The Portal

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The Matron Mother eagerly awaits their return, so the four siblings leave the Steelshadow mansion as soon as they have rested a bit, the men carrying the treasure chest and Phaedra holding on to the gems. They only stop at the Hammer & Anvil Inn to pick up their lizards. The beasts seem to be in excellent condition. They thank Ivar for taking good care of their animals and then set out into the Underdark, riding the big reptiles in single file. 

The Xaniqos cross the bridge, looking imposing but none too glorious. The Cleric is wearing shards of her burned robe and ill fitting dwarven armor. Still she likes the feeling of riding above the crowds in the streets; it is rather comfortable to travel this way. Alvra is an excellent rider and Phaedra and Jharrath also manage quite well. The lizards stay calm and are well trained, even in the ruckus of the busy bridge. They travel to the south of the town and set out into a remote area, south-east of Dunspeirrin. With the map, Lilith leads the way to the portal that will take them back to Looblishar and consults her sister every now and then to double checks if they still head in the right direction. Their mounts don’t seem to tire and the Underdark passages provide enough insects and fungi to feed them.

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After a while the path gets rougher and it leads them towards a passage: an arc, twenty feet wide and very high. It is surrounded by walls and there’s no other way to pass than underneath the arc. It seems like they have arrived at the portal. The siblings stop at a safe distance and first take a short break. They secure the lizards there. When they proceed towards the arc, their vision is blurred, the closer they come to the entrance. At ten feet distance, there seems to be a streaming curtain of mercury in front of it and at five foot distance it resembles a mirror. Suddenly a mouth, then a head becomes visible in the mercury mirror, though nothing else happens.

Lilith tries out several passwords, like ‘Looblishar’ and ‘Steelshadow’, but to no avail. Then her sister says ‘We want passage’ in Duergar. A voice answers from afar and tells them they first need to solve ten riddles. Seven will grant them passage, ten means passing without harm.

Question 1:
I can have no color, though there may be darkness within. I have no weight and hold nothing, and if placed in a container it becomes lighter.

The Drow decide on the answer Space, which alas is incorrect. The correct answer was Hole.

Question 2:
Of all your possessions, I am the hardest to guard. If you have me, you will want to share me. If you share me, you no longer have me.

To their delight, they have the right reply now: Secret.

Question 3:
Alive as you but without breath, as cold in my life as in my death; never a thirst though. I always drink dressed in a mail but never a cling.

Again they know the correct answer: Fish.

Question 4:
I am free for the taking through all of your life, though given but once at birth. I am less than nothing in weight, but will fell the strongest of you if held.

Their answer is assessed as positive: Breath.

Question 5:
They flow and leap, but only as you pass. Dress yourself in darkest black, and they are darker still. Always they flee in the light, though without the sun there would be none.

And again: Shadows.

Question 6:
They come to witness the night without being called, a sailor’s guide and a poet’s tears. They are lost to sight each day without the hand of a thief.

Their fifth good answer: Stars.

The Xaniqos breath a little easier at this point. But then…

Question 7:
The more that there is, the less that you see. Squint all you wish when surrounded by me.

After a long discussion, the Drow decide on Mist, but the voice tells them the answer should have been Darkness. They have only one mistake to spare to gain access to Looblishar, and the tension grows worse.

Question 8:
The life I lead is mere hours or less, I serve all my time by being consumed. I am quickest when thin, slowest when fat, and wind is the bane of the gift that I bring.

The answer Candle is correct!

Question 9:
A spirited jig it dances bright, banishing all but darkest night. Give it food and it will live, give it water and it will die.

Though their solution Flame is on the track, the right and only answer is Fire. No more mistakes!

Question 10:
Lighter than what I am made of, more of me is hidden than is seen, I am the bane of the mariner, a tooth within the sea. Speak my name.

Fortunately they manage to solve this riddle together, and tell the voice it’s Ice. And that is correct.

They have gained access! The mouth says ‘You may pass’ and then disappears. All that is left is a void. Alvra mounts his lizard and Phaedra takes hold of the others, which are connected by a rope. When the portal doesn’t open and nothing else happens either, Lilith walks towards it… and sees a small thorny head poking through that looks malignantly at her. When she consults the Wizard about the creature, Jharrath tells her that it reminds him of a portal drake, small dragons that live in and near portals. They love to attack travelers who use the portals. Seems he is right.

portal drake

The little creature flies from the portal, accompanied by two other drakes. They are light gray, four feet long and have razor sharp teeth, as the Cleric is about to find out. One of them is attracted by Lilith’s weapon and it bites her arm. Another uses its spell-like ability and shimmers in the air. They converse in Draconic, figuring out some kind of strategy, and laugh in anticipation.

Jharrath summons a salt mephit and orders it to attack one of the drakes with a ten feet cone of salt crystals. Though its victim is angry, it doesn’t seem hurt. Alvra’s javelin has more effect and hits one of the portal drakes. It counterattacks with a cone gas attack from its snout, but stops when it is hit by a bolt from the Scout’s crossbow. The animal is not amused. Another gas attack hits the Fighter and the Salt Mephit, and both feel weaker and seem to lose strength. Lilith’s flail scores a hit on the one that has been gnawing her arm.

Suddenly there are four drakes where first there was only one; seems they know the spell Mirror Image as well as Blur. Alvra takes his two-edged sword and steers his lizard towards the drake that is hovering over him. His mount attacks with its claws and all of a sudden the mirror images disappear: the attack has taken the drake by surprise. Now all go into a frenzy to hit each other but they alll miss. When the salt mephit’s opponent evades its attacks, the Drow Wizard sends a Kelgore’s Firebolt. Try to evade that! He wounds one of the drakes heavily and it warns the others about Jharrath. Seems like they are magical creatures indeed.

Lilith is still fighting ‘her’ drake and hits it well with her flail and a fire burst. In reaction the beast again bites her shoulder and its teeth sink deep into her skin. Big mistake! Enraged, the Cleric beats the creature to pulp, while another Firebolt finishes off Jharrath’s opponent. Alvra’s lizard strikes with its claws and takes down the last drake from the air. The Drow Fighter cuts the body into tiny pieces before it hits the ground and then jumps down to retrieve his javelin.

The portal is clear!

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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.

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.

The Delver

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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.