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 Slave Market

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The date of the big feast draws nearer and the drow siblings start to feel at home in the Xaniqos Manor. Lilith, who has increased her status as a full noble of the house, is kept busy with social meetings and other activities that befit her station. At some point Phaedra pulls the cleric aside and tells her that she’s been keeping tails on Blessed Seahaven.

Something fishy is going on. There are Kua-toas present who don’t follow Blid Dool Poolp, and there are Shar’ans about. Do you want to check it out?

The cleric gladly takes the opportunity to get away from her social obligations for a while. Together they go in search of their brothers. Jharrath is in his room, but to get Alvra, they have to go to the training grounds. Many Xaniqos soldiers are training, and their brother is practicing with javelins: broken sandbags and splintered wooden dummies are silent witnesses of the fighter’s prowess.

You have ten minutes to freshen up and be ready,

Lilith orders. Everyone seems to be training fanatically. A group of eight drow is drilled in crossbow tactics. All goes smoothly and it is a sight to behold. Orcs hastily help don Alvra’s gnashing armor.

The four leave for the Ghetto of Chattel; both Alvra and Phaedra have been there more often. It is an interesting area, though some parts are not that safe. There are many slave traders, even mindflayers. Their miserable wares stare blindly into the distance; among them orcs, goblins, and even drow, some duergar, ogres and giant ettins.

When the Xaniqos continue uphill, they arrive at a big square. A cacophony of sounds greets them, where traders shout in undercommon, people talk and pull their weapons. The market is rather organized. In the middle of the square a group of six slaves is being sold, their fighting spirit broken. Only the bite of a whip can bring back some power to their dull eyes.

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Among the visitors are a couple of kua-toas. They are not participating in the trade, but observe everything closely. Phaedra signals to her sister and quietly mingles with the crowd. Drow guards of House Vae patrol in groups of four. They seem to mind their own business, as long as no one asks for their assistance.

The slave traders with cheaper ‘wares’ bid against each other in loud voices. Lilith heads towards a dais where the more exclusive slaves are sold, but is not allowed any closer. House Tormtor seems to be looking for fighters. The cleric is told she can make an appointment if she wants special slaves, like spell casters.

Phaedra notices that an elderly drow often is assisting in the higher deals. The male takes notes with a large feather pen in a book, which a slave carries. He keeps an eye on all that is going on. Phaedra walks towards the ancient one and waits until he notices her. He doesn’t seem to wear a House insignia.

Greetings, Sir, do you keep track of the higher purchases?

Yes, I do.

And do only Erelhei-Cinlu inhabitants do the buying?

No, other cities as well. Looblishar loses as many slaves as they buy.

Does Blessed Seahaven also buy slaves?

No, they have never kept slaves.

But do other kua-toas buy them?

Yes, actually there’s a meeting scheduled tomorrow.

Phaedra continues:

And if we wanted a private audience at our House, could that be arranged?

Yes.

Thank you, I’m much obliged.

With that, the scout returns to her siblings and quickly informs them of her discoveries.

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.

 

 

Trouble in the Ghetto of the Dead

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The next couple of days are spent in relaxation. The Drow have brought home quite an impressive loot and each sibling is amply rewarded. Four days later, being healed, bathed, rested and fed, they are once more called towards the hall of House Xaniqos. The eldest daughter Quarra is also present, though she doesn’t look too happy. Matron Mother Thandysha and her consort Taldinyon make an exotic pair. To their surprise, Thangarth and a group of Duergar are there too, the Draegloth at their side. His big scythe is still covered in blood. It seems like the company didn’t have an easy journey traveling to the Xaniqos mansion.

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Lady Thandysha welcomes all and tells her children that the Duergar emissaries have been invited to establish a trade between the two parties. And since the four had a part in bringing about the contact, they are welcome to participate in the negotiations. The Duergar will stay in the city for one week. An agreement is reached about buying mithril for creating weapons and other items. When Phaedra replies in Duergar, the Draegloth seems pleasantly surprised. They talk a bit and he tells her she can find him in The Black Chalice if she ever needs him.

We won’t be staying there, we will find a place of our own!

Thangarth says. He doesn’t seem too eager to lodge in a place owned by a vampire, where undead frequent and narcotics are abound. The Xaniqos Scout advises him to try out the Knuckle Bones Inn – many guards and owned by a dwarf – or Teeson’s Roaming House. This facility seems to shift around a lot, which makes it an interesting place, but more dangerous. The latter seems to appeal to the Duergar’s sense of excitement and there might even be a bunch of kobolds to lighten up the place.

The Matron Mother looks at Phaedra, a disgusted expression on her face.

You speak that vile language?

Well, it’s useful for the trading relation, right?

Phaedra retorts.

The days, during which Lilith orders her Wizard brother to make more anti-toxins, go by quietly. After a full tenday K’yorl asks them to follow him into his study. They head up towards the large tower room, which is packed with alchemy sets, books and vials. They are filled with eye balls, powders, feathers and all kinds of other stuff. A neat personal collection, according to Jharrath.

Please, take a seat. House Xaniqos needs your assistance in a new task. It’s only a week before the Council meets again. And though we have dealt a good blow against House Shi’quos, they are on the move again. They seem to be in alliance with the Dod King and try to expand by taking over the Ghetto of the Dead. Rumors are that here is a group under the city, ruled by three principles. The entrance to this Undercity is guarded by at least one ogre, maybe more. House Eilservs is weak. The undead are not under control anymore, ghouls attack at random and other forces are moving up.

Will House Eilservs be punished for letting the Ghetto go out of control?

Be assured that the House indeed will be ‘entertained’ elsewhere, Jharrath.

The siblings agree to meet at The Black Chalice.