With the upcoming council of the ruling houses, the ambitious Matron Mother of House Xaniqos is determined to make the best impression she can to prove herself worthy of her position as part of the eight ruling houses. The new-found glory of the ambitious house is slowly building up with every repair and the atmosphere is almost undrowlike positive.
Three days of relative peace have passed when, after the evening prayers, the four warriors are once again called to the chapel in full armour. They are greeted by Matron Mother Thandysha. Their next mission has to be conducted in deepest secrecy. If they are caught, they will be on their own. The Matron Mother explains the situation:
A group of highly contagious pox bearers, commanded by Vorn, calls the shots in the Ghetto of Outcasts. This guild gets its income by threatening other inhabitants and visitors with contamination with the incurable disease. The so called Pox Tax. House Xaniqos demands a share of these taxes, like House Everhate did before them. And now someone is spreading the rumor that House Xaniqos has a cure for the pox. Of course this is bad for business! Leader Vorn is suspected to be the source and has to be taken care of as soon as possible! The guild’s second in command will then step in to take over the Pox Bearers Guild.
The siblings promise to take care of this problem, after which Solaufein opens the door for them. They cross the bridge and turn left into the Ghetto of Outcasts. On their way to Vorn’s mansion, they pass beggars of many of the lower races and even some drow, most are covered in boils. Finally they arrive at their destination: a mansion which is looking surprisingly good, especially for a guild of diseased. The mansion has an upper-surface look, with two big doors in the front.
The Xaniqos drow deem it better to enter in the least conspicuous way. Phaedra spots two dark shapes exit a service door in a side alley and moves in to have a closer look. The door is ajar and when she enters, she finds herself in a bar. Four people are playing cards, while others are slumped against the wall. There is a door at each end of the room.
When Phaedra returns from getting the others, she notices one of the men has gone missing. She questions a male drow who is still sitting at the table about it, but he denies. The scout lashes out with her foot, kicking the chair from underneath the impudent dark elf.
You say there was no one else here and I say there was. Apparently one of us is lying… are you suggesting it is me, male?!
Fear flashes over his scarred face and he stammers,
Upstairs, Mistress, he went upstairs.
With a swish of her piwafwi, Phaedra straightens again, earning herself an approving glance of the cleric.
They all head through the left door of the bar and find themselves in an entry hall, a staircase on their right. After a brief inspection they discover another door which leads to a storage room, filled with barrels. Lilith tells her sister to jam the door to the bar. Then the four drow move up the stairs together, stealth no longer useful now their arrival has been announced. And indeed, upstairs a voice invites them into a large room. A smooth faced man in a piwafwi and robes is sitting behind a desk, while the drow from the downstairs bar is sitting in a chair on the right side of the room. He’s playing with a knife, his face flawed by an advanced stage of the pox. Near the door is a big muscled orc, with only a couple of marks of the disease.
Lilith addresses the man behind the desk – assuming it’s Vorn – and demands to know if he is spreading the rumours about the pox antidote. Any pretence of small talk is destroyed by the impatient tone of the cleric’s questions. Vorn soon admits it and sticks to his tale that House Xaniqos is indeed withholding the cure. As neither of them backs down, the conversation soon turns into a fight.
To make matters worse, two bugbears come running up the stairs. Daggers whoosh with astonishing accuracy and speed through the air. Alvra buries a javelin in the bugbear’s stomach. It goes down and doesn’t move again. Phaedra manages to kill the orc, while Lilith whacks the drow to the ground, but not before one of his daggers hurts the scout. The cleric is also wounded. Meanwhile Jharrath summons two earth elementals, who throw themselves into the fight. The fighter busies himself with the second bugbear, and the three drow and the elementals attack Vorn with spells and in melee. Finally Vorn goes down. His features and form change and what remains is a Doppelganger!
The younger sister searches the dead drow and finds a wristsheet. No wonder he was that quick. She takes the magic object very carefully, favouring her injured shoulder where a magical dagger is embedded.
The wizard investigates the bookshelves on the left side of the room and finds a scroll and a wand to detect magic. A faint aura triggers his interest, and after careful examination he finds a strange slot on the side of the bookcase, rune shaped. Jharraths rids Vorn’s body of magical bracers and a rapier, plus a healing potion, a scroll of confusion and a dagger. Vorn’s ring fits perfectly in the bookcase slot and when the drow turns it, a stairway opens, leading downwards. He also discovers a book on node magic, faerzess magic.
Lilith searches the desk and finds a couple of letters plus the key to a big chest in the corner. Another treasure awaits them there: two hundred gold pieces, five malachites and three pearls. The letters, addressed to Vorn, clearly indicate that House Xaniqos has a cure for the pox.
The party decides to return home, taking the exit staircase. It spirals down into an alley at the back of the house… where a big ogre awaits them with a club. It attacks and hits the already wounded Phaedra hard. In stead of fighting the creature, drawing attention to themselves, they head back to the Xaniqos mansion.
It is obvious the scout needs help, so Lilith heals her sister. Phaedra still feels sick and feverish, and her arm itches. The cleric’s face also buzzes with an uncomfortable feeling, but that slowly subsides. In another book Jharrath has found, he reads that what the sisters are experiencing, are indeed the symptoms of the pox! But – according to the book – a cleric of Lolth can remove the disease, though they will stay a bearer of the disease for life. Doppelgangers seem immune to the pox.
When they arrive home, Solaufein is already waiting and directs them towards the temple. He then alerts the Matron Mother, who listens attentively to their story. When she hears there’s an ogre on the loose, she immediately sends investigators to clear up this loose end. Thandysha is pleased with the news of Vorn’s death, the letters and the gold and gems. Phaedra and Lilith remove their armour and are examined by their mother. A spell removes the disease from the cleric, while a vial, handed over by a minotaur, cures the scout. The Matron Mother confirms Lilith’s question: House Xaniqos really does have the cure for the pox!
The four young drow pray to the Spider Queen and then head towards their rooms. Tomorrow they have to report to the City Guard and patrol the surroundings. In two days the Council Meeting will be held.