Portrait of Thorik Wyvernbane, created with the PortraitWorks app (beta version)
This is a very quick and imprecise summary the earliest sessions of my first D&D campaign. We started the game in the city of Thandell, described in the links above, and at that time the 3.0 edition of D&D was pretty new. The player characters were: Lance, a human paladin of Hoar; Thorik, a dwarven cleric of Moradin; Tika, a halfling rogue; Aseir, a paladin of Torm (later Sune) and Adar, a human fighter. One NPC traveled with them - Tika's cousin Camara, a halfing wizard.
The player characters began the game as students in the academy, newly graduated from their first year. They were being shown their duties around the city: patrolling the perimeter, the wall and the city. They were even taken out on a small-scale dragon hunt with Valeria Dragonthorne and Commander Silverstrike. Baby white dragons roost in the cold nooks and crannies of the Spine of the World mountains nearby, after all. They had performed admirably and were enjoying their privileged outing with their teachers when the day of the eclipse occured. During the eclipse, danger seemed to crowd around them with the cold. The paladins Lance and Aseir decided to sense evil. The wizard followed suit by trying to sense magic. Evil blanketed the air and magic sang on the breeze. Something had happened, but they didn't know what.
Several days passed before they could return to civilization. At the gates of Thandell, it began with a peasant protesting to the guards: his wife and daughter were missing and his dreams warned him of danger. The group stopped to try to help the man, and what he told them was odd: his wife and daughter had left to meet family for a festival dedicated to the miracle of the eclipse. They had not returned and he feared them dead. The player characters began to meet other peasants who were missing relatives and friends, and none had returned to the city. They also discovered the location of the festival: an abandoned druid's grove in the Moon Wood. They were sent to investigate the rumors and to sharpen their skills. What they found gave them good reason to use all of the skills at their command.
A massive ritual of some sort had been held in the grove. Every man, woman and child who had gone to the festival from Thandell, Nesmé, and Silverymoon lay dead. Many had partaken of poison, while some had been forcibly killed. Approximately two hundred bodies littered the ground. Many of the dead rose up as zombies, allips, wraiths and wights and attacked. When they had put to rest all who rose up, the player characters burned the bodies and found an earthen platform. The special ground was covered with runes, both divine and arcane in nature. The group's cleric and wizard copied the runes in painstaking detail.
They divulged their information to the commanders of the academy and the local churches of Moradin and Helm. The group was charged with the task of gathering as much information as possible on the victims, the killers, and the purpose of the gathering. Not a living soul had escaped the massacre and the clerics and wizards responsible were nowhere to be found. They did discover small unholy symbols left behind in the homes of the dead - unholy symbols of Cyric. They stumbled across an underground complex that had been used by the priests or wizards. Drawing upon many resources, they came to understand that there was another ritual cast at a site in the Anauroch Desert, betwixt the Standing Stones.
The player characters were given the duty of following the lead and finding out as much as possible about the evil afoot. The resources of Thandell, as usual, were mostly being used for self-defense and war preparations. The city could not afford to send a contingent of men to investigate a mystery when there was so much reality to deal with at home. The queen of the city also did not wish to cause panic in her subjects, and so the fewer who were sent to investigate, the better.
The characters headed away from Thandell along the River Rauvin. They gaped at the great city of Silverymoon and stayed there for a few days. They found shops filled with strange delights and gardens filled with artists of all kinds. Lance marvelled at a temple dedicated to his very own diety, Hoar, and considered the possibilities of a bard's education for his younger sister, Aleria. Aseir visited the temple of Sune and found himself amid three very lovely clerics, despite the girlfriend he had left at home. Caught by his group outside of the temple, Aseir received jabs and taunts as they left the famed metropolis. With them they took enough hippogriffs to carry them and a ranger to take care of the flock (Jedrek, a gnome).
The group fought in the wild green of the High Forest and found a drow calling in the depths. She had been tied to a tree in barbed rope, held high and with eyelids severed. Left for the sunrise, she called and was rescued by the group. Her name was Ananda. To their surprise, she did not register as evil to the paladins, and she did not try to kill them. She explained that she had been a courtesan in the Underdark until she discovered that she was marked for death by her mistress. She fled and tried to find the nearest exit to the surface. While in the High Forest, she was discovered by a band of male drow. They beat her and bound her to the tree. The group decided that they could not leave Ananda, and Jedrek offered to share his hippogriff with her.
While in a tent city of the nomadic Bedine people of Anauroch, the paladin Lance bought an antique silvered mirror for his sister as a souvenir from a fast-talking merchant. Everyone outside of the group who had anything remotely to do with the mirror were found dead. The mirror has shown itself to be a part of a key, a magical sequence set up to uncover and open the holding place of the Phaerimm, an ancient evil race. The characters were attacked and nearly killed by a very skillful group of men who were bent only on obtaining the mirror. They spoke the language of the shades, but they died without revealing their master's names.
The group discovered a second and more horrific site at the Standing Stones and got wind of another site in the Tortured Lands. They moved on toward the Tortured Lands and discovered ill news: on the first of Hammer, all dwarven women in Vaasa who were pregnant miscarried. The same happened to the dwarves of Mithral Hall and Thandell. They mulled over the implications on the way to investigating the site in the Tortured Lands, which they cleared. The site pointed them to another place of evil near Darmshall.
They spent some time in the town of Darmshall, helping the citizenry and the church of Moradin. Thorik's cousins, Bevan and his daughter Eliora, ran an inn at which the group stayed. The Council of Darmshall hired Tika, Thorik, Jedrek and Camara to bring slaves from the Pirate Isles to Darmshall to help soothe the imbalanced ratio of men to women. The Council agreed to free the women when they reached Darmshall and to care for them until they could make homes for themselves. Although they were not comfortable with slavery, the four tried to made arrangements to try to lure the women away from the Council's care. Thinking that they had cheated the Council, Thorik gloated in front of the Head Councilwoman, the Widow Ainsley. Lance and Aseir would have nothing to do with the slave trade and went off on a small adventure of their own. When their errands were done, the group headed into their first underground site. They went together into the darkness: Adar, Ananda, Aseir, Camara, Jedrek, Lance, Thorik and Tika.
The underground was full of dangers, and the undead that lurked far from the light were strong. They swept the foulness aside and found the chamber used for the ritual. Camara, Adar and Thorik copied different sections of the runework in the room while the others kept watch. Their straining ears caught a strange sound, and the tunnel they had come in through caved in. The dust stung their eyes and throats as they heard movement in the rubble. The undead they saw rising were too numerous and strong for them to handle. Ananda called for a retreat and led the way. The group pounded into the dark so furiously that they didn't see the floor that didn't exist. They tumbled far into the dark, down a chute slicked with some foul substance. There were broken limbs.
As the group looked for a way out, Ananda went through a tunnel to investigate. She returned and told them to say nothing. She led them to a tableaux of death: four bodies laying in the tunnel, with their throats cut by drow blades. They discovered the bodies to be those of the four children of Cattie Brie and Drizzt Do'Urden, and the murderers weren't too far away. They found themselves captured in a trap which had been laid for Drizzt.
Ananda told the guard that she brought surface slaves as a gift for her sister, Triel. It was then that a harsh correction was made: her sister had become Matron of the family. Ananda and the group were taken as slaves of House Despana.
For over a month they toiled. They were tortured and starved beyond endurance. They did all they could to make weapons of some sort, but their struggles were futile. They shared a damp cell with an Avariel who had been held captive by the drow for at least fifty years. Her broken spirit and frailty only urged them to look for ways to escape. Just when they feared they weren't going to find a way out, Ananda had arranged for them to meet with Moclyss, high wizard of Ust Natha. He offered them a strange deal: he would teleport them and their gear to the surface. In return, fate would decide their sacrifice for his service. They agreed to the price, but before the ritual could be enacted, they were summoned before Triel herself.
They were guests at the ritual murder of Jedrek, who was chosen seemingly because he was the one Ananda had liked best. At the end of the ritual, a messenger burst into the room to show House Despana's newest discovery: a mirror. The room was flooded with light and force, and Camara lost control of the new power. Jedrek's body vanished, and drow were tossed about. It wasn't enough to free the group, but it was enough to alert the shadows pursuing the halfling.
They were smuggled from their cell during an attack on the drow. Ananda led them to Moclyss and they were each sent to the surface. Ananda said that she would try to get to Camara but that she could not promise anything. House Despana was in a war of magic. Something had come for Tika's cousin.
Aseir had a vision of his home, and men forcing their way into it. The men asked his mother about him, and when his mother refused to tell them anything, they attacked. He watched his mother's valiant fight and watched as she was overcome. The vision faded with laughter and screams.
Thorik appeared in his family's home. His family was gathered, admiring a new art addition to their home. When Thorik asked who had made it, his family members turned to him in horror. They wailed that he was dead, and his father's heart gave way. Thorik saw his father fall dead before he faded away from his family.
Tika saw her family, trapped in a place of living shadows. She saw her parents tormenting her brother into a ball of tears. And then a portal opened in the fabric of space, leading to Faerun. Her parents darted for the light and burst through to the other side. Her brother was left in the shadows, alone.
Lance saw his beloved sister Aleria walking down the street towards Aseir's house in Thandell. She stopped short, seeing the door ajar and a strange powdery mix hanging in the air (from the powders Aseir's mother had thrown at them). She crept toward a window to look inside and saw what was happening there. She stopped to light a torch and as one of the attackers moved up behind her, the fire caught on. The powder sucked up the flames and carried them through the house. Her attacker was burnt and Aleria was thrown to the ground with him. She moved quickly and stabbed the man through the throat, but it wasn't enough. She was caught by another and thrown into the burning house. That was the last Lance saw before he passed out.
The group woke on a rocky ledge, where they had left their mounts to roost. Moclyss had placed them exactly where they requested and had even sent them a trunk of gifts. Ananda and Camara were not with them, but much of their old gear had been salvaged. They saw their scars and losses in the dying light of sunset and wept. They pulled on their armor and found their weapons. The hippogriffs answered their calls, despite Jedrek's absence. They mounted the hippogriffs and flew off, desperate not to spend one more night close to the undead and the drow.
Lance, Aseir, Tika and Thorik made their way back to Darmshall with Caelia, their Avariel cellmate. They had no idea what had happened to Adar, as he was not in the Underdark with them. They went into the town after dark and discovered that Bevan's inn had been burnt down not long after the group had disappeared. When Adar had gone back to Darmshall alone, he had been accosted and thrown in the local jail. The group reeled with the news; they could not comprehend what they had done to deserve such drastic measures. Thorik tried to rouse the dwarves to fight but found that none of them wanted battle. They wanted to live in peace. Without any backing, the group led Eliora and Bevan out of town. They arranged to break Adar out of jail, and while Tika was searching the prison, she discovered Widow Ainsley's daughter in one of the cells. Tika released the woman, who in turn released other prisoners. As Tika and Adar ran, the town guards busied themselves with a ferocious jail break.
The group flew away from Darmshall and moved swiftly toward Thentia. In the large port city they were grounded by bad weather for a few days. During their stay, strange eggs had hatched inside of Aseir and spiders and snakes issued from his body. The last gift of the drow strained his body and his mind. Eliora, Caelia and Bevan were teleported to Citadel Adbar, and just before they vanished, Thorik said something which sounded an awful lot like a proposal of marriage to Eliora. The group was stunned and amused at the same time. With their load lightened, the group set out from Thentia. They swept across the northern border of Anauroch, travelling very carefully.
They reached Citadel Adbar, and Thorik went about trying to console his family, for his father had indeed died. His mother was much weakened by his father's death, and seemed to benefit from his presence. He also attempted to complete his proposal. Eliora, left to stew and wonder if he would live to reach her, gave him no quarter. After much toil, Eliora consented to marry Thorik. Arrangements were made quickly, and a grand wedding was thrown in the depths of Citadel Adbar. As a sort of honeymoon, the couple would travel together to Sundabar and Silverymoon - on the way to Thandell.
Bevan saddled up with the group and on they flew to Sundabar. During their overnight stay, the newlyweds kept to their room. Aseir went to a tavern and met a half-elf named Elliriel. They swapped stories about their adventures and she asked him questions about his home. As they talked, he noticed a terrible, deep scar starting downward from between her breasts. When questioned about it, she refused to answer. The night was pleasant despite that, and the group flew off at the dawn of the next day.
Silverymoon received them with open arms. Thorik showed the magical city to his wife and Lance spent the evening with an acquaintence he had made before (Inessa, a cleric of Hoar). Aseir, curious, went back to the temple of Sune. There he found his three lovely clerics, Gileslia, Sunitra and Llanira, rounded with child. It was an astronomical coincidence and undeniable relation. The three assured him that they felt blessed by their goddess and they consoled him as best they could. Aseir still looked a tad grey in the face as he left. He was heartened a bit by showing Caelia to the elves of Silverymoon. The elves pledged to protect the Avariel and gave the group tokens of their gratitude.
The group flew with messengers of Silverymoon to Thandell and finally gave up their beloved mounts. Upon reaching the castle they were promptly arrested. The sword of Drizzt's daughter had been seen in Tika's possession, and someone had alerted Bruenor. The group was taken immediately to Mithral Hall for questioning.
It took some time for their stories to be told and confirmed. They were interviewed by clerics and unseen parties listened in. They could hear debate raging through the corridors of the hall from their cell. The group spoke into the darkness and were overheard by a certain ranger. Commander Silverstrike gathered them up and herded them out of Mithral Hall as the debate on what to do continued.
At long last, the group was allowed into Thandell. Lance went at once to find his sister, and discovered that she was very ill. Tika had to go and tell her aunt and uncle that Camara, their daughter, was lost. Aseir found his mother Senedana quite weak but in the care of the temple of Helm. He discovered that Commander Valeria Dragonthorne was also sequestered in the temple. All three had received wounds from strange blades and were struck with a malady that couldn't be cured by all of the herbs and magic that had been tried. Senedana's house was a shambles, as it had been burnt down. The magic of Moclyss had worked, and the visions were real.
The group tried to shake off the grim reality of their homecoming, to no avail. Aseir moved into the house he had arranged to purchase before he left months before and he let Lance move in with him. It did not take him long to face the girl he had left behind. Erolondra had paid for scrying to see how the group was progressing, but she had paid the wizard Dorn for that service. The wizard had truly given her her money's worth, focusing on Aseir's infidelity in Silverymoon with the three clerics of Sune. Erolondra welcomed Aseir home with the business end of her morningstar, which he did not feel justified in fending off. She left him, broken and bleeding, on his front doorstep as retribution. Although Lance patched him up, Aseir was miserable and tried in a half-hearted attempt to take his own life. He didn't fasten the rope nearly well enough in his sadness and ended up crashing to the floor instead of hanging.
There was no time for self-indulgence, however. Senedana woke long enough to give her son names of men in Calimshan, her home city, who might help to heal her and everyone else affected by the poison. The group obtained leave to go after the cure, on behalf of Lance's sister and Aseir's mother as well as Commander Dragonthorne. On Aseir's last visit to his mother, he spotted a strange figure creeping through the temple hallways. When he went to investigate, he stumbled across a figure putting Valeria Dragonthorne to the sword and dove in to stop the murder. He ended up tangling around the half-elf Elliriel, the woman he had met in Sundabar. As the guards swarmed to arrest her, she revealed herself to be Valeria Dragonthorne's daughter.
The bitter woman would not relent to questioning by the guards, but she did open up to Aseir. She told him she had been nearly split in two by a sword and left to die as a baby. She was discovered and saved by the mercy of clerics. Elliriel had tracked her mother across different lands and followed a story that explained her scar all too well: Valeria Dragonthorne murdered half-breeds of all kinds, not just monster races, from the time she had given birth to a half-breed herself, a product of rape. Before she had settled to be a Commander in Thandell, Valeria sought to find as many half-breeds as she could to put to death. The entire group felt deep dismay, but not entirely disbelief. They had been traces of such behavior during their time with the Commander, but they didn't want her to die. They wanted very much to believe she had changed. Aseir asked for judgement to be held until the cure for the Commander could be found and the Queen relented.
As the group prepared to go off in search of a cure, more grim news found them. Bruenor Battlehammer had gone out of his head and decided to lead a strike against the nearest drow he could get his hands on - the drow of Menzoberranzan. Mithral Hall was thus engaged in a battle for its own safety and trading plans they had made with Thandell to supply weapons were postphoned. The war with Nesmé was on a time-frame only partly within Thandell's control; if Nesmé found out about the delay, they might try to head the whole thing off with a preemptive attack. The city was in need of every one of its hands, so the group was hastened off quickly. The war would not wait long.
Lyrina agreed to accompany the group on their journey since they were in need of a wizard. The newly-assembled group set off to Silverymoon once again and asked the elves for help. Since they had been deemed friends of the elves not long before, the group was given an audience. The elves agreed to teleport the group to Calimport, but warned the group that magical forces were not always predictable in the area. The ancient genies had long ago made the desert their own. The group soon found out about unpredictable magic, as they were teleported into the middle of what appeared to be the Calim Desert. They spent some days travelling south and encountered some strange things along the way. Nothing quite prepared them for the great city of Calimport.
The two women in the group immediately had to purchase long robes in order to adhere to strict local tradition. Only women of the night could dress in less clothing. The city was full of bizarre people and violence in a deep contrast to Thandell. The urban sprawl was part glamour, part feces. Aseir and Tika were offered a tour of the city by a less-than-admirable guide, but they took it, since the city was so very different from their own. They were taken to underground drug dens and exotic, terrible shows. They were invited to partake from a pipe and not long after they did, they lost consciousness.
They awoke naked and rolled for what they had brought on them - among the stolen goods was Aseir's magical greatsword. They were guarded by a dark halfling named Jhaldrym, who Tika had met the night before; he assured that they were not taken advantage of in worse ways. Tika and Aseir staggered back to the inn where the rest of the group was staying only to face the group's ire. Thorik, enraged at their recklessness, attacked Aseir and was very lucky to get the paladin to succumb to a sonic attack. When Aseir went down, the fight only turned to words. The group retired to neutral corners in order to cool off. There were greater things at stake than a magical sword (which Lance did all he could to find) - dear lives were hanging in the balance.
It was not difficult to find the first man Aseir's mother had mentioned, however - the Suleiman's palace was a commanding feature of the city. The group was able to gain an audience with the ruler, who had a very warm reception for the son of his old lover and agreed to help Senedana on one condition. The Suleiman asked that Senedana be brought back to him after she received the cure. Aseir remembered how fondly his mother had spoken of the Suleiman and agreed to the deal. The group was then asked to stay in the palace as honored guests of the Suleiman, an offer that they could not very well refuse.
The dawn of their first day in the palace came with a child messenger at Aseir's door, asking that the paladin come into the presence of the Suleiman. After a long and hurried journey through the ornate hallways, Aseir found himself not before the Suleiman but before a dark inner courtyard, from which the child promptly fled. A voice from the shadows revealed a challenge, and looking around the courtyard for the speaker, Aseir found his greatsword displayed. From within the shadows came a woman beyond the description of beauty, laced with fine woven gold clothing but mostly covered by patterned body paint. She introduced herself as Velia and she asked for a battle, with his sword as the stakes. Aseir consented, using a standby weapon and facing this strange woman fully armored, though she had only bracers for armor and no apparent weapon at all. She seemed to humor him for several rounds, striking his armor with her hands and feet and healing her wounds as necessary. And then, Velia used an attack Aseir had never seen and he found himself unable to move. She used her advantage only to stroke his face again and again, until an all-consuming desire and adoration overcame Aseir and he fell under her spell. Aseir was wrapped in shadows and taken with Velia, to know pleasures beyond what he had ever known and almost beyond all endurance.
Before anyone knew of Aseir's plight, Thorik received a messenger from Jhaldrym. The desert halfling sent an offer of marriage for the hand of Tika, so that she might enter his select group of wives. Tika found her bedroom decorated with flowers, but inside the flowers were poisonous scorpions - the first step in a courtship ritual for rogues in Calimport, she was told by the natives. Despite Jhaldrym's interest or perhaps because of it, Tika sought dance and etiquette lessons from the very courtesan headmistress who had instructed Aseir's mother, Senedana.
When Aseir was found and his condition was recognized by the priestesses of the palace, the mystery of Velia was laid open. Velia was the Suleiman's oldest daughter, it was revealed, and she was known to secrete a strange oil from her skin. Males who touched the oil fell hopelessly in love with her, and no cure had been found; thus she was painted with magical body paint she couldn't remove and all were forbidden to touch her. Such a power was seen only once before, in an ancient queen of Calimport, and when she died half the city was under her thrall and committed suicide in grief. The group stood aghast as Aseir lamented Velia's absence and made plans to marry her as soon as possible.
With never a moment's peace, the group next discovered that the poison they sought to cure was made from a plant on another plane. They were given a book which, when read, would transport the group to that plane for as many hours as the book had pages (200). They could get back through the book only if they had pages left to use. That night Aseir was visited by Velia again, but Tika was guarding him and scuffled with Velia. The noise of the scuffle woke many, but before any could respond, Velia was gone.
The group left the next day, hoping to put as much distance between themselves and Calimport as possible. They ended up on a world something like their own, not far from a sprawling city. There were dwarves in the city but they were strange to Thorik, speaking a version of dwarven only somewhat recognizable. The city guard told them the name of the city, but it meant nothing to them: Ankh-Morpork. Inside the city, the group was approached by thieves guild members who offered them different mugging plans - only so many muggings a year, or a half year, and all it would cost them was a few Ankh-Morporkian dollars. They found the city watchmen too drunk to stand and from conversation discovered that the city was without any familiar gods. They were sent to the Unseen University for help, where they found fat and mostly harmless wizards and, eventually, Ponder Stibbons. Using Hex, a magical machine of a crazed sort, Ponder was able to make them an item that would glow in the presence of anyone who knew about the plant in question. After a jaunt through the city (in which they found the assassin's guild marked on the tourist map they bought, much to their amazement), the object began to glow nonsensically. It was only with some difficulty that they came to realize the object was pointing to a dog - Gaspode the Talking Wonder Dog, in fact.
Gaspode agreed to take them to the plants only upon agreement that the group would pay the butcher for three months of meat for him. The plants were in the depth of a trapped assassin's underground tunnel not far from the Unseen University; Gaspode was too light to set off the traps, and Lyrina was able to cast Gaseous Form on the group to keep them safe. In the garden room the group discovered that the plants they sought were in fact sentient and intelligent. There was some discussion before the plants agreed to go. As the group stuffed plants into their sacks, heavy gates fell to block their escape. Tika discovered a passage out through the sewers but had to fight their way out, but in the fray Lyrina and Lance were hit with poisoned bolts. The group made a quick departure with the two sick lovers, wishing that they could have convinced Gaspode to go with them.
Once back in Calimport, the group had to wait for the Suleiman's wizards to come up with a cure. Aseir found himself again visited by Velia in the night; in her absence he composed poetry to her on ever available surface, eventually carving it into the walls. The cure was come upon soon enough and the some of the plants were set up in a special room to grow: the plants needed an environment like that of Ankh-Morpork and the magical radiations from the University, which mutated them. A farewell feast was arranged for the guests and the courtesan headmistress gathered Aseir to go on a special errand: to meet his family.
Aseir was introduced to an aunt, uncle and cousins he had never heard tell of. His aunt and uncle looked a good deal older than Aseir's mother, and it was from them that the group heard that the Suleiman sacrificed people to keep his loved ones young. Aseir didn't believe that his mother could have asked for such a thing. The family also mentioned, out of Aseir's hearing, that Velia rarely showed physical interest in her pawns, and had never been known to favor one more than once. After his visit and once he was alone, Aseir set out to have a tattoo artist render his best poem to Velia on his chest. The tattoo artist offered to call a wizard to set the tattoo magically into his flesh and Aseir agreed. Instructed to close his eyes, he felt a powerful presence lay a hand on him; when the visitor was gone, Aseir was told the tattoo could not even be cut out of his flesh.
The last day in Calimport was a day of challenges. Thorik paid a wizard to regrow the hair that the drow had shorn from Tika's head, making it even longer than it had been before they had entered Ust Natha. Tika found a gift for her at the perfumery that Aseir's family operated, and the gift was also deviously trapped. Lance and Aseir made a bet: whoever killed the most Nesmean soldiers in the war would have to pay for the gear the other person used up in the battles, to a 1000 gold maximum. They were in anxious spirits at the opening of their farewell feast, to say the least, and the ritualized combat that was their entertainment did not drown their troubles long. Velia inserted herself into the performance and, after proving her superiority, took her seat at her father's side. For the entire meal, a constant verbal duel was kept up under a maddening veneer of politeness. When Velia was told of the bet Lance and Aseir had made, she offered an opulent earring off of her ear in favor of her champion. A strange battle over the earring ensued in tense words; if Aseir kept it, he would worship it as a symbol of Velia and there would be no hope. Jhaldrym (many times a guest at the palace, given his wealth) stepped in to try to help, but it was Thorik that saved the day by scooping the earring into a pouch (using a linen, mind you). He suggested that he hold it as a neutral and trustworthy third party, and the matter was uneasily settled.
The Suleiman's wizards teleported the group back to Thandell, during which they had potent and disturbing visions. They came to in a room they didn't recognize, standing before a large magical portal. To their horror, they saw drow on the other side of the portal - a drow torture room. In their haste to get out, a trap was set off and the room began to fill with water. Mere inches from death, they managed to get free of the room and were welcomed by Thandell's royal guards. They discovered from the queen's own mouth one of Thandell's deepest secrets: a woman named Melisenda, who they had met by happenstance before, had secretly built the portal so she could trade slaves to the drow city far below: Menzoberranzan. And they also learned that King Bruenor, still mad with grief, had taken his people into battle with Menzoberranzan while they were gone. They were sworn to secrecy and well rewarded before being set loose.
The group tried to reconnect with friends and family as the city braced for war, since Valeria Dragonthorne, Senedana and Aleria were all given the cure to their poison. Aseir tried to approach Erolondra and, while it went better than before, it was still shaky. Lance gave his sister Aleria gold so that she could outfit herself properly, and Aseir joined them for her first shopping trip for gear. Not long after, the group was sent out again to investigate why shipments weren't showing up from Everlund.
Several days out, they were attacked by a black dragon from the depths of the river, and during the fray, Aleria showed up and did what she could in the fight. She had stolen a horse and come after them uninvited, and received a deep scolding from Thorik and her brother. Unwilling to let her go back alone, however, Aleria was allowed to stay. The group located the dragon's lair underwater and only the paladins were given water-breathing spells, so Aleria could very well follow them below. After seizing all of the supplies they could from the lair, Aseir and Thorik rode on to Silverymoon to pick up carts to bring everything back. It was there that Aseir went back to the church of Sune and made a horrible discovery: Gileslia had been killed along with her child fleeing from mysterious strangers, Sunitra was missing, and Llanira was under guard. Divination revealed Sunitra to be in the High Forest and Aseir, half-mad, hopped on a hippogriff and flew out to look for her.
Aseir returned to his group by the dragon's lair not long later, having found Sunitra's scattered remains and taken them to the church of Sune for interrment. Just before Aseir returned, however, Lance had decided to ride in search of him and Aleria had demanded to go along. To stay her, Lance used his manacles on her and left quickly. He met Aseir along the road and they returned together, but the insult to Aleria was not easily forgotten. Several nights later, she snuck off again toward Thandell.
Upon returning, Tika learned that her sister gave birth to her first child, a boy, who was named after Jedrek. Lance discovered a note from Aleria and, when he scried for her, found her on a boat heading away from the city. Tika's cousin Nym was with her, so Lance figured she was safe, but Tika disabused him of the notion at once; Nym was a rogue of a different variety than herself. The group set off after Aleria, figuring she was heading for Neverwinter, but upon arriving they could not find her. They discovered the boat had been attacked by barbarians and Aleria had been taken as a prisoner. It was through Tika's silent skills that the camp was infiltrated and Aleria was liberated; the young bard returned without complaining.
Days later, the work for the war began in earnest and the group was set about it. Commander Dragonthorne met with them privately and told them of the judgment on her daughter: Elliriel would be granted her freedom after fighting for Thandell in the war, or she would be executed. Elliriel agreed to the sentence but there was no doubt in Commander Dragonthorne's mind that her embittered daughter would seek to fight only her. Valeria Dragonthorne wanted to give her daughter a fair fight, but couldn't do it if she was in the thick of it with her men - a great time for Elliriel to strike. Valeria didn't want to kill her daughter in any case, nor see her daughter taken down by anyone else. Valeria asked the group to help keep the Nesmeans at bay if her daughter forced a fight, and to help get her daughter's body to safety if she had to knock her out. The group agreed to her grave request.
A while later, as the work continued, the group awakened to find the city under some sort of magical effect. Thorik, Grabthroat (Thorik's cohort), Tika and Aleria found each other and were led by an apparition to the swamps, where they found a great hydra. They managed to kill the beast and when they did, its scales turned into platinum coins, enough for each of them to get a perfectly even share. Lance gained favor in the sight of his god and was given the ability to smite once more per day. Meanwhile, Aseir found himself below ground and face to face with his torturer from Ust Natha - Lothalia. The two battled, she with her deranged taunting and he with his grim determination; he beat him into unconsciousness, but brought him back to health because of how she enjoyed inflicting pain on him. That was all the chance Aseir needed; he took her down but did not kill her. He destroyed her snake whip and took her trophy necklace, leaving her in disgrace. Having passed his test, Aseir was also blessed with an extra smite per day.
The army assembled and marched into the swamp until Nesmé was in sight, and then the great battle began. The war was a tangle of warriors, with Tika goose-stepping around and Thorik standing shoulder to shoulder with Grabthroat. When the battle broke off and each side went to lick its wounds, the group's healing power was put to use. Aseir and Erolondra made a genuine peace at last. Lance discovered Inessa, his friend from Silverymoon, at the fireside of Thandell's war, and was much relieved to see her. Lyrina, however, was nowhere to be seen in the battle, which was probably the best thing.
The war went on, and when Valeria's daughter attacked, the group did its best to come to the aid of their Commander. As Valeria struggled with her hold on her daughter's body, Lance came face to face with a man he'd seen in a potent dream. The dream had been one in which Lance fought the stranger and knocked him to the ground, at which time a terrible green glow spread over the land from the direction of the Moon Wood. The two men stood facing one another, and apparently the stranger recognized Lance from a similar dream.
"If we don't fight," the man said, "do you think we could avoid what happened in the dream?"
"It's worth a try," Lance conceeded, and backed off. But other Thandell soldiers moved in and knocked the stranger to the ground, at which point the dream asserted itself sickeningly and the glow began to seep across the battlefield. The sun slipped from view in the sky and a silence filled the air, in which both armies stopped their fighting. The dead of the field began to rise: soldiers, trolls and all other things that had been slain so recently through the march in swamp. Corrupted and foul, the dead closed in and the living armies were cut off from one another. The Thandell forces and some caught Nesmeans began to make their way back to the safety of Thandell. The green light pulsed mightily once and all of the wizards in sight collapsed, to be slung over shoulders and carried in the retreat.
The march was slow and in the sea of faces, old ones were found and new ones became known. A soldier they had met at the wartime firesides stood forth as the prince, Daereth, and led the retreat efforts. The stranger Lance faced revealed himself to be a paladin of Savras by the name of Elodan. Erolondra came out of the crowds and stuck close by the group, as did a rogue named Tace. Together they stood as a united front against an evil from all sides, regardless of old or new misgivings. Those who did not make it were plenty, and the academy lost two instructors in the fray. They made it to the river and within sight of Thandell when Marcon Vengeancehammer strode out of Thandell, having been called from Bruenor's side, and stretched out his hand to the waters to make them holy. The beleaugered army swept into the city, where the Everlund Commander, Gethrad, wanted to turn the Nesmean soldiers out of the city and into the waiting arms of the undead. Commander Dragonthorne granted the Nesmeans amnesty, however, and offered to back them with her sword.
The city was found to be in worse shape than when the group had left. A force of barbarians in alliance with Nesmé had attacked while the main of the fighting force was away, and had battled the city until the green light appeared. The remnants of the barbarian tribe had run to the city as with everyone else and been taken in - for the threat outside was much greater. The undead had come out of the river and swamp, and a slain dragon had streaked through the sky until killed a second time. Aleria had ended up in the battle along with everyone else in the city that could hold a weapon, and she had all the reason in the world to fight: her brother and Aseir, the two people she cared for the most, were in the field of undead together. She joined a good deal of the group in staying in Aseir's home, crowded but comforted.
Roving shifts began to patrol the walls and drive back the undead. Lance called the bet off but for one thing: he wanted Velia's earring. Aseir talked Lance into letting him buy it off of him, but Aseir had next to no money left. Upon hearing this, Aleria made a deal with Tika's uncle and borrowed the money to give to Aseir, asking that he do any one thing she asked in exchange. She let him buy the earring and then asked to have it. She left notes for Aseir written in his mother's native tongue and it did not take long for Aseir to discover that Aleria knew it. As tensions rose between them, the two had an explosive interview in which Aseir came to see how false his affection for Velia was. The light of truth fell over him and he was free to see the world clearly. Aleria had prayed to the goddess Sune for him, as he was misguided in love, and Sune had answered by offering him another chance through love. Aseir saw Lance's not so little sister in a different light.
The group was asked to take a small group in order to find out what was causing the green light in the Moon Wood. Tika, Inessa and Lance set out and discovered the site where it all began - where they had found the mass suicide in the beginning - was active. The runes of the earthen platform were glowing, and in the midst of them was Lyrina. The amulet she had always worn was smashed and she was much changed: she had no memory of who she was. When Lyrina was pulled away from the platform, the green light faded. The sun came out, and the mages of Thandell awoke. All of Thandell rejoiced as Lance mourned.
Several days later, a messenger arrived from Silverymoon to tell Aseir that his child had been born on Eleint the 18th. The messenger, being half drow named Maenala, had been told not to head back to Silverymoon, so Aseir offered her a place to stay. He also made plans to go and see his child as soon as the circumstances would permit. About that time, Lance asked Inessa to stay with him (the loss of Lyrina being too complete), and she agreed.
The war was forgotten in the aftermath of undead, light famine and plague. Eventually, Nesmeans who had been trapped in Thandell were allowed to leave, and Thandell citizens were returned. The two cities reeled from the loss of life and property and could not afford to continue their campaigns against one another - once again.
[Last updated as of 11/26/03 as a small sample of what our game was like.]
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