Rumblings of Change

Captured

After our battle with the warped treants and their swarms of spiders, we waded into the ruins beyond. The ruins, though ancient and nearly all but destroyed at this point, are huge and we had little idea where to begin until we came across fresh dwarven tracks. Fael told us that they were probably duergar and slaves at that. We searched around in that part of the ruins, coming across one room full of these slaves, but they fought viciously when they caught sight of us. Any pity I might have had for these creatures is lost in the fact that any hesitation on our part could kill us even against these ‘captives’.

We found another roomful of duergar and decided to storm in and strike first, not giving them the option to aid us or at least stand aside. In we went and snap went the trap. Turns out these duergar were merely illusions and, while we were distracted, the drow we came to find lashed out, magically incapacitating us. When I came to, we all were stripped of armor and weapons and left in a locked room. We were captives.

I would be lying if I said that this was the worst situation I had ever faced, but being held captive by drow is a situation that unnerved me. Diala could retrieve her blade, bonded as she was with it, but the rest of us would be of little help in a fight. Escape seemed hopeless, but when have I ever laid down to die? Lowe and I both lined up with the door barring our way out and began pushing, hoping against hope to force it open. The door was solid and bolted into stone walls, but as we heaved and shoved, I felt a familiar pulse in my chest. Power beyond what I normally had swelled inside me, into my legs and arms and I heaved with might I cannot remember ever having. Whatever this power is, it filled me and let me break open our prison cell. Just in time to see ourselves confronted by armed and armored duergar. Miracle of strength or not, our situation was still dire.

I don’t know who first did it, but a shout of surprise behind me drew my eye to see both Tess and Kosh standing there, dumbfounded by the weapons they held. They were not bonded to those like Diala was, but somehow those blades had come when they called. Beside me, Lowe’s hammer appeared in his hand and he waded forward, slamming into the even more surprised duergar. Was it too much to hope in this second miracle? I held out my hand and focused on my blade, but still nearly dropped it when it appeared before me. I have long known the blade to be magical, but never have I seen it do this and for most of us to be able to do the same thing with their own weapons? Nearly unthinkable.

What makes these weapons so special?

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Water, leaf and lightning

At Sundabar, we decided to find passage down the river, speeding us closer to Hellgate Keep than going by foot would have accomplished. Tess arranged it with an odd gnome, who carried us through the pass and then let us off on the eastern banks of the river. I have traveled this region before, but mostly to the west, away from the dense forest that now hugged close to the northern mountains. I had heard much about this wood, some saying it was home to naught but dangerous and evil creatures while others speak of nature-revering elves and gnomes that strive to live and preserve the sanctity of the forest. I didn’t know which to believe, if either of those stories could be believed at all.

As we traveled eastwards along the forest’s border, I became aware of an elf woman following us in the shadows. When we confronted her, she acknowledged that fell things seemed to be stirring near Hellgate Keep and that she would aid us in driving out whatever could be causing the dark events that was recently plaguing the forest. She named herself Marisol, but was more closed lipped about herself than Tess was about us. However, I felt a certain kinship to her that I have come to trust, though I do not entirely understand it myself.

We soon arrived at the keep, a long deserted ruin that looked even more run down than I had anticipated. There we were ambushed by scarred and twisted treants and hordes of large and venomous spiders. Ulutu has grown large as of late, but even his new found strength couldn’t protect him from the spiders’ poison and he was near death’s door. I myself was bitten, but felt again the now-familiar surge of power that has saved me many times before. It flooded me, pushing back much of the venom’s bite, but I could do little more than that as the treants pounded us with both limb and lightning called from above. Fortunately, my friends rallied and managed to break our attackers, though we fell back and bandaged our wounds. I have no doubt now that the drow we seek are here, but it seems that they are stronger than I had feared and driving them out may be a very bloody battle.

Part of me can’t wait.

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Things that go bump in the night
Lowe

Being attacked by devils and demons in the middle of the night has become such a common occurrence that my pajama situation has become a bit of an issue. The drow especially don’t seem to respect my bedtime comfort. If I spent the majority of the night wrapped in my bedroll (as I would prefer), then I might stand up for my preferred sleeping attire. As it is, with all of these surprise visitors, I can see their point. Not only am I going to start sleeping with pants on, but I have a light chain mail shirt to wear to bed.

If Fael’s old friends are responsible for this, they are going to pay.

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Messing with Fael and Lowe
Tessara's Journal

Fael has not exactly been subtle with me when it comes to his attraction and so forth towards me. So, recently I started messing with him a little bit by calling him “darling”, all in good fun. Well, as it turns out, Lowe has been trying to learn Drow, picking it up here and there from Fael and I’s conversations. So, after hearing me say something to Fael, he tried to say something similar, and called him “darling” as well.

To be honest, I almost sort of tried to hold a straight face, but I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, especially at Fael’s concerned and frankly creeped out expression. It was wonderful, Fael was uncomfortable, I explained to Lowe what he called Fael (well, I may have exaggerated how vulgar a term he actually used) so Lowe was uncomfortable, meanwhile I had a good laugh at both of their expense.

And honestly, with all the dark shit we’ve been putting up with the past few days (I can’t stop thinking of the little girl that Diala and Corlin ended up taking in, poor thing), I think we really needed a moment of levity.

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On the road

After delivering our report to Mithral Hall and then to Silverymoon, Diala and I focused our attention on curing Aethis’ condition. None of the clerics or sages in either city even know what is wrong with him, needless to say how to fix it. However, we were told of a powerful cleric far to the south that is blessed immensely by his deity and as such may be our best bet in reviving our fallen friend.

However, we didn’t dare risk such a long journey when every few nights we would be beset by devils summoned supposedly by the drow that escaped our battle with the Kuruck chieftain. As long as they live, they can send their minions after us. Such a thought is not helpful when planning a long trip. As such, we agreed with Tess’s new companion to try to find and eliminate them. We set off quickly, with Aethis being brought more slowly by a second group with a wagon that would meet us eventually. On the road, more devils sprang out of the night and attacked, nearly killing us yet again. Fortunately, we lived and our resolve to eradicate our drow tormentors was strengthened.

Then we came across a small, burned wagon. A battle, small and brief, had been fought here and the lone survivor, a small, scared little girl, wept as we buried the bodies of her family. Bugbears were to blame here. The girl told us that she knew of no other family or friends that would take her in, and Diala, Tess and I decided to arrange a nursemaid to watch over her in Silverymoon in our house until we could return and sort the situation out better. Once the girl was safe in town, we hunted down the bugbears and slaughtered them.

It was only right.

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Surprise: We didn't die.
Lowe

We survived our sneaky little attack, thanks to . . . Thanks to what? Thanks to that dragon not seriously trying kill us. Thanks to the orcs being distracted and not attacking or pursuing us in force. Thanks to blind luck and nothing we did. I mean, we surely did fight valiantly (including Fael, I’ll admit I’m impressed) and we killed some orcs and it was tons of fun, but we are surrounded by forces beyond our control. Like that EMP (Energetic Magical Pulse) that took down Aethis. It’s more obvious every day that we need a better understanding of what’s going on. How will I know what to hammer?

I wish we had been able to investigate the source of that energy wave. I understand that we were severely injured, we had an incapacitated wizard to deal with, and we were still near a large group of angry orcs.

We still can’t be sure of Fael’s motives. He did help us fight against his former companions, and that does tell us something about his loyalties. Or his lack of loyalty. I’m going to watch him closely, but a man who fights beside us deserves a chance.

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An Opportunity
Tessara's Journal

Well, a practical suicide mission, a wave of purple nonsense that nearly killed Diala and myself, and finally a trip back to Mithral Hall, so much is happening right now, but I keep thinking about Fael, and his strange curiosity in me.

I guess I should back up.

When I was a child, Alustriel often had visitors who she would introduce to me. Sometimes they would be polite, or curious, many would usually pay me no mind, after all, I was just the orphan Drow who was Alustriel’s ward. However, one visitor who I will never forget was QiluĆ© Veladorn. She was another of the Chosen of Mystra, like Alustriel, and was also a Chosen of Eilistraee, and one of the only other drow I had ever met up until recently. It was from her that I first learned of the drow goddess who sought to bring my kind back to the light, and whose followers worked to help all people live in harmony. She gave me a book of tales and scripture, which to this day is one of my most precious possessions.

Since then, I have been a devoted follower of Eilistraee, and I feel like she is watching out for me in some small way. Hell, I even went so far as to tattoo symbols of her on my shoulder and arm. That’s why I became a bard, and a traveler, hoping to see the world and spread the word, help others see that the drow can do good in this world, and have a place on the surface, living peacefully. (As a side note, I’ve heard rumor that there are colonies of surface drow who worship Eilistraee in areas of the world, and I hope to visit one someday)

However, other than ignoring scornful looks, displaying the symbol and trying to do good, I never had felt a real opportunity to try and bring other drow into the light. And then, I met Fael.

I know the others have their reservations and doubts about Fael, and they certainly were wary to trust him on our little assault today, but I think that we can trust him. He turned against the agents of chaos, and joined us to get free of them. He finds me strange, walking the surface among dwarves and men, and I’m guessing the tattoo on my back was what first drew his interest. But, if someone like Fael can change, maybe there is hope for more of my people.

We need to hunt down the drow agents that escaped, or they will hunt us and Fael alike, but after that we are headed south. Something happened to Aethis, he saved mine and Diala’s life, but he’s not well as a result. We have heard word of a healer far, far to the south that might be able to help.

After we deal with these drow I would like to stop by Silverymoon one last time before we head south. I need to get my book, I didn’t take it with us on the trip to Mithral Hall, but left it at the palace. If we are going to be gone for quite a while, I want it with me. That, and I want to allow Fael a chance to take a look at it.

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Debt

While traveling in orcish territory, we met Tess’s… I will say contact, as I am still not sure if he can be considered a friend, regardless of what she says. Fael, a drow male willing to betray his masters. I suppose I should be grateful, but if he’s willing to betray once, who is to say if he’ll do so again.

Regardless, he told us that he could get us into the tent of the Kuruck leader, Gurgutch, his top minions and his drow ‘advisers’. Whether we could survive such a battle or escape afterwards was up in the air, but we decided to try it. Stopping this army demanded risk, and taking out these leaders could very well do it. The other orcs, leaderless, would fall on each other, each striving to take the now empty throne but each willing to kill to get it. Though this army might survive under some other orc’s leadership, the struggle would weaken it considerably.

So we risked it. Fael used some magic to take us to the tent, full of enemies and danger. We cut, rent and bled, many of us coming close to death as we struggled with such powerful enemies. Through it all, I could feel a pulse in me I have only lately felt, a… I don’t know how to describe it, but whatever it is, it surged in me from time to time, filling me with power I had never had before and allowing me to do things I have never done before. By all rights, I should be dead. We all should be dead. But this pulse… it made me more than I had ever been. More than we had ever been, if I’m not mistaken. We fought harder than any of us have a right to, and I don’t know why.

We survived, but had to flee the tent quickly before the army could muster itself against us. As we did so, something strange began to sweep the landscape. Diala doesn’t know what it was, but it seemed like a wall of sickly light rushing overland. A flood of… wrongness and we were but twigs in its path. Aethis seemed to realize what was happening and enacted some spell. The light rushed over us and passed, leaving us unharmed but at a cost. Aethis seems to have taken the brunt of whatever attack that was and is now comatose, and no one among us know how to help him.

We managed to retreat back to Mithral Hall, reporting the successful assassination of Gurgutch and some of his minions, but at least two of his drow ‘helpers’ seemed to have escaped. We were thanked for our help and told that a cleric far to the south might be able to help Aethis. Based on reports that we’ve since heard, both Diala and Tess would have been stricken by that wave had he not saved them, so she and I agree that in this, we owe him and should do what we can to make him whole once more. As for what Tess feels, I do not know.

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We're all going to die.
Lowe

Mr. Underdark has a fancy suicide plan for us. We’re going to teleport into the orc war camp and then fight our way out. I guess it would be more dangerous to fight our way in, but at some point, all paths to certain death begin to look the same. All of this so we can kill the orc leader. I’m not a political man, and the inner workings of orc society are not something I’m familiar with, but it’s hard to imagine that killing this one orc is going to stop this army.

If Fael is so confident in our plan, why wont he go with us?

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It's always hammer time
Lowe

Some people, esspecially humans and elfs, keep telling me that violence can’t solve everything. So far, they’ve been wrong. Every problem I’ve encountered has been solved by violence. I guess the lesson is that when you have a hammer, it’s best to treat everything like a nail. Like these hell cats. It’ll be fine once we pound them into the ground.

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