The Infernal Ghoul

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Standing in the long corridor, Lilith casts a spell and creates a number of semi tangible, visible magical orbs. She sends one of the prying eyes into the cave. It returns shortly to her hand, and in her mind the cleric sees headstones, two mounds of bodies with their belongings intact, armor and weapons. It seems to be a lair. Then the images move towards a very ugly being; a dark goblin or a ghoul. Its battered robe ends in sharp claws and a long tongue protrudes from its mouth. The creature looks extraplanar -maybe undead- and is heavily muscled. Lilith suddenly loses sight of the creature when it jumps from view. The prying eye, its task done, disappears.

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The cleric sends in another eye with the assignment to look out for the monster, and soon it returns, depicting that the ghoul is hiding high up in the stalactites! She gathers her siblings close and, calling out to the Spider Queen, buffs them with three spells. The effect is immediately noticeable: they feel stronger, have a stronger conviction and feel more protected.

A bunch of skeletons rattles near, and Jharrath unleashes a fireball in their midst. A nice explosion destroys five skeletons and anything of value they might have carried on their bodies. When the fire dies out, Phaedra charges down the hallway and damages a skeleton with her spiked chain. Five more stand up and attack the scout. Alvra steps forward and readies for action, but Lilith rebukes the undead. Within sixty feet all flee or cower in fear. Quickly she commands them to attack their master… but since she’s their new master… “Stupid creatures”, she mutters, and crushes bones with her flail.

Suddenly an energy ball streaks towards the Xaniqos, crackling with blue-black substance. The ball expands and Jharrath recognizes it as the evocation chaos hammer. When the chaos hammer hits, the only one who is temporarily affected is the wizard, who stayed behind. He casts darkness behind him and starts moving towards Alvra and Lilith.

Meanwhile Phaedra is battling the skeletons, aided by Alvra. Lilith gives the undead a new command and orders them to go to the master of the cave, but before they can abide, the ghoul appears -seemingly out of nowhere- next to the inadequately protected wizard. Its claw with long sharp nails lashes out and rakes into Jharrath’s flesh. The wizard is paralyzed and the smell of sulfur and soot fills the air. All his magical protection is gone. “I’m saving most of you for later,” the ghoul telepathically transmits to Jharrath, “but for now, just a bite…” Its teeth sink into the drow’s shoulder and start chewing.

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The skeletons, now firmly under command of Lilith, start moving towards the ghoul. The cleric looks up and sees the ghoul, chewing on her brother. She calls upon her deity and sends forth a bolt of cold darkness from her left hand. Overwhelmed by the evil charge of the darkbolt, the beast is momentarily stunned.

Alvra, our foolish brother is being eaten alive! Hurry!

No longer under the ghoul’s influence, Jharrath comes to his senses and soon five mirror images appear next to him, mirroring his every move. Phaedra hears her sister’s call. She steps back and kills the last bone creature near her, then walks back towards Alvra. Together they see six Jharraths, very sick and heavily wounded. Blood oozes from multiple bite wounds, and shards of flesh dangle from his shoulder.

“What’s happening?”, the fighter yells to Lilith, readying for a charge. “Watch out. Ghoul!”, is her reply. As if on cue, the monster shakes off the cleric’s spell. Lilith’s second darkbolt misses, but her flame strike hits the target. Jharrath aids by summoning an earth element, which starts to grapple the ghoulish fiend. The opponents battle back and forth, and the drow tensely watch the fight when suddenly… they disappear. The ghoul has taken the elemental to another plane by shadow walk!

Phaedra takes a defensive stance, waiting for the monster to reappear; Alvra and Lilith ready their weapons. The wizard holds a Kelgore’s firebolt at his command. The siblings are on high alert, but minutes pass and nothing happens. The scout checks out the cave and sees corpses of gnolls, a drow female and a bugbear. Their equipment is near, and Phaedra notices a  large javelin and two black gloves, the former owner’s hands still in them. The items look very good. She’s about to turn around, when she feels a foul presence. A filthy claw rakes through her flesh. She steps back, counterattacks and hits the fiend with a burst of light. The light seems to have no effect though.

Lilith cautiously searches the corridor and draws nearer to the entrance of the cave, a darkbolt sizzling over her hand. Her brothers follow her.

The ghoul takes a step forward and his tongue lashes out, but the drow elf disappears and becomes visible a bit further away. Phaedra calls out to her siblings, and the cleric rushes forward towards the opening. Her dark bolts have dissipated, so she takes out her flail. A large earth elemental appears next to the ghoul, summoned by Jharrath. It grapples the ghoul in close combat, while Phaedra makes a full retreat and runs for the corridor. Alvra stands shoulder to shoulder with Lilith, protecting his mistress. He notices how the ghoul moves without a sound, a real predator.

Their opponent touches the big elemental and again they disappear. Jharrath moves aside to make room for the fighter. Suddenly the beast reappears, surprising Alvra. Its attack hits in full force, and immediately the drow male is paralyzed. His magical defenses and buffs are gone. Again the wizard summons an earth elemental, and it hits the ghoul. When Lilith furiously attacks the beast too, she fumbles, and instead, the beast hits her. She’s paralyzed as well!

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Jharrath hurls the Kelgore’s firebolt and a shard of red-hot rock streaks through the air, a nimbus of arcane energy crackles around it. It’s a hit. Phaedra looks at the ghoul -nimble and strong- and moves towards it. As her attack fails, the ghoul has no difficulty stepping towards Alvra. It drains energy from the fighter and hacks at him with its claws. Alvra lights go out, and he goes down hard.

While the monster is gloating over its victory, the medium earth elemental bull rushes the ghoul backward. Quickly Lilith focuses her will and fully heals her fighter brother. Alvra regains consciousness, winks at his mistress and then attacks the ghoul from the ground with his short sword. There is no time or strength left in Alvra to get up. Another Kelgore’s firebolt hits the ghoul, while the scout tumbles through. Again she attacks, but due to the high natural armor and high dexterity, she misses.

The ghoul, bleeding and battered, is now attacked simultaneously from four sides. A grimace distorts its face. It looks around, assesses the situation and, with a mighty jump, scampers away.

The Xaniqos look at each other, panting and dripping blood. The cleric calls her siblings close into a healing circle, with special care for the wizard. When they catch their breath, the fighter and scout set out to investigate the cave. Amongst the remains, Phaedra finds a chainmail, shield, cloak and leather armor, all magical, and a sharp dagger. Alvra checks out the items that Phaedra noticed earlier. The javelin is of excellent quality, the head formed like an electric bolt. The black gloves are well made and have a magical aura. He shows the javelin to Lilith, who lets Alvra keep the weapon. She tells the wizard to identify the gloves.

But it will take a long time to…

I said, immediately!

As you wish.

Jharrath bows slightly and prepares his spell. After an hour he reports:

These are Gloves of Endless Javelins, Mistress. Three times a day they can be used in a ranged attack.

Lilith hands the gloves, which will form an excellent combination with the Javelin of Lightning, also to her fighter brother.

They move away from the smelly cave and resume their journey. The terrain climbs slowly, ever upward, and after a long while their path takes a sharp turn. The scout peeks around the corner, very silent, and sees four statues with spiders. She takes a closer look and realizes they are back at the portal! Their relief is short-lived though, when they hear footsteps. Someone’s coming! A familiar hairy face greets them: the draegloth!

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Laergath, what are you doing here?!,

Phaedra exclaims. His pelt is splattered with blood. With a wicked smile, the half demon – half drow replies.

We almost gave up hope and thought you would not come back. Lady Thandysha has sent me to find you. Of all search parties, none have returned. And don’t worry: this blood is not mine. In my search I came upon some others, but they are not looting anymore.

His grin is terrible to witness, the teeth pointed and still red.

I guess your reward will be great. Or your punishment. Come now, I will escort you back to town, because your mother can wait no longer. We have to be careful though. Scouting parties of House Shi’quos and others are still walking around.  House Vae has had no news from their scouts either. And Thorntor is collecting a big army. We have to evade them.

The draegloth accompanies them safely back to Erelhei-Cinlu. His maneuvers to evade the other searching parties are successful, though it takes them several days to return.

 

 

Of Bats and Rats

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

Drink this and get stronger again!

she orders.

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

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

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

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

 

Council of the Eight Ruling Houses

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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…