Blasted Duergar

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When they arrive at the foyer, they hear a lot of commotion. You might want to hurry if you’re going to the Great Well, the inn keeper says, for the Duergar are acting up out there.

The Xaniqos four step into the street, where they find a typical merchant wagon on its side near the inn, a lone beleaguered Drow trapped underneath. He’s trying to fend off the Duergar, who are attacking and mocking him. The trader’s slaves have fled, another Drow lies close – slaughtered – and the rothé are unharnessed. The dwarfs, who have been drinking steadily, keep a close eye on the Xaniqos and try to provoke them with terms like spider kissers and worthless elves. Phaedra takes out her crossbow and loads it, but Lilith bites her teeth and keeps on walking. Their goal is to reach Dunspeirrin, not to mess with a couple of drunk dwarfs.

That’s right, move along now, go on!

Lilith freezes, and so does her sister. No one orders a Drow Cleric! The merchant, relieved to see there is a chance for help, offers them 25% of his wares if they help him out. When Phaedra uses sign language to consult with her brother about the strength of the dwarf group, the Duergar sneer,

Hey, pointy ears. What are you wriggling your fingers for?

Without hesitation, the Scout aims her crossbow at the leader and releases a bolt. Apart from him, there’s a Cleric and four mercenaries; all of them in heavy armor. While one dwarf stays near the merchant and attacks for real, the other five advance on the Drow.

The Xaniqos prepare for battle. Two Earth Elementals appear, summoned by the Drow Wizard. The Cleric casts a blindness spell on the leader – it seems to have no effect though – while Phaedra attacks him again with her crossbow. She scores a direct hit. The satisfaction drains from her face, when the Duergar suddenly grows to twice his size and moves forward, brandishing his large war-ax. A booming laugh rolls from his lungs. Another Duergar suddenly disappears from sight.

Alvra activates his House Insignia and becomes broader too, imitating Maul’s laughter. Now they’re equal. Jharrath surrounds himself with mage armor. One of the Duergar attacks with a sound burst, but Lilith  manages to shake off the effects without much damage. Her sister isn’t as fortunate and gets stunned. The Cleric and her brother Fighter engage themselves in a melee fight with the larger-than-life leader, Maul.

The Earth Elementals are pummeling an opponent, while another dwarf tries to counter attack with a fear spell, his hands glowing red. The Drow don’t even notice it. Jharrath summons another elemental. One of the Duergar suddenly starts to grow too, just like his leader, but before he can reach his full length, the elemental kills him.

Alvra hits Maul with his sword, and hits him good. The leader roars and, in turn, manages to hit the Cleric. She concentrates and a three feet long column of teeth appears in Lilith’s hand: a blade of pain and fear. But before she can use it, the Duergar Cleric dispels all magic actions around him. Two of the elementals are sent back to their plane, while Alvra’s extra strength disappears too.

Jharrath receives a heavy blow to the head, attacked from behind. The Scout tumbles backwards and enhances her vision with a spell. Now she can even see invisible objects. Phaedra takes out her spiked chain and goes for the Duergar who’s near the Wizard.

A globe of darkness surrounds the cart and sounds of battle emerge from beyond. Seems the merchant won’t be taken that easily. From this globe, the Duergar emerges… and drops to the ground, dead as a rock.

Upon seeing that the fight is turning, Maul wants to surrender, but the Xaniqos won’t have that. When the Duergar wounds Lilith once more, Alvra kills him with a mighty blow. The elementals are very successful too and beat two more dwarfs to death, while the Wizard attacks with Kelgore’s firebolt. The dwarven Cleric makes a run for it, invisible through another spell, but Phaedra sees him anyway. A large globe surrounds the Duergar and his wounds start to close. The Scout allows him to escape.

A triumphant Drow merchant jumps down from his chart and walks up to Lilith to thank her. He introduces himself as Sifarijn Vae of Erelhei-Cinlu! A most fortunate encounter. Sifarijn was also heading towards Dunspeirrin, and planned on using one of the twelve portals that surround Looblishar. They decide to group with the trader, he can lead them to their destination.

Alvra takes a look at the Drow’s merchandise – weapons and paintings – and sees a weird armor, with a very sharp point sticking out from underneath it: it seems to be the head of a  spear or sword. When he takes a closer look, he sees that the armor is fearsome to behold: it has several demon heads and protrusions. What a special banded mail!

The weapon seems very familiar, in fact it’s identical to his own blade, except for one side which is duller. Sifarijn explains to the Fighter that the sword is magical on one side and masterwork on the other, a splendid weapon. And a worthy transaction of the twenty five percent he promised earlier.

This mail is a gnashing armor. It automatically fends off and attacks anyone who comes too close. It is perfect against grappling and bites and claws.

The Xaniqos fighter is impressed with his new weapon and mail and Lilith allows him to keep it. She frees the fallen Duergar leader of his full plate magic armor and also discovers a pouch with two breathtakingly pretty black pearls. While the others go back to the Hidden Veil, Alvra keeps watch over the merchant’s cart. All night long, Kua-Toas come to take a look at the fighting scene.

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>>  what came before

Looblishar

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The Hobgoblin zombies resume their rowing, following the Kua-Toas’ new instructions. The remainder of the journey is uneventful and finally they draw near to Looblishar. Not a single light shines at the base nor on top of the looming cliffs. In this city, Shar, the goddess of darkness, rules. Her ultimate goal is to take over all of Faerûn and plunge it into an absolute black void. Looblishar is situated in the Deep Reach Region, next to cities of Duergar and Illithid. Everyone is welcome in Looblishar, and information is her main trade.

The party moors at the docks and watch the bustle of the small port for a moment. Kua-Toas walk past them, on their way to the caves at the base of the cliffs, while others dive down from above; not a comfortable way of descending, but it is fast.

The only way into the city is up by lianas of kelp; there are no stairs. The Cleric is not amused by their trip so far. A boring journey over water in a boat with no luxury at all. Then the irritating attack, and now climbing a stinking vegetable rope into utter darkness. While her sister easily climbs the walls, Lilith and Jharrath need more time to arrive at the top of the plateau. A shaggy, messy cluster of houses and a couple of vague streets, where about two thousand inhabitants live. Apart from a couple of Illithid, the Kua-Toas are most represented. Everyone watches as the Xaniqos and their guides make their way into the center, towards the Temple of Shar.  All Kua-Toas of Looblishar wear her symbol.

Inside, twenty human Clerics, a male Drow Wizard – all dressed in black – and a Kua-Toa are gathered. The latter is Vuon Goddessgifted, to whom Lilith gives Plill Seachild’s letter. He introduces them to the Drow, Xothed Trizz’lorllin.

Ah, so you are all ‘Spider kissers’, eh?

His contempt is obvious.

The Xaniqos Cleric icily stares him down and then ignores the inferior male, while Phaedra says through clenched teeth that they indeed serve the one true Goddess, Lolth. After the exchange of a few more ‘pleasantries’, Lilith inquires after the best inn in town. Vuon tells her they can chose between the Hidden Veil and the Shadowed Lair. As the Xaniqos leave for the inn, their Kua-Toa guides decide to continue on their quest. The siblings thank them for their protection and guidance, and wish them good luck.

Go with the Goddess.

Uneven roads lead to a large mud building with a sign board, depicting a veil. The Hidden Veil is a modest accommodation, no shops, nothing fancy. A doorway leads into the very quiet inn, where the clientele consists of a couple of Mindflayers and Kua-Toas. They get four rooms, including baths and dinner, for two gold pieces. Soon they are served rothé broth, potatoes and green stuff. Lilith checks the food for poison, but it seems to be safe. And it even smells good.

Phaedra asks the inn keeper for a map of the area. He tells her that the Great Well – the only fresh water well for many miles, where many merchants gather before setting out into the Underdark again – is their best option to obtain one. Meanwhile six Duergar enter the inn and order lots of beer. They get quite rowdy, so the other customers stay away from them. The four siblings go up to their very spartan rooms and emerge again somewhat later, refreshed from their baths.

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>>  what came before

Attack of the Sahuagins

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The name Glimmersea is well chosen: although it is very dark, the waves shimmer with a light of their own. One of the Kua-Toas takes position in front of the vessel, another in the back and the third scouts in all directions. They are alert and take their quest seriously. The journey is very boring: the Xaniqos siblings can see only a few feet around the boat. The only visible things are stalactites and small islands and rock formations, which soon disappear into the dark again.

After two days, the Kua-toas gather more often, speaking aggressively among themselves, while their silver color slowly changes to red. Something is amiss! One of their guides hops into the boat and warns them of danger: a group of Sahuagin is drawing closer!

The Sahuagin are a lizard-like aquatic race, the predators of the Glimmersea. They hunt in packs, live to fight and hate Drow – especially spell-casters – with a vengeance. The Sahuagin society is patriarchal, with kings and princes. The law of the jungle rules: the strongest is appointed king.

Before long the Drow spot several rafts, fish heads bobbing next to them. The creatures have scales and fins and are as large as humans. Furthermore, the water is seething with sharks.

Jharrath casts a fireball in between the two front rafts and hits them well, therewith announcing his spell-casting abilities to the magic-loathing Sahuagins. Two Kua-Toas unite their powers and send a sizzling bolt of lightning towards the predators, shattering the last remnants of one of the four rafts. Lilith activates her spiritual weapon and directs it over the raft on the left, while Alvra readies for action.

The lizards clamber aboard their rafts and attack the sisters – Scout and Cleric – from a distance with nets. Both Phaedra and Lilith get entangled; the male siblings are able to stay free of the nets. When a Sahuagin tries to board the boat, the Drow Fighter attacks. Jharrath summons an Earth Elemental. Whereas Phaedra manages to escape, Lilith gets dragged against the edge of the wooden boat and is rendered immobile. Unable to join the fight, she hisses with frustration. Her spiritual weapon continues to do damage. Alvra is in a fight with the Sahuagin, while the Kua-toas are in deathly battle with the sharks in the water. More aquatic warriors climb into the boat.

One of their attackers is bigger than the rest and has an extra set of arms and legs. This must be the leader of the Sahuagins, since this kind of abnormality often comes with extra strength. The eight-limb beast dives into the water and joins the fray.

Suddenly a screen of smoke appears, forming an acid curtain between the boat and new attackers: Wizard in action. There’s a lot of confusion and hissing going on in there. The Elemental kills the first Sahuagin, and Phaedra slices another one. Alvra goes into a fit, hacking and slashing like a madman, resulting in a frenzied reaction of the beast, which is quickly cut off as the Elemental makes his second victim. Two more of the monstrous humanoids climb up from the water and attack Jharrath. The body of a Kua-Toa floats lifeless in the water, killed by a shark.

The Scout feels a thud near her feet and discovers she’s being attacked by crossbows. While the Wizard casts another wall of smoke – this one stationary – Phaedra attacks a creature in the boat and manages to kill it. Lilith’s spiritual weapon ends the life of another seawolf, and when the Cleric sees two muscled salamander feet next to her, she quickly redirects it onto this opponent. Alvra succeeds in severing a couple of threads of the net around his Cleric sister, which gives her a bit more freedom of movement.

More Sahuagin step through the smoke into the middle of the boat, chanting Flesh. They suddenly look very hungry and attack the spell-caster with their claws, causing deep wounds. Enraged, Jharrath summons a new Earth Elemental and together they pummel another Sahuagin to death. Taking advantage of the turmoil aboard, Phaedra completely cuts through the net that is holding her sister and frees her. Hurriedly, the Cleric tries to get her blood circulation working again. Her sister protects her by firing bolts at her assailant.

While the leader of the waterwolves disappears under water, Alvra hurls a javelin towards one of the few remaining raft-riders. The Sahuagin slowly topples forward, the net falling from its claws. Then the Drow Fighter is attacked from behind by the leader of the Sahuagin, whose trident is a frenzied blur.

Kellgore’s Firebolt – sent by the Wizard – ends the life of a waterwolf, and the sisters defend the boat against the entering of more Sahuagins, dealing blows on grabbing hands with flail and spiked chain alike. When Lilith kills one of the remaining Sahuagins, the Spider Queen grants her extra powers (Lolth’s Meat).

Alvra casts a globe of darkness on the leader, also obscuring the Scout and Wizard. Taking a few steps back, Jharrath orders his Elementals to attack in the pitch black, aided by the Fighter and his Scout sister. Lilith is outside the globe and throws the corpses of the slayed Sahuagins overboard. When she hears grunts and hissing, she dispels the globe of darkness to see what is going on. Alvra is not amused by this action – she has taken away his advantage to fight in the dark – but takes the opportunity to drink a potion. Eight-Limbs  jumps into action and bull rushes Phaedra overboard. Lilith attacks the scaled beast, soon joined by Alvra. The Drow Fighter manages to kill the raid leader, the last of their opponents.

The Cleric helps her sister back on board, who is followed by the two remaining Kua-Toas. One of them is heavily wounded and Lilith heals him as well as her brother. The other Kua-Toa jumps back in the water to retrieve Alvra’s javelin. The raiding party has been beaten off and the Glimmersea is quiet once more.

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>>  what came before

Blessed Seahaven

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Filled with the adrenaline of executing their Matron Mother’s wishes – and of executing the Bard – the siblings swiftly travel the Underdark towards Blessed Seahaven. It is a small village in and on the water, centered around a temple. The inhabitants, the Kua-Toas, worship Blid Dool Poolp, a great sea god – although sea monster would be a more correct term. Still the Kua-Toas gain special powers through their worship. The Glimmersea glistens in the distance, while a small lake is nearby.

The Kua-Toas have fish heads with vaguely human features. They are scaly, have webbed hands and feet and are armed with small shields and tridents. One could say they are very ugly. But they can fight! These cruel green creatures are very alert and well trained warriors. The skin color of Kua-Toas changes, depending on their emotions. When they are white, they are scared, and when in anger, red. The eyesight of these creatures is extremely good, they even see invisible things. Poisons can’t harm them, and though they are water creatures, they manage remarkably well on land. It is good the Kua-Toas are friendly towards the Honorary Drow.

The Xaniqos walk up to the temple and the closer they come, the more their noses are assaulted by a heavy rotting-fish odor. It completely permeates the air. They enter the stone structure and find themselves in a big hall. Even on the inside there is a water basin. A Priestess, wearing a gold cap and a pincer staff, is in the middle of leading a service. The Kua-Toas are completely devoted and in their eyes total fanaticism gleams. When the sermon reaches its crescendo, two acolytes drift outwards and return with a wretched creature: a captured goblin. The Priestess accompanies the acolytes towards the water basin and drowns the prisoner, offering its life to her God. The butt end of the staff striking the ground announces the end of the ceremony.

Then the Priestess introduces herself to the Cleric as Plill Seachild and respectfully bids them welcome. She was already awaiting the Xaniqos and tells Lilith that the trip to Looblishar will take four to five days by water.

It will be a dangerous passage. The Glimmersea is an underground sea; there is no wind to use as power for transportation. In stead travelers magically create wind, or simply row. There is a current in the lukewarm water since it is enormously deep and vast.

On your journey over the Glimmersea, you will be accompanied by three of my faithful acolytes. Afterwards they will continue on their pilgrimage to The Goddess, the Holy Mother. Oh, and by the way, I have a request on behalf of Sloomik Goldscale, my second-in-command. Could you give this letter to Vuon in the Temple of Looblishar?

Lilith examines the ‘letter’, a chain made of shells that convey a sound – a message – when moved through water. Plill doesn’t seem to be charmed by her very ambitious second-in-command. She continues:

The only God who holds sway over Looblishar is Shar, Mistress of the Night. And although there is a Kua-Toas settlement in the  city, alas they have left our real God. The city is utterly and completely dark and the only merchandise is information. Beware of the many dangers that lurk out there. Apart from intrigue, you might encounter bats, hookhorrors and darkmantles.

The Priestess leads the way towards a jetty, where several boats are moored. One of them is rather large, with six hobgoblins on board. The acolytes swim towards the vessel, and the Xaniqos wade after them. The boat has no cabin, no luxury whatsoever. There are only the hobgoblins, who turn out to be dead yet alive, and their oars. One of the Kua-Toas commands the zombies to row and off the party goes, heading out onto the Glimmersea.

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>>  what came before