Travels through the Wild West: Books V-VIII (Epilogue)

Poll: What should be Delem's ultimate fate?

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    Travels through the Wild West: Books V-VIII (Epilogue)

    Greetings!

    Yes, it’s time for yet another thread of the ongoing Travels through the Wild West storyhour, set in the wilds of Faerûn (and occasionally elsewhere). Book IV ended with a rather dramatic plot development, so I’ve included a poll to open this thread and seek reader feedback on how you would like to see the ultimate fate of Delem handled in the story. I can’t promise I’ll go with the majority, but I’m interested to hear what you think!

    Tomorrow I’ll get up a summary of the plot thus far, and start with the prologue to Book V. New readers can find links to the other books in my signature block at the end of each post, as well as a link to the Rogues’ Gallery thread (with character stats and progressions), and a link to my website (where the whole story is archived along with a lot of other 3e and non-3e stuff I’ve written).

    Thanks to all those readers who have commented on the story thus far, with a special shout out to Horacio, Maldur, and MasterOfHeaven, my most prolific posters! Feedback, comments, and questions are always welcome, so keep it coming!

    Lazybones

    * * * * *

    Travels through the Wild West: A Forgotten Realms Story
    Book V



    The Characters:
    Lok: Earth Genasi/Half-Dwarf Fighter 8. The group’s front-line fighter, a virtual combat machine. Fights with a +2 frost battleaxe.

    Balander Calloran (“Cal”): Rock Gnome Bard 4/Illusionist 5. The group’s informal leader, small in stature but large in bravery. Died at the end of Book I, but was brought back to life through the sacrifice of his companions.

    Benzan: Tiefling Fighter 4/Rogue 3/Conjurer 1. The Jack-of-all-trades, warrior, thief, magic-user, smart-ass. Winner (narrowly edging out Lok) of the “Favorite Character in TttWW Poll” I held on the Book III thread.

    Lady Dana Ilgarten: Human Cleric 3 (Selûne)/Monk 2/Mystic Wanderer 4. Joined the companions in Book II. She is torn between her attraction to Benzan and her guilt over the recent death of Delem.
    Last edited by Lazybones; Wednesday, 4th June, 2003 at 11:21 PM.

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    Horacio has arrived!

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    So have I !


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    Good to see the start of the next book. I'm looking forward to seeing more of their adventures.

    My vote was for the "Returns as a villain, warped by the abyss."

    I think he's a GREAT candidate for the Acolyte of the Skin PrC from Tome & Blood...

    Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to seeing more of this great story hour!

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    New Book!

    Yes, it is I, the story hour lurker. LB, great job writing up these adventures, really are getting better and better with time. As it’s a new book, I have to post something. Blah. Got to love FR!

    Djordje

  6. #6
    Sigh. I *knew* this was going to happen. I always figured it would be too obvious if Delem was the one whose soul was "consumed by the fire, forever destroyed". The only other one that makes sense for him is the "Bane Of Nations" one, and judging from the polls options I was right. I guess Delem isn't one of the main characters anymore, he's just another villian. I *really* liked Delem, too. Sigh.


    None of the other characters are very interesting to me. Nanoc was fun, but he died too. Still, Lazybones writing style is good enough that I'll keep reading anyway. But, it's like I'm watching Star Wars and Luke Skywalker dies in Episode II. Ah well.

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    Here we go!

    * * * * *

    Background (or, What Has Come Before)

    (Book 1)

    Four companions meet by chance at a desolate crossroads west of the city of Elturel, in the Western Heartlands of Faerûn. Each of the four is a wanderer, by choice or by fate, and as they share a campsite upon an old ruin they are attacked, first by a group of brigands led by a dark cleric of Mask, and then by an ogre ghoul that had been entombed under the ruin.

    Brought together by shared danger and shared loot, the four travel eastward to Elturel, and reach the village of Dunderion. There they are drawn into a posse organized by Kevrik Telwarden, the sheriff of the village. The posse is tracking down a group of raiders who attacked a merchant caravan nearby and made off with captives that include among their number the daughter of a powerful nobleman. They follow the trail to the camp of a bandit leader named Steel Jack, who leads a mixed group of humans and hobgoblins. They defeat the bandit gang, but learn that the prisoners have already been taken elsewhere, into the Wood of Sharp Teeth. Most of the posse returns to Dunderion, but Telwarden, the trapper Cullan, and the companions press on into the wood. There they find a small fort hidden within the forest protecting a nearby silver mine. Apparently a group of hobgoblins is using prisoners as slave labor to work the mines. The small group of companions is able to liberate the mine and free the prisoners there, defeating most of the hobgoblin force in a great battle, but the hobgoblin leader, a cleric of dark gods, retreats back to the fort where the noblewoman prisoner is being held captive. The companions, worried about what the cleric will do to his prisoner, hurry after in pursuit. They overcome the few remaining defenders at the fort and confront the evil cleric, and are able to defeat him at the cost of Telwarden’s life. Saddened by the loss of the brave sheriff, but with the prisoners safe, the companions return to Dunderion.

    They next travel to Elturel, where they are honored by Lord Dhelt for their efforts and feted by the wealthy merchant and noble elites of the city. Clearly their troubles are not over, though, as assassins try to kill them right after an audience with the High Rider. Lok is able to determine that the equipment used by the assassins is from the same source as that used by the hobgoblins in the forest, leading them to track down the source of the weapons—a smithy located there in the town.

    Their investigations at the smithy lead them to a warehouse along the city’s docks, where they find clues pointing them to one of the noble houses of Elturel. They are also attacked by a shade assassin, whose strange powers nearly lead to their deaths. After defeating the shade they decide to press on that very night to the estate of the nobleman who is apparently behind the whole thing—the raids, the mining operation, and the illegal trade in weapons and silver in Elturel itself. They find the leader, all right, but it is not the nobleman, who was just a pawn, but a powerful cleric of the god Cyric. They confront the cleric, who summons a demon to help him, and overcome him. The cost is terrible, however, as Cal is killed in the battle.

    (Book 2)

    The companions have uncovered an evil plot and defeated a mighty adversary, but the victory is hollow with the loss of their friend. Lok, Benzan, and Delem elect to go to Baldur’s Gate, and seek a cleric with the power to raise Cal from the dead. They travel swiftly down the River Chionthar, fighting off an attack by kir-lanan gargoyles along the way. Once in Baldur’s Gate, they meet with the high priestess of Tymora, who agrees to raise the gnome—for a service. The companions agree to escort an emissary of the church to faraway Chult, on some unrevealed errand.

    Cal is raised, and reunited again, the companions prepare for their journey. They upgrade their equipment, but before they can leave, they are approached by the same young noblewoman they rescued from the hobgoblins in the Wood of Sharp Teeth. The young woman, Lady Dana Ilgarten, asks to accompany the companions on their journey for reasons of her own, and they reluctantly agree.

    The companions depart from Baldur’s Gate on a sailing ship, the Raindancer, along with the Tymoran emissary, a halfing cleric named Ruath. Near the Nelanther Isles they are attacked by pirates, who are repulsed after a desperate battle. The ship limps back to Velen, where the companions are accosted by thieves seeking to relieve them of some of their extra loot. Leaving a bunch of battered thieves behind, they continue their journey. The ship is attacked by a flock of strange birds that shoot bolts of lightning on the next leg of their journey, but these too are repulsed. After a stop in Memnon, the ship continues on the final leg of its journey.

    Unfortunately, a severe storm strikes the ship in the Shining Sea. Sensing that the storm is unnatural, the companions are able to discover a strange gem emanating green energy in the ship’s bilges. Unable to approach the gem without suffering ill effects, they decide to destroy it using spells and acid arrows. They are successful, but breaking the gem releases a vortex of energy that knocks them briefly unconscious. They recover to realize that the storm is gone—and that the clerics’ links to their patron gods have been dramatically weakened. Confused, they make their way up to the deck of the ship, where they realize that the stars above are unfamiliar.

    (Book 3)

    The battered ship sails to the east, where they eventually spot a large landmass to the east. A hostile encounter with raiders on large outrigger canoes leads to further damage to the Raindancer, and with the ship taking on water the companions elect to bring the battle to the raiders. They find the raider camp in a sheltered island cove, and after a brief but violent confrontation take the camp and begin repairs to the ship.

    Pressing on, they head toward the large landmass, which they’ve learned is named “The Isle of Dread” by the locals. Before they can reach a landing site, however, the Raindancer is attacked by a giant squid. The companions drive off the creature, but not before the ship is damaged beyond repair. The survivors pile into the ship’s lifeboats and travel on to the Isle, where they encounter a village of cautious but otherwise friendly natives.

    An audience with the village’s wise woman leads to a divination that reveals that the companions may be able to find a way home by traveling to the center of the island. There, according to the tales of the villagers, lies the ruined civilization of their “gods” and a magical portal known as the Well of Worlds. At this point only seven of the Raindancer crew are left, and four of them, including the ship’s captain, agree to accompany the adventurers on this quest.

    The trip into the interior reveals great dangers. The companions are attacked by a Lernean hydra, and later by a group of strange cat-men that allow them to pass only after Lok defeats their leader in single combat. Further on they find a group of lemur-like intelligent creatures named phanatons, who offer shelter and guidance to the party. While in their treetop camp Delem confesses his growing feelings for Dana, only to be rebuffed by the young woman. Stung, Delem feels the first stirrings of jealousy as he notes the way that Dana and Benzan are starting to grow closer.

    After a confrontation with a group of spider-sorcerers (araneas), the companions cross to the center of the island where a great plateau rises amidst a range of mountains. They find a rope bridge crossing a deep gorge, but while crossing they are attacked by a flight of pteranodons. Captain Horath, the brave captain of the Raindancer, falls to his death in the gorge. Later that night, a pack of dire wolves assaults the group’s camp, and another crewmember is slain.

    The companions climb the solitary peak in the center of the plateau and into the crater within. There they find another isolated village on the shores of a lake within the crater. The villagers of Mantru are also friendly, but warn the companions of a group of cannibal tribesmen who dwell on an island within the lake.

    The island, however, is their destination, and the companions go there seeking the Well. They defeat the tribesmen in an epic battle, and progress to the dungeons underneath the island. There they confront a pair of deadly creatures known as kopru, whose mental powers allow them to turn the party members against each other. The creatures are defeated, but only after the death of Ruath, the halfling cleric of Tymora. The companions find the Well shortly thereafter, and return to Faerûn worn down by the hardships they’d suffered.

    (Book 4)

    Passing through the Well of Worlds, the companions return to Faerûn. Instead of returning to Baldur’s Gate, however, they find themselves in a desolate ruin in the farthest reaches of the North. They immediately find themselves confronting a powerful lamia sorceress and her ogre guards, and win through only after a vicious battle. Realizing where they are, the companions travel to Citadel Adbar, where they rest and recover. While there, however, Lok has a vision of his people, the urdunnir, enslaved in the Underdark. Believing that the vision is a message from the god Dumathoin, Lok resolves to travel to Caer Dulthain, the shield dwarf town where he was fostered, and seek out the nearby entrance to the Underdark where his people once lived. After learning of this mission the dwarven elders of Adbar seek the aid of the companions in investigating rumors of a strong ogre force operating in that area. With a new ally, a woman ranger named Jerral, they set out once again.

    On their journey, the companions learn that the northern mountains have fallen under the sway of a powerful alliance of several orc and ogre tribes. After several confrontations they ultimately learn that this unprecedented alliance is the work of a powerful ghour demon. They confront the demon, and while they are able to drive it off, it bears with it the unconscious form of Delem. Along with prisoners freed from the iron mines of the ogres, they track the demon to the halls under Caer Dulthain, where they confront the beast in a dark chamber deep underground. The demon is slain, but their victory is soured by the discovery of Delem’s ravaged corpse.

    The story continues from there…

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    Travels through the Wild West: Book V
    Prologue


    In a dark chamber situated deep under the surface of Toril, a shadowy figure stood waiting.

    The place was devoid of light, but the tall stranger suffered no inconvenience at that absence. Had there been a torch or lantern present, an observer could have marked the black cloak that seemed to shimmer as it enveloped the figure, or the narrow features and ebon skin that marked him as one of the drow, the notorious bane of the Underdark. He—for the stranger appeared to be male—seemed apart from his surroundings, his dark eyes hooded with the thoughts churning deep within.

    The sound of bootsteps became audible, drawing rapidly nearer from one of the several passages that opened off of the chamber. The dark elf did not stir as the sound grew louder, finally resolving into the form of an armored dwarf that appeared in one of those dark entrances.

    The dwarf—or more precisely, a dark dwarf, one of the race that called themselves the duergar—strode forward with confidence to confront the dark elf. Her armor, painstakingly crafted for silence, made barely a whisper of sound as she moved, the interlocking plates of precious adamantine fitting together around her body like a second skin. She carried a short, graven staff shod at both ends with cold iron, the tip making a slight clicking sound against the hard stone of the floor with each step she took.

    The dwarf paused ten paces in front of the dark elf. With his darkvision, he could read the scowl clearly on her features as she looked up at him.

    “Greetings, Shemma,” the elf said companionably.

    “Why do you insist on wearing that form?” the dwarf replied, a hint of irritation creeping into her voice.

    The elf shrugged idly. “It suits me. But if it offends you…”

    “Bah, it is of no import. We have matters more pressing to discuss.”

    “I understand that the production from the diggings has been down of late.”

    The dwarf’s eyes narrowed slightly, and her gaze sharpened as if will alone would enable her to see into the mind of the other. “I have long been saying that the number of slaves we have remaining is insufficient for the task.”

    “Yes, you have. And perhaps, if you had paid more attention to my suggestions regarding attrition, we would not be having this conversation now.”

    “It was, and is, necessary to take steps to keep the slaves in check, properly… motivated. But I am not here to offer justifications to you, Drax. If we’re to keep to your schedule, we’re going to have to take steps.”

    “The schedule is not set by me,” the dark elf replied. “It cannot be amended, especially not at this point.”

    “Fine then. We’ll need more slaves then, and that’s that. Brute strength is enough for the grunt work, particularly in the mithral veins—those are still sound, and they should remain true long enough to suit our needs. But those gemstones you need—we’ve had some good results from our divinations, but the information we’ve collected thus far suggests that we’re going to have to go deeper—far deeper—to get what you want.”

    “And the urdunnir will not be up to this task?” the drow asked.

    “Perhaps. But we cannot afford to lose any more of them, and they are coming to realize that. It is making it difficult to deal with them.”

    “Maybe it is time for me to make a visit to the diggings,” the elf suggested. “Perhaps I can offer some alternative forms of… motivation, as you said.”

    The dwarf nodded, the corners of her mouth twisting in a slight mockery of a smile. “Very well, then. But even so…”

    “I leave the procurement of more slaves in your hands, Shemma,” the dark elf said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Perhaps that grim little assassin of yours, Grolac, and his little band…”

    Shemma’s eyes narrowed yet further, until they were mere slits fixed on the dark elf. She’d believed that Grolac’s talents had been kept secret, an ace in the hole kept as a reserve. Another lesson learned in not underestimating her “ally” in this matter.

    “If there was nothing else?” It was not quite a dismissal.

    The dwarf’s smile faded instantly into a hard grimace. Without even a farewell, she turned and tromped off into the same dark passageway through which she had entered, making somewhat more noise in her leaving than in her arrival.

    The dark elf watched her go. His expression was like an obsidian mask, betraying nothing of the thoughts or feelings underneath. He stood there, waiting, until even the echoes of the dwarf’s departure had faded.

    “You may come out now,” he finally said.

    In the empty darkness of the cavern above an even deeper shadow detached itself from the uneven crevices of the ceiling and drifted down to join the drow. It resembled a man in shape and size, but its broad wings, scaled skin, and demonic visage betrayed the otherworldly origin of the newcomer. A wickedly barbed tail that seemed to slash out reflexively at the air around it trailed behind its form as it landed on the floor and approached the dark elf from the side.

    “The cleric, she did not seem pleased,” the demon hissed, its voice a sibilant whisper that sounded like stone scraping on stone.

    “Shemma’s approval is of no importance. That she and her people deliver on their commitments, that is what concerns me.”

    “Her knowledge, her power… vital to the project.”

    The dark elf looked down at the demon, which despite its height stood hunched over, its claws dangling down to scrape on the stone of the floor. Something blazed in the elf’s dark eyes, and the demon drew itself down even further.

    “Shemma knows not to cross me,” the drow said, and there was a hint of warning in those words. “She is ambitious, and self-serving, but she’s not stupid.”

    “As you say, Great One,” the demon hissed in reply.

    “The device will be completed, and it will be ready at the appointed time,” the dark elf said, and there was no hesitation, no hint of doubt in the statement.

    The demon’s scaly head bobbed up and down, its forked tongue darting out to taste the air. “As you say,” it repeated. “Lord Tiamat will be pleased.”

    The dark elf’s eyes narrowed as it stared down at the demon once more, and then, like the dwarf before him, he turned and departed via another of the dark passages that ringed the edges of the chamber. The demon, ignored, followed belatedly behind, and soon silence fell once again over the dark place deep under the ground.

  9. #9
    Isn't Tiamat a female Dragon/Goddess? Or is this a different Tiamat? Looking forward to seeing more, as always.

  10. #10
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    MoH: Well, she's female in Dragonlance, but I believe that Tiamat in the Realms was slain by Gilgeam of the Untheric pantheon during the Time of Troubles, then replaced by a red wyrm that ascended to take up her place. I haven't gotten Faiths and Pantheons yet so my "version" as it pertains to TttWW may be a little a-canonical.

    P.S. Sorry your favorite characters fell victim to the vagaries of my plot. The idea of killing off a major character came to me around the middle of Book 4; the story was getting a little stale to me and I wanted to throw a bomb into the middle of the plot to shake up a few new hooks. I like Delem too, and I promise we haven't seen the last of him. And of course, even if I did make him a "villain," it wouldn't be as a cookie-cutter bad guy (I've tried to avoid those in this story ).

    Thanks for reading, all, and I look forward to giving you another exciting (hopefully ) book of Travels.

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