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













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 4 - Return to Dagger Falls

Uktar 1, 1372 DR (8:00 AM) Szith Morcane: The Inverted Tower

The next morning, Yol, Veracity, and Tebryn replace the spells they'd cast the previous day and all assemble for breakfast in the instructional room.

"Back to Dagger Falls," says Igor. "That's a three hour trudge, if I recall."

"If it's just you, me, and Kress," says Brianna, "I can speed our journey. I can conjure a phantom steed for each of us that will run seven times faster than we can walk."

"Cool!" says Hazen. "I'll ride behind Kress!"

Veracity rolls her eyes. "They don't need your 'help' in Dagger Falls, Hazen. Besides, if Brianna conjures a phantom steed for Kress, only she or he could ride it. You stay here with us."

"Aw, all right," agrees Hazen.

"You can spend the day wooing your intended," says Veracity, smirking. "Today's the day Yol magically restores her robustness. Right?"

Hazen sputters. Yol nods. "Let's do that now."

The three find Dessa. Yol sprinkles Dessa with some diamond dust, gestures at her while incanting, and touches her. Dessa draws a deep breath and lets it out, slowly. "Thank you," she says to Yol. "I feel much, much better."

"What are your plans now?" asks Yol.

Dessa grunts. "Don't know."

"Are you going to re-establish your house?" continues Yol.

"Maybe," responds Dessa. She frowns, pondering. "You going to help?"

"We've helped you a lot already," says Yol. "But we need to deal with Maerimydra before we come back to help you. That seems like the immediate problem."

Dessa grunts and turns away.

The three Dargasians look at each other and shrug. They rejoin their companions.

"OK, let's go," says Veracity. "I'll come with you up to the surface. If that roper challenges us, I'll talk to it. It didn't object to drow passing by it, but it may harass you three. Not that you couldn't deal with it, but why look for unnecessary trouble?"

The four travel from Szith Morcane to the surface without challenge. At the door to the Dordrien Crypts, Brianna summons three phantom steeds.

"Well, we're off," says Brianna. "We'll be back here tomorrow, about this time."

"Have fun," says Veracity. "I'll be waiting for you." The two friends exchange a kiss and Veracity watches her companions ride off. When they disappear from her sight, she re-enters the Dordrien Crypts and returns to Szith Morcane.

The travelers ride like the wind for about half an hour and arrive at the gates of Dagger Falls. As they dismount from their phantom steeds, Igor speaks. "Somebody was watching me," he says. "I spotted a scrying sensor, tracking me. Gone now."

"Don't worry about it," says Kress.

"I'm not worried", responds Igor. "I was merely commenting."

Brianna approaches the closed gates.

"Halt! Who goes there? Oh, it's you," says the gate keeper.

"Indeed," says Brianna. "We are back - and we are successful. We'd like to speak to Randal Morn."

"Please come in." The gate keeper opens the gate and invites the party inside. Another guard runs directly to Randal Morn's manor. Soon, the lord of the town himself comes to the gate.

"Welcome back! Please - come to my manor and tell me all."

Randal Morn escorts the heroes into a reception room and bids them all to be seated. He sends for refreshments and, when these have arrived, sits back. "Now, what can you tell me?"

"We have succeeded in stopping the drow raids," says Brianna. "We have traced them to their origin and crushed the source. There are deeper waters running beneath these raids, though, and I will tell you of this presently. But, perhaps I could start by singing a little song of our deeds?" She unslings her lute and raises an eyebrow at her host.

"Certainly," agrees the lord.

Brianna tunes her lute and launches into her ballad. Although her performance was only average for her, by any normal standards it was outstanding. As she sings, she keeps her eyes on Randal Morn's face and he watches and listens, completely entranced. Upon seeing this, she weaves a subtle magical Suggestion into her song that such doughty deeds deserve a rich and generous reward.

When she finishes her song, Randal Morn sits back and sighs. "Bravo!" he says. "This clearly deserves a reward!" He sends his assistant to retrieve a bag of gold, apparently previously prepared, which he hands to Brianna.

"Thank you," says Brianna, as she pockets the gold.

"Additionally, I can call in favors from the temple of Tyr worth up to five thousand gold coins, for healing or spells, if you need it," adds the lord.

"I believe that we are all in full health and at full power, currently," says Brianna, "but if we get injured beyond our own capabilities to heal ourselves in our subsequent quest, we will gratefully accept your help."

"Ah, yes," says Randal Morn. "I have many questions about this. Where are your other companions, mentioned in your song? Who, exactly, is Veracity, of whom you sang so much?"

"She is an elf," says Brianna. "She is the leader of our party." From the corner of her eye, she sees Kress rolling his eyes at this, but, fortunately, Hazen's henchman holds his tongue. "There are seven in our party, as you no doubt heard in my song. Four of them have remained in the Underdark, guarding against any incursions from below. We have, indeed, suppressed the drow outpost that had been launching the raids on your lands, but we must descend deeper into the darkness below to deal with larger threats."

"What of this larger threat?" queries the lord.

Brianna pulls out the scroll tube and extracts Dorina's letter. "This letter was sent from a deeper drow city to the commander in the drow outpost near the surface. We crushed that commander and all her forces, but now we are going to head to the deeper city and stop this, once and for all."

Randal Morn peers at the letter. "I can't read this. It's in Elvish script, but the language is unfamiliar."

"It's in Drow," says Brianna.

Randal Morn looks at her and raises his eyebrows. "Can you read it?"

"Bards learn many languages, lord, as we speak to diverse people," responds Brianna. "But in any case, many of our party could have cast the spell that can translate any written language. I know what this letter says. It is urgent that we proceed deeper into the Underdark."

"I see," says Randal Morn, nodding. "I am glad you came back to report this news to me. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Perhaps," says Brianna. "Igor has brought back all the loot we collected below. We'd like to sell it, and equip ourselves with various supplies. Can you facilitate that?"

"Of course," says Randal Morn. "The merchants of my town will cooperate with you fully, I guarantee. Well. Go forth and complete your business and return this evening. We will fete you tonight and you can return to your party tomorrow morning."

"Gladly," says Brianna, smiling.

Escorted by some of Randal Morn's retainers, the three heroes go to the marketplace. Igor spreads out the portable hole and extracts all of the captured loot. Numerous interested merchants come to him and buy it all. Igor then folds up and stows the portable hole and the three go shopping for their own supplies.

Both Brianna and Igor buy a lot of mundane equipment. "If we've got that portable hole, why didn't we have something like this, when we needed it for Dorina's coffin?" asks Brianna, hefting a sledge hammer, with difficulty. Igor smiles and twirls it around his head, before stowing it.

Additionally, each adventurer purchases some minor items from a small-time magic merchant. "Healing and darkvision potions for me!" says Kress. "Not a bad idea," says Igor, purchasing some potions of darkvision for himself. "And this wand of light curing is as good as fifty of those potions, Kress," says Brianna. "Another good idea," says Igor, also purchasing one. Kress snorts. "Copy cat!" Brianna laughs. "I also need these," she adds, selecting four strips of ivory and several pounds of incense. "For what?" asks Igor. "legend lore," responds the bard.

Late in the afternoon, their shopping finished, the group returns to Randal Morn's manor. Each retires to his or her room and freshens up as desired. Those that wish to bathe, do so. Igor dons his new suit of bright fancy clothing. Brianna also dresses up in fancier garments.

The adventurers come downstairs and are shown into Randal Morn's large banquet hall, where a fete has been thrown in their honor. All of the local dignitaries, visiting notables, and every bard in Daggerdale attends. The lord's cooking staff has out-done itself: serving delicacies and fine beverages of all kinds, pleasing to the palate of all.

Brianna is fully in her element, gregariously mixing and talking with all. She spends much time swapping tales and songs with the other bards, listening with interest to all the news, rumors, and gossip concerning what has happened in Faerûn in the five years since she has been traveling the planes. In turn, she sings many songs and tells many tales of her own experiences.

Igor also is popular. The tall, ruggedly handsome man cuts a dashing figure and attracts favorable notice from more than one young lady. However, he seems somewhat distracted, and seems to be paying attention to Brianna's activities. Finally, after a particularly outstanding performance by that lady, he seats himself by her side, and, when her other admirers are distracted, speaks to her.

"Brianna, I could never get tired of watching you perform. You are simply breathtaking," he says, taking her hand and squeezing it.

Brianna grins at him and squeezes back, before disengaging her hand from his. "Thank you so much, Igor! Praise like that is, itself, music to my ears."

Igor smiles at her and clears his throat. "I, ... um." He pauses, clears his throat again, and starts afresh. "By the way, I've been wondering. Are you and Veracity just friends?"

Brianna peers at him and arches her eyebrows. "I wouldn't use the word 'just' about friendship, Igor. Friends are important! But, to me, she's not 'only' my companion, but also my partner: I want nothing better than to be with her and share her life and her adventures. Go ask her yourself, if you want to hear both sides, but if I'm reading your real question correctly, the answer is 'no'. I'm taken."

"Damned," says Igor softly, shaking his head ruefully. He sighs and gazes at her and then smiles. He winks. "No offense intended..."

Brianna laughs and smiles at him. "None taken, Igor. I'm flattered! I'm happy to be 'just' your friend: as I said, friendship is important!"

Igor nods, and stands up, smiling. "I'll talk to you later. I want to talk to Kress." He nods and wanders off to find his other companion.

Kress watches him approach and hefts a mug. "Good ale! Join me?"

"Don't mind if I do," says Igor. Signaling a servant, he soon grasps a cold mug of his own. "Ah ..." he says, taking a swig.

Kress drains his mug and half of a second mug. "If Hazen were here, I'd show you what real partying is," he comments.

Igor snorts. "If Hazen were here, neither of you would be ready to head out of here early tomorrow, as we had promised to do," he responds.

Both warriors continue eating and drinking.

Eventually, the party winds down and all three heroes retire to their nicely appointed rooms and sleep soundly.

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