Tell me, which one will it be? One of the Lizardfolk? Or rather a Bugbear?
Image: Geeks Are Sexy
Tell me, which one will it be? One of the Lizardfolk? Or rather a Bugbear?
Image: Geeks Are Sexy
Standing in the long corridor, Lilith casts a spell and creates a number of semi tangible, visible magical orbs. She sends one of the prying eyes into the cave. It returns shortly to her hand, and in her mind the cleric sees headstones, two mounds of bodies with their belongings intact, armor and weapons. It seems to be a lair. Then the images move towards a very ugly being; a dark goblin or a ghoul. Its battered robe ends in sharp claws and a long tongue protrudes from its mouth. The creature looks extraplanar -maybe undead- and is heavily muscled. Lilith suddenly loses sight of the creature when it jumps from view. The prying eye, its task done, disappears.
The cleric sends in another eye with the assignment to look out for the monster, and soon it returns, depicting that the ghoul is hiding high up in the stalactites! She gathers her siblings close and, calling out to the Spider Queen, buffs them with three spells. The effect is immediately noticeable: they feel stronger, have a stronger conviction and feel more protected.
A bunch of skeletons rattles near, and Jharrath unleashes a fireball in their midst. A nice explosion destroys five skeletons and anything of value they might have carried on their bodies. When the fire dies out, Phaedra charges down the hallway and damages a skeleton with her spiked chain. Five more stand up and attack the scout. Alvra steps forward and readies for action, but Lilith rebukes the undead. Within sixty feet all flee or cower in fear. Quickly she commands them to attack their master… but since she’s their new master… “Stupid creatures”, she mutters, and crushes bones with her flail.
Suddenly an energy ball streaks towards the Xaniqos, crackling with blue-black substance. The ball expands and Jharrath recognizes it as the evocation chaos hammer. When the chaos hammer hits, the only one who is temporarily affected is the wizard, who stayed behind. He casts darkness behind him and starts moving towards Alvra and Lilith.
Meanwhile Phaedra is battling the skeletons, aided by Alvra. Lilith gives the undead a new command and orders them to go to the master of the cave, but before they can abide, the ghoul appears -seemingly out of nowhere- next to the inadequately protected wizard. Its claw with long sharp nails lashes out and rakes into Jharrath’s flesh. The wizard is paralyzed and the smell of sulfur and soot fills the air. All his magical protection is gone. “I’m saving most of you for later,” the ghoul telepathically transmits to Jharrath, “but for now, just a bite…” Its teeth sink into the drow’s shoulder and start chewing.
The skeletons, now firmly under command of Lilith, start moving towards the ghoul. The cleric looks up and sees the ghoul, chewing on her brother. She calls upon her deity and sends forth a bolt of cold darkness from her left hand. Overwhelmed by the evil charge of the darkbolt, the beast is momentarily stunned.
Alvra, our foolish brother is being eaten alive! Hurry!
No longer under the ghoul’s influence, Jharrath comes to his senses and soon five mirror images appear next to him, mirroring his every move. Phaedra hears her sister’s call. She steps back and kills the last bone creature near her, then walks back towards Alvra. Together they see six Jharraths, very sick and heavily wounded. Blood oozes from multiple bite wounds, and shards of flesh dangle from his shoulder.
“What’s happening?”, the fighter yells to Lilith, readying for a charge. “Watch out. Ghoul!”, is her reply. As if on cue, the monster shakes off the cleric’s spell. Lilith’s second darkbolt misses, but her flame strike hits the target. Jharrath aids by summoning an earth element, which starts to grapple the ghoulish fiend. The opponents battle back and forth, and the drow tensely watch the fight when suddenly… they disappear. The ghoul has taken the elemental to another plane by shadow walk!
Phaedra takes a defensive stance, waiting for the monster to reappear; Alvra and Lilith ready their weapons. The wizard holds a Kelgore’s firebolt at his command. The siblings are on high alert, but minutes pass and nothing happens. The scout checks out the cave and sees corpses of gnolls, a drow female and a bugbear. Their equipment is near, and Phaedra notices a large javelin and two black gloves, the former owner’s hands still in them. The items look very good. She’s about to turn around, when she feels a foul presence. A filthy claw rakes through her flesh. She steps back, counterattacks and hits the fiend with a burst of light. The light seems to have no effect though.
Lilith cautiously searches the corridor and draws nearer to the entrance of the cave, a darkbolt sizzling over her hand. Her brothers follow her.
The ghoul takes a step forward and his tongue lashes out, but the drow elf disappears and becomes visible a bit further away. Phaedra calls out to her siblings, and the cleric rushes forward towards the opening. Her dark bolts have dissipated, so she takes out her flail. A large earth elemental appears next to the ghoul, summoned by Jharrath. It grapples the ghoul in close combat, while Phaedra makes a full retreat and runs for the corridor. Alvra stands shoulder to shoulder with Lilith, protecting his mistress. He notices how the ghoul moves without a sound, a real predator.
Their opponent touches the big elemental and again they disappear. Jharrath moves aside to make room for the fighter. Suddenly the beast reappears, surprising Alvra. Its attack hits in full force, and immediately the drow male is paralyzed. His magical defenses and buffs are gone. Again the wizard summons an earth elemental, and it hits the ghoul. When Lilith furiously attacks the beast too, she fumbles, and in stead, the beast hits her. She’s paralyzed as well!
Jharrath hurls the Kelgore’s firebolt and a shard of red-hot rock streaks through the air, a nimbus of arcane energy crackles around it. It’s a hit. Phaedra looks at the ghoul -nimble and strong- and moves towards it. As her attack fails, the ghoul has no difficulty stepping towards Alvra. It drains energy from the fighter and hacks at him with its claws. Alvra lights go out, and he goes down hard.
While the monster is gloating over its victory, the medium earth elemental bull rushes the ghoul backwards. Quickly Lilith focuses her will and fully heals her fighter brother. Alvra regains consciousness, winks at his mistress and then attacks the ghoul from the ground with his short sword. There is no time or strength left in Alvra to get up. Another Kelgore’s firebolt hits the ghoul, while the scout tumbles through. Again she attacks, but due to the high natural armor and high dexterity, she misses.
The ghoul, bleeding and battered, is now attacked simultaneously from four sides. A grimace distorts its face. It looks around, assesses the situation and, with a mighty jump, scampers away.
The Xaniqos look at each other, panting and dripping blood. The cleric calls her siblings close into a healing circle, with special care for the wizard. When they catch their breath, the fighter and scout set out to investigate the cave. Phaedra a chainmail, shield, cloak and leather armor, all magical, and a sharp dagger. Alvra checks out the items that Phaedra noticed earlier. The javelin is of excellent quality, the head formed like an electric bolt. The black gloves are well made and have a magical aura. He shows the javelin to Lilith, who lets Alvra keep the weapon. She tells the wizard to identify the gloves.
But it will take a long time to…
I said, immediately!
As you wish.
Jharrath bows slightly and prepares his spell. After an hour he reports:
These are gloves of lightning, mistress. Three times a day they can be used in a ranged attack.
They move away from the smelly cave and resume their journey. The terrain climbs slowly, ever upward, and after a long while their path takes a sharp turn. The scout peeks around the corner, very silent, and sees four statues with spiders. She takes a closer look and realizes they are back at the portal! Their relief is short-lived though, when they hear footsteps. Someone’s coming! A familiar hairy face greets them: the draegloth!
Laergath, what are you doing here?!,
Phaedra exclaims. His pelt is splattered with blood. With a wicked smile, the half demon – half drow replies.
We almost gave up hope and thought you would not come back. Lady Thandysha has sent me to find you. Of all search parties, none have returned. And don’t worry: this blood is not mine. In my search I came upon some others, but they are not looting anymore.
His grin is terrible to witness, the teeth pointed and still red.
I guess your reward will be great. Or your punishment. Come now, I will escort you back to town, because your mother can wait no longer. We have to be careful though. Scouting parties of House Shi’quos and others are still walking around. House Vae has had no news from their scouts either. And Thorntor is collecting a big army. We have to evade them.
The draegloth accompanies them safely back to Erelhei-Cinlu. His manoeuvres to evade the other searching parties are successful, though it takes them several days to return.
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.
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!
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!
When dice have a mind of their own,
though the possibility is known,
still last weekend was absurd
and with death did we flirt.
The wench, courageous and undaunted,
with her fiery flail she flaunted
only to be put in place
her cleric level back to base
when quth-maren gazed into eyes
his will empowered through the dice.
In cowering fright on floor she crawled
and shivering with eyes red, she bawled
until her siblings saved her ass
and brought her back to mighty class
Then from the corner a new beast stirs
and yet another fight is hers.
A hellish spider from the abyss
bit her straight back into paralysis.
A second rescue attempt was made
lucky for her the fiend took bait.
The wizard, fighter and the scout
dragged her, found a safe way out.
And from the dungeon they fled in shame
just in case a dragon came.
Though the Xaniqos have escaped the deadly trap this time, there are still possibly ten to twelve hostile drow on the loose. There is no trace of the fiendish ravens; strategically, the siblings have a good and defensible position, Alvra says. Tired and wary, they decide to spend the night in the pit and wake up feeling slightly better.
Lilith sends out one of her prying eyes to assess their situation. The orb returns to convey images of hills and meadows to the cleric, a landscape where nothing moves except small wildlife. There is no visible threat, there are no other drow. With this knowledge, they set out and head back towards the old watchtower area. The smell of burned flesh still permeates the air from the silo. Phaedra wearily enters the scorched area, and finds the battle scene undisturbed. Many footprints are still visible in the sand, the area is scorched and blood permeates the soil.
Clear tracks lead towards the mountains, deeply imprinted by the weight of heavy armor. They seem to be in a hurry! Another prying eye sets out to scout the area. The drow follow the trail for many hours, but Phaedra’s instinct and scouting skills tell her that they are only two miles as the crow flies from the portal through which they entered the Upper World. The landscape is becoming more and more overgrown with bushes and trees, the ground gets stony. When her sister loses the track, Lilith calls back the prying orb. In their vicinity are many small furry animals, but no houses or settlements; nothing is threatening. One more orb sets out with the specific instructions to search for caves and people, and its search proves successful. There’s a dark space up ahead that could be the entrance they are searching for.
Soon they find themselves on a much used path. Phaedra sees track from creatures that are not know to them; they are wider than those of rothé. As they follow the trail –Phaedra in the lead– the scout hears snorting and ducks behind the nearest tree. Fortunately it seems closer than it is, due to the mountain’s acoustic. Phaedra signals to the others, who have heard nothing unusual over the wood’s natural sounds, whereupon the cleric sends forth another magical orb. When it returns to her hand, it brings news: there are two jet-black red-eyed creatures ahead, waiting in front of an opening in the mountain.
Phaedra sneaks closer, while Jharrath casts his awareness forward, toward the beasts. He gets the impression that these are no natural inhabitants of the forest. They are different, more powerful and bigger, than the draft animal that was harnessed to the chariot in the village. The cleric calls back her sister, whereupon Jharrath shares his findings with the others.