavern and struck him end over end until he lay in a crumpled heap on the ground.
It was at this point that Malaci rejoins us after having taken care of a drider and two other drow. As we regroup and decide on what to do next, we hear from the rear of the chamber the unmistakable chant of a spell being cast…
“Ut wisi enim ad minim
venia, in vulputate
velit esse molestie.”
We feel a small rumble in the earth beneath our feet, then nothing.
The drow female from the end of the cavern yells in our direction as she steps down from the statue and walks back to the rear of the cavern. “It is too late fools! The ancient horror has now been released! Soon you will see it with your own eyes and know that when you do, your precious Alustriel and her friends will be too busy dealing with its reign of terror to help Silverymoon. House Mou Ti’Najere will come in and take over the city without so much as having to draw a blade!”
She motions for Xhal to help up Raven, who is just now finally coming to from his little ‘incident’. He is helped up and led by Xhal to the back of the cavern where she is waiting. She presses the wall and a door opens up. Xhal and Raven go through, but she lingers a moment.
“You would do well to leave the premises soon. The creature that is coming is probably hungry after more than 1,000 years of captivity. HAHAHAHAHahahahahaha….” She then goes through the door and it closes behind her with a soft woosh.
What we see next is something from a nightmare. It slowly takes shape before our eyes, as if materializing from thin air. It is cylindrical, about 15’ feet long from end to end and tapers from a point at one end, to a 5’ wide gaping maw with sharp teeth all inside it on the other. Around this gaping maw are four normal looking arms that end in a hand. Each one is positioned at the top, bottom and right and left sides of the maw. I floated in mid-air as if levitating. Whatever it was, it looked too much for us to handle, so I did the only thing I could. I went after Raven, Xhal and the priestess. I had no idea what the rest of the party was going to do, but I knew I had to follow them if Alustriel and Silverymoon had any chance of surviving. I run to the end of the cavern and search for the secret door. The creature doesn’t even seem to notice me as I run by it.
When I go through the secret door, I find myself in a small chamber with nothing in it except a large barrel that is oozing a red looking liquid (the antidote!) and a portal that looked like a smaller version of the one in Everwood. Standing next to it is Raven and the priestess. As they see me enter the room, they both jump through the portal and are gone in a flash. As they step through, Malaci and Fleabus come into the room, with Fleabus carrying Wilfbrim over his shoulder. I point at the barrel and yell to them that it must be the antidote and to get it back to Silverymoon. I then jump through the portal.
When I come out on the other side, I find myself on the hill overlooking the cave. At the edge of the hill is Raven, and Raven alone. As I start to speak, Malachi and Fleabus come through the portal, with Fleabus still carrying Wilfbrim.
“You are too late to stop the invasion you fools. There is an army of drow from my house coming this way as we speak. The “Blood of Lolth” has weakened Silverymoon and killed its leader. We will slaughter every living thing and then sack the city for everything it has. Nothing will stop us! Because as I’m sure you saw below, the powers that protect this pathetic surface realm will have their hands full dealing with the Phaerrim my sister released. Your way of life is at its end, surface dwellers!” And with that he starts towards us with his weapons drawn.
As I ready myself for the inevitable battle, Malachi comes up from behind me and engages Raven before I can get in front of him. It was a foolish if incredibly brave thing to do. But, it was what was needed to catch Raven off guard. So as Raven was finishing off Malachi, he was too occupied to see me as I came at him. I finished him off with a flurry strokes that left him in tatters. Fleabus wanted to be sure so he beheaded him when he finally fell.
As soon as the grisly deed was done, we stood up and looked around to see what we could see. A pall of despair swept over us at that moment. From all around us, from every direction, an army of dark elves began to advance towards, and then past us towards Silverymoon. Raven was right. It had all been for nothing! Wilfbrim and Malachi dead. Alustriel and Silverymoon about to be obliterated. As Fleabus and I looked at the horrible sight, then at each other, we both knew what we had to do. At least we’d show them the price of our blood!
As we readied ourselves for what we really believed to be our last stand, we heard in the distance what sounded like a fair and clear horn blast. The Drow army must have heard it too, because they all stopped I their tracks to listen as well. Yes! There it was again, only louder this time! And getting closer as well! Time seemed to stand still for those few moments before we saw a single figure crest the far hill, its figure a silhouetted against the rising sun. It stops then, and pulls its hood back to reveal a dark elf with a head of white flowing hair. Drizzt! He crosses his arms in front of himself as he reaches for his weapons. I swear I could hear the ’shwing!” as he drew them both out and held them crossed above his head. As his weapons reach their zenith above their wielder’s head, hundreds of glints of light suddenly crests the hill behind the lone Drow. Those glints came from the shining helmets of the entire army of Silverymoon! The Knights in Silver had arrived! With a cry of “ALUSTRIEL AND SLIVERYMOON!!!, Drizzt and the entire host of Silverymoon came charging down the hill. Fleabus and I look at each other yet again, and with grins as big as child on Christmas, joined in the battle and clashed with the invading army head on. The only thing I remember is the battle being the fiercest and most brutal I’d been in. No finesse or skill needed here; just brutal, bloody mayhem. I remember facing down three drow warriors at once, then a blast of searing pain, and then darkness.
Chapter V - The Gift and Epilogue
I wake to Shalar licking my face.
“Hi cat. Nice to see you, too.” I say as I sit up and grab her and give her a big hug.
I see I’m in a soft bed and my friends are around me. I am told that we won the battle and the drow army has been routed as well as the cambion army in Everlund. There has been many hundreds of casualties, mostly innocent citizens, and much damage to the city proper, but the city still stands. The antidote has been distributed to all in Silverymoon; Alustriel is recovering and will be back to her normal self in a few days. Wilfbrim and Malachi have been resurrected and are fine (albeit a point less in their Con scores). After a few days of much needed rest, Alustriel comes to us and says that she is beyond words in her thanks and appreciation for what we have done for her and her city. “You have shown again your bravery, selflessness and love for this city and its people. You will always be welcome here.” She then asks that we attend a special gathering of important people from around the North. “It is there that I will bestow upon you all Mystra’s blessing. That which you have earned so well.”
When the day came for the ceremony, the main hall of Alustriel’s palace was filled with people from all over The North. There was Elminster, Khelben Arunsen, Storm Silverhand, Dove Falconhand, and two prominent Drow elves, Drizzt Do’Urden and Quilue Veladorn. Alustriel comes into the room and addresses all that are in attendance saying that Mystra herself has told her that she has given her blessing to the ones who helped defeat the drow army and save the city from what was most assuredly complete destruction. She then stops and directs our party - Myself, Malaci, Fleabus and Wilfbrim, to stand back to back in the center of the room. “Behold the glory of Mystra!” she exclaims and begins to dance around us in a circle as if she needed no music to accompany her. But then, an unearthly music begins, as if from nowhere and everywhere at once, and she begins to sing in an otherworldly and beautiful voice and then begins to dance and sing in time with it; twirling and spinning, spinning and twirling until it seems she is almost floating above the ground. Wait! She is floating! Actually levitating into the air as she continues to spin, with the music picking up tempo as she goes higher and higher, spinning faster and faster until she and the music reach the pinnacle of their respective heights. Then, in unison, the music drops to a whisper and there is a burst of the purest white light from Alustriel that leaves trailing sparklers like a fireworks explosion, then she slowly floats down with the sparklers, and as the sparklers descend down to us and then encompass us, we feel something surge through us, like a lightning bolt, but there is no pain at all, only a feeling of new power. (three stats raised by 1d3) Alustriel, as she slowly floats to the ground, looks down upon us and says, “You have been given the blessing of Mystra herself, my friends. Know that this gift is not given to just anyone. She believes that you deserve it for what you have accomplished. I share in her belief.” She then turns to me directly and says, “You, Yasraena, have shown me that I was not wrong in entrusting to you that which is secret. You have proven your bravery and worthiness in wearing that which was given. May Mystra grant you long life!”
It has been a week since we have been given the blessing. I am on a much needed vacation, Malachi is off doing whatever Malachi does, Fleabus is petitioning for citizenship here in the city and has actually bought a house, and Wilfbrim is looking into building a temple to Mystra here as well. The city is beginning to heal itself quite nicely. The buildings are getting rebuilt, the gardens and parks are getting replanted and things are slowly getting back to normal.
It is during this time we find out it's not as normal as we think. One night we all have a dream. The exact same dream as a matter of fact. We see what can only be described as a scene from the pits of the Abyss itself. Lines of people - men, women, even children - walking towards an immense bony looking castle on a narrow walkway with demons of every sort tormenting them as the trudge along. We can not only see this, but hear their screams of anguish as one of them feels the wrath of a demon as they push it over the edge into a flaming chasm, r just rends their poor bodies as it flies by. We witness this for what seems a long time and then realize just who these people are. They are the souls of the slaughtered townspeople of Sundabar!! As we realize this fact, it is what wakes us form the nightmare, to find that each of us has a throbbing pain on our bodies somewhere, mine being on my left forearm. As we look at the part where the pain is we see a faint glowing mark, outlined in red…a perfect pentagram. The symbol of Orcus.
Continued in the next chapter in the Hellgate Keep Campaign
Hellgate Keep IV - The Crossing