Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 9

Read chapter 9 (“Dalninil”) here.

Chapter Summary

Mavash’s premonition comes true, but the heroes are prepared. Jorlan is (maybe?) still full of secrets.

Chapter End Notes

Mavash is using ogham for divination, the “language of trees” of neo-pagan druidry. I drew the interpretation of the runes from John Michael Greer’s The Druidry Handbook. Basically I was like, hmm, what would you draw if you wanted to get the message of “prepare Earthbind, dumbass?”

The plant Mavash describes as a stand-in for heather is a little bit of both mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and sheep laurel (K. angustifolia).

(Also I came up with the divination as a way to explain DM Nixon giving us a long rest before fighting the dracolich, and thus the opportunity to plan out our spells).

Also worth noting: in actual play, that fight with the dracolich suuuuuucked for Mavash. I spent most of the fight either a) positioning myself, b) being Frightened, or c) on the ground. I never did succeed at casting Earthbind; it’s a STR check, and unsurprisingly dragons are STRONK.

But that doesn’t make for a very compelling story, does it?

(Jorlan did totally show up to put a potion down Mavash’s throat, though. I blame DM Nixon for the phrase “gentle fingers”)

Pretty sure that in RAW there’s not a dracolich and an illithilich waiting for you at the Tower of Araj. And Grinna is intended to be Grin, male apprentice to Vizeran.

… man, have we really never seen Mavash cast spells before? Anyway, druids being druids, I imagine the verbal and somatic components of their spells are all very individual; there’s no “magic word” that Mavash has to say to cast them, but she does have to say something personally meaningful.

(Also I totally imagine “words against fear” being the Bene Gesserit “fear is the mind killer” thing).

“Dalninil,” from the fan dictionary, means “sister.”

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 8

Read chapter 8 (“Zhaunil”) here.

Chapter Summary

“Show us,” she said, closing her eyes, “how the Lords of the Abyss came to the Underdark.”

In which the heroes learn what they need from the Gravenhollow.

Or: in which Mavash has premonitions, Jorlan is forced to be astonishingly candid, and Vizeran is an arch-bitch about Gromph Baenre.

Chapter End Notes

Quite some time has passed since this session, and my notes were shoddy, so I fabricated more here than I usually do for our sessions. While it didn’t happen precisely like this, I can assure you that Jorlan’s moment of candor is true to the actual session.

Zhaunil is the Drow word for “knowledge.”

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 7

Read chapter 7 (“Khaless”) here.

Chapter Summary

Mavash paused, sorting through feelings she’d never dared put words to before, and resigning herself to them with a sigh. “Jorlan, I think about you… a troubling amount.”

In which Mavash and Jorlan are honest about their feelings for each other, but still our boy is gonna overthink everything.

Chapter End Notes

Jal khaless zhah waela is a Drow proverb meaning “all trust is foolish,” with khaless being the word for “trust.”

I didn’t say much more than that in the original author’s note, so let me just add: this was one of my favorite chapters to write, overall. Really, any chapter where I get to go beyond “what happened in the campaign” and let these two characters talk to each other about their histories and their trauma, and how it informs their views on what is happening in the adventure.

I am narratively in love with these two <3

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 6

Read chapter 6 (“Jhinrae”) here.

Chapter Summary

“I do wonder what you would be like drunk.” Mavash’s smile broadened into a grin.

Jorlan narrowed his eyes in mirth, and said, his voice low, “You’d find me very entertaining when I’m drunk. I become, if possible, even more charismatic.”

Chapter End Notes

Jorlan being the son of Vizeran de Vir is, of course, not from the RAW adventure, although all the stuff about Vizeran being banished is. The stuff about House deVir being destroyed is canonical, as is the re-creation of House Do’Urden.

In case you saw the name of Lux’s sweetie and said, “Wait, wasn’t Neheedra the medusa in the Rockblight of Blingdenstone?” YES SHE WAS. This party does one thing well, and that’s forming attachments to random NPCs we probably should have killed.

Folks, I spent so much time thinking about wine in the chapter. Starting with:why do the drow have a word for wine? and following up with Do mushrooms have enough sugar to ferment by themselves? (no) and Come to think of it, where does one get sugars in the Underdark? (it basically has to come from the surface — photosynthesis, yo).

I decided jhinrae is made with mushrooms augmented with sugar from the surface, and fermented with wild yeast/lactobacillus, in the style of sour-type beers. This beer snob imagines it tasting kind of Revival Brewing Company’s Up Ship’s Kriek, which tastes like alcoholic pickle juice and yet is AMAZINGLY GOOD.

For all that I’m a beer snob, I’ve never been blackout drunk, so please excuse any inaccuracies to the experience of being utterly shit-faced.

I recently put together a Pinterest board called “hot elf bois” (as one does), and came across this art, which is exactly how I picture Jorlan.

In case you are curious how much of my fic comes directly from the session vs. stuff I make up… it’s about 50/50. I have a pretty good memory for the session, especially if I write things down, so I can usually quote DM Nixon fairly accurately. But most of the Jorlan/Mavash one-on-one stuff is made up, because we don’t usually split the party just so I can have heartfelt roleplay with my waifu.

There is another chapter in progress, which is the logical conclusion of “Jorlan and Mavash get drunk” and in which there MAY ACTUALLY BE SNOGGING OMG. Dear reader, there was in fact snogging.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 5

Read chapter 5 (“Ssinssr’ogglirin”) here.

Chapter Summary

Light take him, Jorlan knew now what was troubling him. This feeling was familiar; it had quickened his hand on the prison door at Velkynvelve.

Sssinssr’ogglirin. Or, more crudely, vith’ogglirin. Sex rivalry.

Jealousy, in Undercommon.

In which we meet a druid who wants to devour Mavash in more than one way, Jorlan once again uses murder to solve his problems, Lux is reunited with their own waifu, and oh yeah there’s an important library or something.

Chapter End Notes

Here’s where I tweeted along with this juicy session full of pent-up jealousy.

Gaze upon Mavash in all her glory. I commissioned Kii Weatherton to do this art, and it made me love Mavash even more.

I have SO MANY notes about my inspirations for this chapter:

  • Of fucking course Jorlan is wary of possums. Have you seen them? They really are beneficial little creatures — they eat so many ticks! — but I still wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley.
  • Sladis describes a mushroom similar to genus Cantharellus, i.e. chanterelles. They are easy to identify (due to their bright orange color and false gills) and delicious, which is all I needed for ficcing purposes.
  • The creatures we fought here were core spawn out of the Wildemount book (as is the moorbounder, for that matter), which are technically aberrations, and thus don’t show up on a paladin’s Divine Sense. (Even though they do with Detect Evil and Good? *shrugs*) Creative license!
  • The Drow word for “jealousy” I wove together from two words from my faithful Drow Dictionary: “ssinssrigg,” for “love, lust, greed” (or “vith,” for “sex”), and “ogglirin,” for “rivaling.” The word sssinssrigg comes directly from canon, though the others are fan-created. I suppose I suppose I could have used that word to encompass “jealousy” in its meaning, but it’s already pretty overloaded.
  • I realize this is the first time I’ve switched POVs mid-chapter. I hope it was clear enough. I generally subscribe to the idea that the viewpoint character for a given scene should be the one with the most to lose, and oh hell that is Jorlan for that bit in the middle. Given that half the fics I read on AO3 head-hop mid-scene, confusing me terribly, I don’t think it’s so bad.
  • I totally stole the whole “scrambling the brains of pack animals to make them docile” thing from my other favorite murder elves, the Dunmer of TES, who are known to do as much to their giant sand-flea mounts for much the same purpose. The Dunmer are notably less terrible than the drow, so if they do it, I can only imagine the Ilythiiri do something similar. Seems much less complex than fucking around with House insignia like you see in the Drizzt books.
  • Apropos, I discovered I can borrow the ebook of Homeland from my library, so I am enjoying rereading it and indulging my inner 15-year-old girl. I’m a couple of chapters in, and lawd, I will never apologize for being melodramatic in this fic ever again. Pages of maudlin Jorlan maunderings are still not “Zak going out into the wilderness to deliver a Shakespearean monologue on the hell of Menzoberranzan.”
  • Also interesting to note how the seeds of Out of the Abyss were planted hundreds of years before, with the destruction of House deVir — which happens in the first chapters of Homeland. We’ll find out more about that later on in this fic, when we reach the Tower of Araj, but man that is some good worldbuilding. Unfortunately I felt like a lot of that went to waste in this adventure.
  • Jorlan being Vizeran’s son is definitely not in RAW.
  • WotC, gimme a call, I’d love to write drow for you. I need to ruin some fanboys’ childhood.
  • I guess follow me on Twitter if you want to hear me talk about mushrooms and drow? Or make a comment and I’ll reply with a random fact about this chapter. You do you.

ETA (much later): holy shit I just realized I’ve been spelling “Neheedra” wrong this whole time. I’ve been going by the name on her token in roll20, but let us say, our DM does not excel at spelling.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 4

Read chapter 4 (“Zha’linth”) here.

Chapter Summary

Her elven colleague had insisted that there were no dreams in the trance state.

Yet despite those assurances, Jorlan dreamt.

Chapter End Notes

I went back and changed a couple of small details in chapter 1 and 3, now that I know a little bit more about our boy’s lineage. (Specifically, the position of House Duskryn in Menzoberranzan, and his relation to the Matron Mother of the house, Prae’anelle).

My campaign is at least three sessions ahead of this now, so even though this wasn’t where I intended to end the chapter, I figured I’d better release it before I forgot everything that happened. No longer relevant! My campaign will be finished as of Saturday, March 18th, 2021.

Zha’linth, by the way, means “memory.” At least according to the fan dictionary!

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 3

Read chapter 3 (“Streea”) here.

Chapter Summary

I don’t want to do this, part of his mind screamed. And yet he found himself turning the poisoned drink in his hand, contemplating it like some fine vintage. It is time, another voice insisted. Do this on your own terms. Do this before you become someone worth missing.

Jorlan Duskryn, branded a traitor, learns that dying and being revivified is hard on the psyche. A certain druid manages to prevent a fatal decision.

Content warnings

This is signposted in the fic itself, but this chapter has warnings for suicidal ideation and implied/referenced sexual assault.

Chapter End Notes

I think I’ve managed to ramble at you enough in previous chapters, so hopefully this note will be short.

Because it’s relevant here, a reminder that it was Shoor, not Jorlan, who saw the business end of a black pudding in this campaign. Jorlan’s got his own scars to worry about, but they’re not nearly as much of a hindrance.

It is REALLY FREAKIN’ HARD to figure out precisely when Out of the Abyss is set in the Forgotten Realms timeline, but from what I can tell from too much time on the FR wiki, it’s somewhere between 1485 and 1491 DR. I tell a lie; after some more poking around on the FR wiki, I was able to determine it’s 1485-6 DR.

Also, yes, drow are awful, and I’m sorrynotsorry for tormenting my boy like this. But as we considered in the last session, Jorlan has likely spent his entire life pleasing powerful women in order to save his own skin, and I can imagine that leads to some not-entirely-consensual situations. And I also imagine he’s learned that seduction is a tool he can use when everything else fails.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 2

Read chapter 2 (“Og’elend”) here.

Chapter Summary

Kinyel murdered you and I had to watch, petrified, as life left your eyes.

The heroes of Velkynvelve and their semi-willing drow defector Jorlan Duskryn arrive in Mantol-Derith to find assassins on the loose, mad beholders, insanity-causing gems, and creepy-but-well-meaning Zhentarim. A battle goes very badly, bringing into sharp relief certain emotions.

Chapter End Notes

You can read my as-it-happened tweet-along of the events behind this chapter here. Many capitals. Much feels. Wow.

Also I have a problem: I have too much fun with the Drow language. I hate to be one of those authors where every third word is a completely unnecessary fantasy word, but the nouns in Drow are just SO DANG DESCRIPTIVE of the culture as a whole. (The morphology, though? Leaves something to be desired). Also I found this Drow Dictionary, which is one part the glossary from 2E’s The Drow of the Underdark, one part fan-created. Reader, I married it.

Phrases not pulled directly from that dictionary:
– vlos’calin is a compound of “vlos” (blood) and “cal” (to eat). So, “bloodsucking,” basically.
– har’shebali is a compound of “har” or “harl” (under) and “shebali” (rogue or non-noble drow). I use it to mean a lowest-of-the-low commoner, which should give you Jorlan’s opinion of the guy. Basically DM-as-Jorlan called Zilchyn an “underside leech” and I was trying to figure out how to translate that.
– k’lavulin is entirely my own invention; I was just thinking of Clavulinopsis fungus. And hey, what’s a Drow word without a few apostrophes among friends?
waela jalil = “foolish woman”

Many “DEATH BY SNU SNU” jokes were made (mostly by me) about the fact that Mavash is in fact at LEAST a foot taller than Jorlan. Drow are small, folks, and kalashtar are pretty tall. Canonically Mavash is 6’4″, and drow vary from 4’7″ to 5’5″ in height. You do the math.

In case it’s not obvious, the PCs are:
– Mavash no-last-name (she/her), kalashtar druid (Circle of the Moon).
– Gaulir Turac (he/him), dragonborn paladin of Bahamut (Oath of Devotion).
– Umbra (she/her), presents as drow, plays as Mark of Shadow elf, actually shadar-kai sorcerer (Shadow Magic)
– Luxan Grey (they/them), changeling blood hunter (Order of the Lycan).

Our fine DM Nixon who TOTALLY MURDERED MY WAIFU changed a lot A LOT about Mantol-Derith, apparently. But it meant we got to fight Xazax the Eyemonger on the shores of the Darklake instead of in a warehouse, so that was pretty cool.

Ana’Ise is a yuan-ti wizard from the Zhentarim who is meant to take the place of Davra Jassur from the RAW adventure.

“Vash,” btw, is the name of Mavash’s quori. Yes, I think of Trigun every time I write it. Look, I didn’t think I’d get this far with this character.

Finally, while this is trending in a romance-y direction, it is gonna be slowest of slow burn, not just because Jorlan is a Very Broken Dude, but also because a) I’m ace spectrum, and my elf-fancying is mostly of the mind, and b) at the end of the day I have to play D&D with these people, and I’d rather not make it awkward. Romance, yes, steamy smut, no. Sorry not sorry.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 1

If you follow me anywhere on social media, you’ll know that I am currently obsessed with my D&D 5E campaign of Out of the Abyss, run by my larp pal Nixon. It helps that my kalashtar druid character, Mavash, has developed a romantic relationship with a random drow NPC, Jorlan Duskryn — who we were probably intended to kill, but who we adopted instead.

As we got to the halfway point of the campaign, I wrote this first chapter of “Bright Future” as a one-shot, not expecting I’d write more. But the campaign just kept getting better, and the relationship between Jorlan and Mavash deepened, so I continued.

The campaign is drawing to a close, but I continue to slowly make my way through an adventure full of elf fancying, demon incursions, and characters who are good with swords and bad with words.

As I do, I have a pile of notes on each chapter I write.

And yet, I don’t love pasting a wall of text at the end of each chapter. I like the work to stand on its own, but I also think I’m too clever and can’t shut up. This “fanfic journal” was the compromise –an idea I took from pensword, a fic author whose work I enjoy.

Without further ado… all you could never want to know about “Bright Future,” chapter one.

Summary of fic

Jorlan Duskryn, now prisoner of the heroes of Velkynvelve, has left a trail of ash behind him. Lost in the surface world, with no home to return to, the druid Mavash tries to convince him of his bright future.

Based on the latter half of my playthrough of the “Out of the Abyss” adventure. But, like, with more feels, elf fancying, and spreading friendship across the Underdark.

While there are some inevitable spoilers, our campaign is very different from the rules-as-written module, and the focus here is more on characterization and emotion than plot, anyway. Don’t be scared away if you haven’t played the module!

Chapter End Notes

Thank you, first and foremost, to DM Nixon and my fellow players, for supporting my long con of making Jorlan Mavash’s waifu. I apologize if I have misremembered details about your characters or their actions.

This differences from the RAW module:

  • Jorlan isn’t disfigured in this version. I guess my DM swapped that aspect of him with Shoor? Jorlan’s still the one who was out of Ilvara’s favor and let us out of prison, though.
  • Nixon tends to turn NPCs into full DMPCs once they start traveling with us. Which is how Jorlan turned from a warrior into a rogue.
  • Obviously there’s some Eberron stuff in here — kalashtar, the quori, the kalaraq quori, etc. This all came about because my DM foolishly said “you can play any race you like, but if it’s not native to Forgotten Realms, I’ll retcon it in somehow.”
  • Likewise, I’m pretty sure that Ambergris(tle O’Maul) isn’t supposed to be in the module as written? And she’s definitely not supposed to be a priestess of Shar. But hey, she showed up in Gauntlgrym to explain Eberron stuff, including that il-Lashtavar has joined our pals the fiends of the Abyss in opposing us.
  • I was as surprised as you when I read the Gauntlgrym chapter of the mod and found out Morista Malkin of the Emerald Enclave was supposed to be a dwarf lady. In ours, it’s a dude, and he’s some sort of sylvan.
  • Our DM made Eldeth the adopted daughter of Bruenor Battlehammer, hence “princess.” It might just have been his secret plot to have less NPC Theater. He also had her take some cleric levels when our cleric PC quit the game, because while we can all heal a little, we’re usually too busy smiting things. (Literally, in Gaulir’s case)
  • Speaking of Bruenor, see if you can catch the one-off Drizzt references in here. Because we all like to joke about our misspent youths perving on drow.
  • The Eldritch Windstone is a magical item Nixon totally invented for me, because there are astonishingly few magical items that work when you’re in beast form.
  • While I appreciate the effort by WotC recently to make drow less “elves in blackface,” I reject the idea that they look like Warcraft night elves. My drow are ash grey, just like their cousins, the Dunmer of TES, my favorite murder elves.

Other random notes:

  • The amount of research I put into this fic = TOO MUCH. My elf-fancying will be accurate to the source material or it will be bullshit.
  • I’m kind of appalled that best source on drow culture and society is still the 2E book Drow of the Underdark. Which I have on my bookshelf, because let’s be real, my sexual orientation is “murder elf.” Of course I referred to it extensively here.
  • That said, I was unimpressed with what exists of a drow conlang; it was clearly not put together with anyone with any knowledge of morphology.
  • Mavash did in fact escape Velkynvelve by spider-walking down the cliffs to the pool below, with the myconid sprout Stool on her back. He may have said “wheeeeee!”
  • Before I perved on Jorlan I perved on Sarith, but Bad Things ™ happened to him.
  • Fun fact: I live in the next town over from R.A. Salvatore. This fic will not be how I introduce myself to him.