A change of positions

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When they arrive at the mansion, Leargath goes his own way, while the siblings carry the body of the warlock inside. Immediately drow slaves take it to the morgue. After a while, they are invited to the throne room, where lady Thandysha seems to be in a positive mood. All the important people of House Xaniqos are present.

“Good to see you. I presume your mission was a success?” As always the Matron Mother doesn’t leave much room for failure.

“Yes, Mother. House Despana was behind the abduction of our captain. They wanted information about the rod, as well as punish us. And though we managed to save Solaufein, he is in no condition to secure our House. We brought back the warlord’s body though, it is at your disposal at the morgue.” Lilith and Phaedra continue to relate the happenings of the last day.

At that moment Alvra steps up and makes his ambitions clear. “Make me captain of the guard! I will take Solaufein’s position.”

Alvra
Quarra snorts indignantly but holds her tongue.
“Alvra, that is a bold statement,” the Matron Mother says. “The captain of the guard is also my personal guard. It is a high position. What do your siblings think about your proposal?” She turns towards Lilith. “Is he qualified?”

The cleric assesses the fighter, then nods. A simple yes is her reply.
“I have only seen his group activities, and he knows his position.” Phaedra shrugs. Jharrath doesn’t object either. “He’s up to the task. But I’d love to hear what Quarra thinks of this.”
“Well thank you, Jharrath”, an overly polite Quarra replies. “You all seem to back up Alvra. And if Lilith says he’s able, then, by all means, Mother, we must give him our support too.”
Lady Thandysha briefly glances at her consort, who nods approvingly.

“Since everybody is here, it is settled now. Welcome, Alvra, as the new captain of the guard of House Xaniqos. Thaldinyon will fill you in. We will meet each other in a few hours, and talk about how we deal with House Despana. Its actions can not be tolerated!”

The mansion is bigger and more luxurious than their former residence, and so are their rooms. After a visit to the House clerics for healing, the men leave for the bathhouse, where they lazily float in the water. Alas, their peace doesn’t last very long, for Phaedra comes to get them on her sister’s behalf. “We must meet her at the chapel,” she says, “that’s all I know.”

Lilith is in the chapel, worshiping the Spider Queen. When she hears their footsteps, she turns around and welcomes her siblings. “Tell me, Alvra. What are your plans as the new captain of the guard?” The fighter plans to expand the number of guards. He also plans to use the lizard mounts more. The cleric is pleased to hear that. She gathers her sister and brothers and heals them all. Back in their rooms, Jharrath identifies the cloak as a magical cloak of charisma. This lightweight and fashionable cloak has a highly decorative silver trim. Lilith keeps it for herself; the mithril shirt goes to Phaedra.

It is already late when they are summoned to the Matron Mother’s room. Lady Thandysha is seated at the head of the table. Quarra and K’yorl are seated in their usual chairs, but Alvra’s seat has been upgraded.

“Welcome all. It is time for our House to step forward and take our rightful place. We will not be the last House any longer. We have grown in power, we have many soldiers and slaves. We have risen in prestige, and will now measure ourselves in strength as well. The rod causes a lot of unrest. Despana doesn’t have it, and neither have we. The rod will cause a shift in power. She who has the rod has the upper hand.

Phaedra, I hope you will aid our House with your skills. House Despana is the perfect prey. We will have to take away their assets in the city. We need to know what happens at the Ghetto of Savages. Who are our allies, how are the political relations in the city? House Vae is engaged in a surface war. House Aleval is running a covert war.

Furthermore, there is a shortage of certain ingredients in our household. You will have to get them for me at Potions & Poisons, located in the Ghetto of Artisans. Start your investigations in the morning.“ Lady Thandysha hands her daughter a scroll with ingredients and a bag of gems, worth 15.000 GP. “Go to the shop, Lilith. Mind you, he is the best poison maker in town, but something is wrong with his mind.” The scroll reads:

  • knockout poison 20x
  • dark ore 1x
  • poison virile madness 1x
  • sick stones 20x

Laboratory

The Potions & Poisons is located in the same street as Nyttoris Arms & Armor. The detached building at the end of the street in the Ghetto of Artisans appears to be closed, everything is shut, but when Lilith tries the door, it opens. She and Jharrath step inside. The interior resembles a laboratory. There is stuff bubbling everywhere, and the smell is very heavy, very chemical. On the top floor, lots of adamantine spider constructs are moving around. In the back of the room is a very large, very real spider. The beast takes up more than half of the space.

Someone is working at an alchemy table: a man, dressed in black and wearing green armor. One look and you know that he is evil through and through… and crazy as a bat.

Arachnomancer

“Xu’klir, we have guests!” he says to the monstrous spider. Poisonmaker Lha’zis Ulvira resembles a spider himself. When Lilith tells him what they need, the arachnomancer complains about his stocks. “We are running low on supplies and I don’t have all the things you need. You see, there are problems with deliveries by the caravans. They have not arrived from Maerimydra yet, and none of the investigating parties have returned.”

“Do we get a discount if we help you?”, Jharrath haggles. “You’ll only need to pay for the poison of virile madness if you can get me a sack of blood moss. But be careful not to add fire to it. The blood moss can be found to the southwest of Erelhei-Cinlu, about two days of travel. I also need the poison glands of a purple worm.”

“And where might we find one?”

“No one knows for sure, but there are rumors that one has been sighted to the northwest of here.”

And with that news, Lilith and Jharrath return home.

Of Radiation Sickness and Druid Spells

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Bereft of her sight, Phaedra’s senses seem to be heightened. Cautiously she continues deeper into the cave. When she walks around the corner of the corridor on the far right side, she gets very nauseated. She looks slightly pale, even for a drow. The pungent smell of mushrooms is very heavy.

I think there’s darklight ore in here!

Her sister walks towards the opening and sees a pile of ore on the left side, a full cart and three pickaxes. It seems to be a rich vein. Lilith also feels the effect of the glowing darklight ore.

Cleaning it away won’t do any good, all is contaminated,

Phaedra says, recovering slightly. The cleric calls upon Lolth and imbues herself with magical energy that protects better against the radiation. The drow move into the corridor single file, with an earth elemental, summoned by Jharrath, up front. In the distance the glow of violet mushrooms lights the area. Notwithstanding his mask, the fighter though is very nauseated and violently sick, while the others seem to fare better.

The mushrooms seem to thrive near the ore. Perhaps we can make an anti-toxin out of it. Jharrath, take a sample later on, so we can examine it.

Just when the wizard complies, a white figure dressed in animal skin glides into the corridor, fifteen feet above the ground. He’s surrounded by a shimmering aura, wears a wicked spear and a demonic smile. After drinking a potion, his image blurs.

druid

His murmur activates the violet mushrooms into an attack on the earth elemental, while two others attack from the side. Lilith immediately counterattacks by dispelling his magic. Suddenly the blur effect is gone, the aura lessens and with a surprised yelp the szarkai drops from the air.

They all take up fighting positions. Phaedra loads her crossbow and stands next to her wizard brother. When she hears the thump of an attack, she shoots, but blinded as she is, her bolt doesn’t find a target. Jharrath takes out a small ball of bat guano and sulfur and strikes at the szarkai with a fireball. The gigantic blast clears away all mushrooms near the szarkai and even hits the druid. Debris is falling everywhere, and sounds of the ceiling settling back into an unstable balance fill the air. After a hit from the earth elemental, the druid szarkai retreats around the corner.

Jharrath orders his elemental to charge after the white elf, and when he hears it hit something, he glances around the corner. The summoned ally is standing in the middle of blankets and bedrolls, surrounded by the remnants of a big rock that it smashed, while the druid again floats higher up. He seems to be healing himself. With a ray of clumsiness, Jharrath hinders their opponent, and his sister adds a spell, blasting the area with a tremendous cacophony. The others move forward too. A wall of smoke prevents the druid from making visual contact, but his voice calls out in Elven:

If I die, I will take at least one of you with me!

He calls upon the earth, and the earth obeys. A gigantic stalagmite rises up and tries to impale Lilith. She manages to jump to the side, but her armor is ruptured. A counterattack with her spiritual weapon goes awry because of this. Jharrath sends in a salt mephit, whose breath irritates the elf’s skin and eyes, and he strikes back with another spell. Two iron poles rise up next to the spell casters, and an arc of lightning jumps back and forth, hurting the drow. By jumping aside quickly, they manage to reduce their injuries.

By now, Lilith is totally fed up with the druid and lashes out with a counter spell. A vertical column of divine fire roars downward, wiping everything away except the fire mephit. Of the szarkai and the mushrooms only ashes are left.

Jharrath examines the remains and finds 20 platinum pieces, the short, wicked looking short spear, magical hide armor and a blurring potion in a scarred but still usable belt. He hands over the potion to the cleric and the spear to his brother, who is feeling better.

This seems to have been a temporary camp, but all clues are burned.

Phaedra isn’t too happy with this result, but doesn’t say anything about her feelings to her older sister.

Attacked by Mushrooms and More

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The interior of the cave is lit by a soft glow. There are various types of minerals, plants, roots, small and large fungi; all signs that they are on the right track. They cautiously continue along the path, when suddenly the violet fungi start to move. They sway from side to side and attack the drow with their roots.

150622fungus

Jharrath takes a step back and casts mage armor on himself. Four tentacles try to get a hold on Phaedra, but she takes out her spiked chain and hits one of the creatures square in the cap. Another is sliced to pieces by the fighter, while a third is beaten up by the cleric’s flail. Magic missiles kill yet another, and soon all that is left is pulp, especially near Alvra. He glares at the leftover green mushrooms, but those don’t seem hostile.

Swiping the residue off their weapons, the drow continue into a larger section of the mine. There are tracks in the dust, and Phaedra signs to her siblings that there are more violet fungi ahead. A sour, reptilian scent is heavy on the air. Wooden beams support the space. On the left, the way forward is blocked by rubble and more fungi, so the scouts turns around and walks to the other side. The tunnel is lower there, and looks more rickety. Bones are strewn across the floor – big bones, huge bones. It seems like they have found the remains of Vaterian, the dragon

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When Phaedra chances a quick glance around the corner, she sees an albino drow with red eyes. It seems like he has been watching them for a while. It is one of the szarkai – age old enemies of the drow – wearing a large bastard sword. He looks like a fighter, and soon proves to be one too. With a swipe of his sword, he scores a hit on the female scout. Lilith sees what happens and counterattacks. Focusing Lolth’s divine power, she projects a blast of light from her open palm, which slams straight into the white drow. He screams with pain. The wizard follows up with magic missiles, while Phaedra tumbles back and lashes out with her chain. Heavily wounded, the szarkai pulls back into the shadows of the cave and disappears from sight.

Alvra, who is following the blood trail, is hit by two cross bolts. Ignoring his wounds for the moment, he spots the injured white drow and charges, but the attack ricochets off the bastard sword. His sister doesn’t miss though, and the spiked chain kills the creature.

Be careful, somebody shot at me!

Alerted by her brother’s warning, Phaedra whirls around and sees two more white drow with heavy crossbows. They are taking cover behind two mushrooms. She warns the others and then advances on the crossbow snipers, but overreaches with her spiked chain and lands in the middle. The szarkai drop the crossbows, grab their swords and swing at Phaedra. Fortunately, they miss. Jharrath’s Kellgore’s firebolt slams into one of the albinos with ravaging force, giving the scout the opportunity to use her ability to appear in a safer spot.

szarkai

The white ones, robbed of their target, scream. Lilith launches a bolt of cold darkness from her hands, but to no effect. When she tries to plant the suggestion to attack one another in their minds, they won’t obey. The fight rages on by missiles, swords, spells and chain. Using his house brooch, Alvra increases his strength and kills one of the szarkai with a mighty blow. Two earth elementals, summoned by Jharrath, finally manage to kill the third.

The fight has taken a heavy toll on two of the Xaniqos siblings. Their wounds bleed with a yellowish glow and they don’t feel well at all. Both Alvra and Phaedra are slowly losing their eyesight due to the very potent poison, and the fighter loses a lot of strength as well. He drinks an anti-toxin. The cleric calls upon her deity and manages to return some of Alvra’s strength and remove his blindness.

Apart from the bastard swords and heavy crossbows, the albinos were wearing good magical armor and shields. Alvra also finds a small flask with a yellowish substance in it. Lilith – adept in the use of poisons – takes the bottle from him and applies the substance to her flail. After consulting with her brother, she smears the darklight brew also on one side of Alvra’s sword. Then she carefully tucks the flask away.

Poisoned!

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It is morning in the Underdark. The four Xaniqos siblings meet up with their eldest sister. Quarra is in a rather good mood and has ordered breakfast for them all. In the middle of the conversation about the Council, Quarra swallows her food, clears her throat and sneers to Lilith

You realize that skin kite scar on  your face is permanent, don’t you, sister? I can imagine you are upset…

Nostrils flaring, the Cleric replies

Upset? I consider it an honor to wear this battle scar, which I received during a fight for the benefit of the House of Xaniqos. And for the Spider Queen herself!

The others keep their eyes on the food and eat. It wouldn’t be wise to get caught in the middle. Suddenly a queasiness washes over them, nausea surging in and out. Then their eyesight blurs and one by one they pass out, except for Alvra and Quarra, who are less troubled by what’s ailing them. The High Priestess gets up, indignation and temper ravaging her face.

What the hell is happening here? The foo… We have been poisoned! Where’s the cook?

But the drow cook seems to have sneaked out. Quarra stalks the room and strikes down the serving slave, beating him to death in pure rage. Suddenly a loud shrieking erupts from the direction of the women’s rooms. The sound is ear piercing. The Fighter lifts his head, struggling against the effects of the drugs, and notices how his brother and youngest sister are gaining consciousness again. Lilith is still totally knocked-out. Quarra sinks into a trance and starts praying to their deity Lolth. Slowly a greenish glow appears, which envelops her hands. With the aid of the Spider Queen, she heals her sisters from the poison. Jharrath has to manage on his own, the weak male is unworthy of her blessing.

Lilith comes to her senses, no longer sick, and also Phaedra feels alert again. When she hears the deafening wailing, she shouts that there might be an intruder! After thanking Quarra, the Scout runs up to her room, accompanied by Alvra, while Lilith races towards the kitchen to take charge downstairs.

In the mess hall, Lilith is greeted by sounds of moaning and retching. Seems almost everyone in the Xaniqos household has been poisoned. After interrogating the most lucid ones, she discovers that the missing cook has fled the mansion. She immediately sends two guards after him.

Find him and bring him back. Alive. I need to have a talk with that bastard.

The guards hurry off and quickly the Cleric organizes a group of twenty more or less able warriors to patrol and guard the mansion in case of an attack.

When Phaedra and Alvra arrive at the women’s floor, the shrieking stops. The Scouts’ room is a mess, everything has been searched. The door to Lilith’s room is also open and offers the same view. Could it be possible they have been searching for… she gasps. The mask!

Go to the Treasurey, Alvra, and see that it is safe. Run, male, RUN!

She then turns to check her sister’s room, which has been devastated. Darts are scattered on the floor, and in the middle lies a small green snake, chopped in half. Lilith must have kept a pet snake, she won’t be pleased when she finds out, Phaedra thinks. A trail of blood  leads from the room into the hallway. Seems both traps worked properly, but they didn’t stop the intruder from entering.

The Scout follows the blood trail towards the throne room, its doors wide open. She quickly looks inside and assesses the situation. Two Minotaurs are stalking around. Seems they saw something, or someone, enter but can’t find the intruder. He or she has vanished into the shadows. Phaedra orders the creatures to guard the door – the only way out – and listens carefully until she hears shuffling to the right side of the room. It is dark. There are many places to hide.

To Alvra’s amazement and horror, the Treasury is deserted. Where are the Honor Guards?!  When he sees two house guards patrolling, he orders one to stand in front of the Treasury door, and sends the other to Quarra to report the missing Treasury guards. But then Amalika strolls in, alluring as ever. She seems happy to see him again… until she hears what happened. She orders Alvra to open the door, which is not locked. Amalika checks the treasury and a cold rage grips her: the Mask of the Matriarch. It is gone!

Go and inform Quarra about the disappearance at once!

All frivolity has vanished. The Fighter knows better than to argue and hurries back to alert his eldest sister himself. On his way down, he runs into Jharrath. The Wizard doesn’t look well, the poison still active in his body. Quickly Alvra fills Jharrath in on the latest developments. The wizard waves his brother onward and then turns around to head for the throne room to aid Phaedra.

The Scout, one of the minotaurs safely blocking the door, loads her hand-crossbow and grabs an object from her backpack. By now she hears shuffling and panting from the dark, and it’s coming closer. Quickly she shields her eyes and then throws a flash pellet in the direction of the sounds. The intruder cries out in anger and agony. When Phaedra tentatively opens her eyes, she sees a male drow, dressed in black, who looks wounded. The dart trap must have been aimed well.

Don’t let him get away, close the door and keep it shut until I tell otherwise,

she snaps at the minotaur. Phaedra then tries to trip the intruder, but somehow he evades her. Dropping into a defensive crouch, he still has trouble focusing due to the light flare. In his hands a rapier and a dagger. This man is no novice to fighting. Again Phaedra attacks, but to no avail, she can’t seem to hit the man.

Knock him down but try not to kill him!

As the other minotaur moves in to obey, the man in the black cape suddenly lunges at Phaedra. He wields his weapons expertly and wounds the female with his dagger, after which he again crouches into a defensive position. The fishy smell that comes from her wounds tells Phaedra that she has been poisoned, again. She feels a rigidity settling in her joints.

A voice at the door hisses to get the minotaur’s attention.

Open up, it is me, Jharrath. Let me in!

Since his mistress only said not to let anyone out, the minotaur figures it is OK to let someone in. The Wizard pushes past the big guardian and sees a dark figure in combat with his sister and another minotaur aiding her. The assassin blocks and counterattacks, but when the Scout sees an opening, she finally manages to trip him.

Knock him unconscious, don’t kill him!

she yells, but again the drow breaks free. Jharrath casts a spell that slows him down, but only a little. The assassin lunges towards the Wizard and his rapier pierces Jharrath’s shoulder. Again he casts a spell and suddenly a huge web appears, catching them all. Phaedra, alert as ever, delivers a blow to the intruder’s head. For a moment no one moves, and then the drow male’s eyes roll slowly backwards.

Clerics have come to the mass hall to heal the suffering. Having done all she can at the moment, Lilith returns to Quarra. She arrives just in time to hear the bad news from Alvra. They all hurry towards the treasury. Quarry looks worried. This could be a huge problem; the Matron Mother needs to know as soon as possible.

Go back to the Council of the Eight Ruling Houses, Amalika, and inform Lady Thandysha that the quest for the Mask of the Matriarch has failed. Not a word on the infiltration of the house though!

Failed?! Lilith and Alvra exchange a meaningful glance, holding their tongues.

To be continued!