Mintiper's Chapbook - Part 1: Moonlight's Triumph

by Eric L. Boyd

mintiperMintiper Moonsilver is one of the legendary bards of the Forgotten Realms, and tales of his adventures have long been recounted around hearthfires across the North in musical, poetic, and narrative forms. Transcribed in Silverymoon's Vault of the Sages by the Keeper of the Vault, Mintiper's Chapbook is a compilation of the Lonely Harpist's ballads, poems, and tales. Selected pages of this chapbook have been annotated and passed into this chronicler's hands and shall be revealed here in a periodic column.

Moonlight's Triumph

Along Selûne's path they did walk,
Leaving no stone unturned.
A battle fought, all but six were lost,
A final triumph earned.

A nether tide swept down the pass,
In search of silver plunder.
Two hundred strong the mists did cloak,
Ready with waiting thunder.

Arching shafts flew aloft in flocks,
And boulders rained down on the field.
The tuskers' blood ran red and hot,
While nary a blade did they wield.

From yonder bluffs did lightning strike,
Reaving a scarlet furrow.
By Art lived, by reflection lost,
Freestaves laid forever low.

With cries of rage the orcs did charge,
The battle joined at last.
The waves were dashed upon the rocks,
And none did ever pass.

Five score did fall upon each blade,
Ere the nether tide receded.
And of the rocks that stood so firm,
Only bloody sand postceded.

Along Selûne's path they did walk,
Leaving no stone unturned.
A battle fought, all but six were lost,
A final triumph earned.

Excerpt from "Moonlight Paean"
Composed by Mintiper Moonsilver
Year of the Moonfall (1344 DR)


Keeper's Annotations

The valiant sacrifice of the Moonlight Men in the Battle of Turnstone Pass in defense of the Gem of the North and neighboring Everlund is justly celebrated in song and tales throughout the Moonlands. After eight splendid seasons spent roaming the North, all but six men of Mintiper's legendary company of mercenaries gave up their lives battling the orcs of the Nethertide Horde in the Year of the Boot (1343 DR). The Moonlight Paean is perhaps Mintiper's most poignant work, for it speaks of a commander's anguish as those loyal to him fight desperately for a noble cause, yet die nonetheless.

In this excerpt from the beginning of the ballad, the reference to Our Lady of Silver in the first and last stanzas suggests that Selûne in some way guided the Moonlight Men (and she may still guide Mintiper's wanderings even today). [1] The reference to "no stone unturned" is an apparent allusion to both the company's success in treasure-hunting in ruins across the North as well as the site of their last battle. Some have suggested that taken together, these two lines hint at the location of the Cairn of Moonlight, believed to lie somewhere along the length Turnstone Pass. According to such theories, the location of this barrow is revealed on certain nights when the moon is full. However, at least a score or more of treasure-seekers have failed to uncover such a site, casting doubt on any such claims. [2]

It is from the second stanza that the Nethertide horde destroyed by the Moonlight Men earned its moniker. Here "nether" has multiple connotations, suggesting the orcs' origin in the Nether Mountains, the region's ties to ancient Netheril, and the perception among humans and demihumans that orcs are a lesser species. "Tide" connotes both the overwhelming numbers faced by the Moonlight Men and the nigh endless supply of orcs that endlessly plague our land. "Silver plunder" suggests the target of the horde was Silverymoon and, to a lesser extent, Everlund. "Mists" is often used to suggest the goddess Leira, and a mantle or cloak of mist is often an allusion to the use of magical invisibility. [1] Finally, "ready with waiting thunder" matches accounts that the Moonlight Men had in their possession one or more horns of blasting, although no such devices were ever recovered or accounted for. [2]

The third stanza recounts the initial ambush launched by the Moonlight Men, as archers let fly thousands of arrows and prearranged rockslides were triggered. [3]

The next stanza suggests that the wizards of the company stood on bluffs above the pass and rained lightning bolts and other evocations down on the orcs below. "Freestaves" is a common term for mercenary wizards suggestive of trees, and the metaphorical imagery suggests that the mage corps was toppled like a forest felled by a woodsman's axe. "By reflection lost" is a curious turn of phrase considered by most scholars to be either a lament for knowledge lost or an acknowledgment that mercenary spellhurlers forego the opportunities for scholarship afforded to their more introspective colleagues. Despite common belief that the company's wizards eventually fell to a series of suicidal charges by the orcs, it is my belief that Mintiper was alluding here to a heretofore unknown battle tactic of the orcs that enabled them to hurl spells back at their caster. [4]

The following two stanzas recount the bloody battle that ensued between the orcs and the Moonlight Men, said to have outnumbered them twenty-to-one. [5] Mintiper's imagery suggests a pounding surf gradually beating rocks into sand, a metaphor that can be taken in two different ways. On one hand he is obviously celebrating the valor of the Moonlight Men, to have prevailed against such odds. On the other hand he seems to be suggesting the futility of pitting armies against the endless hordes of orcs emerging from the wastelands of the North, for no matter how strong their defenses or valiant their efforts, they will eventually be worn down. Perhaps there is a better way?

The stanzas that follow this excerpt record the entire roster of the Moonlight Men and their fates, and they are only rarely sung in full. Some of the more prominent names from these stanzas include Lord Laerlos Silmerhelve II [6], Tsaelynos of Everlund [7], and Barundar "Firebeard" Battlehammer, son of Arn, of Kelvin's Cairn [8]. A full recounting of the individual exploits of the Moonlight Men is beyond the scope of this annotation, but rest assured that their deeds are the source of countless fireside tales.

Chronicler's Footnotes

[1] Evidence of Selûne's favor persists in a magical legacy of the Battle of Turnstone Pass. All who pray to Our Lady of Silver within the confines of the pass are cloaked in a mantle of invisibility (as the 2nd level wizard spell) with respect to those who bear some trace of orcish blood, no matter how faint. The Moonmaiden's boon is not given to any individual more than once per cycle of the moon or to any individual bearing some trace of orcish blood, and it fades immediately if the recipient makes an attack against any being, regardless of whether or not the target is of orcish heritage.

[2] The Cairn of Moonlight does indeed lie within the confines of Turnstone Pass, containing the bones of some two hundred men interred by Mintiper and his five surviving comrades immediately following the battle's end. The barrow's exact location is revealed only on nights when the moon is full, and then only to those who stand in the correct spot. When the surviving Moonlight Men erected the cairn, they situated it so that its position was revealed when the moon's radiance was observed through a nigh-circular gap in a nearby stone. That landmark has since been buried under a ton of rock by Turlang's treants and allied galeb duhr, so it is unlikely even Mintiper could find the gravesite today. Interred within the Cairn are many magical items employed by the Moonlight Men, including an amulet of leadership, at least two horns of blasting, a horn of valor, a ring of armoring, a staff of thunder and lightning, and a talisman of memorization, as well as several unique items mentioned below.

[3] "Tuskers" is a regional name for orcs commonly employed in the Moonlands and the lands of Old Delzoun.

[4] The orcs of the Nethertide horde employed magical talismans fashioned of iris agate, silver, and powdered dragon bone. These talismans of spell reflection provide protection to the bearer equal to that of a minor spell turning spell (as the 4th level wizard spell of the same name) for one round. This protection is invoked by the first spell to affect the wearer of the talisman, and lasts for just that round before the talisman crumbles to dust. Only the witch doctors and shamans of the Thousand Fists tribe currently know the process of fabricating such talismans, although Kaanyr Vhok (a marquis cambion formerly of Hellgate Keep) and his legions of tanarukka (tiefling-orcs) are undoubtedly seeking to spread such secrets to tribes throughout the Nether Mountains, the Rauvin Mountains, the Greypeaks, and the Fallen Lands.

[5] There were some 4,000 orcs in the Nethertide horde and only 200 Moonlight Men standing against them. Nevertheless, their bones are but a fraction of those that litter Turnstone Pass, for horde upon horde has swept down this gorge to fall upon rich kingdoms awaiting plunder.

[6] Lord Laerlos Silmerhelve II was the only son and heir of Lord Laerlos Silmerhelve I, patriarch of House Silmerhelve of Waterdeep, and Lady Tannyth Silmerhelve. A proud and rebellious son who joined the Moonlight Men against his parent's wishes, the younger Laerlos' death shattered his mother's spirit and plunged his father into a deep melancholy from which the Silmerhelve patriarch has never fully recovered. At the time of his death, Laerlos II bore several important family heirlooms that the Silmerhelves are very keen to recover, including the Griffonlance of Goring, Nimoar's Blazing Bulwark, and the Silverhelm of the Guardian (considered a minor relic by the followers of Helm), some or all of which may still lie within the Cairn of Moonlight.

[7] Tsaelynos of Everlund was one of the brightest graduates of the Lady's College of Silverymoon in his day and a member of the clergy at the Temple of Silver Stars. He is famed for his crafting of the Starstaff of Tsaelynos and for developing wizardly versions of many spells known only to the clergy of Selûne. Seekers of arcane lore and the Moonmaiden's faithful have long wondered if the tome in which he recorded his discoveries, entitled Starsongs of Tsaelynos, was interred with the wizard-priest at the time of his death, for it was not recovered from his chambers back in Silverymoon.

[8] Barundar "Firebeard" was a shield dwarf "Wanderer", who left his home decades before Clan Battlehammer reclaimed Mithral Hall. He achieved great fame and the title of "elf-friend" by slaying Horned Wyrm of Quaervarr and only joined the Moonlight Men in the twilight of his career. None know where he buried his legendary fortune, although some whisper that his spirit might be compelled to reveal the truth.



Moonlight's Triumph

Mintiper's Chapbook