The Fade Giveth, The Fade Taketh: Episode 12 Bound For the City of Splendors
(In the case of this particular adventure, I did create the details of what you’re about to read — other than the parts that have been created by my players — to fit within the world of Faerun. If you’d like to read the saga from the party’s first adventure, click here.)
Keeping along the edge of the Sword Mountains, the party walked through the hills each in their thoughts.
“I hope we come across a dragon soon,” Ben thought as he looked longingly to the sky. “Sildar said a couple of other ones had been reported along the coast. That would be so cool!” His face fell a little in worry as his gaze lowered to the horizon. “Also, I haven’t seen Steve, the family pig, anywhere. And I feel like, with the large amount of area we’ve covered since I met up with everyone, I would’ve seen him by now. Might have to send a message to mom and dad about him. They might have to promote Cindy to head family pig!”
“Drow, Dragons, Deities, and a Doppelganger,” Vigo counted on his fingers deep in thought. “Oh! Dumb cultists trying to kill my father. Okay, 5 Ds. Plane-shifting, plant-zombies, pig-tracking, parental problems, aaaand paintings by Lily! 6 Ps! Geez, I wish someone would play this road game with me. This is a long walk. The longest. We have got ourselves in the middle of a big mess and now we’re walking to one of the biggest cities in the world with gods’ know what is waiting for us. I’M SO EXCITED!!! Try. Not. To. Upset. Kir’thiri.”
Kir’thiri strode with newfound confidence at the head of the party, leading the way. “Time for a new start.” She thought. “A new journey with no one’s looming demise, or an approaching army, or even cultists at our heels driving us ever forward without a moment of rest. What adventure we find is of our own making. But, for some reason, the guys still seem to look to me to make the decisions that affect us all.”
The gnome ranger/thief took in her party as they all kept to themselves and smiled. “Even after my ridiculous meltdown about Ry– about my father! I owe them better than that. It’s long past time that I learn control. Control my temper, my powers, and my narrative in this world. I will listen to my friends, and learn from them! I will find my father again, and I will ask him to explain himself to me and to the guys! I will find my sister again and help her (and learn from her) where I can!”
Each self-declaration revealed a stronger step in Kir’thiri. “I know now who I am. I’m not a Gnome from Willowswood; I am a daughter of Fey! The only thing about me that resembles a Gnome is my height! I am not a Ranger of the High Forest; I am a sniper of my foes, an infiltrator, and a shadow of the material plane! (Not 100% sure on that last one, but Vigo would totally get it…)
“I am NOT nameless. My mother named me Y’ssara; my father called me Thornwind, and all those who had forgotten me referred to me as Kir’thiri a nameless one. I will find out why I was forgotten someday, but I’m keeping the title. I think being nameless may come in handy as we travel, especially given some of the messes we leave behind. A new chapter in my life begins, and I finally know who I am; I am Kir’thiri, the shadowy daughter of a Gloaming Court High Fey! (I can’t wait to see Vigo’s face when I say that!” A slightly wicked smirk started to cross Kir’thiri’s face.
At some point, the party began chatting with one another, each enjoying not having to rush under threat of perilous fate. Which may be why no one noticed the group of bandits until it was too late.
“Get ’em, boys!” the evident leader of the thieves yelled as arrows were fired and swords were swung the party’s way.
Seemingly annoyed at being disturbed by something that wasn’t at least dragon-level battle, Ben simultaneously pulled his dread helm on and unsheathed his sword. He then bellowed a snarl and rushed the bandit captain.
“Eek!” the bandit screamed, running away.
Making quick work of all but the last bandit, choosing to let him live to spread the word about their prowess, the party eased back into an easy-going mindset.
“We don’t need to bury them, but let’s at least burn the bodies,” Kir’thiri instructed.
“What?” Ben puzzled. “No. I’m not doing that. Who cares?”
“Just lemme finish up here,” Vigo said as continued removing each pair of shoes from the dead. “I can fix ’em up and sell ’em!”
And so the day went, with each party member escaping the revelry of deep thought and bonding moments to a more natural order.
As they reached High Road the party came upon a huge collection of colorful tents and various wagons forming a makeshift community. In the midst of it, two giant eagles, an ogre, and a winter wolf were attacking multiple groups of people!
Diving in to help, though not completely following the situation, no member of the party could pull the attention of any of the attacking mob of creatures, regardless of the damage that they dealt.
Many people fell to the onslaught, but finally, with the last eagle down, the chaos subsided.
“Just so we’re clear,” Ben yelled at Vigo. “I nearly had that ogre. I didn’t need you to come to finish him off!”
“What the hells was that all about?” Vigo asked a woman who he’d fought beside, doing his best to avoid Ben’s gaze.
“Yeah, what were they after?” Ben, forgetting Vigo, asked a dwarven bare-knuckle fighter who had been fighting “his” ogre, too.
“And how is it that such an unlikely menagerie of creatures were attacking you together?” Kir’thiri added. “Giant eagles alongside a winter wolf? This isn’t normal in nature.”
“It’s been like this all along Sword Coast,” Qai Sin, the woman who fought an eagle with Vigo explained. “And it’s been all kinds of creatures attacking us. All over the city as we travel.”
“They seem to be hunting for something, attacking anyone or thing in their path.” Brondam Hjolbrek, the dwarf, added, helping a man to his feet.
Between their questions, the party learned they had just fought in Kelembar, the Wallless City. A transient mass of wagons, tents, and wanderers who roam Faerun in search of Thealsadaan — or He Who Walks — a hero that the soothsayers and vision-walkers have foreseen stopping the exploits of Tiamat.
“If the priests and soothsayers only mention this hero by name, how do you know its a man?” Kir’thiri asked. “Why He Who Walks?”
“That’s just how it was described to me,” a merchant explained, righting the tumbled wares in his tent. “You should go to The Bard’s Lament. Prentiss can better explain things.”
Prentiss Hagglestaff was the owner and chief operator of The Bard’s Lament, a pub, and the ringleader of The Court of Dreams, a traveling fair in which the citizens of Kelembar peddled their wares and talents to the locals as The Wallless City made its way. When the party entered his pub, the brown-skinned man boomed a hello that led them to meet him at the bar.
“Ale on the house?” Prentiss offered, his eyes friendly even through a thin scar that ran an inch above and two below his left eye.
“No thank you,” Kir’thiri and Ben said.
“Yes!” Vigo smiled.
“I, um, please,” Erky answered, not wanting Vigo to drink alone.
“You look familiar,” Prentiss told Vigo as he made to pour the drinks. “Have we met?”
“Um, no,” Vigo blushed, worried about being outed again, regardless of the reason, as Fildo Bigheart’s son. “I just have one of those faces.”
“Huh. Anyhow, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason,” Prentiss explained as he handed both Vigo and Erky large — even by human standards — steins of ale. “The attacks sometimes happen multiple times a day, and some days not at all. All manner of creatures. Though, there have been ogres, humans, even a troll just yesterday. The only common factor is intelligence: the things attacking have either very low intelligence, or they’re beasts.”
The party took a table, shooting for one out of earshot of Prentiss, to discuss their options.
“I don’t know that we can be of any real help here,” Kir’thiri offered, a disappointed look on her face. “But I’m not entirely sure that we’d be in the right to anyway. None of this makes sense. Those creatures don’t form a pack together in nature. It’s like they were guided, like someone was controlling them.”
“Ry’ven, ya think?” Vigo said, though his focus was on his ale.
“Do you think so?” Kir’thiri asked.
Erky took a third sip of his ale and then, eyes unfocused, slid it over to Vigo.
“You guys make weird leaps in logic sometimes,” Ben said. “How do you come to Ry’ven?”
Just then a tall, built man with dark black skin walked into the pub. He walked up to Prentiss and said something. The barkeep pointed him toward the party.
“Friends, this is Obsidian Vale,” Prentiss shouted as the newcomer made his way over to the party’s table. “Closest thing that Kelembar has to a mayor.”
Through his ale, Vigo recalled that he’d heard of Obsidian Vale.
“This guy’s famous,” he slightly slurred in what he hoped was a whisper. “Supposed to be a talented tarot card reader. Got paid king’s ransoms ‘cuz of his accurate predictions. Seems he couldn’t cut the weight of affecting people’s lives so much, though. Chose self-exile. But here he be!”
Obsidian made the party an offer: 200 gold pieces to help see his citizens through the edge of The Mere of Dead Men that they needed to pass on their way to Red Larch.
Agreeing to the deal but still wary, the party split up to tend to some business. Kir’thiri and Ben went shopping, finding some black studded leather armor and a rapier each fit for a gnome, and some torches.
Vigo sold his shoes. With the transaction handled, the halfling, deep in his cups, pulled the hood of his cloak up. Erky also intoxicated and seeing this, attempted to follow suit. Except Erky wore no hooded cloak, so he ended up just holding his arms over his head. Vigo doubled back and let Erky in under his cloak.
“Erky, hey Erky,” he drunkenly prodded his gnome cleric. “Hey, lookit. Ten copper pieces. For them shoes!”
“Were they shoes?” Erky asked philosophically as much to himself as anyone. “Or were they boots? Can a boot be a shoe? A shoe fits in a boot . . .”
“Whatsit,” Vigo squinted at his nonsensical friend, laughing. “You can’t hold your liquor, Erksy! No, see, with,” he looked into his hand, forgetting the word ten. “this how many coppers, we can buy a boot to fit your shoe!”
It was then that the halfling and the gnome, buried deep under a cloak, bumped into someone.
“Oof,” a woman’s disembodied voice washed over them. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”
Light began to trickle in under the cloak, making both Erky and Vigo squint at the rudeness. A young woman’s kind face peeked in.
“Oh,” Vigo harrumphed, clearing his throat. “No, we’re sorry.”
The woman smiled and snapped her fingers. Suddenly both Vigo and Erky were completely sober.
“My name is Breena Oloran,” she smiled. “And you must be two of the heroes who helped save the day.”
The foursome eventually found themselves together again just as the day was ending.
“Let’s try and cover the most ground that we can,” Kir’thiri advised. “Some of us should camp at the edge of town and some should stay further inside.”
“Breena offered us a place to stay at her wagon, so I’ll take her up on it,” Vigo said.
“Erky, do you want to go with Vigo?” Ben asked.
“Yes, okay,” the cleric said. “Just no more ale.”
Back at Breena’s campsite Vigo and Erky enjoyed some stew.
“This is quite good,” Erky said, finishing his bowl. Breena gave him a warm smile.
“Very tasty,” Vigo said, but he was examining an insignia on Breena’s wagon. He recognized it from another one of his father’s adventure stories. “Hey, isn’t that the symbol of the wizard Ascarian Doraz?”
Breena looked surprised and then sad.
“Yes,” her eyes shifted to the ground as tears welled up. “He was my master, missing these past five years.”
“He disappeared?” Vigo sat his stew bowl down. “You don’t have any idea what happened?”
“None,” Breena looked at Vigo. “And with all of the various magicks he studied and experiments he did, we might never know. These baubles are all I have left of my former master.” She showed her rings and ran her fingers over a choker at her neck.
Back at their makeshift camp, Kir’thiri and Ben thought up names for their group. “Every good group seems to have a name,” Ben said. “Exemplars of Solace. The Heroes Triumvirate.“
“All but Erky died in that last one, though,” Kir’thiri pointed out. “So, maybe nothing with heroes in it. Fate maybe? Daggers?” The two talked into the night.
Everyone settled, the party bedded down in the town of Kelembar.
The Wallless City moved quickly in the morning, breaking down their settlement and getting on the move. Kir’thiri and Ben found Obsidian and asked where he thought they should post themselves.
“We’ve got the tail end of the caravan covered, I believe,” he said. “Why not cover our lead, skirting along the mountains to best watch the mere?”
As the train of wagons and travelers worked through the pass, the party still divided, two giant crocodiles attacked shredding their way through two pack wagons and their merchant runners before Ben and Kir’thiri could do much to save them.
“Damn it!” Kir’thiri shouted, firing an arrow at the face of one of the behemoths. “We are not protecting people very well!”
Ben agreed with a frustrated grunt as he hacked with his sword at the other.
Both bloodied, and Kir’thiri worried that this may well be the end of half of her family, the duo held the ferocious crocodiles at bay just long enough for Vigo and Erky to arrive on the scene.
The last crocodile fell lifeless at Ben’s feet, but not by his hand.
“Arrgh!” he yelled. “I haven’t killed one of these before!” he pointed at the dead creature.
“You look nearly ‘killed’ yourself,” Kir’thiri replied, not apologizing. “Better to end it.”
The caravan continued on High Road until finding a suitable space to camp for the night. That’s when the party found out that other attacks had happened around Kelembar just as they were contending with the crocodiles.
As they past Breena’s wagon, they saw the young sorceress looking the worse for wear. Her arm was in a sling and she walked with a limp.
“No, that’s okay,” Breena responded to Kir’thiri’s offer of a healing spell. She looked to some of her fellow citizens nearby who were much more hurt. “I’m fine.”
“Please,” Kir’thiri said. “I insist.”
“Well, if you must,” Breena said, removing her sling.
With the healing done, Breena made to get into the back of her covered wagon. “Let me say thanks with some stew!”
Vigo’s stomach grumbled. “Do you need any help?”
“Sure,” Breena said. “Follow me and we’ll be eating in no time.”
“I can help, too,” Erky said. The three pushed through the down flap of the wagon.
Five minutes passed.
“What is taking so long?” Kir’thiri wondered. “Guys? Vigo?” Then she, too, hopped into the wagon.
Five more minutes passed.
Ben, aggravated, walked over to the tent and flipped back the flap. “What the hells is –“
But there was no one in the wagon, just a large circle carved into the bottom that held a faint blue glow.
To his credit, Ben didn’t hesitate to step into the circle.
The next time Ben blinked his eyes he was standing in a stone chamber. Five torches burned in wall sconces around the room, each by a pathway that led into darkness.
“I can see very far in the dark,” Vigo announced, per his custom. “But each path ends at a turn. We’ll have to explore.”
“What are we even doing here?” Kir’thiri’s voice waivered as she kept her rage in check.
“I NEED YOU TO FIND ASCARIAN’S RELIC!” Breena’s disembodied voice boomed throughout the room. “FIND IT AND I WILL RETURN YOU FROM WHENCE YOU ARE.”
“Breena?” Erky said.
“I can’t believe I wasted a heal spell on you, wench!” Kir’thiri shouted at the ceiling. “What are we looking for? What’s his relic?”
“It’s an old thing,” Vigo chimed in. “Typically worn-looking. Probably magical in this case.”
“I know what a relic is,” Kir’thiri was trying really hard not to lose her temper. At least until she saw Breena again. “I’m asking was Ascarian’s relic is, specifically!”
But no help came from Breena. A large man in full plate armor walked down one of the halls around them, toward the party. Ben rushed forward to face the foe, but the helmed man flew over him!
“Oh no,” Vigo sighed. He knew a helmed horror when he saw one. An arcane suit of armor, really. One immune to nearly every manner of combat scenario that they could throw at it.
Ben unleashed Talon on it before Vigo could share his knowledge, however, and the pitched battle commenced!
The party was learning to fight more as a unit as their adventures continued. They flanked the helmed horror from all sides, hacking and firing away and then sliding out of its reach, keeping clear of its flaming sword.
Vigo knocked the helm from the creature with his bo staff.
“Adamantine for the win!” he yelled.
“FANTASTIC!” Breena’s voice returned. “YOU’VE COME FARTHER THAN ANY OF THE OTHER ADVENTURERS WHO’VE TRIED. NOW, FIND THE RELIC AND BRING IT TO ME.”
The party slowly searched the small, strange dungeon they’d found themselves in until coming across a hidden room. In finding the secret to opening its entrance, the party saw two circles, much like what was carved into the wagon they’d entered, on the floor. One glowed green. On a large cushion in the middle of the back wall, though, there sat a tiny pseudodragon with a charm around its neck.
“let me out let me out let me out” another voice, this time a man’s voice, echoed in the back of Vigo’s mind.
“Um, huh?” Vigo said.
“What?” Kir’thiri asked.
“WHY DID YOU STOP?” Breena’s voice bellowed again. “BRING ME THE RELIC!”
“let me out let me out let me out” this time the voice echoed in Kir’thiri’s mind. The pseudodragon flew to Vigo’s shoulder when he offered it a treat.
“WHAT IS GOING ON?” Breena’s voice sounded annoyed.
“We are trying to help you,” Kir’thiri’s annoyance would not be outmatched. “We have a wounded party member and we are tying a tourniquet to stop the blood, so just give one minute!”
“I CAN SEE YOU, FOOL,” Breena’s voice scoffed.
“Well, I didn’t know that,” Kir’thiri returned.
“get all of your party into the black circle. do NOT step in the green circle.” the man’s voice crept back into Vigo’s mind.
“Guys, everyone into the black circle,” Vigo ordered.
As one, the party jumped into the unlit, black circle. Vigo heard the man’s voice once more say, “BRAVADO!”
The party returned in a flash of blue light, standing just outside the back of Breena’s wagon.
“Oof!” Breena fell out of the front of her wagon. She got to her feet, staring angrily at the party, and began to wave her hands in front of her. Ben rushed forward, letting Talon fly again.
The pseudodragon flew from its perch on Vigo’s shoulder and straight at Breena. Once it was within five feet of her there was an explosion of gold-white light.
There stood a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair, the wizard Ascarian Doraz!
Breena’s eyes went wide in complete terror. She made another hand gesture, now ignoring Ben altogether, but it was too late. With one clap of his hands, Breena disintegrated into black ash, as did her wagon.
Ascarian thanked the party for releasing him. It turned out that he had been trapped in the charm around Pocket’s — that was his pseudodragon familiar’s name — neck and that his magic had been amplifying Pocket’s natural telepathy in calling for aid, inadvertently causing all of the death and destruction that was raining down on Kelembar. The mystery of The Wallless City was solved!
Before leaving to whichever higher plane he was heading for, Ascarian told the party that he owed them one favor and that they only need call his name to collect that debt.
The party explained things to Obsidian and then slept the sleep of the tired heroes that night.
In the morning they were paid for their services and told to find Kelembar again, whenever they could. Before partying ways, though, Obsidian made each an offer.
“As way of further thanks, I offer a reading for each of you. But I must tell you, the accuracy of my reading applies to your now, yes, but it will also tie you to your fate. What say you?”
Ben, Vigo, and Erky accepted. Kir’thiri, thrown enough by her past of late, had no interest in defining her future.
Erky entered Obsidian’s tent first and came out wearing a simple, peaceful smile.
Vigo went next:
“Pick your card,” Obsidian instructed, pointing to a deck of cards splayed out in front of him. Vigo drew.
“The Fey Card,” Obsidian began. “Yours is naught but fog and mystery. The fey surrounds you like a heavy cloak in winter, amplifying your already inquisitive nature to a precarious level. But in the end, your mind is your own. Yet be warned: trust hard-earned may be hard lost, but when the time comes it will not be the court of cosmic kings deciding. For good or ill, that choice will lie with you.”
And finally, Ben entered and drew his card:
“The Dragon Card,” Obsidian smiled. “I needn’t have even had you draw. Yours is a life-thread consumed by dragons. A life-changing legend grows even now, yet how does it end for the hero of the story? Given the nature of such tales, one presumes in either glory . . . or death. But beware: a powerful adversary dwells at the edge of our narrative who has yet to impact these scales. If they stand, you will lose something far more important to you than your life.”
With some of their futures told and goodbyes given, the party prepared to head their own way. As they walked, a young teenage boy stopped and pointed at Ben.
“Y-you’re,” he looked at the gold dragon on Ben’s breastplate. “You are! You’re Benjamin Dragonsbane!”
“I’m who now?” Ben asked, puzzled.
“Benjamin Dragonsbane! Hey guys, look who it is!” the boy called over some other teens. “Can we see Talon? Do you really have a dread helm? How many dragons have you killed do you reckon?”
Kir’thiri, Vigo, and Erky chuckled at the very much embarrassed Ben.
“You, I’m, no, see, my name is Ben, that part’s true . . .”
But his fans would not be swayed and sung to him the latest song popular with the bards, of Benjamin Dragonsbane: bogeyman of dragons and savior of damsels!