The Infernal Ghoul

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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.

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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.

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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 instead, the beast hits her. She’s paralyzed as well!

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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 backward. 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. Amongst the remains, Phaedra finds 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 Endless Javelins, Mistress. Three times a day they can be used in a ranged attack.

Lilith hands the gloves, which will form an excellent combination with the Javelin of Lightning, also to her fighter brother.

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!

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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 maneuvers to evade the other searching parties are successful, though it takes them several days to return.

 

 

The Black Chalice

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Dressed in nondescript outsider cloaks, the Xaniqos set out on their separate routes towards The Black Chalice.

Phaedra glides through the ghettos in her green cloak. She is treated with contempt by the nobles and has to move aside for every drow. Exposed to the whims of the passers-by, she keeps to the walls whenever she can and blends in. Her brother Alvra, bigger and more muscular than the scout  – the Wizard in his wake – isn’t bothered by the public. Orcs and kobolds leave them alone, figuring they are not worth the trouble. Face averted, Lilith tries to make her way to the establishment without giving away her identity. Act like an outsider! She has to remind herself almost every step. When the Cleric is almost run over by a merchant car, his rude

Get out of the way!

making her jump aside just in time, she comes extremely close to losing her temper. Especially House Vae merchants are very annoying – a fact which Lilith stores away safely in her memory. For later use. Finally all siblings arrive at the Black Chalice.

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Inside the clientele is mixed:  drow, both males and females, undead and other creatures. There are no priestesses of Lolth, though. The food is of dubious composition. Strange snacks, narcotics and goblets of blood are distributed around. When the Draegloth passes Phaedra’s table, she greets him in a soft voice. He snarls.

What do you want?

Only after she reveals her face, the half demon-half drow relaxes. A soft chuckle, then:

What are you doing here?

Intrigued, he sits down at the drow’s table.

Well, as they are good sources of information, I go to all kind of inns regularly,

The Draegloth replies that, though he thinks all is foul in the city, he likes the Black Chalice because there is very little drow interference.

Do you know anything about foreigners – non-drow – living underneath the city? It seems House Eilservs has lost control over this ghetto.

Phaedra leans slightly forward after her question.

Have you seen a large tower, made of bones? It is owned by a male lich Morius. Rumors are that he is not content with living in the tower anymore. A lot of foreigners have disappeared – also drow, perhaps to be used for experiments. To make more undead. The Eilservs do nothing indeed, so be careful.

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From the corner of her eye, the Scout sees her sister enter the inn, a cloud of pent-up anger and frustration almost tangible around the Cleric. Lilith stomps towards the bar and orders a glass of wine. Suspicious of its contents, she first smells before taking a sip. In her rage, drinking and grinding her teeth is all she’s able to do, apart from strangling a by-stander to cool her anger. At another table many high-ranking people are socializing. There is much food, but only a few eat. A woman – a vampire – looks like she might be the inn’s owner, Nytha’ela. Phaedra turns her attention back to the half-demon.

Has Thangarth left already?

Yes, but I’m staying for a while, I have some business still.

Can I be of assistance?

No, but thank you for the offer. Until next time.

Then the powerful Draegloth grabs his scythe and walks out. Phaedra throws back her hood, moves towards the noble table and says in Drow:

Greetings!

Can I help you?

Would you mind if I joined you?

Yes I would!

the vampire indignantly says. When Phaedra doesn’t move, she hisses,

Are you dimwitted?

I’m so sorry, I meant no disrespect. I only have a quick question: if I wanted information, who would be the best person to ask?

An icily “Me” is the answer.

Rumors have it that undead giants are in the ghetto. Is that even possible?

You’re talking about the Principles?

Yes, have they set up a place here in the ghetto?

Yes.

Truth is I’m surprised House Eilservs allows this to happen. I have some business with these Principles.

Instantly the mood turns and becomes threatening.

You want to do business with them? What kind of business? Do sit down, ‘please’.

The vampire hisses and shows her teeth – Phaedra sits and says

I just want to know where they are. Do they work for you?

No, they arrived not long ago, though they act as if the city belongs to them!

And if I say my ‘business’ would not be positive?

That does make a difference, yes. I would like to see them destroyed.

Phaedra smiles, while Nytha’ela continues.

They entered here, didn’t pay homage to me at all and now break all the rules. They are backed up by House Shi’quos. A lot has changed lately.

What if I would take care of them?

Continuing her story, the vampire nods.

They have taken residence underneath the Sarcoma Keep, a mansion that has been empty for over a hundred years. It has been used several times by necromancers and undead, and is overgrown by vegetation. The keep is enormous, but ruinous.

The Xaniqos Scout thanks the lady for the information.

If I can be of assistance in the future…?

You may.

May I take my leave now?

You may.

With that the vampire turns back to her party.

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