Second Darkness

Into the Woods

In which we continue our pursuit of more than just foes

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My dear readers, I wish to begin this entry with an apology. I believe I have been doing you a recent disservice. If you feel, as I do, that my writings have been more terse of late, know that you are not the only one. We had been stuck on that cursed island, and without my creature comforts and more than amicable companionship, my mood has been less than perfect. However, with my recent religious experience, as well as our escape back to civilization, our forecast is much brighter, and I will continue my narrative with a more positive bent. Of course, we must start with the escape from the Devil’s Elbow…

After having vanquished the drow on the island, our work appeared to be complete. We took our rest in order to be prepared for a possible fight on the island above. However, we had skipped over the fact that one cavern in this complex was sealed by magic, and of course we could not let such a mystery go unexplained. We broke through the barricade, disrupting the magical seal, and entered a cave not unlike the ones surrounding us. Inside, we came across a sad sight – Vishari, the siren noted in the island’s legend, lingered on here in spirit form. She had been unable to pass on until she was assured that her love, Yaris, would accompany her. From the stories, we believed that Yaris had thrown himself form one of the lighthouses after his lover’s death, and so we promised Vishari that we would find proof of his passing on, so that she would be able to as well.

We traveled to the southeaster end of the island, recovering an additional meteor fragments that we encountered along the way, and once we reached the lighthouse we began our search in earnest. Fortune favored us greatly, and the body of Yaris was easier to find than we expected. We wrapped his remains in an old cloak and brought them back to the caves where Vishari waited.

Upon revealing the body to Vishari, we were unprepared for the most unfortunate events that followed. Yaris had indeed failed to pass on, and he spirit rose from the remains as a deadly wraith! He called his victims to his side, and they proceeded to try and add myself and my brave companions to their ranks. Fortunately, Vishari did not share his disdain for the living, and her beautiful voice rang out as we battled, inspiring us to defeat her true love’s shade, and so we did. Once defeated, both spirits were able to enter the true afterlife, and the island was once again spirit-free. Huzzah!

After that harrowing encounter, our remaining time on the island was brief and without incident. We returned to the pier, and our ship arrived to take us back to Riddleport on time and with minimal fuss. While the life of a pirate may never be in my future, I must admit that the voyage home was calming and restful, and the roll of the ocean is something that I will always enjoy. Perhaps I will buy a vessel, once my adventuring days are done, and ride the waves, enjoying a taste of the bounty available at strange, foreign ports. But that musing is for another day, as our adventures continue.

Our return to Riddleport was riddled with activity. Both the Cyphermages and the forge dwarves were grateful for our help on the island, greeting us warmly and offering reward for our efforts. We also had some inferno-hot information on the inner works of Zincher’s holdings, and Mistress Shorafa or Calistria was more than pleased to take it off our hands. Kwava was spending this time making contact with his superiors, while we spent a few days enjoying the creature comforts of home, while also arranging for upgraded gear and preparing for what we assumed would likely be a trip to the Celwynvian region.

Of course, we were not disappointed. Kwava’s superiors were interested in hearing our tale, as well as meeting with us in person. They were also especially interested in reading the journals of our drow enemies, a very useful task in knowing one’s enemies. Kwava would not be joining us, however, as his duty was to remain in Riddleport and keep an eye out for any additional drow activity. And so, after wishing a passionate and lasting goodbye to the lovely ladies of my adopted city, we set off to the town of Crying Leaf, to meet up with a Miss Eviana and share our exploits with the elves.

The trip to Crying Leaf took us four days on foot. We considered mounts, but with Chuffy among us, that was unlikely to work out well, and none of us were adverse to a bit of leg stretching. It was mostly an uneventful venture, although we did have a bit of a scare with some local Velashu horselords, who charged our group from their magnificent steeds before thinking better of attacking. They gave us information on the region, offered to sell us a few of their extra mounts (we declined), and wished us good luck in dealing with the elves, who do not welcome outsiders with open arms.

The fourth day brought us to the Mierani forest, and we followed an old hunting trail towards out destination. A flock of forest drakes attempted to make a meal of us, but the lovely and talented Zee ended their assault by creating an area of magical darkness, a place where few creatures excel like we do. Once the drakes were repelled, a group of elves, who had obviously been watching us, emerged from the forest to ask our business, and once we established our identities, we were escort to the town.

What we found out upon arriving is that Crying Leaf is a village under siege. The town had been fortified against attack, and there were obvious signs of a recent battle. We were taken directly to Eviana Nirgassan, the leader of the elven forces, by Kaerishiel, a member of the Shin’Rakorath, the Lantern Bearers mercenary group that Kwava belongs to, and their apparent leader in this area.

Eviana was very interested in the information we had brought, and asked to review the journals personally. She also informed us that the elves believed that they had the drow contained in Celwynvian, the ruins of which have fallen almost entirely into their hands. The activity in Riddleport reported by Kwava and confirmed by us indicated otherwise, and was of grave concern. Eviana informed us that she could use our help in the upcoming attack on Celwynvian, to the obvious anger of Kaerishiel, and asked us to stay in Crying Leaf for the night to consider the offer, while she reviewed the journals. We agreed, and after a brief trip to gather some local intelligence, we retired to our lodging.

The next morning Eviana confirmed that they would be headed to battle, and offered us a place as mercenaries, paid to accompany the army. My friends and I agreed, although once again Kaerishiel expressed great anger and disdain for our assistance. The Shin’Rakorath are apparently very concerned with outsiders knowing elven secrets, and even my family history was not enough to assuage his doubts. Nevertheless, we set of with the elven army towards Celwynvian, gathering intel on the situation amongst the elves as we traveled and learning more of the history of these drow that we were about to confront in numbers for the first time.

Marching with an elven army is a bit different than traveling with the military among other races. Elves break into much smaller war parties while on the march, and they are much stealthier as a result. We made a game of playing Who is the Sneakiest with our Lantern Bearer watchers, but otherwise the trek itself was mostly uneventful. However, a couple things of note did occur. We spent one night on the road, and we took our evening meal with Eviana, discussing tactics and receiving intelligence from the elven rangers on the front lines. The second event of note was meeting Shalelu.

Shalelu is one of the elven hunters, and I have rarely in my day seen such a ravishing creature. Tall, long of limb and slim of waist, with flowing golden hair and eyes of a deep sapphire that could drown a man in their depths. I was captivated, and I must admit, had a difficult time following the rest of the evening’s events. However, I had enough mental capacity remaining that I discover that we would be attempting to take all of the main arteries in the city during our assault. Our group would be responsible for securing the Academy of the Arts first, and that our planners would reassess the situation after our initial attack. But back to Shalelu…

After returning my companions to the campsite we had chosen, I returned to the main camp to speak with Shalelu some more. We talked of many things – tactics for fighting the drow, politics, our families and our pasts, the Shin’Rakorath, and anything else that came to mind. Spending time with her was exhilarating, and although she appeared to be all about her duty and her mission, I can sense a burning passion beneath that cool exterior. It would be quite a challenge to keep my mind on our coming battle.

Speaking of which, the following dawn came too early, and soon we were on our way to Celwynvian proper. The city was obviously in ruins, with large amounts of overgrowth covering buildings, roadways, and almost everything else. The Library was on one of the main thoroughfares, and we crept upon it in stealth, using the vegetation for cover. Instead of attacking the obvious entry point, we decided that we should come in from the room, taking out the sentries before descending into the building. Our assault went smoothly, and almost exactly as planned, and once we had defeated the drow and their pet spiders on the rooftops, we scoured the inside of the building until all was clear.

Once we were relieved by an elven patrol, we returned to the camp to report our success. We now wait for our next assignment, giving us time to rest up and time for myself to see how Shalelu fares. Until next time, dear readers, when hopefully I can report some significant progress – both on and off the battlefield.

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