By Bryant Alexander
Behind Wall Number One
The puddle of dead demon on the floor was easily avoided. Nanoc, on the other hand, was quite thoroughly covered with yellow mold. We sent him back topside to bathe again while the rest of us scouted on ahead. Well, while Aeryn scouted on ahead and the rest of us followed behind her.
The moldy cavern narrowed into a short ‘hallway' which opened up onto a much larger cavern. Again, the cavern walls were lined with graves. But this cavern had a statue standing in the center of it. Lady Quallem hadn't been very friendly, but at least I recognized what she was when I saw her statue. This one… It had bulbous eyes, insect mandibles, and an elongated oval head. It didn't have any form of identification.
“Let's not piss off this statue,” I suggested.
“I'm pretty sure it's not natural,” Grolsch said.
“I think it's Jergal,” Aeryn said. “Guardian of Tombs.”
That would make sense. Maybe Jergal's guarding was even working a bit. The yellow mold hadn't crept into this chamber, at least. The rest of us waited while Aeryn took a closer look at the statue, just in case it proved hostile.
“There's magic on the statue!” Aeryn called back to us. “It could be Animate Statue!”
“It can't be activated by entering the tomb,” Armand reasoned. “Or it would've animated when we came in.”
We decided to try respecting the statue and seeing if it respected us back by not attacking. That meant not allowing the doggies or the kitty to mark the statue, and not rummaging through the graves for odd bits of treasure. Commoners weren't buried with any worldly goods, anyways.
“How well sealed is that armor?” Aeryn asked Armand.
“It's not airtight,” Armand said.
Which was a good thing. If it was airtight, Armand might have some difficulty breathing, and we wouldn't even be able to see him turning purple through that faceplate.
“Just wondering,” Aeryn said. “If you get a spider down your back, will we hear about it?”
“I could change to the leather armor,” Armand said.
“I was just thinking of us moving stealthily,” Aeryn said, “and from you there's ‘eep op oop!'”
Watching Aeryn's interpretation of what Armand might be like with a spider down his back was rather amusing. In fact, Armand doing the get-the-spider-out dance might make a good distraction for our enemies.
“I don't mind things trying to get into my pants,” Armand said. “But not like that.”
That was about as far as anyone wanted to take that conversation. Aeryn crept ahead to check the next stretch of passageway.
“Don't get too far ahead!” Armand warned her.
Armand always said that. Aeryn was our resident stealthy scout, though. She knew what to do if she actually ran into something she couldn't deal with on her own.
I glanced at Armand.
“You predicted this one, didn't you?” I said.
“Yes, I did,” Armand said.
Dreya passed me that ring with the Shield Other again and we hurried forward. Aeryn had discovered a creature that looked like a stalagmite with tentacles. Maybe it was more like the creature had discovered Aeryn. Either way, it was trying to get its tentacles around her. It kinda reminded me of that guy I'd met in that bar in Waterdeep, right before I met Nanoc. I didn't recall that guy having so many pointy looking teeth, though.
We were still a fair distance away when a tentacle lashed out and wrapped around Armand. That was some stretch… Dreya tried out her new axe, but only chipped the wall with it. I tried casting Doom on the creature, but my spell fizzled out on me. Grolsch also cast a spell at it that fizzled. This was not a good sign. Aeryn nailed the creature with Alchemist's Fire, while Armand cut himself free. The creature yelled. Most creatures do when they're on fire and someone lops a limb off them.
I pulled out my longbow. Spells seemed to be fizzling, and I didn't want to get in close enough to bite this creature. Even if it wasn't so grabby with those tentacles, it looked like a hunk of rock. I don't even try to bite rocks. Another tentacle nearly caught Aeryn, but she's one very slippery elf. Pain and Suffering were arguing with Cinnabar over who got the hunk of tentacle that Armand had hacked off. Aeryn waved her rod of magic missiles at the creature while running backwards to join the rest of us. Armand pointed his ring at it, and it went splat against the back wall of the cave.
“…help…,” Aeryn said.
At least she was able to wait until the thing was splattered before she collapsed.
“She's not dead,” I told Grolsch. “You can't reincarnate her.”
“We could make her that way,” Grolsch said.
Despite that, he did do us all a favor and cast Restoration on Aeryn so she could peel herself off the floor again.
“So do we wanna rest up?” Aeryn suggested.
That might not be a bad idea. Besides, Nanoc would probably be disappointed that he'd missed a fight. He should have gotten the mold scraped off by now. Although… If I strained my ears, I could hear distant grunting from back the way we'd came. If that had overtaken him again, he might be a while.
“Do we trust the statue?” I asked.
“What do you clerical types think?” Aeryn asked. “Good vibes, bad vibes…?”
“No vibes,” I shrugged.
No vibes, but I did hear something behind us that sounded suspiciously like massive quantities of liquid squirting.
“At last!” Nanoc bellowed.
We might have a problem getting back out of here… All that mold, combined with what Nanoc was spraying the cavern with, would mean we'd have a forest of mushrooms to climb through.
We decided to settle down for the night. We weren't entirely sure that it was night, but a few hours sleep would do us good, anyways. We woke up refreshed and restored and ready to resume our mission.
“What are we trying to do?” Armand asked.
“Find the drow,” I said.
“And then what?” Armand asked.
“Kill them,” I said.
“And if we find them in larger numbers than we can handle?” Armand asked.
“Then we run away,” I said.
“Then I use Web,” Aeryn said.
Aeryn usually used web when we ran away. It did help if we could run and our pursuers couldn't.
A curving passageway led out of the statue's chamber. Aeryn crept on ahead.
“The area looks clean,” she reported.
“It looks normal,” Dreya said. “Too normal.”
“Question of the day,” Aeryn said. “Do we want to throw a sun rod in? Or do we just want to charge?”
Once again, it was too bad Nanoc wasn't here. From the sounds of things, he was still fertilizing the upper reaches of the tomb.
“It's an illusion,” Dreya said.
On the other hand, sane dwarves have their uses, too. Only a dwarf would have noticed that several sections of the cave wall were identical.
“Who can cast Dispel Magic?” Aeryn asked.
Grolsch and I raised hands. It seemed a shame to waste a spell, though. We could probably just walk through…
“What if there's something with teeth on the other side?” Aeryn asked.
We'd get bitten? Armand had something Aeryn could poke around with… A ten foot pole. Of course Armand had a big pole. I wasn't sure if it was good or bad that Aeryn's poking didn't turn up anything.
“I'm going through,” Aeryn said. “If you hear a scream… If something's waiting in ambush, we're in trouble.”
“We're being more subtle than usual,” Armand marveled.
“We should charge,” Grolsch declared.
Aeryn took out her dagger and almost stepped through. She stopped to tie a sun rod to Armand's ten foot pole. Then she went through, with a light source ten feet in front of her. It looked like she simple walked through a solid wall.
At least the illusionary wall didn't interfere with sound. We all heard Aeryn screaming/singing quite clearly.
She was screaming/singing, but she hadn't actually cried for help yet. We weren't going wait for the chorus, though. Time to charge.
“Webs! It wasn't me!”
At least she tried to warn us. It wasn't quite enough of a warning, though. Strands of webbing shot out of the wall and stuck Dreya to Armand's side. Not that Dreya didn't tend to stick to Armand, but that was in the figurative sense, not literally like now.
“ Two spiders!”
Aeryn was doing a good job as the Voice of Doom today. Grolsch charged through the wall, just as Dreya was pulling free of Armand. I went through the wall, only to find myself facing a bear butt. I suppose it was better than having the bear facing my butt.
It really was a big spider. I cast Searing Light at it. It wasn't a happy spider. Aeryn stabbed at it and Grolsch clawed at it. My Random Action spell failed. The spider chewed on Grolsch.
“They're demons!” Dreya shouted. “Demons!”
Great. More demons. Dreya cast Protection From Evil on Grolsch. He was going to need it the way the spider was snacking on him. I cast Doom on the spider. Anything to improve Grolsch's chances. The spider looked like it was shredding him. Dreya threw a healing spell his way. Aeryn nailed the spider with magic missiles. It rolled over on its back, legs curled up against its abdomen. Grolsch chewed it, just to make sure it stayed down. I cast a Cure Serious on him.
The other spider advanced on the bear. Dreya tossed it some holy water. It's hard to read a spider's face, but it seemed upset. Aeryn cast Mage Armor on Grolsch. It looked like we were all depending on him to kill the spider. He charged it. I charged after him so I could cast more healing on him. He was going to need it.
The spider disappeared. Grolsch flopped forward.
“Where'd they go?” Aeryn wondered.
“They were demons,” I said. “Maybe they were banished or they just returned to their own plane.”
“There's a drider in the corner,” Aeryn warned.
Maybe there had been a drider in the corner, but there wasn't anything there now.
“Do we want to beat feet?” Aeryn asked. “Or check behind door number two?”
I wasn't so sure there was a door number two. The cavern just looked a big empty space surrounded on all sides by rock.
“What's a drider?” Armand asked.
“Half spider, half drow,” Aeryn explained. “Sort of like a centaur. They usually work with the drow.”
Aeryn found some cobwebs. She slashed them with her flaming rapier, but they didn't burn very well. Maybe she needed Armand to show her how to burn webs properly.
Dreya and Aeryn did some hunting about and actually found another illusionary wall.
“Poke, poke, poke?” Armand suggested.
“Unless you want to run through and maybe find five hundred spiders,” Aeryn said.
Aeryn tried a new tactic. She flew up near the ceiling and poked the ten foot pole through up there.
“There's someone sobbing on the other side,” Aeryn said. “If you want, I could stick my head through.”
“Without a light, it won't do much good,” I said.
“There is that,” Aeryn admitted.
“I could change to bat form,” I offered, “stick my head through and squeak.”
It was agreed that it was worth a try. Meanwhile, Grolsch still didn't seem entirely healthy. Aeryn recommended that he stay in bear form, though. We might need him to bite more spiders. So she passed him two of our healing potions.
“Not to begrudge you,” she said, “but you've used half the stash we got from Elminster.”
Grolsch couldn't really defend himself without changing back to half-orc form. I could sympathize, given my inability to speak in bat form. But I could also guess that his mildly offended grunt meant, “Then you soak up all the damage.” Some things didn't really need words.
I stuck my head through the wall, up near the ceiling, and squeaked. I pulled my head back, dropped back to the floor and changed back to elf form to report.
“There's something large on the ceiling,” I said. “We could go back to town if you think we're low on potions and spend some of that five thousand they offered us towards healing…”
“We should press on,” Aeryn said. “We're supposed to be eliminating the problem or at least leaving them a message.”
“If we're not sneaking,” Armand said, “I can go first.”
Actually, the first thing that had to go in was a light source.
“I'll just drop it in,” Aeryn said. “On the floor it should be enough illumination for all of us.”
We decided that Aeryn and I would fly in.
“You wanna carry the light source?” Aeryn asked me. “You can drop it on the other side.”
That wasn't a bad idea. She could fly in with her weapon in her hand that way. I'd be biting whatever we found. We passed through the illusionary wall. I dropped off the sun rod. We saw a dark skinned female sitting on the floor and sobbing. A large spider was sitting on the ceiling. Aeryn attacked it with her dagger. I bit at it.
Weepy girl got up. Big surprise, she was a drow, and she was armed.
Grolsch wanted to play with the spider, too. Standing up on his hind paws, he was able to swipe at it. The spider squirted some webbing and skittered away. It dropped to the floor and transformed into a male drow. I swooped down and chomped at him.
Both drow tried going after Aeryn. Armand cut down the female. I kept biting at the male, but I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. He fell down anyways. I was so very glad to see them dead.
“Four ears,” Aeryn said.
“Isn't it supposed to be one ear per drow?” I reminded her.
“Like they can tell?” Aeryn said. “Then let's cut the heads off them. I want to leave a message at the mouth of the cave.”
I liked the idea of chopping their heads off. If Grolsch had control over what his reincarnation spell brought one back as, I'd have suggested bringing the drow back as chickens, so it would be even more fun to cut their heads off. Something about all this seemed to amuse Armand to no end… Hopefully, he wouldn't have a chance to get to know the drow too well. But if he did, he'd understand.
As a bonus, we found that the drow did have cash on them. We added their valuables to the party treasury. We also found a nest of webbings containing two sacks of gold pieces and a few gems. Armand considered making use of the composite bow we found.
“Just scrub all the drow prints off,” I said.
It was a good bow, but it was decorated with a spider web design.
“What were they?” Armand asked.
He was apparently referring to the way the male transformed into a spider. It was a pretty good guess that the female could've transformed, too.
“Maybe it was a blessing from the spider goddess,” Aeryn guessed.
“Maybe they were were-spiders,” I said.
Maybe they were blessed with were-spider abilities. Whatever they were, they currently weren't . I wasn't going to ask if anyone had a Speak With Dead to expend on asking them. But if we were dealing with spider-drow, then Aeryn's Webs might not be effective.
Aeryn was anxious to put the heads someplace where marauding drow would see them on their way out of the caverns. Unfortunately, it was a good ways back to where we'd come in, and there was whatever minefield Nanoc had created between us and the exit. So we let the heads sit for the moment. We'd place them someplace appropriate on our way out.
Some further searching turned up a third illusionary wall. This was starting to get ridiculous. Aeryn hovered near the ceiling and took a poke at the wall. The pole went in, but it looked like it stuck. She managed to yank it loose, though.
“There's a web on the other side,” she said.
“We could try luring them out,” Armand suggested.
“Lure them out how?” Aeryn asked.
“Try speaking elven,” Armand said. “They apparently like you as much as you like them.”
He must have noticed their attempt to pile on Aeryn.
“Drow kiss spider butt!” I called out, in elven.
Aeryn and Armand had some choice words for the drow, too. Aeryn was even able to sling some insults in their own language. I'd be hesitant to dirty my tongue with their dialect, but it was good for hurling insults. It didn't seem to be luring anyone out, though.
“I didn't think that would work,” Aeryn said.
“But it was so much fun trying,” I said.
If they wouldn't come to us, we would have to go to them. That meant getting the web out of our way. Aeryn and Armand both had flaming weapons and we knew how well webs burned. They each took a corner and poked their weapons through the illusionary wall. We gave the web a minute to burn away, then charged through.
On the other side was a rather irregularly shaped cavern, a large open area with a sort of alcove to one side. It was inhabited by two drow wearing glittery mail, one drow in robes, and a female drow cleric. I aimed for the cleric. All drow are enemies of my people, but she was the enemy of my Goddess as well.
Aeryn jumped down on the drow and killed her.
I didn't even get the chance to squeak “That was way too easy” before the drow mage pelted Aeryn with a snowstorm and a crossbow bolt. He was suddenly looking like a tasty target to chew on. I swooped at him and bit air. Aeryn stabbed at him and he backed up into a corner.
I'd always known that drow were like rats… He raised his hands and burned me with them. Then he pelted me with magic missiles. I still would've kept trying to bite him, but Pain and Suffering dog piled on top of him. Being turned into living dog food was a fitting end for a drow.
There was still one armored guy left standing. Aeryn swooped by so she could take a stab at him. Armand's sword took care of him.
All that was left to do was search the bodies and take the ears. We got the doggies off the bodies before the ears could get eaten, so we were up eight more ears. Aeryn was assuming that Lord Morn would expect us to cheat and would divide by two accordingly. Of course, since we'd only taken one ear each from the first five we found at the front door, we were going to have an odd number of ears…
The dead drow all had tabards with web designs on them. This was becoming an annoying theme. We also relieved the bodies of an assortment of silver pieces, gold pieces, platinum pieces, and jewels. We found five casks of pickled… meat. It was meat. We didn't want to know anything more than that. We found five sacks of flour and two kegs of mushroom ale. The strongbox looked more interesting. Aeryn picked the lock and found a nice pile of gold and platinum, along with a silver ewer and cups, all with spider designs.
Then we looked over the bodies. The dead drow had a mithral shirt and a (big surprise) spider shaped dagger. She also had an amulet, with a spider design. This spider fetish was going to really get to me by the time we were done down here… I didn't wear little bat earrings and I really liked bats. She also had a scroll of Invisibility Purge and a wand. We were getting good at collecting wands.
Robey guy had a rapier, a crossbow, a wand, a bottle of Haste, a bottle of Cure Serious, scrolls of Mage Armor, Rage, and Spider Climbing, a container of glittery dust, and an amulet that me and Aeryn couldn't bring ourselves to touch.
The guards had their mithral shirts, of course, plus a pair of javelins and rapiers, small black vials that smelled really bad, two potions of Haste, and two potions of Fly. Aeryn did like the idea of having a mithral shirt.
“I need to excise the spider logo,” she said.
Just how does one scrub an insignia off of mithral?
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