Alas, our valiant wizard has been severely afflicted by the wicked ghoul’s bite and has fallen ill. Our Underdark adventure has been postponed until September.
Meanwhile the rest of us will be playing board games this weekend.
Have a good one!
Alas, our valiant wizard has been severely afflicted by the wicked ghoul’s bite and has fallen ill. Our Underdark adventure has been postponed until September.
Meanwhile the rest of us will be playing board games this weekend.
Have a good one!
The portal looms ahead, dark, and four times as high as the drow. On the other side is a moderately big cave. Three steps lead down to a surface that is littered with rubble and old weapons. Deep scratches line the walls up to thirty feet. Sarcophagus lie shattered, desecrated by grave robbers. When they carefully proceed, the sisters see movement on the other side of the corridor. Phaedra catches a glimpse of a head and a hand, when a voice says:
‘So nice of you to arrive, you’re smarter than I thought you were.’
The Xaniqos freeze. That voice… It is Amalica, the treacherous Despana! What is she doing here?! Jharrath immediately casts a fireball spell, and a tremendous explosion rocks the cave. A high-pitched, inhuman scream erupts, accompanied by velvet laughter – though Amalika’s mirth sounds a bit forced.
‘Have fun with our allies. I’ll see you in the afterlife. And Alvra… we’ll meet again!’
Chanting reverberates in the cave, and a huge demonic spider appears. Phaedra takes a healing potion and moves slightly forward. Upon the wizard’s spell, ten feet long black tentacles shoot from the ground, but the creature still approaches, unhindered by the writhing barrier. Alvra’s javelin bounces off its chitin armor, but Lilith’s magical flame strike hits, causing the fiend to thrash in pain. It positions itself between the Xaniqos. Phaedra lashes out with her spiked chain, aided by her brother. The fighter draws dark blood with his sword. Jharrath activates his boots of dimension stride and steps away, while the cleric’s body suddenly erupts with eight tendrils – she has cast Yochlol’s blessing.
Another demonic spider steps through the illusionary wall. It throws a web towards the scout, sticking her against the wall. Phaedra succeeds in escaping the sticky strands, but a second bite attack poisons her. She drinks an anti-toxin, while her sister evades the attacks of the first spider. Jharrath counters and a fireball roars straight towards the fiend. He is aided by his brother, who yet again swings his sword in a successful attack. Since the large black tentacles don’t hinder the spiders one bit, Jharrath dismisses them and summons a large earth elemental. He orders it to aid Phaedra against the second bebilith. The wizard calls up an arc of lighting, but to his dismay the creatures are invulnerable to the spell.
Lilith’s tentacles strike hard several times, but the spider returns the favor and its claws rip through the cleric’s armor. Severely injured she retreats towards the portal, but the spider follows her and with one more attack renders the cleric unconscious. Phaedra tumbles to her aid, but misses her attack. The elemental breaks through the spider’s guard and with a mighty blow kills the bebilith. In the same swipe, it engages the other spider, so the wizard can cast a healing spell on the cleric. Soon Lilith is able to get up, drink an anti-toxin and heal herself further.
Finally their combined attack is successful: they kill the last bebilith through both physical and magical force.
The next day, the siblings arrive at the Isle of Scribes after a two hours walk south. The area is swarming with Shi’quos guards, and Lilith checks the parchment. It is safely tucked away, next to the 500 platinum pieces she has the freedom to offer to Anybys Velifane. Matron Mother Thandysha still seemed troubled by the prophecy this morning.
Multiple wizard towers shimmer with a metal sheen. The tower of the archmage is not the highest among them, but it is the broadest – very elegant in obsidian stone and well over hundred feet tall. When they approach the entrance, the captain of the guard halts them. When asked for admittance, Rhuadin is detaining their access at first, but prodded by the cleric’s authoritarian air, he soon returns with the message
The Archmage will see you now. Leave your weapons with me, they’ll be safe.
A flamboyant drow leads them up a winding staircase towards the second floor. They are welcomed by a very handsome though haughty lady, dressed in a silk robe. She seems to be Thandysha’s age. Lilith introduces herself and explains the reason for their visit, after which she hands over the scroll. Archmage Velifane is intrigued and is about to enter her study, when she looks at Jharrath.
I could use an assistant.
Without hesitation, the Xaniqos wizard replies
My name is Jharrath and I’m an aspiring wizard with many potentials. I’m honored to be of service!
Together they disappear, while the others sit down for refreshments.
art by Carrie Best @ DeviantArt
The archmage’s study is an alchemist dream. Jharrath looks around in wonder and awe, while Velifane carefully unfolds the scroll. She gently touches it and then examines her fingertip with special spectacles.
Hmm darklight ore, highly unusual these days, how remarkable. And dangerous!
The archmage again bows over the parchment and chants a deviation spell. On her instructions, Jharrath carries several items – including a mirror – to a big table. The parchment is carefully spread out in the middle. Anybys focuses and casts a spell, unknown to the Xaniqos drow. Jharrath suddenly hears a male voice
You seeketh, and it wants to be found
It lies in a tomb deep underground
Ignorant guards of legs eight
Shield the world from darker fate
though the mirror image stays blank. Frustrated she mumbles I think we need to alert the Council.
An hour has passed, when they reappear in the reception room. In a distracted voice, the archmage recites:
Six hundred years ago, a war raged between drow. The war was triggered by Dark Fate, a rod infused with the intense hatred of a drider. Dark Fate found its way into the hands of drow cleric Alantria. It fed her hatred for drow, which ultimately resulted in a huge war. Alantria was defeated, but all was razed to the ground. Her body and the weapon have never been found. The rod has turned into a sentient being, with a mind of its own. If it falls in the hands of the wrong people, it could mean our doom! The discovery of this scroll is quite important, a matter of great urgency. Tell your Matron Mother that I’ll gather the Council within a tenday!
Jharrath offers his help for future necessities, which archmage Velifane accepts.
For a man, you were actually quite useful.
Lost in thought, she dismisses the siblings and adds a few punctuation corrections to the scroll. Now it reads:
Alvra escorts his sisters to the Matron Mother. Two minotaur stand guard at the doors, but Lilith strides in. Lady Thandysha, gazing out over Erelhei-Cinlu, sneers,
Really. Does it take three of you to report to me?
Without as much as a glance, the fighter turns on his heels and heads towards his room. Lilith informs her mother about the events on the slave market.
I wonder how much House Vae is involved in this. And I don’t like that the shar’ans influence is growing. Blessed Seahaven is turning into a fortress. They might attack without fearing the consequences.
Phaedra offers that outsiders, originating from Looblishar, are parading without wearing the obligated green cloaks.
Their leader is a Whip, a kua toa priestess from Looblishar, I recognized her.
I want that Whip, and I want her tonight! And without House Vae knowing about it. They will have conducted their business rather quickly because of your actions tonight. Go and follow them. Find out what they are up to, I need more information. But do not jeopardize the House, make sure you are not seen.
When Lilith makes a smart-ass remark about the whip, the Matron Mother takes hold of her daughter. Her hand radiates power, making Lilith’s skin blister.
If you ask such a stupid question again, it will be your last!
Gritting her teeth, the cleric nods and heads towards the door.
On second thought, you just need to extract the information from the kua toan priestess, no need to bring her here. The risks are too high. Do what is necessary, but make sure you don’t damage our House, so be inconspicuous. Get the information and return.
The Matron Mother seems somewhat calmed, and two sisters pick up the others, telling them about the follow-up quest.
At the big gate, traffic seems slow. The guards – mainly clerics of House Tormtor – let them pass and the drow continue along the main path, westward towards Blessed Seahaven, cloaks and house insignia hidden. Phaedra scouts ahead, while the wizard makes sure they are not being followed. She catches up with a party, which consists of two slavers and their malnourished wares.
Has a group passed you this last hour? Phaedra asks.
Who wants to know?
My identity is my own, I am just asking you a question.
The scout’s temper rises at the males’ slow response. With help of one of Jharrath’s spells, Phaedra is able to talk to Lilith without being overheard, and with the cleric’s permission she uses more intimidation to get the answers she seeks.
I’m not alone! Answer my question, or…
With a meaningful glance, Phaedra loads her crossbow. The slavers growl:
We don’t mean you any harm, walk away while you still can.
She retorts: You don’t know who you’re dealing with.
The male drow point their crossbows at the scout, but their target suddenly vanishes, only to appear behind them with her weapon aimed at them.
You think a low-born drow could do this?
This time, her intimidation works.
What do you want from us?
I just want an answer. Has a Kua-Toa group passed this way?
Yes, about six.
That’s all I needed to know.
She puts her crossbow away and moves forward, leaving the slavers in a slight confusion.
Alvra carries the strongbox back down to the corridor, and does the same with his dead mount’s saddle and bridle. Phaedra points out it would be suspicious if a dead riding lizard was found in this cave. Combined with the missing Cloak of the Consort, it might lead straight to House Xaniqos. They decide to burn it all: the crates, bedding, araneas and the riding lizard. An incendiary slime spell in combination with a fire ball does the trick. An enormous explosion rocks the stone, and when the Wizard climbs back up to check out the area, all is scorched black. A mass of organic and inorganic stuff remains, reasonably unrecognizable. Satisfied, the Drow follow the corridor, the younger sister scouting ahead. She finds herself in a cave with ladders and ropes, leading up to a platform with a small pool of pure drink water. This might come in handy for future travels. They fill up their water bottles. Since it is a dead end, they retrace their steps and take the long and arduous route back. A lot of climbing and hoisting needs to be done and it takes them at least two hours to reach the spider carcasses again.
At the bottom of the slope that leads down from the cave entrance, the scene is unaltered. Or is it? When Lilith takes a closer look, she sees that one of the hobgoblin bodies has been turned over: someone has been here. Fresh bear tracks lead back the way they came from, but all seems quiet for now. After about an hour the siblings come upon a crossroads. The bear imprints lead to the right, but their city is straight on. The Cleric sees no point in following the tracks any further and takes the road towards Erelhei-Cinlu. To their right and left are paths filled with stalagmites, while high cliffs frame the way forward. Then the Scout spots a male Drow standing on a small rock at the side of the road. He’s seems to be nonchalantly waiting for them, his hands at a safe distance from his expensive looking rapier and dagger. The male is wearing a costly outfit and his whole demeanor radiates supreme confidence.
Greetings, I want you to lay down your weapons and hand over the cloak that you stole.
The adventurers immediately stand still, assessing the situation.
Please lay down your weapons, I will not ask again.
When Lilith asks for his name, he responds with
My name is Jhael’min Shi’quos.
Of course that does ring a bell. House Shi’quos, the Fourth house of Erelhei-Cinlu. And member of the House of the captive Drow whose throat Phaedra slit. The Scout, in a high state of alertness, hears a soft snort to the right. They might have caught up with the owners of the bear tracks. The male Drow, seeing the family crest on Lilith piwafwi, exclaims:
You are of House Xaniqos? That cloak belongs to our family!
Such a devious Matron Mother, the Cleric muses, she indeed never said anything about our House owning it or being entitled to it! Lilith keeps on talking, since the Drow seems genuine in wanting to let them pass, and throws her diplomacy skills in the game.
We know we took something that most likely doesn’t belong to us, but you must understand that we can not go back to our Matron Mother without it.
I’m sorry you feel that way,
Jhael’min says, whereupon both the Wizard and the Cleric feel the impact of a crossbow bolt. Slowly the world fades…
People often ask me to explain what Dungeons & Dragons is. Do I run around in a cape, waving my sword around? Is it safe to roam the woods when another D&D session is in action?
Well, here is the answer:
Another two months until our next session. I just can’t wait for the magic to continue…
Source: 3rd Edition Palace of D&D
The Xaniqos Drow make their way out of the city and pass the same Priestess who granted them access earlier. She does look surprised. The new outfits have their effect: people look with respect at them and make way. They soon arrive at the City Gates and head north. The route takes them through inhospitable sceneries with less and less traffic and rumors are that further ahead there is a large empire of Undead north of the Dead Wastes. Geographically, the area is changing rapidly. The road becomes narrow and high walls enclose them. Caves are everywhere, some used, some old.
Phaedra keeps a steady lookout for signs of the fight and when they arrive at the scene, she notices that most tracks of the caravan have been erased. A broken cart, demolished with great force, is all that is left. Behind her, the Scout sees the cliffs where Erelhei-Cinlu has been built against. This side of the cliffs is very high, covered in deep gravel that leaves no traces behind. Most caves in the area are inhabited by small tribes, but these specific ones are too high. Only insects would live in the ones on the lowest level. When Phaedra examines the cart, she discovers pieces of web strands. Seems like someone has been trying to hide them. Jharrath casts a spell to determine if magic has been used, but the spell comes up negative.
Is the lizard able to climb this slope, Alvra?
the Clerc asks. The Fighter is fairly sure of it and steers his mount up the pebbles. The others follow as quiet as possible. When they are almost at the top of the hill, they see the head of a Goblinoid. It raises the alarm.
Alvra quickly urges his lizard forward to get a better grip on the unstable ground, and at the top encounters two surprised Bugbears. They don’t even get a chance to load their crossbows. Next to them is a form that looks like a human spider; a half Humanoid with legs and poison glands. The Drow immediately attacks one of the Bugbears and calls out to warn his brother and sisters. When Phaedra arrives at the top of the slope, she grabs her spiked chain and lashes out at the second Bugbear, killing it with one hit. The first Bugbear panics, throws down its bow and bolts, trying to reach the safely of the cave. Alvra sees his chance and lashes out with his sword, while his lizard finishes the job. Two dead Bugbears are lying still at their feet.
The other two Drow are still trying to reach the top of the slope, but Lilith’s armor is rather heavy and she concentrates on putting one foot before the other. When Jharrath sees the half Humanoid, he recognizes it as an Aranea, the result of a magical Drow experiment. The Aranea is a spellcaster like the Wizard. After a tactical retreat, it disappears into the cave.
The black maw of the cave opens up to reveal a path sloping upwards. Thought there are less pebbles than outside, the ground is still not suited for a charge. Alvra grabs his javelin and hurls it after the Aranea. When he follows with the Scout, smears of blood tell them that it is wounded. Be careful with this creature, the Wizard says, it is a Shapeshifter, beware of its spells. Further up, the cave widens and becomes higher. The Humanoid disappears into the distance. It is very dark and the floor of the cave is made of irregular stone.
Lilith, who has finally managed to make it to the top, walks into the corridor and goes after the Aranea. The trail of green red blood is still visible. Seated on his lizard, Alvra climbs the walls and manages to get in front of the Shapeshifter, but at the same moment he feels resistance, web strands touching his face. The Drow and his lizard try to break loose and warn the other Xaniqos about the webs, when two monstrous spiders sink down from the ceiling. Behind them a third spider-like shape appears, smaller than the others. It has long arms and a spider head. With one of his spells the Wizard tries to aid his brother by spreading a layer of acid underneath the spiders. When one of the spiders reaches the ground, the acid bites into its feet. Together, the Scout and the Cleric stand ready, while the Aranea casts mage armor on himself. A massive fight is about to start…
The Lady Thandysha looks even more ravishing than before. She’s wearing elaborate expensive jewelry and an exposing outfit that leaves only very little to the imagination. The siblings are glad they have changed into noble clothing too. The Matron Mother enters with a pleasant demeanor and is accompanied by the pompously dressed House Wizard K’yorl. She is pleased to meet the travelers again and says
Welcome back, sons and daughters. You have returned at the right time. Things have quieted down since you left, and though we should still be wary, it is time for a great banquet. We have further established to be one of the top Eight ruling houses now.
She walks them to the dining room, where K’yorl, Quarra and Taldinyon join them.
Please sit, you have performed well enough. Due to extensive work on my part but with a little nudge from you saving the House Vae male, House Vae has reopened negotiations with us. Your role in these development was, more by accident, helpful. But why have you only returned with ten lizards? That’s no army. Are there more to come? And did you have to arrive as beggars? Your attires have to change now our House is moving up.
Of course we will dress accordingly to the status of our House now we’re back again, Lady Thandysha,
but our outfits were functional for what we had to do on our travels. The funds you generously provided us with got us the riding lizards. They are in excellent condition and have proven their worth on the road.
The dinner continues in a pleasant way. One of the servants comes to the table, holding a familiar chest jingling with gold pieces, and reports to the Matron Mother that it was found on one of the lizards. Lilith quickly tells him to take the chest to the treasury and add the gold to the House funds.
Quarra looks at Alvra, who is wearing his Gnashing armor.
What a grotesque outfit.
Excuse me, Mistress, as a male perhaps I don’t know how to dress properly?
Nobody taught you? I will!
With this tempting promise, they continue eating. When the dinner has been concluded, Lady Thandysha asks them to follow her to the Throne Room.
You shall all dress as nobles from now on. I have ordered new piwafwis for all of you, since someone has lost hers…
Lilith tries to bite back her mumbled Yes, but for a good cause!
I presume you still have your house brooches? I know you just arrived, but I have a mission for you to perform, since you returned sooner than expected. Recently one of our caravans has been waylaid along the merchant route. We have been unable to follow the tracks after they lead to one of the higher caves, but perhaps you can. The ambushers didn’t come from the city. Make sure we are not bothered by them again! We don’t involve the city guard and the goods can be carried back. The tracks were found north of Erelhei-Cinlu in a very inhabitable area with small roads and many caves, high on the rim. The goods are silk, piwafwis and a very special cloak for my consort. It HAS to be retrieved.
When did this happen, Matron Mother, how old are the tracks?
The attack occurred one day ago, Phaedra.
Can Alvra take a lizard, Lady Thandysha?
Yes, Lilith, he may, but bring them back in one piece. Alvra has a leading roll to fulfill in showing these lizards after.
They all receive funds to spend on their outfit and Lilith is allowed to take a new mail from the armory. Taldinyon provides them with their new piwafwis: made of silk, they are very beautiful and don’t hamper their movements at all. There’s a gray hue over the inside of the cloak, where their House insignia – the bolt – has been applied. The piwafwi’s outside shimmers when the light falls upon it. Jharrath recognizes them as magically enhanced cloaks of elemental resistance.
The silver light suddenly reminds the Cleric of mithril and she strides back towards the Throne Room.
Pardon me, Lady Thandysha, but there is one more thing I wanted to tell you. We have initiated a possible deal with the Steelshadow Clan from Dunspeirrin, Phaedra can better inform you about the details but we await your approval to further negotiate.
The Matron Mother nods thoughtfully and tells her that she will ask Phaedra for more information.
Thank you, Lilith. That piwafwi looks good on you. As for the cloak that you are about to retrieve: it is very important to us, so do not fail. There are only three Cloaks of Consorts in the whole Drow world. Our prestige will go up because of this artifact and I have spent much money on it. If it doesn’t return, do not bother to return yourself.
When Lilith asks what distinguishes this garment from others, Thandysha describes it as a very light cloak that looks almost boringly gray, but the moment it is held up to the light, it shimmers and absorbs any light. It is highly sought after by the other Houses.
The Clerc bows and heads back to Taldinyon and her sister and brothers. On request, she is granted a satchel with six potions of healing. These potions will return your health in a reasonable amount, the Weapon Master says. Lilith gives a potion to each sibling and keeps the other three. They change into their travel outfits, get their packs and continue to the stables to pick up Alvra’s lizard. Back on the road so quickly…
After a while, the three barges that harbor the Xaniqos and their riding animals veer away from the other barges. Vuon and twenty warriors stay with them, while the other Kua Toas accompany the slaves – slaves who get only mediocre food and very short breaks. The Kua Toas move with military precision. Though Lilith immediately asks for Vuon, the Kua Toa waits a couple of hours before answering her call.
First you say that you were ‘heading this way anyway’, and now we are the only ones traveling in this direction? Where are the others going?
Are you worried, Priestess?
Of course not. Just curious.
The Kua Toa explains that the other barges are headed for places around the Glimmersea and that all is going according to plan. Nothing else to do than sit back and enjoy the view, which is very boring. The journey continues smoothly and three times a day the Kua Toas dive with their tridents to catch fish and collect seaweed for the lizards.
Four days later they see Blessed Seahaven in the distance. Vuon asks Lilith if they want to debark at the village or in the vicinity, since they want nothing to do with the ritual. Lilith tells the Kua Toa to disembark nearby. Though it is a smooth landing, the lizards get a bit restless, so their chains are deftly removed. Everyone is glad to be off the rafts and they quickly say goodbye to Vuon.
May the darkness be with you.
Where upon the Cleric replies:
And may the Spider Queen kiss you!
The Drow climb on their mounts and ride off. After two hours the familiar big gates of Erelhei-Cinlu rise up from the gloom and soon the bigger buildings are visible. Two more hours have passed when they are welcomed by the City Guards. The Xaniqos show their House insignias and are allowed to pass the gates, notwithstanding their looks. People make way for their party; whether that is because of their House insignias, the lizards or the intrusive sea scent remains unclear. With their hodgepodge clothing and armor they look a band of mercenaries. At the Noble Gate, they are halted by a female Cleric of House Thorntor, who denies them access. Lilith is fed up with the delay and it takes quite a bit of her diplomacy skills to gain access. They are allowed through under escort of the Priestess and ten of her armed guards so nothing happens on her watch.
When they arrive at the Xaniqos mansion, the Thorntor Cleric enters the house. Several patrols are guarding the premises, more than usual. Surrounded by the Noble Gate guards, the siblings impatiently wait until someone with authority acknowledges them. After an hour the Priestess emerges again, accompanied by Taldinyon, who has a big grin on his face. He nods to the Priestess and tells her they are Xaniqos alright. The guards move aside and finally the favored consort escorts them into the the house. Goblin slaves lead the lizards to the stables.
A lot has changed, Taldinyon say, please follow me. The House is bristling with activity. There are many Bugbear slaves and armed Drow patrol the corridors and hallways. Word of your arrival has been sent to the Matron Mother, so you might want to freshen up, Taldinyon suggests. But Lilith first wants to visit the Chapel. When she enters, her sister Quarra is leading a sermon for several praying Priestesses. Some seem familiar to Lilith from her time at the Clergy School, but others are strangers.
After several minutes, Quarra turns around and greets her sisters.
We have prayed for your safe return,
she says and then kisses Lilith.
There are new developments. Our revered Matron Mother has assembled more of the lower Houses to our cause. We have had some rough times since you left, but the Lady Thandysha has made wise and strategic moves. We gained fifty warriors, five Priestesses and over a hundred slaves. Too bad you weren’t around when these great tidings arose.
Good news indeed, Lilith says, but we didn’t do too bad ourselves either.
The travelers all go to their rooms to freshen up – Lolth knows they can use it – until a ruckus downstairs tells them that the Matron Mother has returned.