Fear Not The Night

"Man of La Mystra"
Passage from the Book of Arivae, by Arivae

And lo, Arivae and his disciples did wander the caves for what felt like weeks. And they came upon an unnamed village that had been defiled by monstrous slaads, working under the guiding hand of the warlock Emma. There the champions of Mystra uncovered a bit of writing in the fallen aasimar’s own hand—which told of the enslavement of the old one Nessus by Cantor.

The Weave Made Flesh and his disciples found a hidden chamber, in which Emma, surrounded by an army of slaad thralls, communed with her dark master. As the disciples listened in secret, Cantor spoke of a sacrifice—a person whose blood would be needed to draw him into Faerun. He hinted that this sacrifice was nearer than Emma realized.

It dawned on Arivae then—could the sacrifice Cantor spoke of be one of his disciples? Would Brother Bottom’s tiefling blood open a gate to another plane? Had the eldritch magic that permeated Brother Piska like bog water turned the young mage into an arcane key? Brother Foot’s body was honed to channel energy. Perhaps that energy could be turned to evil ends?

Brother Crow . . . had wandered off somewhere. Surely he was fine.

Whoever the sacrifice was, Arivae realized they’d stepped right into Emma’s clutches. His disciples relied on him, not just for spiritual guidance, but as their divine protector. And yet he simply could not stop that many slaad . . . not to mention their foul leader. For when the Weave was given mortal form in Arivae, it became subject to mortal limitations.

Did Arivae despair? Perhaps for a moment. But only a moment. Then he raised his hands, offering a silent prayer to Mystra, and performed the Miracle of Fireball. Emma noticed him just in time to take in the explosion, as tons of rock collapsed into the passage, sealing her and her thralls within the chamber.

The trip out felt much shorter. Arivae and his disciples returned to Neverwinter, and they did rest.

But the disciples were still being hunted—not by Emma, but by someone perhaps even stranger. The hooded figure who had appeared so often in their journeys revealed himself as an elf named Gaylord. He was a follower of Nessus, whom he called “Father,” mirroring Piska’s own filial devotion to his “Mother” with eerie exactness. Gaylord wanted help freeing his fetid patron from servitude, and in return he offered to point the disciples toward the location of Valendra, joining them in their journey.

With some reluctance, the disciples agreed to follow the lead into a nearby forest. Arivae could only trust that Mystra would guide his path.

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Slim Pickings

“Sune’s tits, look at this.”

Harper Alyn kicked a small bit of bone, what looked like a charred jaw, out from the rubble of a former storefront. Kicking around some more, Alyn could see the rest of a skull, similarly charred in a strange, almost iridescent way. But it was big. Way too big to be a victim.

“Looks like that’s the remains of one of those chattering devils that caused this fucking mess.”

“Technically, Alyn, those were Flameskulls, undead constructs, and not of the Nine Hells.”

“Fuck off with your technicalities, Bowen. There was a child in here and I don’t give two shits where those Fuckskulls came from.”

“You should. You really should. That handsome band of adventurers that defeated these unholy things said that the Flameskulls were here to announce the return of Valindra.”

Harper Alyn chucked a burnt beam to the side and bolted upright. “Gods be good, really? Valindra, so soon? Are those vagabonds sure they heard it right?”

Bowen continued the work of picking through the remains of Neverwinter’s blacksmithing district, looking for anything—or anyone—recoverable.

“Yeah, I’m sure. We’ve been hearing some rumors about her return for a while now, but we hadn’t seen anything concrete. We’ve had enough on our hands with all of this Asmodeus business, so we didn’t have anyone that could go out into the wilderness to check up on what’s stirring out there. It’s not like it used to be, where we Harpers had plenty of allies and informants to keep tabs on things. By the Tears of Selune, I’d swear there was something more going on with all the activity. Cantor—you know, the Abboleth?—stirring things up in the Chasm, whatever the Hells Mordai is up to with Asmodeus, and now Valindra just showing up on the scene? At least that motley crew seems to be helping somewhat.”

“Helping? They’re blowing up our entire investigation of Mordai! They’re so obvious it hurts to watch them come through. It’ll be a miracle the gods themselves couldn’t concoct if the ground beneath Neverwinter doesn’t split and spill a whole fucking host of devils and whatever Cantor’s controlling these days. Ugh, gods help us.”

“Yes, I agree, they’ve set themselves up to be a more obvious target than Elminster with his pants down. But I must say, they’ve impressed me in their ability to overcome whatever’s come after them. These Flameskulls for instance—I wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with one of them, let alone take on two packs. And they took out Favria.”

“Fuck Selune, really? Favria, that old dwarven beast? She took out half my Brothers, including Galvin,a better swordsman with a hand tied behind his ear than any other Harper I’ve met. How the fuck did they manage that?”

“Oh, Galvin. Well, I’m not sure the details, but it seems that they captured her by posing as though they were the agents delivering hellthorn from the Chasm. Turns out it was Mordai who ordered it, and Favria was supposed to deliver it to him. Instead, this plucky band managed to take out whatever goons Favria brought with her and, unlike most of the “adventurers” that we see come through here, managed to bag her without killing her. By Mystra’s Weave, they brought her into a tavern not far from here in a carpet, beat her unconscious for good measure and left her in a back room while they fought off the Flameskulls. After finishing off that evil threat and hearing about the return of Valindra, they turned back to Favria and brought me in to help with the charm spell-enhanced interrogation.

“I didn’t know this about Favria, but she was the Asmodean agent that was supposed to retrieve back a magic rod from Valindra.”

“Wait, I thought Valindra was all about trying to find some ancient dragon’s body somewhere out in the forests or some shit?”

“Yes, as far as we can tell, she’s still seeking to raise a dragon as a dracolich. I’ve even heard that she’s got a bone from the dragon, so not only is she back, but she’s got a head start.”

Alyn shook his head and turned back to scraping through the heaps of Neverwinter. “Fuck, Bowen. Valindra’s back and we’re being overrun by devil worshippers. Wait: what happened to Favria?”

“They offed her. Just…” Bowen jabbed the air grasping an invisible murder’s blade.

“Good riddance to that old cunt. Wish I’d a been the one to do it. She deserved worse.”

The skies over Neverwinter were gray today, and there wasn’t any noise on the streets. Everyone was hiding, still afraid. The two men continued their work in silence for a few moments when something occurred to Alyn.

“What is that group up to now?”

“What, that band? The last thing Favria told them was that Mordai’s house has a secret entrance through the Moonstone Mask, you know, that fancy clothing shop? I presume those fools are going to try to bust in through there, Tymora bless them. I tried to tell them… ugh, gods.”

Bowen found Larrin, the town’s best blacksmith. Or what was left of him.

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Piska's Pleas

“Mother, I’m scared.”

A sharp draw of breath, a sob choked. Piska held quiet, still, hoping that She would speak to him. It’s been too long.

Nothing. Nothing but that unsettling distant gurgling echoing up out of the Chasm.

Piska crouched, whispering in a small cut in the Chasm wall a few paces away from the rest of his new friends.

It was awful.

After destroying some foul shapeshifting creatures called hags in a shop a couple of days ago, Piska and his friends searched the store for some clues as to the hags’ connection to Cantor, the evil man who works for Asmodeus and, Piska hoped, could lead to clues to the Lord of Nessus. They came upon a chest in the back of the shop, which Piska saw the way Mother taught him to see, and didn’t see any lingering tricks or funny business. Piska once saw a man struck down by lightning when he greedily pried open an old box the man had found in an ancient tower without first checking for any traps. Piska learned his lesson.

Piska pulled the chest away from the wall, a whisper-soft click…

A tide of angry molten pain poured down his hands, hissing, steaming. Piska didn’t hear his own screaming, couldn’t focus on anything but the dreadful heat and watching the skin on his hands bubble and melt off. Bramblethorn took what was left of Piska’s hands into his, muttered a gentle something, and the tide receded just as quickly as it came. Piska’s hands were fine, and the rest of his friends were already at work divvying up the potions within the chest.

The chest covered a secret door leading down to a cellar chamber where the hags had stored their most prized possessions, including a few magical items and a short note: “Meet in the graveyard at the Kasimov mausoleum just past dusk.” Maybe Cantor or some of his henchmen were to meet, and maybe Pisak and his friends could get closer to stopping whatever dire plot he has concocted?

Having been through situations like these a few times by this point, Piska’s friends knew to be prepared for a fight. After scoping out the meeting place earlier, Klippen, Bramblethorn, and Vincente took positions hiding around the mausoleum, while Arivae and Eater disguised themselves as the destroyed hags and Piska used the disguise trick Mother taught him to both appear and sound like the hags’ assumed human form.

The meeting time came, and two apparitions, a lord and a lady judging by their rich funereal attire, glided up from within the mausoleum. They expected to begin immediately, but no one had any idea what they meant—and so Piska, disguised to look and sound like their servants, tried to get them to talk. A ritual, the ghosts urgently wanted, one which they apparently had been preparing for for some time, so there’s no need for talk.

“The step of the ritual is… the Litany of Intentions!”

Piska thought it was a good idea. The lords expired did not immediately believe it, however, and before he had much of a chance to press for more information from the undead, Arivae and Vincente attacked. They concentrated their fire on the lord, who transformed into a terrible sight that struck fear into the hearts of Piska’s friends, so much so that brave Bramlethorn lost his wits and fled.

Piska didn’t notice that. Piska watched as the other ghost, the lady, shimmered and leapt toward him, into him. All his body became ice, piercing cold and numb, while all he could hear is the lady’s voice shouting invectives. A moment later, and he realized he was moving, but he had no command over his own body—she had taken control, and he watched as his own hands fired an arrow at his friends.

It all happened so quickly. A few more arrows and magical strikes, and the lord dissipated into the air. The lady shrieked within Piska, and he knew nothing but her wail. It was a din of anguish, and Piska wanted to cover his ears, but he had no ears to cover, no direction to turn away from.

Cowering in his own mind, he saw his friends turn to him while he heard himself shriek and draw another arrow. They started attacking him.

Piska focused on each of their eyes before their strikes: Arrivae, hesitant and regretful while calling upon his “weave;” Eater, straining as he brought the full force of that great ax down on Piska’s slight frame. Piska couldn’t flinch, couldn’t yell, couldn’t stop that blade, but he could feel it separate his flesh and scrape his bones, all while the lady continued her shrieking hysteria. That was the last thing he felt that day as the world swiftly went dark and quiet…

When Piska awoke, all was quiet, still, and dim. It was the shop of the hags, back in the city proper. His friends, who he last saw attacking him, were resting, with the exception of Bramblethorn, who was still tending to Piska’s grievous wounds. The ghost had possessed his body, Bramblethorn explained, and the only way to drive it out was to strike Piska down. They felt bad… sort of.

In the morning, a child messenger visited the shop and delivered a simple message: “You failed. Report immediately.” Before he could be questioned, the child was gone, returned into the bustling sea of daytime Neverwinter. Instead of chasing the child and discovering where these notes were coming from, Piska’s friends decided that the next step was to go to the Chasm based on that being the one word remaining on a destroyed previous message found in the ashes of the fire pit.

And so now here they were, his friends checking their equipment and bandaging their wounds on a ledge in the Chasm. They had have just fended off a quartet of what someone called out as “Harpies,” terrible winged creatures with wild manes and sharp claws.

But their voices… So beautiful and sonorous, resonating in your head so that there’s nothing but those dulcet tones and you can’t help but lean forward, pulled forward, towards the voice, a step, two—until Piska’s foot slipped near the edge. He nearly fell. Almost the entire party fell. Vincente did.

A quick chant and a sparkle leapt from Arivae, a frog’s tongue toward Vincente, and suddenly the fast talker’s plummet ebbed to a gentle descent to the next ledge below.

Already Piska’s friends were making short work of the attackers. Eater of Crow, so big, heaved his great ax, while tiny Klippen’s limbs and staff snapped out like the dragonfly’s wings; Bramblethorn gleaming sword flashed, and Arivae used his “weave” to make tricks happen. Piska of course used the boom tricks that Mother taught him. The harpies didn’t last long. Piska’s friends can put out a lot of hurt.

That ax, that magic…

“Mother, please, I need you…”

Nothing but that soft, distant gurgling from the abyss.

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"Selected Parables, Part I"
Passages from the Book of Arivae, by Arivae

And lo, Arivae did impart many wise lessons on his journeys, though not all were straightforward. The Weave Made Flesh told some as parables, so that his disciples might draw their own conclusions about magic and the nature of the Weave from them.

“The Demon and the Magus”

There once was a horrible demon who had been summoned by a horrible warlock. The demon longed for its freedom, so that it could do horrible things of its own accord. But it was bound in service to the warlock, and so could not rampage as it desired. One day the demon found a wise and powerful and handsome magus trapped in a prison, and it bade the magus to make a deal. If the magus promised to kill its summoner, the demon would free it—but then likely it would kill the magus itself. The magus thought on this for a moment, before finally replying, “I will take care of your warlock.” Satisfied, the demon freed the magus.

But the magus had been clever. Never promising to do more than take care of the warlock, he had thus escaped any evil obligations, and the demon was thwarted forever.

“The Magus and the Warlock”

In an unrelated story, a magus once came upon the home of a horrible warlock on his journeys. Hoping he might be provided a night’s rest and hot meal, and perhaps information on someone named Cantor, he sent a disciple to scout the warlock’s home. But the evil spellcaster was a foul and jealous woman. From her bathtub filled with blood, she summoned many horrible beasts against the magus and his disciples, which they destroyed. The warlock was forced to retreat from her home and her bath, and so her home was opened to the magus after all.

“The Hedge Mage and the Tavernmaster”

A young and inexperienced mage—whose magical education was learned in backwoods and bogs, from dubious sources—once arrived late at a tavern with his company. The hedge mage was tired and hungry, but he also sought a man named Cantor, whose name was tied to many evil deeds. Rather than charm the tavernkeep for information with wit and wile, the young mage decided he would take a shortcut, and charm him with magic. It worked well, and the tavernmaster told all he knew of Cantor. But as the spell’s effects ended, the young mage and his companions were forced to leave the ONE reputable inn in town that they could afford, never to return. For magical friendship never lasts, and cups filled with lies leave one thirstier than before. And probably angry about the lies.

“The Three Sisters”

Once there were three beautiful sisters, who owned a successful shop in the heart of a bustling city. The youngest would eat only sweets, the second only wheat, and the eldest only meat. One day the sisters were visited by traveling adventurers who were tired and perhaps a bit grumpy. They asked to see the sisters’ wares, but it turns out the sisters were really just monstrous hags serving Cantor and they attacked the adventurers and were slaughtered, so it didn’t really matter what they ate, did it? Not being able to return to an inn, the adventurers holed up in the now abandoned shop, where they discovered a note written to the sisters, saying to meet at a graveyard that night.

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The Heroic Adventures of Dahved the Brave
Chapter LXXIII

Dearest reader, the tale I am about to tell you may strain belief, but every word of it is true. I swear on my elder’s grave.

After my heroic slaying of the evil cultists in the village (chronicled in The Heroic Adventures of Dahved the Brave Chapters LXVIIILXXII), my companions and I accompanied the survivors at least partway through their exodus. We setup camp and took shifts keeping an eye out for straggling cultists. Just as my stomach started rumbling at the thought of dinner, I spotted a giant flying beast from far, far away. I definitely saw it right away, like immediately.

Knowing that my comparatively weaker companions had overexerted themselves in the battle, I chose not to awake them, despite seeing the mosquito with my keen eyes from kilometers away. I rose to intimidate the creature with my impressive figure. Much to my surprise, the fool beast kept coming – the last mistake it would ever make.

Not anticipating any need of their help to slay the beast, I let my companions lie. And lie they did. Despite the horrifying cries of agony that would come from the giant mosquito, my companions slept soundly.

It is at this point, dear readers, that I regret to inform you of a shortcoming on my part. So engaged with crushing the giant insect was I, that I could not spare the focus to heal my fellow adventurers who were wounded by the beast. One by one, they fell beside me, falling into a deep state of unconsciousness not unlike our soundly sleeping companions. Stricken with grief, I let my guard down for only a moment, and the wretched creature barbed me with poison.

A lesser man would have fallen instantly, but not Dahved the Brave. I clenched my maw and tore into the beast. No sooner did it exhale its final breath than the poison got the best of me, and I fell to the ground, the world a blur of colors and shapes.

When I awoke, I was naked, surrounded by my also-nude companions in a cage of some sort. It was at this point that I discovered that Eater of Crow was sporting barbed equipment. I had heard tell of barbarians piercing their faces – eyebrows, noses, cheeks, and tongues, but I had never heard of one piercing his manhood. How odd!

In any case, it was a simple matter to take the form of a spider and scout ahead. Through the bars and under a door, I found a pack of key-adorned guards exchanging stupidities over a table.

I returned to my companions to explain the situation, and we came up with a fantastic plan. I would assume the form of a bear and lure the guards with my horrible roar. Since obviously, our captors wanted us intact, they would fear for our lives and come rescue us, at which point, I would devour them whole.

I am pleased to report the plan worked exactly as I had anticipated. The guards opened the door and were met with my teeth and claws. I spat out the key chain, and opened the door to the roaring cheers of my doting companions. From this day forward, they would call me “Master of Locks” with whispers of adoration.

But who captured us and why? And what did we find on the other side of the door? For these answers and more, dear readers, you must continue to The Heroic Adventures of Dahved the Brave – Chapter LXXIV!

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Tales from Older Roads

“Friend merchant, you promised us the next chapter of your little myth when next we made camp,” the mercenary said, while the rest of the caravan busied itself with raising tents and unsaddling horses in the purple twilight.

Vincente eased himself down onto his camp stool at the edge of the still-young fire, reached into his coat with a spottled hand and withdrew his pipe. In his twilight years, these winding pilgrimages up the coast towards Neverwinter filled him with a profound nostalgia—weeks ago, he’d started telling the story of his first adventure with Arrivae Highnoon and Sir Falsebottom and all the rest, the retelling of which was as familiar to him as the exchange rates posted outside the banks every morning. Some of those names had now, of course, passed into something resembling legend, along with their faces, and their stories. This one, though, was one few bothered remembering—a story from before their history had been written.

“I am a man of my word, commander. Please—sit. Your friends out beyond the wagon line will keep us safe tonight, I’m sure.”

The mercenary sat—the child of one of Vincente’s wagoneers scuttled towards the fire to listen, followed by the robed priest of Mystra who tended to find an excuse to sit in every night—and insisted on calling Vincente ‘Brother Fox’ with that fawning, sycophantic gaze that brought Vincente back to the absolute worst days of his old friend’s popular apotheosis. Several others joined the circle as they were able, bringing their nightly rations with them, sitting cross-legged on the crisp, low tundra grass or setting out low plywood benches. One thing had remained constant over Vincente’s long career: He could still manage to attract an audience.

He cleared his throat, packed tobacco into the pipe. “You’ll recall, of course, that we had just returned to Coldwell—”

“And you had stayed behind to watch the horses while the real heroes did the actual—”

“This is my story, commander, I’ll be telling it how I please. I had remained at a safe distance from the city keeping watch—prudent watch, I might add—on our newly acquired horses, while the rest of my friends reentered the city—a city under siege! But I told you all about that last night.” He lit the pipe, puffed, wheezed. “What’s important, for those of you who missed the retelling, is that Stefon Morningstar escaped, Coldwell burned, the guard captain died, and Arrivae had him resurrected.” He chuckled. “Arrivae had him in other ways, too, but there are children in the crowd, and I am if anything the soul of discretion.”

“Arrivae? With the guard captain?” The priest frowned, the one-toothed gear in his head struggling to process the information. “But . . . Arrivae Highnoon was a man.”

“The Weave loves all,” Vincente murmured. Before the conversation could devolve into an examination of the outer bounds of heresy, he plunged forward. “But no matter. The sun rose over a ruined village, and the Captain sent us onward, out of ruined Coldwell and north, North along the old roads that skirt Neverwinter Forest, towards that fractured gem in the Spine’s crown. We pursued the son of Francis Morningstar, who we thought slain, and who had—by all accounts—absconded with the Mayor’s daughter, Annemarie. Fast we rode, and hard—the horses which I had so astutely preserved from harm served as able mounts, and we made up for much lost time in the early hours of the day.”

“But then,” he said, rocking up to his feet in a surprisingly fluid movement for one so apparently aged, gesturing towards the road their camp now skirted, pointing south towards the gathering dark, “not far from here—less than a league, in fact, where the road forks—we came across a band of refugees. These weren’t the sort of wanderers you read about in your histories, all clean and well-supplied, noble in their poveryu, in their pursuit of comfort, no—these were hunted men. Women. Children. Their village, now lost, had been ravaged by demons in the night, had fallen as Coldwell had fallen.”

He paused, searched their faces. “These were the early days of that great struggle, a struggle which I needn’t opine on. You’ve all lived the end of it. But suffice it to say that, at the time, none of us quite appreciated the signs. Not even Piska, closest though he was to the infernal.”

“Sir Falsebottom, filled with that selflessness which would in time earn him his titles and honors, volunteered us as protection for this sad band of penniless exiles. I’ll admit—” he chuckled— “I was not, at the time, thrilled at the prospect. You may have noticed, all of you, that I enjoy the sound of gold coins in my hand.”

The polite laughter of employees at an employer’s bad joke. They’d all worked for Vincente long enough to know how true his statement rang.

“Regardless, we settled in for the night’s watch—I took the first watch, alongside Falsebottom, who spent most of it trying to convince me we would be paid. It was a perfectly reasonable argument to make, though he was a terrible negotiator—history plays that out, of course.”

“We did not have a boring evening. As the last of the sun fled the sky, from the eastern woods—movement! I sighted it before Falsebottom, raised the alarm, sent Dahved and Clippin forward to meet our enemy. Yes, I see the question in your eyes: The same demons that had destroyed these peasants’ homes had returned to finish their work. Six dretches, pitiful and wailing, met us on this very road.”

He paused, gathering breath. “I, of course, hid at once, fired arrows from the safety of the campsite where I could best pick out the dretch’s joints, their tender undersides. Others of our party, as they were wont to do, waded in—Dahved in the form of whatever wild animal took his fancy at the time, I honestly forget, dear Falsebottom with his sword held high, Klippin Swiftfoot with his lack-of-sword at its most obvious. They fought! We fought! And the dretches burped.”

A dull stare from the mercenary captain. “Dretches have gas, commander. The gas is also poisonous. It’s a whole…” Vincente waved his right hand, dismissed it. “Nevermind. Unimportant.”

“And then Arrivae Highnoon—” Vincente ignored the reverent handsign from the priest— “Reared back his hands, called on that deeper magic within him, and summoned gouts of flame such that I’d never seen. Three of the dretches—three!—vanished, disappeared into a cloud of charred smog with that single stroke.”

“Praise be the Weave, and She the Seamstress,” the priest breathed,

“It was quick work,” Vincente shrugged, “For dretches are, as we all know, low things, small things. They hadn’t even the presence of mind to try and flee. Before long, the night quieted itself again.”

“A boring story, friend merchant.”

Vincente smiled. “I’m not done.”

“Moments later—seconds, really—two demons of a truly terrible nature revealed themselves right in our midst—they had been observing, invisible, while their lessers softened us up. I’ll admit it, dear friends, when I saw their cloaks shimmer away and those baleful eyes burn, I almost thought it time to find myself a religion. We hammered at them, and they hammered back—it was almost as though each of them could attack you three times in the time it took you to attack it once! Deeply unfair. I resented it. As did the bodies of my fellows, slowly beaten down by the infernals’ superior offense. It was close, my friends. Desperately close.”

The priest raised that damned diary over his head, exclaimed, “But it is Written—the servant of the Weave knew not the taste of defeat!”

“So it is written, my friend. So it is written.”

The Book of Arrivae had been heavily edited.

“And that was the end of the beasts—the end of the threat that had destroyed our wards’ homes. Their gratitude was…touching. And we carried on towards Neverwinter.”

The mercenary captain grunted. “Demons. Demons in the North. I feel like every story up here starts with some monster bubbling out of the depths.”

“It is the way of stories to have antagonists, commander.”

“Hrmph. So? What about the rest of the journey? Surely something else happened between the battlefield and the gates of Neverwinter.”

“I honestly don’t recall, commander. It’s almost like I fell off the face of the earth after that battle—for a time, anyway. It was many years ago—on an older road.” He took a long draw from the pipe. “Besides, I don’t think we have the time for more stories.”

The mercenary’s blank stare was met by the sound of hurried footsteps, and one of the younger bladesmen in Vincente’s employ burst into the firelight.

“Commander—movement at the perimeter! It’s—”

A three-octave scream drowned out the rest of the report, joined by the cries of the merchantmen and travellers, the shaking of steel from scabbard as the mercenary and his companion fled to join their party beyond the wagon line. The story—like most—was forgotten.

Vincente smiled, and reached for his bow.

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"Drink from this Coldwell and Never Thirst"
Passage from the Book of Arivae, by Arivae

These are the words that Arivae, the Weave Made Flesh, spoke to his Disciples as they journeyed through the wilderness back to Coldwell from the cultist village. It was a journey laden with the somewhat dire news that father and son Morningstars were conspiring against Coldwell. But it was a journey ALSO laden with the senior Morningstar’s head, which Brother Crow now knuckled behind him as a grim trophy. This was after the Disciples had defeated Francis Morningstar, with Brother Bottom defenestrating himself from a second floor window to impale the evil wizard, thus proving no need for Brother Fox’s plan to deceive, which Arivae had so rightfully cast aside. I’d say they were about a few miles away from Coldwell still, in this early hour of their fourth day together. It was a cool morning, but not cold. All in all very pleasant.

“Well, that turned out nicely,” were the words that Arivae spoke. “Not a single problem or mistake.” And Brother Fox was not there to contradict him.

And lo, the Disciples did arrive at Coldwell. After much arguing over who to approach with their new evidence, they discovered their choices had dwindled. The town was being attacked by fell creatures from below—Otyughs—and they had eaten more than a few of the villagers. The Disciples slayed the disgusting beasts, with Brother Swiftfoot taking the fore, and Brother Piska using strange (and wonderful) magics against them. In the process Brother Bottom and Arivae—the Weave Is Here, Rejoice—were sickened by a terrible disease.

otyugh4.jpg

Coldwell’s guard captain, Egor Mandrake, was also laid low, but by the grace of Mystra, Arivae was able to carry him to the safety of the local cleric. There was a new softness in Egor’s eyes . . . but no . . . to the task at hand.

The team recovered from injury and disease at the Coldwell temple, and Brother Dordarren and Arivae’s healing gifts were conscripted by the very forceful priestess there. The Disciples told Egor of all they had learned and done, and Egor . . . my, Arivae had never realized how handsome the guard captain was before; he had those beautiful eyes and such a kind smile . . . pointed them toward Neverwinter, and to a person named Cantor.

They spent the night at the temple before setting off, but as the Disciples retired, Arivae stayed with the guard captain . . . whose shirt was unbuttoned more than halfway down. And they spoke long into the night.

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Rancid Butter: Dissidents and Heretics in the Early Middle Ages

One of the greatest difficulties in studying religious minorities during the period immediately after the Spellplague is that so few written sources have survived from the period. The collapse of major organized states led to economic simplification a decline in trade 1, while loosely organized military forces became prominent across much of the Faerun, led by self-styled “adventurers” who would offer their services to local strongmen in exchange for gold or land. The Dark Age poem Zahir is emblematic of the period, displaying a cunning warrior skilled at arms, but with questionable (and highly inconsistent) ethics. 2 The results were catastrophic, with some cities vanishing while others were reduced to a shadow of their former selves, little more than fortified hilltops looking out to the ruins of splendor.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the traditional faiths underwent severe crises. Many worshippers believed that their gods had actually died, and turned to new faiths; Weaving was the most prominent, and, ultimately, successful; but another, little known until recently, was the worship of Asmodeus.

Our study of Asmodeus has been frustrated for decades because so many of the surviving sources were highly politicized tracts by members of the Weave, who gave a distorted impression of the cult’s followers, claiming that they were cultists who engaged in blood rites and served the lord of the Nine Hells. 3 The truth, as always, is more complicated.

Archaeological excavations outside Coldwell have given new insight into Asmodeans, as it appears that one village in the region was a prominent center of his worship. Cult relics displaying the figure of Asmodeus have been found throughout the village, suggesting a surprisingly open and widespread faith in the god. But the village displays few of the signs of the social oppression or coercion that one would expect if one relied solely on Weaving sources. There is no sign of social stratification; the village’s housing is remarkably undifferentiated, save for one larger building that likely functioned as a place of worship. The town’s housing stock suggests a diverse community of humans and other races lived together, including a small population of gnomes.

Further, several snippets of what may be religious tracts have been found on parchment during excavations.. This is noteworthy for it indicates a surprisingly high rate of literacy (for how else could a small village have enough writing to discard some as garbage?), and because much of the work is still haunting, 1700 years later: “I have set the world ablaze, and I shall guard it while it burn,” “You are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say ‘give us back our field!’”

The excavations suggest that Asmodeans were no more than a group that believed (perhaps rightfully, given their era) that the world had been given over to darkness, and that only self-improvement would allow one to attain enlightenment.

Alas, the village’s fate was all too common for the dark ages. There are signs of shallow graves outside the village, which are presumably related to the body of one worshiper that was found at the bottom of the town’s well. Fire and blood likely ended this village, as it did so many others during the Dark Ages.

But there is one final puzzle that must be discussed. The Book of Arivae makes reference to Arivae’s cleansing of a small village outside Coldwell, where the “cultists” of Asmodeus had cut out their tongues and made bloody sacrifices. Perhaps the village was a metaphor; perhaps there was another village, full of worshipers of Asmodeus. Certainly in this one we have found no sign of bloody sacrifices, and no sign that the townspeople engaged in self-mutilation. 4 Just one more town of people slain by the dragon of intolerance in a dark time.


1 For instance, archaeological finds of elven pottery drop off substantially in most of Faerun, outside certain coastal cities that acted as “points of light” during an otherwise uncivilized time. For further discussion, see The World that Plague Created.


2 For a recent overview of the inconsistencies in the Tale of Zahir (e.g., his or her gender, the color of his fire, and why there is a year omitted from his life, see Liam Fitzpatrick’s Dragonborn Again: Myth and Memory in Early Modern Neverwinter.


3 Asmodeans also were reputed to believe that one could become closer to enlightenment through burping and eating leafy vegetables, as they were less weighed down with the impure matter of this fallen world. This may be why early Weavers put such emphasis on butter in their sacred feasts.

(Seriously, Manicheans actually believed this).


4 Recently, it has been suggested that the tongue-cutting was metaphorical, and that Asmodeans’ emphasis on the written word, and certain vows of silence, were confused by Weavers as a way to demonstrate how alien the faith was. This would make a great deal more sense than cutting out one’s tongue, although one could note that some would view our practice of circumcision as almost as just another form of mutilation.

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Ballad of the Wee Folk (and Friends)

A horse, you know, is tall and strong
A pony short and fast.
To think of one as more or less
Would be to show yer ass.

And so our party grew by one
But felt we’d gained a pair.
For though Dahved be short of height
He fights just like a bear.

The cultists’ trail we’d found before
Through wood and brush did cleave.
’Twas Arivae who picked it up
Still talking of the Weave.

Klippin the swift – of foot, of feats,
Struck before they’d seen us.
And as I watched the hin at work
The blood rushed to my penis.

Piska with his new friend the fox
And Eater with his ax
And Dahved fighting tooth and claw
Knocked villains on their backs.

(In case I was not clear before,
The bear was not a metaphor.)

Vincente was there too, I think
Somewhere far in the back.
From deep within the shaded wood
He’d launch a ’casional attack.

But it was Klippin standing tall
(Not literally) at the fore
Who bore the brunt of the assault
Till Klippin stood no more.

[musical interlude]

But Arvoreen, he loves the hin,
And he loves most of all
Those who fight for what is right
And fight until they fall.

So I, dear Bram, I laid my hands
’pon Klippin’s hairy feet
And we both felt a charge, it’s true,
And Klippin’s heart did beat.

[musical interlude reprise]

At last, the knights of foul Asmodeus
Were one by one resoundingly smote by us . . .

The wee folk and our friends!
(And then we did it again.)

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"Butterers of Men"
Passage from the Book of Arivae, by Arivae

And lo, Arivae and his Disciples did slay the foul cultists of Asmodeus, though the Weave Made Flesh suffered greatly in the trial, for mortal life is filled with both victory and anguish, peace and persecution.

At the end of the battle one cultist was still alive, by the wisdom of the devil-blooded fiend-hunter, Brother Bottom. The group questioned the cultist, but the poor fool merely laughed. The good and just Arivae—He Who Is Most Merciful Even After Being Quite Badly Burned—offered the wretched man a chance to repent from his dark god, but when again he would not answer, Brother Fox sent him to his reward in the Nine Hells. That was when they discovered the cultist’s tongue had been removed.

The Disciples returned to Coldwell, their hearts heavy, and purses also perhaps a small bit heavy. Brother Piska chatted with the horses, for those who use the Weave to speak kindly to the beasts of the land and the birds of the air will be truly blessed, and will know secrets even wise men cannot see. They headed first to Stefan Morningstar’s room, and began a completely-morally-sound inquisition of the evil lordling’s possessions. There, a safe was discovered hidden behind a Painting Most Boring, and Brother Fox cracked it open with . . . troubling efficiency.

Inside was the proof the Disciples needed: letters incriminating not just Morningstar, but also his lord father, of manipulating Annmarie and exploiting her father the mayor. There was also a book showing various economical, if not ecumenical, misdeeds.

Then to a good night’s rest at the Red Hawk Inn. The following morning, as they discussed how best to reveal the plot to Annmarie over breakfast, Brother Crow, the noble savage, performed a miracle of dairy. Arivae had never seen such a well-buttered crescent of bread—it was as if Mystra herself had buttered his roll. Truly all who bask in the love of the Weave are gifted, no matter how barren the fount.

butter-croissant-fat-weight.jpeg

On their way out, the Disciples met a man named Egor Mandrake, of the Coldwell guard, who revealed that Stefan Morningstar was alive—and had accused the Heroes Most Holy of ambushing him in the woods. Shocked that Morningstar might have been resurrected, or somehow magically replaced, the Disciples ministered the truth to Mandrake. He was a good man and he took their evidence, and left. When he returned some hours later, he admitted that his hands were officially tied. For the Morningstars were so powerful that even the letters could not condemn them. But Mandrake showed mercy on the group, and told the Disciples he would allow the team to escape.

And lo they departed, riding through the forest and following the path back to where they’d been attacked, then beyond. There on the path they met a knight of Asmodeus, who approached with evil intent. A battle broke out, and though Arivae and his Disciples were victorious, the Weave is both wise and whimsical, pattern and wildness. A squirrel was poisoned during the fight, through a flare of wild magic. As the team gathered their spoils, the poor creature’s retching did echo through the woods.

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