Ghosts and Xvarts

13 Mirtul 1368

The Gnolls have a stronghold to the west of Nashkel where they are holding captives, including Minsc’s witch, Dynaheir. We have prepared ourselves for an expedition, however there is still one more thing to do before we leave.

We make our way to Nashkel’s south bridge. Here we find a glowing, incorporeal man look across the bridge.

I approach it carefully. The ghost’s booming voice echoes as it talks.

Aegon: What are you? Are you some kind of ghost?

Hanaly: I’m surprised that you’re still here. Most run away or try to banish me, pretending that I’m a daemon. They throw rocks at me, and call on the names of Myrkul, Lathander, Helm or Oghma.

My name is Hanaly. Hanaly Dawnlip. The damned. Cast away from the western riverside.

Edwin: We should waste no time for worthless phantasms. There are urgent and breathing people we should deal with. (Why do we always listen to the babbling of some worthless bugs?)

Aegon: What are you doing here, Hanaly? Why are you haunting this place? Why don’t you leave the lands of the living?

Hanaly: I died here. Just near the river.

More than a hundred years ago, I lived nearby. I was young and I fell in love with a girl. She had a beautiful name. Almost as beautiful as her lips and her skin. Yvonne. Ah, so much time has passed, but I still remember the sweet scent of her skin and the aroma of her blonde hair.

She loved me too. We would always meet near the river, we would touch, kiss, taste each other as if we were the sweetest and most forbidden of all goods. We would make love.

But one night, she wasn’t there. I started to look for her. It was winter. We were to go somewhere. Together. Somewhere where we could just enjoy our time. Then I saw her. She was running on the opposite riverside. I saw something behind her. I saw beasts of fur and claws. Dreadful hounds. Wolves that found their prey.

I shouted. I wished to save her. We met on the bridge. She was wounded. I wanted to carry her away, but… I was too tired already. Then she lied to me. Lied that she never loved me. That I should *leave her*. That I was nothing but a foolish boy.

I thought we could save ourselves if we jumped into the water, that we would swim away, that the wolves would lose our scent… but we died in there. She lost too much blood. I froze to death.

But even though we are dead, we can’t be together. She is bound to the other side of the river. I can’t leave this side. We are cursed.

Aegon: How is that possible?

Hanaly: …We are cursed… I can never feel her. I can’t feel her presence just as that day the wolves couldn’t catch our scent once we fell into the water. And she… she can never say the truth. She can only lie. And we are bound to our riversides.

Aegon: There must be a way to end this.

Hanaly: Why? Why would someone alive waste time on the dead? Why would you waste time on the ashes..?

Aegon: Your… state doesn’t matter. You suffer. You spent years without your love. I don’t want you to feel the pain any longer.

Hanaly: That’s… generous.

I think I know the way to end it. I can’t cross the bridge, but if you take part of me to her, that may break the barrier. This very small part of me will become a key. Please, take my smoking pipe. It was always my lucky charm. It deserves to become the key.

Aegon: Where should I take it?

Hanaly: Take it to Yvonne. Please… you’re our last hope…

I take the pipe from his hands. Somehow it solidifies so I can carry it.

I like the idea of this being a “key”. It sort of fits with how planar travel works – anything can be a key to a portal, and these ghosts need to move on to the outer planes.

We cross the bridge to find another ghost, this time a woman.

This must be Yvonne. Her voice roars and echoes as she talks.

Aegon: I have talked to your beloved. I know that you have to lie. You *want* to reunite with him.

Yvonne: No! You’re wrong! It’s not a curse! He doesn’t love me. Hanaly… He would leave me here so I can never rest.

Aegon: He gave me this thing. Please, take it. It should help you. You’ll be able to meet him again.

Yvonne: …it’s…

She takes it, and Hanaly follows us across the bridge, his curse lifted.

Hanaly: The curse is over. Finally. I can finally meet you. Feel you. Touch… and taste.

Yvonne: It took us so long…

I can finally speak the way I want. I lied so many times. I thank you, adventurers. You saved us.

Hanaly: We can’t do much to aid you, but please. Take this pebble from the river. It may protect you. Keep it close to your heart. Goodbye.

Yvonne: We can finally rest. Together. Come, my love.

As the ghosts move on to the next realm, someone we hoped never to see again catches up to us.

He still won’t shut up.

Valerie identifies the stone Hanaly gave us. It can give the bearer a ghost like appearance.

It seems fitting to give it to Minsc. He has his own bridge to cross, so he can save his lost witch. He’s still a little bloody from the fight with the wyvern so I heal him up.

We set off on our journey to the west. Noober tries to follow us. Does he want to come with us the whole way to the Gnoll Stronghold?

Fortunately when we are far enough for him to realise we are leaving Nashkel, he leaves us alone. We travel west for nearly a full day.

14 Mirtul 1368

It starts to snow in the early morning. Helga is getting eager to find the Ogre King.

I’m getting a sense there may be some danger in this area. Edwin and I summon our mage armour.

We make our way through a pass and encounter a pair of xvarts who attack us on sight.

My sling shot takes them both down.

We press on to discover a fireplace with another xvart beside it.

Actually, a lot of xvarts…

Minsc charges to hold them back and gets hurt. I throw him my potions of healing.

Valerie puts some of the xvarts to sleep.

I launch a magic missile at the toughest looking xvart. Back in Candlekeep I read that they call these warriors “protectors”.

Verr’Sza draws his swords and starts cutting them down.

Edwin summons slimes to help us in the fight. He then falls back to avoid getting seriously hurt. The xvart’s protector starts to panic.

Uhh, we have a bigger problem than we thought…

I shouldn’t have summoned them on that side. I was hoping to take down the xvarts a few at a time, but placing those slimes there alerted a bunch more to our presence.

One of the xvarts manages to get behind our formation. I take it out with a magic missile.

Valerie and I put more of them to sleep.

Minsc takes out the xvart protectors, but one of Edwin’s slimes falls to their short blades.

I summon more reinforcements.

The xvarts respond with even more reinforcements, including a spellcaster, most likely a shaman.

I summon more help, and Valerie tries to put more of them to sleep.

This fight is getting tough. We fall back to regroup.

Helga casts a blessing on the party. If we have to fight them through the pass this should help.

We let them come to us this time.

Helga’s blessing seems to help – they fall one by one.

All that is left now is the shaman.

Or so we thought. They won’t stop coming at us.

The shaman rushes Valerie and touches her. She dies instantly.

Damn it. I really didn’t want to return to Nashkel so soon. I think the shaman had cast a cause wounds spell which was how it killed her so easily.

Minsc avenges her, cutting the shaman down. The rest of the xvarts fall to our bullets.

We drank through our potions of healing during the battle, and we are now a down a member of our party. We decide it best to make our way back to a temple and recuperate.

It costs us 200 gold pieces to raise Valerie. She says she will stay here in Nashkel while she recovers.

I would go and get Khalid and Jaheira now, but Minsc, Edwin, and Helga are all on quest timers and I’m trying not to lose anyone. When we get Dynaheir she will fill the sixth slot, assuming Edwin and Minsc manage to reconcile their differences…

We are tired after the short journey so we go to the inn to rest. This time we can afford a bit of luxury.

I don’t dream often, but tonight my visions are vivid indeed…

I find myself back amidst the stones of Candlekeep. My former home looms before me, but the gate is closed and barred. Over the walls, there is a candle in my old room, but as the light goes out, the brick surrounding the window closes together. The very walls conspire to keep me at bay.

A familiar voice startles me, though it is calm and caring. “You cannot go back this way, child. You must go on.” Gorion forms before me, and though his image should be comforting, it seems but a shade of his former self. He is dead in my dreams, as in life.

The phantom of my foster father gestures toward the blackness of the wood as though it should be inviting. Perhaps it is, in a way, but the travelling will be hard. As I think this, a smooth and obvious path becomes clear out the corner of my eye. It seems meant for me, pulls at my very being, and promises to lead me away from the life I once led. Perhaps this would be for the best, but it is a bit too convenient for my liking. I do not wish to dwell upon the loss I have endured, but neither should it be forgotten. Gorion smiles and fades away.

The pull becomes a push, but I turn away, steadfast in my new direction. The way is not quite as clear, but it is sure to be interesting nonetheless. A whisper follows as I stride away, something vestigial and sinister that I recognise, but yet have never heard. “You will learn…”

I don’t look back.

15 Mirtul 1368

When I awake I feel like I can cure others of their wounds. Not through Corellon, but through something… else…

I will learn…

I shake off the dream and the strange feeling and greet the rest of the party. We leave the inn and Edwin gets to complaining about the locals.

I snort at him.

Aegon: The observation would have nothing to do with the quarrel you had with your one-night lady friend back there, of course.

Edwin: I assure you that my observation has a purely philosophical value. It has nothing to do with the self-interested lowly wench. Yet, all theories need practical application – I suppose she could serve as an example of the outrageous attitudes here.

I shrug my shoulders.

Aegon: Say what you will, but they are good enough for me.

Edwin: Now, of course, the indiscriminitive voracity of your barbarian taste would push you to copulate with a slug, if a local intellectual pointed you to it and told you it was female. I, on another hand, require stimulating conversation, bodily hygiene and some distant trace of good manners that is deserving of my attention.

Oh Edwin. Big words aren’t going to make up for your lack of social skills.

We visit the store and sell the short swords we picked up from the xvarts before we go back to the road. We take a different route this time, trying to avoid the pass with the xvart village. If we travel south we can still make out way to the coast and find the stronghold.

After a day’s travel we find ourselves close to a waterfall…

16 Mirtul 1368

Edwin and Minsc get along as well as expected during the journey.

Minsc: Boo does not have boots to kick evil butts. So he has to chew on them. Right, Boo?

Edwin: I wonder… Perhaps a practical use for the ferret could still be found. It is too small to become a glove, and quite large for a component pouch. Plus, the colour isn’t at all stylish, Ah, I see. It will be a pin cushion. Most definitely. Since I am in need of needles, I might as well have a place to keep them.

Minsc: ARRRGGGH! The evil wizard has revealed his evil plans! He wants to kill Dynaheir, and he wants to put needles into Boo! You make Minsc very angry!

Edwin: Listen here, ranger! I shall not goad you by addressing you in plurisyllabic words. (Or address you at all, for that matter.) Rodent chews on robe again, rodent dies. Am I clear enough?

Minsc: Do not you try to confuse Minsc. Boo is a hamster, not a GOAT! If wizard will harm Boo, wizard will die. Minsc has spoken.

Edwin: Poison. Daggers. Poisonous daggers. (Yes, yes, think of pleasant things and you will not suffer stomach burns.) Fireball… Aaah…

We can hear a waterfall nearby, and there are signs of civilisation. Edwin and I prepare our mage armour again.

We spot wolves in the area, but they seem to ignore us.

We encounter a group of gnoll bandits.

Aegon: We have no money. Sorry?

Ludrug: No money? That is too bad for you. We let you go only if you win fight. Your best champion versus our best champion.

Aegon: We’re not going to fight for your amusement, you lousy mutts.

Ludrug: You will die for that!

Minsc cuts down their leader before it can even raise its halberd.

The barbarian then cleaves a second gnoll in twain.

He teaches the remaining gnolls how much he loves his sword.

I guess we know who our best champion is. The gnolls don’t carry much. Apart from their halberds we find some gold and a few gems.

This is a good sign. If there are gnolls here, we must be moving in the right direction.

We find another gnoll nearby.

Minsc takes care of it quickly.

It’s not long before we find another one.

Luckily we have an angry barbarian ranger and his hamster with us.

The next gnoll we find holds its hands up. It wants to talk to us. Minsc holds his blade ready, just in case.

Minsc: What fortress do you mean?

Ingot: The forrtrrresss to the wesssst! I wisshed to rrrroasst the captive when the otherrrs would rather let herrr live within that cellarrr! Foolss! And now my brrrethrren make me an exile frrrom my own clan! Hearrr me: I ssshall taste herrr flessh yet!

Edwin: So, she is still alive… Hurry, Aegon, before I have my prize barbecued, courtesy of those unwashed wildlings.

Ingot: Sshould roasst herrr!

Minsc: You… you wanted to *eat* sweet, fair Dynaheir?!

Ingot: “Sssweet” Dynaheirrr? Argh, if Ingot knew that, the other gnollsss would have lissstened to him. Maybe Ingot can go back and convince them now.

Minsc: You shall go nowhere, and you shall never eat Dynaheir! EVIL, MEET SWORD! SWORD, MEET EVIL! RRRRARGH!!!

Minsc loses control completely.

And Ingot loses its life.

Ingot had a gem we couldn’t identify, as well as a magical halberd that we also can’t figure out.

I miss Valerie’s Identify spells.

They also carried two scrolls. One is a Ray of Enfeeblement.

The other is a Resist Elements.

They are a bit advanced for myself and Edwin right now, so I tuck them into my scroll case.

One of the wolves in the area has taken an interest in us. It must be hungry.

Not as hungry as Minsc’s blood lust.

We come across a milestone telling us we are in the Cloud Peak Mountains. We can hear a waterfall nearby. Isn’t this where Aaron went on his picnic?

We encounter a few more gnolls but it’s nothing Minsc can’t handle.

His berserk state ends and he is worn out by it. I take some time to heal him back up.

That’s when dire wolves decide to try and eat us. These are larger, more violent wolves with orange fur. They aren’t going to be easy.

I start the fight with a magic missile.

One of the wolves bites a chunk of flesh out of Minsc.

Edwin summons slimes, giving Minsc a chance to retreat and munch on gooseberries.

One of the dire wolves falls to an bullet.

The second dire wolf rips one of Edwin’s slimes open. While it does so Verr’Sza impales it with one of his daggers.

We move closer to what must be the wolves’ nest to find a third.

Edwin directs the slime ahead of us while we form up.

The dire wolf kills it and rushes straight for me.

Minsc catches it with his sword.

The dire wolves nest turns out to be a cave.

We go inside. Thankfully there are no more wolves around.

We find a stash of gold, as well as a tiger cowrie necklace.

There is also a masterwork spear in the stash.

No one can use a spear well, so we store it in our bag of holding for now.

That was a tough battle. We take a short rest before we continue to the west. To the Gnoll Stronghold.

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