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













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 1 - Aranea

Marpenoth 28, 1372 DR (3:30 PM) The Dordrien Crypts

When Veracity enters the cavern, she sees a drow woman, sobbing against the far wall. "Hey!" she says in Undercommon, "Peace, sister. Parley! What's wrong?" Brianna steps up behind her to watch.

Everybody else, except for Hazen, who stays back and starts to search the bebilith's lair, enters the cavern.

The drowess replies to Veracity. "They've killed my family. My husband, my children." She sobs.

Once everybody except Hazen has run in, the aranea on the wall above the door covers up the entrance with a web. Everybody except Veracity and Brianna notices this, but Veracity is too intent on her diplomacy.

Yol waves her hand at the creature and incants. "Cower, you!" The spider creature does not cower.

"Hmm," says Kress. He draws his battle axe and flies up towards the aranea.

Veracity remains focused on the drow. "Where are you from? Do you serve Lolth? If so, we are on your side."

"Yes. She's gone silent. I'm from down below," says the drow, continuing to sob.

"Yes, we've heard that she's gone silent. We're on our way down. Where are you from?" responds Veracity.

The drowess sobs uncontrollably. "It's terrible," she says.

Veracity frowns. "You're not helping."

Brianna shakes her head and starts singing a little inspirational song

The drowess looks at Igor and sobbingly says "I need a friend right now." She waves her hand at him. Igor feels his liver quiver, as if he'd been the target of a magic spell. He resists the effects, draws his great sword, and moves over to her, attempting to hold it non-threateningly over her head, but ready to chop her, just in case she tries anything else. The drowess looks up but does not seem at ease.

Meanwhile, the aranea over the doorway launches a web at Kress and hits him, but since his animate great cloak lets him move freely through webs, he is unaffected.

Veracity stares at the drowess. "I don't understand why you are refusing my aid. I agree, though. You need a friend. Be my friend!" She gestures at the drowess and mutters an arcane phrase, attempting to charm her, to no apparent effect. Veracity stamps her foot in yet another fit of pique.

The drowess stands up, revealing a drawn rapier and strikes ineffectually at Igor. Igor strikes her three times with his great sword. Yol fails to charm the drowess.

Veracity stares at her. "I just don't get it." She draws her bow and shoots her with an arrow. Igor finishes her off with another slash from his sword, looks over at the door, and flies up to the aranea.

Meanwhile, at the doorway, Tebryn shoots a bolt of lightning up at the aranea. He smiles at Kress. "Good thing you didn't get too close!" he calls.

The aranea speaks. "Aid me!" it says, to Kress. Kress's eyes glaze and clear. "In your dreams!", he responds, as he moves up and strikes it twice with his battle axe.

Bow in hand, Veracity steps up to the fallen drow and stares down at her, shaking her head. But, upon hearing battle behind her, she turns and looks up at the aranea over the doorway. "Huh?" she says. She shoots two arrows at it and it falls.

A short sword pierces the web covering the doorway. Several slashes later and in steps Hazen. "That was easy enough!" he comments cheerfully. He pokes at the aranea with his foot. "Sure are a lot of spiders around here!" Spying a bundle of webbing stuck on the wall, he says "That its lair? Let's see what it had!" and wanders over and starts to carefully pick at the web.

Turning her attention back to the fallen drowess, Veracity crouches next to her and examines her. Upon finding no sign of breath or pulse, she sighs and sits down. "Why did you do that?" she says, addressing the corpse. She looks up at the rest of her party, most of whom are looking curiously at her. "That was strange. She knew of Lolth's silence, but would not honestly parley with me. In fact, it looks like she was willingly acting as bait to trap us." Veracity shakes her head in frustration.

Brianna sits down next to Veracity, picks up her hand, and smiles at her. "I don't understand either. You certainly said the right things to initiate a peaceful negotiation."

"What did you say?" asks Igor. "I couldn't understand what you said to her."

"What?" responds Veracity, staring at him. "I intentionally spoke in Undercommon, rather than Drow, so that the whole party could understand."

"I don't speak Undercommon," says Igor.

"Huh." Veracity looks around the party. "You're the only one here who doesn't. That puts you at a disadvantage, since I think that'll be the usual language of discourse with those we meet in the Underdark."

"You should learn, Igor. I can tutor you," says Brianna. "I, too, learned it as an adult, and so may have some insight into the difficulties. It's not too bad."

Kress agrees. "Yeah, it's not as bad as Orc on the old vocal cords. However, I don't know if I'd pick it as a second language unless you needed to converse with someone too inebriated to remember how to pronounce Common properly." Kress looks over at Hazen, but Hazen is engrossed in carefully removing an object from a spider web and seems not to notice. Kress continues, nodding in Hazen's direction: "If you do decide to take it up, make sure you get the Gray One to teach you all the good curses."

"Hmm. Maybe," responds Igor. He furrows his brow in thought for a bit and then continues. "But, Veracity, what were you hoping to accomplish by talking to her?"

"Remember what Loviatar said to us, Igor?" replies Veracity. "Many things, of course, but three things especially led me to try to parley. First, that Lolth was 'silent'. Second, that she - Loviatar - was Lolth's ally. And third, that although most down below would be enemies, some would be allies. She may have been referring just to people in Maerimydra, but I'd prefer to assume that there might be allies all along the way. Now, what does it mean that Lolth is 'silent'?"

"Probably that she is not speaking to her priestesses," suggests Yol. "They must feel completely isolated."

"My guess, too," agrees Veracity. "That would drive them crazy, I'd think. What about those dead drow near the entrance to these crypts? I regret more and more that we could not question them. They all had the symbols of Lolth - and were struck down. Not that that really is so unusual: there is constant rivalry between various drow Houses - and a constant striving for advancement within each House - and all of this is vicious and deadly. I am lucky to have left the Underdark when I did. Those priestesses..." She hugs herself and shivers. "Well. I can hold my own now, I expect. But, I want to find out just what exactly has happened with Lolth and what has happened in Maerimydra - and who better to ask than followers of Lolth who are fleeing from that city?" She frowns. "I jumped to conclusions with that woman. I assumed that she, like the drow near the entrance, must be fleeing from down below, and that she, like they, followed Lolth. I was wrong. She was clearly no follower of Lolth. Although she knew of Lolth's silence..." Veracity looks down and ponders. She then shakes her head, looks up, and continues. "In any case, as the leader of this party, I..."

Kress sputters and chokes, spewing forth a mouthful of water and spilling his waterskin. "You? The leader of this party? We don't need no stinkin' leader."

Tebryn snickers. "He's got a point, Veracity."

Hazen looks up from the web, uttering a mild Undercommon oath. "(A sun-blinded, moss-breath, mentally-suffering-because-of-lack-of- ingesting-mushrooms) leader?! Hey, I thought we resolved this in the last room. What this party needs is the voice of reason. And that voice is me. Right?" He leaves no pause for anyone to reply. "Of course Hazen's right! Now, it's clear that the suicidal drow," pointing to the corpse, "was just upset about her spider friends. These guys make great companions." Hazen pauses to pick some webbing out his clothes.

Tebryn ignores the interruption and continues. "As I was saying, Veracity, over many years of adventuring, we've adopted a leaderless style: we choose our course by consensus." He frowns. "Although, occasionally we've been joined by a loose cannon like that fool, Darien Riddlesnap. He was constantly just leaving in the middle of our deliberation and heading off in some random direction. Just about every time he did that, he ran into trouble beyond his abilities and we'd have to charge in and rescue him. Good riddance to him; he certainly caused a lot of damage to his own party. Ask Elvira what he did to her familiar, Sung Wen, sometime, if you can handle an earful of invective."

Veracity sighs. "Look. I'm not saying that I want to boss you around. But, I do think that we need somebody to speak for the party and make the initial assessment of what we need to do, unless it's completely obvious, because we're being attacked, or something. Consider:" She starts to tick off reasons on her fingers. "I now walk in the front rank. Because I am allied with the sword of kas, I am never surprised. I am more agile than anyone else in this party and thus tend to react more quickly than others. In the Underdark, heading to a drow city, she who speaks for the party ought to be a drow. Although Brianna's social skills are unmatched in this party," Veracity smiles at her companion and squeezes her hand. Brianna grins back at her. "my race is thoroughly xenophobic and I am more credible as our leader. I'm more persuasive than you others," she continues, gesturing at the other drow, "and, to top it off, I've been personally sent on this mission by my Goddess. I'm on a Divine Quest. You guys are helping me."

Tebryn peaks his fingers and stares at her, thinking. He sighs. "You have some good points. I think your rationale and approach to diplomacy is sound, although perhaps you should be more selective next time: look for visible holy symbols of Lolth, or something. You're almost as smart as I am - and a whole lot more attractive." He chuckles. "OK. I'm willing to let you be the party spokesman."

Hazen agrees. "Well, sure, Veracity, talk all you want. I've got no problem with that. Not that it has worked really well so far... You can be the party 'spoke,' as long as I'm the brains in the hub. Personally, I'm a guy of few words, or I could be if I wanted to. Besides, first impressions are not really my forte. Just ask anyone who's met me at least once." Hazen's babbling dies down and he turns back toward the one of the walls of the cavern. Gesturing towards it, he says, "Now, I do believe we should search these walls."

Tebryn smiles. "Indeed, Hazen." He holds out his hand. "But about those gems you picked out of the webs..."

Hazen starts. "Oh, yeah. These." He hands them to Tebryn, who examines them carefully before pocketing them. "Nice! Anything else?"

"Just this bow," replies Hazen. "Looks nice enough. I wonder why a spider would need a bow? And, I suppose we should loot this drow."

"That wasn't a spider," says Kress. "It spoke in Common and tried to charm me. You're right, though - I don't see how it could use a bow."

"It's clear that the last owner of that bow died a slow and gruesome death," says Yol. She crouches down to remove the aranea's poison sac and continues speaking as she works. "Alone, in pain, immobilized in its web, addled by poison, the victim's life slowly ebbing away - being drained away by this master spinner of fate." She finishes, stands up and looks at the poison sac in her hand. "Spiders are such amazing and profound creatures." Yol looks at the bow and addresses it. "Worthless was this bow imprisoned next to its dying owner, worthless is it now to the dead, all possessions are worthless in death." Lost in her own thoughts, she stares down at the dead aranea.

Hazen looks at the bow in his hand, shrugs and says to her, "if you ask me, I'd say it's worth not less than 300 gold pieces." Yol is too lost in thought to hear him.

Veracity smiles and shakes her head. "If you feel that way about spiders, I'm surprised you left Lolth for Hel."

After stowing all the treasure, the rogues search the walls and discover yet another illusory section of wall.

"Well," says Tebryn. "I could have been happy with this room as our hidey-hole, but this complex clearly goes deeper. Line up, guys."

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Copyright © 2004 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
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