The people of Srenn’shien mobilized quickly to prepare for the expedition to Myth Drannor. Serving girls and stable boys geared themselves for battle--and I realized, they were more than capable. Everyone here was trained to fight to a degree. The whole town was its militia. A considerable unit of cavalry and infantry were being assembled to travel with us and the prince’s sons. The four of us were to be the only mages; we also were to have with us one priest of Lathander, Brother Gemell, whom we were going to escort to the Lathandrians’ camp.
We also were to be joined by a halfling, Leland Smits. He was a slippery fellow who seemed to be atoning for one if not several crimes, and was performing this duty as part of the services. At first Rill was pleased to see another of her own kind, but Leland soon proved himself to be craven and selfish. He went on through much of the planning -- and later in the trip -- loudly proclaiming that Myth Drannor could not possibly be the threat others believed it was, and then whenever danger struck, he hid behind the nearest backside wide enough to shield him. I assumed he was with us to offer, essentially, thieving skills, but I doubt there was little he could do that Rill or one of us could not contrive to in some manner. I try very hard to remain goodwilled toward all souls, but were we to accidentally lose him somewhere in Myth Drannor, I think my mourning period would be short-lived.
We planned with Prince Telemus and his sons (Galelen the eldest and Dionen the youngest), mapping the fastest route. Telemus would travel with us as far as Ashabenford, the nearest civilized town to Myth Drannor. We spent some time in the library performing some last research on Myth Drannor and the mythal and on lower planar beings.
One thing even the Prince did not realize was the nature of where we were going. Having earlier described the place as “some kind of tax or inventory office,” the map we looked at had it labeled as the Office of Imports and Tariffs. This, I realized, was not a simple office for government bureaucracy. The Office of Imports and Tariffs is, on Evermeet, the front for our foreign intelligence--particularly the unit which deals with trading information and arranging assassinations. I told them as such. None had realized we might be walking into a far more fortified building than expected.
We set out, camping in the woods when no town was near. Little trouble beset us, since we were a large and well-armed force. I spent evenings in camp carving and playing my flute, though in retrospect, I realized I ought to have asked to train with the others. For dinner, I joined those preparing and helped with the peeling--a mundane skill I’d mastered at the Academy. They seemed a bit surprised. I might have enjoyed that fact.
Stopping in Ashabenford, Telemus disappeared quickly with the proprietress of the inn where we stayed, the Greasy Gopher. I gather they were old acquaintances and were off “rekindling their friendship.” Ashabenford had public baths which I enjoyed. I wish I had more of a chance to talk with both the elves and the locals, but no one particularly stood out to me as having much to say.
Shortly after leaving, we were waylaid by a horde of boars. They did manage to separate our units a bit, but at the end of the fight, the worst casualties were three horses killed. I noticed the young dauphins were quite able at spearing the beasts from horseback, and as I struggled to stay steady ahorse while firing my bow, I hoped to ask them some riding tips once we are assured of not dying horribly in Myth Drannor and all that. They were wildlings, the dauphins, very unlike the lordly heirs you would encounter on Evermeet--very much enjoying the sport of the hunt and the chase.
When we neared the border of Myth Drannor, my heart sank steadily into my belly, and beating twice its normal speed. It was frightening and exciting and... well, mostly frightening. The others reminded us that we should refrain from using magic as much as possible, lest we disturb the dampening force that would help keep the fiends from summoning allies. This did not dissuade Haukk and Brother ___ from activating arcane sight as we approached the border drawn at the edge of the mythal. Trying to keep alert for other things--I did not need to use mystic vision to be aware Myth Drannor was full of magic--I did not join them. So I was a bit puzzled when both Haukk and the priest gasped a bit when Haukk and I rode through the Mythal.
Apparently the mystic field ripples as beings pass through. When I passed through, it surged very brightly. My best guess is it was noting I was a “resident” or rather kin thereof.
As we rode in and turned around the bend, the valley opened before us, revealing the ruins of the ancient city. My sinking, trembling heart seemed to stop in its palpitations for a moment--hovering, just a bit, before plummeting into my feet. I held back tears.
I could tell from what we saw, that it had been a beautiful city once. The epitome of elven architecture, the absolute height of what we could achieve as artisans. The structures, at the peak of their glory, could have moved Hanali Celanil herself to spasms of joy over their exquisiteness.
But all this beauty, this potential, was shattered and darkened. What-once-was was smothered by a smog of darkness and ruin. I cannot adequately describe the sense of loss that wracked through my body.
I swallowed, and focused on the mission. I made myself think of nothing but the mission. Go in, go out. Do not remain in this place of death, less you succumb to fatal despair. Don’t look at the ruins, don’t wonder what something was or what lies within. Just go, do your duty, and keep your friends safe.
My comrades were like minded. Telemus and the Seneschal repeatedly made it very clear to us we were not to deviate from our path, for very good reasons. Furthermore, the warning not to use magic had been etched upon our minds we had been told it so insistently--and since we were mages, we were not going to stay long where we could not rely on our greatest skill.
Fortunately, the Office of Imports and Tariffs was close by. The scouts that were with us spread out to warn us of danger, and Leland performed the one useful thing he ever did on the journey: he unlocked the front door. He and the others also spotted a trap door before the front desk--and were able to disable the hinges. At one point, the trap door was set to be able to unleash an alchemical whirlwind of fire and acid to unwanted entrants.
There was nothing else there. Gelalen made his presentation on behalf of the father, then tossed the ceremonial dagger so that it would stick firmly in the ceiling (so that it could not easily be removed).
As we left, we discovered some of the scouts wandered too far ahead of us. The silhouette of an imp carrying a scout impaled upon a spear shot past us. Several of the other scouts foolishly chased it and in turn were also grabbed and impaled by imps. We thought them dead, but we pooled our knowledge of fiends and realized they could be rendered unconscious by poison.
We were so close to being done--all we had to do was escort Brother Gemell to the Lathandrians and then retreat, but we couldn’t abide the thought of leaving those scouts to die. Risking some expenditure of magic to put protective spells on ourselves, we followed the imps around, where we were met with the sight of a much larger devil, with a long, thin, dark beard. He was preparing to attempt to summon something, obvious from his gestures and the energy gathering around him. I tried to shoot him, but missed (I was trying to avoid magic, knowing I might be forced to use it soon enough). Haukk charged forward and struck him. The first missed, but since the bearded devil was mid-casting, he was able to get another strike and disrupt him. The curious part of me wanted to see what would happen if it had completed its summons, since this was supposed to be a time the summons would not work well, but I am not sure it would be worth risking finding out.
Our scouts were slumped against a near wall, imps hovering nearby, and the devil grinned at us, its new targets.
Welcome to Myth Drannor.