While the cleric is concentrating on her spell, the babau secretly makes its way towards Lilith and slashes in her neck with one of his stinking claw. Alvra, seeing his mistress bloodied, turns around and beheads the tanar’ri with a powerful swing of his sword.
Lilith walks over to the altar and finds Solaufein on the brink of death. Casting a full healing spell on the captain, she manages to bring him back. The information and testimony he can give might be crucial. They need to know the secrets he has yielded to House Despana. She unties Solaufein. Though his body is healed, his dazed mind will need time to recover.
The vrock keeps following the wizard and reaches for Jharrath with its beak. At that moment Leargath manages to get through its defenses and wounds the monster with his scimitar, while Jharrath retreats in full haste back towards the circle. Where the wizard can take the narrow tunnels, the vrock is forced to follow the main corridor, so Jharrath casts caustic smoke near the entrance from that side. Alvra and Leargath position themselves near the two other entrances, while the wizard walks toward the south room.
To their surprise, not one but four vrocks enter the center room. Lilith casts a dispelling screen on them, but the spell is too high to nullify. Alvra and Leargath attack the creatures with their weapons and manage to get rid of the mirror images. Aided by the cleric, the three of them fight in melee, until a swing with the cleric’s flail sends the vrock back to where it came from.
Solaufein, who is slowly coming to his senses, tells Alvra that the dungeon is a place where House Despana worships demons. They tortured him and asked him for information about the rod Dark Fate.
It was also meant as a punishment for your victory in the arena, Alvra. The warlock was the one ordering the demons, though these were not allowed to go near his room in the south.
In the other room, the knock-out potion loses its potency and the Despana warlock slowly gets up. He flees to a corridor in the back, with Phaedra in pursuit. She yells:
Don’t kill the mage!
and charges him, trying to knock him down again. Her strike is well aimed. The warlock is badly hurt but not quite dead. The Despana dark elf is getting tired of the unrelenting scout and takes a healing potion while leaning against the wall. His ebony color returns and he scowls at Phaedra. Then Jharrath enters and aims a hail of stones on the warlock. The Despana looks mangled. He focusses on Phaedra and releases an Eldritch blast.
The energy strikes the scout, but she immediately counterattacks and lashes out again. Her strike renders him unconscious once more. Phaedra binds and gags the warlock, and strips him of his possessions. On him, she finds a mithral shirt, a magic belt, the wand of fireballs and a magic ring with three gems: two still active and one spent. The scout follows the corridor where the mage tried to flee to and arrives at a hole in the ground. Apparently, this is the place where the Despana dumps the bodies of their victims.
When she returns to the south room, she finds Jharrath studying the arcane mage symbols on a door that is a few steps down.
This sealed door can only be opened in a magical way. And I don’t have the right spells for it. Perhaps…
Phaedra shows him what she found on the warlock’s body, and Jharrath recognizes the ring as a ring of spell storing. One gem is able to hold a portal, the other has a knock spell. He puts the ring on his finger and feels he now has access to the room.
The Xaniqos siblings gather in the chamber to decide what they will do next, while Leargath goes up into the warehouse to keep watch. Lilith orders her wizard brother to open the sealed door, and then drags the warlock back to the room with the pentagram circle. He is still out cold. Jharrath activates the ring’s knock spell and renders the arcane seal inactive.
Phaedra quickly opens the door and takes a peek. Inside it smells like a tomb. In the middle is an open sarcophagus with humanoid bones and a decayed armor. They seem to have belonged to a fighter. At the back of the chamber is a marble statue, and on it an upright hand. The wizard enters the room and circles the sarcophagus. A green mist rises, changing into a female elven warrior. Her face expresses utter hate for all that is living, malicious. By now the room is illuminated with a purple light that swirls around and in the hand of the statue. Phaedra and Jharrath both run from the room and try to lock the door again, but the female drow warrior escapes.
Since the spirit doesn’t attack yet, Lilith asks who she is.
My name is Qu’Chwuvain. I have been slain and they locked me up in here. What year is it? Where am I?
You are in the city of Erelhei-Cinlu.
I am from Menzoberranzan, and was a famous warrior there. Where is the mage that kept me imprisoned?
Qu’Chwuvain works herself into a frenzy, so the cleric shows her to the next room, where the mage lies bound.
Here he is, but we still need information from him!
Lilith’s words fall on deaf ears though. They have hardly left her mouth, when the spirit swoops down on the mage, pulls a spectral sword and sticks it in the warlock, over and over again. She screams and keeps on screaming until the warlock is dead, so full of anger, hate and frustration, that Phaedra runs away in fear.
Since he was an enemy of yours, I thank you. But do not cross my path again. Now take me out of here!
Jharrath points towards the exit and tells her that the draegloth is an ally, while Lilith gets her sister back and leads her away from the mage room. She then takes the wizard to the sarcophagus.
Look at that hand, Jharrath. It is getting more real!
The Xaniqos wizard takes out his wand and detects magic, originating in strong waves from the statue. A voice in his head urges him to step closer, to come and touch it, but he resists and steps back. Phaedra is also under the influence of the hand and wants to go back into the chamber. The voice whispers:
Come and touch me. I promise to bring fame and fortune to your House. With me you will rise and flourish. Come and touch me!
Phaedra desperately tries to reach the room, but with a combined effort Alvra and Lilith stop her and drag her out of harm’s way. Jharrath casts black tentacles in front of the door and they run out. Once they are past the pentagram, the evil voice of the hand gets softer, then fades.
The siblings go outside, where they meet Leargath.
What did you unleash?
Ah, just a pissed off ghost, searching for the warlock that entombed her. And that mage now is dead. By the way, could you carry him?
The draegloth grumbles, but gives in to the cleric’s request and walks out, together with the Xaniqos siblings and the Captain of the Guard. Somewhat later they arrive at their house, fatigued and wounded, but safe.
The Xaniqos fighter charges the vrock that Lilith is in combat with. He hits the demon repeatedly, after which the vrock releases spores, that bite into Alvra’s skin. Then it counterattacks with claw, beak, and talons! The drow is glad for the cleric’s protection earlier on. Lilith walks towards the monster and her touch attack leaves marks of negative energy. The creature screeches with pain. The fight rages back and forth, both sides evenly vicious in the battle, seemingly oblivious to the pain being dealt to them. Alvra is bleeding from many wounds, scratches and bite marks all over his body. When fungus starts to grow in his wounds and he feels very sick and weak, he retreats to take a potion.
The earth elemental fights valiantly, but the combined attacks of the other vrock and the mage send it back to its own plane. The demon looks up, in search of his next victim. Slowly he makes his way towards the entrance of the dungeon, where Jharrath is waiting.
Phaedra tumbles past the mage while staying clear of the circle. She lands in front of another room. Masses of blood and remains are strewn around the side chamber, the smell is awful. Behind her back, the second babau sneaks closer. Phaedra puts away her spiked chain and knocks an arrow on her short bow. When the small demon springs to attack her, she fluently steps back.
What a fine mess did you get yourself into now?
Jharrath hears breathing in his ears and smells wet dog. Leargath is back! Haughtily he replies:
I was just about to help.
He and his mirror images teleport to the circle. The device with the levers is still there, but the creature handling it is gone. Jharrath pulls several levers to try and open the portcullis for the draegloth, but he only succeeds in opening two others.
The mage takes a wand ending in a red flame, and shoots a fireball against the wall above the summoning circle. Debris rains down, but the Xaniqos are not hurt by it – including the drow on the altar, who is indeed their lost Captain of the Guard!
The enemy mage orders the vrock near the portcullis to return to the fight, and then hits Phaedra with his purple energy beam. The Xaniqos wizard recognizes this ability as a warlock’s. The enemy drow chants an invocation to destroy their potions, but fails in doing so. Then Phaedra’s arrow finds its mark, and the warlock slowly topples backward. The knock-out potion she used on her weapon worked really well.
At the same moment, Lilith inflicts critical wounds on the vrock and sends it back to the demon plane. Quickly she checks on Alvra. The potion seems to have done its job, and she casts a strong healing spell to help him recover: she needs the fighter on his feet. She then heals herself. Alvra thanks his mistress and then walks back to help Leargath. Together they lift the heavy portcullis, their muscles trembling. The powerful drow gathers his strength and manages to hold up the gate on his own for an instant. But that is enough for the draegloth, and two seconds later, he is standing next to Alvra.
The remaining vrock attacks Jharrath several times, and one by one the mirror images disappear. The wizard steps away and recasts the spell. Now there are eight wizards facing the demon. He walks backwards into a corridor and calls forth a new earth elemental, that fights the vrock for him. Jharrath then casts a spell and incendiary slime covers part of the floor.
Phaedra repeatedly jumps away from the babau, but the tanar’ri is persistent. The scout disappears in a blinding flash, dazzling the monster. That doesn’t last long though. Again he looks for her and overcomes her invisibility. She tumbles away once more, puts her bow away and takes out her spiked chain. The babau, upset with the nimble evasive scout, makes himself invisible and searches for a new victim.
The Xaniqos fighter and draegloth walk towards the summoning circle, where the vrock and the earth elemental are in close combat.
What are your wishes, Mistress?
Kill that big demon, Leargath, and if possible, do not destroy the elemental in the proces.
Lilith then casts faerie fire on their opponent and outlines his body in sparkling light. Both Alvra and Leargath attack the vrock, but they can’t seem to damage it with their weapons. The demon flutters over the green incendiary grease by flapping its wings and menacingly approaches the mage. The cleric casts a mighty dispelling spell, but the demon stays right where it is. Again under attack, the last of Jharrath’s mirror images disappears and he teleports to safety.
While Leargath is busy killing the last Despana guard upstairs, the others slowly make their way deeper into the dark passage. Phaedra, who is scouting ahead, catches a glimpse of a monster with leathery skin and red eyes. She is just about to warn the others when a scream of pain shatters the silence. Someone else is chanting, his voice rising and falling with the spell. Lilith quickly gathers her siblings in a close circle and uses a couple of spells to strengthen their party. Then the siblings follow their scout, chains softly moving against their bodies like a metal curtain.
In the distance, a purple glow lifts the darkness and a smell of decay is heavy in the air. When they turn the corner, they see a glowing summoning circle. In the middle, someone is thrashing on an altar, clearly in pain, while an arcane drow is pulling energy from his victim. Smears of blood surround the frightful scene.
Our DM used this drawing of dark cells (by Alex J. Moore) to visualize the dungeon.
The Xaniqos wizard summons an elemental to help them, but almost loses his concentration when a claw reaches for him from the dark. Almost. 😉 The earth elemental attacks the mage in the starred circle. The drow nimbly evades, chanting:
By the eight names of Lolth, I invoke thee.
By the eight dooms of the spider queen, I summon thee.
Fill my empty vessel with your profane might, your limitless power, and your inexhaustible wisdom.
With those final words, the mage draws upon the essence of a demon. His appearance changes. His body grows feathers, his head becomes a beak and he develops half wings. He turns towards the elemental and purple light shoots from his arms. The sonic force blasts right through the elemental, dealing much damage.
Calling out to the Spider Queen, Lilith creates a shimmering, magical field around her sister, brothers and herself. In the distance, they hear heavy chains rattling. Somewhere near more gates are opening!
Jharrath finds himself face to face with another demon. The tanar’ri is bent, horned, with a big mouth and claws. Acid gelly coats its slimy skin and half of its head is filled with teeth. They have found the source of the horrid smell: a babau!
Phaedra steps forward from under the portcullis and attacks the babau with her spiked weapon. She hits the demon, but the chain gets stuck in the skin. It sizzles but stays whole. She is aided by her fighter brother, who attacks the beast from the other side, but the two-handed sword attack does less damage than Alvra expected. Back in the corridor, the Xaniqos wizard casts a spell on the tanar’ri and the creature is sent back to its plane, growling, hissing and seething with rage.
There is no shortage of opponents though: two vrocks step into view near the circle, most likely as a result of the opened cages. The birdlike demons attack the elemental, but it defends itself well.
When Phaedra moves forward, she notices a device with multiple handles to the side on her left. A second babau, which is -she presumes- responsible for freeing the vrocks, is standing near it. The scout takes out her spiked chain and attacks one of the vrocks. Focusing divine power like a ray of the sun, Lilith also walks towards the circle, projecting a blast of searing light from her open palm that slams straight into the other vrock.
From the corner of her eyes, Phaedra sees the tanar’ri pull a lever, and with a loud clang the portcullis which they just passed, comes down. Alvra dives forward to be in the same corridor as his mistress, but Jharrath is trapped behind the iron gate! Quickly he casts a spell, and five more duplicate Jharrath’s appear.
The same goes for sons, by the way.
Phaedra rounds up her siblings. “I just returned from the Matron Mother. She wants us to free our Captain of the Guard immediately.” Alvra hurriedly searches for Leargath and finds him in a downstairs room. The half-demon looks up. “I hear you can use my services? Call me intrigued.” He takes his scythe. “And this, this needs to taste blood. Just make sure you stay out of my way.”
The five Xaniqos warriors make their way towards the warehouse, which is situated up against the great wall of Erelhei-Cinlu. Everyone gives them a wide berth because of the draegloth. He is very intimidating. According to their plan, the half-demon, Lilith, and Alvra will enter the warehouse through the front door, while Phaedra and Jharrath sneak inside.
When they arrive at the end of the street, they see that the warehouse has two wooden doors that open to the outside, but no windows. The cleric calls upon her deity to give them divine protection, extra strength for the fighter and herself and fortifies Alvra’s weapon. “Try to keep it quiet for now, or at least until we are inside.” The draegloth bares his teeth in a ferocious smile.
Cleric and fighter examine the entrance together. There seem to be no traps, but there is a wooden beam on the inside, barring the door. First Leargath tries to lift the bar through the slot of the door, but when that doesn’t work, the males decide to kick in the door. Their cooperation isn’t that successful though, so the half-demon tries on his own. He takes a couple of steps back and charges. The doors rattle but won’t budge. A second try only hurts his shoulder, so drow and half-demon go for it together once more. What they don’t know is that Jharrath casts one of his spells on the lock at the exact time they make contact. The doors fly open and Alvra and Leargath tumble inside.
Two drow guards – clearly not expecting this sudden entrance – attack Leargath. Seems like the wish of his scythe will be fulfilled. One of the guards tries a fire spell on the draegloth, but to no avail. Leargath now is getting in the mood, blood spraying his white mane. The screams are getting worse, only to end abruptly when the draegloth beheads his victim. One more left to play with.
When Alvra checks out the warehouse, he sees a room in the corner, several crates, barrels, and a drow mage. He charges him and swings his sword. The weapon doesn’t meet with resistance though, and the image of the mage is gone. The fighter quickly looks around and sees the same man standing in the room, laughing, a multicolored aura around him. Suddenly an illithid materializes in front of the Xaniqos fighter! The creature walks towards Alvra, but the drow’s faith does not waver and he sees through the illusion. The illithid is gone, and so is the mage’s smirk.
Lilith calls down a flamestrike, engulfing the shield guardian construct in roaring fire, and prepares another spell. The golem is badly wounded but still tries to grapple Alvra. The fighter immediately counterattacks and manages to free himself. Waiting for the right moment, the Xaniqos cleric releases a darkbolt from her hand, and the jet-black flames bring the construct to the brink of destruction. Alvra’s sword finishes him off.
Phaedra, who has checked out the exterior of the warehouse, locates a hole in the wall and sees a stairway leading down. She reasons that that might be the place House Despana keeps their prisoners and calls out to Jharrath. No sense in keeping quiet with all the ruckus that is going on inside. The wizard casts a communication spell, including both his sisters. Getting her bearings, Phaedra walks back towards the entrance. She tumbles past the golem and ends at the top of the stairs.
The mage, heavily frustrated, casts protection on himself and, surrounded by a light blue globe, walks past Alvra and Phaedra unchallenged. His will is too strong for them to overcome and the Xaniqos cannot attack him directly. Seething with frustration, the siblings watch the Despana drow. The scout whispers ‘Going downstairs, can’t hit the mage,’ and both Jharrath and Lilith hear her words through the wizard’s spell.
The scout walks into the basement and passes a portcullis. Masses of pointed chains hang from the ceiling, blocking her view. She activates a special ability that, when triggered, will dazzle the mage, so she will no longer be visible to him. Phaedra walks to the end of the corridor and hears how the chains start to move. A humanoid appears, more chains wrapped around him. It seems like the chains respond to the creature, and suddenly four chains seem to grow longer and attack and hurt Phaedra.
Alvra glances into the mage’s room and sees a desk and a bookcase. If he can’t attack the mage directly, he will try to intimidate the Despana brigand. He jumps behind him and roars “I’ll feed your balls to the rats!” As a result of this unconventional approach, the mage staggers on the stairs. The cleric, in pursuit of her sister, walks towards him. She is not impressed by the mage’s sanctuary spell and attacks him with her flail. The mage hastily retreats into the basement. Alvra searches the mage’s room. Apart from a desk and a bookcase, he discovers a big chest.
Jharrath uses his wand of magic missiles and hits the remaining arcane guard in the back, but soon realizes that the guard is no match for the half-demon. It won’t take long now. The wizard decides to go after the Despana mage. Alvra checks outside, but all seems quiet for now. “I’m going downstairs too, Leargath!”. A death gurgle announces the end of the second arcane guard.
Meanwhile, Phaedra is in combat with the kyton chain devil. She hits the creature again and again with her spiked chain, but the damage is less than expected. Then her own chain turns against her, clearly being controlled by the strange power of the chain devil, and wraps itself around her. The hooks of the chain bite into her flesh. Trying to free herself, she looks around and sees a torture device in an alcove.
The Xaniqos wizard walks through the chained corridor, peeks around the corner and recognizes the chain devil. He knows these creatures regenerate and have a high resistance to spells, so he summons a large earth elemental to fight for him instead. The elemental immediately attacks and hits the chain devil. With renewed energy, Phaedra manages to unwrap her chain, lashes out at the kyton devil and moves past their summoned ally.
Lilith and Alvra arrive downstairs too and run towards the corner to see what is happening. The fighter takes one of his javelins and aims at the chain devil. He throws so hard that the creature is impaled upon the wall. For a moment it hangs on but then it disappears back to the nine hells whence it came from.
Having lost his ally, the Despana mage wants to flee down the corridor, but Phaedra blocks his way. Jharrath quickly strips him of his protection spells and items, so the earth elemental can attack. In two mighty blows, the mage is dead.
Back at the Xaniqos mansion, the sisters immediately head towards the throne room,
where Lady Thandysha and Taldinyon are busy celebrating. Together, Lilith and Phaedra summarize what has happened since they left the Arena.
“Three guards are dead and Solaufein is missing! The tracks show that he has been taken into the ghetto of Performers.”
“Do you know who has been hired to take this hostile action against our house?”
“The Riskallus Agency, Matron Mother.”
Lady Thandysha bursts into anger. “Only assassins of House Aleval are equally good. We have to free the Captain of the Guard. He knows too much of our House!” With a visual effort, Lady Thandysha regains her self-control. “I want him back as soon as possible. Leargath will help. This insult cannot be forgiven or ignored. The element of surprise is of great importance here.”
While the others rest, Phaedra will go back to investigate the house of the assassin’s guild. When she’s about to leave, Jharrath hands her a potion of haste. She nods her thanks, adds the potion to her belt, and hastens outside. When she’s near the Riskallus guild house, she climbs on top of the adjacent building, takes the wizard’s potion and changes into a translucent and weightless puff of smoke. Her spiked chain makes a bit of noise, which fortunately causes a guard to show himself. She is not detected though.
Once inside the building, she sees an arcane guard in heavy mail, carrying a spell book. On a lower level, a male drow walks past, his white hair in a bun and a short sword strapped to his back. The elf is currently engaged in a heated argument with a priestess.
“House Despana wants results as soon as possible!”, the female drow hisses.
“And we’d love to provide you with them, Xiletha, but it would be advisable if you took a little less pleasure in torturing our prisoners. Already two of them have perished. We will take care of the last two ourselves.” They disappear down the stairs, and Phaedra returns to the roof, as her translucent form soon will dissipate.
Heavy footsteps lure her to the opposite side. A big golem stands next to two
drow of House Despana. They are no typical priestesses, but look like cult members, wearing the symbols of Lolth. Phaedra realizes that they are mostly highly devoted fighters or assassins, pledging their lives to Lolth and the clerics who serve them. A cart with Duergar merchandise pulls up front, and two persons, a bag over their heads and in chains, are locked up inside. Phaedra recognizes one of the cloaks as Xaniqos. The cart goes one way, while the group goes another. Phaedra decides to follow the prisoners.
They are taken into Despana territory, where the cart stops at a warehouse near the Great Wall. The doors open and two drow guards come out, talk to the driver and then take the prisoners inside. The warehouse is two stories high, approximately 50 feet high and 75 feet wide. Phaedra is about to return home when she hears the golem stamping in the street; the other group has arrived. The Xaniqos scout now has to hurry. Soon they will start torturing the last two prisoners.
Meanwhile back at the mansion, Alvra, whose wounds are infected, sends someone into the city of Erelhei-Cinlu to obtain healing potions. When the servant returns, the fighter asks a priestess to check out the medicine. “This might work. Where did you get them?” She addresses the servant. “At a local pharmacy, mistress.” The fighter gobbles down the smelly liquid and immediately feels better. Alvra offers his cleric sister the other potion, but she declines and tells him to save it for later. Lilith heals Jharrath and herself with spells.
After a power nap, Phaedra opens the package of the Spymaster. Inside she finds a big
scroll with a map of a cave complex. A smaller scroll in elaborate handwriting says: “Beware. We know you are hunting treasures, but they might be cursed.” The treasure map shows a location far to the north of Erelhei Cinlu, near Szith Morcane.
Might this be where the rod is? She takes the map to the Matron Mother.
“I went back to the area of Performers. The building was indeed a hide-out of the
Riskallus Agency. I was able to sneak into the building and can confirm that House Despana is behind the kidnapping. The prisoners were transferred to one of the buildings in their district. The Despana family members who took custody of our guards are dreadfangs. And they have a golem too. They want to know if we have the rod ‘Dark Fate’. Speaking of which…”
Phaedra hands over the map.
“Thank you, child, we will look into it. I see this as an attack on our House and they will feel our wrath.” Lady Thandysha makes up her mind. “We will strike back at them right now!”