A couple of hours of brisk walking takes them to Blessed Seahaven. Near the settlement are a couple of docks. Rowing boats in all sizes gently bob up and down. The scene seems a bit chaotic but is actually organized in typical drow fashion. Lilith searches for the galley of Nyttoris. It is a 10 feet long merchant ship with sails.
They are welcomed by the boatsman of the galley. ‘Welcome aboard, Mistress! Master Nyttoris said you would come. Normally I don’t work for Nyttoris, but his regular captain died.’ Lilith doesn’t sense any deception in his words and shows him the Shi’quos sea map. They board the galley and settle in. Four bugbear slaves are chained to either side of the boat. With a heartfelt ‘Let us hope for good speed,’ the slaves start rowing and they set out onto the Glimmersea.
The ship glides over the dark waters, while stalactites dominate from far above. After an hour, captain Durlann positions himself behind the sails and lifts his arms. The captain’s runes start glowing and a gust of wind stirs their clothes. The sails fill with wind and the boat gathers speed, aided by the bugbears’ rowing. Durlann rests the slaves on a regular basis but doesn’t hesitate to use the whip to keep them active. Jharrath is interested in the magic runes and engages the captain in conversation. He learns that the captain is a sorcerer, searching for adventures and most likely the scrutiny of the female clerics.
They pass little islands and fishing boats. The sea is immense and dark. Lilith studies the sea map and notices that the captain takes the short, risky route and keeps to the shallow waters of near islands. The night passes uneventful, though the cleric is tormented by a feverish dream sent by Lolth. She gets the impression that the misfortune that befalls them, comes from the lack of worshiping by the inner circle. Lilith passes her reverie and calls her siblings to her. ‘I received a message from the Spider Queen. From now on, we worship daily, and we worship together.’ The others do not understand this sudden change in proceedings but concede to the cleric’s command.
They sail over the Glimmersea. Phaedra, who stands guard, notices how the water on the starboard side of the boat is moving a couple of times. Something seems to be swimming alongside the ship. Lilith is also gazing over the sea. She suddenly sees a large shadow in the water. The aquatic has a big head with scales and ridges on its back. The sisters call the captain and describe the beast.
‘Then I might advise bracing yourselves. It might be a dragon of the sea or a dragon turtle!’
By this time, all have gathered near the railing. They see a huge beast, thirty feet below the water level. One second it is visible, the next it is gone.
The dragon turtle emerges underneath the boat and lifts it with its massive head. The ship shakes and groans, and then slowly topples. Everyone is panicking. Lilith smacks against the railing on the lower end, where water is streaming in. The cleric is in danger of being knocked overboard, but Alvra manages to grab her before she goes over.
The captain and the mate cut the bugbears loose. They hope the dragon is hungry and want to offer the bugbears first. All hang on for dear life, as the dragon turtle takes a huge bite from the boat, eating a bugbear in the process. The turtle turns and heads towards the ship once more. It swims upwards and bashes into the boat, so it rocks upright again. On one side, the railing is gone, and so are the four bugbears. All four Xaniqos are still in the boat, but the boatsman is unconscious. Lilith has positioned herself near the railing and stares intently at the water.
‘We need to get to shallower waters,’ the captain yells. Phaedra sees stalagmites in the distance and points. ‘There might be land in that direction!’ Durlann concentrates on the sails and the boat slowly starts to move. Then an urgent scream from the scout: an underwater current takes pure steam to the surface. The ship slowly gains speed, too slowly. The green dragon turtle comes closer, sensing its prey is trying to escape. It goes in for the kill and attacks the ship, lifting its head above the water.
This is the exact moment Lilith has been waiting for. When the dragon’s head is close, she releases her spell. The full and immense force of the spell hits the dragon and the monster disappears completely. Not a trace of it is left! The Xaniqos cleric has instantly slain the turtle. Captain Durlann is very impressed by the destruction spell.
While the others go home, Lilith goes straight to Potions & Poisons in the Ghetto of Artisans to get rid of the inflammable blood moss. Jharrath drags his feet after his mistress. They are welcomed by Lha’Zis Ulvira.
‘Ah, so you have returned. Did you succeed?’.
Jharrath shows him the sack. ‘We have the blood moss you’ve asked for. Do you have a place to put it?’
Watched by countless spiders, the shopkeeper leads them past the counter. The wizard sees many alchemy treasures, but the way the shop is organized, it is a small miracle that Potions & Poisons hasn’t exploded yet.
‘Just put it down here.’ Lha’Zis blows out the candles, whereas glowing gems provide enough light. ‘So much moss, very nice!’ The poison maker takes another look in the bag. ‘Fantastic!’
‘It is much indeed,’ Jharrath says quickly. ‘I presume we get an additional discount?’
As a reply, Ulvira hands him 25 knockout poison –five extra– and 20 sick stones.
‘How about the gland, did you find it yet?’
Lilith, who is observing the spiders, shakes her head.
‘After you bring it to me, it will take two days to make the virile madness.’
The cleric bids him farewell, and together with Jharrath heads home as well.
At the Xaniqos mansion, the siblings go their own way. Some freshen up and find healing. Alvra makes his rounds and talks with the guards, while Lilith spends hours in reverie. Afterward, she takes 100 gold, a bag of gems and the drow mission blade to the treasury. The blade protects its wielder from acid and gives extra luck when near a node, like in Erelhei-Cinly. Phaedra is happy with the five vials of black, gummy poison. Somewhat later, Thaldynion brings them a message from the Matron Mother: she is pleased with their actions and provides each with 8000 gold to enhance their equipment. This is a big favor from Lady Thandysha and they all feel honored.
When the drow walk into the Ghetto of Scholars, there is no open hostility, but they notice that the House-affiliated are not favorable towards House Xaniqos. The city is on edge, more so than normal. They enter Nyttoris Arms & Armor, as a big sign says over the door. Nyttoris is glad to see the Xaniqos walk in his door. With a big smile, he says, ‘Well, well, well, what brings you to my place? It is good to see you again. We have many items on display today. We have boots, armor, weapons like rapiers and scimitars and many magic items. No dwarven ware though, those are not sophisticated enough.’ When he hears the drow’s wishes, Nyttoris leaves the other customers in his servants’ care and takes the Xaniqos to his private office. A young drow female takes care of food and drinks. The table is well provisioned.
‘House Xaniqos seems to be doing well. All of the requested items are present, but first I want to offer you a business deal. I am waiting for a ship with goods from the Upper world, and it is already a tenday too late. There is no sign of it after it left Luskar. Either it sank in the Glimmersea, or it was attacked. If you can find out what happened to the shipment, and perhaps take the goods back to me, I offer you a 25% discount.’
Nyttoris shows them a map of House Shi’quos, with the safest and most probable routes. After Lilith has studied the map and accepts the assignment, he hands her the scroll.
‘You’ll get the discount when you return. You can use one of my galleys to investigate. It is waiting for you at Blessed Seahaven. Thank you for doing business, and I hope to see you back soon, preferably with the goods.’
When they step back onto the street outside of Arms & Armor, Alvra is wearing new leather boots, and his brother has a new red robe with spikes on it, plus new bracers of red-brown leather. The scout has new bracers as well, and her spiked chain is continuously crackling with electricity. Her armor looks slightly shinier. Lilith has a new leather belt with a buckle with three black pearls, and on her finger is a ring with lavender glass. On their way back, Jharrath buys two potions that will help him to breathe underwater. It never hurts to come to a battle well prepared.
The siblings gather at the Xaniqos mansion and call one of the servants.
‘Tell Thaldynion that we’ve gone to Blessed Seahaven. We hope to be back in two days.’
The Xaniqos presence in the Ghetto of Outcasts is becoming more visible. Buildings are under repair, and beautiful mansions are constructed. More and better guards patrol the perimeters. As they walk through the district, they hear a loud wailing moan, gathering in intensity. It is a dreadful, very nasty sound. As they draw closer, they see a shape walking, dragging itself and its evil bastard sword forward. The dust of the street swirls and gathers around the shape.
Two Xaniqos guards approach, their weapons drawn, but the undead ignores everything around it.
‘Don’t worry,’ one of the guards says, ‘we’ll take care of it. It is probably just an escaped undead from the district of the dead or something.’ The guards stop, flanking the animated corpse from 30 feet distance.
Alvra nods towards his men. ‘Do your job,’ and the siblings continue on their way to Blessed Seahaven. Then the eyes of the undead focus on Phaedra, its stare pure hatred. Phaedra halts. She recognizes him as Jhaelmin Shi’quos, the second son of the House, whose throat she cut in the Lair of Principles when they were searching for the Cloak of the Patriarch.
‘This is impossible! He has been dead for a long time!’ But is it? House Shi’quos specializes in necromancy…
The guards attack the Shi’quos but are immediately covered in a swarm of insects that bite and claw at their faces. The dust forms a vortex and the undead lays his hand on one of the guards. The soldier screams in pain and a moment later his armor crashes to the ground. He has turned to dust, all moisture sucked from his body.
Lilith recognizes the form of a hand burned into Jhaelmin’s forehead as a sign of Kiaransalee. She tries to rebuke the undead, but the power of the Lady of the Death is too strong. Phaedra and Alvra are hurt by the negative energy of the vortex’ swarm attack. The fighter counters by throwing a javelin at the Shi’quos, but to no avail. Jharrath summons a large earth elemental, which attacks the undead. It seems to be able to damage the creature that once was a drow. The remaining guard keeps his distance, still under attack by the swarm.
Phaedra hits the undead but doesn’t hurt him. Once again, Lilith tries to rebuke, but the one who put the spell on the undead is very strong; her own level at least.
The revenant stretches his hand and under his command a wall of sand rises, covering Jharrath from head to toes. The wizard can’t breathe, is blind and deaf. Alvra steps back and throws another javelin, right in the center of the undead’s chest. Death oozes from the cavity, but the vortex grows only stronger. Fortunately, the elemental isn’t much bothered by it. Two more javelins disappear harmlessly into the vortex.
Lilith calls forth dark fire and strikes hard at the creature. She uses her brand new belt to get another attack and dark fire again strikes towards the undead. The three pearls of the belt’s buckle are spent and turn white, but she manages to force the creature to let go of the sand wall. The undead steps forward and again the cleric counters with a touch attack of dark flames. Phaedra teleports out of harm’s way, as Alvra attacks twohanded. This time his sword attack succeeds. The elemental aids him, and the wizard follows up with a Kellgore’s firebolt. The undead finally drops his sword and falls down.
Now the left-over guard comes near and brags, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you. Well done, masters!’ The drow incredulously stare at him.
’What is your name, guard?’ The Captain of the Guard’s voice is icy.
‘I’m Eldi’nine, master.’
‘Well, Eldi’nine. Return to the Xaniqos mansion and report for duty immediately.’
Alvra will take care of this impudent guard later.
Lilith tries to burn the remains of the undead with her dark flames, but it won’t turn to ashes. She knows that she has to destroy all traces of the revenant and its evil sword, or it will come back to revenge its death once more. She takes a bottle from her pack and pours holy water on the remains. Finally, the corpse and the bastard sword turn to dust.
Alvra orders a group of four new guards to take over the control of the Ghetto, and, together with his mistress, the scout and the wizard, resumes his path.
click for a larger image
source: d20monkey by Brian Patterson, 2014
Back at the Xaniqos mansion, they quickly pack and set out on their second task: collecting blood moss. According to the map, there are three options for their travels: follow the inner sea, travel through the swamps or take the broader but longer trading route. They decide on the latter.
As always, Phaedra scouts ahead. Their trek through Erelhei-Cinlu isn’t very eventful, and Phaedra finds them a fine route in between the Upper and Middle Underdark. They pass many caves and spend the night in an uninhabited one. Lilith takes first watch and her sister the second, but nothing happens.
On the second day, the scout spots two very big humanoids in the distance, who move awkwardly. When she focuses, she sees that the figures are twice the size of a drow, and are covered in spines. She returns to the others, and the cleric decides to move back to a side corridor they passed earlier. No use in engaging in a confrontation if it is not necessary. Alvra casts darkness in the corridor to hide them. Soon they hear heavy footsteps passing, and the jingle of armor.
Phaedra waits until the sounds fade completely and sets out in the direction of their goal. They arrive at a wide high cave, illuminated by the fungi. The ground stretches before them, soft and packed with dense moss. Jharrath informs them that they probably should find a smaller cave for locating the blood moss.
They follow airborne spores towards their origin and find the entrance to a cave complex. The ground turns wetter and kind of oozy. “We’re getting closer,” the wizard whispers. The entrance is about 5 feet wide. When Phaedra passes, she notices that mushrooms react to her presence by releasing even more spores. She treads carefully. Soon the cave becomes wider, and there’s a path winding through. The vegetation is becoming wilder, with jelly and spores. The scout steps into a puddle of green gunk, that quickly changes into a gelatinous cube. It tries to trap her, but her quick reflexes save her.
Lilith walks past the stuff, deeper into the cave, keeping her distance from the green ooze. Jharrath takes out a candle and summons an earth elemental. The stone beast pummels the jelly. The acid splashes but doesn’t harm the elemental. Phaedra knows her weapons are vulnerable to the acid, so she tumbles back and looks around, searching for blood moss. She moves on towards the next cave. Alvra stays in the original corridor and keeps checking the main hall.
The cube reaches for the cleric, and quickly she jumps aside. Lilith calls forth a darkbolt, but it fizzles out. Again the ooze reaches for her, but the earth elemental pummels the creature until once again it is a harmless looking puddle. Jharrath signals “It might be dead, but I can’t be sure.” He orders the elemental to step on the ooze. Nothing happens; it is indeed beaten.
Phaedra turns another corner. Fungi grow thick and high on the walls, and some kind of path meanders through the space. There’s a heap of rotting vegetation in the middle. And it moves! Jharrath steps forward to stand next to Phaedra, and they are joined by the elemental. the wizard recognizes the mound with vegetation arms: a huge shambling mound, fungi colored.
It is intelligent, carnivorous and predatory. Two huge, armlike appendages stretch towards Phaedra, wrap around her and slam her against the ground. Then they grapple her and pull her towards the mound. Lilith moves forward and shoots searing lights into the beast. It won’t release her sister though. Phaedra can’t get loose but keeps attacking the tentacles. Jharrath moves out of the earth elemental’s way and fires his wand of scorching rays at the huge plant. The shambling mound slowly squeezes the life out of Phaedra, so Lilith steps closer and heals her sister. Working together, Jharrath, the elemental and the scout attack the same tentacle. It unwraps itself, too damaged to hold on, but the other appendage is still squeezing. Again Lilith casts a healing spell, now affecting her whole party positively. Finally, after a charge from Alvra, more searing lights of the cleric, and a new elemental attacking, Phaedra can tumble away from the monstrous plant. Pummeled by the elemental, burned by Jharrath scorching rays and an attack by Alvra’s sword, the beast finally lies down and dies. Lilith again has to heal Alvra, who is badly wounded by the fight, plus hands him a very strong healing potion.
Lilith buffs her siblings with a strong conviction spell, which should raise their resilience. Behind the remains of the shambling mound, they see red fungi. It looks like the blood moss they are after, but it is not dense enough. Mist wafts on the underground current, phosphorescent fungi and red moss is all around. Phaedra again takes the lead.
At the side of the room, huge mushrooms grow from the wall. There is moss in every color. The smell of lemon, bread, and decay is heavy on the air. Then another cave opens, with at the far end a thick blanket of blood moss. The room seems poisonous. There are a lot of spores afloat in the air. And when the spores almost settle on the ground, another gust of wind blows them into the air once more.
The drow halt at the entrance of the blood moss cave. The earth elemental is unaffected by the floating spores and walks in. Suddenly tentacles shoot from a heap of leaves. Another shambling mound, though this one is slightly smaller and doesn’t have a fungi color. The elemental gets into a fight with the plant and, aided by the drow, kills it. Quickly Jharrath summons more elementals and places them at strategic points throughout the room. At the back, a third mound appears and captures one of the elementals. Lilith and Phaedra take out their crossbows and shoot at the plant.
Yet another creature appears at the back of the room: a huge glistening treelike creature, oozing acid. Phaedra doesn’t recognize it, beyond that it seems to be a sentient being.
The creature attacks the elementals, and Lilith immediately counters with a flame strike. A column of fire roars down on top of the ent, and one of Alvra’s javelins scores a hit. The creature roars and releases a 60 feet cone of spores, enveloping the cleric, wounding her severely. She retreats to heal herself, while her siblings keep up the fight with crossbow, spiked chain, javelin, sword and kellgore’s fire bolts. When she is recovered enough, the cleric calls down another flame strike on the treant. She then attacks the respawning shambling mound with her flail and does extra fire damage. Three more summoned earth elementals kill the vegetation.
Alvra is under attack and becomes engulfed in the tree-like being, the roots dealing acid damage. Lilith attacks the ent with her flail and the added fire damage sets the ent ablaze, which ends its life. An almost respawning shambling mound withers and dies.
In the treant’s carcass, they find a drow mission blade, that has protection against acid.
Lilith and Alvra leave the spores zone, where Lilith does a full heal on Alvra. Jharrath, Alvra, and Phaedra shovel the blood moss in a bag. They search the remains of the shambling mounds and find a collection of gold and gems – obviously of no use to these creatures.
When they arrive at the mansion, Leargath goes his own way, while the siblings carry the body of the warlock inside. Immediately drow slaves take it to the morgue. After a while, they are invited to the throne room, where lady Thandysha seems to be in a positive mood. All the important people of House Xaniqos are present.
“Good to see you. I presume your mission was a success?” As always the Matron Mother doesn’t leave much room for failure.
“Yes, Mother. House Despana was behind the abduction of our captain. They wanted information about the rod, as well as punish us. And though we managed to save Solaufein, he is in no condition to secure our House. We brought back the warlord’s body though, it is at your disposal at the morgue.” Lilith and Phaedra continue to relate the happenings of the last day.
At that moment Alvra steps up and makes his ambitions clear. “Make me captain of the guard! I will take Solaufein’s position.”
Quarra snorts indignantly but holds her tongue.
“Alvra, that is a bold statement,” the Matron Mother says. “The captain of the guard is also my personal guard. It is a high position. What do your siblings think about your proposal?” She turns towards Lilith. “Is he qualified?”
The cleric assesses the fighter, then nods. A simple yes is her reply.
“I have only seen his group activities, and he knows his position.” Phaedra shrugs. Jharrath doesn’t object either. “He’s up to the task. But I’d love to hear what Quarra thinks of this.”
“Well thank you, Jharrath”, an overly polite Quarra replies. “You all seem to back up Alvra. And if Lilith says he’s able, then, by all means, Mother, we must give him our support too.”
Lady Thandysha briefly glances at her consort, who nods approvingly.
“Since everybody is here, it is settled now. Welcome, Alvra, as the new captain of the guard of House Xaniqos. Thaldinyon will fill you in. We will meet each other in a few hours, and talk about how we deal with House Despana. Its actions can not be tolerated!”
The mansion is bigger and more luxurious than their former residence, and so are their rooms. After a visit to the House clerics for healing, the men leave for the bathhouse, where they lazily float in the water. Alas, their peace doesn’t last very long, for Phaedra comes to get them on her sister’s behalf. “We must meet her at the chapel,” she says, “that’s all I know.”
Lilith is in the chapel, worshiping the Spider Queen. When she hears their footsteps, she turns around and welcomes her siblings. “Tell me, Alvra. What are your plans as the new captain of the guard?” The fighter plans to expand the number of guards. He also plans to use the lizard mounts more. The cleric is pleased to hear that. She gathers her sister and brothers and heals them all. Back in their rooms, Jharrath identifies the cloak as a magical cloak of charisma. This lightweight and fashionable cloak has a highly decorative silver trim. Lilith keeps it for herself; the mithril shirt goes to Phaedra.
It is already late when they are summoned to the Matron Mother’s room. Lady Thandysha is seated at the head of the table. Quarra and K’yorl are seated in their usual chairs, but Alvra’s seat has been upgraded.
“Welcome all. It is time for our House to step forward and take our rightful place. We will not be the last House any longer. We have grown in power, we have many soldiers and slaves. We have risen in prestige, and will now measure ourselves in strength as well. The rod causes a lot of unrest. Despana doesn’t have it, and neither have we. The rod will cause a shift in power. She who has the rod has the upper hand.
Phaedra, I hope you will aid our House with your skills. House Despana is the perfect prey. We will have to take away their assets in the city. We need to know what happens at the Ghetto of Savages. Who are our allies, how are the political relations in the city? House Vae is engaged in a surface war. House Aleval is running a covert war.
Furthermore, there is a shortage of certain ingredients in our household. You will have to get them for me at Potions & Poisons, located in the Ghetto of Artisans. Start your investigations in the morning.“ Lady Thandysha hands her daughter a scroll with ingredients and a bag of gems, worth 15.000 GP. “Go to the shop, Lilith. Mind you, he is the best poison maker in town, but something is wrong with his mind.” The scroll reads:
- knockout poison 20x
- dark ore 1x
- poison virile madness 1x
- sick stones 20x
The Potions & Poisons is located in the same street as Nyttoris Arms & Armor. The detached building at the end of the street in the Ghetto of Artisans appears to be closed, everything is shut, but when Lilith tries the door, it opens. She and Jharrath step inside. The interior resembles a laboratory. There is stuff bubbling everywhere, and the smell is very heavy, very chemical. On the top floor, lots of adamantine spider constructs are moving around. In the back of the room is a very large, very real spider. The beast takes up more than half of the space.
Someone is working at an alchemy table: a man, dressed in black and wearing green armor. One look and you know that he is evil through and through… and crazy as a bat.
“Xu’klir, we have guests!” he says to the monstrous spider. Poisonmaker Lha’zis Ulvira resembles a spider himself. When Lilith tells him what they need, the arachnomancer complains about his stocks. “We are running low on supplies and I don’t have all the things you need. You see, there are problems with deliveries by the caravans. They have not arrived from Maerimydra yet, and none of the investigating parties have returned.”
“Do we get a discount if we help you?”, Jharrath haggles. “You’ll only need to pay for the poison of virile madness if you can get me a sack of blood moss. But be careful not to add fire to it. The blood moss can be found to the southwest of Erelhei-Cinlu, about two days of travel. I also need the poison glands of a purple worm.”
“And where might we find one?”
“No one knows for sure, but there are rumors that one has been sighted to the northwest of here.”
And with that news, Lilith and Jharrath return home.
After seeing this, the threat of a beholder will never be the same. * grins *