The Adventures of The Stonelanders

Phylas' Journal XIX
Further Entries from Phylas' Journal

7th of Kythorn

It’s funny, really, how just a few days can change everything. Or even a few weeks. When we came here, to Deepingdale, to Highmoon, I did not expect that I would not be leaving. They say that your destiny can be written in the stars, but it seems mine has been written in the moon.

I suppose I should explain.

On the 5th of Kythorn we did indeed rise, and all of Deepingdale with us. We funneled as many arms and as much equipment as we could to the rebels in the city, and spread word that there would be an announcement at noon. We had planned to reveal that I held the true Scepter of Aglauntarus.

We flew into the city on our pegasi, and found that Scyllua Darkhope, the leader of the Zhentish army, had returned. She was waiting for us, riding a twisted beast, flanked by demons, atop the ruins of the Tower of the Risen Moon. Thus ensued an epic battle in the skies above the city, which culminated in her death.

The allies and mercenaries of the Zhentish troops fled the city; this was unwise, as the druids and the wolves were waiting for them. The battle between the remaining Zhentish army and “our” troops- the Dalesfolk and our Fey allies, among others- took most of the rest of the day, but once we managed to secure the city gates and shut everyone in, the Zhentish forces began to surrender.

We left the troops to watch over the now-prisoners and we went into the Tower of the Risen Moon to try and find Lord Ulath. Sylune’s warnings about him seemed to indicate something was gravely wrong, and they were correct. Ulath’s mind had been overthrown and he was possessed by some terrible construct from the Plane of Shadow. We managed to subdue him, and again we turned to Gerard in Suzail for help.

He requested a miraculous intervention from Lathander, which was granted, and Lord Ulath was freed from the domination of his mind. While there, we also learned that Cormyr was finally triumphant in their battles against the Zhentish army near Tilver’s Gap, which was more good news.

We returned to Highmoon, and Lord Ulath was insistent that he resign.

It had occurred to me that Lord Ulath would need to be removed from his office, either because he was an imposter of sorts (as had seemed to be implied), or because something had gone terribly wrong with him. And who should replace him?

I did not tell my compatriots of my growing conviction that, perhaps, I should be the one to do it. What would they say, anyway? This is an excellent place to establish the Order of the Constellation, after all. And, really, a brush with death has a way of… changing someone. I am not so keen on adventure as I once was. Besides, it seems appropriate. Someone has to help rebuild things here, and I am more than capable. It also seems to be what the gods want. Perhaps that is hubris, to assume that I know their will, but it seems right.

The next day, on the 6th, I convened the Town Council, and we had an assembly of the leading men and women of the town and dale. The need for a new leader was discussed. A number of names were put forward to succeed Lord Ulath, including my own. Non-voting members were eventually shut out of the meeting, but after several hours of deliberation they delivered a verdict: the new Lord of Highmoon was to be me.

I have set the date of my installation for Shieldmeet. In the meantime, there is a great deal of work to be done.

9th of Kythorn

My compatriots do not yet seem to have realized that my new position will require me to stay here, that I can no longer go adventuring with them. Ah, well. They’ll figure it out eventually, I suppose.

I have begun having the city rebuilt and repaired. A number of sleeper agents had been planted in the city several years ago by the Black Network to assist in the overthrow of Highmoon; I think we have hunted them all down and confiscated their assets. Many of them fled the city in the aftermath of the Zhentish defeat.

I believe I have solved the question of what to do with the Zhentish prisoners. There were a fair number of them, so I had the number of casualties among the Dalesfolk tabulated, and I executed seven times that many Zhentish. Some of my adventuring companions seemed surprised by this, but I pointed out that I explicitly warned the Black Network of this retribution. The Dalesfolk do not seem to have been bothered by it.

I have had Gorstag retrieve my belongings from the manor house in Cormyr, and so I am settling in to the Tower of the Risen Moon as my new home. I am hoping that, with the Black Network defeated, trade can resume here. It is too early to begin laying the foundations for my Order, but I am commissioning a number of, hm, expensive parting gifts for the Stonelanders. I hope that this infusion of cash, along with the Lyre of Building which I now possess, will speed along Highmoon’s rehabilitation.

18th of Kythorn

The loot we have accumulated from the liberation of Highmoon was considerable. As we liquidate more and more of it, the group’s cash… expands. My compatriots are busy, it seems, trying to spend it. Gorstag, naturally, is investing heavily in magical items to augment his power.

The repair of Highmoon continues apace. It is not a large city, but the Dale is beautiful, and I think I will like it here.

2nd of Flamerule

Time passes and passes and passes. Progress is being made on the gifts I have commissioned for the Stonelanders; I hope they like them.

It has occurred to me that, given that we have three of the legendary Four from Cormyr, obtaining the fourth and presenting it to the King of Cormyr as a gift would be a powerful gesture of friendship between Highmoon and the Forest Kingdom. I have begun making inquiries at the Temple of Oghma, and have begun praying about it as well, seeking answers from the gods.

3rd of Flamerule

I have decided that I shall commission the Stonelanders to retrieve the Fourth from Cormyr for me.

I have also decided to create Dejhara, a priestess of Deneir here at the Temple of Oghma, the second-in-command of my budding Order. I still have a great deal to do in the city, as well as planning for the enormous feast we’re throwing on Shieldmeet, but after that I hope to begin to break ground for the Temple of the Constellation, as well as the great library.

Have also decided to create a garrison and station it in the Underdark beneath the Tower of the Risen Moon. I have given the command of this garrison to Gorstag’s father, and awarded him Midnight’s Moon, the scimitar we recovered, to help.

Also, have informed the garrison that they are to kill any and all spiders they see.

25th of Flamerule

Not much to say. Plans proceeding apace. City recovering nicely. The liberation of Highmoon will afford me the goodwill of the people for a fairly long time, I expect, but I hope to give them other reasons to like and respect me.

1st of Eleasis

The feast was yesterday. I spent a great deal of money on it; you might even call it “extravagant”. I have the money, though, and I figured the city could use a celebration. I suppose some might look at it as my attempt to buy the affections of my new people, but that’s rather overly cynical.

There were enormous white tents, and a great deal of food and alcohol. I had a number of new things-a robe, a belt, etc.- commissioned for the celebration. I think I made a good impression.

The installation was at noon, and shortly thereafter I created the Stonelanders Knight-Champions of Highmoon. Then, I created them Knights of the Golden Moon in the Order of the Constellation, and awarded them gifts. They will be departing from me, but I hope these magical items will serve as reminders of me, and of Highmoon, and as a constant invitation to return.

Other awards were conferred on the Dalesfolk, and on Azalar Falconhand, for their parts in the liberation of the city, of course.

The rest of the day was spent eating and drinking. I think everyone had a good time. I assume my adventurer-friends went back with companions, though I did not stay to find out. Azalar came back to the Tower with me.

He’s still here, actually. The upside to not needing much sleep is that I can get this writing done in the early morning. Other things, too, of course, but I’ll let him sleep for now. Wait, what? Perhaps I can convince him to stick around; I like him, for one, and having him around will lend more legitimacy to my rule here. That sounds more mercenary than I intended it. We’ll see what the future holds, I suppose.

Anyway, the Knights of the Golden Moon (at least, that is what I shall call them- they can keep the name the Stonelanders if they want, but I doubt they will) are coming by here later this afternoon. I shall send them forth with a quest to bring me Silveredge.

Thus ends my adventuring life. The noise and violence and death and blood and (Lathander save us) spiders and undead and wyverns and on and on and on shall be replaced with the quiet of Deepingdale, with disputes over trade, with issuing permits to cut down trees in the forest. Replaced also with the time and opportunity to pray and contemplate and commune with the gods, and to attempt to peer into the future and see what is in store for me, for Highmoon, for Faerun.

Oh, what a life! To be so young, and to have experienced so much already. I think Gerard will be proud of what I have done, and what I will do. There is still the great question of understanding my prophecy from those years ago, but there will be time for contemplation and research, now. Hopefully, with the budding Order behind me, we may make some progress in that regard. Already we have begun attracting interested parties.

There may yet be room for a few more entries here, but I doubt that will be terribly necessary. An epilogue here or there, perhaps. I will keep track of things for my own sake, perhaps in another tome, but there will be no more grand adventure.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, and Septimus and Gorstag and August and Greizly and Deneal have wearied of the adventuring life, they will return here, to me, to Highmoon, and they can live out their days in the quiet shade of the Tower of the Risen Moon.

Perhaps, perhaps.

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Phylas' Journal XVIII
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4th of Kythorn

Death.

The last of the Stonelanders died today.

I, of course, was the last original member. And yes, I died.

And yet, here I am, writing. It seems… unfair. Could we have saved Milo, or Grim, or Henry? We did not have the money to raise them from the dead. That seems so… vulgar.

My death and resurrection—my redemption—have coincided with a dramatic expansion of my powers, of my command over the forces of the heavens. This has manifested itself quite clearly in my physical appearance; I am told it began slowly, and has increased to its present intensity: a halo of constellations of tiny, twinkling stars surrounds me, denoting the favor I have with the good-aligned gods of the cosmos.

You will forgive, dear readers (if there are any? This is a personal journal, after all…), if the levity is dropped from my tone. Having confronted (in a way) my own mortality, I am now recalled to the memories of my dead companions. It is not a particularly enjoyable time. I hope Danath is well.

Back to the here and now, I suppose. This is supposed to be a record of deeds, after all, for posterity, or whomever.

We led the slaves out of the Underdark using some maps we’d discovered of the tunnels and paths and Drow encampments. It was, in fact, this very act that led to my death. Regrettably, the circumstances were not so noble as that may sound. We encountered a beholder, a terrible eye tyrant, those monstrous beings of legend that you hope never to see, guarding the passage out.

I cannot, frankly, give my own account of what happened next, and so must piece it together from my companions, as, shortly after we encountered it, it turned its terrible gaze upon me and I was turned to stone. I am told that Deneal was greatly heroic in the encounter and turned the tide in our favor; eventually the beholder was brought low and destroyed. My companions attempted to lift the petrification, but unfortunately the transformation back from stone killed me.

And so (I am told), it was determined that I needed to be resurrected. The slaves were led out to the surface and a small camp erected, and Septimus, carrying my body, and Gorstag, teleported back to the Temple of Lathander in Suzail. It was, apparently, very dramatic: it was pouring down rain in the capital, and Septimus, tall and glittering in his armor, carrying my (quite lifeless) body, kicked in the temple door (I told him later they are usually open during the day, but I suppose that would have spoiled the effect) and bellowed for Gerard, my mentor.

Mercifully, Gerard was able to resurrect me and restore me to, well, to myself. All told, I wasn’t dead for very long. We filled Gerard in on the goings-on in Deepingdale, and Gorstag took the opportunity to do the same with the War Wizards.

It seems I owe them my life, a debt I am curiously comfortable with. I shall not, I suspect, be able to repay it—not truly—but I shall try.

We had work to finish, so we teleported back to Deepingdale amid Gerard’s insistence that we owed him no recompense for my resurrection. We will, of course, repay him, one way or another.

We re-gathered our strength and headed back into the Underdark, to take a passage up into the lower levels of the Tower of the Risen Moon to free the prisoners there. We were successful in this endeavor, and freed quite a few people that had been wrongly imprisoned, including Gorstag’s parents. Most of the prisoners seem largely unharmed, just neglected and malnourished, but nothing that cannot be healed with time. That, at least, is a relief.

We discovered, upon returning to the surface, that the rebellion had apparently begun without us. Sporadic fighting appeared to have broken out, and it seemed we were out of time. Alas, we had not yet finished all we needed to. Fortunately, Azalar contacted us, and we rushed to meet him.

It seems there is a Fey portal network around the area, one that had been sealed off because of an enormous spider (naturally) that had been loosed in it, the Sussurus. Azalar informed us (I kind of drifted off at points—he’s a bit dreamy) that if we were to kill it, it would secure to our cause the portal network and his Fey allies.

Inevitably, this was going to be necessary, and so that is what we did. It was a rather protracted battle, but eventually we were successful. And so, we have Azalar and his army on our side. He told us to seek out the druids who watch over the forests of Deepingdale, and so we set off in earnest to do that, too.

It was then we discovered that the druids had been scattered by the wolves of the forest, who, normally under the leadership of a wolf named Cooteu, were instead under new leadership, a giant winter wolf by the name of Frostbite. Cooteu approached us and suggested that, if one of us could defeat Frostbite in single combat, we could pass leadership of the pack back to him. This would allow for the wolves and the druids to have their normal balance restored, and bring them onto our side in the conflict with the Zhentish army.

Deneal offered his services in this regard, and I was happy to accept. I had assumed Septimus would be taking on the challenge, but I was much happier to risk Deneal. As it turned out, Frostbite didn’t stand a chance against our little sorcerer of the winter.

With the balance of the forest restored and the wolves and druids brought to our side, we decided to make a last hour strike at the remaining leaders of the Drow House Dhuurniv, so we went back into the Underdark.

With their maps in our hands, it was not a huge problem to find the remaining two leaders. The first had concocted some horrifying fire-spider abominations, but was otherwise easily dealt with. The second… I did not go into the room with the second. Apparently the room was coated in spiders, and there was some sort of fountain spraying spiders in all directions. You know, I thought the ocean spiders were bad, but I cannot imagine anything worse than that. So, I waited outside.

And so, here we are, back at camp. We have exhausted our strength for now. The rebellion began today, without us, but tomorrow we shall rise with it.

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Phylas' Journal XVII
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2nd of Kythorn

DSC: ONE. ENORMOUS. SPIDER.

I should probably clarify that, as we are now in the Underdark, the Daily Spider Count is going to be pretty much outrageous. In fact, I am writing this from a camp that we have setup outside a kind of labyrinth, and here we are, in the one place in all of Faerun that I don’t want to be, but we have to be, because the gods want us here or something. I mean, we’re doing good work, we’re doing what we ought to be doing, FINE, I get it, but sweet merciful Lathander can’t we be doing good work in some place sunny or at least somewhere that doesn’t have spiders THE SIZE OF HOUSES. HOUSES.

Small houses.

WHATEVER.

On a more serious note, Joy, our intrepid ranger, has left us. Joy and I did not get along particularly well, but she was an excellent ranger (well, you know, when she wasn’t triggering traps for the hell of it, though that was endearing in its own… peculiar… way), and has been taken away by her family to an arranged marriage. It’s a bit tragic, really, but her half-brother, August, has taken her place in our party.

August and I have, ahem, similar allies, so I don’t anticipate any problems. He also has an intelligent crossbow named Gertrude. I am told she hates vermin, so I expect we shall get on famously. Oh, that reminds me: though the departure of Joy is all very sad and whatnot, this has meant that that horrible talking sword of hers, Imp, is gone. Hooray! (Imp was not very fond of me, and the feeling was entirely mutual.)

Anyway, upon our venturing into the Underdark, we immediately encountered a little Halfling (as opposed to a big Halfling? Hmmm…) named Deneal Icebriar. Because, you know, what I wanted was another barbaric Halfling in the party. This one, unlike our worryingly uncouth barbarian Greizly, can actually read, and is some sort of spell-flinging tiny person. Well, he’s a sorcerer, but “spell-flinging tiny person” is much funnier.

The point is, he’s here in the Underdark for some reason (something about looking for a lost relic of his tribe that ended up here in the hands of the Drow) and is tagging along with us. He seems to have a rather deep-seated loathing of the Drow, and was particularly suspicious of Gorstag. I think I allayed his concerns somewhat, but we probably shouldn’t leave them alone in a room together.

Anyway, shortly after that was an encounter with a spider the size of a house (no, but seriously, it was), and that is all I have to say about that.

Oh, and I have just remembered the jumping spiders. JUMPING. SPIDERS.

I’m not updating my DSC. Deal with it.

So after some more wandering and spots of combat, we managed to encounter an enormous fang dragon, who I assume was brought here to be some sort of guardian or other. Not sure. Can’t say that I care. I mean, you know, I care insofar as it tried to kill us, and it was a big horrible monster, but I don’t much care about its motivations, you know? WHY does it want to eat me? WHY is it so angry all the time? Perhaps its mother didn’t love it enough as a child. Or… something. I’m not sure. To be fair, I didn’t have a mother, and I turned out alright.

Hey, I did!

After that I stumbled upon a scimitar. Funny story, really. So, we found this horrible altar (par for the course these days), and I was like, “Time to smash it!”, and Septimus readied his massive hammer, and I sprinkled some holy water on it to cleanse it first, and one-two-three click-click-click wouldn’t you know, it opened a secret door. Who knew? I guess I should start sprinkling all the unholy altars we come across. Anyway, it appears to be some sort of artifact; its powers are beyond the reckoning even of Gorstag “I know everything there is to know” Greycastle, so, ha! And also, drat!, because it would be nice to know.

3rd of Kythorn

DSC: Four Ocean Spiders.

Remember what I said about spiders the size of houses? Yeah, these were so big. I died a little inside when I saw them. More on this anon.

Well, and by “anon”, I mean “right now”, actually. So, we set off from our makeshift camp and came to a lake. Deneal very quickly demonstrated his usefulness and created a bridge of ice for us across the lake. It was a nice thought, but unfortunately this immediately attracted the attention of the aforementioned ocean spiders that rose up and attacked us.

I am super, super tired of the Underdark. Have you ever seen a spider the size of a house that can swim? And was it the most horrifying thing you had ever seen? Because if it wasn’t, please don’t tell me, I am really uninterested in things that are even more terrifying than that.

The combat attracted the attention of a bunch of row and kuo-tua soldiers; Deneal again demonstrated his usefulness and was quite effective in combat. Not, it should be noted, that my normal compatriots are not useful—far from it. Rather, I just point this out because he is a new addition, and whatnot. I am regretting having another Halfling slightly less.

After this came our assault on the Temple of Lolth down here. It was quite dramatic and heroic, though poor August got turned into a terrifying monster for the duration of the fight and I had to knock him out with a spray of colorful stars. Rather unfortunate.

Following the combat was a thrilling bit of temple desecration. Septimus was kind enough to loan me his hammer and let me stand on his soldiers and hack away at the enormous statue of the Spider Queen. It was quite horrible, really, but I like to hope it was a small step towards ridding myself of this crippling phobia.

In related news, I seriously doubt it was.

After that we discovered a number of Dalesfolk being held as slaves in what can only be described as, ahem, a chamber of sadomasochistic delight. So, you know, if you know anyone that needs a magical dildo, we have… several…

We liberated the Dalesfolk, and discovered a large bathing area next to the chambers. Septimus, Greizly, and Deneal decided to partake in it, so Gorstag, August, and I continued on ahead. We didn’t expect to find anything this deep into the complex, but we did, so we headed back to assemble the full party.

This involved walking into a scene of, um, various states of undress. You know, I’d never been particularly keen on seeing Halflings bathing, but there it is, forever burned into my memory. I have to say, if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the situation between them and Septimus was… compromising… but I don’t think he’s gotten over Joy yet anyway. Not, mind, that I object to seeing him like that, at least. It’s quite a nice… wait, what? Sorry, I trailed off there.

Anyway, so we re-assembled our party (I should note that I don’t object to bathing by any stretch of the imagination, it was just… an unusual time for it), and headed back off. We then fought some bizarre magnetic monster. I haven’t the faintest what it was. It was, however, guarding quite a bit of cash, as well as the legendary Warblade, a major artifact that has been lost for some time. Septimus, being, well, Septimus, grabbed hold of the blade before we knew what it was, and apparently passed its tests of worthiness and what-have-you, because he is now the new, official wielder of said blade.

It is a powerful artifact, so that’s all well and good, and I would be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind that the wielder of the Warblade would make a powerful and prestigious addition to my budding Order…

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Phylas' Journal XVI
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Phylas’ Journal XVI

1st of Kythorn

DSC: None.

Following a much-needed rest after our travails in the Grinding Gulf, we ventured back to Fort Gurzoth. With magic restored, I was able to level it using the Lyre of Building we acquired. I decided we ought to send a stronger message, so I kept playing, and we erected statues of the Stonelanders: six of them, facing outward. In the middle, I had the symbol of my religious order carved, surrounded by the words, “THE PRICE OF HIGHMOON’S FREEDOM SHALL BE PAID WITH THE BLOOD OF THE BLACK NETWORK”.

That ought to get their attention.

We ventured into town after that to try to enlist the help of the major temples for the rebellion. On the way, we witnessed a number of sham trials, putting people away for treason. Gorstag’s mother was among those condemned as guilty. It remains imperative that we continue to weaken the rule of the Zhentarim here, and quickly.

Our mission to enlist the help of the temples of Oghma and Tymora was successful. Though the high priest at the temple of Oghma does not have many resources with which to help us, he introduced us to Dejhara, a priestess of Deneir and, I hope, a potential addition to the rebellion. She also seems interested in my Order, so perhaps we will see her even after we leave here…

The high priestess at the temple of Tymora was expecting us; she is a very clever lady, and has instituted a scheme to scam the Zhentish troops out of their money, and thereby get leverage to extract information from them. Not to mention setting her temple up as a gambling hall to keep as many troops occupied as possible. She has offered us her assistance, and I am grateful to have such an ally.

After that we decided that we needed to eliminate the air support the Zhentarim enjoyed. We managed to lure two of their four sky mages into traps, and we killed them. One of them appeared to be their leader, so that is good news. After that, we were able to fly back into the city and dump their bodies. We also dropped a score of notices that I have been copying in my spare time.

It occurred to me that we needed to make overt threats to the Zhentarim and announce our intention to overthrow their rule if we were to start a real rebellion. I have therefore issued a Decree in the name of my Order. I have attached a copy here:

A Decree
From the Order of the Constellation

Let it be known: that the illegal occupation of the city of highmoon by the Black Network is hereby condemned.
Let it be known: that crimes against the people of the Dalelands shall be avenged sevenfold.
Let it be known: that we have pierced the veil of time and seen the future of the Zhentarim here.
And let it be known: That any of the Black Network who wish to avoid their fate may leave now, unharried, but all who do not leave shall meet the fate that has been foreseen.

Given on this day, the first of Kythorn
In the Year of the Worm
By Phylas, High Prophet of the Constellation
In the company of His Most Noble Allies, the Stonelanders

It is, perhaps, a bit disingenuous: I have not seen the future here, but they don’t need to know that. Plus, my Order mostly just consists of me right now, so there is that, too… I am staking my reputation on our success here, but it seemed to me that, well, that it might sound more menacing than a rag-tag group of adventurers telling the Black Network to shove off.

We do not yet know what, if any, effect my Degree will have, but I hope it will at least shake the morale of the lower-level Zhentish troops, or perhaps of the mercenaries they have with them.

After our successes against the sky mages we ventured into the forest to look for Alazar, to see if he had had any luck with his fey allies. We were unable to do this, but we did manage to find the Shrine of Sehanine Moonbow that I was looking for. I contacted the goddess, and she answered a number of questions for us.

Before she left us for good, Sylune mentioned something about the “false lord of Highmoon”. Lord Ulath is still nominally in charge, so I do not know what she meant by this, but the goddess has confirmed that he does not have the real Scepter of Aglauntarus, a symbol of the rightful ruler of Highmoon. Perhaps there is a greater deception here? Has Lord Ulath been replaced?

We have, I think, weakened the allies of the Zhentarim, but their Drow allies still remain. I think they are our last significant obstacle before we can hope to free prisoners and begin an uprising.

Unfortunately, that means a descent into the Underdark.

That is going to suck.

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Phylas' Journal XV
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Phylas’ Journal XV

30th of Mirtul, Second Entry

The Weave is back; it has been repaired. Magic courses through the world and in the depths of this lair we were cut off from it, in total. I wonder if this is how Septimus and Elric and Griezly feel all the time: personally, I felt naked.

We found a hidden stair down to the bottom of the Gulf, and crossed over it and back up another stair, into the lair of Alokkair, an ancient wizard. More on him anon.

We encountered a woman and her guards, emissaries from the City of Shade. I am not sure what this means, but it cannot be good. It appears they were there, assisting in the Ritual of Unwinding that was undoing the Weave. We defeated her guards, but she fled. We did manage to discover a series of secret passages that Alokkair used to traverse his domain, and we promptly discovered him shortly thereafter.

Thereafter we bumbled into a serious mistake: trusting a lich. It is my greatest fear that I will let our party down again, and we will die, and this fear was very nearly realized.

Alokkair did not appear to be lying: he spun us a story about being kept prisoner by the priests of Shar who were working the Ritual. He accompanied us to his laboratory, where the actual ritual was taking place, and as soon as we attacked the guards, he ambushed us.

Without Sylune’s kiss, I am sure all would be lost, but we managed to prevail. Nearly everyone, it seems, came close to death, but perhaps the fates and the gods were on our side, as none plunged over that precipice; for this I am eternally grateful.

It seems after we stopped the Ritual, Sylune appeared and expended her last life-energy to repair the damage that had been done to the Weave. It is a great sadness that such a noble woman should now have passed permanently from this realm, but we have dealt a heavy blow to Shar and her minions, so that is cause for celebration.

After sacking Alokkair’s lair, we made our way back down to the bottom of the Gulf. Beyond doors in one of the walls was (as we later discovered) the House of Night, a small temple-complex dedicated to Shar.

We cleared most of the complex; there were some unusual extra-planar creatures, but we dispatched them. Eventually, we entered into the main temple itself, and a brutal battle ensued. We eventually triumphed, but it was another near-run thing.

We sacked the House of Night, and burned their vestments upon their altar. Septimus very kindly loaned me his adamantine hammer again, and he let me stand on his shoulders and desecrate the statue of Shar. These are evil gods, and they must be thwarted.

I think I may have surprised the party after that; I suggested we nail the body of the high priest to the door as a warning, and I wrote, “SHAR IS UNWELCOME IN THE DALELANDS” over the door in his blood. They seemed… unsettled, perhaps, by these acts.

We are trying to incite a rebellion; the time for half-measures is over.

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Phylas' Journal XIV
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Phylas’ Journal XIV

30th of Mirtul

DSC: None. Hooray!

Much to report.

We waited around, and sure enough, a War Wizard arrived and sealed the portal at Fort Gurzoth for us. This is of course good news, everyone. After that, we set off in search of the Grinding Gulf; Alazar had already given us a rough map to the place, and it wasn’t that far off. We camped high up on the ridge that night, deciding to venture forth in the morning, after Gorstag and I had a chance to rest.

And lo!, but during the night I had the most unusual dream. I was wandering through a forest, surrounded by plants I didn’t recognize. After traveling for a long time, I came upon a clearing. In the center was a ring of seven broken pillars, covered in silver ivy. After clearing away the undergrowth in the center, I came upon a font, still full of water. I reached into it, pulled out a moonstone set with electrum and mithril in the pattern of Sehanine Moonbow’s holy symbol.

After that, I saw one of the most beautiful elves I’ve ever seen; I assume it was Sehanine Moonbow. I awoke after that, and had the moonstone from my dream in my hands.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. It seems clear, at least, that worship of Sehanine will need to be incorporated into my Order. But beyond that, I’m not sure what she might want. Aiding me (and therefore, us) in the quest to liberate Highmoon seems reasonable. I suppose I ought to seek out her priests and see what they have to say.

In the meantime, we are here at Fox Ridge. We found an entrance marked with the sigil of a wizard who lived some, what, 700 years ago. I think that’s what Gorstag said, at least; I was kind of drifting in and out.

Don’t, uh, tell him I said that.

Anyway, after a fight with a nasty behir, we proceeded forward. A few more encounters, and we discovered what can only be the so-called Grinding Gulf: it is a veritable maelstrom of rocks and boulders, hurling against each other. We appear to need to get to the other side, but are unclear as to how.

The Weave is incredibly thin here, so I’m not sure what is powering the Gulf; this has severely hampered Gorstag’s usefulness, and I imagine that, if we are in the correct place to stop the Rite of Unwinding, I will shortly be fairly useless, too.

So now, here we are, stopped, trying to figure out where to go next. This brief respite has, at least, given me leave to think about our strategy in the liberation of Highmoon, and I think I have devised a plan that (I hope) will be effective.

It remains my greatest fear that we will not all live through this adventure; Septimus’ near-death at the hands of the ogre in Fort Gurzoth has shaken me out of my previous complacency. I do not think I could deal with losing another company of adventurers, and friends.

Plus, if Joy dies, I have a feeling yet another sibling will come out of the woodwork to antagonize me. And, really, that is punishment enough…

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Phylas' Journal XIII
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Phylas’ Journal XIII

28th of Mirtul

DSC: None

I know, I know, I already had an entry for today.

After leaving Aumry’s tomb, we headed back to Highmoon. Sylune’s instructions about our next courses of action seemed to indicate that we needed to head to Fort Gurzoth and shut down a portal there that the Zhentarim were using.

Gorstag and I headed to the Temple of Oghma in town to do some research on the Fort and how to shut down portals. The short answer is that we don’t really know, but that maybe destroying the wall they’re affixed to will work.

It appears Fort Gurzoth was originally built as an outpost of the ancient Drow city of Maerimydra. Sylune also warned us to “Beware the remnants of Maerimydra”, so I assume this is bad news, everyone.

Joy and Septimus decided that the best use of their time was to get totally knackered at a tavern, so Gorstag and I arrived to find Septimus gaping at the sky while Joy was taken for a ride on what appeared to be a flying broomstick. Unclear as to where this flying broomstick came from.

We seem to have attracted the attention of an elven rogue named Elric. Though I remain skeptical, he appears to have a long-standing grudge against the Zhentarim and a desire to liberate Highmoon. Also, he totally knows stuff about Fort Gurzoth, so he seems useful.

Either way, I’ll be sleeping with one eye open.

I mean, not really. It’s a figure of speech.

29th of Mirtul

DSC: None!

What a day!

It’s not every day you get to sack a fort. Which is probably good, because I imagine that would be exhausting.

We got up early to head off to meet Elric at Fort Gurzoth. It wasn’t actually that far away, so that was nice, at least. We managed to attract attention almost immediately, though mercifully we didn’t alert the entire complex to our presence all at once.

After some nasty entanglements with some horrible ettins, I attempted to free some slaves that they’d been forcing to do repair work on the fort. These hellhounds let out this dreadful howling and, well, we’ll just skip that part. Anyway, when we all got back, all the slaves had run off but one. He identified himself as Griezly, and appears to be a gnome with serious anger management issues.

We managed to clear out the rest of the ground floor of the keep, and then we headed down into the lower level. There was some combat with an enormous ogre; it was extremely worrisome, as Septimus took quite the beating. Fortunately, though the Weave is, admittedly, thin here, my healing spells haven’t failed us yet.

I should mention a poisonous trap that our new rogue-friend, Elric, nearly died from, but I suspect he would be embarrassed. Anyway, so there was this poison trap, and our rogue-friend, Elric, nearly died from it. It was alarming at the time, but I’m sure in the future we’ll all look back on it and laugh.

Anyway, after that we headed into a dungeon, which is either quite a bit of fun or definitely none at all, depending on how you use it, I suppose. There was a large illusion there being cast by some nasty monsters I didn’t recognize. They threw quite a few fireballs at us, which I rather didn’t appreciate. We dispatched them—okay, one of them disappeared—and then we opened up all the cells. Alas, they were all empty (well, I suppose that’s a good thing, and doesn’t warrant an alas) but one: one that contained Alazar Falconhand, the fellow that the mercenary companies had been looking for in that poor village of Oakwood Knoll.

We let him go, and he said he would try to raise some Fey allies to help throw off the shackles of the Zhentarim here in Deepingdale. That is good of him, as we could use the help.

After that it was into the Temple of Bane, for some rather difficult combat against a Dreadwraith and a priest (we think he was Malathon, the leader of the fort, but of course we have no way of verifying that, as he is quite dead). Combat has gotten quite harrowing of late, and involved a number of near-deaths. These are of course quite worrisome, as I do not wish to lose any more party members. Bad enough to have the lingering deaths of Milo, Henry, and Grim haunting me…

Anyway, we eventually prevailed, and, after a short tussle with some basilisks someone was apparently keeping as pets (really? I mean, pets? Who does that?), we sacked the place. Scoured it from top to bottom! And boy, good thing we did! We found the portal, and Gorstag contacted the War Wizards to let them know, and to request someone to come seal it.

Apparently, Tilver’s Gap is also under attack by the Zhentarim, so Cormyr isn’t going to be able to help us much here in Highmoon. Alas, alas, it looks like we’re on our own. I know I’m not from here (only Gorstag is, really), but we can’t let these people suffer under the rule of the Black Network…

We’ve discovered a fair amount of treasure as well, which is nice, plus plenty of weapons and armor which we should be able to distribute to people once we get this insurrection off the ground.

Septimus was kind enough to loan me his adamantine warhammer so that I could smash up the Temple of Bane. Boy howdy, I could do that all day. Well, maybe not ALL day, but it certainly is refreshing, desecrating a ghastly place like this. Lastly, and importantly, we also appear to have discovered the gem Fireblood. This is, of course, the third in the Four from Cormyr set of magical items that once belonged to the Crown of Cormyr. If we can recover the last one, the sword Silveredge, the reward would be… well, hopefully substantial.

And we can always use more money! Or at least, I can. My plans for the Order have gotten extensive, and the library is going to be expensive…

Anyway, Elric and I ventured back to Highmoon, discretely, to purchase a large bag of holding to put all these things in. I wandered off to meet some folks at a tavern, but I don’t think he much noticed. So here we are, back at the fort, waiting for Gorstag’s war wizard compatriot to teleport in and seal the portal for us.

In the meantime, we have to plan our next move. Next on Sylune’s list for us was something about the Grinding Gulf, which doesn’t sound particularly pleasant…

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Phylas' Journal XII
Further Entries from Phylas' Journal

Phylas’ Journal XII

27th of Mirtul

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More bad news, everyone.

We arrived at Highmoon late this evening and are now staying with Gorstag’s mother. Will recap.

On the ride here from Oakwood Knoll, Gorstag noticed that the Weave felt… well, he didn’t know how to describe it, aside from, “thin”. I agree with him; this is incredibly troubling news.

We encountered a flying patrol on the way to Highmoon, and I hastily gave our name as that of the Nightblades, and said we were mercenaries, looking for work. This seems to have worked, as they’ve allowed us to pass into the city.

We met Gorstag’s mother, who seems very nice, though she had the misfortune of having to recount to us what has happened here. It appears that the Zhentarim showed up around a tenday ago and laid siege to the city. The same day, there was an attack on the tower of Rhauntides, the powerful wizard who watched over the city, and his tower was destroyed.

A few days later, a skeletal dragon burst out of the Tower of the Risen Moon in the center of town. Another dracolich, perhaps? The presence of the Cult of the Dragon here would be hugely regrettable.

Not long after that, a large contingent of drow came up through the Tower and helped to overrun the city. It seems Gorstag’s father, himself a drow, was implicated in this and thrown into prison. Shortly thereafter, the Lord of Highmoon announced an alliance with the Zhentarim.

The city is now being occupied, and the people seem well and thoroughly oppressed. Apparently there are informers everywhere.

Joy has been out in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what is going on, and has reported that the city seems to be being occupied by about a thousand troops, and that the Church of Bane also has a considerable presence here. The news just gets worse and worse…

28th of Mirtul

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Um.

You know, I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my time, and recorded more than a few of them here in this journal, but… I just… I’ve got no clue.

Teddy bears. We just… How does this even happen? Perhaps I should explain.

We set out this morning to go to the caravan camp on the other side of Highmoon to see what the other mercenary groups were up to. It is clear that we need to intervene here, but even inciting a rebellion (which will be necessary, given the overwhelming force) seems hugely difficult, so we weren’t sure where to start.

While on our way, Azouth’s holy symbol appeared before us and then we heard a loud, booming voice (presumably Azouth’s). He gave us some cryptic instructions.

Now, look, I appreciate that the gods work in their own ways and whatnot, but we don’t have time for any of this blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah!

I mean, why not just tell us what you want? Okay, I’m done. Anyway, it seems that the situation here is quite serious, if Azouth himself is intervening. The Weave has felt weaker here in Highmoon, so something is clearly wrong.

His instructions seemed to indicate that we needed to go to Watcher’s Knoll and find the ashes of Sylune, one of the Seven Sisters. (PS What is it with these people and all these Knolls?)

So, we set off to do that. There wasn’t much there, just a granite slab, a toppled-over plinth, and an enormous dead tree.

In related news, said dead tree was, in fact, a gargantuan skeleton of an ancient red dragon. After some INTENSE MOMENTS OF PANIC we settled in to attempt to destroy the thing.

And then… well, then all its claws and teeth turned to teddy bears.

Teddy bears.

I have no idea what is going on sometimes. I have a feeling Gorstag and Joy know, but they aren’t telling me if they do.

What on earth would turn a dragon’s teeth into teddy bears? And why would you want to?

Actually, scratch that, it was quite useful, as it almost certainly kept us from being totally destroyed. I had quite a bit to do with bringing this dragon down, but it nearly cost me my life. We prevailed in the end, and now we, um, are in possession of a bunch of teddy bears.

Joy has kept 47 of them for herself. I haven’t the faintest clue what she is going to do with them.

On the upside, this appears to have been the dragon that burst out of the Tower of the Risen Moon, which is good news. I mean, you know, it nearly killed us (thank goodness… for the teddy bears… honestly you know writing about it doesn’t make it any less weird), but it was a dragon skeleton, not a dracolich, which means we aren’t dealing with the Cult of the Dragon (probably?), so that’s good.

Anyway, we went down into the tomb and, after dealing with a nishruu (because I guess a dragon skeleton with teddy bear teeth wasn’t weird enough), Sylune appeared to us.

We freed her (or what’s left of her, at least), and she has given each of us a boon. Beyond that, she’s instructed us to free the Dalelands from the Zhentarim, and given us some instructions as to where we should go next. It sounds like Shar is behind what is happening to the Weave, which is just… you know the news just gets worse and worse here.

Sylune has instructed us to take her husband’s staff and cloak, though, and to use them to help free the land.

Also, she said we should look into the “realms below” for a way into the Tower of the Risen Moon. This means… this means heading to the Underdark, I think. Godsdammit but I am not looking forward to that, not in the bloody least.

Teddy bears. _Has the world gone mad? _

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Phylas' Journal XI
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Phylas’ Journal XI

18th of Mirtul

Daily Spider Count: Negligible.

We have decided to head east through the Hullack Forest, on to the Thunder Peaks, and then beyond, to investigate the rumors about the so-called Mad Witch of Archendale. As this will take us near Highmoon, I suspect we will be visiting Gorstag’s family as well.

As our plans will take us through the Hullack Forest, we have hired some additional help, another fighter and a rogue. The rogue has given us her name as Scouty McCupcakes; am unclear if she expects us to believe this, but whatever.

21st of Mirtul

Daily Spider Count: Seemed like a good idea at the time. Am getting tired of re-writing it all the time, though. Anyway, none.

Arrived back at the estate this morning. Had a most curious sighting on the way back, though. The estate is adjacent to the Immerflow River, which feeds into the Wyvernwater Lake, of course. The morning fog was especially thick today, and I could swear we saw a mist dragon and a castle in it. There are apparently rumors about there being a mist dragon that lives at the bottom of the Wyvernwater, but it is just a myth. Or… perhaps it isn’t? Curious.

We’ll be heading east into the Forest tomorrow.

23rd of Mirtul

DSC: None. (I should’ve abbreviated this months ago!)

We entered the Hullack Forest today. There is a road through it, but it’s not entirely safe. We are assaulted by some shambling mounds today. We have several half-elves in the group, and apparently they have an affinity for elf meat…

Anyway, we’re all fine now, though I would like to leave this forest behind as soon as possible.

25th of Mirtul

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Nothing to report, as the rest of the journey through the Hullack Forest has been quiet. We aren’t far from the Thunder Pass, so we’ll be entering that soon. There’s a Cormyrean fortress there, and then after that we’ll be out of the Kingdom.

26th of Mirtul

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Bad news, everyone. After exiting the Thunder Pass, we saw smoke from a serious conflagration down in the forest, by the river. Also, as soon as we did, Ms. McCupcakes departed from our company. Ah well, best of luck to her, and her baking-goods-themed aliases.

Anyway, we arrived in time to find two mercenary groups squabbling over the very few possessions they’d collected from this tiny village of (we later found out was) Oakwood Knoll. When we arrived, the villagers were all on the ground, dead and dying, the houses and the watermill were all aflame.

Boy, am I pissed. Ogres and men, teaming up to slaughter innocent villagers? Unacceptable. They picked the wrong adventuring company to mess with. Well, strictly speaking they didn’t pick us, we just saw them, but that is not the point. We captured a few and slaughtered the rest; they told us they were looking for Alazar (I think?) Falconhand.

And, apparently, having not found him, they torched the town. Bastards. We executed the rest of them, the filth.

I couldn’t save all of the villagers; many of them were already dead. I did manage to heal about half of them, though, so at least there were some survivors. The village was a total loss; though, curiously, the fires had actually been put out by a tremendous rainstorm during the fight, which seemed, weirdly, to be centered around Joy’s dog, Sir Barksalot.

I… I don’t know.

Anyway, the villagers told us an intensely troubling tale. Apparently, Highmoon has been occupied by the Zhentarim. After a brief siege, they capitulated, and are now publicly allied with Zhentil Keep. This is terrible, of course, and Gorstag is incredibly worried about his parents.

He wanted to leave straightaway, but I pointed out that we aren’t exactly an invading army, so we stayed to help bury the dead. I distributed some gold to the villagers to help them get to, well, to wherever they needed to go next.

I borrowed some shears from a villager, too, and cut my hair. If Highmoon has been occupied, the last thing we need is for a half-drow, two half-elves, and an Aasimar to stroll into the city. The Zhentarim aren’t exactly fond of Cormyreans, and here we are, with a War Wizard…

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Phylas' Journal X
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Phylas’ Journal X

30th of Tarsakh

Daily Spider Count: None worth mentioning.

Everyone else arrived today. Gerard has graciously allowed us to stay here at the Temple for the night. Seemed please to meet my new adventuring companions, and thoroughly amused by Imp.

The party at Thistleflame Keep is tomorrow. Should be fun.

Greengrass

Daily Spider Count: I should hope none, as we’re in a noble’s keep!

Well, the night has finally wound down. It has been a long day. There was mingling and socializing; the nobles here in the capital seem to take a dim view of adventurers, but I like to hope I won a few over with my charm and stunning good looks. I exaggerate slightly for effect.

I suspect that my efforts and social graces were undone by the inevitable social bungling of my compatriots. They try, but… Ah well.

Anyway, I got to meet the King, which was spiffy. I wished him a happy birthday. You hear all these things about Azoun, so it was interesting to see in person. And yes, I’d tap that. Wait, what?

After that was dinner. Food was extravagant. Sat near a bard named Mendryll and an excruciating noble named Lord Mournsoul. The bard seems nice enough, but all Mournsoul does is go on and on and on about how terrible life and love are, or something. Honestly, I tried to avoid talking to him. Were also seated near an adventuring company called the She-Wolves. They seemed nice, and pretty, which Gorstag inevitably capitalized on. More on this anon.

After dinner was the oath-swearing ceremony, and then the aforementioned Mendryll provided entertainment. He was quite good, though he managed to anger a Sembian adventuring company with some, ah, slightly unkind remarks about Sembians.

After that we headed off to the Bubbling Bulwark, and intercepted the same Sembians attempting to kill poor Mendryll. I suppose this is what happens if you are a loud-mouthed bard. He seems nice enough, though, and now he owes us… well, his life, I suppose, so that is good. I mean, not good that he got into a scrape, but it’s never bad to have someone owe you a favor.

The Bulwark was entertaining; there was plenty of drinking, and Gorstag… well, he is off with Brianna of the She-Wolves, I believe. I am back in the manor now; I suspect I ought to get some rest soon, th-

[the journal is interrupted, with a scrawl of ink across the page]

Well! Now that is a long story, and I am le tired, but here we go. When I was writing, earlier (you may see above for the interruption, which has caused that unsightly mark on the page), some armed men barged in to inform us that Lord Thistle had been murdered and that we were all suspects, etc..

Our names were essentially cleared because of our association with Gorstag; it appears having a War Wizard around is sometimes helpful. We were commissioned to help with the investigation after that. It took us a while, but we managed to piece together the story.

The Emerald Swords, another adventuring company, brought in a doppelganger and replaced Lord Thistle. They ended up killing off the doppelganger when he stopped cooperating, and we ended up finding Lord Thistle alive. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that everything is okay now, though I fear we may come out of this party having earned the permanent enmity of some Sembians and these Emerald Swords.

On the upside, Lord Thistle was exceedingly grateful, and has rewarded us for our service, first with gold, and secondly with what he called the Seal of Iron, the confusingly-named medallion made of bronze that apparently makes its wearer fearless.

I am tired. Methinks it is time for bed.

1st of Mirtul

Daily Spider Count: None.

We departed Suzail today. I said goodbye to Gerard and the others at the Temple on the way out of the city and now we are encamped for some sleep. We are heading back to Constellation Estate; by the time we get there, the repairs and expansions should be done, which is nice.

Before we left, I asked Mendryll (see previous entry) if he could help us identify Deathsend, the dagger we recovered from Adzerak’s lair, and the Seal of Iron. Deathsend seemed most unusual, and the Seal of Iron is actually emblazoned with the Cormyrean royal seal, so I wondered if there was more to them than met the eye.

And how! Mendryll was shocked and seemed amused that we had no idea what we now had. Apparently they are two of the fabled “Four from Cormyr”, a set of four magical items commissioned for the royal family and lost quite some time ago. The other two are Fireblood, a gem, and Silveredge, a sword. The recovery of all four would make a fine gift to King Azoun, and presumably merit a handsome reward. Septimus has, of late, expressed his desire to become a knight of the realm; I am certain the recovery of the Four could be parlayed into such a promotion.

Mendryll also informed us that recovering all four would be worthy of making into a great song, which is slightly embarrassing. He said that Fireblood and Silveredge hadn’t been heard of in at least a hundred years, but that they were last seen in the eastern part of the kingdom, near the Thunder Peaks. He also informed us of a troubling story coming from that direction about the “Mad Witch of Archendale”. Apparently her keep was totally destroyed, and she was found going on about a Black Star, or something.

We don’t really have much else to do, and since the rumor seems to be in the same direction as the last known location of the other two from Cormyr, it can’t hurt to head that direction. Plus, Gorstag is from Highmoon, which is just over the Thunder Peaks, so he may welcome the chance to go home.

8th of Mirtul

Daily Spider Count: Mercifully, none.

Have arrived at Constellation Manor. Am pleased with the repairs and expansions. Need to find some, uh, reliable staff for it now. This could take some time, so am putting out a call through my contacts.

Have some financial business to take care of in Arabel, so we’ll be heading back there for a bit. Some downtime seems nice, given how eventful the past few weeks have been

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