The Fang of Lolth

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The tunnel echoes with their footsteps, while the drow make their way deeper into the maze of the Underdark. At some point they realize something or someone else is near! Babbling and scornful chuckling reverberates from an alcove up ahead. Phaedra sneaks closer to check it out, when suddenly a female voice calls out:

Don’t try to hide, I can see you!

Phaedra looks inside the small cave and strains her eyes, but sees only old webs, stalagmites and spider nests. Then a figure in black drops from the ceiling and lands ten feet away.

Don’t make funny moves and lay down your weapons!

Her voice sounds rusty and is of an irritating level, like she’s not used to talking. The others draw near. “Who are you,” Lilith asks.

I’ve been watching you fight those nasty followers of the Lady of the Dead. They don’t worship Lolth like I do.

The woman looks humanoid, but has very long arms. It is a drow, dark, with wild hair and multifaceted eyes. Her fingers are also long, and her clothes adapt to the background. The drow in black is very nervous and she keeps everyone in sight, her eyes darting everywhere.

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Lilith knows that some priestesses go very far in their devotion to Lolth, and suspects this is one of the Fangs of Lolth. These devotees slowly transform into a spider through their worship.

I used to live in Maerimydra, when the evil priestesses of Kiaransalee banished me. So I came here. But I’m sure this is a test: in the end the Spider Queen will reward us!

The Xaniqos cleric quickly agrees, and prompts her to continue.

I have been to Szith Morcane many times. There are other entrances, entrances that are not guarded. I won’t go up with you, but I can tell you where they are. There are hundreds of drow in the city. If you follow this corridor, it will split up eventually. To the right are very hungry driders. And if you go to the left, there’s a very large cave with undead vermin. Priestesses have been transforming them for Szith Morcane. I would recommend you go the left. After that, the corridor will lead you to the upper city of Szith Morcane. It is a very filthy place, and something is guarding it. Something foul! There are no safe places around here; even this tunnel is being patrolled often.

The dark lady starts to get agitated when the siblings move too close to her backpack, so they keep a healthy distance. When no further information can be gained, Lilith starts praying to her deity,  and the woman calms down.

Notwithstanding the ever present threat of the Kiaransalee, the Xaniqos siblings decide to rest, too tired to move on. Phaedra keeps watch. After a few hours, the Fang picks up her backpack and says goodbye, whispering “May the Spider Queen give you strength to defeat your enemies.” “Perhaps we’ll meet again,” Phaedra replies. The dark drow disappears into the dark. The scout wakes up Alvra and settles down for a bit of sleep herself.

When the others wake, the Fang of Lolth is gone. The spell casters feel rested and together they follow the meandering corridor of the Underdark. Their scout is in the lead, constantly checking her surroundings, but all is peaceful. Finally they come upon a split in the road, where they take the left fork.

It is opening into a very wide passage. The sound of many scurrying feet ripples through the air, and they are closing in fast. Stalagmites and stalactites obscure their view. The wizard summons three medium earth elementals, while Lilith holds her holy symbol aloft and casts a spell. A silvery radiance dances from her hands and leaps over all party members, strengthening them. The cleric takes her flail in her hand, while Alvra draws his sword.

No less than twenty medium sized spiders come rushing forward! Phaedra activates spiderclimb and scrambles up the wall. One of the earth elementals attacks the passing spiders and smashes its fist down. The smell of decay fills the air and a white fluid seeps from the carcasses. Lilith’s flail also successfully finds a target. Then her sister calls out.

These are only the forerunners; behind them is a huge spider with a gigantic thick belly. Green slime oozes in its wake. Smaller spiders are originating from the larger beast!

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The cleric groans. She recognizes it as a husk spider, an undead creature that is formed from the carapaces of monstrous spiders and animated by dark magic. The priestesses of Lolth are known to create the same monsters.

The husk spider lumbers towards the earth elementals and attacks with its mandibles. It drains the energy from one of the elementals. As a result, it gets even stronger!

The scout enters the cave climbing and looks around. She sees no other creatures at the moment, so she makes her way to a niche, fifteen feet long, where she can stand on. While Jarrath activates his boots and teleports back to safety, Lilith rebukes the smaller spiders: eleven spiders cower in fear and are unable to attack. Her fighter brother jumps in and starts slaughtering them.

The huge spider charges one of the earth elementals, and while they are thus engaged, the cleric releases a flame strike on their asses. Severely wounded, the arachnid pulls back behind the stalagmites. Jharrath, protected my mage armor, encourages the remaining elementals to keep on killing the rest of the smaller spiders. They seem to have a good time.

From her high perch, the scout observes how the husk spider escapes and climbs down. It ran that way, she signs to the others. Together they slowly make their way into the giant cave and search the corner where the arachnid is hiding. Jharrath moves his elementals forward, while Lilith baths the corner in faerie fire. There’s no spider though.

Suddenly the beast attacks from above, charging Alvra with a bite attack. Phaedra tumbles back and slips, but manages to keep her distance. Quickly she takes out her spiked chain. With a handful of ashes, the wizard shoots a Kellgore’s fire bolt, and Lilith projects a blast of light from her open palm, straight into the beast’s torso. The husk spider is wobbling on it’s eight legs. Alvra moves in for the kill, and with three powerful strikes, the beast is on its back. The cleric takes a good look at the carcass. “It’s a widow maker,” she says, “very aggressive beasts.”

When Phaedra searches the cave, she finds a dead drider and his short sword, which looks valuable enough to take with them. When they move forward again, the cave ends in a narrow corridor. They keep left and walk on. After a long journey through empty caves and ditto walkways, they come upon another large cave. This one smells dreadfully.

The scout moves ahead and then stops. In the middle of the room there’s a mount of bodies in various degrees of decomposition. Some are down to bare skeletons. And something has been eating them!

 

The Battle Rages

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In a flash, an arrow embeds itself in the glittering mephit. The creature flutters to the ground, where it shows remarkable resilience. Alvra throws a javelin towards the hostile archer and follows the direction of his weapon. The enemy drow tries to take cover, which brings him closer to where Phaedra is hiding on the other side of the rim. She quickly replaces her arrow with another and awaits her opportunity.

Jharrath summons another, much bigger monster, which costs him dearly. His action has alerted one of the invisible priestesses and her footsteps come closer. A whispered spell calls down another flamestrike, hitting the Xaniqos wizard head on. The blast proves almost to be the end of him. Luckily Lilith quickly manages to heal her brother, and then strides forward to confront their attacker. With his last reserves, Jharrath strips the foreign drow of a layer of her protective spells. She counterattacks by conjuring a spiritual weapon over his head. A second archer appears behind the mephit and hits the creature twice, but is is still living. Tough little thing!

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The Xaniqos priestess calls upon the Spider Queen to grant her strength and calls forth dark bolts, but the dark light sputters out, due to the drow’s inherent magical resistance when it reaches her opponent. The drow smirks and Lilith glares back, determined to make her pay. The cleric’s smile fades when the mephit uses its breath weapon and releases a ten feet cone of salt crystals. At its back, the summoned earth elemental takes on the archer, but after a quick thrust, it is sent back to its plane.

Jharrath surrounds himself with six mirror images. Suddenly a figure, dressed in black, appears behind Lilith and stabs her in the back, and another one attacks Jharrath – or so she thinks. Two mirror images shatter. Quickly the wizard calls forth another elemental, to engage the female backstabbing rogue, while the salt mephit extracts water from their surroundings, sending it as a weapon towards their opponents. But soon its powers are defeated and it is gone.

Meanwhile Alvra sees the first drow move away and charges after the elf. He hits her hard, but then hears another grating yet vaguely familiar voice behind him, dripping with hatred. It was a setup. Through charred lips from yesterday’s confrontation, the female utters the last necromantic syllables for her incantation and lays her hand on the fighter, but Alvra’s constitution proves to be too strong for the deadly spell. A bastard swords whooshes through the air afterwards, aimed at Alvra’s back. He sidesteps, assesses the situation and is soon in a life or death fight with the female fighter, while keeping an eye on the deadly cleric.

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Phaedra comes out of hiding and shoots the cleric with a poisoned arrow. She then drops her bow and takes out her spiked chain. A tangle foot bag keeps the charred cleric at bay for a while, but then the dark elf calls out to her goddess. “Slay this fighter, Lolth!” Alvra grabs the opportunity to quickly counterattack, but gets hit by a nasty spell. He barely survives and pulls back towards safety. His sister also tumbles back and takes a potion. The enemy cleric disappears in layers of mist, and Phaedra hears footsteps fading. She tracks the fleeing cleric for a while.

The priestess near Lilith starts casting, causing her magical weapon to grow larger with each second, but the Xaniqos cleric counterattacks with a spell of her own and strips away the magical enhancements. Frustrated the woman hisses and attacks Lilith with her morningstar. The Xaniqos is too heavily armored and shrugs off the attack. Lilith’s flail lashes out and hits not once, but twice. Her faith in the Spider Queen is justified, as with a powerful spell, she inflicts mortal wounds to the second cleric.

As one after the other mirror image disappears under the ferocious attack of the rogue, Jharrath summons more elementals. One of them grapples the rogue, holding her tight, while the others pound her into the ground. The wizard ends her life with Kellgore’s fire-bolts.

Alvra retraces his steps and finds his javelins. What he doesn’t find though, is one of the drow who fell in the pit earlier during the fight. He assumed he was dead, but he must have sneaked off. He walks towards Lilith and receives a full healing. “One of the drow corpses turned out to be not quite dead yet,” he reports. Lilith acknowledges him with a nod and then turns her attention towards Jharrath. Together they search through the possessions of the fallen.

 

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.

The Upper World

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With ‘Elliya Lolthu’ Lilith ends her reverie. They all feel better after resting a couple of hours, and the cleric is able to restore her brother’s strength. Jharrath identifies the spiked chain they found earlier as the ‘Living Chain’, a magic weapon that enhances the user’s ability to trip an opponent and hands it back to Phaedra. She stows it away for later use. After examining the portal, the wizard concludes that there’s no turning back at this point. The gateway is magically locked, and they need a specific object to unlock it. Over the portal is an insignia of a bat, could this be the domain of House Shi’quos? The only way to find out is to move forward.

The drow once again pass the fake wall, keeping an eye out for the aranea’s, but the room stays quiet. Another passage takes them into a corridor, which gradually slopes upward. As usual, Phaedra scouts ahead. Drafts are picking up and the temperature is dropping. After about an hour, they arrive at another wall. Phaedra concentrates and focuses her will in the firm believe that this wall is also an illusion. Without hesitation, she steps through…

…into a world that is alien to her. Her drow eyes are not used to the bright light -though it is only night- and she sees trees and ferns, insects and birds, the sky! She has never seen the likes in her whole life. Soon the others follow. They have arrived in a large coniferous forest. Mountains loom overhead and a light fog obscures their whereabouts. The Xaniqos siblings have reached the Upper World!

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It is cold, it’s bleak and damp. Everything seems to be constantly moving, and it is so open. The drow, used to the confinements of the Underdark, feel very exposed. Alvra turns and searches for landmarks. The portal is situated in a little nook of the mountain wall. He carves two circles in the bark of a pine that is standing in front of the portal, and Jharrath marks the cliff with an invisible mark. This way they can always recognize the entrance to their own world. With a quick step back through the portal the cleric makes sure their way to the Underdark is not blocked.

Three pairs of deep footprints can be seen in the marshy ground. Whoever they are following must be heavily armored. Lilith speaks in a hushed voice,

These tracks are the only clue we have and we can’t go back. Sister, lead on and let’s hurry!

The Xaniqos set out into the forest, with Phaedra tracking ahead. All are on high alert. The silence of the Underdark is only a memory. There are lots of unfamiliar sounds; crows shriek, insects buzz and the wind howls through the trees. Silently they pass through the trees, silent as ghosts.

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Suddenly all sounds stop. The scout freezes, trees surrounding her on all sides. In the eerie atmosphere, a different kind of howling arises. Wolves! She runs full back full speed to warn the others, while the howling comes ever closer. Lilith casts a mass shield of faith and together they wait, taking cover behind the trees. The wizard summons two earth elementals, just in case. Then a huge antlered dire elk comes crashing through the undergrowth. Hunted by a pack of wolves, it tramples over one of the elementals, destroying it in the process. With a mighty bound, it leaps clear of the mess and runs on. The dire wolves, large, skinny and very hungry, turn towards the new and perhaps easier prey. But they might be mistaken…

The pack attacks, biting and tripping, while the Xaniqos fight back with sword, flail, spiked chain and spells. A large elemental, summoned by Jharrath, joins their defenses. Phaedra drives her opponent mad by repeatedly teleporting out of harms way. Teeth and weapons draw blood. When two dire wolves go down, the silhouette of huge new wolf appears on the edge of the fighting scene. It throws back its head and howls, command in its voice. The others immediately heed the alpha’s call and tactically retreat, though they never stray far from the drow.

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Test of Lolth

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To Alvra’s relief, two of his javelins can be salvaged. The relief doesn’t last long though, for soon he feels sickened. The others tend to their equipment and investigate the cave.  Then Lilith hears a dark voice inside her head.

Continue your journey alone!

This time she feels she must obey the command. There’s only one way forward. The cleric tries to crawl through the opening, but it is too narrow: she will have to take her armor off. Phaedra helps her sister shed the metal protection. Her way leads upwards and she has to fight her way through debris. Then she finds herself in a small room, fifteen feet in diameter. Something is staring at her, best defined as a swollen tumor, bristling with spider legs. The abomination seems to be in eternal agony. Lilith suspects this is one one she was looking for. There still seems to be some drow awareness left. Contorted by pain it says:

The Spider Queen warned me you would come. You have failed her!

I don’t believe a word you say.

The Shunned lets out a wail of agony – the noise ear splitting – but Lilith is determined and believes wholeheartedly in Lolth. Her faith shines strong and she is not affected by the wail at all. The cleric counterattacks with two darkbolts, but she doesn’t succeed: her spell fails. Mumbling

I knew it, this is my chance,

the creature attacks, but something magical stops her. Frustrated she steps back. Lilith immediately lashes out with her flail, adding extra fire damage, and hits the creature twice. Suddenly a swarm of spiders floods from the Shunned’s mouth. The hairy spiders swarm towards the cleric, but her fortitude proves too strong. The Xaniqos merely shrugs her shoulders and concentrates on her opponent. She calls on her deity to grant her Bebilith Blessing, but again the connection to Lolth seems severed. Nothing happens! The Shunned tries to sink her teeth in the Xaniqos, but misses. The spiders it set loose on the drow swarm all over Lilith, but so far they don’t harm her.

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Another flail attack misses, and the extra bonuses she was granted, also disappear. The Spider Queen does not seem interested in this fight. With her rod of grievous wounds, the drow finally is able to make a statement. The Shunned hisses

Surrender! Lay down your weapon!

but Lilith laughs at her, her resolve is high. To make a statement, she attacks with her flail and scores a hit. The Shunned controlled spiders don’t seem to like that and bite the drow. The Shunned also sinks her teeth in the cleric’s side, but two more flail attacks end that bite feast quickly. Lilith feels sickened though, especially after another attack of the spider swarm. Again the creature bites her and a wave of weakness flows through Lilith’s muscles. Grinding her teeth, she ignores her wounds, takes a tanglefoot bag and aims it successfully at the Shunned: the beast’s movements slow. That gives her the strength to handle her flail again, but before she can get ready for a second attack, the Shunned’ face changes into the image of Phaedra.

Sister, it’s me! This is a trick of the Spider Queen, don’t fall for it!

Lilith’s faith never wavers and with determination she lashes out with her flail, putting her whole strength – at least what is still left – into the attack. She scores a full hit. The creature’s face changes back to the Shunned. Then the spiders disappear and slowly the creature topples forward. She is dead.

The cleric falls down on her knees and bows her head to her deity. Gratitude fulfills her. This time her prayers are answered.

Your faith in me has been very strong, Lilith. You have not doubted me, and you should not. Return to your house and know that you have pleased me.

The bites on her arm transform into a spider mark under her skin. She crawls back through the corridor, where she is greeted by her brothers and sister – they seem happy she made it. When Phaedra helps her don her armor, she notices that Lilith is covered in tiny spider bites, and a mark on her arm is bright red.

In the ghetto, the Xaniqos siblings are not bothered on their way home. They arrive back at the gate, where the Matron Mother already is waiting. She seems pretty interested

Welcome back. You succeeded in the test of Lolth. House Xaniqos is blessed with yet another High Priestess. You make us proud!

Even Quarra realizes the importance and kisses her sister on the cheek, while lady Thandysha kisses the other.

This experience has taught you a lot. Wear this amulet to remind you of that and may Lolth bless you with her eternal wisdom. Go and rest. Next week there will be a party in your honor.

The siblings sleep well that night. When Lilith wakes up, she notices that the wounds on her arm changed into two circles, enclosed by eight smaller dots. It resembles a spider bite, encircled by spider legs.