The Mask Of The Matriarch


The chest is still standing in the water, innocently ignoring the intruders. When Phaedra is unable to open it, Alvra hits the rusty lock with great force and splits it in half. In the chest the Scout finds a couple of potions, all in a bad state, but at the bottom she discovers two massive diamonds. The stones find a safe nest in her backpack.

On the left, one door is still unexplored. Like the skinkite lair before, its floor tilts upwards. On the other side of the room a seething mass of fungus. Jharrath recognizes the substance as a magically enhanced flesh eating organism. The only materials it can’t digest are stone and diamond. In the middle of the mass a pearl is embedded, pulsating and beckoning. At first sight not the obvious place to hide the mask, so they pull the door shut again.

The Wizard walks towards the right corridor and opens the top door. It is filled with broken alchemy equipment. The scout peeps around the corner too, in search of something useful, but all she sees are shards of potion bottles. Both sisters use the moment of peace to heal themselves. Then Lilith, with the fighter on her heels, pushes against the door of the middle chamber. There seems to be a little resistance, but soon she manages to open it. The Cleric comes face-to-face with a stone statue of a gargoyle, that spits water into a basin, overflowing it and the whole room. Nothing seems to be moving.

Jharrath opens the last door on the right. Inside only heaps of skeletons; in the back two cabinets against the wall. After a suspicious glance at the bones, he shuts the door again. Meanwhile the Cleric, eager to be done with the quest, orders Alvra to open the biggest door, the one opposite the entrance. With a screech, it opens its maw and reveals a short stone staircase, leading upwards. The fighter pushes with all his might and manages to open the door further.

When they are about to to examine the staircase, they are interrupted by a lot of noise, coming from the last chamber. The skeletons-and-cabinets-chamber. A huge club is smashing the door to pieces and soon a two-headed ettin skeleton comes charging through. Oh great!

Phaedra tries to trip the giant, while Lilith calls upon the powers of the Spider Queen to rebuke the undead creature, but both fail. Seems Lolth doesn’t respond. The ettin sways his club towards the praying Cleric and hits her hard. Lilith staggers backwards to heal herself again. A Kelgore’s firebolt comes whizzing through the fray. Molten lava covers the beast and Alvra -strategically positioned in the top room on the right – steps into the corridor to attack. His doublesided sword damages the skeleton even further. Time to call in an Earth Elemental. The summoned creature obedient hurls itself at the ettin and starts pummeling its bones. Clashes and groans echo through the dungeon during the mass fight. The Cleric attacks vigorously with her flail and delivers the last blow. Finally the ettin skeleton falls apart, nothing else remaining but a heap of bones. From a safe distance Phaedra quickly checks the room for other rising skeletons, but all is quiet again. They decide to leave the room as it is, no checking the cabinets!

The Scout heads towards the stairs and listens carefully. Nothing, so she silently moves up the stairs. A coffin! When she enters the chamber, the cover of the coffin starts to move and three more tomb motes appear from the dark. Time to pull back! Phaedra shoots a bolt at the lightning fast creatures and dashes down again, closely followed by the motes. And there is the Cleric in her shiny armor, just waiting to be bitten. Nausea threatens to overpower her and she tries to shake off the effect. Alvra feels their teeth too. They all attack: spiked chain, sword, flail and electric bolt whiz through the air.

Suddenly the Drow feel a presence moving down the stairs towards them, radiating a strong aura of fear. A female undead appears in the doorway, dressed in a robe and whispering arcane words. Her hands glow with a deep cold. The tomb motes seem to keep their distance from the Necromancer.

The Drow woman walks towards Alvra and touches him with her chill hands. The Fighter suddenly feels weak, his strength seeping from him. ‘Begone’, she says. But Alvra, not planning on retreating any time soon, attacks the Necromancer with his sword. She doesn’t particularly seem to like that. The Necromancer hisses, again touches his shoulder and then moves back into the vault. Alvra chases her. The Necromancer fails to hit the Fighter a third time and he manages to overrun her, ending up in the vault.

His younger sister follows him up the stairs, fighting off one of the tomb motes, while Lilith keeps hitting the other. Damned irritating creatures! The Wizard, surrounded by his magical Mage armor, has his hands full with yet another. Eventually all three manage to kill their opponents.

Meanwhile the Necromancer glides towards her coffin and makes a stand, facing the Fighter. She doesn’t seem to do anything. Alvra walks forward, straight onto a circle, glowing with runes. This gliph saps even more of his strength, but he manages to continue and attacks the undead creature. She fights back, casting a spell, whereupon three green glowing balls shoot from her hands, straight into Alvra. Again he whirls his two-bladed sword and injures the creature. Phaedra stalks closer and helps her elder brother to attack the Necromancer. With a swing of her spiked chain, she kills it.

In the coffin they find a golden bracelet and earrings, plus an evil necromancy spell book. On the woman’s body a pearl necklace and two rings, all of them very expensive. Behind the coffin is an armor stand. Phaedra discovers a spidersilk armor, a magic flail, gold coins and a pouch. In it is an obsidian mask with eight straps. The Mask of the Matriarch! The Wizard feels a red evil aura coming from the mask, so Phaedra wraps it carefully in the spidersilk armor. The Cleric moves forward and takes the package from her younger sister. I will take that mask now. You may have the spider silk armor later. 

On their way back to the Xaniqos mansion, a group of ghouls moves in to attack the siblings, but Lilith – her confidence restored by the discovery of the Mask of the Matriarch – rebukes them and sends them on their way. At home, Amalika and Quarra are waiting for them, eager to hear the news. They are both very pleased when they hear the mask has been retrieved. Amalika seems especially excited and purrs to the Fighter that she might be needing his services later on. Quarra sends the Mask of the Matriarch to the Treasury, to be guarded on penalty of death.

They have the rest of the evening for themselves. Except perhaps Alvra…

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…