Monsters In The Dark


The Xaniqos drow hear a lot of thrashing in the water, something is about to happen! When Phaedra peeps around the corner, she sees a shape rise from the water. Within seconds, one of the shadowgoblins is engaged in a fight with an owlbear skeleton. This large magical beast usually looks like a cross between an owl and a bear, not like a moving heap of bones. It is clearly the result of a magical experiment.

The warriors wade into the water and see an impressive skeleton fill the entire chamber. Jharrath sends a hail of stone towards the beast. Enraged, the owlbear attacks the Cleric who is standing nearest – waiting for the opportunity to get a good swing with her mace – but misses. When Alvra’s javelin skitters between its ribs and the Wizard splatters it with acid, again the owlbear slashes at Lilith with both arms. This time its claws rake through the Cleric’s armor. It should not have done that.

The furious Cleric raises both hands and in a frightening voice casts a rebuking spell. Her indignation at being injured by the skeleton gives her the power to overcome the beast.

Kill it while I hold it. I want it dead!

Alvra walks past his sister towards the skeleton, that is now cowering in the corner of the room, and starts hacking. Chunks of bone fly through the air and, aided by the Scout, he slays it. The owlbear crumbles into the water until nothing else remains but a heap of bones.

The antechamber opens into a corridor that is also filled with water. The eerie gleam of fungi adds another dimension to the already sinister passage. The corridors form a square, with two doors on either side and a big sealed door on the opposite side. At the end of the left corridor, a chest is submerged in the water. Behind the first door is, or better was, an alchemy laboratory. The shelves are sagging and broken flasks and utensils are everywhere. On the tables in the center more bones: sad remains of humanoids who once were held there with leather straps.

The second door on the left is locked, but that doesn’t stop Phaedra. She enters the room, the Cleric on her heels. They are greeted by a lot of rubble, two fallen tables, scalpels and dried blood. The floor slopes upwards towards the end of the room, where two mannequins are covered with flaps of skin. The instant the drow enter, three skin flaps launch themselves into the air, attacking the sisters. Skinkites!

Phaedra nimbly tumbles back into the corridor and escapes, Lilith also in full retreat. When the first skin kite enters the corridor, the Wizard fires an electric bolt at it, while Alvra wields his sword. It goes down. Then the second flying fur coat enters the dungeon, soon followed by number three.

While their attention is taken up by the fluttering skins, three humanoids secretly move upwards through the water near the chest. They seem to be made of legs, bones, teeth, matted hair and stone. The creatures attack the Scout and bite her leg. A searing pain shoots up her leg and Phaedra immediately feels sick. That bite must have been more than just a bite! She tumbles past and lashes out. Jharrath identifies the creatures as tomb motes.

Alvra (nicknamed the Skinkite Flayer by now ;)) manages to chop another skinkite to pieces. The third though has attached itself to Lilith’s face and chest, and is ripping away chunks of her skin. The effect is not positive: neither on charisma nor on temper. She tries to tear it off her, but it only settles deeper into her skin. The Fighter wades over to his Cleric sister and starts pulling at the kite. With a sickening crunch it lets go and flutters away. Lilith grabs her mace and hits the damn thing, pieces of her own skin hanging loose. Not a pretty sight. Jharrath aims an electric bolt at the skin kite, but misses.

Meanwhile the tomb motes are moving in, attacking and moving out again at amazing speed. One of them manages to bite Alvra and again the pain, but not the nausea. First things first. The Skinkite Flayer makes his third victim and then turns towards the tomb motes. But these agile creatures are very fast. The Xaniqos siblings can not seem to hit them. It takes the help of two summoned earth elementals to finally kill them.

Silence once more rules the dungeon, disturbed only by the panting and subdued moaning of the drow…

Ghetto of the Dead


Ghouls. The Ghetto of the Dead is full of them. And once a year, these undead humanoids roam the streets of Erelhei-Cinlu in a ritual that is called the Great Hunt. On that day the ravenous horde is allowed out of their district to feed. What do they eat? Flesh. Dead, preferably living! Let us hope today is not the Great Hunt.

The Fighter leads his brother and sisters into the Ghetto of the Dead. And it is not a happy place. The whole district is sealed up by a fence, the Black Chalice Tavern near the entrance: an inn that is ruled by a female vampire. The drow clientele not only visits for the high quality food & drinks or decadent games (where one of the participants probably dies), but also in search of knowledge of the Arcana.

They walk into a gloomy area, and it is like walking into a big graveyard, no lights, no torches, nothing. There is a faint purplish gleam though. A big gate gives access to the huge Necropolis Square. Eight obelisks are placed evenly around the square – one for each of the Ruling Houses – sixty feet apart. A group of about twenty drow is gathered around the central altar, lost in the last ceremony to offer body and soul of the deceased to the Spider Queen Lolth. Fragments of the spoken rituals carry back towards the gate, speaking of ‘his body’. Phaedra notices the sigil of a brown staff on the robes of the gathered. It is the sigil of the House of Eilservs, the owners of the Ghetto of the Dead. Seems like the entire noble family is present, with only the Matron Mother Eclavdra missing. A very high male within the family must have died…

As soon as the ceremony is over, the drow depart and the ghouls stream in to feed. The Xaniqos hurry across the square, moving in a wide circle to keep clear of the altar. The ghouls’ attention is solely focused on feeding on the corpse and the drow make it safely past the square. In that area the normal graves are situated. Well ‘graves’, a lot of rubble and stones on murky and damp grounds are all that is left of what were once gravestones and tombs. No use searching for the name Nuchar.

As they roam over the graveyard, they finally chance upon an entrance to a mausoleum. Around the opening are ashes and the remains of a house. Could this be the place? Before they can investigate, a group of ghouls draws near, lured closer by the smell of fresh flesh. They seem to have followed them from the square. Lilith, drawing upon her Cleric powers, utters a spell and rebukes the undead until they cower and shuffle away.

Large stairs lead down into a silent darkness. Carefully Phaedra moves ahead, until the stairs end in a pool of dark green water. A horrible stench fills the space and the Scout signals the others to stay clear of the water. She loads her crossbow and then nimbly climbs the wall until she reaches the edge of the corridor. Around the corner she sees a door, with an iron seal mechanism covering it from ceiling down to the water. When she examines it, she notices the seal is magically enhanced. The iron is rusty with age.

Back with the others, she reports her findings. When the Cleric can not detect any poison in the water, Jharrath wades through to check the magical seal himself. The Wizard points his wand at the door and a faint aura lights up. The seal has to come off before the door can be opened. Lilith orders her brother to summon some monsters to open the friggin’ door. Three goblins appear on his command, and Jharrath sends the tallest one down into the water to try and open the door. The goblin, his hear barely above water level, jumps up to the handle and pulls, dangling from its arms. Nothing happens.

Phaedra goes down too to search for traps, and after a while succeeds in unlocking the door but warns her siblings that a trap is on the door. By this time, the three conjured goblins have returned to their own planes and the Wizard has to summon new creatures. When one of them opens the door, the whole corridor is lit in light and flame, obliterating the poor goblinoid. But the seal has been broken! Jharrath sends the two remaining shadowgoblins around the corner into the second room.

Council of the Eight Ruling Houses


In the evening, just before the Matron Mother will leave for the Council of the Eight Ruling Houses, our four brave drow are summoned to their mother’s private quarters. Dressed in a robe of spider silk, Thandysha does not even bother to ask after Vorn’s fate. Since Taldinyon is also present, the youngsters presume she knows about Vorn’s defeat. Two impressive minotaur impassively guard the door. Security is very high in House Xaniqos tonight, and Mother Thandysha reminds her children of their house insignia’s.

The Matron Mother then accepts the letters of her children with their choice for a possible alliance with one of the Ruling Houses. After reading the notes, she tells them they have named two alternatives, which she will keep in mind when making her final decision. Thandysha thanks them for their opinion and sends Phaedra, Lilith and the brothers to their chambers to get some rest. They have to be ready to be called upon though.

Later that night, the Matron Mother, her favored Consort and most of the house guard leave for the First House, where the Council will be held. Quarra, the eldest sister, turns to her siblings:

Pay attention. We are undermanned, so I expect to see you in full armor as soon as possible. And bring your weapons with you. We need to stay at high alert!

Jharrath looks rather smug wearing his new dark snakeskin outfit.

The hours pass and the attentive drow enjoy a good evening meal, separate from the main guard. Rumors already buzz through the mansion when Quarra sends for them: Cleric Amalika has arrived with news from the Council. House Xaniqos has been accepted as Eighth House! Only for their ears though, she tells them that Mother Thandysha has talked to Matron Mother Sereska of the House of Vae, who is quite interested in a coalition but can not see the benefits… yet. The other option was House Godeep, and Matron Mother Siadef is ready to return Thandysha’s favor, though on one condition. House Xaniqos has to prove itself worthy by obtaining a special artifact: the Mask of the Matriarch. This mask used to belong to one of the lower old noble houses and has been lost from sight. The Mask of the Matriarch has the powerful ability to make others cower in fear.

Cleric Amalika asks the four Xaniqos siblings if they are up to the task of retrieving this mask in the Ghetto of the Dead (situated next to the Ghetto of Outcasts). As one they raise their chins and Lilith replies with a definite yes. When she asks for specifics, Amalika tells her the mask is made of obsidian and bears resemblance to the face of a female drow. The Mask of the Matriarch is thought to be buried underneath the House of Nuchar. Strange necromancy experiments have taken place in that house, which is now totally obliterated.

The Ghetto of the Dead, also called the Necropolis, is the home of necromancers, vampires, ghouls and undead. Long ago, the ghetto was a traditional place of the dead, known for its mausoleums, cemeteries and tombs. There are eight big obelisks at the Necropolis Square, one for each of the Ruling Houses. Most drow avoid the district, venturing into the ghetto only when they must dispose of mortal remains. Once the mourners depart, the hungry undead descend to feast upon the corpses.

With Alvra in the lead, they set out into the night…