Adventure Date: September 19, 2009
Last Updated: January 13, 2011
A Complete History of the Time of the “Darkness Rising” and a True Account of the Inspiring Words, Astounding Feats, and Valiant Deeds of “The Seekers Of Faerun”
- by The Venerated Sage - Elminster the Younger
DR 1476 - Saelmur
Chapter 13 – Stand By Me
Gentle readers! You will be pleased to know that in the time since I last wrote to you, life has been good to your humble servant, Elminster the Younger. You see, I handily won the ‘Seekers Legends Writing Contest’ defeating my arch-rival, Lord Tornado No, in the finals. By the way, Lord No is now calling himself ‘Doctor No’ to suggest a level of learning that he has not rightfully achieved. However, let us forgive him that conceit. You see my nemesis turns out to be a most gracious and amiable fellow. After the award ceremony, I joined him at a local tavern and after just a few drinks he swore that he had dreamt of our meeting before hand, as if in a supernatural vision, and professed a deep love for my writings as exhibited in ‘A Complete History’.
We concocted a plan which later met with my publisher’s enthusiastic approval to jointly publish a new volume, entitled the ‘Myths and Legends of the Seekers of Faerun’. The centre piece of this book will be our contest entries, but we will add to it many other wonderful tales of the Seekers. After over one hundred years, their legend has grown, but unfortunately many of the stories are of doubtful historical accuracy. Nevertheless, the tales will make good reading and as Doctor No said, “we will be able to cram in enough bizarre sexual practices to make it a sure fire best seller”. I can hardly wait to get writing.
The immediate consequence of my contest victory is that I now have a little disposable income. This has allowed me and my beloved Hilda, known also in these pages as ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ to take a well deserved vacation at the spa at Saelmur on the Lake of Steam. Why at this very moment, I am reclining in chair by the hot healing waters writing this. ‘She’ on the other hand has taken it upon herself to dispose of the rest of the income and has journeyed into town on a shopping exhibition; but the price is worth it as I now have time to concentrate on writing the next chapter in ‘A Complete History’.
Also, as my readers may know, Saelmur was the site of the Saelmur concert, the most famous music concert in the history of Faerun. In fact, this concert is widely held to be the defining moment of the post Darkness Rising generation. What a pitiful generation that must have been to be defined by a music concert. Ha! That coddled generation never had to go toe-to-toe with a Red Dragon or with a garbage-eating Otyugh, for that matter.
But it was an important event nevertheless, for by sheer coincidence dear readers, it was also the last time that Neon Wilde performed on stage. It is legend now how he sang his haunting ballad ‘Stand By Me’ to the assembled masses to close out the concert. The audience all stood, standing side by side, holding hands, or holding candles or torches to sing along with the tune; a tune that we all now learn at our mother’s knee. Thinking upon that glorious moment in time, I believe that this singular song provides the most suitable theme for the following chapter of this history, and hence I title it ‘Stand By Me’. Read on gentlemen and gentlewomen and you will understand why.
Part 1: The Fall of the House of Mystra
Gideon Fireforged, cleric of all-mighty Kossuth, and the leader of the legendary ‘Seekers of Faerun’ gritted his teeth and suppressed a physical urge to vomit. The room that they were looking into reeked with a foul order and the grim outline of instruments of torture and of scattered headless corpses could be seen within. They closed the door and went no further. It was now certain that the Temple of Mystra had been overtaken by a monstrous evil. Gideon surveyed the inky blackness of the portal at the end of the wide hall in which they stood. It was through this portal that the evil usurpers had attacked them and it was through there that they had fled. His companions gathered around him awaiting his instructions for their next move. The huge warrior Okul looked at him expectantly, the sorcerer Kilzadi peered skeptically under a raised eyebrow, and Risca the dwarven barbarian gazed under heavy lidded brows as he shook off the effects of a sleep spell. Neon the adventurer and Swan their girl scout were close at hand, but tittered to one another. Swan giggled at a ribald suggestion that Neon had just whispered into her ear.
Gideon shrugged. Why, why, Kossuth have you put this burden upon me? Why must I be the one who leads? If only they knew the true heat of the flames that rage within my elemental soul. They would not trust me so. But in the end, Gideon decided and shouted to rally them, “Seekers, Seekers stand by me! We take the battle to the foe beyond the portal!”
“Eh!” exclaimed Kilzadi, Gideon’s brother of the flame, “It would be better to search the other rooms; we do not want any enemy left to come up behind us.”
The cleric struggled not to show his frustration with his leadership being questioned yet again. He knew that the sorcerer was just as concerned about leaving a copper piece behind as he was about enemies encircling them; nevertheless his advice was sound. “Very well then, we search…”
At that moment, Okul’s golden scales bristled as he heard a metallic sound from beyond the black portal. Two arrows whizzed out of it and narrowly missed Kilzadi’s head. Risca growled and brandished his great war-axe, Guifoon, and then immediately fell into a deep sleep just as he had in the earlier attack.
“For Tempusss!” Okul growled as he leveled his great spear and plunged headlong through the portal. Swan gave Neon a quick kiss, readied her bow and then she and the rogue dashed through the opening close on the heels of the dragon-born.
“Go, Gideon!” Kilzadi shouted. “I’ll wake Risca and we will follow.” Gideon nodded and charged through the portal wielding his mace.
Okul and Swan were the first to arrive on the other side into a pitch dark room. A row of three large shimmering serpents blocked their way. Okul steered the momentum of his rush to that the great spear ran one of the snakes through, and pinning it to the wall. Swan danced back, notched an arrow and drew the bowstring. Even in the growing heat of battle, there was something about her nimble movements and the thrust of her breast as she drew her bow that caused Okul to pause. Oh Tempus my lord, she is beautiful. Her arrow flew and finished the skewered snake.
“May you all stumble around in the dark,” a female voice purred from the unseen depths of the room. Three of the temple guard shades moved into to view firing arrows as they charged so that Swan had to duck to avoid them. A ray of light shot out of the gloom beyond the shades to hit Okul full bore on the chest.
Next, the rogue and dwarf burst through the portal. “So you decided not to sleep through this one, Risca?” Neon jested as he dodged a serpent that attempted to bite him.
“Aye lad. Now, what kept yer?”
“Stopped for a pint on the way through.”
They swung their weapons simultaneously, but neither axe nor rapier found purchase on a serpent. The forms of the snakes shimmered as if they were not completely of this world so the blades passed right through them without inflicting wounds.
On the left side of the room, Swan reached into her handy pouch and threw out a daylight pellet. That lit up the surroundings and let our heroes see what they were up against. A large pile of bones lay straight ahead at the far end of the chamber, partially obscured by a curtain of magic. A well-armored dark-haired female stood on the left side of the bone pile, preparing to cast a spell. On the right side of the bones, a red-haired woman was completing a sequence of precise hand movements and then suddenly there were many of copies of her to meet the onslaught.
Okul moved over the body of the fallen serpent and labored slowly toward the dark haired women so as to take her down. My spear is heavy. It’s the work of that blasted ray of light. Swan moved with Okul, the light allowing her to strike the cleric with an arrow from her agile bow.
“Yer wid me! Let’s that peely-wally sorceress,” Risca shouted at Neon and pointed at the pale red-haired woman.
“No you’re with me,” Neon countered and he twirled behind a serpent road block and swung backwards with his rapier. The snake’s shimmering body blinked into existence at the wrong time, so the blade tore a long gash up its spine. Then Neon dashed ahead toward the images of the red-haired mage and ignoring a shallow dagger wound from a shadow guard.
“No, yer don’t,” Risca growled and he chased after him, pausing only to remove the head of the wounded snake with Guifoon.
Neon closed in on the images of the mage, but was uncertain where to land his blow. Which witch is which? A volley of magic missiles flew out from behind and flew into the clump of mages. “The one on the left, get the one on the left!” Kilzadi shouted. At the same time, Risca skirted the guard, paused and then plunged through the magic curtain and into the bone pile.
“Risca! You fool!” Neon was gob-struck at the dwarf’s recklessness. But miraculously, Risca was unharmed and continue to rattle through the skeletons and came up on the magic user from behind. Risca swung Guifoon wildly, but it was enough to force the red-haired women to dodge. The one on the left. Neon saw his chance and thrust his rapier straight out, piercing her breast between the fourth and fifth ribs to plunge into her heart. Instantly, the images popped out of existence, leaving only one sorceress, looking in disbelief, as her hands gripped the blade lodged in her breast. Then she died and as she died her robes changed, her pale skin grew dark, and her red hair turned white. She was drow in disguise. Neon let the body fall to the ground and he withdrew his sword.
“Yer do have a way with the lassies, lad” Risca said, as he swung his axe around to kill an advancing guard.
“What a waste,” Neon said ruefully as he admired the slain drow, “This should not be the fate of one so beautiful.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the room, Okul was using his great spear to force the cleric towards the corner. Swan darted about to find the opportune moment or position to use her bow. Okul was still losing his battle focus. Mother of Tempus! She is worse than Neon. How can a real warrior concentrate on his foe when she is flitting about like that, trying to steal a kill? The cleric managed to dodge his spear and the scout’s arrow and she tried spells, but soon she was backed into the corner and there was no where left to run. Finally, Okul caught her with a solid blow with the spear that split her mail and continued through her entrails. And then with a roar of victory, in a characteristic killing move Okul lifted her on his spear so that she was straight over his head. The body dangled briefly, sickeningly, on the end of the great spear and then it slid down the spear to Okul’s gauntlets, gushing blood on the way.
A shadow guard moved behind Okul and raised his sword to strike. “Look out!” Swan warned but her arrow was there before the sword fell and the guard was dead.
Swan and Okul and Neon and Risca turned together to look back at the portal they had come through. Kilzadi and Gideon had the third serpent lying dead at their feet and were battling with the last standing shadow guard. The cleric was swinging his mace clumsily and the sorcerer was performing little better, even though he wielded mighty Crimdrac’s Claw. The agile shadow avoided the swings. Casually, Okul wandered over to the battle and poked his spear out, as if he was retrieving an olive from a jar, and nailed the guard square between the eyes. “He’s dead, now.” the dragon-born said with disgust.
Our heroes made a quick search of the room and the bodies of their vanquished foes. They found a doorway hidden in a dark corner of the room and so decided to follow that route and return here later for a thorough investigation.
They followed a narrow tunnel for about one hundred feet until they came to another door. Neon checked it. It was unlocked so he gently nudged it open a crack, and peered inside. Warm foul smelling air wafted in from a large chamber with stone walls. There was a stone bridge directly ahead. Voices could be heard from unseen speakers to the right of the doorway and a soft sound of running water emanated from under the bridge. On the opposite side of the bridge, two shadow guards stood listlessly in front of a row of prison cells unaware that they were being watched. Neon could make out a small, lonely figure seated on the floor in of the middle cell. It could be a gnome. Osier! The rogue felt as if his heart had leapt into his throat.
Without consulting the Seekers, Neon jerked his head in the direction of the bridge and stormed into the room. Swan was surprised, but recovered quickly, and was fast on the heels of the charging rogue. The guards were shocked; the one nearest the bridge took Neon’s arrow through his throat and Swan’s arrow through his arm. He staggered back, looked like he would fall, but he was able to retreat to the far wall. The second guard rushed to block the far end of the bridge and returned an arrow wounding Neon in the leg.
“Drat!” Risca spat and then he and Okul charged into the chamber followed by the spell-casters. They swung around to right toward the sound of the voices and were met by a heavily armored sentry pointing a long spear.
Back at the bridge, a snake-like stalk topped with two bulging eyes over a lamprey mouth sprouted from the putrid slime in the sewer. The stalk spotted Neon and darted toward him followed by giant rocky form, covered in feces and rubbish that exploded up from the water. The foul creature was huge and attacked with two long tentacles. One tentacle grabbed for the rogue and just missed as he dived under the cover of the bridge railing. But he could not escape the gapping mouth in the rocky giant. Ragged lines of stiletto teeth ripped through Neon’s shoulder and then with a shake the monster flung him along bridge.“An otyugh,” Swan warned the others as she backed off of the bridge to escape.
Okul readied himself for battle. This time, stay focused. Bring this beast down. Fearlessly, he pressed by Swan forcing the otyugh back by thrusting the great spear at the creature’s eye-stalk. Risca was already in battle, fending off the charge of the spear wielding guard with a swing of Guifoon, and following that with a solid blow upon guard’s breast-plate.
The otyugh waved its tentacles around wildly in search of another victim and they found Gideon who was fumbling with his crossbow and trapped him. Now, the battle broke into two parts. Neon had managed to tumble away outside the chamber to drink a cure. Okul fenced with his spear, forcing the otyugh back from the edge of the sewer, and away from the Seekers who were crowded near the door. Kilzadi, with his many images, skewered the creature with firebolts. Swan threw a flask of acid into the beast’s gaping maw. The beast could only manage to drag Gideon toward its razor teeth.
The other part of the battle was the spear warrior against Risca, toe to toe, man to dwarf. The warrior wielded his spear with great skill, weaving and dancing, and he sprung at Risca and hit him twice quickly and then sprung back.
“Argh! yer makin’ me mad.” the dwarf growled and he swung back at the warrior, banging on his chain mail, giving as good as he received. Risca’s became one with his rage, so that his vision formed a tunnel, until there was nothing in that tunnel but this warrior and Guifoon. They slugged it out. But the spear struck home again and again, two blows struck for every one of Risca’s. The dwarf finally faltered, feeling the effects of the wounds.
Swan could see that Risca was in trouble, left the battle with the sewer creature and moved in behind the dwarf to tap him with a curing wand. This emboldened Risca and he struck viciously forward, driving the sentry back toward to the far stone wall.
Okul was relieved when Swan moved away to help Risca. Good, she’s gone. No more distractions. Bring this thing down. He fenced with a roaming tentacle, keeping the beast at bay, probing for a weakness, waiting for an opportunity. And then the tentacle darted for Kilzadi, leaving an opening, and Okul launched himself off of the stone deck and with one foot pushing off of the creature’s lower jaw he buried the point of the great spear into the otyugh’s mouth, driving up into its tiny brain. At the same time, firebolts scorched by Okul’s ears to blast away the creature’s tongue. Okul, standing with one foot in the monster’s mouth the other on the edge of the sewer, held his spear firmly and worked it around inside the body until its death throes were ended.
Meanwhile, Risca hacked his way forward against the spear man. He damaged him, but the warrior counter attacked skillfully. Finally, Risca unleashed a reckless blow in an attempt to finish him, but tripped over his own feet, stumbled into a boat lying on the deck, and stunned himself. The spear warrior moved in for the easy kill. But he was blasted by a scorching ray. He looked up in horror to see the sorcerer regarding him with haughty scorn, and the tumbling scout move to a better position to unleash the arrow that killed him.
At the other end of the room, Neon had healed his wounds. He joined the battle by striding confidently to the middle of the stone bridge. The guard that blocked his way took aim, but lost his nerve, and the arrow skittered harmlessly into the water. Neon was much cooler when drew back his bow-string. The arrow entered the guard’s right eye and popped out the back of the head, spurting blood. The last remaining enemy in the entire temple, the guard who was wounded in the first rush, moved reluctantly to take up the place of his fallen comrade. “Not so lucky this time,” Neon said, and he killed him with an arrow to the brain.
Neon rushed over to the cell that imprisoned the small, forlorn figure. “Osier! Osier!” he shouted. The cell was unlocked, and he rushed inside to find the gnome staring blankly at the wall. But it was not Osier as he had hoped for; it was Osier’s gnomish companion Almaes the Alchemist. Neon greeted the gnome but there was no response, and he shook the gnome but could not rouse him. Nothing he did would snap Almaes out of his trance.
The other heroes searched the room. Water did flow slowly under the bridge, so the dead body of the Otyugh floated with the current out through a tunnel in the wall. There was a boat tied up near the tunnel entrance and there was also a kayak out of the water on the dock. There was a small area, walled in on three sides, near the boats that served as an office and sleeping quarters. Here an expertly painted map of Harrowdale was pinned to on the wall and other maps and papers were strewn across a desk. One map showed the Temple of Mystra and its position just north of Harrowdale. Someone had crudely marked a route on this map, starting at the temple and following the coast of the inland sea northward. The route left the sea at a place marked as the Unkown Shrine, and then it went overland to the west, first to the Tomb of Chonis, then further west into the Green Swamp. A picture of a skull upon a staff was placed just before a picture of a keep marked as ‘The Lost Refuge’. There the trail veered sharply north and finally ended at the ‘The Monastery’.
Neon joined the group searching the maps and papers to urge Gideon to help the gnome. “It looks like he has been dominated,” the cleric said after examining Almaes. Swan, who was keen to practice the arts of healing, lay her hands upon the gnome and murmured a plea to Solanar to protect the Almaes from the evil curse. The gnome was himself again and the Seekers learned that he, Osier, and nine others had come to the temple to try the Sacred Trust. This group included the book merchant that the Seekers had learned of in Harrowdale, and also there were two other merchants with them, Duncan and Kennewick. All of the group were taken prisoner during the initiation ceremony and locked up in these dank cages. Eventually, Osier and others were taken away by boat, passing out through the tunnel and likely followed the mapped route to the Monastery. However, the three merchants were not with those prisoners and Almaes was left behind simply because there was no room. This information was useful but the gnomes trance returned too quickly. The protection from evil spelled had waned.
The Seekers decided to spend the remainder of the night in the temple and to follow the stream through the tunnel by boat to return to town in the morning. They went back to search the bodies in the bone pile room and then headed back through the portal. Here, in the torture chamber they found three headless corpses. Personal items found in a trunk identified the victims as the book merchant, Kenneback and Duncan. The rooms on the other side of the hallway proved to be personal quarters that likely belonged to Lady Arthas and Starweaver Aspenwold. On a desk in one of these rooms, Neon found three letters written in Chondathan. These letters still exist in the ‘Museum of the Seekers of Faerun’ so they can be reproduced in full.
Surely, by now we have shown ourselves to be loyal and bountiful customers of Treskeden House in our supply purchases while building our glorious temple. However, others have discreetly approached us with better rates.
We would , of course, prefer to continue our relationship to the mutual benefit of all, and continue to use you as our preferred supplier. Perhaps you can provide us with a promise of equal or better service.
Treskeden house, the Seekers remembered, was associated with the caravan that escorted the daughters of the mayor of Ashabenford southward toward Sembia. Another letter went thus.
My Lords and Ladies of the Seven Burghers,
Mystra is grateful for your generosity in waiving the taxes normally collected during the building of our Glorious Temple. We wish to further petition the wisdom of the Seven Burghers and implore them to continue with their generosity, as a coin saved in taxes now, provides for the prosperity of a pouch full of coins to all within our fine upstanding community. We anxiously await your response.
Lady Athas and Starweaver Aspenwold.
And finally there was an unfinished letter.
We’ve had some trouble out here. Some suspicion. A cleric of Mystra named Dunaster Dranik came to the temple but escaped us. We can only hope we find him and kill him before he can summon help. Therefore, with the next shipment east, send…
After completing the search of the temple, the Seekers had a meal in the sewer room before settling down to a night of rest. Neon was eating by himself, watching Almaes sit cross-legged and stare blankly ahead. Risca felt sorry for Neon and came over to the rogue to offer him a water skin. “A swig of the Green Grape? Mind if I set, a spell?
“Go ahead.” Neon took the proffered water skin and took a deep gulp. “Ah! That’s good. Where did you get it?”
“Gideon had a stash, Savin’ it for special.”
“I should have guessed. Stashed in a cranny in the bag of holding, no doubt.”
Risca took the skin back and downed a swig. “Worried for yer gnomish friend?”
“Yeah, I can’t help wondering if Osier has lost his mind too, and if I will ever see him again,” Neon said sadly. “Osier is the closest thing to a father that I ever had.”
Risca left him to his thoughts a while, before he continued, “Yer know, Neon, when yer first joined the Seekers, I think ‘Here’s a craven coward. Jus’ in it fer the coin and the gurl.”
“Thanks for your confidence, Risca. It means a lot to me.”
“Aye lad, but I was wrong. Yer a gud man in battle after all. We took down that drow mage good… dwarf and elf together!” Risca growled and gave Neon’s shoulder a sturdy slap.
Neon grinned. Risca is right. We do make a good team. I used to think he was a reckless oaf, little more than a convenient spot for the enemy to lodge their arrows. But he is fearsome fighter when roused, and when the enemy is concentrating on him it makes it easy for me to slip up behind and slit a throat or two. “We do make a good team. Let’s work together like that more.” Neon extended a hand and they shook on it.
Then unexpectedly Risca said, “Neon, if you are ever in trouble, don’ be afraid, I’ll stand by yer.”
Neon was touched by the heartfelt words. Stand by you. Stand by me. Gideon had used those words too. They are strong words. There is a song in there somewhere. I must write it down someday.
Risca let the silence hang for a few minutes and then started on another topic. “I won’t stand in yer way.”
“Er, what do mean?” Neon was puzzled.
“Swannie, I know yer luv ‘er.”
Neon was taken aback by this. Is it really so obvious that I am mooning over Cygni so much that even Risca can see it? “You’re wrong…I love another,” Neon answered lamely.
“That’s a big load of blarney. You should do what barbarians do when they luv a wench.”
“And what on Toril is that?”
“Carry ‘er off, of course. Lift her upon yer shoulders and carry ‘er away. Make ‘er belly big with child.”
“I don’t think Swannie would let me ‘carry her off’ that easily.”
“Don’ be too sure. I don’ think shed put up much struggle.”
“Why don’t you carry her off, then?”
“Don’t play the barbarian fer an eejit, lad. Me gurl is a friend… a gud, gud friend, but she’s no dwarf. When I’s finally carry off a wench, she’ll be a sweet dwarven beauty, with legs like oak tree stumps, hips as wide as a barrel o’ Green Grape, with breasts… oh, big breasts like water skins o’er flowin’ wid mead and…”
“… with a flaxen beard wafting gently in the breeze,” Neon added airily.
“That’s a lie, lad! Dwarven lassies don’ have no beards” Risca said exasperated. “There was a time when I think yer were not gud enough fer me gurl. Maybe yer still aren’t.” And he stormed off in anger.
Neon was annoyed with himself. I shouldn’t have been so flippant with him. This could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I’ll go to him later, contrite, and apologize.
Kilzadi was still patiently sifting through the loot they had gathered from the temple. “Wow! Look at this artwork,” he exclaimed while holding up some large sheets of parchment to examine them closely. “These will be worth a pretty gold piece.”
“Let me see,” Swan said and peeked over his shoulder. Although Swan was no longer a maiden, she blushed a beautiful shade of pink; for the page he was looking at showed a beautiful moon-elf girl coupling with a large dark-skinned Calimshite man. The male was as strongly built as Okul, but more comely to look at. And although the moon-elf was delicate compared to the male she appeared to be just as enthusiastic about the love-making. Kilzadi leafed through more of the pictures. Some of them showed solitary, beautiful, unclothed, elven or human females, but other drawings showed couples engaged in wide variety of passionate acts. Swan was intrigued, as she had never seen drawings like this before, so she urged Kilzadi to leaf more slowly through the pictures so that she could closely examine them.
Neon joined them and after seeing what they were looking at said with some amusement, “These are drawn by the Harrowdale artist Clare Gatewood. She is a very good friend of mine.”
“A good friend?” Swan raised an eyebrow. “Do you like pictures like this, Ninniach?”
“Actually I prefer the real thing,” Neon responded, and he reached behind her and patted a cheek.
Usually, Swan would remove his wandering hands, but this time she turned boldly toward him Neon and hugged him. “Do you think you can handle the real thing?” she asked. “Do you think you can handle a real woman, one who is not some tipsy tart that you scraped up from the floor of the Velvet Veil?”
“Why? Do you know of any real women nearby?” Neon asked. “You’re a girl scout. Let’s go back upstairs and see if you can scout me up a real woman.”
Swan closed her eyes and her lips parted in expectation. He is going to kiss me! But the other Seekers surrounded them. Gideon watched them, hoping that if they were going to do it they should just do it and get it over with. Okul seemed oblivious, but the sorcerer had a big smirk on his face. He wanted to see if Neon was a man of action or was he all talk. He doubted that the impending kiss would be half as hot as the one Swan planted on Kilzadi not so long ago, as penance for branding him a traitor. And Risca gave Neon a big wink, and made a motion as if he was lifting a sack of potatoes onto his shoulder. The good natured barbarian had already forgiven Neon for the joke about dwarven beauty. But the moment passed and Neon released the scout and they parted without kissing.
The Seekers settled down for a night’s sleep in the cavernous chamber. Okul volunteered to take the first watch and he used the time wisely, sharpening his great spear. He was happier with his performance during the battle with the Otyugh. I must stop letting Swan distract me. Battle! That is what I live for. Battle! Okul concentrated on the motion of his whetstone, to removing the knicks and scratches of a day’s work.
Swan lay on a thin mattress and covered up with her wool blanket. She watched Okul prepare to take the watch and then carefully sharpen the end of his spear. She wondered about him. What a strange man my big brother is. Neon and Kilzadi spend their free time whoring, while Okul finds sparring partners. He should get a life! Swan started to doze off. But he is incredibly strong. He could easily rip the clothes right off of me, pick me up in one hand and then… Swan examined the pattern of scales that ran down one side of Okul’s stern face. He is not so ugly really, just strange looking, but I could never do that with him. Oh Swan, are you so shallow that you would never take a man like Okul into your bed? He is strong, loyal and brave. But Inialos is so, so beautiful and his skin is soft, not covered in hard lizard scales. Oh, Inialos, I miss you so much! And then there is Ninniach. What to do about him? Not so beautiful as you are, dear Inialos. And he will always be a lisserlig. I know that. He’s so bad… so dangerous... She drifted off to sleep with thoughts of men dancing in her head.
A cold chill woke her up. Her blanket had disappeared and she was lying on a large soft bed covered in red silk. Where am I? She sat up and found that she was completely naked. She covered her breasts with her hands to hide them but searching around she realized that she was alone. Where am I? She raised herself and crawled on hands and knees toward the foot of the bed. The bed cover was the deepest red and sensuous to the touch. Her brown hair hung down loosly. The way Inialos likes it. She peered into the gloom from the end of the bed. A dried cat skin was stretched and pinned to the wall. This is Bareris’s bedroom. Then she felt her lover. He grasped her hips from behind, pulling her towards him. “Yes, Inailos my love. I miss you. I miss you so much,” she said. But was it Inialos? She looked behind her but could not see her lover in the shadows. She did not see anyone. But then her view shifted and she was lying on her back on Bareris’s bed. Her legs were pulled up and her lover gently kissed her breasts, surrounding a nipple with his mouth. She could see Inailos’ light hair and she purred. It was him! She was safe. “Do me love,” she urged, “Do me!” And then her lover’s hair shimmered and then it flamed red and now it was Neon above her. How can this be? “Ninniach, Yes I want you so much,” she said. And then her lover held her; he mounted her and filled her, becoming one with her. Bareris’s silky bed rocked with the rhythm of their lovemaking. She held him with her arms, entwined him with her legs to pull him ever closer to her.
Ages passed, but then her lover whispered into her ear, “We are lovers in a dangerous time.” This startled her and she saw Neon’s face stern above her with burning golden eyes. And the eyes changed, the color gold, but the shape was cat shape, then dragon shape. It was a red dragon on top of her. It was Volcanix, but smaller, a wyrmling. “No! No!” she shouted, and Bareris’ room was gone and the dragon was soaring high in the sky. And then the dragon was full grown and alive with fierce power. She held on tightly to its scales, so that she would not fall. The scales cut into her breast and hurt her. “No! No!” She was afraid of falling. And then she was falling, endlessly, twirling through the clouds, spinning around and around. And then the sky that she looked upon came tumbling down. It tumbled down in the shape of a dragon, and its claws caught her and dug into her flesh. And she screamed.
“Swan! Swan! Stop! Wake up, you are having a dream.” She opened her eyes and was staring up into the kind face of Okul. Her fingers were clawing at the dragon scales about his neck. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes.” Her heart was pounding and she fought to get her rapid breathing under control. “Yes, I’m alright. It was just a nightmare.”
Okul remained kneeling beside her for a time and when she appeared to have relaxed he rose to continue his watch.
“Okul,” she called to him as he moved away. “Would you stand beside me for a while? It will help me get back to sleep.”
“Of course Swan,” he agreed and he returned to her side.
Part 2: House Arrest
The Seekers of Faerun returned to the Harrowdale Constabulary with hard evidence of the evil that had over taken the temple, and were promptly put under house arrest. The chief constable, Ellarian Dawnhorn, who was also the mother of Neon Wilde, was naturally distrustful of adventurers and was far from convinced of the sincerity and honesty of the Seekers. These suspicions were not quelled when our heroes burst into the constabulary, threw a drow corpse to the floor in front of her, and claimed that the Temple of Mystra had been crawling with the agents of darkness.
“Mother, the temple is filled with torture chambers, vile instruments of pain, and the dead bodies of innocents,” Neon pleaded.
“Here are the papers of a few of the dead, ones named Duncan, Kenneback, and the local bookseller,” Gideon continued. “Here is the gnome Almaes the Alchemist,” he claimed indicated the entranced gnome that they had brought along with them, “who we rescued, but have not yet been able to lift the curse of domination that has been placed upon him.”
Ellarian was overwhelmed by all the information pouring over her. She could not believe that all this evil could happen right under her nose. But the evidence mounted. Swan showed her the letters written by Lady Arthas, and the chakrams that associated the intruders with the evil Goddess Shar.
“These are serious allegations. I will send a force to the Temple to investigate.” she finally conceded. “But the meantime, I would like you all to stay put at the Anchorage Inn. I will post a guard… for your protection.”
“After all we’ve been through, and all we have shown you, you still don’t trust us… or trust me,” Neon shouted angrily.
“If you and your companions have indeed uncovered wrong-doing, I will be grateful. But when the investigation is complete, I will ask you to get out of Harrowdale and leave law enforcement to me,” she said, leveling her gaze at Gideon.
Then Ellarian turned to address her son, struggling to contain her emotions. “Ninniach, I know that we have had our differences, but I do love you. Give up this foolish quest and stay here to complete your studies at the Temple of Oghma.”
“No, I won’t,” he answered. “I will stay with my friends and continue the journey. I don’t want to study there. I want to be… a song writer.”
“A song writer! What foolishness is this? When you were young you wanted to be a pirate, like that criminal father of yours, then you chased after everything in a skirt,” she gazed at Swan knowingly and then continued, “now you are running around with this disreputable bunch. What next, a thief acrobat?” Then she softened her voice and pleaded, “Stay, and next year you can go to Shadowdale and study to be a wizard. You are smart enough for that.”
Neon’s face was like stone. “I won’t. I leave with the Seekers when they leave.”
His mother barely kept her composure as she struggled to fight back tears. She said to Gideon, “I would appreciate it if you do not resist arrest. If what you say is true, then we will let you go with our thanks.” And then she turned abruptly and left them with her deputies.
Gideon seemed resigned to the house arrest. He put a hand upon Neon’s shoulder to say a few words. “Give your mother a chance, Neon. I believe she does love you, but these times are hard and they are undermining her belief in the goodness of Harrowdale and her hopes for your future. She cannot see it yet, but you have chosen the wisest path. In time she will understand that.”
Neon was quiet, choking back both anger and tears, but he appreciated his leader’s words.
The Seekers spent their time in confinement at the Anchorage Inn identifying the many items they had liberated from the Temple of Mystra. It was by good fortune that the Red Wizard, Chathi Chathendum, had taken up temporary residence in a room on the top floor of the inn. Kilzadi arranged to meet with her to obtain help with the identification, and to purchase or sell some items.
“I’ll accompany you to see the red witch,” Gideon proclaimed just before Kilzadi was to depart for Chathi’s quarters.
“Do you not trust me to negotiate fairly for the group?” Kilzadi asked.
“I trust you completely my brother. It is the Red Witch, who I do not trust.”
So the pair arrived together at the wizard’s quarters. However, Gideon chose to stay just outside the entrance. “Leave the door open so that I may hear. I dare not go inside with the large price the Red Wizards have on my head.”
“Chathi is just a good business woman,” Kilzadi said, “But suit yourself. I can do this myself.”
Chathi greeted Kilzadi warmly, “Ah! Dear, dear, Kilzadi, my favorite customer. Please, please, come in… sit, sit.” She motioned to the empty chair on one side of a long wooden table in the middle of the room. Chathi was a tall elegant woman. Her head was shaved bald in the style favored by the Red Wizards. Her newly earned scarlet robes were tailored precisely to fit her trim figure. She took the chair across the table from the sorcerer and sat in it to face him.
“The legend of the ‘desert fox’ grows stronger every day,” she said. “Why only this morning, I overheard two street urchins telling the tale of how you single handedly defeated the red dragon, Volcanix. One said that the ferocious beast swallowed you whole, but that you were unperturbed by this minor inconvenience. They say that you lounged around in its gullet for a while to catch your breath, and then you produced a bag of devouring, which you handily used to eat your way out of the dragon by following its intestinal track. I can scarcely believe that this is true.”
“Ah! Yes, one of my better moves,” the desert fox conceded. “The poor dumb beast never knew what hit him.”
Chathi eyed him carefully to assess his reaction. “Very well then. Show me the wares that you have brought.” She leaned in closer to him, so that they could talk more intimately. She slipped off a shoe, for Kilzadi could feel her nimble foot caress the inside of his calves. They went over the items from the temple one by one. There was a magical rod, a wand of bane; the cloaks they had found were cloaks of resistance. The four medallions of Mystra revealed themselves to be medallions of the evil Goddess Shar, when the right magic words were spoken. There was a periapt of wisdom, a circlet of concentration, a lens of detection and many other wondrous things.
Finally, when they accounted for all the plunder, Kilzadi said, “I would like to purchase bracers of spell entangling. Would you be able to obtain such items for me?”
“Oh, what a delightful idea,” Chathi said and pulled out a ledger and started to scan through it. “Let me check my records to see what I can do. Wouldn’t your brother of the flame like to come in and sit with us?” she asked, as she read. “I daresay, he would find it more comfortable than sitting on the floor out in the hallway.”
Gideon piped up in response, “I’m fine where I am, witch.”
“Suit yourself… Ah, here it is my friend. I can set you up with a fine pair of the bracers for only two thousand gold pieces.” She caressed Kilzadi’s leg with her foot as she made this proposal.
Kilzadi considered this for only the briefest of moments. “Women, do you take me for an apprentice wizard, who has never been outside the walls of Shadowdale? I am born and raised in the hard desert lands of Calimshan, where we know the value of hard-earned coin. The bracers are worth five hundred gold pieces and not a copper piece more.”
Chathi leaned in a little closer to him and her roving foot travelled higher up his leg and along his thigh, moving inward from the knee. The desert fox gulped and attempted to concentrate on the bartering. “You’re a hard bargainer, my friend, she purred, “A very hard bargainer. But since you are my best customer, I offer these bracers to you for only fifteen hundred gold pieces.”
“And you are my favorite wizard, Chathi,” Kilzadi responded, “but at that price you would have to raise your scarlet robes, so that I can take you right here on this table. And even then the price is too high.” The sorcerer considered briefly, “I offer you seven hundred gold pieces. I don’t know why I am so generous; my mind must be addled by your feminine wiles.”
Chathi waved her hand in front of her face in an exaggerated fashion, as if she was overheated by his words. “You will make me swoon if you continue to whisper such sweet nothings into my delicate ear… I fear I am coming under the power of your masculine spell. One thousand gold pieces, fifty percent up front and you have a deal.”
“So is that all that I can do for you, gentleman? I am overdue for another appointment,” Chathi said.
“There is one more item,” Kilzadi conceded. “It is the orb we took from Fembris.”
“An orb?” The Red Wizard’s interest was piqued. “You devil. Holding back and saving your very best for a sweet climax at the end. How can a girl resist?”
Kilzadi pulled the orb from the bag of holding and placed it before her without a word. Chathi grasped it and pulled it toward her, so that she might inspect it more closely. “Warm, almost sensuous to the touch,” she murmured. Kilzadi admired the smooth curve of her shaved head reflected in the perfect dark roundness of the orb. The wizard continued, “I can divine that it has the power to bestow dark-vision upon the wielder.” She cast a spell and considered further. “Knowledge lies between the stars. These are the words to activate its power… You can see starry images deep within the orb.”
Kilzadi saw a shadow darken her face. “And there is more?”
“Yes the magic that resides within is twisted. The orb may be as dangerous to the wielder as it is to the target of his wrath.”
“How much is it worth?”
“Worth? Why this object has the cursed power of domination; it can bewitch the living and undermine the soul of the wielder; it is an artifact bestowed with the power of an evil deity. Worth? It is priceless.”
“Priceless?” Kilzadi was pleased. “Then you must be willing to pay handsomely for it.”
“No!” Gideon could sit still no longer and burst into the room. “This witch shall not have the orb, it is too powerful. The evil god must be Shar, and it is his foul work that was done during the ‘Trials of Mystra’. ”
“Ah! Our voyeur can speak, and not just listen like a frustrated school boy on my door step,” Chathi replied with amusement.
“Woman, if only you knew…”
“Yes, yes, if only I knew the heat of the fires that rage in your soul, I would not speak thus. I know of this tune that you sing over and over again.” She smiled brightly at him but her eyes were cold. “There are friends of mine whose piss would extinguish your puny flame.”
For a moment, Gideon looked like he would reach out and strike her. “But you are right this time, cleric of Kossuth,” she said. “I should not have the orb,” and then she added softly, “I would not trust this in the hands of my superiors.” Looking at Kilzadi she said, “You must keep this. Keep it safe and use it wisely, if at all.”
The meeting was at an end. “So gentleman, I do have to go to my next appointment. Gideon, I do hope to have the pleasure to meet you again, and Kilzadi, it has been a pleasure, as always. Do come again.” She bid them farewell at the door.
“See, I told you she is a good business women,” Kilzadi said to the cleric as they walked down the hall.
“Come. We have wasted enough time with that witch,” Gideon replied. “We have work to do. The Seekers must head north and follow the trail wherever it leads.”
Swan was feeling cooped up by the house arrest at the Anchorage Inn. The night before the Seekers were to head north, Swan snuck out of the house and made her way through the dark to finally stand on the shore of the inland sea. The lonely scout relished the cool night air; it was a pleasant change from the cloying warmth and crowded company of the common rooms.
Eventually, Swan heard the soft tread of boots behind her and smiled into the darkness. She was expecting this. “You are not very stealthy, Ninniach,” she said without turning to confront the intruder.
“I have no wish to hide from you, Cygni. I only wish to join you.” Neon moved to the rocky shore and stood beside her. Together, they admired the silver disk of the gibbous moon rising in the east. They enjoyed each other’s company in silence for a while before Swan said, “The night has come and the land is dark.” Indeed, there was little light to be seen from Harrowdale, since they were looking away from the town and out over the black water.
“And the moon is the only light we see,” Neon replied. Neon grasped her waist and she turned to face him.
“Ninniach…” she began.
“Don’t talk.” Neon tilted his head slightly upward, since Swan was the taller one, and his lips met hers and they kissed. Despite their hunger for each other’s touch they kissed delicately, savoring every subtle sensation of their embrace.
It was Neon who broke it off. “Cygni, you’ve got to listen to me. Do you have any idea what you’d have to look forward to if we became lovers? Nine chances out of ten we’d both wind up dead. Isn’t that true?”
“You’re saying this only to make me go away,” Swan replied.
“I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us we both know you belong with Inialos. You’re part of him, the thing that keeps him going. If we leave tomorrow and your thoughts are not with him, you’ll regret it.”
“Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”
“But what about us?”
“We’ll always have Ashabenford. We’d lost it until you were resurrected. We have it back again now.”
“And I vowed I would never leave you.”
“And you never will. But we’ve got a job to do, too. Where we’re going, no one can follow. Cygni, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy Toril. Someday you’ll understand that.”
Swan’s eyes welled up with tears. “Now, now…” Neon comforted her and put his hand to her chin to lower her face to meet his own. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Part 3: The Odd Couple
Neon Wilde stood tall at the tiller of the catamaran, relishing the feel of the brisk salt breeze as it whipped through his red hair. The action of steering the vessel worked out the stiffness of his joints, and the cool air helped to invigorate him after a night with little sleep. After meeting with Swan the evening before, Neon felt restless, so he slipped out of the Anchorage Inn again and visited his friends Bambi and Thumper. The acrobatic twins were friskier than usual, keeping him up until the small hours of the morning, and drained him of his last ounce of energy and every drop of seed.
It had been a long time since Neon had sailed a boat, and he had almost forgotten how much he loved it. He had spent six months on the pirate vessel the Black Pearl, which raided up and down the Dalelands’ coast, but he was never more than a deck hand. Here, he was the captain and in charge of his own fate and the fate of his fellow Seekers. He barked out sharp orders, to haul that rope, to lean this way and that way. His companions tried to do as he bid them. Swan was particularly good at pulling ropes taut and leaning wide outside the boat and over the water to keep the boat in balance. Gideon preferred to stay in the middle of the vessel; he realized gloomily that in his armor he would sink like a stone, and that you could not resurrect, what you could not find.
At mid day they came in sight of the unknown shrine that was marked on the map. Neon had never visited it, but he had often seen it from the decks of the Black Pearl. It was a tower, now broken down, that had been built on a plateau created where a mountain had crumbled down into the sea. As the boat came closer, the Seekers could see a thin plume of smoke rising from the broken stone. They landed the catamaran on a small beach at the base of the cliff and then set out toward the smoke with Swan and Neon leading the way, as usual.
Neon approached the circle of stone and from a hiding place could see a human and a gnome, looking like gentlemen travelers, sitting by a fire roasting rabbit. A horse and a pony grazed nearby. The rogue circled around the ring of stone to get a better view of the gnome. No that’s definitely not Osier. Well, they seemed harmless enough, so Neon padded back to describe them to the rest of the party. Our heroes decided that Swan and Neon would hide at key spots outside the stone circle, while the others would greet the travelers and learn of their business.
“Ho! Fellow travelers,” Gideon greeted the human and gnome as the four Seekers entered the circle of stone, “May we join you by the warmth of your fire?”
The wayfarers were startled, but were friendly. “Allo, we would be most happy for you to join us,” the human answered, “I am Cubert Draftworth and this is my esteemed business associate…”
“Norwy Waywocket” said the gnome to finish the sentence.
“Do you take sugar…” said Cubert, “or cweam…” said Norry, “in your tea?” finished Cubert.
“Sugar would be lovely,” Gideon agreed. His head was already spinning due to the way the odd couple completed each other’s thoughts.
“And, we would happy to share… some woast wabbit,” the pair offered.
“Ah, some rabbit would be wonderful,” Gideon exclaimed. “Is there good hunting in this area?”
“No, No, we are… weally not hunters… we were lucky to get this one… weally,” they answered in a blur.
“What is your line of work then?” asked Risca.
“Why we are merchants… small powtable goods… decorative jewellery… miwwors and that sowt of thing.”
“Would you show us your wares? My good wife would appreciate a fine piece of jewelry,” Gideon said.
“Ah, I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but you see we lacked a warehouse in the region and you see we knew of a tomb in the region… vewy few people go thewe.”
“You two aren’t grave robbers are you?” Okul joked, and Gideon gave him a foul look.
“Why, no, no… not at all. We are wespectable merchants… and very urbane gentlemen. We were using the tomb for storage, but just yesterday bandits had taken up residence… dawk swarthy well awmed.”
“Can we offer our services to retrieve your belongings?” Gideon said.
“Why, yes… yes we would be most appweciative,” they answered with enthusiasm.
“Very well,” Gideon agreed, “Lets join you for rabbit and tea and we will discuss a plan.”
Norry and Cubert described the bandits they saw at the Tomb of Chonis and drew a map showing where their stash was hidden in crates. The pair offered some of their merchandise as a reward for the Seekers’ labors.
Neon was getting more and more bored with all of this, so he made up his mind and came striding into the campsite and shouted, “I’ve had enough of this. These two are nothing but a couple of cheap river rat smugglers, kill them both now.”
“No, no. We are… honest mewchants… We doth protest,” they said, but Cubert also reached for his sword to defend himself.
The Seeker warriors swung into action. Risca swung the flat of his blade and with a single blow incapacitated the big guy, while Okul knocked out the gnome as he tried to cast a spell.
“Tie them up. Strip them. Let’s find out the truth,” Gideon ordered. Risca and Okul obeyed and pinned the merchants on the ground.
“It’s not nice to lie,” Gideon said as he leaned over the prisoners.
“Were not… lying. It’s, it’s that… Neon Wilde. He’s a wascally wogue… He’s a known thief and criminal… He’s the weal wiver wat .
“That may be,” Gideon said, “But then he’s not tied up with the Black Blade at his throat is he?” Risca grunted his agreement with that, and pushed the blade even closer into Cubert’s throat.
Kilzadi riffled through the duo’s belongings. “Look at this, high quality thieves’ tools. They are thieves.”
“We’re lock smiths,” Cubert protested. “We weren’t going to steal from you. We just need help getting our loot…er, mewchandise back.”
“We libewaited them,” Norry said. His tone was getting shriller.
Gideon questioned the two but finally got fed up with their evasive answers and concluded, “We’ll get nothing more from these two. Let them go; they are not worth the bother.”
“We should kill them,” Kilzadi insisted. “We do not want them to join the lady in the dream to fight against us.”
“What, these idiots?” Gideon almost howled with laughter. “It’s to our benefit if they join her. I say we strip tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, tie them to their horses, smack the horse bottoms and let them run off.”
Kilzadi started to protest but Gideon cut him off with a look saying, “Kilzadi. We are the Seekers of Faerun. The bards will sing of us a thousand years from now. And I will not have it sung that we killed harmless dolts, just because it was convenient.” He said this in a tone that would brook no argument, and there was none.
After the Seekers let the odd couple go, Gideon turned to Neon and asked mischievously, “That… er…. friend of yours… the gnome… was his name Waywocket, or was it weally Rayrocket?”
“Neon was taken aback by the question for moment, but then he grinned, “I don’t think anyone weally knows.”
And the Seekers burst out laughing, well out of proportion with the humor of the situation.
Part 4: The Raven
The raven perched in the branches of a wizened tree overlooking the entrance to the long barrow mound. She often perched there hoping that the humans inside would throw out garbage, scraps of brown cooked meals, or if she was lucky, a corpse. The sunrise was still an hour away and the ground was cloaked in an icy mist. The raven ruffled its feathers against the chill and waited patiently.
Finally, two crouching figures moved out of the mists and proceeded cautiously up the rise to the barrow entrance. Humans, the raven realized and her back heart beat faster in anticipation of the possibilities. She had not seen these ones before, but sometimes strangers visited the tomb, and that always meant a feast for ravens afterward. Both humans looked alike, dressed in shiny shirts and leather breeches, but one had long brown hair upon its head, while the other one had red hair. The pair moved past the entrance and climbed up to stand on top of the barrow. They looked, searching for something, but did not notice the raven in the tree. Go inside. Go inside, the raven wished.
The pair moved back off of the mound and returned to the entrance, one of them approaching from either side. Written on the lintel above the door were the words “Tomb of Chonis” written in the ancient tongue of Thoras, but the raven did not know the meaning of symbols. The couple looked into the cavern, peering in beyond the door, but saw little but inky darkness, and then they moved back the way they came. The beating of the black heart was quelled by disappointment.
Then minutes later they returned, but this time there were six humans, all of them walking side by side up the rise and toward the barrow mound. The raven was so excited it took a great effort to stay quiet and remain still upon her branch. There would be a feast today, and she would be there first to eat their eyes and to savor those succulent white balls, and the delicious juices that would run from the empty sockets. There would not be time though to let the bodies rot so that the meat would be easy to eat. Others would join the feast too, and soon there would be little left. The strangers arrived at the door and after searching briefly, they disappeared down the passage into the mound. The raven had observed humans many times before, and she had learned how to make some of the strange noises that the humans made. She knew the right noises to make now, and so she said, “Die! Die! Die!”
Of course, it was our heroes that entered the Tomb of Chonis that early morning so long ago. The way into the tomb was lit by Okul’s lantern and after a short distance they came to a narrow rickety bridge over a pit. On the other side of the bridge was a large, carved, horned face of some sort of demonic being that guarded the path onward. Neon motioned to the others that he would cross the bridge first. It was surprisingly unstable and even the nimble rogue almost fell into the pit. He signaled to the others to be careful.
Suddenly, three arrows whizzed out of murder holes in the idol. They were aimed at the rogue, but two missed him completely and the other glanced harmlessly off of his new darkwood buckler. Elvish curses in the accent of drow emanated from behind the frowning face of the demon. At the first sounds of this attack, the Seekers moved quickly to counter. Neon scrambled the remaining distance across the bridge, and Swan rushed quickly after him, followed in turn by Risca and Okul. Neon went to the path on the left of the idol, followed by Risca, while Swan circled to the right with Okul on her heals. Gideon and Kilzadi, however, had trouble on the unstable bridge and both of them plummeted into the pit. Fortunately, it was only a little over head height, so they were not hurt. They shouted out that they were okay and urged the others to push on.
Meanwhile, Swan threw out a light pellet that showed the way down the right path. At this point, Okul took the lead and moved quickly further to the rear of the idol. On the left side, Risca said, “Led me go furst. I ken see in the dark and besides, I needs a little fun. If ye don’ mind none, Neon.” The rogue had no objection, so he let Risca pad off ahead of him into the dark.
Back on the right, Okul ran into a drow warrior rushing to attack them. He was likely one of the archers that guarded the statue and who swung around to meet the intruders. Okul speared him, killing him instantly. Risca moved down the other path, noting a series of murder holes that dotted the corridor. He warned Neon and pressed on.
Meanwhile, Kilzadi and Gideon climbed up out of the shallow pit under cross bow fire from the frowning face. Kilzadi cast a light spell, thinking that it was better to see even if it let the archers see them. Kilzadi got out of the pit first and turned to give the over-armored cleric a hand. “Just go!” Gideon said, “Kill whatever’s there.” Kilzadi left him reluctantly and ran to join the others.
Okul and Swan were first to make it around to the back of the statue and they stopped at the edge of a shroud of impenetrable darkness. “I don’t have another daylight pellet,” Swan confessed. Suddenly the end of a glaive darted out of the dark, struck Okul, and withdrew out of sight. Okul swung futilely through the spot that it appeared from. Then everything lit up, and Okul and Swan could see Neon grinning on the other side of the chamber. He had dropped a daylight pellet that cleared away the magical darkness. Risca shouted out, “It’s clobbering time!” He had cornered two of the archers at the base of the statue and moved in to attack them.
Now that the dark was lifted, Okul could see that his attacker was a drow warrior, armed with glaive and short sword, and armored in mithral breastplate. Okul moved grimly and wordlessly to meet his foe. But the drow didn’t wait for the charge, and he danced forward, speared Okul, and then danced again to back away. Okul shrugged off the wound, returned the thrust but missed the nimble drow. Swan released an arrow that whizzed past the dragon-born’s ear and then struck the drow in the chest. Okul sneered quietly at that. I will take this dark elf down, not the girl scout. By this time, Kilzadi, arrived and seeing the drow he attempted to entangle him with a firebolt using his new bracers, but the spell went off harmlessly.
The drow lunged forward again, and staggered Okul with a massive blow to the midriff, and then danced back out of reach of a counter. “Fight fair!” Okul bellowed as he swung wildly again and again, but he could not connect with a solid blow. Swan was perplexed. What’s wrong with big brother? He’s losing it. She could also see that Okul hurting from the drow’s attacks, so she moved close to heal him with a wand. Okul ignored her and continued to advance on the retreating drow.
Now, Risca appeared running toward the battle to put himself fearlessly between the glaive and Okul’s chest. The glaive knocked Risca off of his feet, but he had saved Okul from receiving a killing blow. Kilzadi prepared another firebolt, empowering it this time and blasted the drow. This time the spell was true, and it knocked the drow into a lifeless heap.
Okul sank to his knees in front of the vanquished foe. “I wanted to finish him,” Okul said. “He wouldn’t fight fair. He just wouldn’t fight fair.” Okul clenched his fists and his body tensed. Swan moved silently beside Okul and lay her gentle hands upon his massive shoulders. “Okul, Listen to me. Look at me,” she said. He obeyed and looked her in the eyes. “You don’t have to do it all alone,” she said.
“I know. But I wanted to kill him so much.”
And Swan Battlestar replied, “Big brother, for you are my brother in my heart… we are the Seekers of Faerun. We stand together, or we fall together, and we all stand by you.”
Just as I was resting down my quill, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ returned from her expedition to the shopping dens of Saelmur. “Elminster help me decide,” she asked, “I just could not choose, so I have returned with six pairs of shoes to try on for you. What do you think of these red ones that I have on now?”
I am Elminster the Younger: Wizard, Arch-Mage, Chosen of Mystra, Fighter, Sage and Shoe Critic par excellence, so I offered my opinion. “Your toes look particularly wiggly in those, my dear.”
“Wiggly? What kind of comment is that? Get up off your chair and come and stand by me, so that you can see them better.”
“Stand beside you? But of course, my dear.” So I rose from my comfortable seat and stood beside her. And then Gentle Readers, I do not know what came over me, but I burst into song.
When the night has come And the land is dark And the moon is the only light we see No I won't be afraid No I won't be afraid Just as long as you stand, stand by me
“Elminster, you old fool, what are you doing?” Hilda said. So I grabbed her and we started to dance while I sang.
And Seekers, Seekers stand by me Oh, now, now, stand by me Stand by me, stand by me If the sky that we look upon Should tumble and fall And the mountain should crumble to the sea I won't cry, I won't cry No I won't shed a tear Just as long as you stand, stand by me And darling, darling stand by me Oh, stand by me Stand by me, stand by me, stand by me Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me Oh, now, now, stand by me Oh, stand by me, stand by me, stand by me Darling, darling stand by me Stand by me Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me
Well I guess ‘She Who Must be Obeyed’ is right; I am an old fool. But as wise men have said; there is no fool, like an old fool.
Your humble servant, EtY.