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













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 1 - To the Inverted Tower

Marpenoth 28, 1372 DR (6:30 PM) Szith Morcane: The Inverted Tower

"Now what?" asks Veracity. "We could go straight down the center strand, where that guard was climbing, before Hazen killed him, but I wouldn't mind looking around to see if there are other holes, like this one, before making a direct assault on the center."

"Not a bad suggestion, Veracity," says Kress. "I can easily fly around out there and see what I can see. Unlike the gray one here, I won't get caught in the first strand of web I fly into."

Hazen snorts. "Yeah, right, blockhead. Instead, you'll crash your head on a section of wall which you can't see, since you don't have darkvision."

Kress looks hurt. "I'm not that dumb. I'll carry my glow gem."

"Well, that will certainly alert all the drow in this city that there's an intruder flying around out there," observes Tebryn. "We've made quite the sneaky assault attack so far, and you'll negate all of that."

"So, grant me darkvision, Tebryn," requests Kress.

Tebryn peaks his fingers and stares at him. "Hmm. Well, I don't actually know that spell." He looks around. "Only you and Igor need it. But..." He snaps his fingers. "I've got just the thing for you."

Kress glares at him. "No, you may not polymorph me into a drow." Tebryn's face falls. He turns to Igor. "How about you? Don't you think it'd make things a whole lot easier if you, too, were a drow? It's permanent - until we remove it, of course," he says hastily, "so I wouldn't have to keep renewing it for you."

Igor frowns. "I don't know. I'll have to think about it. I'll let you know. Isn't there anything else you can do?" Tebryn shakes his head. "Hmm."

Veracity speaks up. "I notice that the strands down from the ledge and over to this hole were not sticky, unlike other strands. Why don't we just follow the non-sticky strands? Any other holes must be similarly accessible, don't you think?"

"Yeah!" agrees Kress. "I'll walk in the front, with Hazen. He can see in the dark, and if he gets stuck, I'll pull him off, since I won't get stuck."

Veracity smiles. "Sounds like a plan!"

The party exits the hole from the guard post and Hazen and Kress check out the possible strands to explore. Other than the strand that the group had taken, from the center strand, there are three choices. One seems to angle down to intersect the central strand farther below - and that one is not sticky. The other two strands are, however, sticky.

Veracity frowns. "That's no better than climbing straight down from the ledge. Let's go back to the central vertical strand and see if there are other choices from there."

In fact, the webbing crosses the central vertical column and continues without goo. Proceeding forward, the party reaches another intersection of cables. Up and forward is sticky, as is up and back. However, a strand descending forward at a 45 degree angle seems safe.

"I'm glad I have these slippers," comments Brianna. "I'm not sure which would be worse - getting stuck in place, or sliding off and falling!"

"You wouldn't fall far," says Kress, gesturing at Hazen. "Ask him." Hazen cuffs his cohort.

The party carefully descends the web rope to another intersection, and finds that the only safe course is to descend even more steeply. Following this course, the party finds another hole opening into the side of the chasm.

"Yes!" exclaims Veracity, stepping to the lead, with Igor. A short tunnel leads towards an ornate archway opening into a larger room. She and Igor stop at the entrance and cautiously look into the room. "What's the problem?" asks Igor. He steps through the archway. Veracity shrugs, and follows him.

The archway opens into an octagonal chamber 25 feet across with a forty foot high ceiling. Looking up, it is as if the party is standing at the base of a long shaft. There is another archway opposite, to the northeast. Through this arch step two male drow wearing mithril shirts and purple tabards bearing the emblem of a stylized spider atop a staff. Each has a spiked chain hung at his belt.

"Halt," says one. "Who are you and what business have you here?"

Veracity steps forward and faces the two drow. She speaks. "We are here in Szith Morcane to destroy followers of the Lady of the Dead."

The drow frowns. "There are none here. What is your business here?"

"We seek information and allies," says Veracity. "Where, exactly, is here?"

"Our master has given strict orders to not admit anyone he's not told us about," says the drow. "Leave now."

"I see," says Veracity. "And who is your master? I'd rather talk directly to him than to a flunky."

The drow frowns. "If he wants to speak to you, he will tell us. Go away."

"Go tell him we are here," says Veracity. "I want to talk to him."

"He knows you are here," says the drow. "He would appear or send for you if he wanted to talk to you. You are clearly not welcome here."

"Uh huh," says Veracity. She gestures with her hand. "And, I ask you again, here would be ... ?"

Igor had been standing slightly behind Veracity, looking around. He spots an invisible scrying sensor. Leaning towards Veracity, he looks away from the sensor and whispers: "We're being scried."

Veracity nods towards Igor and continues trying to negotiate with the guards. This time, she decides to put a little magical oomph behind her requests. Concentrating briefly, she says "I suggest that you inform your master that we wish to speak to him. We could be potent allies of him, just as he might help us."

The drow shakes his head, as if shaking off a passing fancy. "He'll make an appointment if he wishes to speak to you. Until then, you cannot stay here."

Veracity sighs. Irritation in her voice, she repeats her earlier question. "And where, exactly, is here?"

The drow starts. "Oh. Yes. Sorry, you have asked that, and that is not a secret. This is the Inverted Tower, a school of magic."

"All the more reason to talk to us!" exclaims Veracity. "All of us are potent practitioners of magic."

"It is not within my power to grant your request, much as I might want to," responds the drow. "I can't. Don't you get it? It's not up to me."

Igor, who had been surreptitiously continuing to search the area for hidden features, looks at the ground and whispers again to Veracity. "Three invisible doors in the shaft above us."

Veracity folds her arms and frowns, wondering what to say.

Yol, ever the diplomat, decides to fill the uncomfortable silence. "Szith Morcane seems to be crawling with the minions of the Lady of the Dead. Why aren't they here?"

The drow shifts uncomfortably and looks away as he answers. "Our master has gained the support of Dorina."

"So, you are her allies, then?" asks Yol.

"Maybe so," says the drow.

"I like the symbol on your tabards," babbles Yol. "I like spiders."

"That's nice," says the drow. "Who are you?"

"I am Yol of Hel," answers Yol.

"Pleased to meet you," says the drow. "My name is Alton."

The other drow, who had been silent previously, speaks up. "I think it's time for you to leave. We need to get back to our duties."

Ignoring the comment, Yol continues to babble, filling up the silence while Veracity considers her options. "What's through the arch?" she asks, pointing in the direction the drow had come from.

"Our quarters," answers the drow.

"What sort of magic do you teach here?" asks Yol.

"I'm neither a student nor a teacher," says the drow.

"Oh, you should study magic. Nothing is more interesting, save death," suggests Yol.

"I didn't say I didn't study magic. I said that I was not a student in this school," responds the drow. "As I have said, repeatedly, it's time for you to leave."

Veracity looks up and stares at him, her expression colder and more menacing. "I'm patient. But my patience has limits. I want you to take us to whomever is in charge here, and have told you to do so numerous times." She steps forward into his personal space and seems to loom over him, although she is actually shorter. "What didn't you understand about what I said?"

The drow steps back hastily. "What didn't you understand when I said that it wasn't in my power to do so? Go away. Don't call us. We'll call you."

Veracity rests her hands on her sword hilts. "Why should we go away? We can wait. I think we'll stay right here."

"Urk," says the drow. He pulls a potion from his belt pouch and quaffs it.

Veracity shakes her head and sighs. She draws her two swords.

In the back of the party, first Yol and then Kress draw their weapons.

The second drow looks with alarm at the nasty turn of events and quickly quaffs a potion of his own.

Brianna sighs, and moves away from behind Veracity to the side of the octagonal room.

Igor looks from drow to Veracity and back to the drow. He puts his hands on his sword hilt and tenses, but makes no aggressive moves.

Tebryn looks from one drow to the other, and prepares himself to counter any magic spell that one of them might cast.

Veracity stares at the drow and sighs. "Fine. We're at an impasse here. So, I may as well have a little fun, eh?" She smiles and moves up to the drow she'd been conversing with. "This is fun," she says, as she strikes him once with the Sword of Kas.

Kress looks at her. "A failure of diplomacy, eh, Veracity?" He moves up to the other drow and hits him with his battle axe.

Veracity's drow attempts to conjure a lightning bolt, but not only does Veracity take the opportunity to strike him, but Tebryn counterspells it before it can manifest so much as a spark. He curses, and swings his spiked chain at her, missing.

"Go, Veracity!" cheers Brianna.

Igor, realizing that battle had, in fact, started, tumbles past the two drow and stands in the doorway, facing them. He draws his sword.

Kress's drow gasps and falls to the ground. Hazen suddenly appears behind it, pulling his sword from its back.

Behind Igor, four more arcane guards approach. One steps up behind Igor and waves his fingers, muttering. A bolt of lightning passes right through Igor, Veracity's opponent, and Veracity. Igor easily evades it and Veracity and her opponent completely resist the electricity. The drow steps up to Igor and strikes at him, missing.

Another arcane guard steps up and speaks and gestures twice in quick succession. Each time, three missiles of force shoot forth from his fingers and streak towards Igor. Four of them strike him. "Ouch!" says Igor.

Yet another arcane guard tries a similar maneuver against Hazen. All six missiles hit, unerringly. "Youch!" says Hazen.

Veracity strikes her opponent again with the Sword of Kas, dropping him. She runs past Igor to confront the first drow who'd cast the magic missiles. She smiles at him and twirls her swords. "You're next!"

Kress runs past Igor to attack the drow who'd afflicted Hazen. He strikes at his foe once with his axe and wounds him.

Igor strikes three times at his opponent. He misses the first time, but the other two mighty blows strike true. The drow falls.

The final arcane guard shoot six more bolts of force at Hazen. "Hey! Not fair!" complains Hazen.

Veracity's new opponent swings his chain at her twice, but fails to connect.

Kress's opponent similarly fails to harm Kress.

Veracity strikes her opponent twice with the Sword of Kas and then once with a well-aimed blow from her life stealing short sword. The drow drops and Veracity gasps with pleasure, as some of his life force flows into her. "Ahhh..."

Kress hits his opponent twice and fells it.

Igor moves up to the final arcane guard and swings his greatsword at him, but, uncharacteristically, misses.

Veracity and Kress each move up to Igor's drow, the last apparent foe. Each takes one strike with their preferred weapon. Each hits.

Igor hits once, finishing off the last arcane guard.

Veracity looks up. "Let's at least try to administer first aid. I don't want to completely anger these guys' master."

"All right," says Brianna. She approaches one and examines him. "He's stable, although he's at death's door. If he fell off a chair, he'd die from the bruise."

Hazen approaches another fallen foe. "This guy's as dead as a stone, Veracity."

Veracity studies another fallen drow and comes to the same conclusion. "Dead, dead, dead."

Yol smiles. "Yes. The inevitable fate of all. But, very well." SHe approaches another downed drow. "This one is merely unconscious. But, I have now stabilized him." She scowls. "I'm not sure why. He was on his way to Hel."

Igor searches his fallen foe and doesn't trouble to check his health. "This one's dead," he says.

Tebryn smirks. He approaches the last arcane guard. "This last one is dead, too. Two unconcious, four outright dead. Let's loot all six of them."

All cooperate in this and soon, another six sets of gear were being stowed in the portable hole: mithril shirts, rings, masterwork spiked chains, and potions, as well as six empty flasks and another seventeen doses of drow poison.

"Come on, guys," says Yol, as she stows the poison. "Don't hold back. Use this stuff!" Kress snorts and shakes his head.

"Look at this," says Veracity. "Two more wands. We have, what - six wands now? We really need to identify these, soon."

"Soon enough," says Tebryn. "Can't do it today."

Veracity looks around her party. "Who's hurt?"

Hazen raises both hands. "I'm half hurt."

Brianna looks around. "I'm running low on cure spells, but it seems to me that we should cure up now. Igor, why did you turn down my last offer to heal you? You seem to have regenerated, some - but now you are weaker than before, because of the new battle. That's a losing trend. Let me heal you this time!"

"Hey!" exclaims Hazen. "Me! Me! Me!"

Brianna smiles at him. "Of course Hazen. You, Igor, and ... how about you, Yol?" All agree to be healed, and Brianna sings a short song for each wounded character, before touching him or her and driving away much damage.

Finally, the party investigates the archway. Beyond it lies a small unfurnished room with a door on the left. Igor searches it and listens. "Nothing." He opens the door.

Beyond lies a larger room with a large round table and a cupboard. On the table are a set of nondescript dice. A heavy curtain divides the room in two. On the far side are four beds and a small chest. Within the chest are random items of clothing and two spell books. Tebryn packs the books away.

"Too bad those drow couldn't do what I wanted," comments Veracity. "They say they were just following their master's orders - but they were the ones that paid the price because he didn't want to cooperate with me." She ponders. "I still want to talk to him. We may as well not leave a complete mess. How about if we stretch out the dead drow on these beds?"

"Yes," agrees Yol. "Set them up as a reminder to all of the power and permanence of death."

Within a few minutes, the four dead drow are resting peacefully. Yol places fungi around each in what she, at least, considers a pleasing and tasteful display.

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