Fight at the riverside

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Hearing the tumult from within, Phaedra immediately gives chase. When the cleric appears, she see her sister running towards the river and also heads in that direction, followed on her heels by the male Xaniqos. A lot of splashing indicates where Theo entered the river.

He’s getting away! Phaedra alerts the others in sign language. The wizard casts one of his spells, dispelling the male’s magic, and a shape becomes visible in the swift current. The scout jumps after him and swims to the other shore, while Lilith loads her crossbow.

When Theo’s outline is lightened by Alvra’s fairy fire, he realizes he’s been spotted. And if he was still in doubt, that hope vaporizes quickly when two earth elementals materialize behind him. The monsters grapple him, but Theo is a tough cookie. It takes four more small elementals to finally pummel him unconscious. Phaedra binds his wrists and feet, and with a long rope Lilith and Alvra pull the drow back towards their side of the river, the scout supporting his head to keep him from drowning.

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They move him to the bushes, where Lilith starts her interrogation. Luckily the curious spectators from the inn have gone back inside.

“Why did you run?”

The drow doesn’t say anything. He seems to be more scared of his boss than of the Xaniqos siblings.

“OK, Alvra, cut off his finger.”, Lilith orders. Theo gives her a calculated stare.
“What’s in it for me?”
“How about a slow or a quick death?”

When Alvra puts his rapier under the dark elf’s fingernail, he gets ready to talk.

“Last chance,”, the cleric repeats, “what’s your name and why did you run? Why are you really here?”
“My name is Vaarz, and we live here with a large group for profit. There’s lots of gold to be plundered from passing caravans. Our leader is a drow cleric, and we live about 6 or 7 miles south of the inn. We live a rather good life. The two women in our company have killed everyone and put a curse on the humans, so they take excellent care of us. You are the first drow we have seen in a long, long time.”
“What does your leader look like, what is her name?”
“That I don’t know, but she is an older priestess,” Vaarz says, hesitating slightly. “I can show you the way to the Hidden Dell though.” Lilith arches her eyebrow.
“And why are two men guarding that tower over there?”, Phaedra pits in.
“They’re guarding the former church of Pelinor.”

Alvra searches Theo’s piwafwi for hidden treasures and weapons. The cloak is magical, and the rapier is of a good quality. A small crossbow and a quiver with darts, plus a healing potion are also among his possessions. Lilith finds a wand, an antitoxin, a tanglefoot bag, a thunder stone plus a small, very thin arcane spellbook.

“If you want to get back to the Underdark, you will have to go to the Hidden Dell, since the mistress has the key to open the portal. But if they attack, I suggest you run! There are twenty drow and four of you. And you are in no shape to run.”

Vaarz has a point: the Xaniqos are exhausted and hurt. Phaedra manages to find boards for a make-shift bridge across the river. They make camp in bushes, away from the road, where Lilith heals those who need it. During her watch, Phaedra sees a flock of ugly ravens fly before the moon. They keep circling, like they are searching the lands, and she can only hope they haven’t seen her. She wakes her brother.

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“I’m not really used to surface birds, but I saw ravens who didn’t act like ravens should.”

Alvra notices them too and calls forth a globe of darkness to disguise their whereabouts. In the middle of the night, again the flock of birds patrols the skies, after which they seem to return to the village. They make a lot of noise, but stay out of range. The night is full of unknown sounds anyhow, but despite the chirping, rustling, and the ever-present wind, they manage to sleep a bit.

 

In pursuit

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Alvra escorts his sisters to the Matron Mother. Two minotaur stand guard at the doors, but Lilith strides in. Lady Thandysha, gazing out over Erelhei-Cinlu, sneers,

Really. Does it take three of you to report to me?

Thandysha

Without as much as a glance, the fighter turns on his heels and heads towards his room. Lilith informs her mother about the events on the slave market.

I wonder how much House Vae is involved in this. And I don’t like that the shar’ans influence is growing. Blessed Seahaven is turning into a fortress. They might attack without fearing the consequences.

Phaedra offers that outsiders, originating from Looblishar, are parading without wearing the obligated green cloaks.

Their leader is a Whip, a kua toa priestess from Looblishar, I recognized her.

I want that Whip, and I want her tonight! And without House Vae knowing about it. They will have conducted their business rather quickly because of your actions tonight. Go and follow them. Find out what they are up to, I need more information. But do not jeopardize the House, make sure you are not seen.

When Lilith makes a smart-ass remark about the whip, the Matron Mother takes hold of her daughter. Her hand radiates power, making Lilith’s skin blister.

If you ask such a stupid question again, it will be your last!

Gritting her teeth, the cleric nods and heads towards the door.

On second thought, you just need to extract the information from the kua toan priestess, no need to bring her here. The risks are too high. Do what is necessary, but make sure you don’t damage our House, so be inconspicuous. Get the information and return.

The Matron Mother seems somewhat calmed, and two sisters pick up the others, telling them about the follow-up quest.

At the big gate, traffic seems slow. The guards – mainly clerics of House Tormtor – let them pass and the drow continue along the main path, westward towards Blessed Seahaven, cloaks and house insignia hidden. Phaedra scouts ahead, while the wizard makes sure they are not being followed. She catches up with a party, which consists of two slavers and their malnourished wares.

Has a group passed you this last hour? Phaedra asks.

Who wants to know?

My identity is my own, I am just asking you a question.

The scout’s temper rises at the males’ slow response. With help of one of Jharrath’s spells, Phaedra is able to talk to Lilith without being overheard, and with the cleric’s permission she uses more intimidation to get the answers she seeks.

I’m not alone! Answer my question, or…

With a meaningful glance, Phaedra loads her crossbow. The slavers growl:

We don’t mean you any harm, walk away while you still can.

She retorts: You don’t know who you’re dealing with.

The male drow point their crossbows at the scout, but their target suddenly vanishes, only to appear behind them with her weapon aimed at them.

You think a low-born drow could do this?

This time, her intimidation works.

What do you want from us?

I just want an answer. Has a Kua-Toa group passed this way?

Yes, about six.

That’s all I needed to know.

She puts her crossbow away and moves forward, leaving the slavers in a slight confusion.

Handmaiden of Lolth

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After freshing up a bit, Lilith heads towards the Xaniqos shrine, accompanied by her siblings. Though deserted at first, soon they are joined by Lady Thandysha, their eldest sister Quarra and many other clerics. In unison they thank the Spider Queen, chanting in a trance.

Suddenly the session is crudely disturbed by a dark and heavy omnipresent voice. Near the altar a Yochlol appears. The form alternates between a big black spider and a pulsating cloud. The voice speaks in Abyssal, a language that both the cleric and the wizard understand. Then the mass changes into a beautiful drow female. She addresses Lilith directly, saying:

The Spider Queen has noticed you. You have been very loyal to House Xaniqos, but not quite enough. You’ll have to prove yourself.

Yochlol

They all feel that they are in the presence of one of Lolth’s handmaidens. It’s not often that the Spider Queen directs her attention directly to House Xaniqos, and all are affected – even Lady Thandysha. Phaedra cowers in fear, together with the other clerics.

Go to the lair of the forsaken. Kill all in your path and deal alone with the One who is shunned. She wishes to redeem herself to me. Prove your loyaly and strength. Do not fail, or the lair will show you what I do with the ones who fail me. Go now!

With these words the Yochlol changes back into a cloud and then disappears all together. The scout is able to draw breath again, the terror slowly subsiding.

The Matron Mother steps up to her daughter.

This is the final test to become a priestess, Lilith. Everyone must deal with this. You have to face this alone, do not fail me!

Thandysha solemnly looks at her other children.

Do not let her fail. Is she has to sacrifice you all to give the House one more high priestess, then she will.

Quarra echoes her mother’s words and smirks.

Yes indeed, sister, many fail…

Maybe many fail, but I won’t, sister.

Lilith retorts, and then turns around to get her party ready. Alvra takes the looted weapons and armor to the armory and receives new javelins in return. The drow are healed and all fatigue is removed by the clerics. They need to be in tiptop shape before they leave for the Ghetto of the Outcast. The Lair of the Forsaken is situated in the most northern part, the fighter says, an area avoided by the other citizens of Erelhei-Cinlu.

I’ve never actually been there, but I can lead you there.