The Lizard Rider


The next day, Phaedra, Jharrath and Lilith are invited into the Matron Mother’s throne room. They are led onto the balcony, which overlooks an arena where three goblins are waiting. Two rows of dummies are situated near the opposite walls. On the other side, their brother Alvra is atop a huge riding lizard, dressed in a brand new shiny piwafwi. Alvra greets the Matron Mother, who nods back. She explains to the others that the Fighter will give them a demonstration of the use of mounts in combat. ‘This might give us an advantage over the other Houses’, Lady Thandysha says, ‘but its usefulness remains to be seen’. Because of the Priestess Wars not many mounts are left; this would be House Xaniqos’ first.

Alvra urges his lizard forward and charges the goblins. The creatures react enthusiastically. Weird, considering their survival chances. The Fighter’s javelin misses the walking fodder in the middle. When the lizard next tries to bite the green creature, it starts to look a bit doubtful. That expression is wiped away when the reptile’s claws rake off its head.

The remaining goblins take up new positions and Alvra takes the opportunity to throw a second javelin. This time he hits and one of the creatures takes a spear in his body. The other humanoid has a big smile on his face, gazes up at the Drow and… attacks his injured fellow goblin!

With one thrust, he kills the other and parades the battle field like he’s the winner. Apparently the creature made a pact with the Drow Fighter. But there can only be one winner, and that is not this goblinoid! Alvra steers his mount towards the beaming goblin and with one swipe of his mighty sword he cleaves the green monster in half. Seems like the deal is off!

Alvra leads his riding lizard towards the balcony. The Lady Thandysha tells her son that he might need more training and further development of his combat tactics, but that overall it was an enjoyable performance.

Well done, Alvra. You have shown me you may spend more time on cavalry. Acquire more of these animals in Dunspeirrin.

Guards, clean up the area, and son, report up here within the hour!

With a swipe of her garb, the Matron Mother leaves the scene.



>>  what came before

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.

The Bonegnasher Tribe


Hide poor bastards, we’re coming to get you!

Sorry about that, roleplaying a female drow cleric brings out the worst in me. Which means ‘sausage’ in Dutch. Right, better shut my mouth and continue the story…

Having servants is actually quite useful at times like these: two bugbears start cleaning and repairing their armor. The Xaniqos siblings make their way to the chapel, where the weaponmaster and – hurrah – Quarra are waiting. The name Quarra has been chosen wisely, ’cause the first daughter likes quarreling. A lot. As she is about to belittle the group again, Thandysha appears from behind the back of the altar, wearing ceremonial robes. And she is smiling! Seems Lolth had blessed the House of Xaniqos. As a reward the four will receive an emblem empowered with the might of the house, a brooch that will aid them. Quarra seems not pleased with this at all.

The Matron Mother grants them another day for finishing this quest and allows them to return to their rooms, but then Phaedra speaks up.

We don’t need the extra day Mother Thandysha, we want to prove worthy of the gifts you have given us.

Lilith, knowing that they are all hurt and could need a bit of rest after the vermin debacle, almost chokes with indignation. How dares she without consulting her first?! When she turns on her sister, Thandysha corrects them, telling her daughters they will not mouth, feel or show disagreement in her house. Then the Matron Mother grudgingly agrees with the scout’s proposition. Lilith orders the other three to be at the armory at midnight exactly.

After a couple of hours in their rooms, they meet again. Lilith pulls her sister aside and tells her to never pull a stunt like that again. Ever! If she has an idea, she first has to bring it to the cleric’s attention. No further discussion.

Meanwhile Alvra has gone to the temple in the city. He intimidates the bugbear guards who demand a tribute to the temple, until the guards move out of the way.

I only pay tribute to Lolth!

In the middle of the temple is a statue of a spider, and an altar with priests chanting. The drow fighter starts praying too. One of the priests nears and asks what his wishes are. He grants Alvra his request for healing.

In the armory, a couple of surprises await them. Apart from the magic brooch, there is a new shimmering piwafwi with a crossbow bolt on a black emblem on the back, another healing potion for each and a pouch with hundred gold pieces. There is also a map with markings where the two goblin tribes will be.

At midnight they head out into the Underdark again and leave the city behind. There is no illumination and it gets real quiet. After a two and a half hours walk, they reach one of the goblin settlements as shown on the map. The soon-to-be-slaves abide in openings in a big cave wall. They follow the route to the entrance of the huge cave, that is guarded by two goblins, who sit next to a campfire.

Let’s get this over with as soon as possible, so we can take this riffraff back to the mansion. Tell them to get their leader!

Alvra obeys Lilith without question and walks towards the guards. He comes within fifteen feet before they see him.

Call out your leader, my mistress wants to speak with him.

The goblins look up and see a drow warrior standing there. To emphasis his ‘request’, Alvra moves forward, intimidating the goblins. Both guards are shaken, but backup is coming: five more creatures are nearing. One of the guards attacks Alvra, but suddenly loses faith as the cleric impatiently comes closer. He drops his weapon and runs back. Meanwhile more heads are popping out of the cave openings. The remaining goblin finally runs to get their leader. The four drow are waiting.

Soon Snarl, who is bigger than the rest, walks towards the drow, safe in the middle of the other goblins of the Bonegnasher Tribe. The drow fighter tells them all to surrender, lay down their weapons and come quietly towards the big city. Snarls answers that there is going to be doom upon their heads if they insist. He has a pact with all drow of the big city! Yet he orders his tribesmen to bring the weapons forward, which quickly are wrapped up in a blanket. The smirk on his face is very suspicious but when pressed, he just sticks to his story: they can not take them because of some pact. Finally Alvra shrugs and orders the goblins into a line: the thirty goblin warriors in the front and the females and young in the back.

The group makes its way to the city, while the goblins keep looking back, waiting and listening. Suddenly the drow hear the howling of wargs… and they are getting closer. ‘Doggies!’, the leader says, and the smirk becomes more apparent.

Wargs are often used by goblins as mounts. They are highly intelligent and evil and can hide like the best. The wolves can communicate with the goblins, and some even speak Undercommon.

The group is still hours away from the city. The cleric, who does not speak Goblin, tells Alvra to give Snarl the command to send the wargs away or finish them off when they come closer, but the leader refuses, even when they threaten AND kill a female goblin. The only thing they can do is hurry onward. They march for hours. Howling is all around them now.

Suddenly there is screaming among the females: two wargs have stealthily entered the group. When Phaedra spots the monsters, Jharrath casts a wall of smoke. The two beasts appear on the other side of the smoke, nauseated and sick. In a combined attack and aided by a conjured elemental, the drow manage to kill them. Snarl suddenly looks less sure of himself. After the fight, Lilith and Alvra go back to the head of the line, while Jharrath and Phaedra stay near the back.

Then they step out of the tunnels and see Erelhei-Cinlu in the far distance. The howling intensifies as they enter the big cavern, several shapes closing in from behind. The wizard casts dancing lights to form the message:

Warg attack.
Priestess demands assistance!

after which they force-march forward again. Five of the beasts are catching up. The fighter and wizard both cast darkness behind the group, as they run for the city. In response to the scout’s message, a group of drow races towards them from Erelhei-Cinlu. Two wargs attack the flanks and the three drow stop, make a lightning attack and then run on, while Alvra herds the group of goblins at maximum speed. The wizard, feeling the hot breath of a warg on his heels, grabs a goblin and throws it behind him. With a scream the creature disappears underneath the frenzied wolf. The city group is closing in fast, but not fast enough.

The warg attacks Jharrath again and manages to trip the drow. When Lilith sees this, she casts a spell of doom at the beast, which makes it back off, so the wizard can get up and speed on. All the wargs are attacking now and Alvra keeps prodding the goblins to make them run faster and keep them together. With crossbow bolts, spells of darkness and faerie fire they try to keep the wargs off their backs. The wizard again is attacked by the evil canine beast and this time Jharrath goes down, heavily wounded and unconscious. Luckily the city drow are very close now, and they start firing bolts at the wargs. What was a chase, now changes into a full retreat. They have made it!

The rescuing party is led by Solaufein, who tells them that the Matron Mother summons them home. The cleric heals Jharrath so he will survive and then the large procession continues to the city: they have managed to bring in eighty to ninety new goblins slaves, the former leader resigned to his fate. Thandysha is waiting for them at the chapel. She clearly is pleased and the siblings get the feeling that the whole thing has just been a test and both them and the goblins unwilling dupes of the scheming Matron Mother. Because they have passed this test of loyalty, the second quest is on hold for now. But more difficult tasks will be waiting for them in the immediate future. The siblings each receive 750 gold pieces, free to spend as they like, and are dismissed for the next couple of days…

Recapturing Slaves


Back at the mansion, Solaufein is already waiting for the young drow. He immediately sends them back out for the next assignment: finding a group of 40 or 50 goblin slaves that escaped from the previous House owners. They have been located by the scouts of house Xaniqos somewhere not far outside the city.

To leave Erelhei-Cinlu, they have to pass through the ghettos to make it to the Great Gates. On either side are statues of a male and female drow, with an image of Lolth above. Drow can travel into the city for free, non-drow have to pay their way in.

On the other side of the gates, there is a big cavern, with a small lake to the left. Lilith orders her younger sister to find the band of goblins. They march to the right for a while, where Phaedra finds a bloodstained piece of cloth. Seems they are on the right track. She soon discovers a cave and moves in stealthily. There is only one entrance and no guard. The scout sneaks closer still and then hears voices argue about the leadership of the group. She sees one taller – rather dumb looking – goblin and a group of smaller ones. Only a few of them are armed with crude weapons. Then Phaedra is discovered. The other drow quickly move in and are met by scared goblins, little ones in front.

Alvra asks Lilith if he is allowed to take action, which the cleric allows. He twirls his two-bladed sword and thus manages to intimidate the leader, who drops his spears and flees to the back. From there he tries to negotiate with the fighter. Alvra grants him his life and tells everyone to drop their ‘weapons’. In reply the leader hurls a javelin at the drow, and hits. ‘That’s it, attack the worms!’ Lilith growls en walks menacingly forward. Some retreat.

The wizard hurls fire at the leader and succeeds in hurting him. After a charge of Alvra, there is a headless corps decorating the cave. The others quickly surrender. Meanwhile Phaedra enters the cavern to check the rearguard, where she is attacked by a goblin who was defending the females and young. He ends up with a spiked chain in his skull. Phaedra then leads thirteen goblins from the cave.

They walk back to Erelhei-Cinlu in formation, the remaining thirty new slaves in tow. Upon the arrival at House Xaniqos, captain of the guard Solaufein takes over the goblins and leads them to the slave quarters under the mansion. The four drow proceed to the central hall to report to the Matron Mother and walk into a mass praying. Irritated by the low tasks they have received so far, Lilith remains erect at the entrance of the room. Perhaps not such a bright idea.

Indignant, the Matron Mother allows her eldest daughter to punish the disobedient cleric and Quarra makes the whole group go down on their knees to pray… long! After that they are dismissed without even a comment on the completed task. Lilith praises Alvra for his excellent fighting and heals him as a reward. Though a bit grudgingly. All four then go to their rooms to pray and prepare for the next day. Seems Lolth was satisfied after all, since all feel better prepared for the upcoming events.