Drow and Dwarf

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Spider and Stone by Jaleigh Johnson was surprisingly good. Taking place before Mystra fully returns to the world, we are re-introduced to a trio of friends: Sul, Icelin and Ruen who we first met in the novel Mistshore.

Icelin and Ruen have decided to set out from Waterdeep to try and find a cure for their spellscars. Icelin is a wild magic sorceress whose vitality and life force is sapped every time she casts a spell, and Ruen is a monk with brittle bones who can see how long a person has to live when he touches them.

Well Ruen I think is more into finding a cure than Icelin, she seems rather reluctant at times. But considering Ruen is into Icelin we can understand why he’s so gung-ho about it.

Their search takes them to what they believe to be an ancient abandoned dwarven temple in search of a artifact of Mystra called the Arcane Script Sphere. And well it turns out the dwarves who resided in the area aren’t as dead as everyone thought, and are in possession of a very powerful artifact.

The trio are taken captive and down into the dwarf city, one on the verge of being attacked by drow, and whom hold a drow spy hostage. Drawn into the politics and defense of the city, the three are now trapped until events play out.

Sul you don’t really see much of, he tends to stay in the city helping to cook and clean and care for the wounded. Icelin spends most of her days with the captured drow who is suspected to be key to EVERYTHING going on (and they’re not wrong, tho it’s a bit complicated to explain here), and Ruen goes out into the field and fights alongside the dwarves.

No great revelations or earth shattering events here really. They stop the drow from taking the city, they unravel the puzzle of the drow captive, and they stop yet another scheme of Loth’s to become the new goddess of magic.

Seriously you think she would get the hint by now.

Up next, we’re looking at Death Masks by Ed Greenwood.

THAT’S WHAT, FOUR LORDS DEAD?

Revealed in death to have been Masked Lords, three more citizens had been murdered over the preceding day and night: the Sembian wine-seller and collector Oszbur Malankar; the half-elf sorceress and artisan Dathanscza Meiril; and the moneylender, landlord, and investor Ammasker Gwelt.

All of Waterdeep now knew someone was killing the Lords of Waterdeep, one by one. Yet that was about where truth ended and speculation–however plausible–began. The broadsheets were full of wild conjecture. Who’s behind this? The ousted Lord Neverember? The Zhentarim, the Cult of the Dragon or some other Outland Power? The Xanathar? Some cabal of guilds or nobles planning a coup?

The rumors would rage on, whether the Open Lord Laeral Silverhand did something or not. That was the trouble with rumors; once loosed, they roamed free like snarling, untamed beasts, with no simple way of stopping them. And all rumors aside, Waterdeep has become . . .

     A CITY OF MURDERERS!

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A Saga in Four Parts

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Cold Steel and Secret by Rosemary Jones is a four part novella set in current Neverwinter. Think the MMO if you’ve ever played it. We’re introduced a Ruca, a spy with an intense hatred of the undead and all things Thayan.  After completing one task abroad, he returns to Neverwinter and was told to infiltrate and assess the threat of a group of locals against the current government.  A group styling themselves the Nashers.  The goal of the Nashers: find the crown of Neverwinter and through it the rightful ruler of Alagondarian blood, deposing the current Lord Neverember.  ‘Nasher’ referring to Lord Nasher Alagondar, one of the more famous leaders of the city in 1329DR and founder of the ‘royal’ line of Alagondar.

Believed to be recruited through a fencing school, Rucas infiltrates their ranks and becomes close to its mistress, perhaps using her to get through the old hurt of killing his love who had been turned undead by Thayans? Either way he learns that the Nashers are poorly organized, but smart and lucky.  Through a trail of breadcrumbs they find the crown but almost lose their lives, and in trying to keep the city going up in flames like dry tinder that the appearance of the crown would spark, Ruca unveils the true secrets of his spymaster, and his mistress: the mad lich Valindra Shadowmantle.

I love how everything is coming to a head in these stories and moving so fast. Everything ties into one another, even though we the readers are usually the only ones who can piece it together.

Anyways, Cold Steel and Secrets was a good read. My only thing with it is that it was a bit jarring sometimes where the sections chose to end off.  I’m reading…I’m reading…I’m into it…then BAM! End credits. Please insert disc 2. Wish there was one complete edition out there with all four parts together in one PDF/file, but aside from that I enjoyed it.

This next one looks interesting. Another ebook entitled Spider and Stone by Jaleigh Johnson.

Lolth—patron deity of the drow, Spider Queen, regent of the Demon Web Pits—has once again stirred the dark elves into roiling aggression against the rest of Faerûn, reveling in the chaos born from her dark schemata. This is the Rise of the Underdark.

In Iltkazar, the last subterranean kingdom of the once resplendent dwarven realm of Shanatar, King Mith Barak faces a siege of drow soldiers, spies, and assassins looking to seize the powerful city and the ancient magical artifacts hidden there.  Somewhere in the city, the Arcane Script Sphere—a mystical orb touched by Mystra, the long-dead goddess magic—calls out to heroes and adventurers, beckoning with whispers of power and knowledge. Mith Barak hears it and knows he cannot hold the artifact much longer, but fears what the drow may do with it.

Enter Icelin, Ruen, and Sull, Waterdavian wanders whose desire to understand their own spellscars sets them in search of Mystran mysteries—they hope to understand magic and thus understand its plague. As they move from town to town, city to city in search of knowledge, Icelin hears the siren call of the Arcane Script Sphere, and it draws the trio deep into rocks of the Underdark where they find themselves at the center of the struggle between the dwarves and drow.

Only King Mith Barak can initiate them into the mysteries they hope to illuminate. But first they must help him with a mystery of his own—a dark elf assassin, himself a seeker of the sphere, lies in Iltkazar’s dungeons shrouded in the mystery and magic of Lolth. Icelin might be the one to see past that shroud and determine the true goal of the Spider Queen’s schemes.

As the dark elves intensify their attacks, the trio realizes their quest for knowledge has taken them into a new and dangerous realm . . . a realm dictated by the whims of spider and stone.  

Mordenkainen’s Wisdom

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Mordekeinen’s Tome of Foes by WotC is the latest supplement to be published for 5e Dungeons and Dragons, and really it’s the first one that’s geared towards dungeon masters rather than players.

What I liked the most is that it goes through the history of the races and explains the origins of the Blood war and what it means for the demons and devils fighting in it, the fall of Loth from the pantheon of the elves and why the drow are continuously at war with their cousins, as well as what exactly happened to the duergar to make them hate and war with the other dwarf races so much.

It also explores the nuances between fey, eldarin and elves, as well as introduce the eldarain as a playable race with four racial options, as well as new subraces for tieflings and regurgitating the duergar as a player race option.

Lots of higher level and interesting monsters provided as well, including one of my favorites: the ashabai. Think dragonborn fiends with wings who serve Tiamat.  I love it because it’s a cannon enemy that can be introduced to the existing Tyranny of Dragons campaign or be used as a level appropriate encounter to extend said campaign. Plus they look freaking cool.

What I did not like about it…the fact that it regurgitated the duergar as a player race as they’re already found in SCAG, and the fact that it is geared towards DMs rather than player. I personally prefer more multi-use texts, so if you’re looking at it just for player options I would borrow a friends.  If you want it as a DM or as a player interested in the lore, go for it.

Next we’re looking at a mini series, Cold Steel and Secret by Rosemary Jones

Sent by the spy master of Neverwinter to investigate a group of rebels, Rucas Sarfael finds a worthy adversary in the beautiful fencing master Elyne. Matching wits and blades with the rebel leader, Rucas strives to prove himself and rise in the rebel ranks in part 1 of this four-part novella set in the renowned city of Neverwinter.

Spider and Driders and Devas

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Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies by Bruce R. Cordell is the second in the Sword of the Gods duet featuring the deva Damascus as he attempts to leave the events of the first book behind him and move on with his life.

But that’s easier said than done.

Haunted by the semi-ghost of a past love, the current object of his affections draws him into a mystery he cannot ignore. An important mining operation has gone dark, and his genasi princess paramour needs to know why.  So Damascus and company travel forth to find it infested with drow and driders from the Underdark.  With a quick side trip into a piece of Loth herself, the Demonweb Pits and back again, Damascus slowly but surely unravels his mystery and discovers that while he is a Sword he is also a Key.  They very key in fact, intended to free Cyric from his captivity.

With Oghma’s trapped children, an angel of the God of Lies, a thief, a princess and a priest, Damascus has his hands full without this bombshell being dropped into his lap.

But all’s well that ends well…sort of. It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. Like it’s a good place to end the series, but there is the possibility for more if that makes sense.

And if Damascus was finally able to regain all his memories and make himself whole? That would be something I would love to see.

Until then we’ll just truck along here with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes next.

This tome is built on the writings of the renowned wizard from the world of Greyhawk, gathered over a lifetime of research and scholarship. In his travels to other realms and other planes of existence, he has made many friends, and has risked his life an equal number of times, to amass the knowledge contained herein. In addition to Mordenkainen’s musings on the endless wars of the multiverse, the book contains game statistics for dozens of monsters: new demons and devils, several varieties of elves and duergar, and a vast array of other creatures from throughout the planes of existence.

A Butler’s Beginning

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I LOVED Another Name for Dawn by Paul S. Kemp. And honestly it wasn’t until the end that I realized why.  Check out his site if you want your own copy.  I think I found it there…

We start out following a young thief in Westgate as he attempts to make his break from the infamous Night Masks thieves’ guild that rules the city. That story in itself is interesting enough, but what gets me in the end is that it’s revealed this is actually a backstory for Erevis Cale, Chosen of Mask and butler to the wealthy Stormweather family of Sembia.

*insert fan girl squeal here*

I had no idea going into this that THAT is what this story was about. But we learn basically how Cale was born and raised, how he got into and then out of the Night Masks, how he took on his name because Erevis Cale was not the one he was born with, as well as we get to meet his mentor and learn just what he was taught at his hands.

Super fun, super quick read for Erevis Cale fans. Highly recommended.

Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies by Bruce R. Cordell is next.

Memories of his past incarnations haunt Demascus, even as he searches for stolen portraits that contain the trapped souls of demigods. Meanwhile, drow creep beneath the city of Airspur, intent on precipitating war between Akanûl and a rival nation. As Demascus attempts to win freedom from the ghost of his murdered lover, he agrees to thwart the drow’s secret scheme, sending him on a trail that stretches between the Demonweb, Airspur, and an island that appears on no map.

 

Multiple Ending, Multiple Lives

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The Resurrection Agent by Erin M. Evans is kinda a part of the Haunted Lands trilogy and it’s an interesting tale.

I think this one can be found on Erin M. Evan’s site if you want to check it out for yourself.

The main character is known only has the Harlot, and accompanied by a man known only as the Shepherd. Both spies, they carry the body of their spymaster Viridi to her final rest.  But Viridi made many enemies, the more powerful of whom were undead, and they accost the duo and take from them Viridi’s corpse.  And during the battle the Harlot comes face to face with one of her previous bodies.

See, Harlot’s specialty within Viridi’s network was the willingness to die and be resurrected over and over again, hence the name resurrection agent. She would leave a finger or something else of her behind with Viridi once hired, go out to complete the job, and if she was killed while doing whatever she was hired to do, they would simply resurrect her body, mind intact.  In fact it seems sometimes she was required to die to ally the suspicion those whoever hired her was trying to trap.

But on one job where she died, the vampire who’s home she left her old body behind, decided to resurrect it and make a wight out of it.

So imagine this wight is being told that it was left behind for another to live, another who stole her life and her looks and her memories. And the Harlot comes face to face with essentially herself, since she did live and die in that body only to be resurrected into a new one.  Kinda like cloning.

Anyways battle ensued, vampire makes off with Viridi’s corpse, Harlot and Shepherd track it down to vampire lair, taking one of them and several minions out in the process.  And in the end the Harlot finds the true death she didn’t realize she had been seeking.

It’s a bit of a bittersweet ending really. Harlot waxes on about how she sees the Fugue plane when she dies, and in the end instead of being scared and fighting it like so many do, the Harlot has died enough now it’s almost routine, but now she doesn’t want to come back.  She just wants to rest, and rest is what she gets.

Surprisingly moving, I almost wish there was more to it. But now we’re going to move onto Another Name for Dawn by Paul S. Kemp.

Elminster Almost Breaks

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Revenge Among Thieves by Ed Greenwood is a short story in the life of a very, very young Elminster. We never really find out what led to the events of this story, all we know is that Elminster wakes up on top of a tomb and beside the body of a woman he cared for deeply, perhaps even loved though that is not confirmed (to me at least) through the course of the story.

This is another little one that was hard to find, I can’t remember where I tracked it down, but it’s not a paper publication, and not even an ebook. Some kind of PDF file I stumbled across somewhere…

Anywoodle…

We are actually introduced to this story as ‘the darkest time’ in Elminster’s life, and I can see it. Elminster has always been harsh but fair on those occasions where he has been called to mete out justice.  He even errs on the side of mercy whenever and wherever possible.  But no mercy lies within him during this tale.

Mourning the loss of the woman, on top of the still-fresh loss of his parents, Elminster goes on what can be aptly described as a killing spree, hunting down every last member of the thieves’ guild responsible for her death and killing them.

One would think so much death and so much blood would turn one onto the wrong path. But Elminster is at his core a good person, so that combined with the intent to honor the lives and memories of those he has lost and loved kept him from walking in Manshoon’s shoes.

So yeah. Interesting little tidbit into the early life and times of the Realms most powerful and well known archmage.  We’re just going to continue on here with The Resurrection Agent by Erin M. Evans next.

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