Basajaun Gartzia, taking some time to write another report.
After leaving Kyprios at Highcliff fortress, the group split up to go our separate ways. We promised to keep in touch with each other by leaving messages at the tavern where we had come together, the Sunken Flagon. I was glad of that, these are pretty much the only people I know in Neverwinter and having shared danger together I feel like a bond has been created.
With some money in my pocket, I decided to get lodgings. Not knowing the city well I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to live, but I eventually settled on a place in what they call the River District in the east half of the city. Apparently this is the Free State of Neverwinter territory, which is what they call the half of the city that doesn’t believe in government. More on that in a bit. Anyway, I found a place where this nice husband and wife couple have a big garden area they don’t mind me using for druidic rituals. For my rent I get my own room and one meal a day if I pitch in on ingredients. Living in a city feels a bit itchy, but so much is strange that it doesn’t bother me that much.
I spend about a tenday doing nothing but trying to settle my connection with the local nature spirits. Tasting the air, feeling the soil, chanting to put myself in the right frame of mind, cutting plants with a carefully crafted dagger made from bone- you know, the usual. Some of the implements cost more than I was expecting (boy, was it nice when the Circle just gave me all that stuff) but it’s a success! I’m able to take on the forms of beasts once more. Just like Master Xani promised, it only took a little time to settle myself and adjust. I’m not quite where I used to be, but being able to turn into a bear puts me in a better mood.
After that, I spend five days looking for information on any local druidic circles. Plenty of people are willing to talk to me, but neither they (not the birds or beasts) know anything. Finally I find this pretty “elf” woman in the Blacklake District named Theryis. I’m still getting used to elves; can’t believe they really live for over a thousand years! Not even powerful druids live that long, and their years pass ten times as slowly as those of most men. Well, maybe if you had a powerful druid who was a dwarf, but I’ve never heard of one of those. Elves are like human beings, but better. I feel so nervous and awkward around them.
Theryis owns a tavern called the House of a Thousand Faces, and she tells me about this circle called the Ring of Swords that used to operate in Neverwinter Wood to the east of here. She said they were a militant group that tried to protect the ruins of old elven kingdoms and drive out the gnolls, goblins, and bugbears that roamed the forest. Then there was another druidic circle used to operate in a place cheerfully named “the Mere of Dead Men” called the Circle of Merdelain (which means something in elven but I forget). Bad news is that both circles were destroyed even before the great disaster that brought us to the New World. She knows of no druidic circles that have taken their place, but said that she would be quite interested to hear anything I might learn about what happened to them.
So there’s two possibilities here. One is that druids around here aren’t very well organized. I don’t think people would stop developing the ability, but maybe my own Circle(s) in Eskorn just have unusual longevity and power. Or maybe people in the city just don’t know about them; it’s not like we advertise ourselves to people in Stormhelm.
Theryis also tells me something weird; she’s heard some of the patrons at her House of a Thousand Faces talking about Netherese (the shadow people empire) spies infiltrating the city through the Free State. Not sure why she told me. However since I live in the Free State now, I figure I’ll take a fiveday off and try to get to know the people there and learn more about them.
So they don’t believe in government. Instead when someone needs the cooperation of other people they call a big meeting where everyone talks and they try to reach a consensus. When two people are having a dispute they grab a random stranger to adjudicate. It actually reminds me a lot of my circle in Hargleth forest! Except with less turning into animals to fight out disputes and less attempts to awe everyone else into compliance through display of powerful nature magic to prove your mastery. Still the same amount of petty dickery and boring repetition of the same points over and over until I can’t bother paying attention anymore. I attended some Free State meetings and they are so boring. People asked who I was the first few times, but then they got used to me. I heard a few things they want adventurers to investigate, but no public meetings about Netherese spies.
One day I check back in at the Sunken Flagon and Hory has called a meeting. Thank the spirits! He’s burned through his money a little faster than I have and wants to see if we’ll take another job together. So it is that about 21 days after the group went our separate ways, we reconvene at the Sunken Flagon for a meeting.
Everybody shows up: Asterion, Amafrey, Talyn, and Hory. Amafrey is wearing some new robes and informs us that she’s officially graduated from her school and these are her formal wizard robes… which she’s apparently supposed to wear all the time to show everyone she’s a wizard? Wizards are weird on every continent, I guess. Not like us sensible druids.
The Commonwealth of Neverwinter (the guys with a government) are offering a reward for going after ooze monster reported in the northwest Blacklake district. That could very well be the infestation the animals earlier were talking to me about, so I’m all for that one and everyone else is okay with it. It helps that the reward is a lot of money, 500 lords (the gold metal currency around here). Now the mission requires you “prove” that you dealt with the matter, so my idea is to recruit someone who lives in Blacklake and would testify they saw us fighting oozes.
We decide we should go flag down a street patrol of the “Red Guard” which is a militia that keeps order in the streets (at least in the western half of the city) and is ultimately answerable to that red dragon Klauth. This makes Talyn real nervous, but the whole point of Kyprios’s plan is that we’re supposed to attract Klauth’s attention so that he sends us on his big mission, so we can’t exactly hide from him. When we tell the guard we want to look into the oozes, though, they only laugh. They and a lot of other people don’t think the oozes are real. Apparently there’s this apocathery named Hazel who has been raving about ooze monsters no one else has seen for a long time now, and she had enough pull to get the Commonwealth to put out a bounty. Hory gives the guard a silver for their trouble and we go on our way.
I wish I were as good with people as Hory; he seems to have knack for getting people to talk to him even though he’s a weird cultist spy. Well, I guess he doesn’t tell most people he’s a weird cultist spy.
Hazel is really glad to see us. Apparently the Red Guard weren’t kidding; everybody thinks (well, thought) she was crazy and she’s so happy to see someone actually investigating. She’s been studying this for years, and she shows us samples of water she’s taken from various areas in the swampy area that used to be a lake. I can’t make anything of them (neither can Amafrey), but Asterion studies them a while and declares that the entire lake is turning into a giant ooze! Hazel is certain that whatever is causing it is centered on some old boathouse. She can’t get close because these oozes and animated vines attack anyone who tries to get through, but adventurers like us probably could. She gives us all healing potions and we head in.
Sure enough just as we get in site of the boathouse, a bunch of animated vine monsters and grey oozes attack us. I use that sweet new staff that Kyprios gave me to cast Barkskin and move in to fight as a bear. I don’t think it’s too hard a battle, but Hory gets beat up a lot and has to drink a healing potion. Hory’s a really good fighter, don’t get me wrong. He jumps in with his knives and fists and he’s like, wham-bam-slam! It’s just, you know, he takes a real beating doing it.
So we move on to the boathouse, and I sneak up as a bear to sniff the air. There’s definitely a person inside, and I let Asterion know. His ability to talk directly into your head is really convenient when I’m an animal! Hory tries to sneak around to cover the rear, but he’s spotted halfway through and I go ahead and bust inside. There’s one of those dark-skinned elves, drow they call them, dressed in rags.
But… I mean, I’m excited but I realize we don’t know he’s behind the oozes. He could just be some dude squatting in the house. It would be terrible if he was just some homeless beggar and we hurt him! So I try to just sort of bear hug him without hurting him. No luck, but Asterion busts in (along with everyone else) and manages to grab the guy and restrain him. Then the guy waves his hand and calls an ooze up from beneath the floorboards to attack Amafrey. That seems to confirm he’s the bad guy, so I kill him with my bear claws. At the time I’m thinking it’s justified, but… it was a mistake. It makes something really bad happen.
I don’t understand all this at the time, but later Talyn and everybody explains it to me. This guy was a cultist for some kind of god of oozes and slimes, and he’s been working on the “turn the lake to ooze” plan for years by sacrificing animals and other stuff. When I kill him, the cultist dedicates his death to finishing the ritual and the lake transformation starts to complete. I’m going to take this as a lesson about not being too quick to deal out death. Even if someone is a bad guy and even if they’re dangerous, you can’t unkill someone. Well if I were a more powerful druid I could, but you get the point. The point is that my first instinct was right, and I was wrong to let the slime panic me into taking his life.
We run back to Hazel’s place, with Talyn shooting some frost rays into the giant ooze behind us to try and slow it down. She’s got nerves of steel, even as I’m panicking. Once we tell Hazel what’s going on, it gives her the final pieces she needs to figure out how to stop this. She mixes a few potions together and we run out in a circle around the giant ooze, protecting her as she throws her potion bottles into it. It’s dangerous and we have to dodge a lot of monsters, but eventually the ooze shudders and dissolves itself.
Naturally this attracts a lot of attention as people coming running out to see the monster. Hory takes the opportunity to talk what we and Hazel have done so that everybody knows. That’s smart, if our plan is to get famous. So the crowd is just relieved that nobody got hurt and they all cheer Hazel and us (even though we/I triggered the attack) and Hazel gives us all healing potions and tells us we can have a discount at her store anytime.
We go straight to the place the Commonwealth pays out bounties, which they call the Hall of Justice. This lady named Charinyn pays it out. Hory asks Charinyn about some insignia the drow had, but I don’t pay a lot of attention. Money in hand we go to the Sunken Flagon, where it turns out that anybody who saves the city gets a round of drinks for free. Yay! Though also, I still think booze is kind of gross. You know what you get if you cast Purify Water on ale? You get water. Right?
This guy comes in and brings us two letters from Kyprios. One is just to Talyn and the other is addressed to “the Courageous Companions of the Copper Colossus” which we take to mean us all. The one to all of us gives us greetings and says that events are afoot in Evernight (that’s the city in the Shadowfell) and that there will be an attack on Neverwinter from Evernight soon. He doesn’t know if there’s anything we can do, but if we can we’ll have his full faith and support. The note to Talyn is about some private matter he’s helping her with.
We don’t really know what to do about this attack and can only hope that Kyprios is getting someone more competent than us to do something about it. In the meantime, despite earning a lot of money everybody is a little happy about how well we did and wants to go do some more quests. I’ve heard of a few in the Free State, so we all agree to meet at the Flagon the next day and then walk to the Free State.
If I’d thought about it I would have asked them to just meet me at the gate to the Free State so I wouldn’t have to talk all the way to the Sunken Flagon and back again, but whatever. A little walking is good for the sole… of your feet! Hah. That’s funny in Illuskan, because it’s a homonym with soul.
Hory seems distracted by something as we walk in the gate, but he’s always distracted by something or other. We head to the district where the drow live, which is called “Little Menzobarrenzon” after some city of theirs in the local Underdark. Yes they live in the Underdark, poor bastards. We’re going there because some of the drow are getting harassed by the humans in the district, and there’s a reward for anyone who can stop a guy named Helder Stormcrow from turning everyone against the drow. We decide to get the drow side of the story first.
I suppose I should give some context here. If the drow live in the Underdark, what are they doing in Neverwinter? Well apparently they have this all-drow mercenary company called the Bregan D’Aerthe (I double-checked the spelling with Amafrey.) The company got hired to help defend Neverwinter, and they’re getting partially paid in land. Some of them have settled here even when they’re not on an active tour of duty.
We head into a tavern called One Eyed Jack’s Two and talk to a drow bartender called Rizzen. He tells us the first One Eyed Jack’s was in a city to the north called Luskan, and they named this one after it. We ask if the drow have been having trouble, and he says there’s been big public rallies about how the drow should be driven out of the free city. Helder Stormcrow is indeed organizing the rallies. Rizzen doesn’t seem too worried. He keeps saying that the Bregan D’Aerthe are big tough fighters, and if a mob comes for them they won’t have any problem killing anyone who tries something.
We ask him why Helder dislikes them so much, and he tells us that Helder was a slave in Menzobarrenzon (the one I the Underdark) for a couple of decades. Well. That does seem to be something to be mad at. The others tell me later that this isn’t unusual for the drow. They’re known for slave raids on the surface, and a lot of people see drow as nothing but prettier orcs or goblins, monsters that love evil and enslavement and killing. Drow living on the surface like normal people is actually really strange and disturbing. It’s basically only happening because the First Secretary of the Commonwealth is a drow and she convinced both sides to make a go of it.
Rizzen does seem pretty bloodthirsty and casual about killing. But… he also served us all drinks when we came in without complaining and talked to us like equals. He doesn’t act like a raving monster. I ask if maybe Helder could be convinced that the drow here didn’t have anything to do with enslaving him. It turns out they did! A couple of the Bregan D’Aerthe here were part of the raid that destroyed his village and took him prisoner. I ask who they are, and Rizzen tells us that they’re a couple of soldiers named Tebryn and Ryld, and they’re on patrol tonight looking for ghouls that have been attacking people. I’m thinking that talking to them would help, but nobody else seems to think so.
We decide to go see Helder next. He runs this charcoal business, and he’s a really nice guy who doesn’t mind explaining himself. He tells us that the Bregan D’Aerthe destroyed that city Luskan to the north of here by… well, I’m not sure exactly what he means. They got all of the money somehow and left the city broke. He says they want to do the same to Neverwinter and that trying to drive them out isn’t personal at all. I don’t believe him when he says that, but he believes it. We see we aren’t going to talk him out of this, and we make our excuses and leave. Well, I stay to ask about his charcoal business and it sounds like he’s got a really sustainable model where he farms trees to harvest instead of cutting down old forest. Great!
There is one thing, though. When we talked to Helder, Hory told this really moving story about how his parents were killed by gangs and he shared Helder’s pain. When we got outside, though, Hory said it was all a lie. I said that wasn’t a good thing to lie about and he got mad and told me that it’s okay if lying is in a good cause and some lies are good. (Including making an unkind remark about my poetry which I think is an unfair judgment on am amateur like me.) Hory’s not wrong, but he’s not right either. It’s not that lying hurts Helder, but that it hurts Hory. It makes him trust people less because he knows there are people who lie like that… I don’t know how to explain it good now, and I didn’t then, so we all shrugged and walked on.
We spend a couple of hours walking all over the district trying to find Arlon Bladeshaper, who is one of the local leaders they don’t have. We finally pin him down distributing food and help him with that for a while, until finally we can talk. He tells us he disagrees with Helder but doesn’t know what to do to convince him to stop the speeches. I speak up about my idea to have Helder talk to the two drow who hurt him and that maybe if he could get an apology from them, that might make him feel better. Arlon thinks it’s a great idea. He tells us that the Bregan D’Aerthe are into the warrior brotherhood thing, so if we can fight beside them in battle then they might be willing to listen to a request like that. That means helping them with the ghoul thing.
So we talk all the way back across the city to the Commonwealth to find this lady named Tura Oakenheart who has been writing about the ghoul attacks for a news sheet called the Waterclock. (She’s human, not a dwarf, despite the name.) We find her at this temple, but as soon as we start talking to her she has a proposal for us. Tura wants to make a visit to Evernight to scout out what’s happening there. She’s pretty sure that’s the source of the ghoul attacks. The problem is she’s a writer not a fighter, so she needs people to protect her from the undead if she gets jumped.
You would think that of course we’re going to be fighting, but she’s got a medallion that would identify here as a servant of the Netherese. They control Evernight, so the ghouls won’t attack her if they think she’s with the Netherese. Just the one medallion, though, so the rest of us would have to pretend to be her slaves. That’s just an Evernight thing by the way; slavery is illegal in Neverwinter and in most everywhere in this part of the continent. I was worried so I asked.
We talk all this over while getting an early supper at a food court run by this guy Jarvey in the White Dragon market. I tell Tura about the Eminence of Araunt and we agree to go with her if she also lets us recruit that drow patrol. (We try to explain why we need to do that but I don’t think she’s that interested.)
Anyway, we walk across the city yet again. This time I’m sure that Amafrey’s feet are getting sore. We find the Bregan D’Aerthe we’re looking for in a three man patrol. The patrol members are Zaknafein, Tebryn (one of the people that hurt Helder), and Ryld (another one of the people that hurt Helder). They agree to come along without a lot of argument.
To get through the shadow crossing we have to sacrifice a chicken. Amafrey tells us that I need to cast a healing spell on the shadow crossing to open it back the other way, which is good to know. I don’t think Tura had even bothered to think about how to get back.
For the second time in less than a moon I’m in the Shadowfell. This time I have the time to notice how horrible it makes me feel. All the stars are gone and there’s no moon, and I feel so depressed and homesick. It makes me sorry I was ever stupid enough to cross the ocean. This is a horrible place and it’s horrible being here and everyone is a horrible savage who doesn’t understand how things should be.
I hope it was just being on another plane of existence that made me feel that way.
Anyway, the shadow people have patrols and guards anywhere. It’s the first time I get a look at them. They look human except not, like the shadows have soaked in and become part of them. They really like piercings and have this ragged but well crafted style to their dress. I don’t know how better to describe it. There are ghouls everywhere, and so many undead makes my flesh creep. They all take one look at Tura’s medallion and ignore us, just like she said, but you can tell they’d like to devour us.
We go to a place called the Corpse Market which is so sickening I don’t want to talk about it in detail. It’s where the ghouls go to buy and sell things… mostly horrible things. Mostly pieces of humans and other intelligence races. I barely don’t puke. I want to burn this place and everything in it to the ground. If I had the power of grand druid, I’d do just that. I can’t think of a better use for fire. The Corpse Market is going to give me nightmares for a long time.
Tura interviews this ghoul named Bertolf the Butcher. He complains the the Netherese have been cutting off all the normal supplies of human flesh they bring in through the Shadowfell and there’s not enough to keep all the ghouls here happy and fed. It’s on the direct orders of their governor. Bertolf doesn’t say that this has been making them raid Neverwinter for people to kill and eat, but all of us get the idea. Tura nearly blows it talking to Bertolf, but somehow she’s able to calm his suspicions and we get away without him calling all the undead down on us.
Tura says she needs to know who the Netherese governor is. I’m not sure why, but she thinks it’s important. We split up. Talyn uses a spell to make herself look like a ghoul and wanders off to see what they say when there’s no Netherese around. I change into a spider and sneak into the Netherese headquarters. It goes okay, but the problem is that they don’t speak Illuskan among themselves and I can’t understand what they’re talking about. I do get a look at the guy who seems to be in charge, and the guy seems steeped in shadow magic and kind of regal looking.
When we meet back up, Tura managed to find out his name from a written proclamation. It’s a guy called Prince Clariboran Tenthool, one of the 12 Princes of the Netherese. That’s serious stuff; he’s one of their highest leaders is what Tura tells us. We’re figuring we’ve learned all we can and are about to leave when the Netherese call out all the ghouls and make a big announcement. They’re closing the Corpse Market, meaning that even if the ghouls do find dead people to eat, they don’t have a way to trade the bodies among themselves. The ghouls look like they’re going to riot… so Hory jumps in and deliberately triggers a riot! We get a little battered, but we manage to get back to the shadow crossing and make our escape.
We’re so happy to be alive that we all go out drinking together. The Bregan D’Aerthe guys are rowdy but kind of cool. They don’t seem like monsters, just guys having fun and happy to be alive. I know that two of them have done terrible things, so I guess that means that people can do evil things and seem normal the rest of the time. How should I treat people like that? I don’t know…
Zaknafein talks a lot when he gets drunk, and the other two are always telling him to shut up. The atmosphere seems good, so I make my pitch for Tebryn and Ryld to go talk to Helder. They don’t want to do it at first, but everybody else jumps in and asks them to and finally they agree.
The next day they talk to Helder and it’s awkward and strained, but eventually they manage to put themselves in his shoes enough to apologize and he accepts it and everybody cries and Helder makes a big public speech about how driving out drow isn’t the answer. That could have gone wrong, but I wanted to believe that it could go right. I’m glad it did.
We get paid for the mission and for finding information on the ghouls, and Arlon stops by to personally give us a little more money and thank us for stopping the riots. We don’t do much else that day. After Evernight, I think everyone’s happy with a day off. At the same time, we’re also keyed up and tense. We walked through all those undead and didn’t actually fight and it’s like a thing where all of us feel like we need to do something else as a team to get the taste of Shadowfell out.
So the next day we meet at the Hall of Justice to take another mission. While we’re there, we also officially register ourselves as a group. We’d been arguing off an on a lot over the name we’d register under, and we finally narrowly agree on “The Copper Crusaders”. That’ll make Kyprios happy because he really wanted us to take a name acknowledging him as our patron. (All the other names he suggested were way dumber.) Hory is upset we’re using such a giveaway name, but what’s done is done I guess. Also, Charinyn confirms that she has met other druids! I want to ask more about them, but I get distracted Talyn makes fund of me for rambling.
The mission is that this man named Brander Waderivver has gone missing. He lived in a place called Fisher’s Float, a big glob of floating earth (earth mote) that a lot of the local fishermen live on. The report was filed by Kirra Satbbinger, Brander’s girlfriend. She works at Shandackle stables.
We go talk to Kirra. She is an ostler, taking care of the horses. They are such nice horses! I play with them while the others interrogate Kirra, and they are such sweethearts. I pet them and inspect their coats and brush them a little. I’d say that Kirra can’t be a bad person if she takes good care of horses, but I get that’s naive thinking. She can’t be a bad person to horses, though.
Kirra last saw Brander 11 days ago and thinks his father killed him. She doesn’t know what Dornan Waderivver (his father) is into but she is sure it’s no good. They have their own weird society on Fisher’s Floar and everybody defers to Dornan. He’s a creepy man and she thinks he killed Brander because Brander was breaking away from Dornan’s control at her urging. She tells us that other people there have gone missing about once a year on the 15th of Kythorn. Hory asks what religions they follow, and Kirra confides she thinks Dornan is mixed up with the Abolethic Sovereignty. Asterion’s ears perk up at that, literally.
Before we leave, I mention that it’s nice that the government is willing to put up a reward for looking into this. It shows they care. Kirra likes Lord Rodrik a lot and doesn’t have much good things to say about the Free City.
You get to Fisher’s Float through a portal set up in this temple near the harbor. Those are expensive to set up, and we wonder how a poor fishing village got one. Once up there, it looks like any other small fishing village. We decide to split up and poke around.
I talk to some goats near Dornan’s house and they tell me some awful stuff. They have seen people with eyes in their chest and groups of hooded people coming in and out of Dornan’s house. Sometimes they bring in people all tied up and gagged and haul a bag out later. This is definitely some kind of creepy cult sacrificing people.
Before I know it, Asterion and Talyn and Amafrey are all there as well. We are wondering where Hory is when there is shouting inside the house. I find out later that Hory went to interview Dornan directly and willingly went down to his murder basement where mutated cultists tried to kill him (Hory, not Dornan). Good effort on getting evidence fast I guess, but I wish Hory would take better care of himself. I worry that the loss of his twin moon cult has made him suicidal or something. I’ll try to be there more for him.
Anyway, we all rush in and fight the cultists. I turn into a bear, which works great. Dornan almost gets away, but I chase him up the ladder and kill him. Which I know contradicts the “don’t be so eager to kill people” policy I talked about earlier, but that guy is crazy bad news, worked for monsters, and killed his own son. I don’t know, maybe that’s self-justification. Maybe I should have tried another bear hug. It’s not easy hold back when life and death is on the line.
We all feel better, like we put a stop to something bad in a way we couldn’t do in Evernight. All us Copper Crusaders feel relaxed enough to take another break while we all attend to our own business.
I want to stop screwing up so much, but it’s hard. I want to try to do better, try to be a good druid of my circle that everyone can count on. All of the other Copper Crusaders seem to have it so together, like they always know what to do. I feel like such a screw-up. I hope they don’t kick me out of the group or anything. I wouldn’t even know where to go.
Copper shines in darkness
Crusading against the crook
Magic of dragon and book
Bullman and spy
And student of druid-ry
Yeah, needs work.