By Beth Griese
Date: October 24, 1998 and November 8, 1998
|(1/2) Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|(1/2) Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz cut||Fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"Help!" -- Verence, after being attacked by a monster
"Better help!" -- Verence, after Borreau swings and misses
"If it makes a difference, the illusory Nory is annoying me." -- Stu
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
After seeing off the titan Kendar with the prisoners we had rescued from the prisons, it was time to continue our search for the drow. We had one promise to take care of first; we returned to the cell with the gnolls and let them go. The gnolls seemed willing to abide by our agreement - they would leave without trouble - and when we asked them where the drow could be found, they only knew that the drow took them "behind the purple wall," where they seemed to think they would get eaten.
Verence had seen the purple wall they were talking about, down one of the corridors leading from the prison blocks. It was easy enough to find; instead of stone, the wall became a pebbled purple color. It was when we began to search around it that it came to life, sprouting tentacles and maws, and attacked us. Tentacles wrapped around Verence, Telaran, and I like slavers' whips.
I was lucky in getting free of the tentacles around me; I cut cleanly through one, and as it drew me closer to its beaks it managed to bite into one of its own arms and let it go. The others in the group attacked the rest of the tentacles - strong, hard things that whipped around the hallway with cracks that echoed down the halls. I stayed in my close position near the beaks and started swinging at them, hoping to hit it in a sensitive spot. But that put me right in the path of the next surprise this thing had, It breathed a mist that burned like fire on my skin and surrounded us all in a choking cloud. I dropped to the ground in an instant, which I think probably saved my throat at such a close distance from the creature. My gear was not so lucky. The seams of my backpack fell apart as I jumped back to my feet, and one glance at my sword and dagger told me there was trouble; both were clouded and pitted, damaged for sure. My sword that I had fought so long and hard with, that had been returned to me from Garen the worse for wear, was now damaged even more. And here we were seeking a nest of drow.
I was furious. I think I would have seen red if there wasn't so much purple in front of me. I started swinging pretty wildly, but the good news about that is that a wall is kind of hard to miss. Telaran and I got cracked again by those nasty tentacles, Telaran nearly knocked to his knees by the blow. But the real damage from this thing was saved for our friend Obmi, who had been slicing like a true adventurer beside us. Four tentacles at once wrapped around him, coiled, and then snapped him across the hallway - and down the staircase behind our backs with a sound like a strike of lightning. Obmi didn't move when he crumpled on the landing. Telaran and I renewed our attacks, and finally this thing... well, I don't think it died, it just fell apart and decayed before our feet, revealing a room behind it.
Panting with the pain across my sides and body from those tentacles and the effort taking out my anger on that monster, I checked over my shoulder and saw that Verence was helping a once-again-moving Obmi back into the hallway. The sound of clapping came from in front of me. The room was had found was all black - black tile floor, black walls, black candles, even black furniture. And lounging on the black furniture were two drow men, holding wine goblets, one of them clapping slowly in mocking, insolent appreciation of our performance.
I had found the drow at last.
Everyone fell forward at once. Telaran, though, ran into some kind of magic - a protection glyph? - as he crossed into the room, and I could hear the jolt and smell the crackle of lightning from where I was. A spray of color from Nory flew past me and dropped one of the drow as I charged. The evil drow were in my sight at last, and nothing was going to slow me down - not even the pit that tried to drop beneath my feet. I vaulted it instead and met the other drow headlong. He pulled out a strange rod, and with a turn of his wrist three tentacles emerged from it. More tentacles! He swung the rod and the tentacles struck me. Where the other ones just hurt like tree logs, these were some kind of magic - with each hit I seemed to feel the weight of my arms even more. My body was protesting as if it had fought for hours.
Behind me, more trouble was emerging. Obmi had been following Verence, but with a sudden curse, he hit Verence squarely in the back and knocked him out cold, letting his body fall back down the same stairs Verence had just retrieved Obmi from. Before Obmi could take three more steps, though, Lorivar launched himself down the stairs feet-first, taking Obmi with a crunching kick to the face, and all three of them ended up on the landing, Lorivar the only one on his feet.
It was when Telaran joined my fight with the drow serving man that I heard a woman's voice come from behind the beaded curtain at the back of the room. I was learning - a woman meant a leader, and more trouble than just these two men on their last legs. I left Telaran to finish the work with we had started and charged through the curtain - nearly straight into the arms of not just any woman, but Eclavdra. The woman we had first met months ago in the halls of the giants, the one who was trying to bring all of Cormyr to its knees. She glared at me with bright, strong eyes with evil intent. I stared back with a snarl, my body already battered, sweat threatening to blind me, barely able to hold up my arms.
I knew we were doomed.
We both reacted at the same time. She drew a rod like the one the men had, except that even more tentacles sprung from it. Runes flashed in front of my eyes and she stepped forward, but I dove, under the reach of her mace, and grabbed for something other than my weapon. I grabbed for that teardrop necklace, the one Myrmeen had given me years ago for protection. I ripped it from my throat, held it in front of me as if it were a soldier's greatshield, and used it at last to call for Mielikki with the best shout I could raise from my throat.
The results were immediate... and very strange. My body froze, which I saw at the same time that I saw Telaran and Borreau charge into the room - as if I were somewhere near the ceiling. Then I lost sight of the battle, lost sight of everything from the world that I knew, and after my eyes had clouded over, I saw a bright being of pure wings and light, that smiled at me as if my worries about the fight were as earth-shattering as a child's worry about a dark closet. He led the way, although now as I think about it I'm not even sure I was walking, to a giant house made of logs that three people would not be able to reach around.
I was taken inside, past hallways and doors, into a courtyard that bubbled and sprang with life and greenery. This place exceeded the most beautiful forests and glades I have ever seen, all together in one place. In one end, around a crystal pool, stood the titan Keldan like a quiet sentry, and sitting around the pool were three people. The first, her hand draped in the water, was the hardest for me to place, but I understood after a moment - the dark-haired woman in the shimmering robes was Eldath of the Singing Water. The old man with the holly staff and long white hair beside her could only be Silvanus, the father of the forests himself. And on his right, smiling directly at me, stood a woman in leather, with fire-red hair and eyes more beautiful than a deer's. Words left me - I couldn't have even stammered my name if my life depended on it - but at least I had the ability still in me to fall to my knees in front of Mielikki and her holy companions.
Mielikki walked over to me, still smiling, called me by name, and asked me why I had come. My mouth opened up and I started trying to babble out past the nonsense I was spouting about the Wayfarers, our danger, and the evil of Eclavdra. Mielikki tried patiently for a moment to let me get my story out, then finally gave up and touched my temple. A sound like rushing sand filled my head, and Mielikki nodded, her smile fading some as she understood.
Mielikki spoke to me like a friend, told me that she couldn't strike against Eclavdra directly. She asked me what I could do to help. My mouth was working better now - I was actually less distracted without her smile - and I asked her to help me fight, to make me fresh and strong again for the battle. I had barely noticed that Silvanus had left until he returned, with a new companion who chilled my bones, and chilled the glade around me. Lolth, the spider woman goddess of the drow, stopped the moment she was within the glade, directly opposite Mielikki. Mielikki turned to speak to Silvanus; it seemed he was going to be the judge in this matter.
To my shock, Mielikki called this a "contest between my priestess and her priestess." Me, a priestess to Mielikki? You've always served Mielikki directly, Garen, and I've always been in awe of that as I served her forests and interests with my sword as well as I could. Now Mielikki had called me one of her own? I was quickly starting to wonder how my wits were still anywhere near my head, but actually the longer I was in this glade, the calmer and easier to take in this whole scene was. I watched, barely blinking, as the gods discussed the battle between Eclavdra, me, her comrades, and the Wayfarers.
Silvanus offered to allow Mielikki and Lolth to make the contest fair. He said that Mielikki could grant my request to restore myself and my friends to battle prime, but Eclavdra would be able to receive the same. He said we would be sent to our original corners of the prison level we were on, and the fight would start anew. I was worried about the idea - we were bound to stop Eclavdra's plan and her. Eclavdra's goals could be accomplished just by leaving and avoiding a fight with us altogether, and I said so, although I think I still wasn't able to put it quite the succinctly. Silvanus listened to what I said and agreed that the level of the complex we were in would be sealed to us until the battle was over. Once that was agreed to, I barely thought twice - we could face Eclavdra without the damage and weariness we had already taken from the demonic thing that had guarded her door, without the work of the prisons weighing on us. I agreed, Mielikki agreed, and Lolth, speaking at last in a chilling voice, agreed and left.
Mielikki touched me again, this time to urge me to my feet, and she led me to the pool that Eldath had stayed in constant touch with. There I could see the battle going on with Eclavdra in her chambers - Borreau stood over me, he and Telaran and the newly recovered Obmi swinging at her slippery figure as hard as they could. My body was still and still. I wondered if Borreau thought I was dead.
Mielikki didn't say anything more to me. But she turned that smile like morning sun on me again, kissed my forehead, and touched my tattoo, your sigil at my neck. And the next thing I knew, I was falling through the pool, and then was laying on the stone cold floor, the weight of the real world around me again. The chill of the dungeons took me like a cold stream after a warm night's sleep, and I scrambled back to my feet as I realized that my body was in perfect health, my mind clear, my muscles ready as if I had been resting and training for a week. We were back in the room where we had found the titan, and the rest of us were discovering their own returned health and new location with more shock.
I'm sure I was next to impossible to understand. I thank all the gods that the Wayfarers have grown as close-knit as we have, because when I started shouting that we had been given a chance to start our fight fresh and needed to hunt down Eclavdra before she had time to take advantage of the break, they accepted what I said without question and threw themselves into the task of preparing for the fight. We pulled out everything we could think of to help us; Telaran and Nory cast spells, we gathered potions we had been storing for emergencies, and I threw down the wardog token I had to send it to track Eclavdra. With the party blessed by the gods, me with the speed of a deer, Telaran with the strength of a giant, and the nose of a wardog to guide us, we left the room at a run.
The dog led us straight back to Eclavdra's quarters. We ran into the antechamber we had fought in before, and to my surprise the bodies of the two drow men were here again. Had Eclavdra killed her own guards for some reason? In Eclavdra's quarters, I started destroying every icon and item to Lolth I could find, and as my sword ripped through a twisted tapestry on the wall, it revealed a door behind it that the dog immediately pointed through. I threw open the door, the dog ran through... and was immediately torn apart in a flash of light, heat, and the crackle of lightning. He was back to his token form, and I wouldn't be able to bring him back for a week. We had lost our guide, but had avoided what must have been a mess of magical traps. I picked up the tracking where the dog had left off, relying on visual clues instead of smell. We were moving at a much slower pace now, but were still going in the right direction.
Eclavdra led us on a chase. Nory and Telaran spotted more glyph traps on another door, which they slowly got rid of, and we trotted down a hall after her - right into a room brimming from wall to wall with trolls. And, flashing through the side hallway, I spotted the retreating form of Eclavdra. She was leading us into these monsters to battle while she left still more things in her wake for us to work our way through.
I would have none of it. As over a dozen trolls pressed forward, I used their height and my new speed against them, slipped right through their legs, and chased down Eclavdra. The battle against the trolls behind me was pretty short - half of them turned and ran after Verence shouted a holy word at them that rang their skulls, Nory blew a fake fireball in their midst that toppled two, and Telaran sliced through another troll like butter.
And as they fought, I brought down the object of our search in a pile of arms and legs, and we scrambled to our feet, squaring off for our battle. As I looked at Eclavdra, I could still see the signs of her earlier battle with Telaran, Borreau, and Obmi on her, and realized with a sinking gut that we had been had by Lolth and her priestess - Eclavdra hadn't yet called for her healing and respite. She was going to fight us as long as she could, then call for her healing and face us again, totally renewed, and leave us at the disadvantage again.
We started our battle in earnest, my blades against her mace. She was hard as a fish in oil to hit, and Eclavdra's mace spouted lightning at me and at Telaran as he joined the fight. I was fast, Telaran was strong, but our hits on Eclavdra were rare as she sprang and ducked like a snake. She was obviously tiring, though, and bleeding from a half-dozen places when the moment I was starting to dread arrived - she stopped fighting, concentrated for the briefest moment... and was gone.
I slumped against the hallway wall, discouraged. We had used most of the tricks in our book, put our all into this battle... and now had to start again. At a disadvantage again. I was tired, angry... and disappointed that Mielikki would let our "fair contest" be turned against us.
Thankfully, the other Wayfarers had faith that bore on where mine failed, and we reached deeper into our pockets to find more weapons we could use when we met the newly-revived drow woman. Nory cast spells on Telaran and I to make us half again as big as we were before - and half again as strong. It wasn't healing, which Verence also provided, but it helped us catch our breath and stay strong as our old spells wore out and new ones were cast.
Now I pulled out a treasure we had found months and months ago, but I had never used - a horn, like Telaran's that had proven so disastrous to him, but one that would call even finer warriors, and one we had triple-checked to make sure wasn't cursed. Verence cast a silence spell to prevent Eclavdra from hearing us, and I blew the horn. Three warriors shimmered to life in front of us, all of them armed with strange teethed swords and armored in piecemeal metal and leather, eager to fight and unlike the cursed warriors from before, these immediately looked to me for orders. With our spells renewed, our strength as recovered as it would be, and some new allies, we took off at a trot for Eclavdra's room, where we could only assume she had been sent.
Nory cast a mind-reading spell as we neared the hallways outside her rooms. It was an amazing spell; it let him reach beyond the walls and find her mind. She was where we thought, in her chambers, and to my happy astonishment, she was worried. But she had a plan, something in mind for when we came in on her, that she was counting on taking us out. We had a bit of warning on our side now, and I thought our best chances of thwarting whatever she had planned was to strike fast.
So we burst into the evil drows' headquarters again. I led the charge with the fighters, Telaran pounding hard beside us, and to my surprise, Nory pulled a new trick out of his illusionary bag. He cast an illusion of us, also charging and attacking, and put brightly colored spots and shimmers on us. The two male drow, back in the antechamber again, did exactly what Nory hoped; they wasted some attacks on the illusions as we waded into battle. I grabbed one of the grabbed one of the fighters by the collar and gave him new orders. His job was to take the stone that Nory had cast silence upon and, no matter what, get it through the beaded curtain and into the next room where Eclavdra waited. The sooner we could disrupt her plans, the better our chances.
Telaran, I, and one of the fighters squared off against the male drow. One of them cast a spell that encased us all in thick webs, to be almost immediately burned off by Telaran's flaming sword. As our illusionary Verence began throttling one of the drow, the fighter I had ordered forward was doing his job well, and to my shock it cost him his non-existent life. As he burst through the beaded curtain, we learned what Eclavdra had in mind. Where the curtain stood a moment ago, a stack of whirling blade upon blade appeared, spinning like pinwheels, and they chopped the fighter into small bits as his silence stone flew into the room beyond. Had the actual party been there when that came down, it would have washed us low like a storm. As it was, it barred the way through to Eclavdra.
Telaran sliced through the second male drow, and as the amazement at the wall of whirling blades wore off, we all looked at each other with slow smiles. Eclavdra was even now heading for the other door out of her chambers, the one we had gone past not three minutes ago and had spiked shut from the outside. She had trapped herself inside. With war shouts, we charged out of the room and around the hall to pin Eclavdra in her lair. We threw open the door, I took four steps inside, and once again Eclavdra and I stood toe to toe.
Every attack Eclavdra tried to make spelled more frustration for her. When she tried to cast another spell, Verence silenced her. When she tried to attack, one of my magical fighters took her sword with his own, although it nearly cost him his arm. When she tried to press her attack, Nory cast a spook spell and Telaran got in a hit. We were whittling her down slowly and stopping everything she could throw at her. She had no way of standing against us all. At last, as she swung, exhausted, wide-eyed, and hateful, and her weapon bounced clear from her body, I knew the chance had come, and I buried my sword in her gut. As she fell, it never even occurred to me to stop until I had reversed my swing, spun, and separated her head from her body. This woman was never going to get a chance to lead an attack against Cormyr.
We've won at last. The head of the snake has literally been cut off. Come Midsummer's Day, we'll probably still have some remnants of the gathered armies to fight, but not much will be left. We have piles of mopping up to do now, first to get us out of this lair and then back to Suzail, but we've accomplished the mission King Azoun sent us on, and then some. I'll write to let you know how all that goes as we get the chance. Until then, I remain,
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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