Shark Attack!

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Grabbing their supplies, the Xaniqos rush out through the nautical curtain decorations at the front of the temple and run towards the raft. As it is still untouched, they soon are paddling back towards the shore.

You will never leave this place alive!

Back at the island, the shape of a kua-toa raises her arms, and the water around the raft starts to swirl. The Whip is able to control the water!

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The raft rolls on the undulating waves and the drow hang on for dear life. Lilith tries to take out the Whip, but loses her concentration when the raft bucks violently. Her spell is lost. Her brother summons a large earth elemental, which attacks the kua-toa and beats her to death in a mighty blow. To their chagrin, the maelstrom continues. And that is not the only threat. On all sides, fins break the surface, eager for four drow snacks.

Alvra throws a javelin at the huge shark and hits, but the blood only makes it wilder. It dives under and rocks the vessel. Their balancing skills save them from falling – for now. The maelstrom is getting a better grip on the raft and they move in ever accelerating circles. All of a sudden, Phaedra is gone in a puff of smoke. Jharrath and Lilith peddle with all their might, moving slowly but steadily towards the shore, while the fighter searches the water for threats.

When the dire shark comes up, Alvra again wounds it with a javelin. All sharks – big and small – go into a frenzy and both brothers are thrown into the water. The fighter quickly climbs back up. A giant mouth appears next to Jharrath. It closes with an audible snap, missing the wizard by inches. He manages to get a hold on the raft and with the help of Alvra, scrambles back aboard. Another javelin finds its bloody mark, and the fish trashes wildly, Lilith tries to steady the raft, but loses her balance and topples over. The Xaniqos cleric starts to sink in the churning waters; her armor is too heavy to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, Phaedra has reached the shore in her gaseous form. She invokes an immediate action and turns into a flash of bright light. The two waiting Monitors are affected: one is blinded and the other dazzled. The scout crouches down, invisible again, and takes out her grappling hook and a rope. She watches the scene that unfolds on the lake. Quickly she attaches the hook to the rope and secures it to the scaffolding, waiting for the right moment to come to her siblings’ rescue.

The dire beast, searching for an easier prey now the wizard is out of reach, turns towards Lilith. In a powerful movement of his tail fin, he swims closer, grapples the cleric and swallows her whole. Lilith is shark meat!

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In successive throws, Alvra punctures the huge fish again and again with his throwing weapon, trying to save his mistress. The maelstrom, moving the raft in smaller circles, heaves and bucks, and both drow keel over into the water. With a bite and a swallow, the wizard also disappears down the shark’s maul, while the fighter once again climbs onto the raft.

Phaedra throws the grappling hook onto the float. Hereby she gives away her location to the two monitors and is attacked. While fighting off both kua-toas, she starts hauling the raft back to the safe shore.

Inside the shark, the situation of the Xaniqos is getting worse. The mighty muscles of the fish pummel them raw and stomach fluids try to eat away at their skin. Jharrath especially is affected by the acid. The cleric’s body suddenly erupts with eight tendrils – she has cast Yochlol’s blessing – and she attacks the dire beast from within, focusing on one spot. The wizard uses both his wands and a Kellgore’s firebolt and sears the fish innards with fire. Finally, overcome by the internal fight, Jharrath goes down.

By now the waters have turned so wild that even a trained fighter like Alvra cannot keep his balance. The dire shark, recognizing his tormentor, immediately bites and tries to grapple the drow, but Alvra is a seasoned warrior. He fights back and escapes, refusing to serve as dinner for the beast. The drow attacks with his short sword, and even his armor is biting the fish.

The scout drops the rope and quickly steps out of the range of the two monitors. She takes out her crossbow and fires at the dire shark in her skirmishing combat style. The fish, battled from without and within, finally subsides and dies, floating belly up at the surface of the lake. Phaedra has killed it!

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Immediately Alvra starts sawing in the stomach area, while Lilith does the same from within. She takes a moment to drink a strong healing potion and resumes the grizzly task of freeing herself and her wizard brother. When the fighter finally cuts through the layers of fat, he helps the cleric climb out of the shark belly, and together they free the lifeless form of Jharrath.

At the beach, the monitors lose their faith. Their opponent keeps dis- and appearing and won’t stand still. Their Whip, their once mighty cleric, is dead. Their giant pet shark is now fish meat. All they have been fighting for is gone. Disillusioned, they dive into the water and are gone. Phaedra throws a rope towards Alvra and Lilith and helps them get back to shore. Dripping wet, they walk back to Erelhei-Cinlu, carrying their dead brother home.

The Temple of Blessed Seahaven

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With full backpacks and a new supply of healing potions and wooden stakes, the siblings set out to Blessed Seahaven. After a couple of hours, they arrive at the large lake. Two kua-toas guard the stone arch that leads to the lake. Soon the peace and quiet will be over, so Lilith buffs Alvra with a strength spell, while she casts Iron silence on her own armor.

Phaedra races towards the kua-toas and attacks one of them with her spiked chain. The guard falls down and cries out in pain, heavily wounded. Before the other can react, Alvra’s javelin pierces his torso. A volley of magic missiles and an agile scout end the short fight.

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The drow find a raft and silently peddle towards the temple. Several fins, belonging to sharks, break the surface –one very big, the others smaller– but nothing happens, and soon they arrive at the temple shore. They secure the raft and follow Phaedra to the secret door. A big-shouldered kua-toa patrols the premises -probably a monitor- while another watches the water. Quickly the cleric casts a spell to help them avoid the effect of possible harmful spells.

The scout kills one of the monitors, but the act is witnessed by the kua-toas in a spawning pool on the other side of the lake. A fireball soon ends the commotion, but the flames cannot be unnoticed for long. They have to get inside! Phaedra is able to open the secret door by operating a mechanism, and quickly the four drow enter the temple. Just in time, for on the other side of the door, the second guard tries to follow them.

Vuon’s bedroom is luxuriously decorated with silk tapestries and wooden furniture. A second room reveals a library. The tubes with carts are equipped with the kua-toan language system: chains made of shells that convey a sound –a message– when moved through water. Quickly they pass a smelly privy and enter the main room. A monitor, two whips and a vampire kua-toan High Priestess are waiting for them.

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The latter holds forth her holy symbol and yells “Punish the infidels!”. The dark goddess Blibdoolpoolp decides to aid her priestess, for the whip’s strength is astonishing. After a vicious fight, where Phaedra gets pushed into a basin that leads to a lake and has to fend off a fiendish shark, where earth elementals pound and Alvra’s energy is drained, where searing lights and magic missiles find their target, the Xaniqos finally win. Lilith drives a wooden stake through the heart of the high priestess and ends her unnatural life. Their end of the bargain has been held: Vuon former second-in-command, Sloomike Goldskill, is no more.

Lilith calls her sister and brothers into a healing circle, restores the energy level of Alvra and gives him and Phaedra extra attention to heal their wounds. The siblings then gather the possessions of the dead: several necklaces, bracers, a shell vest, a couple of frost pincer staffs, some healing potions, magical amulets and rings.

Jharrath searches the sanitary room and detects a hidden space. There’s magic at work here! He calls in the help of his sister and together they try to dispel the magical illusion, but none of it works. In the end, the wizard calls forth two earth elementals and orders them to see what is behind the wall. When they return, they convey an image of a large coffin, a couple of scrolls and a chest.

 

Mutual Acquaintances

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In the next few days, the drow keep themselves occupied. Alvra spends his time training with bugbears. He would have liked to train with the lizards as well, but they are still back at the noble estate.

Interested in learning more about the area of Szith morcane, the cleric sets out to find a cartographer at the Palace of Scribes. Accompanied by the captain and two guards, she arrives unhindered in the district of House Shi’quos. The scholars give her entrance to the tower where the scribes keep the cards. An old scroll shows her the city of Maerimydra, which was built in the shape of a spider before it was demolished by the demon hordes. Szith morcane is only a small outpost of the prominent city.

Their wizard brother is in his lab in the district, while Phaedra mingles -anonymously- with the people. Though the quarter has been renovated, there are still enough outcasts and beggars around. One of them approaches the scout and tells her a mutual acquaintance wants to see her in the Hideaway, a place for runaways.

Do you know his name?

When the guy shakes his head, she asks him to describe the acquaintance.

He looks fishy, Mistress.

Intrigued, Phaedra follows the beggar. At the inn, the innkeeper Melash d’Falla points at the stairs.

Take a left at the top.

She taps on the door and a watery voice says “Who is it?” When the drow opens the door, she sees a familiar face. It is Vuon, the Sharran priest from Blessed Seahaven! Submerged in his bathtub, the kua-toa thanks Phaedra for coming.

 I need your help.

Oh, and why would we help you?

Well, a mutual acquaintance is going to be very happy.

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There seem to be an awful lot of ‘mutual acquaintances’ today, Phaedra mutters.

The Spymaster will be grateful, Mistress, we serve the same master.

And what’s in it for us?

We will grant you access to some of the portals.

Phaedra nods at the kua-toa to continue.

Three weeks ago, an ogre-vampire appeared at our temple. He wormed his way in by telling secrets and many lies! He took my second-in-command, turned him, and has overthrown us. I need you to clear out the temple, Mistress Phaedra. Will you help us?

Before I can do that, I will have to discuss it with our Matron Mother. Enjoy your bath, Vuon, I will be back with an answer.

The kua-toa will stay at the Hideaway until she returns.

Phaedra goes back to the estate and asks for an audience with the Matron Mother. As it will take a while, the siblings pay a visit to Nyttoris Arms & Armor in the meantime, where Nyttoris is very glad to see them.

shop

The Xaniqos pile their loot on the counter. While they are waiting for Nyttoris to assess the items, a beautiful drow woman serves them snacks and drinks.

Well, well, well. You have been busy! Will I get into trouble with this stuff?

Nah, the former owners have passed away,

Phaedra answers with a wink.

As always Nyttoris is a graceful host and his daughter a good distraction in the negotiations. Eventually the Xaniqos siblings leave the store without their loot but with plenty of gold!

Back at the house, Phaedra is granted an audience with the Matron Mother. She tells Lady Thandysha that she is approached by a Sharran high priest of Looblishar.

He told me that his temple has been taken over by the Ogre vampire, and wants us to clear it out. In return he will give us access to some portals. If it’s the night portal, it could be helpful in our mission to find the Dark Fate rod. I could go back and ask him more information?

Access to an important portal could be interesting indeed.

Phaedra returns to Vuon, introducing Jharrath.

As you probably guessed, House Xaniqos is interested in your proposition. We want to hear more about the portals; which ones are we talking about?

Only the Spymaster can tell you, Master Wizard. You may choose only one, but you can pick a suitable one.

Can we talk to the Spymaster ourselves?

He is in Looblishar, it will take two weeks to contact him. But the Spymaster needs you, and not many can say that.

When Phaedra asks about the temple security, the former high priest draws a map with two secret passages to his old room.

What is the name of your former second-in-command?

Sloomike Goldskill, but I suspect him to be cursed now too. There are ten to twelve armed Kua-toas – three of them are whips – plus a couple of monks and fighters in the temple. By the way, Mistress, all connections between House Xaniqos and Blessed Seahaven have stopped and the trade deal has ended, due to the miscommunication with a female of Erelhei-Cinlu. A buffed one, and not too diplomatic.

Back home Phaedra talks to the Matron Mother again.

We will only gain access to one portal, but it will be beneficial. Furthermore, Vuon mentioned that our trade deal has been broken?

I know, Quarra told me; I’m afraid Vuon was not impressed about her diplomatic skills.

The Lady Thandysha likes Phaedra’s suggestion that they might be able to bring the trade back by helping the kua-toas and sends them on their way to deal with the problem.

The Fang of Lolth

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The tunnel echoes with their footsteps, while the drow make their way deeper into the maze of the Underdark. At some point they realize something or someone else is near! Babbling and scornful chuckling reverberates from an alcove up ahead. Phaedra sneaks closer to check it out, when suddenly a female voice calls out:

Don’t try to hide, I can see you!

Phaedra looks inside the small cave and strains her eyes, but sees only old webs, stalagmites and spider nests. Then a figure in black drops from the ceiling and lands ten feet away.

Don’t make funny moves and lay down your weapons!

Her voice sounds rusty and is of an irritating level, like she’s not used to talking. The others draw near. “Who are you,” Lilith asks.

I’ve been watching you fight those nasty followers of the Lady of the Dead. They don’t worship Lolth like I do.

The woman looks humanoid, but has very long arms. It is a drow, dark, with wild hair and multifaceted eyes. Her fingers are also long, and her clothes adapt to the background. The drow in black is very nervous and she keeps everyone in sight, her eyes darting everywhere.

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Lilith knows that some priestesses go very far in their devotion to Lolth, and suspects this is one of the Fangs of Lolth. These devotees slowly transform into a spider through their worship.

I used to live in Maerimydra, when the evil priestesses of Kiaransalee banished me. So I came here. But I’m sure this is a test: in the end the Spider Queen will reward us!

The Xaniqos cleric quickly agrees, and prompts her to continue.

I have been to Szith Morcane many times. There are other entrances, entrances that are not guarded. I won’t go up with you, but I can tell you where they are. There are hundreds of drow in the city. If you follow this corridor, it will split up eventually. To the right are very hungry driders. And if you go to the left, there’s a very large cave with undead vermin. Priestesses have been transforming them for Szith Morcane. I would recommend you go the left. After that, the corridor will lead you to the upper city of Szith Morcane. It is a very filthy place, and something is guarding it. Something foul! There are no safe places around here; even this tunnel is being patrolled often.

The dark lady starts to get agitated when the siblings move too close to her backpack, so they keep a healthy distance. When no further information can be gained, Lilith starts praying to her deity,  and the woman calms down.

Notwithstanding the ever present threat of the Kiaransalee, the Xaniqos siblings decide to rest, too tired to move on. Phaedra keeps watch. After a few hours, the Fang picks up her backpack and says goodbye, whispering “May the Spider Queen give you strength to defeat your enemies.” “Perhaps we’ll meet again,” Phaedra replies. The dark drow disappears into the dark. The scout wakes up Alvra and settles down for a bit of sleep herself.

When the others wake, the Fang of Lolth is gone. The spell casters feel rested and together they follow the meandering corridor of the Underdark. Their scout is in the lead, constantly checking her surroundings, but all is peaceful. Finally they come upon a split in the road, where they take the left fork.

It is opening into a very wide passage. The sound of many scurrying feet ripples through the air, and they are closing in fast. Stalagmites and stalactites obscure their view. The wizard summons three medium earth elementals, while Lilith holds her holy symbol aloft and casts a spell. A silvery radiance dances from her hands and leaps over all party members, strengthening them. The cleric takes her flail in her hand, while Alvra draws his sword.

No less than twenty medium sized spiders come rushing forward! Phaedra activates spiderclimb and scrambles up the wall. One of the earth elementals attacks the passing spiders and smashes its fist down. The smell of decay fills the air and a white fluid seeps from the carcasses. Lilith’s flail also successfully finds a target. Then her sister calls out.

These are only the forerunners; behind them is a huge spider with a gigantic thick belly. Green slime oozes in its wake. Smaller spiders are originating from the larger beast!

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The cleric groans. She recognizes it as a husk spider, an undead creature that is formed from the carapaces of monstrous spiders and animated by dark magic. The priestesses of Lolth are known to create the same monsters.

The husk spider lumbers towards the earth elementals and attacks with its mandibles. It drains the energy from one of the elementals. As a result, it gets even stronger!

The scout enters the cave climbing and looks around. She sees no other creatures at the moment, so she makes her way to a niche, fifteen feet long, where she can stand on. While Jarrath activates his boots and teleports back to safety, Lilith rebukes the smaller spiders: eleven spiders cower in fear and are unable to attack. Her fighter brother jumps in and starts slaughtering them.

The huge spider charges one of the earth elementals, and while they are thus engaged, the cleric releases a flame strike on their asses. Severely wounded, the arachnid pulls back behind the stalagmites. Jharrath, protected my mage armor, encourages the remaining elementals to keep on killing the rest of the smaller spiders. They seem to have a good time.

From her high perch, the scout observes how the husk spider escapes and climbs down. It ran that way, she signs to the others. Together they slowly make their way into the giant cave and search the corner where the arachnid is hiding. Jharrath moves his elementals forward, while Lilith baths the corner in faerie fire. There’s no spider though.

Suddenly the beast attacks from above, charging Alvra with a bite attack. Phaedra tumbles back and slips, but manages to keep her distance. Quickly she takes out her spiked chain. With a handful of ashes, the wizard shoots a Kellgore’s fire bolt, and Lilith projects a blast of light from her open palm, straight into the beast’s torso. The husk spider is wobbling on it’s eight legs. Alvra moves in for the kill, and with three powerful strikes, the beast is on its back. The cleric takes a good look at the carcass. “It’s a widow maker,” she says, “very aggressive beasts.”

When Phaedra searches the cave, she finds a dead drider and his short sword, which looks valuable enough to take with them. When they move forward again, the cave ends in a narrow corridor. They keep left and walk on. After a long journey through empty caves and ditto walkways, they come upon another large cave. This one smells dreadfully.

The scout moves ahead and then stops. In the middle of the room there’s a mount of bodies in various degrees of decomposition. Some are down to bare skeletons. And something has been eating them!