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.

Against all odds

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Meanwhile the Scout takes out her spiked chain and lashes out in the shadows, but there’s no impact. She takes a second to focus and spots Jhael’min, who is sneaking up behind her, rapier in hand. The weapon pierces her leg and Phaedra reacts by swinging her chain towards him. A full hit this time. Jhael’min’s many attempts at disarming her don’t have the required effect and when Phaedra hits him a second time, he gets weary from the fight and pulls back. Phaedra listens carefully and follows him, casting a spell. A bright light erupts and under cover of the light, she disappears.

Lilith spots a second Drow male, having left his hideout at the top of the stalactites, who is cautiously coming nearer, carrying a spiked chain. Another approaches her brother.The Cleric takes a step back and conjures a horizontal ring of swirling metal blades around her, that moves with her as she moves. The two quaggoths are not too pleased with this painful barrier. Their claws slash through Lilith’s defenses and wound her badly. On top of that three magic missiles slam into her, and she retreats to a safe distance to heal herself. A bit. Seems like the Shi’quos Drow combines melee fight with magic attacks! An opponent to reckon with.ringofblades When Alvra is hit from behind, the bat insignia shows him that these are also Drow of House Shi’quos.  Quick as lighting he turns around and slices clean through the Drow’s chain shirt. In reply the Drow’s hands spread a cone of pure fire, and only the Xaniqos brothers’ spell resistance saves them from disaster. Furiously Alvra whips his sword towards his attacker and scores two hits. The male Drow still manages to get a spell off and disappears from sight. Then the quaggoths also attack, but both miss. The Xaniqos Fighter doesn’t miss though, and soon a quaggoth lies at his feet, while the other is severely wounded. Lilith, feeling somewhat better, steps up to the beast and shreds him to pieces with her ring of blades. Then Alvra’s attacker appears from out of nowhere and whips his spiked chain around the Fighter. Alvra drops to the ground, unconscious as well. The Cleric goes after the Shi’quos male and again her blades draw blood. He attacks her with another cone of fire, but the female easily shrugs off the effects. With her blades and her flail she beats him to death. 131205quaggothMeanwhile the fight between the Scout and the Shi’quos male continues as Jhael’min manages to retreat to safety and drinks a healing potion. Phaedra, who was waiting for the Drow to make a move, is quicker and throws a bag of goo at him. It splatters all over him, thus entangling him. The male feels humiliated and snarls at the Scout. He attacks with his rapier, but is sluggish and misses. Phaedra’s spiked chain wraps around his leg and she trips him. He’s prone!

You prove to be superior, I surrender.

he says. But the Scout, knowing they can leave no witnesses, finishes him off with two hits of her chain. She checks the Drow’s outfit and takes the magic rapier, the ditto chain shirt and a silver ring – it has a secret compartment with two doses of sleep poison left – which she offers to her sister. Then she moves on to check out the quaggoths and the Drow males. Two spell books, magic spiked chains, mithral shirts and two masterwork hand crossbows and spider kits are the loot. She keeps one of the crossbows, dons one of the extremely light mithral shirts and hands a masterwork dagger to Lilith. The Cleric dispels her blades and checks on her brothers. Alvra seems to be heavily wounded, so she pours two strong healing potions down his throat. She then drags the Shi’quos Drow towards the side path and hides the corpses between the stalagmites. Finally coming to his senses, Jharrath feels groggy and sick, but he’s able to help carry the stuff back to Erelhei-Cinlu. Mission accomplished.

The Lair of Fire

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A distant rumbling – much like a volcano – helps to camouflage the noise they might be making. When Phaedra comes closer, she notices the two shapes are no Duergar, but a kind of salamander with a human torso and snake-like lower body. One of these Flamebrothers sees the Scout and runs further down the corridor, but the Drow is quicker and drops down in front of it. Lilith charges to help her sister, but misses her attack. A magic missile sizzles through the air and hits one of the Flamebrothers, while Alvra is less lucky with his javelin. The beasts attack the Drow females and the fight rages back and forth. The creatures use both their tail and spear and Phaedra gets hit. The Drow intensify their attack and draw blood with flail, javelin and missile. When two more salamanders appear from the corridor, the Cleric activates her wand and releases a circle of hurtful energy. The wounded creature’s wounds are torn apart and it drops down, dead as a stone.

Jharrath presses onward and launches another magic missile, while the Fighter pierces the second guard with his magical javelin. When the Cleric subsequently releases her spell, a hissing, hurtling ribbon of pure darkness flies from her hand and strikes the salamander hard. Nothing remains – not even of the special javelin. This display of power chases away the new guards, who retreat into the delivery place, and gives them a moment of time to drink their fire-resisting potions. Not all do so though…

Lilith orders the Wizard to send an elemental into the next room to trigger an attack by the Flamebrothers. The sisters walk forward, accompanied by Alvra, and follow the summoned creature. While the salamanders are focused on the elemental, Alvra peeks into the room and sees that someone, or something, is watching the fight farther down. Phaedra shoots one of the Flamebrothers with her crossbow and scores a full hit. A spell of blindness hampers the salamander further, and together the Cleric and Fighter manage to kill it.

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Another one attacks Lilith, but the potion she took protects her against the fire damage – damn useful, these potions – and while it’s thus busy, one of the Wizard’s magic missile ends its life. The last Flamebrother is under heavy attack by the Scout, who strikes hard with her spike chain. The flame quickly runs out of the beast.

The earlier spectator turns out to be a Fire salamander, that joins in the fight. The beast is as tall as the Drow and has a large tail. It doesn’t much like the ray of frost the Wizard sends. When it tries to grapple Alvra, the little mouths on the Drow’s breastplate gingerly bite into the Fire salamander’s tail. Alvra manages to free himself, but suffers another spear attack by the beast, while the tail lashes out at the Cleric. The elemental’s time in the Underdark has run out, so Jharrath summons three new ones. In a vigorous attack these beings kill the Fire salamander.

In the next room they see the torn up body of a Duergar on the ground – the dwarf has been tortured and scorched. They have found what’s left of the group that went to pick up the magic staff for Thangarth. A rack contains weapons in good condition, and in the Duergar’s clothes Phaedra finds a heavy pouch with two hundred gold pieces.

Clan Steelshadow

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Well, that wasn’t too bad. We saved our honor, finished the quest and are very popular with a large mercenary Duergar clan. There are two options: either we have a nice conversation with Thangarth Steelshadow, or we simple ignore these bunch of about three hundred Duergar. By the way, brother, what kind of rod is that?

A rod of grievous wounds, mistress. It can be used five times a day and will hurt anyone around the wielder.

Right. Then I suggest you don’t stand too close when I’m using it. Hand it over.

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Lilith studies the white rod, which is covered in carvings of intricate design. In her mind she repeats the activating command word the Wizard has supplied. The Xaniqos are walking the dark and gloomy lesser streets of Dunspeirrin, on their way to the Steelshadow clan house. There are no nobles here, only ordinary people, the unemployed, slaves, beggars and injured soldiers.

Cut from the living rock, the big mansion looms up within the shadows of the Underdark. Four Duergar are guarding the large front door. One of them ushers them inside when they announce they have an appointment with Thangarth Steelshadow. Seems Murgol has kept his word and they are indeed expected. The Drow can keep their weapons – as long as they keep their hands in sight. The guard leads them through a big hall, down a smaller hallway and finally opens a door to the quarters of the clan master. A more luxurious room, furnished with a stone throne and big tables. Two Duergar are guarding their master. Alvra notices that their (magical) equipment is immaculate, their stance capable.

A Draegloth, easily taller than eight feet, is standing behind the throne of Thangarth Steelshadow. Apparently it is happy to see them, because it’s wearing a big smirk on its dog-like face, an impressive greataxe in its claws.

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A Draegloth has four arms: a pair of Drow arms and two longer arms that end in claws. It has crooked, muscled legs and a black dog’s face with white Drow hair. This half fiend is a mixture of Drow and Glabrezu. It has a gutteral dark, harsh voice and stays mostly on its own. Draegloths are used as bloodhounds. They love killing and rent themselves as mercenaries. Often they are rangers or rogues. The Drow formerly used them as Illithid hunters.

The half fiend – named Leargath – stares at the Xaniqos’ clothes, the acid on their piwafwis, Lilith’s Duergar armor and the nice brooches.

Of which house are you?

Lilith decides to answer truthfully.

We are of the House of Xaniqos.

The Draegloth nods at the clan leader, confirming the Drow speak the truth.

Do you perhaps have a particular interest in attacking my groups?

Thangarth’s dark voice cuts in. The Cleric retorts that her group was challenged and insulted, and that when they fought back, the Duergar Cleric ran off. She suggests it might be better if they make a deal that is profitable for both parties, in stead of fighting. Thangarth considers Lilith’s words.

Phaedra asks after the kind of business the Steelshadow Clan conducts.

We are in the trade business, we deal in mithril – in magical armors made of mithril. And since negotiations often take too long and are boring, it might even be possible that we sometimes loot merchants.  We sell our goods in Dunspeirrin and Looblishar. I have an ‘offer’ to make and we might have a problem if you don’t accept it. Meaning YOU will have a problem. During our recent escapades we encountered a lair of fire salamanders lead by an Efreeti there. He approached us before any bloodshed could happen and we made a deal with them: in exchange for mithril, they would create a special weapon for me: a staff. It doesn’t look special to an outsider, but one can summon elementals with it.

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Efreets originate from the Elemental Plane of Fire and are very malignant. They visit the material planes to harvest raw materials. They are in a neverending war with Djinni. An Efreet is made of basalt and congealed flames, is very tall and speaks undercommon. They are known for their tricks, have magical abilities and are proficient in illusions.

The group, carrying the last load of mithril to the fire salamanders lair and pick up the enchanted staff, was slaughtered and my search party hardly managed to get back alive. I want you to retrieve the weapon and kill this cursed Efreet, or send it back to its plane!

And what is in it for us?

Lilith asks.

You mean apart from your lives? Remember, you still have a bounty on your head! Your reward will be mithril.

Lilith employs her diplomatic skills and on behalf of the House of Xaniqos asks for the rights to deal in mithril with the Steelshadow clan. After a moment of consideration, Thangarth Steelshadow agrees. Then the Cleric requests to speak to the survivor of the search party. The Duergar appears – part of his skin burned – and draws them a map on a piece of parchment. They will have to go deep into the Underdark; the lair is on a not entirely solidified volcano.

The Bounty

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The injured dwarf tries to make his way back to his comrades but seems to be stuck now, so Phaedra moves towards the web to get a better view. Jharrath’s hands gesture in circles, readying a spell. Sparks of fire drip from his fingers. Alvra is about to take a shiny javelin from his pack, when again a voice cries out to his god and the web disappears. Suddenly free, the Duergar runs back to his party. The Scout now hears two others moving in, invisible once more. She signals this to her siblings and then is under attack by two axe wielders. Lilith charges full speed towards one of the Duergar and scores a hit, while Phaedra tumbles back – injured – and fires at the other dwarf.

Seeing a clear target, Alvra aims and throws his special javelin at their opponents – but misses. The weapon falls down. Meanwhile all enemies are in the tunnel and the Duergar Cleric casts sanctuary on himself, flanked by his fellow Fighter. Lilith is under attack now and receives two more injuries. She counters with a soundburst spell, dealing all Duergar damage – even the guy in the sanctuary bubble – and also stuns two dwarves.

Her sister drinks a healing potion, and then takes another, which makes her skin tougher – like wood. Two earth elementals are transferred to the mine and, at the command of Jharrath, attack the Duergar. The Drow Fighter rushes forward to stand next to his sisters.

Let’s go for the Wizard!

Phaedra hears one of the Duergar say.

The Drow Cleric sees herself confronted with a Fiend with claws, a big beard and gleaming red eyes. The first claw attack misses, as does the second. The Spider Queen must favor her today! Lilith makes use of the opportunity and counterattacks her opponent. She manages to damage the scary guy, after which she fully retreats until she stands next to her magic brother; the Cleric knows of a half-Fiend, but doesn’t know anything about its abilities.

Her sister steps forward to attack the Duergar Fighter, who is now heavily wounded. Jharrath casts black ten feet long tentacles to stop the advance of the enemies. And it works: all opponents are stuck and try to get loose. The tentacles squeeze, hurting their victims, and that proves too much for the already injured dwarf. He dies.

Alvra also retreats to where the Cleric and Wizard stand and waits there, sword in hand. The dwarves start to grow larger and try to get clear of the black crushing tentacles, but only two succeed: the Fiend and a Fighter. Lilith attacks the Demon with searing lights, but fails. Phaedra helps her by lashing out with her spiked chain and then moves back towards the others. Jharrath – pleased – launches a…

… and kills the dwarven Cleric and his buddy. The Fiend, not disturbed by the fire at all, says something in Abyssal and disappears from view. There’s only one Duergar left standing and he throws an axe at the Wizard. It hits. A doom spell, sent by Lilith, misses its target. The Scout moves forward towards the tentacles and stands ready.

Jharrath is busy using a scroll of invisibility, when suddenly the Fiend reappears and lashes out at him! Fortunately the Wizard succeeds in his casting anyway, while the Demon is visible again. Alvra and Lilith turn their attention to the bearded red-eyed creature, and Phaedra also takes part. She manages to kill it! A second fireball hits the remaining Duergar, and after a crossbow and two firebolt attacks, that one also dies.

Alvra reclaims his excellent javelin, while Jharrath picks up the dwarven Cleric’s magic rod to check it out – its former owner won’t need it anyway. On the Cleric’s body, Lilith finds a pouch filled with gems (four stones of 50 GP each plus 20 platinum pieces) and a magical full plate armor, while Phaedra comes up with 350 GP and six special throwing axes. She hands the weapons over to Alvra for temporary use, and for selling later on. All but the Fighter take a light masterwork crossbow.

When they get back to the mine entrance, Murgol is still waiting for them. He is very relieved to hear the delver is dead, but regrets that he doesn’t know the fate of his miners. The Xaniqos tell him what happened down in the mine, including the encounter with the hostile group of Duergar. Murgol doesn’t seem that surprised and warns them:

They must be Steelshadows. You seem to have a bounty on your heads! Do you have any idea how that might have happened? It’s not to be taken lightly to be the target of a foul mercernary band that has four to six hundred members. They won’t stop chasing you!

Lilith and Phaedra exchange glances. Seems there’s a nasty twist to their fight in Looblishar.

By the way, Murgol,

the Cleric says,

the delver mentioned something about a master. Apparently the monster has been hired to invade your mine. And when you go and look for the bodies of your slaves, keep a lookout for the bodies of four Duergar, but also for corpse of a Fiend.

A look of genuine surprise and fear crosses Murgol’s face.

Now I am sure: your attackers are Steelshadows. And that half-Fiend is a Durzagon!

The miner is grateful for the information about the delver and promises them he will set up a meeting with Thangarth Steelshadow, the leader of the mercenary band. Perhaps they can talk their way out of their predicament.

And old ‘F(r)iend’

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The stench of burned flesh is overwhelming in the confined spaces of the mine tunnel. The Cleric orders her sister to go and get Murgol, since she hasn’t spent that much energy in the fight. Phaedra immediately rushes off, silent as a Drow in stealth, and makes her way back to the entrance. Suddenly she hears voices that sound like they belong to Duergar… but she can’t see anyone! The Scout slowly continues towards the sounds of creaking armor and footsteps. When she is fifteen feet away, all goes quiet. Quickly she activates her House insignia and attaches herself to the wall, near the ceiling. Suddenly a cry of alarm, followed by an uncoming axe. She has been spotted! The Duergar who threw the weapon loses his invisibility by that act. Plus he misses, which makes him very grumpy.

Phaedra drops to the ground and casts a spell that lets her see invisible beings. Four more shapes appear from the dark: three Duergar and a warlock kind of demonic Duergar. Its head is bold and runes are drawn upon the sides of his skull. To the Scout’s surprise, one of the Duergar is the Cleric from Looblishar! Again she is the target of an axe, and this time it finds its mark. The half-Fiend orders her to surrender, which of course she won’t. Faced with these four opponents, Phaedra runs back to her siblings.

Meanwhile the Drow tend to their wounds. Jharrath offers his Nightscale armor to his Cleric sister, who again is without. With a short nod of appreciation, Lilith accepts the black armor. When Phaedra arrives with her message of advancing invisible Duergar, everyone gets back into battle mode. Alvra grabs a javelin, Jharrath readies a web spell and the Cleric buffs herself with extra strength. They all hear them coming now.

The first Duergar to arrive around the corner is one of the axe throwers. Phaedra shoots a bolt at him, but her crossbow seems to be jammed. The Wizard aims his web at their opponent and hits: the Duergar can still move, but only slowly, enveloped in webbings. A javelin, hurled by the Fighter, enters the Duergar in an uncomfortable place and the dwarf becomes very still. Lilith prepares for action, but she can’t see much through the webbings that block the tunnel. They hear distant chanting and then a few curses. Seems the enemy Cleric tried to get rid of the web, but didn’t succeed: Jharrath’s spell is too strong for him!

Death to the Delver!

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After a night at the inn – spent in prayer by most – the Xaniqos have a light breakfast. Lilith admonishes her Wizard brother to use his spells wisely and with care; the same goes for the use of his wands. No more holding back on possible solutions to the Delver problem! The inn keeper smirks at the foursome. Alvra tells his siblings that a delver can be bribed, but the best thing would be to just kill it. Attack with anything but acid. The fighter is dressed in a shaggy leather outfit and has an ample supply of javelins. The others have also obtained extra weapons and simple armor.

When they meet with Murgol, the miner does nothing to conceal his doubt about the party’s abilities. When he laughs in their faces, Lilith turns on her heels and tells him they are going back into town, leaving the dwarf behind. The fighter assures the Cleric there are other merchants who sell lizards at the market… but apparently no fighting lizards! The only lizards for sale are pack lizards and a group of six meek lizards that won’t fight, even if someone is standing on their tail. The only sensible thing to do is to go back to Murgol and fulfill their contract.

They head back to the mine, but Murgol is not available. As far as the Duergar miners know, no other group has been hired to clean the mines yet. The Xaniqos return to the inn, but their access is denied. We won’t lodge oath breakers, Ivar tells them, surrounded by armed dwarves. The Drow take their gear and once again find their way to the mine, where they will wait for the dwarf. When they arrive, Murgol is just closing the mine with a long, magically imbued chain. About sixty dwarves are busy laying spells of warding and explosions. Lilith steps up to Murgol, using her diplomatic skills on him, and tells him that they are ready to finish the deal now. Murgol nods. It has to be done tonight, for I have found another group of adventurers who want to help me out with this delver.

The Drow enter the mine and make their way towards to the place where they first encountered the beast. With the help of her deity, the Cleric shields her sister and brothers, while the Wizard summons an earth elemental. Jharrath orders the creaure to start stamping on the floor. And the calling seems to work: soon the delver appears, breaking through a wall, and attacks the summoned creature. Alvra nimbly steps aside and throws a bottle at the monster’s head, which is still scorched by yesterday’s fire ball. The bottle explodes. After two more elemental attacks, damage from a deific vengeance attack by Lilith, plus more fire damage by Alvra, the delver starts to disappear into the stone again.  Jharrath casts a zone of black rubbery tentacles and tries to grapple the delver, but it is too huge. He manages to slow the creature down though.

Suddenly the Cleric’s appearance changes: she grows eight tentacles, resembling a yochlol, handmaiden of the Spider Queen Lolth. And though she looks a lot less appealing, her resistance to acid is a big bonus.

Lilith throws a dark flame of fire towards the delver and an almost human cry of pain echoes through the tunnels. The monster advances on the Drow, and the Wizard hurls a fire ball at it. The delver burns, and with it, Jharrath’s brother Alvra. The fighter cries out mad to Jharrath and takes a step back, surrounding himself with faerie fire to mislead their attacker. The delver goes for the Cleric and scores a hit, but luckily this time her armor survives. She counterattacks with her eight tentacles and hits the beast four times. Phaedra steps forward and whips her spare spike chain… which dissolves. Jharrath warns his siblings to stay clear and calls down great magical hail stones. The delver is looking worse and worse. Maddened it goes for Alvra and Lilith, and both get hit and lose their armor. The Cleric tells the beast to retreat, but it won’t. The Scout takes out her crossbow and steps back.

With a bit of ashes, the Wizard creates a Kellgore’s firebolt and sends it towards the monster. I can’t keep this up, Jharrath hears it say, must go back to the master! When he asks it who its master is, there is no reply. Alvra pulls back, while Lilith attacks with two tentacles and a spell that inflicts moderate wounds. When both hit, the delver tries to get away. Phaedra chases after it, but her bolts won’t penetrate the hide of the delver. A fire ball does though. The delver is no more.