Szith Morcane

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Wary of the shadow spider, the Xaniqos continue their way over the unstable spider strands. Phaedra carefully picks a route through the sticky maze, while the others follow in her footsteps. When she hears unfamiliar voices, the scout urges the others to stay quiet. Lilith takes a moment to examine their surroundings and spots a plateau. It seems to be another entrance in the wall opposite the thoroughly destroyed former balcony, where smoke still smolders – the result of Jharrath’s devastating fireball. Phaedra crawls upwards towards the damaged ledge and takes a quick peek. The tunnel seems empty at first, but then something moves. What in Lolth’s name… Quickly she regroups with the others and signals them to keep ready.

Hideous skinless creatures appear at the rim of the ledge. With muscles stretched taut over skeleton and fluids oozing from their bodies, they start to climb down the twenty feet drop. “Quth-maren,” the cleric exclaims, “undead skinned drow. Be careful of their ooze: it’s acid!”. They turn to face this new threat, when the spider once again jumps into existence.

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The wizard, accompanied by his mirror images, moves forward and climbs the strands, trying to reach a more strategic position. The spider launches a bite attack and its teeth sink into one of the shimmering images of the wizard. Up on the ledge a new opponent appears -an arcane guard- and four magic missiles fly straight into the fray. When they hit, only two of Jharrath’s mirror images remain.

“This fight is well coordinated,” the Xaniqos fighter observes through clenched teeth. No sooner have these words left his lips, than the spider takes advantage of his temporary slip of attention and paralyzes Alvra with a well-placed bite. Phaedra’s counterattack bounces off the spider’s hide, and the arachnid grapples her.

Lilith calls upon the Spider Queen to rebuke the undead warriors, but before she can activate that ability, one of the undead rests his horrifying gaze upon her and the normally strong willed fighter feels herself overcome with fear. A second undead tries to slice her open with his filthy claws, but can’t penetrate her armor.

From the side, the wizard launches an arch of lighting, which ravages the undead and wounds them heavily with electricity. Through the cleric’s spell resistance, she’s able to withstand the lightning arch; and Alvra is safe as well. Next, Jharrath takes out a candle and summons three earth elementals near the spider. Their combined weight is too much for the spider webs and they slowly topple out of sight, leaving a huge hole in the webbings. The spider is able to keep its footings, but has to release the scout in the process. Immediately, Phaedra lashes out and hits the eight-legged animal. When another round of the arcane guard’s magic missiles slams into the wizard, his last mirror image disappears.

“The only way you can enter Szith Morcane is either dead or as slaves!” A female voice rings out over the grunts and growls of the combatants. Upon the ledge, the Xaniqos see a female, wearing the symbol of a leering skull; it must be one of the Kiaransalee clerics, worshipers of the Lady of the Dead.

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Strengthened by the proximity of his mistress, the flayed creature makes another clawed attack on Lilith, once again keeping his horrifying gaze on her. The wounds of the oozing creature slowly begin to heal. They have to get out of there! Phaedra tumbles past the shadow spider -hitting it hard- and touches the still immobile Alvra on landing. Jharrath casts darkness on himself and moves towards the plateau Lilith spotted earlier. He sees a deserted corridor and dashes into it. “Don’t run, you’ll make a perfect slave!” The mocking voice of the Kiaransalee cleric follows him, as well as a crossbow bolt. The enchantment instantly seizes the wizard, leaving him paralyzed. There’s only one mobile Xaniqos drow left!

Phaedra teleports and takes Alvra with her, slowly dragging him towards the plateau where Jharrath is standing still. In the blink of an eye, three more drow scouts mirror her movements. She maintains her connection to Alvra, leading him further and further from the battlefield. Jharrath struggles and breaks the enchantment, casting darkness to hide their actions and whereabouts.

A frustrated shout sounds through the battle scene. The Kiaransalee cleric is not happy to see her prey escape and calls upon her Goddess. And the Lady of the Dead answers: a roaring flamestrike slams into the middle of the three, or rather six, siblings, but searing only Jharrath. Phaedra pushes the fighter into the corridor, and then steps back onto the webs.

The Xaniqos cleric manages to break the will of the glaring Quth-maren. Shaking her head clear of the last remnants of the undead’s influence, she tries to dodge the slashes of one, while the other spits acid blood at her. It splashes against the stone and spider strands, where it mingles with Lilith’s blood. Looking up, she sees the arcane guard drawing near. In full retreat she follows her brothers and sister, while being attacked by the undead and the guard over and over again.

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When Alvra comes to, he’s face down in a dark tunnel. His brother is heavily wounded, and both his sisters are battling on the web strands, while trying to flee to the relatively safety of the corridor. Another necromancer spell hits his eldest sister. Phaedra is driving the guard mad by teleporting away constantly when he comes too close. The fighter takes out his javelin and hurls it towards the Kiaransalee cleric on the other side of the crevice. Caught up in her spell casting, the necromancer is surprised by the attack. She pays in blood.

Summoned from another plane by the wizard, a large earth elemental appears and tries to grapple the arcane guard. As planned, its weight proves to be too much though, and both start falling through the net. The guard manages to hold on and climbs back up. In all consternation the spider advances on Lilith and paralyzes her with a bite of its poisonous fangs.

Covered in darkness, Phaedra sets out to retrieve the immobile cleric. Under attack by the quth-marens, she starts pushing her sister towards the plateau. Fortunately the undead miss. Alvra doesn’t though, and throws another javelin at the creatures, scoring a hit. Jharrath readies a fireball, waiting for his siblings to clear the webbing. The fighter bull-rushes the quth-marens, but loses his footing and lands on his back. There he continues fighting his opponent, who is stuck in the spider strands. Jharrath casts a spell on the other. Alas it seems to be resistant to fire. The spider removes Phaedra’s mirror images in a double attack. Quickly the scout shoves Lilith back another step. Jharrath lifts his arms and…

“Let them run!” Overseeing the battlefield, the Kiaransalee calls back her allies. “Stop the chase and let the worms run!” The attackers leave, making care to dodge Alvra’s harassing sword.

Limping and bleeding the drow of House Xaniqos manage to escape. Not a good day for the four adventurers. Still they finally managed to find Szith Morcane!

Shadows

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The drow climb through the hatch and descend down the rope ladder, which ends at a platform. A short corridor leads towards a giant chasm, that opens up 30 feet wide. A wind is blowing from down below. The crevice is wrapped up in spider webs, forming a kind of walkway. The web consists of several layers of thick spider ropes. Even the walls have been decorated with the sticky strands. As they look over the edge, they see the lower levels are also layered in spider silk. It is possible to climb the walls, but only for very experienced climbers. Which some of them are not!

After locking the hatch, the siblings gather near the edge. Jharrath uses one of his wands to see if there’s magic at work, but only faint traces of magic linger. Alvra steps onto the webbing, with Lilith close behind. The air currents feel weird. After advancing about 20 feet, the fighter’s foot gets stuck. When they examine the sticky strands, they notice that the webbings glisten in the area where Alvra is trying to get loose. Unfortunately he only manages to get his other foot stuck too. He’s entangled.

People have passed here, so there must be a safe route. The cleric walks back towards the platform, gathers up some dust and small stones and swipes these over the webbings near her brother. The dust clings to the sticky pieces, vaguely showing which way they should not go. When she tries to pull the fighter back to safety, she slips on the treacherous webbing. Now both drow are stuck!

Their siblings move out to help them, but a sudden movement alerts Phaedra to a new danger: in the top right corner she sees a large spider, hiding in the shadows. The beast is green, and has dark eyes which faintly glow red. The shadow spider rushes towards the drow and lashes out with very sharp claws. Phaedra quickly teleports to safety and takes out her spiked chain. When Jharrath is attacked, he uses his boots to zap away. Alvra and Lilith meanwhile try to keep their balance on the treacherous footings. The cleric’s soundburst spell has no effect on the advancing spider, so Alvra casts a globe of darkness.

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Phaedra watches the spider’s silhouette become vague, then disappear in the shadows altogether. With all of her senses alert, she suddenly hears a faint rustling behind her and immediately lashes out with her spiked weapon. The chain connects with something solid and the spider again pulls back into the shadows, narrowly missing the dark bolts that Lilith aims at the beast. Alvra tries to cast faerie fire on the creature, but to no avail. Turning, the spider attacks the wizard, or so it thinks. In stead, one of Jharrath’s six mirror images disappears. The wizard quickly summons a salt mephit to help him fight, and shoots Kellgore’s firebolts into the arachnid.

While the shadow creature is occupied, the drow scout approaches her sister and tries -in vain- to free her. Lilith casts a mass shield of faith to help her siblings out; her boots seem to be glued to the web strands. She then calls upon her deity for darkfire. Alvra manages to pull himself free and carefully steps to the side of the crevice. There he casts dancing lights around the spider’s head and grabs his sword.

With only two of the wizard’s mirror images left, Jharrath’s situation is not looking good. The arachnid fanatically bites and claws. Phaedra counterattacks and hits, but the damage is less severe than expected. A full hit of Lilith’s darkfire also has little to no effect.

A soft whistling alerts the Xaniqos to a new danger: in an aperture, two drow appear. They seem satisfied to watch the fight scene from up above. Their grin quickly changes to horror when a sizzling ball of fire roars towards them. The spell detonates with a low roar and the hostile drow are catapulted. One lands in the web – a charred corpse; the other lies smoldering one floor down. Jharrath puts away the bat guano with a satisfied grin.

Alvra swings his sword at the shadow spider, but misses because of the darkness. The spider immediately lashes out and grapples the fighter, which activates the drow’s special armor. Another round of darkfire soars towards the spider, but the flames don’t harm it. The beast, attacked on all sides, tries to take its prey to the Shadow Plane, but the fighter resists. Lilith quickly heals her heavily wounded brother before the arachnid returns, and then casts Bebelith Blessing on herself. She finally manages to pull herself loose and rushes in to help her sister, who is attacking the beast. Again the shadow spider returns to its plane.

 

Prying Eyes

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While Lilith patches up her wizard brother, Phaedra and Alvra go over the remains of their defeated enemies. They were very well equipped with magic weapons and armor, amulets, wands and potions. When Lilith searches the archer, she finds an obsidian bat form among the other equipment. The cleric scrutinizes the statue, and then asks Jharrath if it could be the sought after key to the portal. The wizard studies the object in the light of the dawn and confirms her belief: this is an activating stone.

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The cleric applies more healing to Alvra, while keeping an eye on the surroundings. The fighter is leaning against a wall. Someone is watching us, he signs. Lilith nods. At that moment, Phaedra return from patrolling the neighborhood. A flock of ravens is their constant company up above. I know, Lilith signals, but we can’t go back, we still need to find Dark Fate. Alvra, find us a defensible spot. Do it, quickly!

They travel on, until the fighter finds a shallow basin with a low wall at the back and bushes in the middle. Lilith creates a number of semi-tangible, visible magical orbs and sends them forth. These Prying Eyes have the specific instructions to scout for danger. The cleric leans back against the rim of the basin, as does Alvra, and tries to get some rest. Their brother finds cover under a bush. Phaedra hides nearby and keeps watch.

The day passes slowly, until the Prying Eyes wake their mistress and alert her to advancing danger: six drow are at 120 feet and closing in. Lilith sits up and signals to her siblings. They are surrounding us! Alvra gives his sister a hand, and with his help, she manages to climb out of the pit. The Eyes inform her that the enemies have advanced to sixty feet from where they were resting.

The cleric starts chanting and creates a shimmering, magical field around her companions, that enables them to avert attacks easier. She then casts a spell on Alvra, that makes his muscles bulge, and dresses herself in an magical armor of darkness. An anti-toxin potion should also help counter any sleeping spell darts. Jharrath drinks one as well. Lilith warns the others: through her Prying Eyes she can see that that five of the six enemy drow just became invisible. Among them is the cleric who attacked them yesterday. And she doesn’t seem to be the only cleric this time!

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Alvra peeks over the edge, ready to jump into action. Drinking a potion that blurs her outline, Lilith takes cover behind a big rock, with her wizard brother near. Moments later he summons a salt mephit. Glitter dust swirls through the air.

Silently, Phaedra steps away, taking position on the other side of the rim’s top while hiding in invisibility. Then she hears footsteps next to her. She keeps very quiet and from the corner of her eye she sees an archer who takes aim at the mephit. The warrior is in full armor and dressed in black. Another battle is about to begin.

Ambushed!

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The drow hit the road in the dead of night, when the evil sun’s glare isn’t as fierce. Keeping to cover as often as possible, they travel the lands, past neglected and overgrown farmhouses. Phaedra falls back to keep an eye on possible pursuit. It’s a cold, windy and cloudy night. The Upperworld is quite unpleasant. After a while, they arrive at the end of the shrubbery. Up ahead the farmland is dotted with ruins. In the distance the rolling hills give way to higher mountains.

Jharrath and Theo exchange small talk. Apparently the Friezford drow uphold trade through the portal. Lilith checks the air, where patrolling ravens once again come closer. They feel evil. The Xaniqos run towards one of the ruins to hide, but apparently it’s too late: they have been spotted. Immediately the ravens fly southward – without a doubt straight towards the Hidden Dell, as Theo informs them. The drow cautiously follow the black birds over the deserted fields, ot of options for cover.

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Then a voice rings out from one of the ruins to their left. Elven chanting finds a way to Lolth, calling down a flame strike in their middle. Nimble Phaedra escapes without as much as a single blister, but the other drow all take damage. Their unfortunate guide is charred beyond recognition and slowly topples forward. Arrows buzz through the air, one striking the wizard in his chest, another piercing Phaedra’s armor. She quickly turns around and discovers both cleric and bowman. Both are dressed from head to toes in black.

Jharrath surrounds himself with five mirror images. He takes out a bit of bat guana and sends a fireball sizzling towards the silo, where the —soon to be severely injured— archer hides. He then takes position between his brother and sister.

The scout runs and crouches behind a wall, finding a bit of cover – or at least, that’s what she thought. Someone suddenly pops up, apparently coming out of invisibility, and fires a crossbow at Phaedra. She duplicates his tactics and disappears before the bolt can find her as a target. Taking out her spiked chain, she lashes out repeatedly. The drow’s rapier counterstrikes, and the two opponents battle back and forth. When her spiked chain doesn’t give her the results she wishes for, she exchanges it for her crossbow. The male charges and… Phaedra disappears from view, only to reappear a bit further on. The drow grins, seemingly enjoying the challenge. In sign language he says, If you surrender, you can always join us. The Xaniqos drow answers by blinding the dark elf.

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Further to the left, Lilith serves the unknown and hostile cleric a portion of her own medicine: a flame strike sears from the skies and strikes the female head on. A shriek gives voice to the hit, leading Alvra’s javelin her way as well.

More arrows cross the open area, passing through two of Jharrath’s mirror images. The second archer aims a wand at herself, then puts it away. The boost is successful, because her next arrow finds a crack in Lilith’s armor. The Xaniqos priestess roars and charges full towards her attacker. The drow archer didn’t exactly see that coming. Quickly she trades the bow for her rapier and aims it at Lilith, while an additional arrow from the silo finds its way into Lilith’s back. The cleric sends a stream of searing lights towards her attacker, following through with a spell, inflicting more damage to the heavily wounded drow archer. When the opponent tries to tumble past Lilith, almost stabbing her in the neck, the priestess attacks with another spell and kills her.

Alvra follows the course his javelin took earlier and finds another archer behind a wall. And though his attack is well coordinated, it still misses. Something else seems to be aiding these drow. The hostile cleric once again calls upon Lolth and a dagger appears out of thin air, poking down on the Xaniqos fighter. He shrugs off the effects and concentrates on dislodging the bow from the archer’s hands. He succeeds, but gets hit again and again. He takes a moment to step back and take a healing potion.

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A huge earth elemental appears near the enemy cleric, summoned by Jharrath. She tries to dispel the creature, but it hits back and does more damage to the female. With the help of her wand, she disappears from view, but the elemental is not dazes by her act. He pummels down with his bludgeoning fists. Again the hostile cleric disappears.

The wizard directs his attention towards the archer in the blackened silo and ends his life with a fireball. He cautiously finds his way towards the part of the ruin where the scout is battling, but his joy in the successful attack is rather short lived. Once again he takes an arrow and hits the ground, unconscious. Lilith marches towards her fallen brother, receiving more arrows in the process.

Phaedra quickly pours a healing potion down Jharrath’s throat and then faces the male fighter again. Silently she sneaks towards him, moves behind him and comes out of her invisibility. In two well placed attacks, she kills her opponent.

Two new elementals come to Alvra’s aid – the fighter is definitely having a bad day. Together they finally manage to put his bastard sword wielding enemy down.

Silence returns, only disturbed by the panting of the Xaniqos siblings. Of the wounded cleric, not a sign.

Claws and Fangs

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Phaedra continues down the corridor, her sister right behind her. She opens the door and moves into the room. Suddenly the floor is lit with a blue glow. With a thunder clap and a lightning flash, two huge felines appear, bigger and more beautiful than lions. The celestials roar a challenge and attack. The scout immediately teleports to a safer place, while Jharrath casts his protecting mage armor. A cross bow dart, shot by Lilith, zips into the room, but does no visible damage and falls harmless to the ground. Alvra moves towards the front of the fight, while Phaedra tumbles backwards, exiting the room. The cats follow, roaring ferociously, and lash out at the scout with their mighty claws. Quickly Jharrath utters a spell and manages to get rid of one of the lions by dispelling its magic.

Alvra charges the remaining cat and hits it with his second attack. The slash doesn’t really permeate the skin, but he manages to damage it a bit. Phaedra hits it hard twice with her spiked chain. And when the celestial lion tries to counterattack, it gets slaughtered by a combined effort of the drow.

When the sisters re-enter the room, they find four sarcophagi. Phaedra removes the lid of the first. There’s an old skeleton, wearing a nice necklace with moonstones. The second sarcophagus is empty, but in the third, Lilith finds a skeleton with a short magic spear in his hand, the spear head glowing blue with white tendrils. In his other hand is a wand. The cleric takes both objects and shows them to Alvra. He has no time to examine them closely so tucks them into his backpack. In the last sarcophagus, Lilith finds a gold necklace.

Back in the hallway, Phaedra moves towards the next door. It is sealed, plastered shut, and no one has visibly tampered with it. When the female drow pushes against the door, a force flows through her hand and drains the life out of her. Suddenly it gets very cold. Phaedra feels like she has barely escaped with her life. Her sister detects a residue of magic on the door, and a strong magic force in the middle of the room, several lesser points around it. Jharrath summons a medium earth elemental, which he orders to vigorously attack the door. The creature pounds on the door with his massive arms, and soon plaster is falling down, while one after the other thump resounds down the corridor. Soon the door is in pieces.

In the middle of the room a large statue of a regal looking female drow. She’s wearing an elegant gown and has a commanding attitude. Behind her are two doors, as are to the side of the room. Lilith keeps focusing and notices that the magical aura moves into the statue. She warns the others and they ready, tense.

A female voice, shrill and high, utters an unintelligible sentence, aggressively repeating one word in particular. The cleric replies that they don’t understand her, first in Undercommon, then in Drow. The creature in the statue doesn’t react to her words and again repeats the threat. Then a ghost with a terrifying face appears over the elemental. It is the image of someone who died a long time ago, and it has nothing of the statue’s beauty. Before the drow are able to take a good a look at it, the image disappears again.

I think it is the ghost of someone of importance, buried here,

Jharrath says, when suddenly the statue’s hand rises. It attacks the elemental – which is not very impressed though. The mage orders his creature to counterattack, and successfully. A lesser orb of acid finishes the job, and the statue crumbles. In its place a surreal shape of a ghost rises that looks very insistent at the drow. It is like her gaze pierces their souls. The apparition hovers incorporeal above the floor.

Alvra lashes out with the magical side of his sword, but the strike moves through the ghost’s body. When the elemental’s fist also passes harmlessly, Jharrath attacks with a magic missile. Calling upon the Spider Queen, the cleric rebukes the undead, but to no avail. The creature is too strong. Phaedra tumbles into the room and each time the ghost tries to attack her with her incorporeal rapier, the scout teleports ten feet away. The ghost hisses in frustration. Alvra’s sword then scores a hit, and a magic missile does even more damage. Again Lilith rebukes the creature, and this time the old crow is frightened and cowers before the cleric. She withdraws into a corner of the room, unable to act. And while Lilith keeps a threatening eye on the apparition, her siblings attack the undead. As yet another magic missile finds its goal, the ghost disappears with a last frustrated cry of outrage.

When Cloaks Come to Life

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Again the drow stand at the slope of the mine, and try to decide which way to go. As the brothers each point in a different direction and Phaedra is still blinded, Lilith takes the lead. Confidently she takes them through the tunnels of the Underdark, back towards the city of Erelhei-Cinlu – or at least that’s what she’s convinced of. When they have traveled for a few hours, Phaedra becomes aware of an air fluctuation, which brushes against her face. She listens carefully, almost feeling her surroundings with her highly sensitive senses. They enter a dark corridor. In the distance the cleric observes a strange phenomena. It’s almost as if someone has left a couple of black piwafwi’s to dry on boulders.

Her sister feels a change in the air, like something is gliding on the wind, and she instinctively ducks. All of a sudden a black spot flies straight into Jharrath, uttering a screeching sound. Notwithstanding the moaning sound, the wizard keeps his wits about, but still is attacked. By a cloaker!

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Five more creatures launch themselves from the rocks which the cleric had spotted earlier. One of them attacks Lilith with its nasty looking tail, leaving an angry scratch. Again the screeching reverberates through the tunnels, echoing between ceiling and walls, causing the scout – who has no eyesight – to panic temporarily. She drops her spiked chain and takes off at a dead run, away from the sound. The cleric is under attack by a second creature, but both the tail and vocal attack have no effect. A third cloaker tries to hit Alvra, but the tail rebounds off his armor.

The fighter carefully takes a step closer to the wizard, keeping in mind the poison that Lilith smeared on his sword, and sticks the point into Jharrath’s attacker. The beast’s movements seem to lessen. When yet another monster tries to grapple Jharrath – though in vain – the drow casts a spell, which results in six mirror images of himself. These confuse the creature long enough to keep the wizard safe. He manages to escape his opponent’s embrace, but loses one of the images. When the beast uses the shadows to better protect itself, Jharrath is inspired and casts a circle of darkness around him. Still he gets hit, after which Jharrath teleports to a safe distance. From there he aims his wand of scorching rays at the cloaker.

Lilith calls upon Lolth and eight writhing tentacles ooze from her body. One of the cloakers wraps his wings around her and tries to bite her, but it can’t find an opening. The cleric counterattacks with her eight tentacles and subsequently hits the beast with her flail. The poison and the special fire damage of her weapon ravage it almost to the death, but there’s still some fighting spirit left. Twice it tries to attack the cleric, but she crushes it with her tentacles, taking on a second cloaker with her flail. With two strong attacks, she kills this one also, and a third says in an alien yet recognizable voice:

You’re too much trouble!

and flaps away.

Meanwhile, Alvra is hacking and slashing at the creature that now definitely is weakening, but still it manages to get close to the drow. Too close! The fighter takes his kukri and lashes out, while the hungry mouths of his armor dig into the cloaker’s body. With a booming intimidating laugh, again and again he punctures the cloaker’s hide. His strategy seems to work. The attacker releases him and takes off. Grabbing his sword, Alva tries to hit it once more, but the darkness prevents him from hitting his target.

Somewhat further, Phaedra comes to her senses and hears flapping. She loads her crossbow and aims at where the sound is coming from. When she feels a sharp sting, she realizes she’s been hit. The black attacker grapples and tries to bite her, but misses. She has quite a good knowledge of these animals and uses her abilities to blind it. A bright flash illuminates her surroundings and… she becomes invisible.

Are we playing now? I don’t like it when my food disappears!

Though the creature’s moaning makes her muscles cramp, she manages to sneak away. After a while, the beast gives up its search and disappears into the darkness. Phaedra hears them very high up in an air shaft, and walks back towards her siblings. Her sister nods and hands over Phaedra’s favorite weapon.

The cleric gathers the Xaniqos close and heals their wounds, giving extra attention to Jharrath. Soon they are all looking way better, and together they walk back to the last intersection.