Vita est ludus
The thin line between fantasy and reality...













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 0 - To Toril

2993. (8 AM) Hazen & Kress's quarters

A servant knocks at the door to Hazen's apartment. Hazen stirs and calls out: "Kress, please see who that is and kill them." Kress opens the door, but only hears footsteps hurrying back down the stairs.

Kress packs both his and Hazen's packs, and carefully checks all the weapons and his own armor. He quietly opens the door to Hazen's room and smiles to find him fast asleep, having thoughtfully dressed in his adventuring clothes before going to bed. Kress goes down to breakfast and allows Hazen to sleep until just before noon.

2993. (Noon) To Toril

The next morning after breakfast, the party prepares to find Brianna's portal in the Lower Ward. Tebryn had dined earlier and departed - but soon reappeared in the company of Elvira.

Veracity is surprised. "I thought you weren't coming, Elvira!"

Elvira gripes in response. "I'm not. But, for some reason, Tebryn says that I need to see you off. Let's move out."

Brianna leads the party down an alley in the Lower Ward and around a corner.

Elvira is grumpy. "Why am I here, Tebryn? I have things to do in Mansfield."

Tebryn turns to her. "Take this scroll and this miniature anchor. The scroll has teleport - at 9th level. You'll have no problem with it. The anchor is half the focus for a teleport anchor. I have the other half." He extracts another miniature anchor from a pouch and displays it. "If you are on Toril when you cast that spell while holding that anchor, you will Teleport right into our presence. But you have to be on Toril - and thus have to know how to go through Brianna's portal. That is why you are here - to see us off and learn what you need to do to rejoin us, when you are ready."

Brianna smiles. "Very easy. Just hum this tune..." She writes a melody on a scrap of paper and hands it to Elvira.

Elvira scowls. "What are these chicken scratches?"

Brianna stares. "Musical notation. Learn it. Get help, if you need to. Here's the tune... La la la, la la la, la la la LA."

The arch glows and becomes reflective like a mirror.

"Coming?" Brianna steps through, followed by the rest of the travelers. Elvira stares as the portal fades and reverts to an empty arch. She glares at the scrap of music, stuffs it in a pocket, and goes home, muttering.

Marpenoth 27, 1372 DR Somewhere on Faerûn

As each person steps through the portal, she leaves Sigil and reappears at the base of a mountain, in the midst of a sparse pine forest. The grey sky and cold wind remind them of late fall or early winter; the thin wisps of snow skirling around the bases of the trees give further credence to that assessment.

Veracity shivers and pulls her cloak closer around her. "Whew! Why did it have to be winter here?"

Yol smiles. "It shouldn't matter what the surface weather is like, once we get into the Underdark!"

"Indeed," says Tebryn. "We need to find an appropriate entrance into the Underdark. I can Teleport us right there, after doing some scrying." He puts down his pack and starts looking through it. "Where did I put that crystal ball, any way?" He stops. "Wait. We need to know more, first. Brianna, which way to the nearest town?"

"Let me think about that." Brianna frowns and considers.

Igor speaks. "Why don't we get out of the wind, at least? That copse of trees over there looks at least somewhat sheltered." All follow this suggestion and Brianna continues her calculations.

Kress, who was standing guard, suddenly calls out. "Hazen! Something coming through the air! I can't quite make out what it is, but it sure is weird!" He points into the sky. All look up and watch what appears to be a long black flying...snake? arcing through the air towards the party.

As it gets close, Veracity gasps. The flying whip zooms up and hovers, and then transforms. Standing before the party is a 12-foot tall woman, pale, blond, holding a many-tailed whip in her hand. She gazes at each party member in turn, seeming to peer right into the mind. Finally, her gaze settles on Veracity and she stares at her intently.

"Kneel," she commands.

Veracity drops to her knees and then, looking up at the face of the Avatar, prostrates herself. "Crack!" goes the Avatar's scourge as she lashes Veracity, who gasps and quivers but holds her ground. Kress starts forward but stops after Hazen grabs his waist. "Moron!" says Hazen.

The Avatar leans over and pulls Veracity to her feet. She places her lips on Veracity's and Kisses her.

"I am pleased with you. Few others have unknowingly shown such devotion to my aims and very few of your race follow me. A pity; the drow have a natural understanding of Pain. But, perhaps the time is ripe for changing this. At the moment, the Goddess Lolth is silent. As her ally, I wish to make sure her dominion is not wholly subverted. Go to Maerimydra and seek the Undying Temple above Castle Maerimydra. You must demolish the cult there that controls the castle. Within the city, you will find other foes - and also some who are allies, although most are not. I can grant you one more small piece of aid on this Quest."

The Avatar waves her hand and the landscape changes.

"I have brought you to Dagger Falls. Five hours from here are the Dordrien Crypts, near which is an entrance into the Underdark from which you can reach Maerimydra."

The Avatar looks over the whole group once again before returning her gaze to Veracity, who is gazing with awe up into her face. She removes a brooch from her cloak and presses it into Veracity's hand.

"Go forth and do my bidding!"

With a flash of coruscating purple light and the crack of a whip, she disappears.

Igor stares at Veracity. "Just who, exactly, was that?" he asks.

Veracity starts. "Loviatar, the Maiden of Pain, the Willing Whip..." She looks down at the holy symbol in her hand and pins it to her own cloak. "My Mistress."

Hazen gapes at Veracity and shakes his head. His voice a lot less flip than usual, he comments: "I'm impressed!" He then turns to Kress. "Just 'cause it worked once, don't think you can just go attacking Avatars! You'll be crushed into dust before you can blink!"

Brianna smiles warmly at her friend. "I can see that the songs I write about this adventure will be memorable indeed."

Tebryn speaks. "Well, which way to the Crypts? Five hours from here - but which direction?"

"Surely it would be that way. Only five hours..." suggests Yol.

Tebryn responds, "Maybe it's that way. Or, maybe if we go five hours that way, the Crypts will then be ten hours that way." He points in the opposite direction.

Brianna agrees. "We should go to Dagger Falls and ask for more information. In a tavern, say. I'm good at that - everybody loves talking to a bard. But, I think we're in the Dalelands - and from what I know about the attitudes of people here - and across Faerûn, for that matter - I think perhaps that I should go with just the humans."

Hazen says, "Aww, I can come invisible. I want to see what's up. Besides, I get along good with humans."

The drow agree to this plan and conceal themselves well off the road, as Brianna, Igor, Kress and the invisible Hazen make their way along the road and up to the closed gates of a town.

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Copyright © 2004 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.
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