Heroes of the Dark

The Trials of Cyric the Mad
Who Counts the Cost?

Adon of Sune… Adon of Midnight.

Fizzl Whipsbang… Fizzl Tyrshand.

What is the name that means "hero?"

Was it a small kender who once gave her life for her compatriots, because it was right?  Or the healer who took his own life because in his moment of hubris he realized the weight of his crimes?

Thus parted the Heroes of the Dark, as their raised children began to shape their own destiny.

The Cyrinishad had been destroyed.  Cyric the Mad would answer for his crimes.

The damage was done.  Midnight, Goddess of Magic, lay dead, and Mystra, the Goddess of Magic, was reborn.  Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead, balanced the gray wastes and reorganized the waiting grounds of the dead to punish the wicked and exalt the honored dead.  Many changes continued to rock the Planes, but the damage that could be undone, had been.

And in the heavens, in a place that was neither Light nor Dark, an image of stars and dark mist surrounding a vast miasma of twinkling worlds that lay upon all the Planes, the Hidden One, Ao, knelt before his Masters.

"The Realms are once again secure."

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Prince of Lies, Part II
Who Mourns the Lost?

Fizzl was given a fascinating book called the Cyrinishad.

That was the day she stopped believing in anything but the awesome power of Cyric and started traveling among all the known libraries in Faerun, distributing copies.

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Prince of Lies
Who Counts the Cost?

The gods of the dark Seldarine have been returned to their Underdark homes to establish and cement their faith.  Their power remains fixed on the belief their followers manifest in their name.  Without them, a god can now wither, even fade away and die entirely.

As fledgling gods, the party remains bound to a mortal life and in need of followers to cement their future power.  Menzoberranzan may have belonged to Lolth for thousands of years, but the blink of an eye to a god is betrayed by her battle with Ellistrae and Vhaeraun, and she along with Ellistrae were cast into the Pit of Ghaunadar during the same battle.  As one power fought for the World Above, another battled for the World Below—and in the end both lost.

The demigod Zin'zarena has awakened from her sleep, free from Lolth's smothering influence, but she is effectively mortal and powerless, and watches from the sidelines as new gods seek to supplant her.

Vhaeraun has wasted no time in establishing himself as the power of the dark Seldarine.  Nevertheless he has extended an olive branch to "new friends."  But how much can the love of the God of Trickery be worth?

Meanwhile, in darker corners, another power stirs.  Not a god of Drow, the goddess Kiaransalee has also awakened, and sets in motion a series of events that will establish her as the new God of the Dead, in which case she will be the most powerful god in the World Below.

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Waterdeep, Part III
Ascendance

"Hell is your life gone wrong."

Inside the cave, the party found themselves in a gray waste, people milling about in and out of hovels as a great wailing sound originated from a great distance.  Moving forward for several hours, they found themselves lost in an abyss of gray buildings and lost people, each pleading for signs from their gods or family that make be looking for them.

"They've been waiting a long time for gods that aren't coming."  It was a familiar voice that identified what this place was.  Vedrin, lost to them many weeks before, stood alive… no, not alive… bearing the marks that caused his death.  "Don't worry, " he said, "it doesn't hurt anymore.  I scarcely notice in fact."  Then he looked them over as one of them blinked and said, "but you're not here to wait with us.  …you are still alive."

The dead, he told them, do not close their eyes.

The accusation brought a city of the dead's weight in pleas, but Vedrin led the party to safety, through twisting streets, until they reached a great spire constructed from bones, nested at the heart of the City of the Lost.

"You get good at hiding when they're looking for you here," he explained.  Vedrin died without faith, and as such it was his destiny to be buried in the Wall of the Faithless for all eternity.  The guards, tanar'i loyal to the god of the dead, would grind up mortar from dead too young to understand faith, and build a wall from their undying souls—including his.

Assisting one of the Faithless in diverting the guards, he explained, earned the same fate, which meant the party would need to step lightly.  They were now at risk themselves of never leaving.

The guards didn't need to find them, however.  The Drow, who value freedom and power above all else, declared that this fate was wrong.  All they needed to do… was kill a god.  Entering the castle yards, they found themselves among a host of tanar'i who challenged them for their impudence.  The fight was short and surprising, as one of the party extended their hand, and eldritch flame danced from her fingertips, exterminating the first tanar'i in a puff of black smoke.

Tanar'i, who desire power, but also existence, wisely took to wing and fled, as the party turned their attention on a member of their own who had exhibited the powers of the gods, which they had seen in Tantras a few nights before.

Deciding to "figure it out later," the party entered the Castle of Bone intent on slaying Myrkul, but they found him already gone, and the tablet claimed by another.  In that moment, on the mortal plane Cyric killed Myrkul and his gray waste began to fall apart.  In a pitched battle through the streets with the released tanar'i now feasting on the souls of the dead, the city itself breaking apart as the Castle of Bone collapsed under its own weight, the party miraculously found itself back on the ship.

The party completed its sojourn to Waterdeep in time to defeat the last vestiges of Bhaal's army, now under the control of one of their own turned against them.  It was when she was herself slain in the pitched battle that Cyric dashed by with the tablets and ran headlong for the celestial stair.  It was the booming voice, "ENOUGH!" that drove the entire world to its knees.

For their part in ending the Godswar, the party were elevated to godhood to build their dark Seldarine, and on their arrival they saw a curious sight… acres of unclaimed stone pillars, obelisks dedicated to as yet unknown gods, whose symbols of authority were as yet unwritten.

And beyond the sight of all, the Hidden One knelt to an even greater power as he declared, "The Realms are secure."

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Waterdeep, Part II
Ascendance

As the party begins to falter, a strange sight over the treetops calls their attention skyward.  It is a sailing ship, some sixty feet bow to stern in the shape of a massive…fish?  Not that they have ever seen a marlin, but they have seen the people who command her as they lean over the rail!

Teth and Ilithenlin have managed to resurrect an ancient Spelljammer taken by House Allevialir many centuries before, and uncovered its secrets.  With their new transportation in control, and the undead army massing beneath them suddenly losing interest in them and running toward Waterdeep, the party realizes the Tablets of Fate must be nearing the Celestial Stair, the last place where mortals can touch the planes of the gods and return at last what was stolen.

Whoever returns the tablets, they reason, we have the favor of the gods.  Envisioning a dark Seldarine pantheon, the party redoubles their efforts, only to discover the pulling call of the tablet directs them toward a small cave in a seemingly meaningless hillside.

Leaving guards aboard ship the party enters the cave, straight into the mouth of Hell itself.

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Waterdeep
Ascendance

In a pitched battle, the party found themselves outside a destroyed Tantras, and in need of transport to Waterdeep.  They set out on foot, unable to locate beasts of burden in a city trying to unbury itself from the rubble left in the wake of the destruction of Bane and Torm, the gods of Strife and Truth.

The ringing of the bell of Aylen Attricus by virtually unknown heroes saved the bulk of the city, but the lower quarters added a thousand years after the bell was placed to protect the city were decimated.

Drow are unlikely on the surface, and even less likely heroes, but their quick thinking nevertheless saved many lives, and gave several of the guard something to think about.

In a world where magic has gone insane, the more stable powers of these Drow are recognized, and they are allowed on their way without challenge, much to the chagrin of the Purple Dragons of Cormyr, who are still following them, along with mercenaries who witnessed their escape from the Dales weeks before.

Finding their way to an abandoned glade along a river, the party stumbles across an old stone statue, maintained by a lone priest of Azuth in service to his power.  The priest's magic, unlike so many others in the Realms, has not failed in the wake of the Godswar, and the party quickly learns it is because divine power has been secreted away deep within the stone under the clearing.  The statue is just a means of access.

The Drow manage, unknown to the priest, to absorb this power, and since its previous owner is not aware of the theft, they carry divine essence with them toward Waterdeep, confusing the god Myrkul and causing him to divert his plans in their direction.

Scores of undead suddenly attack, and the future looks grim indeed.

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Tantras
Questionable Surroundings

The party has celebrated the recovery of their power and the safety of their people.  Menzoberranzan is far from healed, but it has a strong future, provided the powers protecting it continue to do so.

Gods seeking the Tablets of Fate meanwhile have reached out to the leaders of Sel'rue after they participated in the attacks against Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul, and witnessed the death of the goddess Mystra.

In a world where the gods have realized they too can die, there is a more pressing desire to recover the Tablets at any cost.  Even now, three adventurers from the Dales ride a rickety raft along the River Ashaba, fleeing pursuit by men loyal to Mourngrym Amcathra.

Surely seeing them in the company of a few well-intending drow won't damage his perceptions.

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Orcs at the Gate!
Dark City Reborn

The Godswar has raged on for two years.

Menzoberranzan has been the focus of a series of complex battles as the party has returned from the northlands with yet another powerful artifact weapon for their battle, and they begin to understand their fight is with the gods themselves.

Sel'rue initially fled Menzoberranzan to Chaulssin, taking with them the majority of the Manys and the bulk of the crops of rothe and mushrooms, leaving Menzoberranzan to an uncertain future.  An immense arena took shape in the Shatters, what remained of the Manys after the near-collapse of the city caverns, and a bell regularly tolls the announcement of winners (and losers) of many a tournament.

The return of a triumphant party is darkened somewhat by what they have seen with their own eyes—a world gone mad.  Witnessing the deaths of gods has affected the party more than they could have known, and even as they return to home, they find it changed—but not as much as themselves.

Even as Chaulssin and Eryndlyn recover and rebuild, so must Menzoberranzan, host to its own gods, return from its ashes and create a new society as its gods continue to battle over the missing Tablets of Fate and their own followers.

Expelled and for the first time in the godswar running for her immortal life, Lolth is in an unaccustomed position.  She must gather new power, but she has a target.  Word travels that Lolth has injured Ellistrae and prepares to sacrifice her to the Pits of Ghaunadar beneath Waterdeep.

But before they are able to get there, word travels of an even more fantastical battle between the forces of darkness and light in the magical city of Tantras.

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Blood in the Marketplace

Menzoberranzan was a murdered husk.

The surviving denizens, without food or future, were an easy mark for the Queen of Spiders.  Lolth took an avatar of the leading priestess of the Temple of the Many, and with her newfound mortal limitations she found herself cursing the gods of the World Above for their petty squabbles, even as she saw fit to continue her own.

Death became commonplace daily, as the city succumbed to her fury, locked in an avatar and unable to return to her City of Webs and Intrigues.

Even as Chaulssin and Eryndlyn sought to undo all her damage, they found themselves falling short as the twin cities of the fallen gods entered a city filled with starving masses, men locked away in towers of disused and fallen houses as the women slowly turned inward on themselves in self-hatred.

The last stop was the Pit of Non-Believers in the center of the city, a great chasm into which was thrown the bodies of all sacrifices taken to honor Lolth, and if there had been a means the city would have been righted and level once again for the bones heaped upon it.  The bodies were mostly the children of the city, and a lie told to bolster her control of the city.

She said Sel'rue had killed the children….

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Time Passes
Journals of Godhood

Luafien, that is the name of the last child I will bring into this world being wholly drow. I was drow. I was completely mortal, I was normal, I was a girl, and more than that I was one of the youngest matrons in the history of my home.  

All of that died with the hundreds that died when tower Freth bounced off the roof of Menzoberranzan. This city was the only home I'd ever known, and it pained me to leave it behind. Wounds cut deep that day, as not only was my city lost to me but a companion as well. In a fit of pique I demanded that the Dark Maiden fix the damage done to Drizzt, and in an instant he was gone, as was all we had done to repair his once damaged mind. I had given him, them all the power to choose only to have it stripped away by petulant goddesses. Were I to voice that comparison though, I doubt Eilistraee would have meant her apology, or brought him back.  The Dark Selderine have proved to be little better than the houses of Menzoberranzan, but for their lofty ideals. 

They call me bold, but perhaps it is only that they forget what it is like to be subjugated to the whim of a mad goddess. Perhaps they never knew, they were never human, but born gods. I can only hope that those I help elevate to our growing pantheon do better. I hope I do better. Our people deserve more. 

My city, my home has welcomed me back with brutality and gore far beyond what I believed them capable of. I thought, when I was younger that        could be reasoned with. I thought… perhaps she was just misunderstood by the men we made just above slaves for her whims. I thought that we could do right for our people and serve her. I was wrong. 

She left my city in ruins, feeding our dying men and woman their own families for lack of meat. All of those killed have been returned to them, there is a benefit to the lack of a god of death. Vaerhun, Ellistraee and I spent nine days clearing away what she did in my name, to spite me. Spiders, on all of them. She'd lost control of them so everything she did, she claimed with a spider hoping it would take them back. They lost faith in her, because of her own actions. A warning, I'd even given her once. 

House Baenre still stands, though justice needs come for Trielle. After all she did to them, the city will ask for her head, I will need show them another way, or her murder will send us back to where we were two years ago. 

My heart breaks for what she did to the city I gave my mortality for. Their needs now come before mine, or I die. My followers must love me better, or I fade away, in a very tangible sense. Though, part of me reads the words that I've lived and I wonder if I've just gone mad. Perhaps I am still in tower Freth, behind the door my mother locked thirteen years ago, and all of this has just player out in my head. That would be the most rational explanation for what I've come to. After the past few years, I might almost wish it, if it weren't for the joy that I've seen. 

Heroes, legends eat at my table, sleep in our beds. Right now, I find myself in a room, in house Do'Urden. A sentence that I would never thought be possible thirteen years ago. The sounds of a girl child echo in these halls, in a way that most would have thought impossible but here it stands, truth. 

Houses have been raised, or restored. Obledra, Mizzrym, Do'Urden, Fey, and Braegan D'Arthe. Each led by a drow that values their people over themselves. Two, with men at their lead. I can only hope that Menzoberranzan will bend its mind to understand that it's working in Chul Siin. 

Would that this were all that was on my mind. 

Between the rebuilding of both cities, I have children without homes. Valen has taken them to Xorrlorlin with Ravel, and the two of them have settled somewhat in the past few weeks. I am sure that Ravel is pleased to see his sister again with her husband, as I understand it. I also have a city that relies on my physical presence to power their magic, thus is the life of a god at this point. 

Gromph Baenre has confirmed that I can imbue objects in the city centers to power them, which will allow me the ability to leave and give my followers they ability to keep going when I am not with them. It has been a gift to be able to leave without the lights going out in my wake. Two miles is not near as far as I'd like it to be sometimes. 

Juchin though was the most surprising of it. Apart from being the Demi God of War with the help of Vaerhun, he called me to the surface to aid some elves and humans that prayed to him in saving Mystra. Apparently her vessel, a vapid girl named Midnight, for all the gods, I wish that I was kidding but that is what she actually calls herself…needed help in tracking her. We found her and even freed her from Death and Murder, but that didn't stop her from rushing the stairs and being killed by Helm. He seemed saddened that he had to do it, but he did it still. 

We woke hours later in the Dales, Shadowdale I think, but honestly, I haven't the foggiest. It was bright, and they were rude. The girl, Midnight, had difficulty coming to grips with what had happened, but were I her, I would have trouble too. I had trouble of my own and did not stay to watch the trial that happened later over the death of someone they called Elminister. Drizzt mentioned the name once, and said he was a great man. I don't know much more beyond that. 

At home though, I was greeted by my usual three man inquisition, plus one older daughter who was up with Lua when the lights went out. Sahven has taken most of this in better stride than I might have at her age, but her father is fairly stable so that must have something to do with it. Regardless, it was their idea that I go through with Gromph's plan to imbue the cities, as it would stop panic in my wake if I chose to continue leaving without telling anyone. 

I swear, sometimes I fall back on old thoughts and think to scold them for being out of place, but if you had witnessed those men, full of bravado and the freedom to speak your minds, you would understand why I stay my tongue. They are entitled worries, just as I am… and I can't help but hope that these shouting matches are happening all over the city, as the men and woman of Menzoberranzan start to find even ground. 

I only hope the peace we've found here will last. 

Tomorrow, there is certain to be more changes, and I've a vested interest in sending more than one of these gods home so that I can try and give these people a relatively normal life, even if it means that those days for me are long done. 

For now, there are gods among them, and crystal spiders looking over them, and for the first time, no one needs fear them, because they are mine. 

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