Master Xani is dead! My powers are messed up! Everything is terrible!
My name is Basajaun Gartzia, druid of Hargleth Forest and currently sole representative of my Circle on this expedition to the new world of Toril. I’m only lehen ordena, so you know that’s not how things were supposed to be. Let me explain from the beginning.
I wanted to get away from home, let’s not get into why, and Master Xani’s expedition seemed like a great chance to get really far away. He didn’t want to take me, but I
can could do basic transformations, and I promised I’d do whatever he said and keep out of his way. He finally gave in, and we were off. The first part of our trip went fine. We spent a month crossing the southern mountains and passing through the Sword Lands on our way to the Windrise ports. Master Xani could have gone a lot faster without me, I’m sure. In fact, he could have gone a lot faster with me. Some days he’d have me transform into something small or polymorph me himself, then turn himself into an air elemental and carry me a long way. He usually wasn’t in that much of a hurry though, and we stopped to talk with a lot of his contacts along the way. I could tell he had passed through before.
We spent another couple of months near Tarmalune once we got there. See how I say “near”. I wish I could have seen more of the city, but Master Xani had a lot of business meeting people in the outskirts and we only stayed in the city itself a few nights. It was pretty incredible, though. I’m never seen so many people in one place or so many buildings. Makes Stormhelm look like a tiny village, and for that matter this Neverwinter place as well. This whole time Xani is drilling me in the language Illuskan, which is what they speak in the part of the New World where Neverwinter is. How did Xani know Illuskan? Search me.
Oh yeah, Neverwinter. That’s where we were going and the city I’m in now. Apparently there’s a lot of big things going on around here that Master Xani wanted to look into. The local dwarves have this entire city where they have a bound Primordial of fire. There’s this ancient red dragon looking to take over, but for some reason he doesn’t want to just plow in and force it. A creepy undead gang from Eskorn might be moving in. Some other stuff? Master Xani thought it was all real important for the future of the world or something. I wish I’d talked to him more, but his explanations always seemed to go over my head. …okay, maybe if I’m honest that’s also my fault. He seemed to have everything in hand, and I figured he’d handle all the hard stuff and tell me what to do when I needed to do it.
We finally took passage on this ship called the Purple Wyrm, which is captained by a dragonborn named Torrin the Seeker. He’s an interesting guy. Torrin worships the god of dragons, Io, but he has this belief that Io was once a mortal who was called a knight of the purple dragon. Which would have been before dragons were created? I don’t understand it and what I do understand doesn’t make a lot of sense, but he’s excited that there’s this country in the New World Cormyr where they have an order of knights called Purple Dragon Knights. Anyway, I don’t mind listening to him and he helps me practice my Illuskan. I like Torrin.
The first part of the trip goes smooth. We head out into the Dragon Sea, go south to the Great Sea, and then east towards Neverwinter. Torrin has made the trip a bunch of times, so it’s all going smooth. Halfway across the Great Sea, we make a stop at this island called Minos. I don’t know how big islands usually are, but it seems pretty big to me. There’s a port and a town attached, but we don’t stay very long. The Purple Wyrm drops off some cargo, picks up some other cargo, and we leave in a day. Only once we pull out, it turns out we have a new passenger on board. It’s a minotaur!
I’m not clear on exactly what happened, since Torrin talks with the minotaur, who I’ll go ahead and tell you is named Asterion, without inviting me to listen in. I’m feeling a little sick anyway and not paying as much attention as I should. The further we get from Abeir, the harder it is for me to feel the spirits of nature. I can tell that they’re there, but it’s like listening to a language you know in a thick accent. It’s hard to pick out the words. I can’t even transform anymore! I ask Master Xani about it, but he’s not even worried. He says he’s been rebalancing without any problems and if I had more experience it would be easy for me too. I should be back to normal with a couple of weeks and the whole experience will be good for my development, is what Xani tells me.
I think it’s the Worst Thing Ever! Until the dragon turtle kills Master Xani a couple of days later, anyway. Um…. I guess to put things in order, I should talk about Asterion first. He has the head of a bull and the body of a man, which is what minotaurs are supposed to be like. His fur is white, and the parts of his head and body without fur are covered in tattoos. He speaks the trade tongue of the continent we’re headed to, which is only partly Illuskan so he has trouble communicating more than a word at a time to me verbally. It doesn’t matter, though, because he can talk directly into your mind. Telepathy, Master Xani called it.
Asterion is really smart, I can tell. He seems to be talented at everything. I’m not so smart, but I’m good at figuring out what people are like and who I can trust. I can tell Asterion doesn’t want to hurt anyone on the ship and he’s a little lonely. I talk to him some, but he’s dealing with stuff so I don’t push.
Then a couple of days later, the dragon turtle attacks. I say “attacks” but I think it’s just playing around with us at first. It’s bigger than the entire Purple Wyrm, and I bet it could break the entire ship in half if it hit us from underneath. Instead it just sort of bats the ship with a flipper and then starts circling, eating one of the sailors that was knocked overboard. Everybody panics. The sailors start pulling out crossbows, but the quarrels bounce off the shell. Asterion tries to take carry out some sailors in a small boat and circle around it to get a shot at a vulnerable area, but the dragon turtle swamps the entire boat with a wave from its movement and Asterion goes into the water. Then it strafes the Purple Wyrm with some sort of steam breath and about four more sailors die. I try to run in and keep a couple more from dying, but just the heat from the aftereffects of the breath hurts my lungs so bad they won’t pump air.
Then Master Xani does something. It doesn’t seem like a regular spell, more like he’s just gathered up a bunch of nature spirits and throwing them at the dragon turtle directly. He didn’t have to do that if he only wanted to save himself. He could have turned into an air elemental or anything else that can fly and taken off out of the dragon turtle’s reach. But I guess he didn’t want to abandon the Purple Wyrm, because he does this instead. Whatever it is, it works. The dragon turtle gets hit hard and sinks back into the sea. Maybe it’s dead, maybe it just swims away. All we know is it doesn’t come up again.
Captain Torrin tells me later that dragon turtles are maybe the most dangerous thing in the ocean. The only thing he knows that could take one on is an ancient true dragon, and even that wouldn’t be a sure thing. We druids of Eskorn, though, we know about fighting dragons.
Master Xani, though, whatever he did kills him from the effort. He lasts for a few minutes, but it’s like all the life has drained out of him. He begs me to take over the mission, and I- Uh, I make a fool of myself. I confess I hadn’t totally been paying attention during the briefings and ask him if there’s a list and generally say stuff that I’m sure in no way comforted a dying man. I bet he died wondering if he’d made a huge mistake.
A Tenday later we limp into dock in Neverwinter. Everyone is exhausted since so many crew members died in the attack. I still have no idea what to do or where to go. I’m tempted to ask Captain Torrin if I can ride the ship back home, beg him really since I barely have any money. That really would be betraying Master Torn, though, so I don’t. Torrin must see I’m looking lost, so he tells me there’s this tavern he’s going to where he plans to meet someone from Cormyr later. That’s a destination, I guess, so I follow his directions there.
Asterion comes along too. I think he has no more idea where to go than I do. The city of Neverwinter isn’t like I imagined. Everywhere we look there are signs of buildings that were demolished and are only half-repaired, like the city is recovering from some huge disaster. I mean, it’s not terrible and there’s a lot of skilled hands working, but still.
The Sunken Flagon is warm and friendly. There are three portraits above the bad, two of them look like humans with some non-human blood… I think those pointy ears are signs of what they call elves? They look related. The third one is a human. Asterion orders a big platter of meat to eat, but I’m nervous and my stomach is unsettled so I sit next to him and don’t order anything. There’s a really pretty woman with silver hair and the same kind of sort-of pointy ears playing an instrument on the stage, and a dwarf woman drinking alone in a corner. I lure a black cat over and play with her while Asterion starts to eat.
This next part is kind of complicated because a lot of people were talking at once and there was a lot of back and forth, but I’ll try to summarize. This dark-haired woman about my age comes in and starts talking to the room at large about how she wants to recruit adventurers to go fight a red dragon. I get interested in that because hey, fighting dragons is definitely one of the things Master Xani was supposed to be looking into. Just as I start to introduce myself, an older guy with the same sort-of pointy ears talks to the dark-haired woman and tells her that his contacts say the monster isn’t a dragon at all but that he wants to look into it anyway because there’s a big reward. Then the lounge singer comes over and joins the conversation too. (I feel embarrassed looking at her. Girls should not be allowed to be that pretty.)
At some point we all introduce ourselves, and I tell them that my master is dead and break down crying which is really embarrassing but which I probably needed to get out. They’re all nice and make me feel better. In the end we all agree to work together to investigate this not-dragon (and I’m not sure I’d go if Horry hadn’t assured us all it wasn’t a dragon, because dragons are crazy scary). Apparently it’s worth a lot of money, and I’m going to need money if I want to take over for Master Xani.
To introduce my new friends:
Asterion – Already told you about him, and he is a male by the way. In addition to telepathy, he’s really strong and fights with his horns and can apparently charge them with some sort of magic mental power and make them hit harder.
Amafrey Windrivver – The dark haired girl who came into the bar and started talking about the quest. She’s an apprentice mage, and that’s what her robes mean. She seems very smart and sometimes talks about things I don’t care about. Good with fire magic.
Talyn Silverblood – She’s the lounge singer. She’s a sorcerer and does cold magic. I wish I could be as relaxed and natural talking to people as she is.
Hororin Carter – This is the guy who told us it isn’t a dragon, a fact he bets 10 gp with Talyn over. He tells us to call him “Horry”. He says he’s a merchant from Cormyr who is skilled in knife fighting. He also tells me Cormyr is a long way away. Huh. He’s pretty nice, paying for everyone’s food.
I don’t want to stay in an inn with my small funds, so I ask if I could camp outside the city. Horry tells me there’s a war with a shadow empire going on and that wouldn’t be a good idea, but there’s a basically abandoned park I could stay in. I get directions there and set up a campfire next to a ruined wall, then make myself some goodberries to eat. Only then does it occur to me that this might not be too safe either. I am a stranger in town, and if I don’t have many valuables I do have some. Usually I wouldn’t think anything of it, because if someone jumped me I could just turn into a bear, but I can’t do that now. I mean, I have armor and a weapon, but still. It’s fine to live in the woods, but living in the city like I would live in the woods could get me jumped by thieves.
With nothing else to do, I talk to the local rats and birds and other city animals. I have to cast the spell ritually each time, so it’s 10 minutes to cast then 10 minutes of talking, but over a few hours I hear from a lot of them. They don’t like that humans are pushing them out of their homes, which is to be expected. There’s something worse than that going on in a northern district I later identify as “Blacklake”, though. The animals call it an “infestation” and insist it’s unnatural, a festering sore that’s been growing for “a long time” which doesn’t mean a whole lot considering I’m not talking to any of the more long-lived animals, but means it’s not a “started yesterday” thing. I make a note to look into it. How did the local druids miss this? I found out about it in a few hours.
Are there any local druids?
Our group meets up the next day. We’re going to a ruined fortress called “Highcliff Castle” which is somewhat outside the city proper. It takes us most of a day of walking to get there. Amafrey look a little winded like she isn’t used to long walks, but everyone else seems okay. Along the way I asked everybody if maybe I should check in with the local government as an ambassador or an emissary or whatever. I don’t represent a government exactly, but our circle is pretty important in Eskorn. They don’t seem to think much of the idea, pointing out that I don’t have any proof I represent anybody. But if I did have credentials, how could anyone here even tell they were real? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know!
Anyway, we get to Highcliff and Amafrey probes the gates magically. She says there was really strong shadow magic here a long time ago. I don’t know anything about shadow magic; it’s not anything we druids use. Apparently it’s big around here, what with the shadow magic empire that Neverwinter is fighting and places like this. I may have broken down a little about how terrible everything is again, but then I recover and we go in.
It’s really dark inside, and Amafrey and Asterion and I need torches to see, though it seems like elf-blooded people can see in the dark. Weird! Horry starts off by scouting, but he falls into a pit trap in the floor. While we’re helping him out, five kobolds attack us. I haven’t been in very many real battles and never fought kobolds, but their sling attacks mostly bounce off my shield. Still, they lands some good hits on Horry and Asterion and I make some goodberries to help them heal.
At the end of the corridor we find the room the kobolds were camping in. It’s a real mess, filled with junk and broken tools they were using to make traps. We decide to continue exploring and find another room with hundred year old dead bodies in it. Asterion examines them and says they were killed and then raised as zombies and then killed again. I think this is the first time everyone else gets to see how smart he can be.
Then we find another room with dead bodies on the floor and dark shadows in the corners. The shadows turn out to be itzals, the undead that look like shadows. (Same word in Illuskan, apparently.) Two of them come out and attack us. I use my thorn whip on them, and Amafrey attacks with her fire bolts and Asterion with his horns. Horry has a weird acrobatic fighting style where he mixes in punches and kicks with dagger attacks, and he actually destroys one of the shadows (to use the illuskan word) with a kick to the head. I get hit real bad, though, with one nearly killing me with its cold touch.
After that I’m out of spells for the day beyond my cantrips, and so are Amafrey and Talyn. We decide to end the day’s exploration and go back to the courtyard to rest until morning. Since it’s still barely sundown, that gives us a lot of time to talk. The undead we’ve seen remind me to tell everybody about the Eminence of Araunt and how they’re supposed to be moving in on Neverwinter, or Neverwinter’s twin city in the plane of shadow I guess. I don’t think I explain myself very well though, probably because I only know stuff second-hand from Master Xani. These guys aren’t common knowledge even in Eskorn.
I’m feeling a little happy with still being alive, so I try out some of my poetry on Amafrey. She responds by telling me a lot of academic stuff about poetry construction rules in the New World, and I have to excuse myself to pass water to get away.
We head back in the next morning. Just a little further from where we stopped the day before, we find this altar and ritual circle set up by the kobolds with wolf parts and other animal bits hanging everywhere. I’m a little disgusted so I step forward and bust some of it up. Amafrey tells us that it probably wasn’t really magic, but it looks like the kobolds were trying everything they could think of to stop something they were very afraid of in the hall further on. That sounds like it could be our not-red dragon, so we push on past to see what the kobolds feared.
Horry warns us about this horrible ooze called a green slime hanging overhead, and Talyn kills it with her ray of frost from a distance. We continue on past and find a room filled with unnatural darkness. Even our torches are going dim. Two more of the shadow undead appear and attack us, and it’s a hard fight but we kill them. Horry kicks another to death and we start to joke he should call himself “shadowkicker”. Once the shadows are gone we find stairs leading down that somehow hadn’t been visible in the dim light before.
The stairs lead to tunnels which look different from the construction above. Asterion says they were carved by lizard folk, and they turn into a real winding maze. Asterion has no trouble leading us through, though. He says something about being good with mazes. At the other end we emerge into a large chamber with a fire going and mutton roasting on a spit and a stage set off to the side. There is a voice echoing. “Welcome. Welcome to my home. I would never harm any intelligent creature, but first I must understand how intelligent you are." It asks us a riddle, “It has a golden head, a golden tail, but it has no body.” I barely have any time to think about it when several party members immediately come back with, "It’s a coin.”
The voice turns out to be a large copper dragon. Horry has to pay 10 gp to Talyn. I know copper dragons are supposed to be “good” and this one can’t be that old at its size, but I’m still pretty nervous. It could probably kill us all with a single breath. He tells us his name is Kypreaos. I say something stupid about recruiting him for the resistance against draconic tyrants which sounded a lot better in my head, but he’s nice and doesn’t laugh.
We ask him where there’s a bounty out for him calling him a a red dragon. Kypreaos says someone named “Arlon” told Kypreaos that most of the attacks were made up and so did “Micar’eyl”, but “Rodrik” (apparently the lord in these parts) was forced to post a reward. The climate doesn’t agree with Kypreaos it’s far too damp, but what’s going on in the city is so interesting he can’t help himself.
Then out of nowhere Kypreaos offers to be our patron. He agrees to tell us his intent, but that it’s a sensitive thing. He could be destroyed if we talk about it. So if we betray him, he will destroy us first. Horry wants to know what happens if he betrays us, and he’s like, “Well then I won’t blame you for taking your best shot at me.” What else is he going to say. At my suggestion Amafrey casts detect magic to make sure he’s really a dragon. Yep, dragon.
Copper dragons and red dragons have an old emnity. He wants to bring about the death of Klauth (the ancient red dragon trying to become a draconic overlord around here) through trickery, deceit, and his superior wit. If we agree, he will employ us to see to the destruction of Old Snarl (a nickname of Klauth). He can provide a number of incentives for our aid.
Then things get a little weird. Kypreaos calls to each of us by name even though we haven’t introduced ourselves and makes an offer specific to each of us. He must have been watching us and listening to us talk for a while, because he knows an awful lot about us. He offers to teach Amafrey secrets of draconic magic. He will help Talyn unlock the secrets of her blood. Asterian apparently is enemies with “Aboleths” has past experience with Klauth has past experience with the abolethic sovereignty. Apparently Klauth believes he is the key to their destruction. That doesn’t sound like a reason for Asterion to work against Klauth to me, but Kypreaos is so smooth we sort of brush past that. All I know about aboleths is that they’re fish monsters, but both Asterion and Kypreaos seem to think me calling them that is underestimating them.
He offers to teach me “the secrets of faerun”. Um… okay? For Horry he gets real cagey like they’re talking in code about something they don’t want the rest of us to know.
Amafrey asks about someone called Instructor Morstad, who disappeared. Kypreaos doesn’t know anything but could investigate. Also, Talyn apparently has silver dragon blood in her from some dragon called “Silverwing” that “every dragon in the north” knows about and respects.
My best read on this copper dragon is that he genuinely cares about freedom above everything else, so he’s serious about opposing a new dragon overlord. That doesn’t mean he cares about us, though. We take a moment to talk in private with Asterion acting as a telepathic relay to tell each of us what the others are saying. We’re all mostly in agreement with signing on board, but Horry doesn’t want to swear any oaths of allegiance. When he finally voices this problem aloud, Kypreaos tells us we’ll be his pawns purely on a job basis and he’s find with manipulating us to do his bidding using his superior intellect alone and without dependence on binding oaths.
Kypreaos is as arrogant as arraio. He’s smart and charming, but I guess that really is what dragons are like.
So we all agree and he has a first mission for us. There is a lot of lingering shadow essence around here because about 100 years ago this site was part of a ritual to raise the King of Shadows out of his extra-dimensional prison. The massive influx of shadow magic has left a ‘shadow crossing’ here, which from context seems to be a place where you can easily pass to the plane of shadow or “Shadowfell” as they call it here. Kypreaos would like to close it, so he doesn’t have to worry about the shadow empire pouring through into his den. He has a ritual to close it, but it requires someone acting simultaneously on both sides and he has to cast the more complicated part on this side. So long story long, he needs someone who can use ritual magic to go through and cast in the Shadowfell. I can do ritual magic, but I’m no good at anything but druid spells. We decide to have Amafrey do it while we guard her.
Before that, though, we get rewarded with some magic items. Horry gets some goggles of the night that will extend his ability to see in the dark. Asterion gets some dragon scale mail. Amafrey gets a ring that lets her talk to animals. Talyn gets a ring of spell storing.
He gives me a Staff of the Woodlands. Whaaaaat?! You can cast Wall of Thorns with one of those. Even Master Xani wasn’t powerful enough to cast that. Not to mention the ability to Awaken animals and plants, and a bunch of other spells that I’m not powerful enough to cast right now. I mean, wow. Forget one mission, I owe Kypreaos a dozen missions for something like this and I’m sure he knows it.
We all take some time to attune ourselves to our items and then we’re transported to the Shadowfell. Amafrey starts the ritual, and immediately itzals appear and try to attack her. It’s like they know what she’s doing and are ignoring the rest of us to get to her. We defend her as best we can, and I use the staff to drop a barkskin spell on her (probably should have done that before setting out). She goes down at one point and so does Horry and I have to use all my healing power to get them back on their feet. A bigger, meaner shadow monster appears and starts running towards us and none of us doubt it could kill us all. Amafrey finishes the ritual barely in time, and Kypreaos pulls us back just before we’re overwhelmed, killing some shadows that followed us back.
That… was…. awesome! I’ve never been more frightened, and I’ve never felt more alive. I cheer and celebrate with Amafrey and we all feel so good.
Eh, maybe a little too good. We’re all feeling so pumped we offer to “finish off the rest of the kobolds” for Kypreaos and head back upstairs without bothering to rest. We go down the corridor we didn’t go before and find a closed door. Talyn tries to lure the kobolds out with an illusion of screaming, but they don’t budge. Then Asterion forces the door open and bursts in… to get pelted by sling bullets and knocked to the ground. The kobolds have barricades set up and are organized and ready for us. They also have their leader with them, a kobold with wings of blue fire who is a spellcaster. He exchanges magic missiles with Amafrey and knocks her out, and things are going very badly for us very quickly.
Yeah, we were arrogant and stupid. I was arrogant and stupid. Those kobolds might very well have killed us right then and there. Luckily I did have have that new staff, so I dropped a wall of thorns (a spell too powerful for Master Xani remember) on the back row and pretty much killed them all instantly, except for one I couldn’t hit without hitting Horry. Hurray for overpowered staves.
Kypreos threw us a party when we came back and nicely doesn’t mention how dumb we were. He really seems to like sandwiches, which I guess aren’t a thing here? He takes charge of the surviving kobold, who is called Kryn. Kobolds are happy to serve any dragon, I guess.
Amafrey discovers something weird in her spellbook, a magic card. She doesn’t seem happy about it and Kypreos claims it “found her”. I’ll have to ask her about it later.
Horry tells us he was part of a spy ring before he came to Neverwinter. His real name is Thockas. Everywhere else he is Horry. The organization he belonged to was destroyed aby an unknown enemy. He wants to find out what happened and who attacked them. Kypreos tells him that the churches of gods Selune and Shar cooperated to destroyed them. Apparently his people were members of some weird heresy that believes the god of darkness and the god of the moon are the same god, so the churches of those two gods hated them. Talyn seems really upset about this for some reason, but I don’t like to argue with people about their weird religious beliefs. Worshiping gods is weird enough.
I ask Asterion what he wants and he finally confesses to me that he fled Minos because there were bad people in control of his village and his family. He wants to go back and free the whole place someday, but he’s not powerful enough yet. I tell him that I’m sure we can do it some day, and he seems genuinely touched.
Kypreos has Talyn transcribe a letter to Klauth basically offering his surrender and obedience. He doesn’t mean it, but he thinks it’ll appeal to Klauth’s ego enough to get the bounty taken off his head for a while. Apparently Klauth has a man in Neverwinter called Brandis Vrye.
We head back to Neverwinter to spend some time resting and figuring out what to do next. I need to reconnect with the spirits of nature and at least get back to the level I was before. Everyone is counting on me to help protect them!