By Beth Griese
Date: July 18, 1998
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
Borreau, to Nory: "Well, we only sound like idiots. You get us killed." -- Brian
Jade, to Borreau: "Help me. I actually believe Nory." -- Beth
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
While we were in Proskur, Verence arranged for us to get a magical message sent to Suzail with the most important part of our news: that attacks against Cormyr were being stirred up and that the Suzail military should be prepared for threats from any source. We were limited on words, but did the best we could to tell how urgent this was, hopefully without quite rousing the entire military force of Cormyr.
We bought horses and began our ride to Pros, the port city that would take us to Suzail. It was a blessedly quiet trip until our third, last day of riding. Our first out-of-the-ordinary meeting for the day was with a group of men and a huge, metal-covered wagon, all covered on every side with symbols of the Wonderbringer god, Gond. They warned us that the wagon was full of kegs more explosive than a master magicians fireballs, which of course stirred worry in some of us, inescapable curiosity in others. Borreau and I began questioning one of the guards about where this cargo was headed, who had bought it, and how easy it was to get. Our answers were vague, but reassuring: the cargo was headed to Baldurs Gate, everyone refused to reveal the buyer, but in order to purchase some of our own, we had to apply to the temple of Gond and submit to magical auguries to make sure our stated intentions were true. I dont trust Gond as any great standard for good, but it could be a deal worse.
And speaking of worse, Nory and Verence had been having a quick conference while we talked with the guards, and I spotted Nory acting, well, strangely while Verence very loudly and obnoxiously approached the driver with questions of his own. I clamped down on Nory - literally, I think my hand on his shoulder drove him and extra three inches into his saddle - to find out what he thought he was doing. To my shock, he answered quickly, in a whisper, and with what I swear was complete earnestness. He said that he and Verence were just trying to find out more about the cargo, swore that no harm was going to come of it, and pleaded to be left to what they were doing. I was amazed. I believed him. Unfortunately, it did no good - the caravan had apparently been protected from the kind of mind-reading spells that Nory was attempting, because the driver right away told the gnome that his try was no good. Surprisingly enough, though, he continued on to tell Verence what little he would, and even gave Verence a sample - a tiny amount of the fiery grain that could be tucked into a tube with metal balls to make a weapon that will shoot farther than a crossbow. I dont know how accurate it could possibly be compared to a bow in your hands, or how its damage would compare to an arrow, but Verence was very happy with the gift.
Our second meeting of the day wasnt nearly so friendly. In fact, for a while it was almost like deja vu. In the sky we saw wheeling on approach three manticores. Just like old days, in our travels from Eveningstar to Arabel. With so much warning of their approach, we got to put a lot of damage to those three before they even got near us. Lorivar and I sunk our share of arrows in them, Verence prayed a prayer to bless our fight, and Nory toasted them with a fake fireball. Once they arrived, the battle was joined for real - their spikes killed Verences horse beneath him and did him a lot of hurt, and Nory and our merchant fighter friend, Stet, also were skewered with spikes. But we were doing well, with no trouble in sight. Which of course meant trouble arrived from behind. In the form of two more manticores. They had set up a diversion - smart manticores, and we fell for it like addled fools. Reminiscent of the early days, indeed.
Now we were fighting with a bit more desperation. Verence and I had both been riddled with those damned sharp spikes. I was more than able to keep fighting, but poor Verence was nearly on his knees. But Nory was just getting warmed up with his illusions. First a giant shoved his way from the earth and threw a couple of boulders at the manticores. They were smart enough to plan an attack, but not to wonder how a giant had hidden in the ground. The gnome threw in a colored spray of lights to blind another one just for good measure. The tide was definitely on our side for good. We killed four of the monsters, with the fifth limping through the skies still blind, but well out of our range. We healed Stet and Verence back to riding condition, climbed on the horses that hadnt been killed or lamed by the spike showers, and finished our travel to Pros.
We had no problems selling back our horses and sailing to Suzail, except for some nasty weather on the sea that left Verence cringingly ill. He seemed more embarrassed by the seasickness than actually hurt.
Suzail at last! Lorivar took Stet to check into the Adventurers Guild, and the rest of us headed straight to the castle. Our message had gone to the archivist we knew there; my plan was to find him and pick up where our message left off to get the alert raised. Things ended up not being nearly that simple. Im almost learning to expect that.
Our archivist friend was out ill for the day, so we asked to speak to someone who could take our warning about an attack on Cormyr. That brought to us the captain of the guard, a fellow who fairly screamed "Paladin!" Even his name was full of nobility - Captain Truhart. Truhart seemed a good man, though, and we filled him in on the basics of what we knew. That was all the farther we got before he invited us in, took us to an ornate sitting room, then after leaving us for a few minutes told us that "His Grace" had invited us all to join him for dinner. I was halfway to being escorted to a suite of rooms before it fully dawned on me that His Grace is King Azoun himself. Dinner with King Azoun! Who would have ever imagined it?
We did the best we could do to make ourselves presentable for royalty, considering that we had just stepped off a boat after weeks of travel and battle. I polished up my elven forest leathers as best I could, although I still expected us to be the most rag-tag group in the room. I just hoped they were used to adventurers in the royal court.
The dining room was a sight to see. Two huge tables already laden with a feast, and this was surely just the first course. But the real amazement was the mix of people. The King was at the head of the other table, of course, looking very much like a regular man. A very regal, commanding man, but a normal man. Whispers among us helped us identify the kingdoms chief wizard, Vandergast, sitting next to the king, and Verence practically lost control of his senses at the sight of another magician who he said was the Lord Patriarch, or some such title, of the temple of Mystra. We also spotted a familiar face we expected - Captain Truhart - and another we would never have expected - Lord Digglesby, looking like he was already well into the wine.
It wasnt until we being seated that I spotted another guest that made my stomach twist. I had seen the look a dozen times now, but usually in cold caverns and smoky dens of evil, never in the bright festive lights of Cormyr. At the far corner of the table, with a wide berth on either side, sat a cowled figure with nothing visible of herself except for her hands. Hands as black as cast iron. Drow hands. I was back on my feet again before Id barely been seated. Thank Mielikki that I had left my sword in our dressing rooms, because if I had it I would probably have drawn steel on the spot and disgraced the hospitality we had been shown. Since I didnt have it, I had an extra breath to decide that if a monster had been invited to the kings dinner, it wasnt my place to speak against the kings decision. But I had my limits. I asked Truhart if the person at the end of the table was indeed drow. When he confirmed grimly that it was, I told him as calmly as I could that I would not sit at table with such a monster. He tried to suggest to me that this drow could be good, and even Borreau, who had followed me in worry, asked me to sit on my anger and sit down to eat. But I couldnt do it, Garen. My heart could barely stop pounding long enough to let me speak, let alone sit down and try to eat without throttling drow necks. I left them behind and sought the cooler rooms of the servants kitchens to get some food and some information.
As Borreau filled me in later, the rest of the Wayfarers were doing the same thing upstairs. All of us were asking questions about the drow. We found out some of the same things, that her name was a strange- sounding Qtel Qissar, and that she was indeed supposed to be a "good" drow, although that was expressed to me with a good deal more cynicism from the servants than from the polite crowd upstairs. They heard she was a refugee from her people. I was told that some people even reported seeing her during the day. I believed none of it. In fact, I was in our dressing rooms considering the best way to let the king know that no viper could be free of poison when Borreau came back in. He filled me in on what they had learned and told me that the king had requested us - all of us - to join a council with him, Vandergast, the Mystra Patriarch, Captain Truhart and the drow. I walked to the council room with my knuckles aching under the fists I was making.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the room was that Nory was still sulking. Apparently when the King had requested the presence of the Wayfarers for an audience with him before the entire dining room, the gnome had tried to do backflips out of his chair to the ground, until Borreau snatched him from midair to bring him beside the table like the rest of the group. Thank heavens for quick reactions.
The second thing I noticed, of course, was the drow woman, and specifically, the ring that Borreau told me she was wearing. Sure enough, emblazoned large as life on her finger was the sigil of Elistray, the drow harper goddess, of pure wood and silver. The drow returner to the sun, who helped found your Harpers, was being worn on this monsters hand. As I blatantly stared, the woman pulled back her hood for the first time and looked me right in the eyes. We stood like that for a few moments while the conversation flowed around us - I dont know how long it was. I dont know whether she knew my Harper connections or just saw my hostility, but she met my gaze without challenge, without anger, just with patience. Patience and emblems of righteousness from a drow. I had no category for this. My eyes barely left the drow for a moment during the entire meeting, even to speak to the king. I kept waiting for any word, any look, and act that told me her disguise was over and betrayed her true dark nature. I never saw one.
The king heard our story about the drow plot to reward other races for the destruction of Cormyr. The king offered us a royal commission to join the fight against this, starting with returning to that fire giant lair we had just left. The magicians in the group told us about the bizarre ethereal beasts we had fought at their gates. They told us they were called Mind Flayers, and explained that what we saw were illusionary projections they can cast of themselves and use for battle. But if we could find their true bodies, hiding not far away, they would be very vulnerable. Thank goodness, a little equipping could go a long way towards fighting those nightmares. His majesty then asked the drow for any advice she could give us about defeating the drow we met along the way. She gave it without hesitation, explaining calmly how vulnerable they were to magical light cast on missiles. Until that time, I had stayed standing in this war council. Hearing a drow advise on how to destroy her own gave her the victory in our battle of wills - I had to sit down before my legs buckled.
The rest of the meeting passed quickly. With some final advice and some offers of training and rewards to us for carrying out the kings will, we were left on our own. Verence got to speak briefly with his Patriarch, which left him beaming like a light weapon we could use against those drow. We now had to gather up Lorivar and decide what our next move was. Some of our people were sorely wanting training in Suzail, but we werent sure whether we could do that quickly enough before launching our attack on the fire giant lair. We decided to gather in the Adventurers Club and make our plans. Maybe by then, my head would stop buzzing and giving me this damnable headache about a drow who, by every sign I could read, was aiding our battle against the evil armies.
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