Hei Corellon Shar-Shelevu. High God of the Seldarine. Your eyes and hand here on Abeir Toril survives and stays true.
Hail Erevan Ilesere who watched over us this night and aided us with your guile in our plot.
Hail Shevarash, lord of vengeance and retribution. You were by my side as I plunged into the icy depths of revenge.
Hail Naralis Enoreth who eased our wounds and was present during this evening of death.
Hail to the bright lady Sehanine, consort to Corellon Larethian. Your gaze has pierced the veil between worlds and judged the unworthy.
Hail to the all the Seldarine. Xara is dead.
Writing those words fills with me many emotions. Relief is chief among them, but there is also joy, sadness, and a strange emptiness. I feel completely spent, and not just from the exertions of battle. My hatred for Xara has flowed out of me into her corpse and I am left with a hollowness inside. I have spent so much of the last ten years hating and fearing her, that now she is gone I feel scoured out. Do not mistake my words. This emptiness is a good thing. It is like excising a festering wound. I hurt, but maybe now I can finally heal.
I wish to record now how it is that we managed to bring her down, not only for personal reasons, but for historical purposes. I suspect many of these details may be relevant to the future and I wish to record them now while they are fresh in my mind.
Part of the deception he disliked, and the first part of our plan, was a note that I gave to Brandis the night before. The note said that I intended to face Xara alone, without my companions, to save them from her. This was a lie, but part of our scheme was for Brandis to spread the rumor of this around the city, and to make that rumor more believable we needed everyone in our party to be convincing. There is no better way be convincing when you believe something to be the truth.
I departed the Menagerie early in the morning before everyone else. The rest of the party also left before sunrise, each with a different destination, but all with the same goal: to gather allies. Brandis and Ulik went to seek Araezra and Talanna in order to convince them of our innocence and gain their aid. Kadath and Valandra went to find Arrath, the beardless dwarf we briefly saw and have heard about. Rumors say he is a skilled warrior and we thought to recruit him to our cause as a mercenary soldier. I made for Fieldward to approach Onstal Starbrow about aid from the elven community.
Before I left for Fieldward, Ilira was generous enough to outfit me with a reasonable disguise involving a mask, which is luckily a fashionable accessory for elven women in Waterdeep, as well as an alarmingly low cut dress. Ninea outfitted me and insisted that I looked good in it. I have spent so many years covering myself that the dress felt far too revealing. Perhaps that helped make it that much more convincing a disguise. When I approached the gates to Fieldward I saw that it was Rhagaster who was on duty. He was friendly and charming when we last saw each other, so I thought I would talk to him. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to convince as many of the guard as possible of our innocence. It was only later that I would realize the consequences of this conversation.
He did not recognize me immediately and I played the part of a distressed citizen who needed the guard's help. I convinced him to accompany me to a nearby inn, the Swift Spear, where I obliquely revealed my identity. Our conversation started very seriously and over its course he revealed to me that Onstal Starbrow fathered him with a now deceased human woman and now wanted nothing to do with him. That explained the animosity between them on my first visit to the district. He also told me that Onstal saw me as a rival for his position of power in Fieldward, which is completely absurd considering I met the man for all of a few minutes. Despite the brief first encounter he has now begun to raise a faction of people against us in the city, using the misunderstanding at Blackstaff as a springboard for this movement. He did however give me enough insight into Onstal to prepare me for what ended up being a poltical negotiation.
As our conversation ended I found myself charmed by the handsome young half elf. I think I might have even flirted with him. Perhaps it was the dress I was wearing that made me act so foolishly. Still, I find I am strangely fond of him and I told him that if I survived the evening, that I hoped we could spend more time together.
My meeting with Onstal was less productive.
Upon second inspection I find that I agree with Rhagaster about him now. He is an odious and pathetic excuse of an elf, a petty bureaucrat. I flattered him, appealed to his political motivations, and made promises of my departure from the city to allay any fears he may have had about me as a rival. In the end he promised “subtle” assistance. I say he promised nothing, provided less, and is worthy of my scorn. Even if he had no animosity towards the drow and saw me as a political enemy, I offered him a true opportunity to do a service to the city of Waterdeep by bringing a dangerous criminal to justice, a criminal the city guard had yet to capture. Surely this would have raised his popularity and influence in the city and advance his agenda. He instead chose to play games and be cowardly. Now that Xara is dead, I wonder if perhaps I SHOULD try and gain power in Fieldward to oust him from his office if for no other reason than to punish him for his cravenly behavior, which is unbefitting an elf. I had no intention of doing so before, but now that he has shown what kind of man he is, it might be an amusing diversion.
When I left Fieldward is when the day began to get interesting. I was making my way back to the Menagerie through an alley when a hand reached out from the shadows and grasped my shoulder. I saw that the hand was black like a drow's, but I did not panic. If it had been Xara or anyone else who wished me dead, they would have stabbed me, not grabbed my shoulder. Also Ilira employed shadowy servants and I did not want to attack a potential new ally. I spun around and drew my rod, but did not attack. Standing in the shadows was Varzynthiir, the chain wielding assassin who had hesitated to follow Xara’s orders during the attack that killed Rote. I still did not attack. If he were here at Xara’s order I would probably be dead. I also couldn’t help remembering his hesitation when we last met.
We both stood very still for some time until he finally spoke. He claimed to have a warning to deliver: Xara was attacking the menagerie at that very moment.
My stomach sank. Here was another trap. If his warning was true then Xara was trying to lure me into facing her by doing violence on anyone I knew. She was beating the bushes, trying to flush me out, and the bushes were my allies. If his warning was a ruse, it could have been a distraction from a real threat against my friends. Either way I knew I could not do what I wanted to, which was to fly as quickly as I could to the Menagerie and blast her back into the demonweb pits from whence she came. That would be exactly what she wanted and what she expected. I made a hard decision then. I had to be cold and calculating and risk the lives of any who were at the menagerie. My stomach sank further and I felt sick.
I dismissed Varzynthiir from my presence and returned to the Swift Spear. The barmaid there confronted me about Rhagaster, who she called Star Eyes, and thought me a rival for his affections. I had no time for her shallowness, so I played to it by showing her part of my face and assuring her there was no way Rhagaster would want me. I then pressed on and flattered her, convincing her to let me make use of a private meeting room nearby. The whole time I clenched and unclenched my fists, desperately trying not to beat her senseless with my rod, but time was of the essence and I knew what I needed to do. Obviously spending so much time with Brandis is starting to have an effect on me.
Once in private I pulled out my satchel of residuum and began to prepare a sending. While applying the arcane dust to my eyes and brow in the usual way, I called up all the feelings of sorrow and loss within me. I thought on Rote’s death, my longing to return to the feywild, the injustices I have faced, and fixed those thoughts in my mind to present just the right picture. I completed the short ritual and created the psychic link with my enemy, Xara.
When doing a sending, I have found that just as you make the connection, you receive flashes of emotion from the recipient of your thoughts. Knowing it also works the other way around I disciplined my mind to present what I wanted Xara to see. I wanted her to see me feeling desperate, sad, and afraid. After enduring the rush of hatred and anger I received from her, I sent to her this thought, “Xara, you coward. This ends tonight. I challenge you to single combat. Spare my friends and face me or lose me to the feywild forever.”
I scarcely remembered her response, though having her in my mind again felt like spiders crawling all over me. I had things to do. I pulled out my potion making supplies and set to work on an elixir of invisibility. Once the first draught was bubbling I did another sending, but to an unlikely recipient.
Fayne was toying with someone sexually when I contacted her. After an initial surprise at the telepathic link she didn’t seem to mind the interruption. I told her that if she wanted a chance to kill the drow that murdered Rote to meet me at the Swift Spear in one hour. She agreed.
The time passed quickly while I worked. It seemed only a moment later that there was a knock on the door. The bar maid told me a gentleman named Lueth was here. When the person entered they wore Brandis’s face. I greeted Fayne, unfased and unamused by her illusions by now, and turned back to my work. As usual she played a game of innuendo and meaningless chatter. I ignored it and cut straight to the heart of the matter. In the end she only made sly comments about the Ruby she had given Rote, seemed amused that Kadath now carried it, and deigned to join in the fight. Wondering why I bothered to contact her I told her to leave, and she did so, with a parting insinuation that Lilten was my father as well. I ignored it and returned a farewell that suggested Brandis might be his child just as easily. Her tricks do not amuse me and even if Lilten WERE my father, it wouldn’t matter to me. Corellon and the Seldarine are the only family I need.
...and I have my friends.
Once the second potion, one of mimicry, was complete I departed and headed to the place where Brandis and I had planned to meet. It was a brothel, no surprise there, called the Blushing Mermaid in Dockward. Brandis selected it because he knew we could rent the whole place for relatively little money, it was in a seedy part of town so the sounds of a fight would not draw attention, and most importantly, it had the biggest, ugliest, rug you had ever seen. Really, I don’t know how the person who made this sealife themed weave did not go blind in the effort. It was quite hideous, but it was large enough to cover a magic circle, and that is what was important.
Brandis was already there along with the rest of the party. I continued the ruse Brandis and I had concocted by saying that I had reconsidered my idea to face Xara alone and had come to my senses. They had only needed to remain ignorant while Brandis spread the rumors, but now that we were at the place of ambush, I did not need to continue that particular deception. Kadath was not pleased, but I had more work to do and didn't have time to coddle his feelings. I also needed Valandra and Ulik’s help. I showed them the pages in my book for creating a magic circle and they were familiar enough with it that they could help me draw the marks required to cast the spell. We worked for several hours to make sure it was perfect, leaving the very last rune to be completed later.
While we worked everyone filled each other in on how their respective meetings had gone. Brandis and Ulik successfully convinced Talanna and Araezra of our innocence, but they were only able to commit to keeping the guard off our backs for several days. Ulik said that it seemed like Araezra wanted to pick up her sword and join us straight away, but Talanna reminded her of the restrictions upon them due to their position within the guard. They could not be vigilantes.
Brandis also confirmed that Xara had in fact gone to the Menagerie. I was relieved to hear that no one there was harmed. It seemed that Ilira held her own against Xara and that my sending came at an opportune moment, giving her the opportunity she needed to driver her out while she was distracted. Ulik mentioned that Xara suggested that she and Ilira share a past of some kind together. That is troubling, though Ilira has seemed to prove her friendship with a large bundle of gifts to us as aid against Xara. I hope to discuss this with her soon, though I don't intend to confront her about it. I merely wish to ascertain if there is any truth to it and if I have anything to fear from other associates of Xara's I am as yet unaware of.
Valandra and Kadath found the beardless dwarf, but they said it was very clear that he was no mercenary, but rather an unscrupulous assassin. They deemed, rightly so, that hiring him would be too risky, despite the great help he might provide. Before they found him though, someone else had found them. Luckily it was not a drow, but rather was another genasi. He fought them, claiming that they were “false heirs” and something about not being deserving of the love of a genasi woman. I admit I forget the details as I was preoccupied with the unfolding plot, but Valandra gained a curious new sword from the fallen genasi and when this is all over I intend to have them tell me what happened in more detail.
Once the circle was done Valandra and Kadath went to a private room to sleep off the exertions of their previous battle. Just after they retired I noticed a flick of shadow come in from the back of the brothel and flit upstairs. I saw a face in the shadows just before it disappeared into a room. It was Varzynthiir. Not knowing his intentions, Brandis, Ulik, and I went upstairs and tried to confront him. He was skittish and paranoid in the way of the drow and sadly roughed Brandis up a bit. He claimed I was betraying him, but I calmed him down enough that he released Brandis. Before any meaningful conversation could happen though shadow jumped through the wall. His parting words were “You know this isn’t going to work.”
I hurried back down to the rug covered magic circle, fearful of an imminent attack, but none came. We waited until late at night, near high moon, before we baited the trap. I did one last sending for the day, again to Xara, telling her where I was.
We took our positions, Ulik, Kadath, and Valandra hidden away in the private rooms while Brandis and I stayed in the common room, and waited. I had spelled the doors so that should any drow approach we would hear the sound of alley cats howling.
Instead of that noise, there came a knock at the door.
I shot Brandis a look, but he protested that he had put up a sign saying the brothel was closed for the night. All the same I did not want some bumbling sailor to be caught in the imminent battle. Brandis went to the door and saw the shape of a tall man through the cracks. When he opened it a familiar voice asked if I was inside. It was Rhagaster. How everyone but Xara seemed to know my whereabouts is a mystery apparently, though one I won't question. I hissed for Brandis to bring him inside and to shove him in the back room with Kadath and Valandra. I flung a series of epithets at him as he was hurried to the back that I couldn't help but intersperse with an embarrassing amount of gushing. The fool had come to help me and that warmed my heart, despite how stupid it was.
Once he was squared away Brandis and I put ourselves back in position and it wasn't long before we faced our fate.
We heard my eyes of alarm and in that instant both Brandis and I quaffed the potions I had created earlier. He one of mimicry to look like me, and I one of invisibility. Just after we went through our metamorphoses Xara kicked down the door. The scene that greeted her was Brandis, disguised as me, standing on a hideous rug, seemingly alone. Brandis traded threats, quips, and other pleasentries with her while we waited for her to come far enough onto the rug. She must have heard some minute creak of leather or armor from my friends, because she quickly deduced I was not alone, but that was to be expected. Brandis played it off nicely. I believe he said, “Well of course I'm not alone. Did you honestly think I'm so stupid to think you would come here without your own allies?”. He continued to ply our scheme, convincing her that my allies were there only to prevent interference in our duel. By now Xara stood just outside the edge of the circle, which still lay hidden beneath the carpet.
She did something unexpected then. She asked if I minded her using her own means of ensuring we fight uninterrupted. Brandis agreed and she pulled out a scroll. From where I stood behind Brandis I could see the scribblings on the parchment and it looked to be a ritual similar to my own magic circle. At that moment though she crossed the threshold of my circle and it was time to act. Still invisible, I threw back the edge of the rug where I stood to reveal the incomplete rune of my own circle. I quickly scratched the last few strokes of the symbol to close the circle, which was attuned only to fey creatures. The circle ignited in magic, shining through the garish carpet, and I felt its strength. I knew Xara was trapped.
This is where our brilliant plan should have worked perfectly. With the circle activated, Xara would be trapped inside and Brandis, only being half elf and not a proper fey creature, could step outside the circle, leaving her alone and helpless. Then my companions could blast her with their ranged attacks at their leisure until she was dead. I envisioned her face burning under Ulik's acid as she had once burned mine with her magics.
That is not how it played out however. Just as my circle went up, Xara completed the incantation on her scroll. Black flames erupted from my own runes and a second magic circle appeared, overlaying mine. This circle I could tell however was attuned to ALL creatures, not just fey. Brandis was trapped in the circle with Xara and none of us could help him. To make matters worse she then raised her hands and said, “You were right Suriel. I didn't come alone.” Green light flickered from her hands and the floor boards trembled. Undead horrors erupted from the floor and came for me while Xara howled with laughter. I recognized some of them as victims from the blast yesterday morning. She had crafted new minions after we had dispatched her band of drow.
These undead were fast...too fast. Before I could yell the signal for my hidden companions to attack, one of the creatures made straight for the door where they hid, broke it down, and attacked them.
The battle that ensued was a whirlwind of knives, darkness, blinding light, acid, chains, and swords. Brandis landed hit after hit on Xara, holding his own. She struck back even more viciously, wounding him badly. Rhagaster, that brave, handsome fool, felled one of the undead creatures, but took a beating himself. It didn't take long for us to shatter the undead creatures Xara had summoned, but it took its toll and Brandis was hovering on the brink of death by the time we could wade out of the bones and rotting meat.
Valandra, Ulik, and I worked furiously to try and undo her circle so we could get to Brandis before it was too late. Perhaps it was the mix of too many magics or the complexity of both circles on top of each other, but in trying to undo it, we triggered a cataclysm of magic that exploded outward, hurtling everyone outside the circle back in a blast of arcane energies.
When we looked up, her circle was gone, but so was mine. All that remained was an inky cloud of blackness that contained my unbound enemy and Brandis floating in the air in the clutch of darkness.
note to reader, below this point is the slightly modified writing of the DM, Erik Scott de Bie
We pressed the attack and struck valiantly, but to no avail--we could not find our foe in the darkness, but Xara fought unhampered. Even worse, Brandis hung suspended in the air, slowly suffocating as her dark power closed tighter around him. Finally, Ulik charged into the darkness, heedless of his own safety, and lashed out with arcane talons of magic. Xara stumbled back, the darkness following her, and Brandis fell to the floor, unconscious but freed of the grasping spell. We made to charge her immediately, but she covered her retreat with a burst of Lolth's blessing: a black web of demonic magic that sapped the life from our limbs.
I was the only one still free. I used all my binding magics and sent my angel of fire to cut off Xara's escape. Tears of fury and rage streamed down my face as I gave my all to stop this monster who had murdered so many innocents. I realized, however, that my friends were dying within Xara's conjured demonwebs, and so I abandoned the assault upon her in order to haul the fallen Rhagaster from the webs and administer healing potions to those in need.
"What are you doing, Suriel?" Xara mocked as she writhed in the conjured chains. "This is your chance to defeat me, and you would waste it on pathetic mongrels such as these?"
"I am doing what I must!" I snapped back. "I would not expect you to understand!"
Finally, as Xara stood poised on the threshold of the brothel having defeated my angel of fire and fending off all attacks, she stopped to mock me once more: "This is not ended between us, Suriel. You are not worthy, you were NEVER worthy, and I will kill and kill again and again, devouring everything that you love, until at last you BEG me for release--grkk!"
Her words cut off unexpectedly, and in the space of a breath her aura of darkness faded, only to reveal Varzynthiir--his spiked chain wrapped around her throat--holding her back from escape. She looked at him with an expression that was startled, tender, and betrayed all at once. "Treachery!" she choked out. For his part, Varzynthiir refused to meet her eye--instead, his urgent gaze was only for me, silently pleading with me to strike while I could.
All of us lashed out at her, and Xara kept deflecting and dodging, even hampered as she was by Varzynthiir's strangling chain. She viciously stabbed him once, twice--like a black widow caught in its own web--and still he held on, though his strength flagged. Finally, in one last desperate gambit I drew on all the powers of the Seldarine that would aid me. I channeled all the power that remained inside me, power gifted by Corellon himself, and gouged a tear into the fabric of the realm. When I finished a rift directly from this plane to Arvandor flashed and rippled in air. I felt the power of the gods sweep through this portal and sensed the presence of Sehanine strongly. I pulled all the power I could from that holy place, drawing forth a blast of astral wind, and sent a tornado of force straight into Xara, crushing her in its grip.
Xara gave me one last, surprisingly sorrowful glance. Then she fell limply to her knees with a crackle, and thence crashed lifeless to the floor.
The astral winds flew out from her around the chamber, billowing away the remains of her black webbing. Even filled with gore and death, the chamber offered us a sweet, crisp smell, as of a beautiful autumn morn. Then the opening to the realm of the elven gods healed itself and the wind died.
In the Seldarine-blessed stillness that followed, we could once again breathe easy.
No sooner had Xara breathed her last, however, than her body began to writhe as though with horrid life. Though she was dead, her mouth opened and she screamed in such agony as mortal creatures cannot know. We recoiled as her flesh rose in livid welts that moved across her skin, as though something skittered beneath on chattering legs. Mandibles ripped outward through her skin, and all of a sudden eight black scorpions (not spiders, as one might expect) burst from within her to rove across her corpse, biting and tearing. Seemingly alive once more, Xara screamed and batted at them, but to no avail. The scorpions seemed to be a magical effect, insubstantial, and invulnerable to attacks.
Through all the horror, Varzynthiir watched impassively, his eyes never leaving Xara's agonized movements.
Finally--seemingly after longer than anyone should have been able to stand--Xara shuddered to rest, and the scorpions continued feasting. When they were done, there was nothing left of her but black-dyed bones. The scorpions themselves faded away like shadows in a bright light. The whole process could not have taken more than a dozen heartbeats, and yet it seemed to go on forever.
The source of the conjured scorpions is unknown to me, but one thing is sure: Xara is very, very dead.