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













The City of the Spider Queen - Day 5 - Departure from Szith Morcane

Uktar 2, 1372 DR (8:00 AM) Dagger Falls

In the morning, following a light breakfast, Randal Morn sees the three heroes to the gates of Dagger Falls. "Good luck!" he says.

"Thank you!" says Brianna, smiling. She conjures three more Phantom Steeds and the heroes ride like the wind back to the Dordrien Crypts. As they approach, they see Veracity, seated on a rock near the door, waiting for them. When she sees her returning companions, she stands up, grinning broadly.

All three dismount and Brianna comes over for a hug.

"How did it go?" asks Veracity.

"It could hardly have gone better," says Brianna. "I'll tell you all. As hoped, Randal Morn gave me a nice reward." She pats the bag of coins, which jingles.

"Well done!" says Veracity. The group enters the Dordrien Crypts. Veracity turns and pulls the door shut behind her. She sprinkles some gold dust on it, mutters, and makes an arcane gesture. The door seems to pull itself even more firmly shut. "That's it," she says. "It'll take either magic or intense strength to open this from either direction, now."

Veracity escorts her party safely back to the entry hall of the Inverted Tower. "We're leaving for Maerimydra today." She takes Brianna's hand. "Let's go to our room." Looking to Kress and Igor, she continues, "We'll collect our stuff and be up, by and by. Perhaps you can wake Hazen up, Kress?"

"Right," says Kress. He and Igor fly up to the second door. Veracity and Brianna run up the walls to the first door. All enter their respective quarters.

Veracity sits on the bed and pats the blanket at her side. "Come, sit. Tell me all that happened in Dagger Falls."

Brianna sits next to her and recounts the tale to her companion. When she tells of Randal Morn's appreciative comments following her song, she pulls out the sack of treasure he'd handed her and passes it to Veracity, who opens it up and pours out the contents on the bed. "Very nice, Brianna. Money and gems worth, oh, five thousand gold coins? Good thing it wasn't all gold pieces - that would have weighed a hundred pounds or so and you'd be staggering!"

"True enough," says Brianna. "In fact, I'm sorry to say that even Velasta's elven chain is a bit heavy for me. If I wear it and also carry that shield, then with my backpack, weapons, and lute, I am encumbered. I think I need to either abandon the shield, or switch to that mithral shirt." She shakes her head sadly and sighs.

"You look very good in Velasta's armor," says Veracity, "and having both hands free is a good thing. Perhaps you can do without the shield?"

"Perhaps," agrees Brianna.

Veracity replaces Randal Morn's reward into its sack and hefts it. She looks slyly at Brianna. "Was this a reward for your singing, or for the party? Based on what he said, we could argue either way."

Brianna grins at her. "I expect it was the latter. But, I'm sure we'll discuss it later. Will you carry it for me?" Veracity nods and stows the pouch in her pack. Brianna finishes her story.

Veracity sits in silence, pondering. "Well done! Sounds like you had fun, too!" Brianna nods. "All was quiet here, while you were gone. Tebryn and Solom seemed to have a lot to talk about. Hazen wanted to go shopping again, but the merchants had cleared out. Dessa came by to talk to me. Hmm ..." She thinks for a bit before continuing, "She wanted my help in restoring her house's position in Szith Morcane. She said something about how 'he', meaning Solom, had inappropriate plans."

"How did you deal with that?" asks Brianna. "From what you've told me about drow society, I can see why Dessa wouldn't want a male taking charge here."

"Exactly," says Veracity. "She's got a point - except that a drow matriarchy is headed by the priestesses of Lolth - and they are all crippled by Lolth's silence. Look what happened in House Morcane when Dorina invaded it. That would never have happened if the priestesses had been at full power. Anyway, I advised Dessa to work with Solom and not to force a power struggle, and that hopefully everything would work out well for her house eventually. She didn't come right out and demand that I join her against Solom, although she may have been implying it."

"Was she satisfied with that suggestion?" asks Brianna.

"Seemingly," says Veracity. "She got quiet and went away, nodding, saying that she'd think it over."

"I don't know what else you could have told her," says Brianna. She looks around the room. "Shall we gather our stuff and go upstairs?"

"Sure," says Veracity, wrapping her arms around her friend. "Lets do that."

An hour and a half later, they rejoin the rest of their party in the instructional room.

"What kept you?" says Igor. "We're having a little debate here."

Veracity shrugs. "Is Hazen up yet? What's the question?"

"I used diamond dust to restore Hazen and Dessa," says Yol. "Not everybody thinks it's the party's business to pay for restoring them."

"I'm up!" says Hazen. "And, we always pay for raising and otherwise fixing up party members."

"Dessa is not a party member," says Igor.

"Then of course we should pay for her," says Kress. "We rescued her, so we need to give her a reward!"

Igor rolls his eyes and laughs, before getting serious again. "I'm not sure we should pay for either Restoration," he persists.

Tebryn raises his eyebrows. "Is that right? I'd have thought you, of all people, Igor, would see your way towards doing that. Not that it applies to this exact party, but, look at this." He extracts a scroll from his pouch. "I made a copy of this quite a while ago. Recognize it?" He hands it to Igor.

Igor unfurls it and his eyebrows raise, in turn. He smiles and chuckles. "This is Tumulo's contract."

"What are you talking about?" says Veracity. "Tumulo is our house mate in Sigil. We've adventured together several times, but he never said anything about a contract."

"Yeah!" says Hazen. "Let's see it."

"He wrote this many years ago, before he had completely learned to read and write. He insisted that all of his companions sign it," says Igor. He spreads out the parchment. "See? It says:"

1) Ded 'oar krepped up guys get ful tresher picks. if dey fot in bottel which let us take it.
2) If summon dyes, den all wil chip in fer raisin gold. If sumtin beter - stiff paise.
2a) Group pay for rest or asian - even Igor
3) If u hert, heelin guys must ficks, butt dunt ax 2 sune.
4) Fytin men kip uglees off heelin and cheatin guys
5) Nobudy taiks stuff as tresher pick dat dey cant uze in ferst pick
6) Dunt tuch wolls dat tauk dont tuch me
7) No smart guy krepin with in the tent of laws of kontrak for us

"Signed (with pictures drawn by Tumulo) by Lefteris, Max, Elvira, Tumulo, Igor, Eris, Trinket, Ivan, Tigerblade, Darian, Nick, Vandis, and Granny."

Veracity laughs. "I never knew he had this! I know all of those people, except Lefteris and Max. Elvira, Vandis, Igor are all his house mates in Sigil. And you, Nick. You never told me about signing this."

Tebryn scowls. "Well. It's harmless. Some of it's obsolete: we deal with treasure more rationally, these days. But," he says, pointing to the added sentence, "as I said, I don't see how Igor, of all people, would be unwilling to pay for restoration - unless, perhaps, he's always been unwilling, which is why Tumulo had to mention him by name?"

Igor throws up his hands. "Fine. It's a party expense."

Yol smiles thinly. "Good," she says as Tebryn rolls up Tumulo's contract.

They hear a knock at the door. Solom enters. "Ah," he says, rubbing his hands together. "You look like you are about ready to go. Would you care to dine with me, before you go?"

"Certainly," says Veracity. Everybody follows Solom up to his audience chamber, where a large table had been set up. All seat themselves and servants bring in food and drink. All engage in pleasant conversation. Finally, at the end of the meal, Solom leads the party down to the entrance hall of the Inverted Tower.

"To get to Maerimydra, you must follow the tunnel leading out of the Commoners' level of Szith Morcane. Take the entrance through the Bazaar and follow the path. Take the left fork, climb a hill, take the right fork, climb another hill, turn left before the stream, take the right fork, climb a third hill, and you'll come to an iron grate that leads into the deeper Underdark," he explains, as all concentrate on his instructions. He peers at Veracity, and then to each of the other drow in turn. "A word to the wise: when we go through, we always go well-armed and as quickly as possible."

"We can protect ourselves," says Veracity. "And we certainly won't dilly-dally: my quest calls!"

Solom bows. "Thank you for your aid. You will find welcome in Szith Morcane any time you come back."

Veracity bows in return. "And thank you for your aid! Farewell!"

Solom returns to his quarters and the party moves out into the foyer and prepares to exit onto the webbing. Suddenly, Veracity draws her weapons and wheels to face a corner of the entrance way. From the exact direction she faces, Dessa charges in out of the shadows. "You have betrayed me," she screams, as she swings her rapier at Veracity, missing.

Veracity responds by hitting Dessa three times with her two swords. Yol gapes. "What is this?" Tebryn rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and throws up his hands. "Get her, sister!" he calls. Igor moves behind Dessa, drawing his weapon. "Why are you doing this?" he asks. Hazen moves up next to Igor, drawing his sap. "Move out the way, Igor!" he calls. Kress simply draws his battle-axe but does not move. Brianna wrings her hands and stares in horror. "This is not heroic!" she laments.

Dessa ignores everybody except Veracity. She swings with great force and slices her foe. Her next two blows miss wildly.

Veracity strikes Dessa once. With the distraction, and not wanting to cause real damage, Igor takes the opportunity to smack Dessa in the side the head with his fist. Veracity strikes Dessa two more times. Yol chants and waves a bone at Dessa, who completely ignores the fear spell. Tebryn continues to cheer for his sister. Igor flubs a swing with his sword and then hits Dessa with the flat of his blade. The enraged barbarian falls unconscious.

"Why in the world did she do that?" wonders Igor.

"Let's kill her and then ask her," suggests Veracity. "You can speak with the dead, today, Yol?"

"I'd rather not do that," responds the ever-merciful Yol.

"I'll tell you what I think," says Hazen. "This is one crazy broad."

"Let me energy drain her," suggests Veracity, filled with blood lust.

"No," says Hazen, "Everybody is allowed one mistake. But, we may as well take back the stuff we gave her. Igor, you get your way in the end. We aren't going to reward Dessa with equipment, after all."

"If you'd just listen to me in the first place, you'd save yourselves a lot of time and aggravation," responds Igor with a chuckle.

"Hmph," grumbles Veracity. She stands to the side and pulls a black stone from a pouch and fingers it, while watching the rest of the party strip off Dessa's 'gifts', recovering the mithral shirt, ring of protection, cloak of resistance and rapier.

"Let's go," suggests Tebryn. All file out onto the web, save for Veracity who stares at Dessa, muttering. After her last companion leaves the foyer, a thin black ray shoots from the stone in her hand and strikes the unconscious drow, who shudders, and seems to shrivel a bit. Veracity grimaces at her and turns towards the door, to see Yol and Igor looking at her. Yol half smiles, nods, and turns away.

"What was that?" asks Igor.

Veracity shrugs and stows her godstone. "Spite," she responds, before pushing past him onto the web. Igor follows without further comment.

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