Odd and Ends for Silver Marches
By Rand Sharpsword
Ed Greenwood and Jason Carl
Rand Sharpsword, collector of bits of travel and geographical information, brings you further details about the Silver Marches area. Rand provides these to supplement the information found in the Silver Marches.
Driftglobe: A Traveler's Aid
If you are considering exploring areas that get dark, consider finding and using a driftglobe. Driftglobes are very popular with adventurers of all types, and they often assist those who have such a tight traveling schedule that they cannot stop moving even when night falls.
This small sphere of thick glass radiates light on command, and it can shed daylight for up to an hour by a second command (50 charges). A third command causes the driftglobe to rise into the air and follow the creature touching it when the command is uttered, much like Tenser's floating disk. The globe floats about 6 feet above the ground within 5 feet of its owner, and it has a speed of 50 feet. It sinks to the ground if its owner moves too fast for it to keep up. The driftglobe can support up to 5 pounds of weight if some kind of sling or net were fastened over it to hold the weight. It sinks slowly back to the ground again when commanded or touched again by the creature it is following.
Caster Level: 5th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, daylight, Tenser's floating disc; Market Price: 7,200 gp; Weight: 1 lb.
Stone Giants: Those traveling through the mountains be wary. Less dangerous to the Silver Marches communities than their brethren, the stone giants tend to remain in their mountain strongholds unless some greater need forces them to enter the lowlands. It has been at least a century since a gang of stone giants last attacked a settlement in the area. Travelers in the mountain passes may find their route endangered by the sporting events these folk sometimes conduct right in the middle of the passes. The wise traveler retreats to a safer distance and waits out the game, rather than risk being pounded flat against a mountainside by a stray boulder.
Treants and Water: If you are thinking of dealing harshly with treants for whatever reason, watch out! The treants of the High Forest have learned an unusual trick: waterlogging themselves to reduce their vulnerability to fire or carrying water for firefighting in the forest. A treant must stand in a pool of water at least 2 feet deep to do this, and it requires a full-round action to absorb 100 gallons of water. Water carried in this way counts against the treant's carrying capacity.
A typical treant can carry 1,864 pounds (roughly 200 gallons) of water or less as a light load, 3,732 pounds (400 gallons) as a medium load, and up to 5,600 pounds (700 gallons) as a heavy load. To lose its fire vulnerability, the treant must carry a heavy load of water, suffering the normal penalties for doing so (refer to Chapter 9 of the Player's Handbook).
A treant can release 100 gallons of water through its leaves, bark, or roots as a standard action.
Tree Ghost Guards: Though you may already be aware of this, a force of no fewer than ten Tree Ghost warriors (CN human Bbn2) is always in the vicinity of the Grandfather Tree. So, if you have business there and aren't exactly friends with these folks, watch your backs, and don't expect an easy visit.
Tales Told around the Fire
The Dangers of the Road
--As told to me by caravan guard Melenthros
Melenthros had a bit of bard in him. At least that's what the rest of us thought. He told numerous stories around the fire when he traveled. It seemed to be his way of calming down after a long day of journeying and settling in for the evening's watch. After he lost his arm in a fray with trolls in the High Forest, he headed for Silverymoon. He mentioned that he'd be working shorter trips around there. His skills were such that the lack of an arm didn't slow him down much, but clearly he felt it was time to settle in a bit more than he had been. He told us this short tale of warning before he left us for good.
The common room of the Auvandell Arms was busy this night, Nimoeth thought. Lean and strong like an old wolf, the tavernkeeper paused in his work to survey the room in case trouble lurked. Nimoeth carried a cudgel at his belt instead of the sword he once wore as an adventurer, but he was handy in its use. He missed those days, of course -- just this morning he'd seen off a band of freebooters headed for Silverymoon.
The taproom seemed peaceful enough tonight. A dozen townsfolk and a dozen more travelers stranded by the snowstorm murmured and laughed, shouted and stomped, as if through artificial good spirits they could keep at bay the bitterly cold winds roaring down the pass. On a night such as this, no one but a fool would dare the Silverymoon Pass, and so Nimoeth had a roomful of customers to ply with hearty food and good drink. By the end of the night he'd have plenty of their gold in return. The wind moaned outside, cold and bitter, and Nimoeth found himself hoping that those adventurers had had the sense to find shelter early. Maybe he didn't miss it so much, after all.
The heavy oak door of the tavern rattled and thumped, then burst open wide as a thick-shouldered dwarf battered his way inside the room. Snow and cold blasted past his heavy form. Many of the room's denizens swore and huddled closer for warmth. "Close the door, fool!" someone snarled from one corner. Other patrons added their protests. Nimoeth straightened from the tap to hurl a friendly imprecation of his own, but the words died on his lips.
The dwarf's face and hands were deadly white. A rime of ice clung to his beard, and fine snow powdered his cloak. And he half-carried another traveler, an elven woman who lolled at his side, eyes closed, ice masking her face. The dwarf took two steps into the taproom, and then sagged down on a bench, trying to steady his companion. "Tea," he croaked. "Cider. Something hot, and now. And for Moradin's sake, someone fetch a cleric or healer."
The room fell silent. Nimoeth seized Barik, the kitchen boy, by the sleeve and pointed him toward the back door. "Quick, lad, bring Brother Thamin!" Then, as the boy slipped out to seek help, the innkeeper and his barmaids rushed over to the two frozen travelers with blankets and steaming mugs. "Here, Sir Hurwald," the innkeeper said quietly. "We'll look after her, now. Are others of your party still out in the storm?"
The dwarf looked up, grief unreadable on his frozen face. "You won't find them. Avalanche, maybe 5 miles into the pass. The mountain took them, friend."
A Description of Felbarr
--As told to me by Caravan Master Llythnul
Caravan Master Llythnul had this to say about our destination when I had the honor of working for him once. I'd not been to Citadel Felbarr at that point, and I wasn't much looking forward to it after hearing this, either. It's accurate.
Felbarr isn't the end of the world, but you can see it from there. We have to stop in Sundabar to hire on extra guards, and we always end up needing at least a third more than we can get. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we can engage the services of a party of adventurers who are headed the same way. You have to be careful about such groups, though: There's adventuring bands as will turn on you halfway to your destination, strip you of coin and cart, and leave you waiting for the dire bears to rend the flesh from your bones.
And once you finally reach the Citadel, it's all looming stone towers and massive iron spikes and more deadly traps and pitfalls than you can imagine. And smoke -- lots of stinking, foul smoke, because the dwarves vent their smelters above the ground. And all around, in every direction, nothing but screaming wilderness. But believe it or not, the folks of Felbarr are some of my best customers.
About Dogs and Experience
--As told to me by caravan guard Alena Strathford
I heard this one while at the Dancing Goat. If a lesson is to be learned with this tale, it's "never underestimate your foe," and perhaps even "dogs can make great allies." The guard who told it was a pretty thing, though she had a wicked way with dual blades. A besotted (and soused) downy-faced boy tried to show her a bit too much attention, and he found himself on the ground with both blades at his throat before he could take another breath. What made for an even better show was the great dog that landed on his chest and sat there for over an hour, keeping him down while she caroused nearby. Alena is said to have at least one dog or even wolf around her at all times.
The dogs probably saved Helver's life.
He was sound asleep, buried under a thick wool blanket against the bitter cold of the early spring night, when Fang and Knuckle set up a racket that would have roused a stone-drunk dwarf. Helver came awake in an instant, hurling aside his blanket and leaping out of his bed. Outside, the dogs' barks became snarls and growls, and now Helver heard the coarse shouts of orcs -- several of them.
He turned to the mantle and seized the old greataxe that hung above the fireplace. Its blade gleamed wickedly in the ember-light. Helver hefted the weapon once and turned to the door, but just then the whole cabin shuddered as a hulking orc kicked down Helver's front door. "You think I fear an axe in a farmer's hands?" the orc roared.
"I don't care what you think," Helver replied. He scowled and waited.
The orc roared a challenge and rushed forward brandishing a wicked-looking sword. With a mighty leap, the orc hewed straight down at Helver's skull. But Helver was not there. He twisted to one side and spun, bringing his greataxe whistling around in a deadly arc that plowed through the orc's shoulderblade and out of his chest, hammering the raider to the stone-flagged floor. Then the homesteader wrenched his axe free of the first orc and ducked beneath the wild swing of a second orc. That one caught the edge of the axe just under his chin and had most of his head taken off.
Helver wiped the blood from his face and looked up at a third orc filling his doorway. That one hesitated, glancing at the bleeding shapes sprawled on the floor of the cottage. "That's right, I killed them," Helver growled, striding forward over the body of the second one. He shook his axe at the orc in the doorway. "I've killed giants with this axe, you boar-faced oaf. How long do you think it's going to take me to kill you?"
The orc backed out of the door cautiously, then turned and ran -- but not far. Fang and Knuckle dragged him down out by the stone fence. Helver sat down in his doorway, looking out over his land at the moonlit mountains beyond. "Damn orcs," he muttered, but there was a grim smile on his lips. It was good to know that the lessons he'd learned in ten years of adventuring still remained with him.
Dangers Met While Scouting
--As told to me by caravan guard Hiran
Hiran says this happened to Morvin, a friend and compatriot of his sister Amhira, while scouting out a bunch of orc patrols. I don't know if it's the truth, but it certainly reminds you to make no moves until you know for certain what you face. Sometimes, the situation gives you no breaks, however, so you could also take away the lesson that bad things just happen and there may not be a thing you can do about it but do the best you can. Personally, I would've at least faced death with my eyes open and tried to seek a further advantage out of the situation just in case one was presented to me at such a terrible moment.
A freezing mist settled over Morvin as he crawled across the forest floor under the cover of night. The chilling fog descended so quickly that he at first believed it to be the work of an enemy sorcerer or wizard. Then he realized that the icy fog was natural in origin. This sort of phenomenon happened all the time in the Silver Marches, particularly at this time of year. Only a few minutes ago he had been navigating easily, if slowly, by the filtered starlight that seeped between the bare autumn tree branches; now he could see almost nothing.
That's just terrific, he mused. Bad enough that there's an orc patrol somewhere ahead, but now he couldn't see the orcs even if he stumbled into them! He crouched on his heels behind the dubious safety of a young birch while he took stock of his situation. A quick glance to his right and left confirmed what he suspected -- he could not see either of his companions. He ground his teeth in frustration. Without Amhira and Punarthan, this mission to scout the movements of the orc patrol stood little if any chance of success.
Suddenly Morvin's nostrils filled with a rank, bitter odor. He grimaced silently. Whatever it was smelled like a rotten carcass that had lain too long under a hot summer sun. Then it dawned on him: Orcs! Nothing else smelled so bad. He must be right on top of the patrol. But his eyes could bring him no help while the mist lingered.
Straining his ears, he held his breath while listening for some clue to the orcs' location. Then he heard it: Something moving off to his left, perhaps two or three dozen paces away. Judging from the sound, it was one, maybe two, orcs skulking through the forest. Probably separated from the rest of their patrol, Morvin mused, just like me. But what do I do now?
The question was settled for him as the noise and smell grew stronger. Carefully he loosened his sword in its scabbard and reached for the hunting dagger tucked into the top of his boot. The odor of rotting meat grew even stronger, and he could hear distinctly the deep, panting breath of one of the creatures as it struggled through the wood.
Morvin gripped his weapons tightly. He should see the orcs any second now, and he would get only one chance to attack from surprise.
Wait for it, he told himself. Wait until you see them. Wait for it. . . . Now!
Morvin exploded out of his crouch, weapons clearing their sheaths with a metallic ring that was somewhat muted by the fog. He dove forward toward the creature that loomed through the mist. His blades cut a deadly arc through the air and struck home, but it wasn't until the creature howled in surprise and pain that Morvin realized that something was totally, awfully wrong.
Not an orc. His mind registered that fact already. Too damn big. And shaggy. What the --
The ranger never saw the blow that caught him in the torso and sent him flying backward to crash against the birch tree that only a moment ago had been his shelter. He felt it, though, and felt the claws as they tore through his leather armor and shredded his flesh as though it were paper. The back of his skull slammed against the tree and his vision blurred, even as his sword dropped from his quickly numbing hands. As he slid to the ground, his mind was still working to make sense of his predicament.
A terrifying roar and another wave of the putrid odor rolled over Morvin as he tried to pick himself up off the frozen ground. His vision cleared, and now he could see the creature that towered a good 14 feet above him, its blood trickling scarlet from the scratchlike sword wound in its side.
Morvin closed his eyes as the dire bear charged.