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Serve the whimsical pleasures of the Spider Queen or suffer horribly until you utterly perish from her dark and eternal wrath! This was the one absolute truth to all drow, and the only real law accordingly was; don’t get caught.
Matron Myrtum Min’Doan scowled as the newest addition to her noble house viciously kicked a rib. Her eldest daughter Hazyth, herself a powerful High Priestess, smiled wickedly, enjoying the labor pain she observed in her mother and the thought of what another successful noble birth would mean to their powerful and much feared family.
The youngest Matron in many generations, Myrtum had multiplied her powerful brood in spectacular succession over the centuries of her brutal and cunning rule while lifting her house from twelfth to ninth rank; and she showed no signs of faltering in advancing either endeavor any time soon. Most nobles of Rilandyr had resigned themselves to accept the fact that she may very well be the First Matron in the not so distant future. However, some of the older matrons of nobles houses despised that possibility and worked diligently with every means available in attempts to disgrace her and cause her to lose the unfaltering favor of the Spider Queen.
Having already spawned half a dozen daughters, all but the youngest of High Priestess status, and Plynfet was set to graduate this season, the Matron was second only to that snide imperial bitch who ruled the First House. Everyone knew or at least suspected that not ALL the daughters of Prila Und’Yimar were her actual spawn, half or more of the countless retinue of priestesses were adopted from previous deviousness. But each and every one represented power and expressed the will of Lolth in the wicked city of Rilandyr. Prila had only one son, at least that anyone knew, while Myrtum had a dozen sons of her own loins, all skilled and obedient servants of Lolth and fiercely loyal to their Matron.
House Min’Doan was currently ranked ninth, a dangerous and coveted position, since the ruling council consisted of the Matrons of the top eight houses. Having advanced there from twelfth in a mere century was unprecedented in the history of Rilandyr, and only deep legends told of Matrons so fertile and powerful, destined perhaps to rule all who dared call this place home.
The baby kicked again and induced Myrtum to grab the throat of her eldest daughter, who stood snickering. The iron grip of her strong fingers clawed into the flesh of her eldest daughter as another agonizing spasm passed. Having suffered through her mother’s many pregnancies, actually a near constant state in house Min’Doan, Hazyth endured the humiliation and pain stoically, though such treatment she would only willingly suffer from this one mortal in all the planes. Her lips clamped tight over a faint smirk on her choked visage, abiding what she had suffered most of her life and relishing the position of First Daughter who was the only one allowed in the presence of the Matron during birthing. Most of her other siblings were dispersed throughout the region, ready to strike at the appointed moment against their most hated current rivals; the sixth ranked House Fer’kiln
Hazyth spoke as clearly as she could after being released a moment later, “Soon, the next Prince of Min’Doan shall learn to cower under my heel, in obedience to thee Matron, and in loyalty to Loth and our great House! His birth marks the beginning of new power for us, and he shall be treasured by us all for it!”
“Not soon enough, and I have yet to decide who shall be the next consort. There is also the mystery of this mystical message...” Another spasm shook Myrtum and choked off her words, her hands grasping the onyx throne as her daughter stepped back to witness the miracle of birth again...
Hazyth scowled bitterly and spat her hatred for her enemies boldly, “All is in proper place and will be well played, honored Matron. The Favor of the Spider Queen is upon us, and House Min’Doan will secure its rightful and well deserved seat on the ruling council after this birth. The obliteration of House Fer’kiln is assured and this birth will signal the initial attacks! Dorza and Ca’al will ensure that not a single feigned noble of that ill fated house survives the slaughter, and there remains no place to hide their soured spawn - even in the accursed upper world!”
As if only an afterthought she all but dismissed, the First Daughter added in a disregarding and flippant fashion, “That message will become absolutely clear in its time, honored Matron.”
Elyndor Min’Doan sat in the upper floor of his high, dark tower. He stared sullenly across the compound at the elaborate family chapel where his honored Matron was in the depths of childbirth. This highly enchanted tower was the only one in the compound reserved for the exclusive use of a single male of the family. Being the High Wizard of House Min’Doan, he was favored above the other noble males of his family except the eldest; his fierce and fertile eldest brother Ca’al. Bolkur, the next eldest male and an accomplished Master Abjurer, held a distinct hatred for this situation, but his own position allowed access to parts of the compound that few other males enjoyed, so he consoled himself with this fact.
While the tower occupied the highest level of the sprawling building itself, even the overly lusty elderboy had no tower to call his own like Elyndor, a fact that often caused some friction between them. The vast building which was the base for the tower was the home to all spell casting males of the family. It was the place where they studied and practiced their dark arts, and included an extensive dungeons below that also served their arcane purposes. The High Wizard was often involved in crafting magic items, unique arcane studies, sensitive and tricky divinations and the like, so this tower had been constructed for the sole purpose of his undisturbed use.
Elyndor sighed, the seventh sibling, he was the third eldest male of his noble siblings, yet had risen to his high station in a short time, surpassing the second oldest and next youngest brother in arcane studies and abhorrent application of certain powers. He was gifted beyond reckoning in many facets of the arcane arts and had learned the skills of tipping the balance of fate in his favor. The masters of the arcane academy acclaimed him the best they had seen or even heard of in generations in several areas of arcane arts; something that made his Matron not only more powerful but more that a little proud.
Fits of deep melancholy were common to the High Wizard of Min’Doan, though their length varied widely. Sometimes they were immediately followed by unpredictable and quite volatile periods of violence, in which many slaves and lesser drow had suffered and often died horribly. Those who knew Elyndor fled his presence if they could when he was melancholic, except his sisters of course.
One of those sinister siblings strode in causally, despite the fearful warning of his bold familiar. Kirzen paused and scowled at the brash quasit as she fingered her whip, the Fwalirt it was called, causing the little demon to flee in terror from the Tithe Taker; the Mistress of slaves. She was unmatched in use of this sinister family weapon, except by her Matron, and both knew that status would not stand forever either.
The Fwalirt was a wicked weapon in the hands of a High Priestess of Min’Doan, and one that Elyndor himself had invented and created from the memories of delirious dreams from Lolth. Able to produce an astonishing array of poisons by using Divine spell powers of various levels, the highly enchanted whip could also grapple an opponent with incredible strength, and always the little spider tip on the extendable length inflicted a caustic wound so cold and vile as to defy natural healing, and most magic healing!
In that deceptively sweet voice of hers, the Tithe Taker purred, “Greetings, honored brother. Tell me, High Wizard of Min’Doan, why so glum on this day when another sibling joins our dark brood?”
Elyndor shrugged but bowed his head in respect as he replied softly, “It has nothing whatsoever to do with that and you know it, even without your detection spells, dear sister.”
“What then?!”, Kirzen snapped the demanded inquiry as fast as she cracked her whip. Her tone altered to one of the dominant force just as swiftly, while she lovingly caressed the whip handle gratefully still hanging from her belt.
With the merest irritation flickering across his noble facial features for only the briefest moment, the wizard replied in a meek and woeful tone, “This mystic message Kirzen, it still has me baffled, and I fear its content will prove important to our Matron very soon. I MUST learn its meaning, for the sake of all Min’Doan.”
Kirzen paused to stare hard at her brother as she slowly pressed out a tiny wrinkle from the perfect breast of her tight fitting robe in thought. She edged closer to him and purred, “Yes, the entire episode is presently beyond us all. But fret not, Hazyth and the rest of us will divine the truth soon after our overly fertile Matron is breeding with her newest slave-mate. That, dear brother, is why I came today, to ensure your continued efforts and future willingness to aid us immediately when called.”
“Of course,” he sighed and fell to his knees as she approached within feet, bowing his head to the stone floor in absolute submission, “For Min’Doan and the honor of Lolth.” He held out one hand to offer her the small diamond he had prepared, “Simply hold this in your bosom, touch your divine symbol to it and call for me when you require my presence.”
Kirzen smiled wickedly as she snatched the whip from her belt and snapped it to wrap around the wrist of the hand offering her the gem. She lovingly reached out her other hand and caressed the gem for a moment, then pressed it and his hand slowly between her ample breasts as she said seductively, “A dear and heart warming gift, beloved Elyndor. It inflames my already aroused passion!”
Ca’al sat around a huge black marble table with Zythrom the Master Abjurer and his twin siblings, the Blessed Mistress Biltra and Master Blokar. The elderboy had assembled most of the other siblings remaining in the compound to meet with Dorza before they joined the youngest trio, who were currently with the troops preparing for assaults.
He knew that Wul’mit waited with the undead elements near the gate in the Astral Plane, prepared to unleash their necromantic forces when signaled. Frixal , Lomni, Xinth and Zif’coip would eliminate the enemy elements who were away from the compound at the signal, ensuring no outside survivors among the nobles of House Fer’kiln. Elyndor sat arrogantly alone and ready in his tower above, as commanded by the Matron herself. That thought elicited a scowl of envy and hate from the fertile assassin and elderboy as he paused to receive a mental message from Kirzen the Tithe Taker about the readiness of the slaves.
Now he just awaited the birth of his newest sibling, the signal from the matron to begin the murderous onslaught.
In a realm far removed from the awareness of most drow, the vectors of several stars moved and their movements shifted inexplicably in the galaxy. Noticed only vaguely by those who closely monitored such cosmic events from such a distance, the unpredictable effects would be felt for many cycles to come.
A sinister squeal and short squall marked the first breathes of the one born that fateful day. Unknown to most, the event marked an undeniable turn in the fates of many, most of whom would never know how or why, and many who would never realize the difference though it would remain profound in their ignorance as well.
Elyndor felt something odd as he stared at the chapel from his tower, recognizing the signal for the attack in his mind as Hazyth announced the birth to all her siblings through a powerful mind melding spell. He knew his life would never be the same, for weal or woe. Though it may take years to feel even the first slight change, he thought, that alteration was irrevocable. He sighed and enacted the series of powerful spells he had prepared to alter the outcome of the impending battle in his family’s favor; with the blessing of Lolth of course...
So it was that Aelynth was born; the nineteenth child of Matron Myrtum Min’Doan to survive birth. Had the great Matron known it would be her last child she surely would have slaughtered the babe on the spot in sacrifice and the desperate hopes that Lolth would grant her more. Some would say it was a pity that her hunger for power blinded her so that day... others only pity the suffering of the victims which resulted from the birth of The Chosen.
Black bolts sank silently through thick chain armor and dug deeply into the fleshy flanks of the clueless crew of mining minions. Multiple targeting ensured almost certain success for the paralyzing poison, rendering a potentially dangerous encounter into valued slaves. Indeed, immobile and ineffective, half a dozen deep dwarves feared for their lives and souls as the drow poison coursed through their dark veins.
A male dark elve strode forth from the shadows and spoke in commanding Undercommon, "Resist further and suffer more for it. Come along quietly and your life will change little from its current state."
Unseen, a female spoke in a sinister and somehow seductive tone from somewhere nearby, using the language of the duergar, "Suffer surely, either way, by choice or deed the extent shall determine. Perhaps one shall prove worthy and earn some small attention?"
Immediately, each dwarf thought what it could possibly do to please the dread drow Mistress in the darkness. Being paralyzed, there was little they could do currently, but eventually...
Kirzen brimmed with pride as she returned with half a dozen new slaves, all submissive duergar miners of some skill, and likely fighters as an unexpected boon. Some would surely make for good sport, in the arena or elsewhere, and all would be valued additions. Turning them over to the pen master for processing, she selected one of the soldiers who had performed well above the others on their scouting mission to the mines and seduced him in the prison.
Leaving the whipped and spent male on the floor to recover as he might, she left with a smirk of sinister satisfaction. First she visited the Chapel of the Sisters to inform Dorza, who went with her when she reported to the Matron, who was inevitably in the company of Hazyth. All were pleased, as expected by the Tithe Taker, and she joined them in dark prayers and rituals to bind the new slaves to House Min'Doan.
During the rituals it was indicated that Kirzen should take some few siblings on a special mission. Ostensibly to capture particular slaves, she was to covertly train them in the strange dangers of the vast Underdark and the even stranger ways of the upper world. Nothing more specific came, leaving the choices to the the Matron as usual, who dismissed all to ponder and pray alone.
Kirzen chuckled as she left the inner temple, pausing just outside to watch Dorza disappear back to the sanctum of the Chapel of the Sisters and Hazyth stride lazily toward the slave pens. Glancing over to a nearby alcove, she smiled to see Ca'al reveal himself and bow, "Elyndor wishes to see you at your soonest convenience, honored Tithe Taker. I understand he has completed crafting something you desired."
"Excellent, and perfectly timed Ca'al!" Kirzen smiled sweetly and swept passed the elderboy without further attention, heading straight for the High Wizard's tower.
Ca'al sighed softly, truly relieved to escape any attention of his volatile sisters, returning to inspect his watchful guard posts and personal sly patrols of the inner sanctum of House Min'Doan.
With brutal efficiency that he always enjoyed far too much, Ca’al had roughly gathered those of his brethren who were to meet the Matron in a private chapel. He bowed deeply to Kirzen upon entering the appointed oval shaped room, expecting the siblings in his wake to show the proper respect to the Tithe Taker without need for enforcement. She nodded to him from her chair next to the altar at the far end of the room and smiled wickedly while lovingly fingering her Fwalirt whip.
The elderboy shuddered slightly as he took his seat at the head of the table set up for the meeting and motioned for the rest to take seats. He began by explaining, “Our beloved and honored Matron has chosen each of you to be included in this mission for various reasons, none of which now holds any further meaning. You will accompany Kirzen on a trade mission for a time as you travel upward through the dangers of the Under Dark. At the proper time and place she will continue with the slaves and you will finish the journey to the Upper World, where you will serve the purpose our Matron has chosen for you.”
After looking over at Kirzen briefly, who shrugged, Ca’al continued, “Elyndor has crafted a means that he believes will create a portal between the underworld and the upper world, a barrier yet to be broached safely. He will instruct you, shortly after this meeting ends.”
The door opened and Matron Myrtum entered, flanked by Hazyth and Dorza. Ca’al immediately stood and bowed abjectly, “Greetings, honored Matron, all is done as you commanded.”
Dorza closed the door and stood there while Hazyth and the Matron approached the altar. Without a glance at those gathered, other than a short glare from Hazyth to ensure they all showed the proper respect, the Matriarch and eldest daughter knelt before the altar and led a dark prayer. Each person present was joined in the rare but familiar mind melding enacted by the powerful High Priestesses, stripping each of privacy or reserve in the minds of their mother and eldest sister.
When Hazyth enters she activates Detect Thoughts, and I dare any of you to resist! There’s no resisting the other spell and chant, and all involved must be willing... any who aren’t would certainly be punished severely and would forfeit the chance to go.
With Hazyth still kneeling and chanting to maintain the meld, Matron Myrtum stepped onto the altar and faced the room, “My treasured spawn, it pleases me greatly to see each of you on this momentous day. Know that dark destiny is undeniably upon us, set forth in part by my wisdom, and we shall expend all efforts to please the Spider Queen in this and all things. Today you start a dangerous journey that will culminate in the opportunity for you to eliminate an important element of an enemy House. If you survive and succeed, it will increase your own prowess and power, thus bolstering the status of House Min’Doan. This mission is vital, for if we succeed in all other plans, which I fully expect we will, those that you must destroy would be the only ones to stake any legitimate claim of failure."
The Matron grinned viciously at each of her spawn and added, "I grant each of you gifts to help carve your way through the dark paths to tempt this vital quest. Kirzen and Ca’al will handle the details, as needed.”
With a sinister laugh of sadistic joy, the Matron turned and stepped through a portal that appeared on the altar.
Hazyth continued to chant, altering it slightly to enhance the divine dweomers in the chapel.
Dorza leaned against the only door, her expression dark and enigmatic as always.
Kirzen sat waiting and watching while caressing her whip handle and smiling wickedly.
Ca’al took his seat again and spoke with a sly smile tinged with envy, “So siblings, something each of you have desired deeply will be your initial reward. Zif, the ring you have craved is the boon you gain. Xinth, that special rapier is ready. Stain it well with blood, brother."
Xinth grins widely and steps forward, grasping the rapier. In one fluid motion, he swings it out and cuts his own hand, letting the blood drip into a cup from the table. Sheathing the rapier, Xinth kneels and offers the cupful of blood to Kirzen, saying, "For you, my dear sister, so that I may humbly beg both your favor and our queen's."
Xinth straightens upright, and backs away, bowing respectfully to the alter.
My wifi is down. It should be back up by the 22nd. Sorry, snowy, morcy, drack, hat, etc.
As Zif slid the ring past the last knuckle on his slender forefinger, the white metal formed tiny barbs that dug into the delicate dark digit until it was firmly set in place. Grunting once in pain, he grinned wickedly, “Ah Elyndor, High Wizard indeed!”
Leaning over as Xinth bled into the cup, the Nightmare Spinner squeezed his hand into a fist until a few drops of his own blood joined his elder brother’s. He winked at Xinth and bowed deeply to the altar, “My humble addition, for what it may be worth, honored sisters.”
As he sat quietly cogitating and toying with the band around his still bleeding finger, it was clear to all who knew the Master Illusionist that he was already contemplating the enchantment of his new ring. He smiled as he glanced down at the pesky wound and wrapped his hand tightly in the opposite sleeve of his robe to staunch the wound.
Lomni took his turn at claiming items from the altar, taking the belt he knew was meant for him. He strapped the belt on and basked in the increased power it provided before kneeling and putting his face down to the floor in front of the altar in a moment of silent prayer. Getting back up, he winked to Elyndor and bowed to his sisters before resuming his seat.
Dorza chuckled softly as a dull bang rang out against the door. She stepped aside as a troll skeleton pushed the door open and bowed, then vanished. Frixal walked in with a wicked grin, then gave a respectful bow to her elder sister and softly closed the door. She walked slowly toward the altar as she glanced over at the table, glowering at each of her brothers while fingering the falwirt whip hanging on her belt. She giggled almost girlishly as she looked over at Kirzen and fingered the new tentacle whip hanging from the other hip.
Kneeling at the altar and bowing low before Hazyth, the necromantic priestess intoned respectfully, “Greetings, honored siblings, dire servants of our most wise Matron, and slaves of the Spider Queen. I had reason to see Elyndor personally and picked up my new whip. I am ready to leave when appropriate.”
She stood and stared at the eldest son as she asked coldly, “Are you nearly finished, Ca’al?”
The elderboy shrugged and bowed his head to his younger sister I respect, “Unless there are any questions for me, I have other duties to attend, honored sisters.” He looked to Kirzen, who shrugged, then to Dorza, who nodded to approve his departure.
Kirzen spoke as Ca’al walked through the door which seemed to open of its own volition, “We leave soon, tell Elyndor to enter.”
The High Wizard walked in with a respectful bow, “Greetings, and well met siblings. Since none of us have time for else, I shall get right to the reason for my presence. I have means to create a portal I believe will bypass the barrier that prevents magic transport between the underdark and the upper world.”
Pulling out a dark ruby gem set in silvery ring, Elyndor held it up between his thumb and ofrefinger, “But it requires a teleport spell be cast each day once beyond the barrier point, cast upon the ring itself, which absorbs, stores, and transmutes the energy. The portal it creates will only work once, but should remain intact until the ring wielder steps through. However, since none who are going to the surface have yet reached such arcane prowess....”
He pulled out a headband made of mithril with tiny rubies set in it, “This is enchanted to enact a Teleport once a day. If you find need to use it for anything other than continuing the enchantment of the portal ring, be sure to teleport back to a previous location.”
He handed both to Kirzen, “I trust you will know to whom you should give these and when. I wish you all the best in this most important endeavor.”
Kirzen put the headband on and handed the ring to Frixal, "Well done, High Wizard. You are free to return to your important work."
Elyndor smiled slightly as he bowed again and exited. Hazyth and Dorza followed him, leaving only the siblings assigned to the mission in the small chapel.
Kirzen joined everyone else at the table as she pulled out a blank vellum. Pointing at the map that Ca'al left she cast a quick spell to copy it, then said, "Xinth and Lomni will each take a copy of the map. Zif has one. You three, and a few fighters, will lead the way, with Frixal right behind in support. The slaves and guards are waiting in the tunnels below, which I will oversee. We leave now."
Looking around to see if anyone had any reason to delay, the Tithe Taker tapped her foot on a stone at the foot of the altar to open a secret door exposing a stairway spiraling steeply down.
Frixal fingered her family whip and flashed her brothers a sinister smile.
Lomni snags his copy of the map and after a cursory glance, folds it and shoves it into his newly acquired belt, the map disappearing. He needed no prompting from Kirzen to get up and head down the stairs. He'd never seen this particular passageway before, but it didn't surprise him that it was there.
Xinth sheaths his sword, carefully picks up his map and stows it in his cloak. Standing, he turns and walks down the passage, beginning to softly sing a song, the words inaudible but the melody inspiring.
My wifi is down. It should be back up by the 22nd. Sorry, snowy, morcy, drack, hat, etc.
Zif followed his brothers through the secret door and down the spiral stairs, anxious to start the journey. Frixal was barely a step behind him, excited to be on her way toward a much desired destiny. Kirzen lingered behind until they were all around the curve and out of sight before closing and sealing the door, then followed at a leisurely pace.
As they wound down the stairs Zif cast a cantrip to create an eloquent voice, which seemed to come from nowhere, singing lyrics softly to the tune Xinth produced:
Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
And find new toys
Strange eyes fill strange rooms
Voices will signal their tired end
The hostess is grinning
Her guests sleep from sinning
Hear me talk of sin
And you know this is it
Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone
Ultimately the stairs ended somewhere in the slave pens, where Kirzen took the lead. Few knew the entire extent of this maze of tunnels and pits and dungeons and cells. As Mistress of slaves, the Tithe Taker spent much time here and was very familiar with the vast majority of the complex. She led them through many dark passages for over an hour before they reached a cavern where the slaves and supplies were assembled. She went to inspect the slaves, chained in double file behind a pair of riding lizards.
Frixal moved swiftly over to the contingent of guards, a score of male fighters and one female. She addressed the female directly, and together they hand picked a few male soldiers for the forward detachment. The female fighter then took her position in the rear, walking among the pack lizards behind the slaves, as the caravan prepared to move.
Frixal returned with a trio of male fighters to join Lomni and Xinth in the vanguard.
Zif mounted the other riding lizard at the hand signal from Kirzen.
Thus they descended the primary tunnel leading from the slave pens. Well guarded, and with several tunnels and few shafts branching off, here they saw some of the fierce demons and other monsters enslaved by House Min’Doan to bolster the warded way. Several powerful Glyphs were safely passed as Kirzen authorized passage through them.
As they approached, a quasit appeared at the main door that sealed this passage from the wild tunnels beyond. Squealing with demonic delight it fluttered around above the vanguard group and spoke in Undercommon, “Greetings, I am Jod. Mistress Dorza, dread Demonseed of House Min’Doan, commands that I aid you in all things where possible.”
Frixal smiled and exclaimed with obvious sarcasm and feigned excitement, “How delightful Jod! You may scout ahead, and make sure any potential enemy sees you first!”
She caressed her whip handle and glared at the little demon, lowering her voice to a serious tone, “Obey properly and escape oblivion, much preferable to any death you are likely to suffer, I would think.”
Jod's eyes widened in fear as he bowed in midair, "Aye Mistress Frixal!"
Frixal nodded to Lomni and Xinth, then exchanged places with Zif, taking the other riding lizard as the door opened.
The Master Illusionist joined his brothers and the trio of commoner fighters to lead the way on foot into the wilderness of the Underdark.
Any special preps prior to leaving? Spells, etc? Supplies are provided, for now, and each of you has sufficient sustenance.
Lomni spent the time moving from the slave pens to the main gate studying the map he had been provided so that he was aware of the intended route and could lead the group effectively.
At the signal from Frixal, he directed the three fighters out beyond the three brothers, forming a chain of sorts so they could see out as far as possible.
The three brothers would be out about 100 feet beyond the party, and the three fighters another 100 feet from them. Ordinarily, I think a drow scouting party would have been sent out first and would have been a longer distance from the main force, but this should be sufficient to give the bulk of the party fair warning of anything in their path. I'm assuming the brothers and the fighters would spread out when the cave widens and come back together when it narrows.
No buffs for Lomni. To do so now would be to waste them - lol.
The passage was familiar, being one in a section that each of them had patrolled at an earlier stage of their life in House Min’Doan. Ambushes aided by illusions and the natural features of the surroundings were often set up at various spots, moved randomly under direction of drow nobles. Patrols alertly prowled through the web of tunnels surrounding the dungeons of Min’Doan, often comprised largely of humanoid races enslaved to fight for their dark elf Mistresses and masters.
Most of the first day passed with nothing more than frequent encounters with humanoid patrols and one drow ambush, who had been informed in advance of the important caravan. But one bugbear from a patrol of mixed humanoids offended Frixal with excessive suspicion. The necromantic priestess leaped from her mount as she commanded that the bugbear be paralyzed with poison from crossbow bolts, then slowly tortured the hapless creature to death. Expert use of her whip and sinister application of a few minor spells extended the suffering to such an extent that even Kirzen was getting impatient before its life ultimately ended.
Frixal examined the corpse closely, smirking as the rest of the patrol was released and fled the scene in utter terror. Nudging the dead bugbear with the toe of one boot she shrugged, commenting clinically, “A bit hasty to avoid enough damage for a perfect zombie, but it will suffice.”
She smiled sweetly at her agitated older sister and shrugged, then used cleverly mutated magic and sinister surgical skills to mend some of the flaws in the now inanimate flesh. Within moments she stuffed an onyx in its mouth and animated the dead bugbear to serve her after death. She remounted her riding lizard, her obedient new undead shuffling just ahead of her, with a dismissive wave to her brothers.
During the first rest period Zif flashed his fingers in the secret drow language, “I’ve developed a mutated means of using this communication even while we’re all inside my Invisibility Sphere. As long as we stay within reach of each other we can pass signals through finger touches, at least to some degree.”
The Nightmare spinner spent hours teaching his siblings what he had developed, hoping to extend their knowledge of the secret language beyond normal visual perception.
Int check (or speak languages if you have ranks) DC 10
Lomni stood by with a bored expression on his face while Frixal toyed with the bugbear. He had considered reminding his sister about the importance of their mission and that their mother would be somewhat vexed if Frixal's personal pleasures caused delays, but then he thought better of it. He also said nothing when she deemed it time to continue, urging the front fighters to move on with a hand signal.
Lomni was intrigued by Zif's discovery. He had already developed a method for disarming traps while completely blinded [ooc: tactile trapsmith feat] and this would play well into his skills.
With a superior smirk at Xinth, the proud priestess replied, “Naturally brother, always trying to be the charmer. Comparing my beauty to any undead is hardly a compliment, and could easily be viewed as a insult.”
Sense Motive 19 vs Bluff 24
A sadistic smile somehow softened her facial features as Frixal leered at her brother, “But I know you oh so well, beloved brother...”
“Just move along Xinth,” the Tithe Taker pronounced shortly, cutting off her younger sister with growing impatience clear in her tone, “We have only a certain amount of spare time, and we have wasted enough of it on such irrelevance here.”
Sense Motive 42 vs Bluff 24
With a dismissive flip of her hair and a soft sigh, Frixal said, “Very well, and of course you are quite correct, honored sister. He shall certainly rue any irritation caused to you, I can assure you, in its time.”
The young illusionist snickered softly as he moved into the tunnel, trailing behind the fighters who all took the females’ words to action.
Zif was very proud when his siblings easily picked up on his alteration of the silent language. It confirmed in his mind how well thought out his idea was, and the fact that Frixal seemed pleased made him absolutely certain of its value.
The first night out the Tithe Taker gathered the noble siblings for a private meeting, “Our honored Matron has placed a great deal of trust in all of us to accomplish our appointed tasks. I have few doubts my part will prove relatively easy. However, some of you may have questions or concerns you wish to discuss?”
Lomni takes advantage of the break to study the map more. In response to Kirzen, he asks "Do we know which nobles of House Fer’kiln we're after and where in the Upper World they are? I'd hate to be just wandering around up there looking for them when the appointed time comes because we can't find them." He hadn't been outside the household in a long time and wasn't up on the latest whereabouts of people that weren't in the family.
An acerbic smirk was the initial reply, followed by a small shrug and overly patient words spoken in a condescending tone so typical for the Tithe Taker, "Indeed, and now is a fine time to reveal more of the wisdom guiding House Min'Doan in this fated endeavor. Such thinking is doubtless a primary reason our honored matron chose you to be included in this Lomni. But it also reveals your doubt and lack of certainty that we follow a wise course, of which you know only a small part."
Kirzen smiled sadistically, slowly looking at each sibling for a few seconds before continuing in a tone of shared conspiracy, "Regardless, the ill fated targets of House Fer’kiln are well known to us. Competitors, however incompetent, with whom I have dealt more than once. A mutual business partner has agreed to betray them, at great cost to ensure their loyalty in this, and a meeting has been arranged. It is during this meeting, to be held in a prearranged location, that you will strike them down, but only at the appropriate time."
Having waited for the proper moment, the younger sister added with an eagerness to disclose a deeply held secret that she had kept contained for too long, "The illithid is also well known to us, among others in Rilandyr. His involvement with us, while costly indeed, will largely determine his own future..." she smiled wickedly, "or lack thereof perhaps."
Sharing a sadistic snicker with her sister, the Tithe Taker added, "Perhaps, the Matron has yet to decide that. For now, either way serves our purpose the same."
Turning back to her brothers she concluded seriously, "The place is an Inn known as the Drunken Dragon, of which the Illithid is half owner. Its located in a village named Ruknor, somewhat haphazardly sprawled atop a deep chasm. The map shows the way to the bottom of that chasm, which should hold many places that could serve as a secure base."
Though many inquisitive and probing thoughts played through his mind, the younger sibling stifled them in deference to his elder brothers.
Xinth gave a wry smile at his more perceptive sister. He really hadn't expected that two work, anyways. "Ordinarily, sister, it would be an insult, but anything related to you is always exquisite. Anyways, we should be off. Should we send a scout ahead, or proceed as a party?"
My wifi is down. It should be back up by the 22nd. Sorry, snowy, morcy, drack, hat, etc.
Lomni showed a brief flash of disgust at the mention of the illithid. Alliances with the aliens tended to based on mutual benefit, but loyalty wasn't always guaranteed. "My lack of certainty isn't in the wisdom of the course, dear sister, but in the source of information. I just wanted to be sure we had it."
The elder sister sighed softly as she glared at Xinth, then said sternly, “We go no further today, and there is more important information we need to disclose.”
This occurs during the first rest period
Eagerly speaking, the younger priestess glanced at her older sister on occasion but spoke in confident tones, “The chasm itself is many miles long at the top, the widest points being about 100' apart. At the bottom of the east end is the site of the original dwarven mine, where they had discovered precious minerals. Mined out long ago, it serves as a collection and security point for foraging miners. The west end proved even richer with deposits, but was filled with smaller tunnels inhabited by all manner of underground denizens.
Atop the chasm at about the midway point a small village named Ruknor sprang up in recent years, known to us initially only from what our siblings had been able to divine. It started as a dwarven mining base and expanded into a small yet thriving village to support that continuing operation and other industries that have developed with due diligence by the dour dwarves.
The dwarves built Ruknor to extend their reach with fewer risks from below, and to house their forges and foundries and other industries. The other side attracted other races interested in mining, or the miners, and a rope bridge was soon constructed to allow travel. The nearest sign of civilization above ground is a hundred leagues south, though dwarven enclaves could be found closer underground.
Other races can be found there besides the founding dwarves; most notably and prolific are the halflings and gnomes. Inevitably, more than a fair share of humans have filtered into the budding society. As far as any knew, in or out of the village, no elves have shown their pointy ears.
Recently a rich deposit of mithril has been discovered, and this blessed event coincided with the appearance of a dubious pair of humans. Though few, if any, had realized the hint of correlation, let alone connecting any direct relation, it was only a matter of time before such discoveries could expose flaws in the plans of House Fer’kiln. A pair of young, yet quite powerful drow siblings had been capturing slaves in the area for decades on raids. They had arranged to use a secret portal constructed by the Illithid that allowed them instant access to the underdark and a means to return to the surface, which would normally take weeks each way.”
The Tithe Taker explained more details, “When the village and mines became evident the drow of House Fer’Kiln turned their sinister attention to exploiting that source of wealth and trade. They contrived a means to disguise themselves as human merchants and miners with less than honest connections in the underworld. Years of deals done in seemingly honest trades appeared to make those they dealt with uncommonly fortunate n many ways. In truth much of what was obtained from them was cursed insidiously; the more one had the less likely that one would refuse to make a deal. Those of House Fer’kiln got considerably richer, and the dwarves appeared to as well, though the gold and items all held a minuscule portion of the curse.
The illithid had discovered the curse, but was never affected by it. Seeing the value of it, if used properly, he let it run its course and planned profits. So it was that a High Priestess and her Illusionist brother of House Fer’kiln all but enthralled the entire region to their devious whims and eternal hunger for exploitation. Most of this was known to the illithid, except the specifics of the curse used to achieve this state.
I made contact on one of my forays above ground last year, leading to many discoveries that were instrumental in our Matron’s plan to take down this hated enemy in spectacular glory. While few are privileged to all the information about that plan, you now know a good bit about this particular aspect of the attack. Know also that this is certainly a vital key to our assault, to ensure that no nobles survive to invoke the council to judge it a failure.”
The Tithe Taker smiled sweetly, something perhaps far more sinister to those who had long felt the lash of her whip or other disciplinary force from her, "Insightful queries, for a male..."
She winked, knowing Lomni was one of the most clever of her brothers, "Whether or not we take over and improve their operation has yet to be decided, which the Matron will do if you succeed. I suppose the decision will depend heavily on how much the dwarves learn of our involvement, and exactly what operations can be exploited with little or no risk."
Sipping from her wine flask briefly, Kirzen continued with a shrug and casual arrogance, "As to the curse, the treasure that holds it will be used to buy slaves from the Illithid, thus freeing us of any risk, however small it might be. Whether it continues after House Fer'kiln ceases to exist is another matter completely, though I suspect the answer will be apparent relatively soon after the demise of those who created it. Such things typically require constant infusion of prayer and sacrifice. This too, is something to which the Matron and Hazyth will devote some time soon enough."
The younger priestess chuckled wickedly and added, "What we find there may also influence the Matron."
The illusionist had sat quietly, absorbing everything. He leaned back against the wall and added, "Particularly if Elyndor's device works as planned."