Test of Lolth

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To Alvra’s relief, two of his javelins can be salvaged. The relief doesn’t last long though, for soon he feels sickened. The others tend to their equipment and investigate the cave.  Then Lilith hears a dark voice inside her head.

Continue your journey alone!

This time she feels she must obey the command. There’s only one way forward. The cleric tries to crawl through the opening, but it is too narrow: she will have to take her armor off. Phaedra helps her sister shed the metal protection. Her way leads upwards and she has to fight her way through debris. Then she finds herself in a small room, fifteen feet in diameter. Something is staring at her, best defined as a swollen tumor, bristling with spider legs. The abomination seems to be in eternal agony. Lilith suspects this is one one she was looking for. There still seems to be some drow awareness left. Contorted by pain it says:

The Spider Queen warned me you would come. You have failed her!

I don’t believe a word you say.

The Shunned lets out a wail of agony – the noise ear splitting – but Lilith is determined and believes wholeheartedly in Lolth. Her faith shines strong and she is not affected by the wail at all. The cleric counterattacks with two darkbolts, but she doesn’t succeed: her spell fails. Mumbling

I knew it, this is my chance,

the creature attacks, but something magical stops her. Frustrated she steps back. Lilith immediately lashes out with her flail, adding extra fire damage, and hits the creature twice. Suddenly a swarm of spiders floods from the Shunned’s mouth. The hairy spiders swarm towards the cleric, but her fortitude proves too strong. The Xaniqos merely shrugs her shoulders and concentrates on her opponent. She calls on her deity to grant her Bebilith Blessing, but again the connection to Lolth seems severed. Nothing happens! The Shunned tries to sink her teeth in the Xaniqos, but misses. The spiders it set loose on the drow swarm all over Lilith, but so far they don’t harm her.

Shunned

Another flail attack misses, and the extra bonuses she was granted, also disappear. The Spider Queen does not seem interested in this fight. With her rod of grievous wounds, the drow finally is able to make a statement. The Shunned hisses

Surrender! Lay down your weapon!

but Lilith laughs at her, her resolve is high. To make a statement, she attacks with her flail and scores a hit. The Shunned controlled spiders don’t seem to like that and bite the drow. The Shunned also sinks her teeth in the cleric’s side, but two more flail attacks end that bite feast quickly. Lilith feels sickened though, especially after another attack of the spider swarm. Again the creature bites her and a wave of weakness flows through Lilith’s muscles. Grinding her teeth, she ignores her wounds, takes a tanglefoot bag and aims it successfully at the Shunned: the beast’s movements slow. That gives her the strength to handle her flail again, but before she can get ready for a second attack, the Shunned’ face changes into the image of Phaedra.

Sister, it’s me! This is a trick of the Spider Queen, don’t fall for it!

Lilith’s faith never wavers and with determination she lashes out with her flail, putting her whole strength – at least what is still left – into the attack. She scores a full hit. The creature’s face changes back to the Shunned. Then the spiders disappear and slowly the creature topples forward. She is dead.

The cleric falls down on her knees and bows her head to her deity. Gratitude fulfills her. This time her prayers are answered.

Your faith in me has been very strong, Lilith. You have not doubted me, and you should not. Return to your house and know that you have pleased me.

The bites on her arm transform into a spider mark under her skin. She crawls back through the corridor, where she is greeted by her brothers and sister – they seem happy she made it. When Phaedra helps her don her armor, she notices that Lilith is covered in tiny spider bites, and a mark on her arm is bright red.

In the ghetto, the Xaniqos siblings are not bothered on their way home. They arrive back at the gate, where the Matron Mother already is waiting. She seems pretty interested

Welcome back. You succeeded in the test of Lolth. House Xaniqos is blessed with yet another High Priestess. You make us proud!

Even Quarra realizes the importance and kisses her sister on the cheek, while lady Thandysha kisses the other.

This experience has taught you a lot. Wear this amulet to remind you of that and may Lolth bless you with her eternal wisdom. Go and rest. Next week there will be a party in your honor.

The siblings sleep well that night. When Lilith wakes up, she notices that the wounds on her arm changed into two circles, enclosed by eight smaller dots. It resembles a spider bite, encircled by spider legs.

 

 

Handmaiden of Lolth

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After freshing up a bit, Lilith heads towards the Xaniqos shrine, accompanied by her siblings. Though deserted at first, soon they are joined by Lady Thandysha, their eldest sister Quarra and many other clerics. In unison they thank the Spider Queen, chanting in a trance.

Suddenly the session is crudely disturbed by a dark and heavy omnipresent voice. Near the altar a Yochlol appears. The form alternates between a big black spider and a pulsating cloud. The voice speaks in Abyssal, a language that both the cleric and the wizard understand. Then the mass changes into a beautiful drow female. She addresses Lilith directly, saying:

The Spider Queen has noticed you. You have been very loyal to House Xaniqos, but not quite enough. You’ll have to prove yourself.

Yochlol

They all feel that they are in the presence of one of Lolth’s handmaidens. It’s not often that the Spider Queen directs her attention directly to House Xaniqos, and all are affected – even Lady Thandysha. Phaedra cowers in fear, together with the other clerics.

Go to the lair of the forsaken. Kill all in your path and deal alone with the One who is shunned. She wishes to redeem herself to me. Prove your loyaly and strength. Do not fail, or the lair will show you what I do with the ones who fail me. Go now!

With these words the Yochlol changes back into a cloud and then disappears all together. The scout is able to draw breath again, the terror slowly subsiding.

The Matron Mother steps up to her daughter.

This is the final test to become a priestess, Lilith. Everyone must deal with this. You have to face this alone, do not fail me!

Thandysha solemnly looks at her other children.

Do not let her fail. Is she has to sacrifice you all to give the House one more high priestess, then she will.

Quarra echoes her mother’s words and smirks.

Yes indeed, sister, many fail…

Maybe many fail, but I won’t, sister.

Lilith retorts, and then turns around to get her party ready. Alvra takes the looted weapons and armor to the armory and receives new javelins in return. The drow are healed and all fatigue is removed by the clerics. They need to be in tiptop shape before they leave for the Ghetto of the Outcast. The Lair of the Forsaken is situated in the most northern part, the fighter says, an area avoided by the other citizens of Erelhei-Cinlu.

I’ve never actually been there, but I can lead you there.

 

One, two… Principle missing!

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Suspiciously eyeing the pentagram, Lilith tries to erase part of the circle. After a few moments she succeeds, thus severing it. She takes some time to heal herself and be ready for the challenges ahead.

The room of Thra’esue is bare, apart from a small stone table with parchments. Phaedra takes a chart of a graveyard with her. On the map directions have been indicated with arrows. Lots of humanoid skulls litter the floor. At the back is a locked door. Jharrath summons an earth elemental and orders it to demolish the door. With several power attacks, it splinters the wood. Inside is a sarcophagus, which – the lid pushed aside by the summoned elemental – reveals the resting body of the ogre. The cleric takes a vial of holy water and pours half of the contents in the giant’s mouth. His eyes snap open, and with a horrible scream, he pulverizes. No mist, no nothing; the beast is gone. In his sarcophagus  lie a pouch with three potions, a key and a magical chain shirt. The potions inflict moderate wounds when used.

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The drow now move towards the room of Mephisolis, the upper Principle. The corners of his room are decorated with big urns. Something clicks when the scout passes the threshold and she gets hit by an arrow full of acid. With Thra’Esue’s key she tries to open the door to the inner sanctuary, but it doesn’t fit. Jharrath gets the same treatment, when he tries to open the lock with a scorching ray. One of his Melphs acid arrow takes care of the problem: the door is gone. The inner room is lit by four ever burning candles. A huge jump brings Alvra almost to the sanctuary… almost. Another acid arrow finds its target.

Now the method to destroy the Principles is clear, the cleric decides to leave it up to her siblings to take care of the vampire ogre. Elegantly she throws the still half full vial of holy water towards her brother, almost into his waiting hands… almost. Fumbling Alvra fails to catch the little bottle and it crashes to the stone floor. Quickly he wets a piece of his robe with the remnants of the holy water, while Lilith scowls at him. He walks towards the second sarcophagus – lined in red silk – and pushes the lid off. It takes quite some strength and the help of the wizard to accomplish, but finally they succeed. The wet cloth is not enough to finish the ogre, so they cut off his head and set the corpse on fire. Principle number two is gone from this world.

In the coffin another key, a beautiful magic chain shirt and a ditto great sword stay behind. Phaedra decides to keep the chain shirt for herself, though she will have to resize it. There are also two pouches and two shiny flasks, containing a silvery liquid. Alvra recognizes it as silver sheen. With a mighty jump, the fighter manages to reach the safety of the central room. His brother isn’t that fortunate, his clothing damaged by the acid that’s still eating its way through the fabric. The fighter hands the pouches to Lilith, and she finds gold pieces and two blue sapphires, worth 3.500 gold pieces.

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Checking out the Principles’ third room, Lilith commands her shield to transform into a spider and sends the arachnid to investigate. When nothing happens, she walks in to and tries out the keys she has found. They won’t fit. Out of holy water, Alvra and Lilith coat their weapons in silver sheen and hammer down the door. A closed coffin awaits them, which proves to be empty though. Where is the third Principle?

The Xaniqos gather in the central space, where the cleric casts a mass shield of faith. She warns her siblings to let their guard down before releasing the spell. Then they continue towards the last door: the library. The key fits the lock smoothly, and inside there are several shelves with lots of books and scrolls. Two are especially beautiful, but when Phaedra tries to read them, she gets nauseated. The wizard takes her place and soon finds out these are magic scrolls about necromancy. He takes them with him.

In the room of the ghouls, Alvra discovers a pouch with a black opal. Hurriedly he leaves the filthy nest. The cleric once again checks out the central room and the pulpits, but there is nothing there. All siblings search for hidden doors and other hiding places, but there’s absolutely nothing. The bats have found a quiet corner and witness the search.

The drow decide to go back to the first room. The corpses of the two ogres are still there, but the body of the mage ogre has disappeared! Could he be the missing Principle? It must be. A trail of blood leads upwards, but when they enter the upper floor again, an occasional drop and boot prints in the dust are all that is left of the trail. Though they search the mansion, even the upper parts and outside, there’s no trace of the mage ogre. He must have regenerated. Perhaps he ran off to House Shi’quos, they simply don’t know. The Matron Mother can be content: the leader of the Principles is dead and the rest has been slaughtered.

The Principles

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The mist solidifies into the large form of a vampire ogre. He’s very pale, which is emphasized by his black cloak. Like the ogre mage, he has two horns. Next to him another big form appears, no horns though. The vampire ogre sends forth a large cone of cold, which hits the elemental, Alvra and his cleric sister straight in the chest. The remaining ghoul dies in the process. The vampire looks content. The other ogre hurls a javelin towards Lilith, but misses completely; the weapon splinters against the wall. She counterattacks and launches a bolt of cold darkness from her left hand, leaving the beast dazed. Phaedra tumbles down from the wall and loads her hand crossbow.

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When the drow and elemental go after the vampire ogre, their opponent proves to be unnatural fast. Alvra’s charge misses and the vampire lays his hand on the fighter’s arm. The icy cold drains his energy, while the vampire visibly grows stronger: his wounds heal! The other ogre is still under the effect of the darkbolts and wanders about. Lilith casts a healing circle, helping Alvra and the earth elemental, but harming the ogre. The horned giant is not troubled by the spell. Several attacks of the Xaniqos fail, so Phaedra changes back to her spiked chain. The vampire ogre grabs his shiny greatsword and pulverizes the earth elemental, sending it back to its own plane. A malicious roar echoes through the cave. The beast is laughing! What can they do to take him down? The drow cleric calls on the power of the Spider Queen to dispel any ongoing spells on the vampire ogre.

Meanwhile Jharrath is still in combat with the rats. The bats have been expelled but one rodent doggedly hangs on. The laughter has just died away when a new sound fills the room. The roar of a lion blasts straight into the rat’s ear, and with a squeak it runs after the bats… it will be its last race though, for the cleric kills the passing rodent in one swipe. Satisfied the wizard nods. Sometimes a trick is all it takes.

Alvra changes the hold on his sword and takes another swing at the horned ogre in front of him. This time he succeeds in wounding the vampire – twice – but again the creature’s wounds start to heal. The scout isn’t that fortunate:  her chain whizzes through thin air. Walking towards the cleric, the giant attacks and with a mighty swing wounds her badly. Again his maniacal laugh bounces against the walls. His fellow ogre is still under the influence of the dark-bolts.

Holding up the holy symbol of Lolth, Lilith rebukes the vampire ogre. She seems to succeed, as his behavior changes and his arrogance is somewhat tempered. The wizard sends down a hail of stones, while Phaedra scores two hits with her spiked chain. Again the ogre’s wounds heal, but only partial. He glares at the cleric but won’t touch her. He even turns around and starts to walk away! Alvra immediately lashes out with his sword and strikes home. The vampire takes to the air and tries to flee into another room. Jharrath’s answering ray of flames doesn’t do any damage, but Phaedra and Alvra’s combined attack with chain and javelin do: the vampire ogre dies and dissolves into mist.

Still under the influence of the cleric’s rebuke spell, the dazed ogre is commanded to answer her questions.

What is behind that door?

The library, with very important items; Thra’esue has the key.

When Lilith orders him to give her the key, the ogre refuses.

Where does the other corridor lead?

To the resting place of Mephisolis, leader of the Three Principles.

Aha. And how do we kill Mephisolis?

He is most vulnerable in his coffin.

Having extracted all the information she needs, the cleric attacks the ogre, aided by her siblings. It takes their combined forces to wound him and finally the wizard takes him down with his wand of scorching rays. Patches of mist are the only proof that there ever was an ogre.

 

Of Bats and Rats

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Once again they find themselves in front of a door. Phaedra searches for traps, but it just looks like a regular one. Keeping his distance, the wizard releases a spell and unlocks the door. In a flash, a chain of lighting zips trough the corridor. The scout is able to jump aside, but the others are hit, one after the other. Apparently Alvra feels as bad as he looks, for he drinks a healing potion. He receives another vial from his cleric sister.

Drink this and get stronger again!

she orders.

Cautiously, Phaedra grabs the handle and opens the door. In front of her a big circular space opens, with three small stages and a pentagram in the middle. On each stage is a pulpit. Six doorways indicate there are more rooms.

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Taking no unnecessary risks, she once again climbs the wall to the right to scout ahead. With a lot of fluttering, a group of bats passes, but they move away again and return to the ceiling. When Phaedra glances through the first doorway, she sees a small room. Four ghouls are sharing a gruesome meal. Making her way across the ceiling, she silently heads for the second opening, when one of the ghouls notices her. They gather beneath her, craving for a bit of fresh meat. Quickly Phaedra climbs back over the wall and then drops down to the floor. The ghouls give chase and try to bite her. Fortunately they miss. The dark elf tumbles back and continues towards the other drow. Again a group of bats flies past, but they don’t bother her. Yelling Four Ghouls!, she climbs the walls again, and watches how two of the ghouls get awfully close in their attack. They don’t succeed though. A third undead makes his way towards Lilith. She steps in and lashes out. Chunks of flesh splatter in all directions. Then an earth elemental appears next to the wounded ghoul and with an enormous blow it kills the undead. Jharrath can be proud of his summoning.

When Alvra enters the room, he is greeted by a peculiar sight: his younger sister is hanging on the wall, while two undead are jumping up and down, desperately trying to reach her. Soon he’s engaged in a fight with the ghouls. For a moment the passing of eight rats draws the attention away from their opponents. The earth elemental, Alvra and Lilith each manage to kill one of the vermin, but the other five swarm towards the wizard. Soon they are all over him. The rats are aided by the bats, that fly round the wizard’s head, obscuring his sight. Enraged, Jharrath fires his wand of scorching rays again and again. For such small beasts, they are quite tenacious.

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Meanwhile the battle against the ghouls continues. One of the creatures lies dead at the cleric’s feet, soon to be followed by its comrade. Alvra wipes his blade clean, battle rage contorting his face. Finally freed from her opponents, the scout climbs further. She blinks. In the middle of the pentagram mist is forming…

 

Hallway of Horror

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The only way forward is through a simple door. It is deadly quiet. Phaedra examines it and when she doesn’t find any traps, the wizard opens it with a creak. Jharrath sees a small corridor, and another door at the end. The walls of the hallway are covered in very old, almost faded paintings, depicting scenes where humanoids die in the most horrible ways. Some are incinerated by fire, others impaled by spears; there’s lighting and knives. A horrific scenario.

I see six ways to die when we enter, so be warned!

Upon his brother’s words, Alvra hurls a chair into the middle of the corridor, and… nothing happens. Phaedra moves towards the door. The moment she steps over the threshold, she’s engulfed in flames. Only her magical abilities save her from being burned from head to toes. When the flames disappear, she stuffs pieces of the shattered chair into the cracks of the floor, so her siblings can safely follow her. Cautiously she takes another step, and another, when suddenly spears shoot from both sides of the wall. With a loud click and some rumbling the trap resets itself. Phaedra counts six spears, including the two that hit her. When she tries to disable this device too, another spear is driven into her leg. She grunts and moves ahead.

Holding a chair as protection, the fighter walks sideways through the doorway, back-to-back with Lilith. The cleric is shielding herself with Spider Bound. Again the flames roar up, incineration the pieces of wood that Phaedra had wedged into the openings, and burn Alvra in its wake. Lilith is unharmed. Alvra’s chair is reduced to ashes. He picks up the seat of the chair he has thrown in earlier and together with his sister moves past the spear section. The deadly bolts again flash forward, finding their target in the female drow. This time Alvra is saved by his wooden shield.

Opening the second door, the scout quickly climbs up towards the ceiling and investigates this new corridor. At first she sees nothing out of the ordinary, but when she focuses, two sets of feral eye become visible. They are filled with hatred. When one of the creatures charges, she drops to the ground. It is an emaciated humanoid with filthy long teeth and claws. The beast hisses, frustrated that its surprise attack didn’t succeed. Jharrath doesn’t waste any time and slams two rays of fire into the undead. The other one stares at Phaedra, mentally ordering her to walk away with an enchanting gaze, but – strong willed as she is – she doesn’t feel compelled to do that at all. Lilith steps closer and attacks the vampire spawn, for that is what it is. Her magic flail wounds it badly.

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Then mist appears from both walls, and changes into two more vampire spawn. A total of four foes, and a welcome challenge for the fighter. Alvra attacks one of them with his sword, but doesn’t seem to do much damage. The scout’s spiked chain has the same limited effect. Seeing an opportunity, the original opponent jumps down from the ceiling and slams into Phaedra. Its cold touch fortunately has no effect on her. Jharrath counterattacks and a hail of stone rains down on the creatures. One of them desperately tries to grapple the cleric, and in a reflex she slams her weapon into its flesh. It dissolves into smoke. Lilith calls out to her deity and holds forth her holy symbol. She rebukes the undead creatures, which instantly cower before her. Together the siblings attack the vampire spawn, with sword, chain, magic missiles, Kellgore’s firebolts and flail. Again and again they strike out, until all vampires have dissolved. The remaining mist slowly trickles into the wall. How does one kill an already dead attacker? It seems like they are not totally destroyed yet. The wizard focuses and appears near the other drow. Would the three Principles be behind the next door?

Open Sesame

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The doors won’t budge and have neither lock nor handles. There’s a gap between the two slabs of stone. Jharrath can’t detect any magic surrounding them, and finally his fighter brother simply bangs on the doors. They hear a loud cracking and the massive stone doors slide to the side. Two huge hairy arms appear in the opening. The arms are attached to one of the giant kind. Two horns protrude from his skull and a blue aura surrounds him. The wizard realizes it’s an ogre mage. Behind the mage are two more ogres, dressed in a hide armor. They both have a wooden club in their hands.

Holding a magnificent greatsword, the mage ogre turns his white eyes towards the drow.

What do you want?

Ogre Mage

His long black teeth ground the words into a jumble of sentences. Lilith tries to talk her way in by claiming they want to do business, but the ogre growls that they are of the wrong house – threateningly he steps into the corridor. When he reaches for his greatsword, Jharrath starts casting. Grease covers the floor and the mage goes down with a heavy thump. He’s prone! The drow wizard releases a Kellgore’s firebolt at the creature and ignites the grease. Apparently burning up and attacking at the same time is not a good combination, because the ogre mage only manages to hit the door, which leaves his weapon stuck in deep. The air is permeated with the stench of burning hair and flesh. One of the ogres tries to pull the mage to safety, while the other starts sliding the stone door back.

The cleric walks towards the beast and attacks. They need the entrance open! She evades a counterattack and strikes the creature’s arm full force. Her flail draws blood, opening the limb to the bone. Her sister joins the fray and lashes out with her spiked chain. The ogre screams in pain. Then a javelin whizzes past, splintering against the far wall – Alvra looks chagrined. When the ogre mage tries to regain his feet, the drow sisters pull their attention back to this more formidable opponent and renew their attack, but can’t prevent the monster from getting back up. The ogre’s skin is healing rapidly, but he’s obviously still in pain. Before he can regenerate any further, Lilith ferociously attacks twice and finishes him off.

Jharrath summons an earth elemental, which goes for one of the remaining brutes. Phaedra nimbly climbs over the carcass of the mage and tumbles towards the wounded ogre. Her spiked chain yet again makes another victim. There’s only one opponent left, and Alvra claims that one as his. His two handed attack provokes a vicious reaction though and with bone crushing force the monster’s club hits the fighter. Twice! Heavily wounded  he stands back while the earth elemental goes for the kill, but it takes a couple of scorching rays from the wizard’s wand to scorch the beast to death. Three huge cadavers bear witness to the passing of the Xaniqos drow.

An oaken table and chairs, straw pallets, small sacks with personal belongings – Phaedra finishes her search rather quickly. The harvest: 435 gold pieces, 3 gems, a large steel shield and a healing potion. Meanwhile Lilith strides over to Alvra and assesses his condition. She calls on the Spider Queen, and Lolth grants her healing powers which she uses on her brother. After subsequently drinking a potion, he feels good enough to beat out the dents in his armor.

Lolth, Spider Queen

Lolth, Spider Queen

Sarcoma Keep

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On their mission to strike another blow against House Shi’quos, the Xaniqos drow leave the Black Chalice and head towards the Sarcoma Keep. The area is rather deserted. In the distance a sinister tower looms over the district of the dead. The drow’s green cloaks blend in with the bleak surroundings. The four stories high Keep is still imposing, though the building has crumbled during years of neglect. The main part seems to have collapsed. Huge doors, still half supported by their hinges, only partly conceal the gaping black maw of the mausoleum. About twenty zombies move slowly in- and outside the building, their mindless mumbling only enhancing the silence.

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When the drow get closer, Jharrath casts mage armor to protect himself, but when his hands start moving again, his siblings strongly advise against the use of a fireball. Phaedra scouts ahead and enters the building. Several zombies move about, downstairs as well as upstairs. They don’t seem to mind her at all. She steps into what used to be the reception room. Parts of  decayed furniture is all that is left of the splendor that once filled the mansion. Every room is dilapidated, the walls crumbled. She moves into what once was the dining room. It’s filthy, everywhere are signs of decay and mold.

The scout signals for the others to follow her, and is on the verge of climbing through a hole in the wall when she hears commotion behind her. Zombies move through the dining room towards the entrance. It seems her sister has entered, shining like a beacon to the undead, inside as well as outside.

Flanking Lilith, Alvra assesses the situation. Are they closing in on them? The wizard stays close too. The siblings carefully move towards Phaedra, until they come upon a doorway. A big zombie and a smaller one are blocking the entrance. The fighter charges and runs down the small monster. Speaking a word of command, Jharrath disappears, only to reappear in the corridor. Seems like he has found a magical way of teleporting. This leaves the cleric as the sole entertainer for the creatures. With a suspicious glance at Jharrath’s new boots, most likely the source of the new magic, Lilith strides through too, after which the bigger zombie returns to the middle of the room. His pal follows.

Further down the hallway they come upon a big space. Old barrels and  crates make it obvious this used to be an old storeroom. In the middle a stairway leads down, its banister crumbling to the touch. The stairs are made of stone and still sturdy, so Phaedra sneaks down the stairs. A bit of debris is obstructing the steps. After spiraling down twice, she enters a room with huge stone doors. She takes a moment to don her house cloak and then listens intently at the doors to the buzz on the other side. The sound is deeper than the murmuring of the zombies. What dwells behind these doors?

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