They have an Efreeti!

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One of the Fire Elementals attacks Jharrath, while the other goes for the Cleric. Flames lick hungrily at her piwafwi, but fortunately the potion against fire saves her. This is not the case with the Wizard, who – stepping back – underestimates the reach of the monster and receives a second blow. He is severely wounded by the swing and the fire and his knees start to buckle. Phaedra and Alvra attack the flaming opponent to draw its attention away from Jharrath. Boldly the Fighter steps onto the solidified lava and lashes out at the Elemental – and kills it! The Wizard drinks a potion to recover some of his health.

Meanwhile Lilith again is hit by the second Elemental. She counterattacks and searing lights flow from her hands, straight into the monstrous giant, after which she takes herself to temporary safety and drinks a healing potion too.

A fierce fight develops between the four Drow and the Fire Elemental. A fight in which Alvra gets stuck with one foot in the lava, where hits are scored and misses are regretted, where mirror Scout images appear and the Cleric’s piwafwi disappears – Lilith can save her house insignia though. Phaedra’s piwafwi is scorched as well. A magic missile finally brings the monster down. One of Lilith’s potions returns a bit of vitality to the Fighter.

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Warily the four walk under the arch into the next chamber and see two Flamebrothers and a Salamander working the anvil. In an open casket mithril shines and shimmers. They decide to attack from a distance and take out their crossbows; Lilith under the protection of an Armor of darkness spell. Jharrath casts black tentacles near the creatures and manages to capture one of the Flamebrothers and the salamander. The other Flamebrother stays free but to no use: together the foursome attack and a javelin thrown by Alvra finishes off one, while Phaedra shoots the other.

Lilith activates her Spiderbound Buckler and her shield transforms itself into a small spider. A Yochlol spell wills her body to form eight tendrils. The Salamander goes under in a shower of javelin, crossbow, soundburst spell and the by now famous magic missiles from the wand of the Wizard.

When they walk towards the anvil, Phaedra finds a chest with gold pieces and pearls, but nothing that resembles a mithril staff. When she walks towards a wooden oblong case, a thundering voice calls out.

I wouldn’t do that if I were you!

The Cleric has had it with this expedition and sends her spider towards the case. When nothing happens, she walks towards it herself and picks it up. Immediately a twelve feet long floating red torso appears. An Efreeti! Its two large hands come together in a spell craft gesture and fire erupts all around them in a twenty foot radius – like fireworks. Thanks to their quick reflexes they manage to shield their eyes from it while their potions shield them from the fire. The Xaniqos stay safe except for Alvra, who is blinded by the bright eruption. The Fighter activates a globe of darkness as counter measure, so he’s not at a disadvantage.

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The fight rages back and forth. The Efreeti starts changing and becomes huge. Lilith attacks with her tentacles and scores several hits. The Scout’s spiked chain adds to the creature’s damage. A medium Shadow Viper appears and attacks, guided by Jharrath. When Alvra hears the monster scream, he lashes out and manages to hit the Efreeti. Enraged, it punches down on Lilith with a giant fist and floats upwards.

Unable to reach the Efreeti at this height, the Cleric holds the case with the staff safely against her chest, calls back her spider and walks towards the arch that leads back to the entrance: they have what they came for. Phaedra grabs the gems from the chest and joins her sister, yelling

Retreat!

to the still blinded Fighter. A shimmering wall of fire erupts in front of the sisters, blocking their escape. Jharrath fires another magic missile at the hovering form and Alvra – once his blindness lifts – hurls a javelin and manages to break the Efreeti’s concentration: the curtain of fire disappears. Heavily wounded and angry, the monster’s last words

I will be back!

bounce against the walls of the suddenly empty cave.

Besides the three green emeralds, two star rubies and three silver pearls she already found, Phaedra discovers another five hundred gold pieces in the chest. They decide to take these with them, but leave the large supply of mithril. Lilith finds a magic flail, which glows with fire, and of course a beautiful staff in the wooden case. The potion lasts long enough for them to escape the tunnels of fire.

When they report back to Thangarth, he is very happy to hear about the retrieval of his staff, which – as turns out – can call forth a Fire Elemental. The clan master is delighted to hear the Efreeti has been chased away and tells them they can keep all they have found. The Steelshadows will retrieve the mithril themselves. Thangarth hands Lilith a map with the location of the portal that will take the Xaniqos back to the vicinity of Looblishar. The use of the portal is payed by the Steelshadow clan. And though trade will always be possible, Thangarth hopes he will never lay eyes on them again.

The Lair of Fire

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A distant rumbling – much like a volcano – helps to camouflage the noise they might be making. When Phaedra comes closer, she notices the two shapes are no Duergar, but a kind of salamander with a human torso and snake-like lower body. One of these Flamebrothers sees the Scout and runs further down the corridor, but the Drow is quicker and drops down in front of it. Lilith charges to help her sister, but misses her attack. A magic missile sizzles through the air and hits one of the Flamebrothers, while Alvra is less lucky with his javelin. The beasts attack the Drow females and the fight rages back and forth. The creatures use both their tail and spear and Phaedra gets hit. The Drow intensify their attack and draw blood with flail, javelin and missile. When two more salamanders appear from the corridor, the Cleric activates her wand and releases a circle of hurtful energy. The wounded creature’s wounds are torn apart and it drops down, dead as a stone.

Jharrath presses onward and launches another magic missile, while the Fighter pierces the second guard with his magical javelin. When the Cleric subsequently releases her spell, a hissing, hurtling ribbon of pure darkness flies from her hand and strikes the salamander hard. Nothing remains – not even of the special javelin. This display of power chases away the new guards, who retreat into the delivery place, and gives them a moment of time to drink their fire-resisting potions. Not all do so though…

Lilith orders the Wizard to send an elemental into the next room to trigger an attack by the Flamebrothers. The sisters walk forward, accompanied by Alvra, and follow the summoned creature. While the salamanders are focused on the elemental, Alvra peeks into the room and sees that someone, or something, is watching the fight farther down. Phaedra shoots one of the Flamebrothers with her crossbow and scores a full hit. A spell of blindness hampers the salamander further, and together the Cleric and Fighter manage to kill it.

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Another one attacks Lilith, but the potion she took protects her against the fire damage – damn useful, these potions – and while it’s thus busy, one of the Wizard’s magic missile ends its life. The last Flamebrother is under heavy attack by the Scout, who strikes hard with her spike chain. The flame quickly runs out of the beast.

The earlier spectator turns out to be a Fire salamander, that joins in the fight. The beast is as tall as the Drow and has a large tail. It doesn’t much like the ray of frost the Wizard sends. When it tries to grapple Alvra, the little mouths on the Drow’s breastplate gingerly bite into the Fire salamander’s tail. Alvra manages to free himself, but suffers another spear attack by the beast, while the tail lashes out at the Cleric. The elemental’s time in the Underdark has run out, so Jharrath summons three new ones. In a vigorous attack these beings kill the Fire salamander.

In the next room they see the torn up body of a Duergar on the ground – the dwarf has been tortured and scorched. They have found what’s left of the group that went to pick up the magic staff for Thangarth. A rack contains weapons in good condition, and in the Duergar’s clothes Phaedra finds a heavy pouch with two hundred gold pieces.

Illusions

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Thangarth doesn’t strike them as the patient kind, so the Xaniqos decide to stop only at  the market before heading into the Underdark. A guide of the Steelshadow clan will accompany them. On their way to the inn, Jharrath tells his Cleric sister that he has many fire spells, which probably won’t be  effective against the fire salamanders and Efreet.

You will have to manage anyway, we don’t have the luxury of waiting another day. We will fulfill this deal with the Steelshadow clan as soon as possible.

At the inn they strike a bargain with Ivar: he will take care of their twelve fighting lizards for free for three days and continue doing so for a whole week, though the additional days will cost them money. It seems Alvra has created a lot of goodwill with the inn keeper. Or more accurate, with his daughter…

130523potionThey proceed towards the market. When they inquire after a place where they can buy magical potions, their Duergar guide walks them down the maze of small streets and stops in front of a tiny  but clean shop. The Drow are the only customers. A very old Duergar enters the workshop. With his bald head and beardless face, the dwarf looks like an old and withered apple. Jharrath is in charge of the purchases, and asks for potions that can help them resist fire and heat. When the shopkeeper returns, he carries four potions. Lilith pays him 1150 gold pieces for it and hands a bottle to each sibling.

You’d better use them wisely!

The area they enter has turned into a war zone between the Shield Dwarves and Duergar, who are both fighting over the mithril mines. The air is suffocating, and the dwarf leads them deeper and deeper into the mines. Their way leads down a narrow hallway for over an hour. Suddenly their guide stops and points at a piece of stone wall. It doesn’t seem different from the endless corridor they have walked until then.

Go on, you can walk right through!

Phaedra, used as she is to the use of illusions, doesn’t hesitate and steps through, feeling nothing. The second she realizes it is indeed an illusion, she sees the opening in the wall. When the others  see her vanish, they follow her example and together they continue down another narrow corridor. The floor angles downwards, so walking is rather uncomfortable. The Scout stays thirty feet in front of the others, carrying her hand crossbow. Lilith also holds her crossbow ready, while Alvra makes sure his hands are free. The deeper they go, the warmer it becomes, and breathing gets harder. Suddenly the Scout halts: in the distance the corridor broadens and there she sees two shapes. She signals to the others and climbs the walls to take a closer look.

Clan Steelshadow

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Well, that wasn’t too bad. We saved our honor, finished the quest and are very popular with a large mercenary Duergar clan. There are two options: either we have a nice conversation with Thangarth Steelshadow, or we simple ignore these bunch of about three hundred Duergar. By the way, brother, what kind of rod is that?

A rod of grievous wounds, mistress. It can be used five times a day and will hurt anyone around the wielder.

Right. Then I suggest you don’t stand too close when I’m using it. Hand it over.

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Lilith studies the white rod, which is covered in carvings of intricate design. In her mind she repeats the activating command word the Wizard has supplied. The Xaniqos are walking the dark and gloomy lesser streets of Dunspeirrin, on their way to the Steelshadow clan house. There are no nobles here, only ordinary people, the unemployed, slaves, beggars and injured soldiers.

Cut from the living rock, the big mansion looms up within the shadows of the Underdark. Four Duergar are guarding the large front door. One of them ushers them inside when they announce they have an appointment with Thangarth Steelshadow. Seems Murgol has kept his word and they are indeed expected. The Drow can keep their weapons – as long as they keep their hands in sight. The guard leads them through a big hall, down a smaller hallway and finally opens a door to the quarters of the clan master. A more luxurious room, furnished with a stone throne and big tables. Two Duergar are guarding their master. Alvra notices that their (magical) equipment is immaculate, their stance capable.

A Draegloth, easily taller than eight feet, is standing behind the throne of Thangarth Steelshadow. Apparently it is happy to see them, because it’s wearing a big smirk on its dog-like face, an impressive greataxe in its claws.

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A Draegloth has four arms: a pair of Drow arms and two longer arms that end in claws. It has crooked, muscled legs and a black dog’s face with white Drow hair. This half fiend is a mixture of Drow and Glabrezu. It has a gutteral dark, harsh voice and stays mostly on its own. Draegloths are used as bloodhounds. They love killing and rent themselves as mercenaries. Often they are rangers or rogues. The Drow formerly used them as Illithid hunters.

The half fiend – named Leargath – stares at the Xaniqos’ clothes, the acid on their piwafwis, Lilith’s Duergar armor and the nice brooches.

Of which house are you?

Lilith decides to answer truthfully.

We are of the House of Xaniqos.

The Draegloth nods at the clan leader, confirming the Drow speak the truth.

Do you perhaps have a particular interest in attacking my groups?

Thangarth’s dark voice cuts in. The Cleric retorts that her group was challenged and insulted, and that when they fought back, the Duergar Cleric ran off. She suggests it might be better if they make a deal that is profitable for both parties, in stead of fighting. Thangarth considers Lilith’s words.

Phaedra asks after the kind of business the Steelshadow Clan conducts.

We are in the trade business, we deal in mithril – in magical armors made of mithril. And since negotiations often take too long and are boring, it might even be possible that we sometimes loot merchants.  We sell our goods in Dunspeirrin and Looblishar. I have an ‘offer’ to make and we might have a problem if you don’t accept it. Meaning YOU will have a problem. During our recent escapades we encountered a lair of fire salamanders lead by an Efreeti there. He approached us before any bloodshed could happen and we made a deal with them: in exchange for mithril, they would create a special weapon for me: a staff. It doesn’t look special to an outsider, but one can summon elementals with it.

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Efreets originate from the Elemental Plane of Fire and are very malignant. They visit the material planes to harvest raw materials. They are in a neverending war with Djinni. An Efreet is made of basalt and congealed flames, is very tall and speaks undercommon. They are known for their tricks, have magical abilities and are proficient in illusions.

The group, carrying the last load of mithril to the fire salamanders lair and pick up the enchanted staff, was slaughtered and my search party hardly managed to get back alive. I want you to retrieve the weapon and kill this cursed Efreet, or send it back to its plane!

And what is in it for us?

Lilith asks.

You mean apart from your lives? Remember, you still have a bounty on your head! Your reward will be mithril.

Lilith employs her diplomatic skills and on behalf of the House of Xaniqos asks for the rights to deal in mithril with the Steelshadow clan. After a moment of consideration, Thangarth Steelshadow agrees. Then the Cleric requests to speak to the survivor of the search party. The Duergar appears – part of his skin burned – and draws them a map on a piece of parchment. They will have to go deep into the Underdark; the lair is on a not entirely solidified volcano.

The Bounty

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The injured dwarf tries to make his way back to his comrades but seems to be stuck now, so Phaedra moves towards the web to get a better view. Jharrath’s hands gesture in circles, readying a spell. Sparks of fire drip from his fingers. Alvra is about to take a shiny javelin from his pack, when again a voice cries out to his god and the web disappears. Suddenly free, the Duergar runs back to his party. The Scout now hears two others moving in, invisible once more. She signals this to her siblings and then is under attack by two axe wielders. Lilith charges full speed towards one of the Duergar and scores a hit, while Phaedra tumbles back – injured – and fires at the other dwarf.

Seeing a clear target, Alvra aims and throws his special javelin at their opponents – but misses. The weapon falls down. Meanwhile all enemies are in the tunnel and the Duergar Cleric casts sanctuary on himself, flanked by his fellow Fighter. Lilith is under attack now and receives two more injuries. She counters with a soundburst spell, dealing all Duergar damage – even the guy in the sanctuary bubble – and also stuns two dwarves.

Her sister drinks a healing potion, and then takes another, which makes her skin tougher – like wood. Two earth elementals are transferred to the mine and, at the command of Jharrath, attack the Duergar. The Drow Fighter rushes forward to stand next to his sisters.

Let’s go for the Wizard!

Phaedra hears one of the Duergar say.

The Drow Cleric sees herself confronted with a Fiend with claws, a big beard and gleaming red eyes. The first claw attack misses, as does the second. The Spider Queen must favor her today! Lilith makes use of the opportunity and counterattacks her opponent. She manages to damage the scary guy, after which she fully retreats until she stands next to her magic brother; the Cleric knows of a half-Fiend, but doesn’t know anything about its abilities.

Her sister steps forward to attack the Duergar Fighter, who is now heavily wounded. Jharrath casts black ten feet long tentacles to stop the advance of the enemies. And it works: all opponents are stuck and try to get loose. The tentacles squeeze, hurting their victims, and that proves too much for the already injured dwarf. He dies.

Alvra also retreats to where the Cleric and Wizard stand and waits there, sword in hand. The dwarves start to grow larger and try to get clear of the black crushing tentacles, but only two succeed: the Fiend and a Fighter. Lilith attacks the Demon with searing lights, but fails. Phaedra helps her by lashing out with her spiked chain and then moves back towards the others. Jharrath – pleased – launches a…

… and kills the dwarven Cleric and his buddy. The Fiend, not disturbed by the fire at all, says something in Abyssal and disappears from view. There’s only one Duergar left standing and he throws an axe at the Wizard. It hits. A doom spell, sent by Lilith, misses its target. The Scout moves forward towards the tentacles and stands ready.

Jharrath is busy using a scroll of invisibility, when suddenly the Fiend reappears and lashes out at him! Fortunately the Wizard succeeds in his casting anyway, while the Demon is visible again. Alvra and Lilith turn their attention to the bearded red-eyed creature, and Phaedra also takes part. She manages to kill it! A second fireball hits the remaining Duergar, and after a crossbow and two firebolt attacks, that one also dies.

Alvra reclaims his excellent javelin, while Jharrath picks up the dwarven Cleric’s magic rod to check it out – its former owner won’t need it anyway. On the Cleric’s body, Lilith finds a pouch filled with gems (four stones of 50 GP each plus 20 platinum pieces) and a magical full plate armor, while Phaedra comes up with 350 GP and six special throwing axes. She hands the weapons over to Alvra for temporary use, and for selling later on. All but the Fighter take a light masterwork crossbow.

When they get back to the mine entrance, Murgol is still waiting for them. He is very relieved to hear the delver is dead, but regrets that he doesn’t know the fate of his miners. The Xaniqos tell him what happened down in the mine, including the encounter with the hostile group of Duergar. Murgol doesn’t seem that surprised and warns them:

They must be Steelshadows. You seem to have a bounty on your heads! Do you have any idea how that might have happened? It’s not to be taken lightly to be the target of a foul mercernary band that has four to six hundred members. They won’t stop chasing you!

Lilith and Phaedra exchange glances. Seems there’s a nasty twist to their fight in Looblishar.

By the way, Murgol,

the Cleric says,

the delver mentioned something about a master. Apparently the monster has been hired to invade your mine. And when you go and look for the bodies of your slaves, keep a lookout for the bodies of four Duergar, but also for corpse of a Fiend.

A look of genuine surprise and fear crosses Murgol’s face.

Now I am sure: your attackers are Steelshadows. And that half-Fiend is a Durzagon!

The miner is grateful for the information about the delver and promises them he will set up a meeting with Thangarth Steelshadow, the leader of the mercenary band. Perhaps they can talk their way out of their predicament.

And old ‘F(r)iend’

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The stench of burned flesh is overwhelming in the confined spaces of the mine tunnel. The Cleric orders her sister to go and get Murgol, since she hasn’t spent that much energy in the fight. Phaedra immediately rushes off, silent as a Drow in stealth, and makes her way back to the entrance. Suddenly she hears voices that sound like they belong to Duergar… but she can’t see anyone! The Scout slowly continues towards the sounds of creaking armor and footsteps. When she is fifteen feet away, all goes quiet. Quickly she activates her House insignia and attaches herself to the wall, near the ceiling. Suddenly a cry of alarm, followed by an uncoming axe. She has been spotted! The Duergar who threw the weapon loses his invisibility by that act. Plus he misses, which makes him very grumpy.

Phaedra drops to the ground and casts a spell that lets her see invisible beings. Four more shapes appear from the dark: three Duergar and a warlock kind of demonic Duergar. Its head is bold and runes are drawn upon the sides of his skull. To the Scout’s surprise, one of the Duergar is the Cleric from Looblishar! Again she is the target of an axe, and this time it finds its mark. The half-Fiend orders her to surrender, which of course she won’t. Faced with these four opponents, Phaedra runs back to her siblings.

Meanwhile the Drow tend to their wounds. Jharrath offers his Nightscale armor to his Cleric sister, who again is without. With a short nod of appreciation, Lilith accepts the black armor. When Phaedra arrives with her message of advancing invisible Duergar, everyone gets back into battle mode. Alvra grabs a javelin, Jharrath readies a web spell and the Cleric buffs herself with extra strength. They all hear them coming now.

The first Duergar to arrive around the corner is one of the axe throwers. Phaedra shoots a bolt at him, but her crossbow seems to be jammed. The Wizard aims his web at their opponent and hits: the Duergar can still move, but only slowly, enveloped in webbings. A javelin, hurled by the Fighter, enters the Duergar in an uncomfortable place and the dwarf becomes very still. Lilith prepares for action, but she can’t see much through the webbings that block the tunnel. They hear distant chanting and then a few curses. Seems the enemy Cleric tried to get rid of the web, but didn’t succeed: Jharrath’s spell is too strong for him!

Death to the Delver!

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After a night at the inn – spent in prayer by most – the Xaniqos have a light breakfast. Lilith admonishes her Wizard brother to use his spells wisely and with care; the same goes for the use of his wands. No more holding back on possible solutions to the Delver problem! The inn keeper smirks at the foursome. Alvra tells his siblings that a delver can be bribed, but the best thing would be to just kill it. Attack with anything but acid. The fighter is dressed in a shaggy leather outfit and has an ample supply of javelins. The others have also obtained extra weapons and simple armor.

When they meet with Murgol, the miner does nothing to conceal his doubt about the party’s abilities. When he laughs in their faces, Lilith turns on her heels and tells him they are going back into town, leaving the dwarf behind. The fighter assures the Cleric there are other merchants who sell lizards at the market… but apparently no fighting lizards! The only lizards for sale are pack lizards and a group of six meek lizards that won’t fight, even if someone is standing on their tail. The only sensible thing to do is to go back to Murgol and fulfill their contract.

They head back to the mine, but Murgol is not available. As far as the Duergar miners know, no other group has been hired to clean the mines yet. The Xaniqos return to the inn, but their access is denied. We won’t lodge oath breakers, Ivar tells them, surrounded by armed dwarves. The Drow take their gear and once again find their way to the mine, where they will wait for the dwarf. When they arrive, Murgol is just closing the mine with a long, magically imbued chain. About sixty dwarves are busy laying spells of warding and explosions. Lilith steps up to Murgol, using her diplomatic skills on him, and tells him that they are ready to finish the deal now. Murgol nods. It has to be done tonight, for I have found another group of adventurers who want to help me out with this delver.

The Drow enter the mine and make their way towards to the place where they first encountered the beast. With the help of her deity, the Cleric shields her sister and brothers, while the Wizard summons an earth elemental. Jharrath orders the creaure to start stamping on the floor. And the calling seems to work: soon the delver appears, breaking through a wall, and attacks the summoned creature. Alvra nimbly steps aside and throws a bottle at the monster’s head, which is still scorched by yesterday’s fire ball. The bottle explodes. After two more elemental attacks, damage from a deific vengeance attack by Lilith, plus more fire damage by Alvra, the delver starts to disappear into the stone again.  Jharrath casts a zone of black rubbery tentacles and tries to grapple the delver, but it is too huge. He manages to slow the creature down though.

Suddenly the Cleric’s appearance changes: she grows eight tentacles, resembling a yochlol, handmaiden of the Spider Queen Lolth. And though she looks a lot less appealing, her resistance to acid is a big bonus.

Lilith throws a dark flame of fire towards the delver and an almost human cry of pain echoes through the tunnels. The monster advances on the Drow, and the Wizard hurls a fire ball at it. The delver burns, and with it, Jharrath’s brother Alvra. The fighter cries out mad to Jharrath and takes a step back, surrounding himself with faerie fire to mislead their attacker. The delver goes for the Cleric and scores a hit, but luckily this time her armor survives. She counterattacks with her eight tentacles and hits the beast four times. Phaedra steps forward and whips her spare spike chain… which dissolves. Jharrath warns his siblings to stay clear and calls down great magical hail stones. The delver is looking worse and worse. Maddened it goes for Alvra and Lilith, and both get hit and lose their armor. The Cleric tells the beast to retreat, but it won’t. The Scout takes out her crossbow and steps back.

With a bit of ashes, the Wizard creates a Kellgore’s firebolt and sends it towards the monster. I can’t keep this up, Jharrath hears it say, must go back to the master! When he asks it who its master is, there is no reply. Alvra pulls back, while Lilith attacks with two tentacles and a spell that inflicts moderate wounds. When both hit, the delver tries to get away. Phaedra chases after it, but her bolts won’t penetrate the hide of the delver. A fire ball does though. The delver is no more.