The Battle Rages

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In a flash, an arrow embeds itself in the glittering mephit. The creature flutters to the ground, where it shows remarkable resilience. Alvra throws a javelin towards the hostile archer and follows the direction of his weapon. The enemy drow tries to take cover, which brings him closer to where Phaedra is hiding on the other side of the rim. She quickly replaces her arrow with another and awaits her opportunity.

Jharrath summons another, much bigger monster, which costs him dearly. His action has alerted one of the invisible priestesses and her footsteps come closer. A whispered spell calls down another flamestrike, hitting the Xaniqos wizard head on. The blast proves almost to be the end of him. Luckily Lilith quickly manages to heal her brother, and then strides forward to confront their attacker. With his last reserves, Jharrath strips the foreign drow of a layer of her protective spells. She counterattacks by conjuring a spiritual weapon over his head. A second archer appears behind the mephit and hits the creature twice, but is is still living. Tough little thing!

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The Xaniqos priestess calls upon the Spider Queen to grant her strength and calls forth dark bolts, but the dark light sputters out, due to the drow’s inherent magical resistance when it reaches her opponent. The drow smirks and Lilith glares back, determined to make her pay. The cleric’s smile fades when the mephit uses its breath weapon and releases a ten feet cone of salt crystals. At its back, the summoned earth elemental takes on the archer, but after a quick thrust, it is sent back to its plane.

Jharrath surrounds himself with six mirror images. Suddenly a figure, dressed in black, appears behind Lilith and stabs her in the back, and another one attacks Jharrath – or so she thinks. Two mirror images shatter. Quickly the wizard calls forth another elemental, to engage the female backstabbing rogue, while the salt mephit extracts water from their surroundings, sending it as a weapon towards their opponents. But soon its powers are defeated and it is gone.

Meanwhile Alvra sees the first drow move away and charges after the elf. He hits her hard, but then hears another grating yet vaguely familiar voice behind him, dripping with hatred. It was a setup. Through charred lips from yesterday’s confrontation, the female utters the last necromantic syllables for her incantation and lays her hand on the fighter, but Alvra’s constitution proves to be too strong for the deadly spell. A bastard swords whooshes through the air afterwards, aimed at Alvra’s back. He sidesteps, assesses the situation and is soon in a life or death fight with the female fighter, while keeping an eye on the deadly cleric.

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Phaedra comes out of hiding and shoots the cleric with a poisoned arrow. She then drops her bow and takes out her spiked chain. A tangle foot bag keeps the charred cleric at bay for a while, but then the dark elf calls out to her goddess. “Slay this fighter, Lolth!” Alvra grabs the opportunity to quickly counterattack, but gets hit by a nasty spell. He barely survives and pulls back towards safety. His sister also tumbles back and takes a potion. The enemy cleric disappears in layers of mist, and Phaedra hears footsteps fading. She tracks the fleeing cleric for a while.

The priestess near Lilith starts casting, causing her magical weapon to grow larger with each second, but the Xaniqos cleric counterattacks with a spell of her own and strips away the magical enhancements. Frustrated the woman hisses and attacks Lilith with her morningstar. The Xaniqos is too heavily armored and shrugs off the attack. Lilith’s flail lashes out and hits not once, but twice. Her faith in the Spider Queen is justified, as with a powerful spell, she inflicts mortal wounds to the second cleric.

As one after the other mirror image disappears under the ferocious attack of the rogue, Jharrath summons more elementals. One of them grapples the rogue, holding her tight, while the others pound her into the ground. The wizard ends her life with Kellgore’s fire-bolts.

Alvra retraces his steps and finds his javelins. What he doesn’t find though, is one of the drow who fell in the pit earlier during the fight. He assumed he was dead, but he must have sneaked off. He walks towards Lilith and receives a full healing. “One of the drow corpses turned out to be not quite dead yet,” he reports. Lilith acknowledges him with a nod and then turns her attention towards Jharrath. Together they search through the possessions of the fallen.

 

Of Radiation Sickness and Druid Spells

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Bereft of her sight, Phaedra’s senses seem to be heightened. Cautiously she continues deeper into the cave. When she walks around the corner of the corridor on the far right side, she gets very nauseated. She looks slightly pale, even for a drow. The pungent smell of mushrooms is very heavy.

I think there’s darklight ore in here!

Her sister walks towards the opening and sees a pile of ore on the left side, a full cart and three pickaxes. It seems to be a rich vein. Lilith also feels the effect of the glowing darklight ore.

Cleaning it away won’t do any good, all is contaminated,

Phaedra says, recovering slightly. The cleric calls upon Lolth and imbues herself with magical energy that protects better against the radiation. The drow move into the corridor single file, with an earth elemental, summoned by Jharrath, up front. In the distance the glow of violet mushrooms lights the area. Notwithstanding his mask, the fighter though is very nauseated and violently sick, while the others seem to fare better.

The mushrooms seem to thrive near the ore. Perhaps we can make an anti-toxin out of it. Jharrath, take a sample later on, so we can examine it.

Just when the wizard complies, a white figure dressed in animal skin glides into the corridor, fifteen feet above the ground. He’s surrounded by a shimmering aura, wears a wicked spear and a demonic smile. After drinking a potion, his image blurs.

druid

His murmur activates the violet mushrooms into an attack on the earth elemental, while two others attack from the side. Lilith immediately counterattacks by dispelling his magic. Suddenly the blur effect is gone, the aura lessens and with a surprised yelp the szarkai drops from the air.

They all take up fighting positions. Phaedra loads her crossbow and stands next to her wizard brother. When she hears the thump of an attack, she shoots, but blinded as she is, her bolt doesn’t find a target. Jharrath takes out a small ball of bat guano and sulfur and strikes at the szarkai with a fireball. The gigantic blast clears away all mushrooms near the szarkai and even hits the druid. Debris is falling everywhere, and sounds of the ceiling settling back into an unstable balance fill the air. After a hit from the earth elemental, the druid szarkai retreats around the corner.

Jharrath orders his elemental to charge after the white elf, and when he hears it hit something, he glances around the corner. The summoned ally is standing in the middle of blankets and bedrolls, surrounded by the remnants of a big rock that it smashed, while the druid again floats higher up. He seems to be healing himself. With a ray of clumsiness, Jharrath hinders their opponent, and his sister adds a spell, blasting the area with a tremendous cacophony. The others move forward too. A wall of smoke prevents the druid from making visual contact, but his voice calls out in Elven:

If I die, I will take at least one of you with me!

He calls upon the earth, and the earth obeys. A gigantic stalagmite rises up and tries to impale Lilith. She manages to jump to the side, but her armor is ruptured. A counterattack with her spiritual weapon goes awry because of this. Jharrath sends in a salt mephit, whose breath irritates the elf’s skin and eyes, and he strikes back with another spell. Two iron poles rise up next to the spell casters, and an arc of lightning jumps back and forth, hurting the drow. By jumping aside quickly, they manage to reduce their injuries.

By now, Lilith is totally fed up with the druid and lashes out with a counter spell. A vertical column of divine fire roars downward, wiping everything away except the fire mephit. Of the szarkai and the mushrooms only ashes are left.

Jharrath examines the remains and finds 20 platinum pieces, the short, wicked looking short spear, magical hide armor and a blurring potion in a scarred but still usable belt. He hands over the potion to the cleric and the spear to his brother, who is feeling better.

This seems to have been a temporary camp, but all clues are burned.

Phaedra isn’t too happy with this result, but doesn’t say anything about her feelings to her older sister.

Attacked by Mushrooms and More

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The interior of the cave is lit by a soft glow. There are various types of minerals, plants, roots, small and large fungi; all signs that they are on the right track. They cautiously continue along the path, when suddenly the violet fungi start to move. They sway from side to side and attack the drow with their roots.

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Jharrath takes a step back and casts mage armor on himself. Four tentacles try to get a hold on Phaedra, but she takes out her spiked chain and hits one of the creatures square in the cap. Another is sliced to pieces by the fighter, while a third is beaten up by the cleric’s flail. Magic missiles kill yet another, and soon all that is left is pulp, especially near Alvra. He glares at the leftover green mushrooms, but those don’t seem hostile.

Swiping the residue off their weapons, the drow continue into a larger section of the mine. There are tracks in the dust, and Phaedra signs to her siblings that there are more violet fungi ahead. A sour, reptilian scent is heavy on the air. Wooden beams support the space. On the left, the way forward is blocked by rubble and more fungi, so the scouts turns around and walks to the other side. The tunnel is lower there, and looks more rickety. Bones are strewn across the floor – big bones, huge bones. It seems like they have found the remains of Vaterian, the dragon

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When Phaedra chances a quick glance around the corner, she sees an albino drow with red eyes. It seems like he has been watching them for a while. It is one of the szarkai – age old enemies of the drow – wearing a large bastard sword. He looks like a fighter, and soon proves to be one too. With a swipe of his sword, he scores a hit on the female scout. Lilith sees what happens and counterattacks. Focusing Lolth’s divine power, she projects a blast of light from her open palm, which slams straight into the white drow. He screams with pain. The wizard follows up with magic missiles, while Phaedra tumbles back and lashes out with her chain. Heavily wounded, the szarkai pulls back into the shadows of the cave and disappears from sight.

Alvra, who is following the blood trail, is hit by two cross bolts. Ignoring his wounds for the moment, he spots the injured white drow and charges, but the attack ricochets off the bastard sword. His sister doesn’t miss though, and the spiked chain kills the creature.

Be careful, somebody shot at me!

Alerted by her brother’s warning, Phaedra whirls around and sees two more white drow with heavy crossbows. They are taking cover behind two mushrooms. She warns the others and then advances on the crossbow snipers, but overreaches with her spiked chain and lands in the middle. The szarkai drop the crossbows, grab their swords and swing at Phaedra. Fortunately, they miss. Jharrath’s Kellgore’s firebolt slams into one of the albinos with ravaging force, giving the scout the opportunity to use her ability to appear in a safer spot.

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The white ones, robbed of their target, scream. Lilith launches a bolt of cold darkness from her hands, but to no effect. When she tries to plant the suggestion to attack one another in their minds, they won’t obey. The fight rages on by missiles, swords, spells and chain. Using his house brooch, Alvra increases his strength and kills one of the szarkai with a mighty blow. Two earth elementals, summoned by Jharrath, finally manage to kill the third.

The fight has taken a heavy toll on two of the Xaniqos siblings. Their wounds bleed with a yellowish glow and they don’t feel well at all. Both Alvra and Phaedra are slowly losing their eyesight due to the very potent poison, and the fighter loses a lot of strength as well. He drinks an anti-toxin. The cleric calls upon her deity and manages to return some of Alvra’s strength and remove his blindness.

Apart from the bastard swords and heavy crossbows, the albinos were wearing good magical armor and shields. Alvra also finds a small flask with a yellowish substance in it. Lilith – adept in the use of poisons – takes the bottle from him and applies the substance to her flail. After consulting with her brother, she smears the darklight brew also on one side of Alvra’s sword. Then she carefully tucks the flask away.

Anybys Velifane

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The next day, the siblings arrive at the Isle of Scribes after a two hours walk south. The area is swarming with Shi’quos guards, and Lilith checks the parchment. It is safely tucked away, next to the 500 platinum pieces she has the freedom to offer to Anybys Velifane. Matron Mother Thandysha still seemed troubled by the prophecy this morning.

Multiple wizard towers shimmer with a metal sheen. The tower of the archmage is not the highest among them, but it is the broadest – very elegant in obsidian stone and well over hundred feet tall. When they approach the entrance, the captain of the guard halts them. When asked for admittance, Rhuadin is detaining their access at first, but prodded by the cleric’s authoritarian air, he soon returns with the message

The Archmage will see you now. Leave your weapons with me, they’ll be safe.

A flamboyant drow leads them up a winding staircase towards the second floor. They are welcomed by a very handsome though haughty lady, dressed in a silk robe. She seems to be Thandysha’s age. Lilith introduces herself and explains the reason for their visit, after which she hands over the scroll. Archmage Velifane is intrigued and is about to enter her study, when she looks at Jharrath.

I could use an assistant.

Without hesitation, the Xaniqos wizard replies

My name is Jharrath and I’m an aspiring wizard with many potentials. I’m honored to be of service!

Together they disappear, while the others sit down for refreshments.

Anybys

art by Carrie Best @ DeviantArt

The archmage’s study is an alchemist dream. Jharrath looks around in wonder and awe, while Velifane carefully unfolds the scroll. She gently touches it and then examines her fingertip with special spectacles.

Hmm darklight ore, highly unusual these days, how remarkable. And dangerous!

The archmage again bows over the parchment and chants a deviation spell. On her instructions, Jharrath carries several items – including a mirror – to a big table. The parchment is carefully spread out in the middle. Anybys focuses and casts a spell, unknown to the Xaniqos drow. Jharrath suddenly hears a male voice

You seeketh, and it wants to be found
It lies in a tomb deep underground
Ignorant guards of legs eight
Shield the world from darker fate

though the mirror image stays blank. Frustrated she mumbles I think we need to alert the Council.

An hour has passed, when they reappear in the reception room. In a distracted voice, the archmage recites:

Six hundred years ago, a war raged between drow. The war was triggered by Dark Fate, a rod infused with the intense hatred of a drider. Dark Fate found its way into the hands of drow cleric Alantria. It fed her hatred for drow, which ultimately resulted in a huge war. Alantria was defeated, but all was razed to the ground. Her body and the weapon have never been found. The rod has turned into a sentient being, with a mind of its own. If it falls in the hands of the wrong people, it could mean our doom! The discovery of this scroll is quite important, a matter of great urgency. Tell your Matron Mother that I’ll gather the Council within a tenday!

Jharrath offers his help for future necessities, which archmage Velifane accepts.

For a man, you were actually quite useful.

Lost in thought, she dismisses the siblings and adds a few punctuation corrections to the scroll. Now it reads:

150207prophecyplus

In pursuit

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Alvra escorts his sisters to the Matron Mother. Two minotaur stand guard at the doors, but Lilith strides in. Lady Thandysha, gazing out over Erelhei-Cinlu, sneers,

Really. Does it take three of you to report to me?

Thandysha

Without as much as a glance, the fighter turns on his heels and heads towards his room. Lilith informs her mother about the events on the slave market.

I wonder how much House Vae is involved in this. And I don’t like that the shar’ans influence is growing. Blessed Seahaven is turning into a fortress. They might attack without fearing the consequences.

Phaedra offers that outsiders, originating from Looblishar, are parading without wearing the obligated green cloaks.

Their leader is a Whip, a kua toa priestess from Looblishar, I recognized her.

I want that Whip, and I want her tonight! And without House Vae knowing about it. They will have conducted their business rather quickly because of your actions tonight. Go and follow them. Find out what they are up to, I need more information. But do not jeopardize the House, make sure you are not seen.

When Lilith makes a smart-ass remark about the whip, the Matron Mother takes hold of her daughter. Her hand radiates power, making Lilith’s skin blister.

If you ask such a stupid question again, it will be your last!

Gritting her teeth, the cleric nods and heads towards the door.

On second thought, you just need to extract the information from the kua toan priestess, no need to bring her here. The risks are too high. Do what is necessary, but make sure you don’t damage our House, so be inconspicuous. Get the information and return.

The Matron Mother seems somewhat calmed, and two sisters pick up the others, telling them about the follow-up quest.

At the big gate, traffic seems slow. The guards – mainly clerics of House Tormtor – let them pass and the drow continue along the main path, westward towards Blessed Seahaven, cloaks and house insignia hidden. Phaedra scouts ahead, while the wizard makes sure they are not being followed. She catches up with a party, which consists of two slavers and their malnourished wares.

Has a group passed you this last hour? Phaedra asks.

Who wants to know?

My identity is my own, I am just asking you a question.

The scout’s temper rises at the males’ slow response. With help of one of Jharrath’s spells, Phaedra is able to talk to Lilith without being overheard, and with the cleric’s permission she uses more intimidation to get the answers she seeks.

I’m not alone! Answer my question, or…

With a meaningful glance, Phaedra loads her crossbow. The slavers growl:

We don’t mean you any harm, walk away while you still can.

She retorts: You don’t know who you’re dealing with.

The male drow point their crossbows at the scout, but their target suddenly vanishes, only to appear behind them with her weapon aimed at them.

You think a low-born drow could do this?

This time, her intimidation works.

What do you want from us?

I just want an answer. Has a Kua-Toa group passed this way?

Yes, about six.

That’s all I needed to know.

She puts her crossbow away and moves forward, leaving the slavers in a slight confusion.

D&D Wallpapers

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Would you like to dress your screen in D&D wallpaper? Then click this link to Wizards of the Coast and have a look.

My choice is this one,

Determined to stand for what’s right in the Realms once again, Drizzt forges a new road north—toward Icewind Dale. Will his new companions follow? Can he fight the darkness alone? Either way, he knows now where he’s headed—back to the only place that’s ever felt like home.

TheLastThreshold_2560x1600_Wallpaper

Got to love Drizzt! 

Dunspeirrin

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When the Xaniqos are rested, they again travel the winding corridors of the Underdark, until they arrive in a huge domed paradise of stalagmites and stalactites. An immense abyss opens up before them, a long broad bridge connecting the tunnels to the dwarven city of Dunspeirrin. They have made it to their destination! Of course, Dunspeirrin lacks the sophisticated appearance of a Drow settlement!

Carts are crossing the bridge in both directions, transporting a never ending stream of goods like coals and gems from the mines, slaves (even Drow), Goblinoids, Svirfneblin and of course many Duergar. A cacophony of sounds emanates from the city, the noise is overwhelming after the relative silence in the abandoned smaller Underdark tunnels. The people of Dunspeirrin don’t pay much attention to the Drow, being only a few among the many who travel and trade here. Dunspeirrin is always at war, either with Shield dwarves over their mines or with their ancient enemies the Illithid. The place itself is always busy with mining resources for weapon forging.

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There are several guard posts stationed on the bridge, while others are patrolling – marshall law rules in this town – but the Xaniqos pass unhindered, walking through huge massive open doors. Once closed, this city is an impregnable fortress. In the city, the noise is even louder, a chaos of sounds, sulfur and coals. The blows of blacksmiths resonate in the heavy air.

In the middle of an open plaza is a large market with pens, filled with animals and slaves. In this city a word is a word, and a contract is a contract. Ninety percent of the traders is Duergar. They look at the Xaniqos Cleric with a sense of admiration and respect, and Alvra’s armor is also viewed approvingly. Lilith’s Scout sister Phaedra attracts little attention, so does the Wizard; the Duergar are not into magic.

Spiders, rothé, lizards (both draft and riding animals), ratites, amphibians, dragonflies, praying mantises, beatles – there’s an enormous variety of animals. Amid the chaos, Alvra spots a pen with twelve riding lizards. Two Duergar are standing in front of them, one is covered in dust with soot on his face, the other looks like a guard. The merchant introduces himself as Murgol Coalhewer.

These beautiful animals are about four years old and trained in combat. Each costs 2000 gold pieces, including riding gear.

The lizards are not the least troubled by the noise around them. Alvra knows that an untrained lizard is worth 500 gold pieces, plus an additional 1000 gold pieces for the training. Lilith asks the merchant if her brother can check on the lizards, which Murgol allows. All seem to be fine and in a good condition.

The Cleric offers 10.000 gold pieces for eight riding animals, but to her surprise the trader offers her another deal: all twelve lizards for 10.000 plus a service.

In the past week one of the mines failed to bring up coal, and neither did we receive any messages. I have sent in two enforcers, but they still have not returned. There might be a Delver at work, a huge dungeoneering aberration. This beast is quite rare, it is an underground delver that is very fond of stone. The nightmare of every miner. A lair would be a disaster. Their skin is acid and any contact will eat through metal. The beast is neutral in attitude, but will fiercely defend its territory. My claim on this particular mine is too good to leave it and find another; the investments have been to costly. What is your decision, Cleric?

Delver

Lilith agrees to his proposal and asks if there’s an inn where they might stay. Fortunately Murgol’s cousin, Ivar Hammerhead, runs the Hamer & Anvil Inn. They will recognize Ivar by his lack of hair. The trader will meet them there the next morning and escort them to the mine, which is situated on the outskirts of Dunspeirrin.

The inn is filled with 99% Duergar, who are drinking, eating and gambling. The bald dwarf will make room for the Xaniqos and feed them with rothé stew. When Jharrath inquires after the herbs he uses, the Duergar smirks. We just roast them, that’s it. And the beverages are mainly beer and wine. Ivar then spits in a glass and ‘cleans’ it with a towel, whereupon the wizard asks for a bottle of wine. Closed. Chateau de Mithral Hall 😉

The inn keeper then sends two Duergar upstairs to clean and clear the rooms for his new customers. Five minutes later another Duergar rolls face-first down the stairs, soon followed by a semi-clothed dwarven woman. They hastily leave the establishment, booed by the clientele. It would have been better if they had paid for their room. Lilith and Alvra visit the market again to replenish their potion stocks. In the evening the Xaniqos siblings go upstairs to their rooms, which are dusty and not really clean, though the sturdy latch on the door compensates for the untidiness.