The Delver

1

After a breakfast of stew and roast, the Xaniqos are picked up by Murgol and escorted past market and inner city to a wider area. Charts and piles of junk lie neglected in the midst of activity. The merchant leads them towards a very quiet spot, where they are greeted by a couple of Duergar. It is eerily quiet near the wide mine entrance, all is silent. This was one of the most thriving mines, Murgol says, it goes 2000 feet deep. And perhaps a beast is eating all of my ore and gems. 

A railway leads the Drow into the deep. The mine is very dark, fifteen feet wide, and every hundred feet a lantern glows softly. Phaedra scouts ahead, followed by her sister, while the male Drow form the rearguard. All walk in formation next to the rails. After about twenty feet, the tunnel splits and the Scout takes a left. A staleness fills the air, loaded with the smell of stone. The dark Elf Scout stealthily glides forward, and even the Cleric manages to move silently – more or less – but Alvra’s new armor takes some getting used to. Sound travels far underground. When Phaedra walks on, she suddenly hears the light click of a pressure plate. In the distance a rattling mechanic clink resounds, coming closer and closer. Alvra and Lilith push themselves against the wall. A mine cart rattles down the track at full tilt, tipping over at the pressure plate. A series of explosions light up the tunnel and flasks of alchemist fire burn the area within twenty feet. The walls are shaking and the corridor caves in. Where once was a tunnel, now only a pile of rubble remains. It fills the opening from wall to wall and the railway is torn and bent.

alchemist fireThe Scout, who was able to jump away just in time, examines the cave-in and declares it a dead end. She moves them back towards the other tunnel, where they take the right one. Again the Xaniqos move into position and walk down the path. That is, until another ominous click sounds under Alvra’s feet. Phaedra seems to disappear into the wall, while Lilith runs as far and fast as possible, increasing the distance between her and the place where another explosion announces the arrival of a second cart. The fighter and his brother also press themselves against the wall. Pieces of rock and fire hurt them in varying degrees.

When they encounter another split – to the right a smaller tunnel, five feet wide – Phaedra hears a low vibration in the stone, it seems like the stone is humming. She enters the corridor and observes the walls. They are smooth, like molted clay, with many round edges and curved depressions. This tunnel is definitely not dwarf-made. A smell of acid gets stronger with every step. The Xaniqos all walk in carefully, the Wizard calling up a protective Mage Armor. Jharrath then summons two Earth Elementals, which walk fifteen feet ahead of him.

Delver

 When they turn the corner, two huge paws claw their way through the wall, sending one of the Elementals straight back to its plane. With a second blow, the other Elemental goes back to where it came from too. Seems like the Drow have found the culprit: a big head comes out of the stone, soon followed by a sixteen feet long and six feet wide tear-shaped brown body. It indeed is a Delver!

The Wizard lashes out with a persistent blade spell, but misses. Phaedra activates her house emblem and climbs the wall, while her sister calls upon the Spider Queen to grant her resistance against this foe, also fortified with a shield of faith. The Scout takes up position near the bend in the tunnel, while Jharrath returns to the main tunnel. There he summons three Monster Scorpions.

A chaotic and uneven fight starts. Lilith and Jharrath make themselves scarce, trying to stay ahead of the massive Delver, which is in pursuit through the stone. It follows them to the main tunnel, where the scorpions attack, doing only minor damage. The Scout fires her crossbow, but the bolts deflect upon its armor. The Cleric takes out a flask of Alchemist Fire and hits the creature straight in the face. The Delver is not much disturbed by it, but still it does some damage. The javelin Alvra throws simply vanishes. The acid that is protecting the Delver is strong!

The beast attacks Lilith and when its paw swipes across her armor, it pulverizes completely. Her armor, gone! That hurts even more than the wounds the Delver inflicts. A sizzling fireball, hurled by the Wizard, flashes past and burns through the beast’s skin. It’s payback time. Together the siblings renew their attacks with bolt and javelin. This time it seems to work. Still upset by losing her armor, the Cleric can’t focus enough to release her slashing darkness spell. But however hard they try, their attacks just aren’t enough to hurt it much, let alone slay it.

Alvra and Lilith retreat into the main tunnel to reflect on their situation. The Fighter tells his Cleric sister that their way of fighting is not effective. Meanwhile the Delver turns the other way and goes after the Wizard and his Scouting sister. She also gets hit by one mighty paw, but fortunately her armor protects her from the brunt of the attack. Jharrath is fast running out of spells, and throws a couple of earth elementals in the Delver’s way, though he knows they won’t do much good. The Scout casts two mirror images of herself to distract their foe, but since the beast has tremor sense, that’s not working either. She tries to get past it towards the main tunnel, while the Cleric calls down deific vengeance on its ass. Alvra’s kukri adds a bit to the damage. Jharrath again summons four creatures to provoke a reaction and manages to get back to his siblings too.

The Scout quickly drinks a healing potion and takes out her spiked chain, while Lilith attacks with her spiritual weapon, but to no avail. When Alvra’s javelin attack again misses, they give up the fight and race back towards the entrance. They need more weapons and have to get rid of the armor. The Delver’s acid is simply too damaging. Somewhat later the Duergar see a half naked furious Drow Cleric emerge from the mine entrance, followed at safe distance by the others.

Dunspeirrin

1

When the Xaniqos are rested, they again travel the winding corridors of the Underdark, until they arrive in a huge domed paradise of stalagmites and stalactites. An immense abyss opens up before them, a long broad bridge connecting the tunnels to the dwarven city of Dunspeirrin. They have made it to their destination! Of course, Dunspeirrin lacks the sophisticated appearance of a Drow settlement!

Carts are crossing the bridge in both directions, transporting a never ending stream of goods like coals and gems from the mines, slaves (even Drow), Goblinoids, Svirfneblin and of course many Duergar. A cacophony of sounds emanates from the city, the noise is overwhelming after the relative silence in the abandoned smaller Underdark tunnels. The people of Dunspeirrin don’t pay much attention to the Drow, being only a few among the many who travel and trade here. Dunspeirrin is always at war, either with Shield dwarves over their mines or with their ancient enemies the Illithid. The place itself is always busy with mining resources for weapon forging.

SvirfneblinIllithid

There are several guard posts stationed on the bridge, while others are patrolling – marshall law rules in this town – but the Xaniqos pass unhindered, walking through huge massive open doors. Once closed, this city is an impregnable fortress. In the city, the noise is even louder, a chaos of sounds, sulfur and coals. The blows of blacksmiths resonate in the heavy air.

In the middle of an open plaza is a large market with pens, filled with animals and slaves. In this city a word is a word, and a contract is a contract. Ninety percent of the traders is Duergar. They look at the Xaniqos Cleric with a sense of admiration and respect, and Alvra’s armor is also viewed approvingly. Lilith’s Scout sister Phaedra attracts little attention, so does the Wizard; the Duergar are not into magic.

Spiders, rothé, lizards (both draft and riding animals), ratites, amphibians, dragonflies, praying mantises, beatles – there’s an enormous variety of animals. Amid the chaos, Alvra spots a pen with twelve riding lizards. Two Duergar are standing in front of them, one is covered in dust with soot on his face, the other looks like a guard. The merchant introduces himself as Murgol Coalhewer.

These beautiful animals are about four years old and trained in combat. Each costs 2000 gold pieces, including riding gear.

The lizards are not the least troubled by the noise around them. Alvra knows that an untrained lizard is worth 500 gold pieces, plus an additional 1000 gold pieces for the training. Lilith asks the merchant if her brother can check on the lizards, which Murgol allows. All seem to be fine and in a good condition.

The Cleric offers 10.000 gold pieces for eight riding animals, but to her surprise the trader offers her another deal: all twelve lizards for 10.000 plus a service.

In the past week one of the mines failed to bring up coal, and neither did we receive any messages. I have sent in two enforcers, but they still have not returned. There might be a Delver at work, a huge dungeoneering aberration. This beast is quite rare, it is an underground delver that is very fond of stone. The nightmare of every miner. A lair would be a disaster. Their skin is acid and any contact will eat through metal. The beast is neutral in attitude, but will fiercely defend its territory. My claim on this particular mine is too good to leave it and find another; the investments have been to costly. What is your decision, Cleric?

Delver

Lilith agrees to his proposal and asks if there’s an inn where they might stay. Fortunately Murgol’s cousin, Ivar Hammerhead, runs the Hamer & Anvil Inn. They will recognize Ivar by his lack of hair. The trader will meet them there the next morning and escort them to the mine, which is situated on the outskirts of Dunspeirrin.

The inn is filled with 99% Duergar, who are drinking, eating and gambling. The bald dwarf will make room for the Xaniqos and feed them with rothé stew. When Jharrath inquires after the herbs he uses, the Duergar smirks. We just roast them, that’s it. And the beverages are mainly beer and wine. Ivar then spits in a glass and ‘cleans’ it with a towel, whereupon the wizard asks for a bottle of wine. Closed. Chateau de Mithral Hall 😉

The inn keeper then sends two Duergar upstairs to clean and clear the rooms for his new customers. Five minutes later another Duergar rolls face-first down the stairs, soon followed by a semi-clothed dwarven woman. They hastily leave the establishment, booed by the clientele. It would have been better if they had paid for their room. Lilith and Alvra visit the market again to replenish their potion stocks. In the evening the Xaniqos siblings go upstairs to their rooms, which are dusty and not really clean, though the sturdy latch on the door compensates for the untidiness.

Road to Dunspeirrin

1

The next morning the Cleric asks Sifarijn about the portals, as they are the fastest way to travel to Dunnspeirrin.

You can talk to Kerl Ooil,

the Vae merchant advises her,

he is the Spymaster of Looblishar and in charge of the portals.  Should that means of transportation not be available, then you have two options: either take the much used caravan route, or go for the smaller trail. It is more dangerous, with less chance for help, but there’s also less chance of being caught. They seem to be in need of slaves around here.
But stay clear of Oryndol, the city of the Illithid. And if you ever get in trouble with the King of the Giants, Kairnheim, then demand Dodking and make a claim to the Rule of Hospitality.

And, Sifarijn, where can this Kerl Ooil be found?

Why don’t you ask your sister? She knows where to find him.

With one eye on the scout, Lilith thanks the Vae merchant, after which he goes his own way.

Well, little sister, why don’t you lead the way? Seems like you have spent your time wisely.

Phaedra swiftly takes her siblings to one of the temples of Shar, while Jharrath tells them that some portals work by runes, and others even by poems. A Kua-toa grants them entry to a big hall, which seems to be buzzing with action. A good example of how information is the main trade here in Looblishar.

They introduce themselves to Kerl Ooil, a big male Cleric Kua-toa. Lilith asks the Spymaster if it is possible for them to use the portals to travel to Dunspeirrin, but in this, she is disappointed: there are no portals near the Dwarven city. And even if there were, only worshipers of Shar – Shar’ans – are allowed to use them. The whole hall seems to be listening in on the conversation.

Lilith thanks the Spymaster for his time, after which they move out, on their way to the Great Well. It seems like an oasis. Many charts and wagons are parked around it, and a lively market is in bloom. The Xaniqos see many Kua-Toas and Shar’ans mingle with the crowd, always on the lookout for new and interesting, profitable information.

Somewhat later they are ten gold pieces lighter, but in possession of an area map of the Underdark. It will take them five days via the larger road to arrive at the dwarven city; by the smaller one six. There’s a Duergar caravan leaving for Dunspeirrin, but they will not join the Dwarfs: if they find out their company just killed five of their fellow dwarfs, they will not be amused.

Lilith decides to take the smaller road and the Xaniqos travel towards the upper plateau and leave Looblishar behind. No one seems to be following them and the further they get away from the city, the ‘lighter’ it becomes. The Scout is in the lead, as always about twenty feet ahead, with the Cleric in her footsteps and the two brothers following behind. The first day passes uneventful. They keep following the small road, every now and then passing a side corridor. The path is uneven, surrounded by rocks and stalactites. The second day also passes in relative peace. But then…

Blasted Duergar

0

When they arrive at the foyer, they hear a lot of commotion. You might want to hurry if you’re going to the Great Well, the inn keeper says, for the Duergar are acting up out there.

The Xaniqos four step into the street, where they find a typical merchant wagon on its side near the inn, a lone beleaguered Drow trapped underneath. He’s trying to fend off the Duergar, who are attacking and mocking him. The trader’s slaves have fled, another Drow lies close – slaughtered – and the rothé are unharnessed. The dwarfs, who have been drinking steadily, keep a close eye on the Xaniqos and try to provoke them with terms like spider kissers and worthless elves. Phaedra takes out her crossbow and loads it, but Lilith bites her teeth and keeps on walking. Their goal is to reach Dunspeirrin, not to mess with a couple of drunk dwarfs.

That’s right, move along now, go on!

Lilith freezes, and so does her sister. No one orders a Drow Cleric! The merchant, relieved to see there is a chance for help, offers them 25% of his wares if they help him out. When Phaedra uses sign language to consult with her brother about the strength of the dwarf group, the Duergar sneer,

Hey, pointy ears. What are you wriggling your fingers for?

Without hesitation, the Scout aims her crossbow at the leader and releases a bolt. Apart from him, there’s a Cleric and four mercenaries; all of them in heavy armor. While one dwarf stays near the merchant and attacks for real, the other five advance on the Drow.

The Xaniqos prepare for battle. Two Earth Elementals appear, summoned by the Drow Wizard. The Cleric casts a blindness spell on the leader – it seems to have no effect though – while Phaedra attacks him again with her crossbow. She scores a direct hit. The satisfaction drains from her face, when the Duergar suddenly grows to twice his size and moves forward, brandishing his large war-ax. A booming laugh rolls from his lungs. Another Duergar suddenly disappears from sight.

Alvra activates his House Insignia and becomes broader too, imitating Maul’s laughter. Now they’re equal. Jharrath surrounds himself with mage armor. One of the Duergar attacks with a sound burst, but Lilith  manages to shake off the effects without much damage. Her sister isn’t as fortunate and gets stunned. The Cleric and her brother Fighter engage themselves in a melee fight with the larger-than-life leader, Maul.

The Earth Elementals are pummeling an opponent, while another dwarf tries to counter attack with a fear spell, his hands glowing red. The Drow don’t even notice it. Jharrath summons another elemental. One of the Duergar suddenly starts to grow too, just like his leader, but before he can reach his full length, the elemental kills him.

Alvra hits Maul with his sword, and hits him good. The leader roars and, in turn, manages to hit the Cleric. She concentrates and a three feet long column of teeth appears in Lilith’s hand: a blade of pain and fear. But before she can use it, the Duergar Cleric dispels all magic actions around him. Two of the elementals are sent back to their plane, while Alvra’s extra strength disappears too.

Jharrath receives a heavy blow to the head, attacked from behind. The Scout tumbles backwards and enhances her vision with a spell. Now she can even see invisible objects. Phaedra takes out her spiked chain and goes for the Duergar who’s near the Wizard.

A globe of darkness surrounds the cart and sounds of battle emerge from beyond. Seems the merchant won’t be taken that easily. From this globe, the Duergar emerges… and drops to the ground, dead as a rock.

Upon seeing that the fight is turning, Maul wants to surrender, but the Xaniqos won’t have that. When the Duergar wounds Lilith once more, Alvra kills him with a mighty blow. The elementals are very successful too and beat two more dwarfs to death, while the Wizard attacks with Kelgore’s firebolt. The dwarven Cleric makes a run for it, invisible through another spell, but Phaedra sees him anyway. A large globe surrounds the Duergar and his wounds start to close. The Scout allows him to escape.

A triumphant Drow merchant jumps down from his chart and walks up to Lilith to thank her. He introduces himself as Sifarijn Vae of Erelhei-Cinlu! A most fortunate encounter. Sifarijn was also heading towards Dunspeirrin, and planned on using one of the twelve portals that surround Looblishar. They decide to group with the trader, he can lead them to their destination.

Alvra takes a look at the Drow’s merchandise – weapons and paintings – and sees a weird armor, with a very sharp point sticking out from underneath it: it seems to be the head of a  spear or sword. When he takes a closer look, he sees that the armor is fearsome to behold: it has several demon heads and protrusions. What a special banded mail!

The weapon seems very familiar, in fact it’s identical to his own blade, except for one side which is duller. Sifarijn explains to the Fighter that the sword is magical on one side and masterwork on the other, a splendid weapon. And a worthy transaction of the twenty five percent he promised earlier.

This mail is a gnashing armor. It automatically fends off and attacks anyone who comes too close. It is perfect against grappling and bites and claws.

The Xaniqos fighter is impressed with his new weapon and mail and Lilith allows him to keep it. She frees the fallen Duergar leader of his full plate magic armor and also discovers a pouch with two breathtakingly pretty black pearls. While the others go back to the Hidden Veil, Alvra keeps watch over the merchant’s cart. All night long, Kua-Toas come to take a look at the fighting scene.

________________________________________________________________

>>  what came before

Looblishar

0

The Hobgoblin zombies resume their rowing, following the Kua-Toas’ new instructions. The remainder of the journey is uneventful and finally they draw near to Looblishar. Not a single light shines at the base nor on top of the looming cliffs. In this city, Shar, the goddess of darkness, rules. Her ultimate goal is to take over all of Faerûn and plunge it into an absolute black void. Looblishar is situated in the Deep Reach Region, next to cities of Duergar and Illithid. Everyone is welcome in Looblishar, and information is her main trade.

The party moors at the docks and watch the bustle of the small port for a moment. Kua-Toas walk past them, on their way to the caves at the base of the cliffs, while others dive down from above; not a comfortable way of descending, but it is fast.

The only way into the city is up by lianas of kelp; there are no stairs. The Cleric is not amused by their trip so far. A boring journey over water in a boat with no luxury at all. Then the irritating attack, and now climbing a stinking vegetable rope into utter darkness. While her sister easily climbs the walls, Lilith and Jharrath need more time to arrive at the top of the plateau. A shaggy, messy cluster of houses and a couple of vague streets, where about two thousand inhabitants live. Apart from a couple of Illithid, the Kua-Toas are most represented. Everyone watches as the Xaniqos and their guides make their way into the center, towards the Temple of Shar.  All Kua-Toas of Looblishar wear her symbol.

Inside, twenty human Clerics, a male Drow Wizard – all dressed in black – and a Kua-Toa are gathered. The latter is Vuon Goddessgifted, to whom Lilith gives Plill Seachild’s letter. He introduces them to the Drow, Xothed Trizz’lorllin.

Ah, so you are all ‘Spider kissers’, eh?

His contempt is obvious.

The Xaniqos Cleric icily stares him down and then ignores the inferior male, while Phaedra says through clenched teeth that they indeed serve the one true Goddess, Lolth. After the exchange of a few more ‘pleasantries’, Lilith inquires after the best inn in town. Vuon tells her they can chose between the Hidden Veil and the Shadowed Lair. As the Xaniqos leave for the inn, their Kua-Toa guides decide to continue on their quest. The siblings thank them for their protection and guidance, and wish them good luck.

Go with the Goddess.

Uneven roads lead to a large mud building with a sign board, depicting a veil. The Hidden Veil is a modest accommodation, no shops, nothing fancy. A doorway leads into the very quiet inn, where the clientele consists of a couple of Mindflayers and Kua-Toas. They get four rooms, including baths and dinner, for two gold pieces. Soon they are served rothé broth, potatoes and green stuff. Lilith checks the food for poison, but it seems to be safe. And it even smells good.

Phaedra asks the inn keeper for a map of the area. He tells her that the Great Well – the only fresh water well for many miles, where many merchants gather before setting out into the Underdark again – is their best option to obtain one. Meanwhile six Duergar enter the inn and order lots of beer. They get quite rowdy, so the other customers stay away from them. The four siblings go up to their very spartan rooms and emerge again somewhat later, refreshed from their baths.

________________________________________________________________

>>  what came before