The Infernal Ghoul

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Standing in the long corridor, Lilith casts a spell and creates a number of semi tangible, visible magical orbs. She sends one of the prying eyes into the cave. It returns shortly to her hand, and in her mind the cleric sees headstones, two mounds of bodies with their belongings intact, armor and weapons. It seems to be a lair. Then the images move towards a very ugly being; a dark goblin or a ghoul. Its battered robe ends in sharp claws and a long tongue protrudes from its mouth. The creature looks extraplanar -maybe undead- and is heavily muscled. Lilith suddenly loses sight of the creature when it jumps from view. The prying eye, its task done, disappears.

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The cleric sends in another eye with the assignment to look out for the monster, and soon it returns, depicting that the ghoul is hiding high up in the stalactites! She gathers her siblings close and, calling out to the Spider Queen, buffs them with three spells. The effect is immediately noticeable: they feel stronger, have a stronger conviction and feel more protected.

A bunch of skeletons rattles near, and Jharrath unleashes a fireball in their midst. A nice explosion destroys five skeletons and anything of value they might have carried on their bodies. When the fire dies out, Phaedra charges down the hallway and damages a skeleton with her spiked chain. Five more stand up and attack the scout. Alvra steps forward and readies for action, but Lilith rebukes the undead. Within sixty feet all flee or cower in fear. Quickly she commands them to attack their master… but since she’s their new master… “Stupid creatures”, she mutters, and crushes bones with her flail.

Suddenly an energy ball streaks towards the Xaniqos, crackling with blue-black substance. The ball expands and Jharrath recognizes it as the evocation chaos hammer. When the chaos hammer hits, the only one who is temporarily affected is the wizard, who stayed behind. He casts darkness behind him and starts moving towards Alvra and Lilith.

Meanwhile Phaedra is battling the skeletons, aided by Alvra. Lilith gives the undead a new command and orders them to go to the master of the cave, but before they can abide, the ghoul appears -seemingly out of nowhere- next to the inadequately protected wizard. Its claw with long sharp nails lashes out and rakes into Jharrath’s flesh. The wizard is paralyzed and the smell of sulfur and soot fills the air. All his magical protection is gone. “I’m saving most of you for later,” the ghoul telepathically transmits to Jharrath, “but for now, just a bite…” Its teeth sink into the drow’s shoulder and start chewing.

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The skeletons, now firmly under command of Lilith, start moving towards the ghoul. The cleric looks up and sees the ghoul, chewing on her brother. She calls upon her deity and sends forth a bolt of cold darkness from her left hand. Overwhelmed by the evil charge of the darkbolt, the beast is momentarily stunned.

Alvra, our foolish brother is being eaten alive! Hurry!

No longer under the ghoul’s influence, Jharrath comes to his senses and soon five mirror images appear next to him, mirroring his every move. Phaedra hears her sister’s call. She steps back and kills the last bone creature near her, then walks back towards Alvra. Together they see six Jharraths, very sick and heavily wounded. Blood oozes from multiple bite wounds, and shards of flesh dangle from his shoulder.

“What’s happening?”, the fighter yells to Lilith, readying for a charge. “Watch out. Ghoul!”, is her reply. As if on cue, the monster shakes off the cleric’s spell. Lilith’s second darkbolt misses, but her flame strike hits the target. Jharrath aids by summoning an earth element, which starts to grapple the ghoulish fiend. The opponents battle back and forth, and the drow tensely watch the fight when suddenly… they disappear. The ghoul has taken the elemental to another plane by shadow walk!

Phaedra takes a defensive stance, waiting for the monster to reappear; Alvra and Lilith ready their weapons. The wizard holds a Kelgore’s firebolt at his command. The siblings are on high alert, but minutes pass and nothing happens. The scout checks out the cave and sees corpses of gnolls, a drow female and a bugbear. Their equipment is near, and Phaedra notices a  large javelin and two black gloves, the former owner’s hands still in them. The items look very good. She’s about to turn around, when she feels a foul presence. A filthy claw rakes through her flesh. She steps back, counterattacks and hits the fiend with a burst of light. The light seems to have no effect though.

Lilith cautiously searches the corridor and draws nearer to the entrance of the cave, a darkbolt sizzling over her hand. Her brothers follow her.

The ghoul takes a step forward and his tongue lashes out, but the drow elf disappears and becomes visible a bit further away. Phaedra calls out to her siblings, and the cleric rushes forward towards the opening. Her dark bolts have dissipated, so she takes out her flail. A large earth elemental appears next to the ghoul, summoned by Jharrath. It grapples the ghoul in close combat, while Phaedra makes a full retreat and runs for the corridor. Alvra stands shoulder to shoulder with Lilith, protecting his mistress. He notices how the ghoul moves without a sound, a real predator.

Their opponent touches the big elemental and again they disappear. Jharrath moves aside to make room for the fighter. Suddenly the beast reappears, surprising Alvra. Its attack hits in full force, and immediately the drow male is paralyzed. His magical defenses and buffs are gone. Again the wizard summons an earth elemental, and it hits the ghoul. When Lilith furiously attacks the beast too, she fumbles, and in stead, the beast hits her. She’s paralyzed as well!

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Jharrath hurls the Kelgore’s firebolt and a shard of red-hot rock streaks through the air, a nimbus of arcane energy crackles around it. It’s a hit. Phaedra looks at the ghoul -nimble and strong- and moves towards it. As her attack fails, the ghoul has no difficulty stepping towards Alvra. It drains energy from the fighter and hacks at him with its claws. Alvra lights go out, and he goes down hard.

While the monster is gloating over its victory, the medium earth elemental bull rushes the ghoul backwards. Quickly Lilith focuses her will and fully heals her fighter brother. Alvra regains consciousness, winks at his mistress and then attacks the ghoul from the ground with his short sword. There is no time or strength left in Alvra to get up. Another Kelgore’s firebolt hits the ghoul, while the scout tumbles through. Again she attacks, but due to the high natural armor and high dexterity, she misses.

The ghoul, bleeding and battered, is now attacked simultaneously from four sides. A grimace distorts its face. It looks around, assesses the situation and, with a mighty jump, scampers away.

The Xaniqos look at each other, panting and dripping blood. The cleric calls her siblings close into a healing circle, with special care for the wizard. When they catch their breath, the fighter and scout set out to investigate the cave. Phaedra a chainmail, shield, cloak and leather armor, all magical, and a sharp dagger. Alvra checks out the items that Phaedra noticed earlier. The javelin is of excellent quality, the head formed like an electric bolt. The black gloves are well made and have a magical aura. He shows the javelin to Lilith, who lets Alvra keep the weapon. She tells the wizard to identify the gloves.

But it will take a long time to…

I said, immediately!

As you wish.

Jharrath bows slightly and prepares his spell. After an hour he reports:

These are gloves of lightning, mistress. Three times a day they can be used in a ranged attack.

They move away from the smelly cave and resume their journey. The terrain climbs slowly, ever upward, and after a long while their path takes a sharp turn. The scout peeks around the corner, very silent, and sees four statues with spiders. She takes a closer look and realizes they are back at the portal! Their relief is short-lived though, when they hear footsteps. Someone’s coming! A familiar hairy face greets them: the draegloth!

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Laergath, what are you doing here?!,

Phaedra exclaims. His pelt is splattered with blood. With a wicked smile, the half demon – half drow replies.

We almost gave up hope and thought you would not come back. Lady Thandysha has sent me to find you. Of all search parties, none have returned. And don’t worry: this blood is not mine. In my search I came upon some others, but they are not looting anymore.

His grin is terrible to witness, the teeth pointed and still red.

I guess your reward will be great. Or your punishment. Come now, I will escort you back to town, because your mother can wait no longer. We have to be careful though. Scouting parties of House Shi’quos and others are still walking around.  House Vae has had no news from their scouts either. And Thorntor is collecting a big army. We have to evade them.

The draegloth accompanies them safely back to Erelhei-Cinlu. His manoeuvres to evade the other searching parties are successful, though it takes them several days to return.

 

 

Szith Morcane

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Wary of the shadow spider, the Xaniqos continue their way over the unstable spider strands. Phaedra carefully picks a route through the sticky maze, while the others follow in her footsteps. When she hears unfamiliar voices, the scout urges the others to stay quiet. Lilith takes a moment to examine their surroundings and spots a plateau. It seems to be another entrance in the wall opposite the thoroughly destroyed former balcony, where smoke still smolders – the result of Jharrath’s devastating fireball. Phaedra crawls upwards towards the damaged ledge and takes a quick peek. The tunnel seems empty at first, but then something moves. What in Lolth’s name… Quickly she regroups with the others and signals them to keep ready.

Hideous skinless creatures appear at the rim of the ledge. With muscles stretched taut over skeleton and fluids oozing from their bodies, they start to climb down the twenty feet drop. “Quth-maren,” the cleric exclaims, “undead skinned drow. Be careful of their ooze: it’s acid!”. They turn to face this new threat, when the spider once again jumps into existence.

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The wizard, accompanied by his mirror images, moves forward and climbs the strands, trying to reach a more strategic position. The spider launches a bite attack and its teeth sink into one of the shimmering images of the wizard. Up on the ledge a new opponent appears -an arcane guard- and four magic missiles fly straight into the fray. When they hit, only two of Jharrath’s mirror images remain.

“This fight is well coordinated,” the Xaniqos fighter observes through clenched teeth. No sooner have these words left his lips, than the spider takes advantage of his temporary slip of attention and paralyzes Alvra with a well-placed bite. Phaedra’s counterattack bounces off the spider’s hide, and the arachnid grapples her.

Lilith calls upon the Spider Queen to rebuke the undead warriors, but before she can activate that ability, one of the undead rests his horrifying gaze upon her and the normally strong willed fighter feels herself overcome with fear. A second undead tries to slice her open with his filthy claws, but can’t penetrate her armor.

From the side, the wizard launches an arch of lighting, which ravages the undead and wounds them heavily with electricity. Through the cleric’s spell resistance, she’s able to withstand the lightning arch; and Alvra is safe as well. Next, Jharrath takes out a candle and summons three earth elementals near the spider. Their combined weight is too much for the spider webs and they slowly topple out of sight, leaving a huge hole in the webbings. The spider is able to keep its footings, but has to release the scout in the process. Immediately, Phaedra lashes out and hits the eight-legged animal. When another round of the arcane guard’s magic missiles slams into the wizard, his last mirror image disappears.

“The only way you can enter Szith Morcane is either dead or as slaves!” A female voice rings out over the grunts and growls of the combatants. Upon the ledge, the Xaniqos see a female, wearing the symbol of a leering skull; it must be one of the Kiaransalee clerics, worshipers of the Lady of the Dead.

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Strengthened by the proximity of his mistress, the flayed creature makes another clawed attack on Lilith, once again keeping his horrifying gaze on her. The wounds of the oozing creature slowly begin to heal. They have to get out of there! Phaedra tumbles past the shadow spider -hitting it hard- and touches the still immobile Alvra on landing. Jharrath casts darkness on himself and moves towards the plateau Lilith spotted earlier. He sees a deserted corridor and dashes into it. “Don’t run, you’ll make a perfect slave!” The mocking voice of the Kiaransalee cleric follows him, as well as a crossbow bolt. The enchantment instantly seizes the wizard, leaving him paralyzed. There’s only one mobile Xaniqos drow left!

Phaedra teleports and takes Alvra with her, slowly dragging him towards the plateau where Jharrath is standing still. In the blink of an eye, three more drow scouts mirror her movements. She maintains her connection to Alvra, leading him further and further from the battlefield. Jharrath struggles and breaks the enchantment, casting darkness to hide their actions and whereabouts.

A frustrated shout sounds through the battle scene. The Kiaransalee cleric is not happy to see her prey escape and calls upon her Goddess. And the Lady of the Dead answers: a roaring flamestrike slams into the middle of the three, or rather six, siblings, but searing only Jharrath. Phaedra pushes the fighter into the corridor, and then steps back onto the webs.

The Xaniqos cleric manages to break the will of the glaring Quth-maren. Shaking her head clear of the last remnants of the undead’s influence, she tries to dodge the slashes of one, while the other spits acid blood at her. It splashes against the stone and spider strands, where it mingles with Lilith’s blood. Looking up, she sees the arcane guard drawing near. In full retreat she follows her brothers and sister, while being attacked by the undead and the guard over and over again.

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When Alvra comes to, he’s face down in a dark tunnel. His brother is heavily wounded, and both his sisters are battling on the web strands, while trying to flee to the relatively safety of the corridor. Another necromancer spell hits his eldest sister. Phaedra is driving the guard mad by teleporting away constantly when he comes too close. The fighter takes out his javelin and hurls it towards the Kiaransalee cleric on the other side of the crevice. Caught up in her spell casting, the necromancer is surprised by the attack. She pays in blood.

Summoned from another plane by the wizard, a large earth elemental appears and tries to grapple the arcane guard. As planned, its weight proves to be too much though, and both start falling through the net. The guard manages to hold on and climbs back up. In all consternation the spider advances on Lilith and paralyzes her with a bite of its poisonous fangs.

Covered in darkness, Phaedra sets out to retrieve the immobile cleric. Under attack by the quth-marens, she starts pushing her sister towards the plateau. Fortunately the undead miss. Alvra doesn’t though, and throws another javelin at the creatures, scoring a hit. Jharrath readies a fireball, waiting for his siblings to clear the webbing. The fighter bull-rushes the quth-marens, but loses his footing and lands on his back. There he continues fighting his opponent, who is stuck in the spider strands. Jharrath casts a spell on the other. Alas it seems to be resistant to fire. The spider removes Phaedra’s mirror images in a double attack. Quickly the scout shoves Lilith back another step. Jharrath lifts his arms and…

“Let them run!” Overseeing the battlefield, the Kiaransalee calls back her allies. “Stop the chase and let the worms run!” The attackers leave, making care to dodge Alvra’s harassing sword.

Limping and bleeding the drow of House Xaniqos manage to escape. Not a good day for the four adventurers. Still they finally managed to find Szith Morcane!

Circling the Mountain

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Though the Xaniqos have escaped the deadly trap this time, there are still possibly ten to twelve hostile drow on the loose. There is no trace of the fiendish ravens; strategically, the siblings have a good and defensible position, Alvra says. Tired and wary, they decide to spend the night in the pit and wake up feeling slightly better.

Lilith sends out one of her prying eyes to assess their situation. The orb returns to convey images of hills and meadows to the cleric, a landscape where nothing moves except small wildlife. There is no visible threat, there are no other drow. With this knowledge, they set out and head back towards the old watchtower area. The smell of burned flesh still permeates the air from the silo. Phaedra wearily enters the scorched area, and finds the battle scene undisturbed. Many footprints are still visible in the sand, the area is scorched and blood permeates the soil.

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Clear tracks lead towards the mountains, deeply imprinted by the weight of heavy armor. They seem to be in a hurry! Another prying eye sets out to scout the area. The drow follow the trail for many hours, but Phaedra’s instinct and scouting skills tell her that they are only two miles as the crow flies from the portal through which they entered the Upper World. The landscape is becoming more and more overgrown with bushes and trees, the ground gets stony. When her sister loses the track, Lilith calls back the prying orb. In their vicinity are many small furry animals, but no houses or settlements; nothing is threatening. One more orb sets out with the specific instructions to search for caves and people, and its search proves successful. There’s a dark space up ahead that could be the entrance they are searching for.

Soon they find themselves on a much used path. Phaedra sees track from creatures that are not know to them; they are wider than those of rothé. As they follow the trail –Phaedra in the lead– the scout hears snorting and ducks behind the nearest tree. Fortunately it seems closer than it is, due to the mountain’s acoustic. Phaedra signals to the others, who have heard nothing unusual over the wood’s natural sounds, whereupon the cleric sends forth another magical orb. When it returns to her hand, it brings news: there are two jet-black red-eyed creatures ahead, waiting in front of an opening in the mountain.

Phaedra sneaks closer, while Jharrath casts his awareness forward, toward the beasts. He gets the impression that these are no natural inhabitants of the forest. They are different, more powerful and bigger, than the draft animal that was harnessed to the chariot in the village. The cleric calls back her sister, whereupon Jharrath shares his findings with the others.

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Failure Is No Option!

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After spending time in reverie, the cleric’s spells are renewed and Lilith is finally able to remove the curse that blinded her sister. She also restores both Alvra’s and Phaedra’s strength. When she finally sees their surroundings, the drow scout concludes they did a good job navigating: they’re only about four miles from Erelhei-Cinlu! They find their way back to the trail that leads to the mine and after two more hours, they see the walls of their city again. House Tormtor is manning the gates; the Xaniqos are admitted, with torn and dusty armors.

At home they are greeted by Quarra, and together the siblings go to the chapel, where Lilith gives a full report. Their eldest sister comments.

These places you mention are in the Boneyard. It is a big area with undead. Szith Morcane is an outpost of Maerimydra. Our Matron Mother is still working with the council to search for the prophecy. The other houses also want to chase after the rod Dark Fate. Stay close. And freshen up!

And they do exactly that. Alvra offers his help in repairing the wizard’s armor of dark scales. With a firm blow… he dents it beyond repair; apparently the armor is too frail for such a strong treatment.

Something went wrong… want me to try again?

but all of his efforts are in vain.

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Jharrath rolls his eyes, disappointed.

Guess I’ll have to find a real specialist; thanks for the attempt anyway.

The fighter has more luck with fixing his sister’s broken armor.

Jharrath, will you use this piece of violet mushroom to make an antidote?

Of course, sister, but I think normal ones – if taken up front – will also help against the poisoning of darklight ore.

In the middle of the night there’s a big commotion at the door: the Matron Mother has returned home. Kyorl calls everyone to the throne room. Minotaurs guard the doors, while the Xaniqos family sits down for food and drinks. Lady Thandysha sits at the head of the table.

The future of House Xaniqos is at stake. The information on the scroll you found is extremely important. Several search parties have set out to find the rod, and House Tormtor is especially active. If that House succeeds, they will become even mightier. But with the information you have provided, we have a better chance at retrieving Dark Fate. I was planning on giving the assignment to Quarra, but I have a better use for her here. Can and dare you to take on this mission upon yourself, Lilith? Failure is NO option.

The cleric assures her mother that they are worthy and capable to go in search of the rod.

Quarra, revered elder sister, I’m sure your skills will be perfect for the diplomatic mission to the Kua Toa settlement.”

Yes, you will go together with Taldinyon,” her mother adds, “while you, Lilith, go to Sythe Morcane to search for this Dark Fate. Tonight I will ask Lolth for guidance, and tomorrow you’ll go on your way. You will not be alone in your search; other drow parties will be on the road as well. House Tormtor and House Shi’quos know a lot and they will be working together. Keep your diplomacy close at hand and don’t let yourself be overruled. Make sure there are no consequences for this House! And whatever happens, I must have this rod! Take whatever you need.

The whole household prays for a successful mission and the Spider Queen grants them four potions of holy water, while Jharrath – who has managed to set up quite a business – offers each a number of healing potions.

Phaedra Xaniqos

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Appearance

Silver-haired Phaedra has an angular face with a thin nose, high cheekbones, a sharp jaw and narrow, bright amber eyes.  Normally, these features would be considered attractive (and she is certainly not unpleasing to look upon), but the combination does not sit particularly well on her small face and wide forehead.   Her frame is slight, barely reaching 4 feet and 5 inches, but she is lithe and muscular.  Phaedra’s form is graceful, and her movements are fluid and precise.

Personality

The same cannot be said, however, about her social skills.  In the presence of other drow, she is rather stiff and speaks mostly only when addressed, preferring to remain in the background.  She does not have a penchant for the verbal back-and-forth between the drow.  This should be not confused with an impatience or lack of interest in the political maneuvering and mental games in which the drow engage; Phaedra enjoys such games.  She knows her strengths, and the pragmatist in her knows that her skills are better served in the background, in observation, rather than in direct participation.  She is always watching and calculating, intent on spinning her own webs.

Phaedra enjoys being alone, relishing the times when she can move around Erelhei-Cinlu freely, whether scouting, gathering information for the future, or executing a task for the house.  Endless, inane chatter aggravates her, and she has punished a slave or two for talking needlessly in her presence.  Unlike her mother, she has a taciturn and calm demeanor.

Clothing

Phaedra is partial to wearing leather and spider-themed accessories.  She normally wears leather armor tailored into a sleeveless dress with a short, pleated skirt, paired with arm-length gloves, thigh-high boots and a hooded cloak.  Her waist-length hair, mostly worn loose, is adorned with combs and clips.  She is quite fond of accessories and creates sketches in her spare time.  Her favorite piece is an obsidian choker resembling a web wrapped around her neck with a spider dangling from it. Despite her aversion to small talk, she is particularly fond of parties and occasions which give her a chance to display her fine clothing and jewelry.  Phaedra knows what looks good on her, and she uses that knowledge to full effect.

In combat, however, her weapons are her only accessories.

The Calling

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Welcome to this Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 adventure in the strange and fascinating world of the Drow Elves…

THE UNDERDARK

It all starts when four siblings of the house of Xaniqos receive an urgent message to return home immediately. They leave their various academies – scout Phaedra, wizard Jharrath, fighter Alvra and cleric Lilith – and hurry towards their new home in Erelhei-Cinlu.

Like all drow cities, Erelhei-Cinlu is situated underground and is built on an island. Only one bridge leads from the city into the Underdark. There is a wall all around it and in the west another bridge leads to the Noble Estates. This area is backed up by a huge cliff.

In the early morning the four are supposed to report to the Matron Mother in the hall near the altar of Lolth. Jharrath hurries down the stairs, a drow of average height with a smooth stoic face and straight shoulder long hair. Dressed in a gray robe with long sleeves, boots and some simple jewelry, he walks towards the central room. His eldest brother Alvra follows on his heels, a long and muscled lean drow, sturdy and – like his brother – stoic, even a bit surly, dressed in a chain shirt and a piwafwi. His eyes are bright red.

Downstairs the rest of the family is already gathered. A petite female with silver hair and amber eyes is among them: their sister Phaedra, third daughter of the House of Xaniqos. In her short dress, high boots and gloves she looks quite beautiful. She is wearing a spider on a choker around her neck. Next to her is their other sister and second daughter, Lilith. Slim yet wiry, with a pure black skin and lavender almond-shaped eyes, she is dressed in tight-fitting black long skirts with high splits and a leather bustier with red silk accents and a family brooch. She wears a leather band around her neck and and holds her long white hair back with hairpins, so it tumbles down her back in a nonchalant mass.

Their mother Thandysha is waiting impatiently, flanked by her eldest daughter Quarra, a very tall and heavily muscled imposing drow female. Very arrogant too. Next to her are Taldinyon – weapon master – and the house wizard K’yorl.

Above a basin of water, there is a beautiful statue of Spider Queen Lolth. When Lilith looks at it, she sees the image waver between the ageless beauty of Lolth and the horror of a drider. The cleric doesn’t have much time to wonder over this phenomenon, since the Matron Mother Thandysha speaks up.

House Xaniqos is moving up after the ‘acquisition’ of house Everhate with all remaining assets. I need every hand – even worthless ones like yours – to strengthen our new position as eighth House of Erelhei-Cinlu and take Xaniqos to a higher level.

We are lacking slaves and have problems at the rothé island. Furthermore we lost the Weapon Maker during the takeover. Go into the city and pick up the weapons we already paid for!

The two female and two male drow bow their heads and rush out the hall to do her bidding immediately. It is not healthy to make a Matron Mother wait.