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













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 1 - Entrance to the Underdark

Marpenoth 28, 1372 DR (2 PM) The Dordrien Crypts

At the end of the corridor are stairs down leading to a short corridor of worked stone, which opens out into a natural cavern. Graves are hollowed out of the walls and jumbled bones are visible.

"Those must have been the nobles up there," says Tebryn. "We're down among the commoners now."

The party passes through this cavern without disturbing any of the graves. Exiting the far end of the cavern, the party enters a larger cavern. A marble statue in center depicts a gaunt alien looking creature with bulbous eyes, an insect's mandibles, and an elongated oval head. More graves are carved into the walls all around.

"That's disturbing," comments Igor.

"Yeah, it disturbs us, so let's not disturb it," says Hazen.

The party goes unmolested past the statue through an opening in the far wall and enters a narrow cavern with graves carved into only one of the walls. Tebryn spots a hideous creature shaped like a stalagmite. It moves forward slightly and speaks to the drow in Undercommon: "What is your purpose for being here and why do you have these surface dwellers with you?"

"We're on our way back to the Underdark with these slaves," bluffs Tebryn.

The roper blends back into its surroundings. and the party passes into another narrow passage. Kress looks at Tebryn and says, "Good job!" in Undercommon. The passage goes ahead and branches to the left.

"Which way?" says Tebryn.

"It makes no difference at all and all the difference in the world," says Yol.

Hazen extends one arm towards each passage and says "Let's go that way!"

Veracity rolls her eyes and sighs. "Lets go straight ahead."

Proceeding along the passage, the party sees a broken masonry wall with a narrow opening. Suddenly, two drow with hand crossbows appear, partially concealed by the wall.

Veracity draws her long bow.

Yol mutters and waves her fingers and an incorporeal hand appears, floating at her side.

Igor runs up to the opening to confront the two Drow.

Tebryn incants and waves his hands and five darts of force shoot from his fingers to unerringly strike the drow on the left.

The first drow fires a bolt at Igor, which flies wildly, provoking Igor to swing a punch at him, which did not go wild.

Within the cavern, a wraith spider looms from out of the shadows.

The second drow also misses Igor with his crossbow.

Hazen steps forward and draws his dagger.

Kress runs up behind Igor.

Veracity considers shooting Igor in the back since he is completely blocking the opening, but simply stamps her foot in frustration instead.

Yol runs up to just behind Igor and casts a spell onto her spectral hand. The hand flies out to touch one of the drow, who seems to shrivel a little, just as Yol seems to inflate with extra vitality.

Igor steps into the room and draws his great sword. He slashes the Drow that he and Tebryn had struck before. It falls unconscious to the floor.

Tebryn incants just as before and sends five darts of force into the Drow on the right.

Hazen flies up and into the cavern and lands behind the spider.

The wraith spider bites twice at Igor, but misses.

Kress steps in and kills the second drow.

Brianna runs up to see what she can see.

Veracity runs up and shoots an arrow into the wraith spider.

Yol incants and touches the dying drow. Its body shudders briefly but appears unchanged. Yol sighs. "Unfortunate. I could have sent you straight to Hel, but you, too, resist."

Igor hits the wraith spider with three mighty whacks from his great sword and it falls in pieces on the floor.

Yol bends over the dying drow and administers first aid, stabilizing it.

Tebryn raises his eyebrows. "You try to finish it off with a death knell and now you bind it. What's the deal?"

"I don't have speak with dead, today," answers Yol. "If I did, we could slay this drow and then question him. As is, we can only question him and then slay him."

"He's unconscious, Yol," says Brianna. "Are you planning on healing him?"

"Um. Now that you mention it, I'd rather cure my own party," says Yol, scowling more than usual. "But we retain options this way, at least."

"Let's strip the loot off of 'em," suggests Hazen.

Each drow is well equipped, with similar gear. Each wears a mithril shirt and a buckler on his left forearm, and has a very well made rapier, dagger, and hand crossbow. Each has a cloak and a small collection of flasks. Each has a pouch with coins and a minor gem.

"Almost like this is standard issue equipment," says Tebryn. "Are these sentries? What are they guarding?"

In the center of the room is a hole in the floor. Peering into the hole, the party sees a steeply descending tunnel.

"Our way down into the Underdark," breathes Veracity. "Lets go!"

"How about if I detect the magical aura on all the loot we've found so far, and we experiment with those items for which it makes sense for us to do so, in case we've found anything we can actually use?" suggests Tebryn.

"Good idea," says Yol. "And I'll look for poisons."

Tebryn lays out the items collected from the vampires, the graves, and the drow and casts a minor spell. Yol casts a different spell and both examine all the items.

"Ah," says Yol, picking up one of the flasks. "Poison..."

"These rapiers, mithril shirts, and bucklers are all magical. The rest of the drow weapons are just extremely well made. Still worth a pretty penny, I'd expect. Those rings are protective. So are the bracers and the three cloaks. Some of the potions are Conjurations. Healing, I'd guess. The others are Transmutations. Hmm. One wand is Evocation and one is Conjuration. And that spear has an extra Evocation effect, in addition to the standard weapon enchantment," says Tebryn.

He looks up. "Now what?"

"How can we find out more about the items?" inquires Igor.

Tebryn ponders. "Well, considering the weakness of those who bore them, I suspect that these arms and armor are too weak to be interesting to us. The rings and wands and potions? Perhaps they would be useful. Two of us could spar and determine how good the rings are, I'd say. But surely, we all have rings or cloaks of protection?"

"Not I," says Brianna. "I could use such a ring."

"Well, fine, then," continues Tebryn. "And we can taste the potions and see what we can find. As for the wands..." He frowns. "When I cast an Identify spell, the simplest property of up to thirteen different items will be revealed to me, including the method of activating that power and the number of charges of it, if it is charged. That's everything you need to know about a wand or a potion. But, I didn't learn that spell today, and it will take eight hours to cast. We should definitely do that when we are ready to withdraw and rest."

Yol speaks. "Now would be an appropriate time, don't you think? Let's go rest up and relearn our spells."

Tebryn looks around the party and raises his eyebrows. "Hmm. I'd reckon it to be about 2 in the afternoon or so. I see that Veracity and Hazen are slightly damaged. I have used almost fifteen percent of my spells. My sister there has cast a couple of spells. I've seen you cast half a dozen or so. We hardly look like we need to rest and recover. Why not make our initial foray into that tunnel?"

Yol scowls. "Tebryn, I see you have not paid much attention to me. I have cast a dozen spells and I have almost no offensive spells left."

Igor shakes his head. "In the future, I suggest not casting spells so liberally, if we're going to have to stop to rest after only three small battles. Just because you memorized the spells and there happens to be a target doesn't mean that you have to cast them."

Yol scowls even more sternly. "It's not just the number of spells I cast, but which spells I have left. I have only one light and two serious cures left. Perhaps that is enough for the crypts behind us, but I think we should descend into the tunnel only when we are all fully prepared."

"Well, if it's cure spells that are the concern," interjects Brianna, "I can do my part. I can cast quite a number of cure spells each day, if needed, although that's not really my forte. A party that depends on its Bard for healing is in trouble: that's really the cleric's domain. But I can certainly help out!"

"You are a woman of many talents, Brianna," says Igor. "I have to say that your singing during battles is very inspiring. Right now, I would find it difficult to stay put now that we are finally starting to get a little action. I say we go on."

Brianna beams warmly at Igor. "Why, thank you, Igor! I know many songs and can inspire my party in many ways." Veracity looks at her with pleasure and reaches out to squeeze her hand.

"Well, it's not just Yol's battle spells. That ghost drained some of my robustness," says Kress. "Yol says that she can restore that, but not until tomorrow. I wouldn't mind being made whole before we proceed."

Veracity looks over at him and curls her lip. "Oh, yes, Kress. You are now so sickly. Would that I were as un-robust as you are." She looks around at the rest of the group and returns her gaze to Kress. "Would that half of us were as sickly as you have become." She peers at him quizzically. "Surely this can wait until we really need to retreat? Since when do we retreat when we've used less than a fifth of our spells, people are essentially undamaged, and we have cure spells still available to us, to fix us up if we do get damaged?"

Kress is not convinced. "Veracity, I need all my toughness to protect all you more fragile folks. In my current condition, it's like I've given the bad guys one free hit. Who wants that? Not me. Besides, as you know, you Drow types live a long time, so letting the ones down below live one more day won't make a difference."

Hazen chortles. "Fragile folks? Kress, what about your fragile brain? You're the only one that got spooked by that ghost! And you certainly chatted up that vampire. Let other people do the thinking. I agree with Mr. T - let's go down the hole! Besides, I still have all my spells."

Igor shakes his head. "Kress, if you feel that fragile, you can stay back and shoot arrows and let Veracity take lead with me."

Tebryn smirks. "That might get her off her tail and into action. Sister, I have to say, your performance so far has not been too impressive. Stomping out of battles - or running out of the room with your eyes closed. Is this how you plan to impress your goddess?"

Veracity blushes and looks at the ground. "Well, either Kress has been interposing on behalf of my foe, or Igor has been standing in the doorway, and, as you know, I like to prepare myself with spells ahead of battle, and the battle has been over by the time I can enter it and ..." Her voice trails off. She draws a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Well. That is making excuses, isn't it? I am actually already prepared, for several more hours, at least, with this Stone Skin." She raises her head and looks over at Igor. "Yes. I will go in the front line with you."

Kress snorts. "Fine with me. I'll take up the rear and guard Yol, who seems to be my only hope for regaining my normal stamina." Yol smiles thinly.

Tebryn smiles. "Fine. No need to rest now, and we can go down the tunnel. Except..." He frowns. "I wish I knew what was going on down there. How big a settlement will we face? Or is it merely an encampment of a raiding expedition? We should also decide where we will retreat to, should we need to do that: I would not assume that we'll find a safe place to hole up down below. Although as we get deeper in the Underdark we will certainly need to find places to camp. So, perhaps we should quickly check the rest of the Crypts behind us? That side branch we did not take, for example. And perhaps we can find some more clues about what we face. But, then, on into the tunnel! Agreed?"

Yol sighs. "Well, given that everybody else has plenty of spells left and Brianna is adept at curing, let's continue. Kress, I'll restore you to your full toughness tomorrow and to your full agility the day after."

Veracity clears her throat. "Regarding finding out what we face down below, remember that we do have a prisoner. Let's cure him to consciousness and I'll interrogate him. I can charm him. Or, if he resists that..." She places her hand on the handle of her scourge and smiles. "There are other ways to make him talk."

"Aw, yeah!" says Hazen, pulling a ring out of his pocket and putting it on. "And with this, we can tell if he's lying or not. You charm him, Veracity. Normally I'd use my own spell, but..." His voice rises to a high squeak.

Veracity rolls her eyes. "'Your own spell', Hazen? Hah!" She looks around the party. "So. Brianna can cure our prisoner and I'll interrogate him, while Hazen stands by and observes. Who cares to test out these rings?"

Igor speaks. "I have a protective ring. I can spar with Kress and swap my ring for one or the other of these rings, and we'll figure out their relative power."

Kress nods. "Fine with me."

"And I guess that leave you and me to taste the potions," says Tebryn, looking at Yol, "Very well. We should be able to get all of these little tasks done easily enough." He collects the pile of vials and moves off to the side with Yol, while Igor picks up the rings and moves to another part of the cavern with Kress.

Veracity looks down at the unconscious drow. "So. Cure him, please, Brianna!"

Brianna smiles, sings a short tune, and touches the unconscious Drow.

"Ugh." he says and slowly pushes himself up onto his elbows, his eyes slowly focusing on the people surrounding him. "What?" He sits up suddenly.

Veracity makes a few gestures with her hand and speaks a few words. The drow's eyes glaze over briefly and then become clear. "Don't I know you?" he says, looking at Veracity and smiling.

"I don't think so," says Veracity, smiling back. "I probably remind you of somebody you like. What's your name, friend?"

"Watver," says the Drow. "Yes. You look like a nice person. You cured me." He looks down at himself and touches his chest. "Hey! Where's my stuff?"

"Indeed," says Veracity. "I'm glad you think I'm nice. And I always want my friends to be cured after they've been injured. Don't worry about your stuff. HE has it." She nods in Tebryn's direction.

"Well, I want..." Watver starts to say, but falls silent, as Tebryn looks up and glares menacingly at him. "Umm." He turns back to Veracity. "You're my friend. Make him give my stuff back to me." He looks over at the sparring humans. "And who are they?" he asks, frowning.

Veracity waves her hand dismissively. "Don't worry, Watver. I'm sure we'll deal with your stuff later. And as for them," she says, gesturing at Igor and Kress, "drow often have human slaves, Watver. You know that."

"Why aren't they restrained, if they're slaves?" asks Watver.

Kress grins and shoots Hazen a quick glance before answering him. "We are all happy slaves. I was born to serve an Underdark master!"

Watver's black skin grows paler. "What? He speaks Undercommon? Uh. What's with this group?"

Veracity shakes her head. "Don't worry about , Watver. But tell me, friend, what's down below here? You seemed to be guarding that hole."

"Oh, yes. That's the way to our base, Szith Morcane. I was on guard. I'm supposed to go warn them if people come from above." He frowns. "Like you."

Veracity laughs. "We're not from this part of the Underdark. How big is Szith Morcane?"

"Oh, it used to be bigger, before we came and took it over," answers Watver.

Veracity raises her eyebrows. "Took it over? Who is 'we'? Where did you come from? How many people are down below in Szith Morcane?"

"We came with Dorina from Maerimydra. Yeah, we took over ..." He frowns. "I don't think I'm supposed to be telling you this stuff."

Veracity nods. "Ah. Dorina is your leader, eh? Big priestess, I assume? Why'd you leave Maerimydra, anyway?"

Watver shifts uncomfortably. "I can't say any more. I don't know why I'm saying any of this. I need to go and tell them that you are here."

Veracity stands up. "Why don't you come with us? We're going that way, first," she says, gesturing back up the corridor with her chin.

"No," says Watver. "I have to go report on you. I'm not going with you and I'm not going to say any more."

Veracity sighs. "You no longer amuse me, Watver," she says. She uncoils her scourge and gazes at him appraisingly. "However, I think you've still got some fun left in you." She smiles coldly at him.

Watver's eyes glaze briefly again and he shakes his head, as if clearing it of a mental fog. He looks back at Veracity with hostility and suspicion. "I don't know you, do I?" He glances quickly around and makes a break towards the hole.

"No, you don't," says Veracity as she strikes him with her scourge, felling him. She lashes him twice more, leaving him dead. "And I'm not really nice, either," she comments, chuckling. She smiles at Brianna. "Enough of him. We learned some interesting things. How are our companions doing with the magic items?"

"We're done here," says Igor. "This ring is +1, and this one, from Lady Quallem's son, is +2. You said you can use a protective ring, Brianna? Here." He tosses the more powerful ring to her. She catches it agilely, smiles and puts it on. "Thanks, Igor!"

"I think we've figured out these potions," says Tebryn. "Four of spider climb, two of jump, and two of cure light wounds."

"That's all boring," says Kress. "Who needs to spider climb or jump if you can fly naturally?" He floats up briefly and settles to the ground again.

"That's not natural, Kress," points out Veracity. "That's magic. But if you mean 'fly without using a spell', I can see your point." She looks around at her party. "I think we have four of us here who would need spells to fly. Perhaps a spider climb to each of us?" Seeing nods all around, she continues. "As for jump, I think that is a useful enough spell that I tend to learn one as part of my daily repertoire of spells, while out on an adventure. I'll take one."

"Boring," says Yol. "Who needs to jump around?"

"Well, if you're not interested, perhaps someone else would find it useful," says Kress. "Brianna, why don't you jump?"

Brianna smirks. "Not at your command, Kress. But if you are asking if I'll take and use the potion, sure."

Hazen chuckles. "No, Brianna, when Kress says 'Jump', you're supposed to answer 'How high?'"

Brianna snorts. "I think not." She takes the potion.

"As for the Cures, I don't need one myself, since I regenerate," says Igor, "but it'd be good for me to carry one to administer to someone else, if necessary. I'll take one."

"And I'll take the other!" pipes up Hazen.

"Good," says Tebryn. "We're done here now, I think? Let's check out that side passage back there and see if it's suitable as a place to retreat to, should we need to do so, after venturing into Szith Morcane."

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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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