Part 45: In Which Minsc and Haer'Dalis Get Solo Quests
Chapter 33 - In Which Minsc and Haer'Dalis Get Solo Quests
I swear, something must have been faulty with that damn spell, because Vithal could recognize us as well.
I have found your book of rituals. Here, have it back.
Thank you. This will prove a profitable venture yet, I assure you. Now, to the dangerous bit. There will be three gates I must enter. There will be a guardian in each, and it will not be pleased to see us. I will lure each one through in turn. Be ready with your defenses.
A guardian? What kind of guardian? Whose treasure is this that you seek?
I do not know the nature of the guardians, nor who placed them there. I imagine the place was a safehold of a mage from ancient times, but I cannot be sure.. Curiosity has driven me crazy to find out what is there. I regret placing you in harm's way, but I cannot fight the creature while maintaining the spell. I will pay you well with a share of what I find, I assure you.
Then perform your rituals, I am ready!
Very well. Let the walls between dimensions yield to me! Let the ether be made solid, that a mortal man may pass!
That more or less repeated twice, the main difference being that instead of a Greater Earth Elemental, it was Greater Fire and Air Elementals, respectively.
There, I trust you will be satisfied with this potent item. I have only taken a brief look at it, but I am sure it is worth the pains we took. A small portion of the whole amount, but worthy of your service.
That's it? Some simple rod, with ONLY ONE CHARGE LEFT? After the risk I took?
I believe that I took the majority of the risk in this instance. I was the one that traversed the planes, you know. Still, if you are so insistent I suppose that I could up your reward a bit more, though I reserve the right to take the majority for myself. There, a couple of the spell scrolls that were there. That must suffice, as I will give no more.
I think I deserve it all. Hand it over or I will be forced to take it from you.
I expected as much from a stranger in the Underdark. Very well, let us raise our weapons and spells and settle our feud. I regret it has come to this.
...What? He WAS evil. Detect Evil said so. Between his corpse and what he gave us, we obtained the Skull of Death, scrolls of Time Stop, Incendiary Cloud, and Wail of the Banshee, as well as an almost completely drained Rod of Absorption.
With that little loose end tied up, we headed to the drow city of Ust Natha.
Intruders will be killed where they stand! Speak your purpose!
I am Veldrin, from the city of Ched Nasad.
My apologies, I merely follow my duty in questioning you. You are welcome to pass, Veldrin of Ched Nasad. There would normally be an extensive questioning of you, but we were expecting your group from Ched Nasad. Your late arrival has delayed the plans of Solaufein. Enter quickly, and be sure that you seek Solaufein's counsel. He of the Male Fighter's Society will instruct you on your conduct within Ust Natha. Be aware that your welcome is conditional, and that if you fail to meet with him or fail him in any other way, you will be hunted for sport by all that care to join in. The Male Fighter's Society is in the North end of the city, past the Female Fighter's Society and just before the Spider pit.
Once inside, we witnessed this little exchange.
From the drow merchants I purchased Kaligun's Amulet of Magic Resistance as well as a Rod of Smiting.
Judging by the half of the conversation I was able to hear, I surmised that relations between the drow and the illithid were... strained. Perhaps something to do with the illithid now lacking a master brain?
Something about the unforgivable depravity of the drow goes here, I guess.
Why do you chase her?
She was captured on a raid. I enjoy the chase before death. She may even believe that she has a chance. Hah!
(lie) Well then, she went that way.
Excellent. She'll taste pain soon!
After that, I finally made it to Solaufein.
There is no 'refuge' to be had in Ust Natha, fools. We pay for our existence here with blood and you shall do the same. My name is Solaufein, and for now you shall do as I say to prove your worth to the Matron Mothers. Failure is death. And just because there are females with you, do not think to challenge me. You are foreigners... no better than slaves until the Matron Mothers say otherwise. Pfeh! I suppose I should get your shepherding underway. Have you a name, vagrant? Or shall I simply refer to you as the male?
The name is Veldrin, and I demand the respect I am due!
Hah! You shall get none from me, regardless of your achievements in Ched Nasad! But your spirit may serve you well in Ust Natha, if you know when to show it. No matter. One of the Matron Mothers has taken an interest in your arrival and wishes to avail herself of your skills. She has sent a Handmaiden to speak with you at the entrance platform to the city. I shall be there, no doubt, to herd you on your mission like a nursing mother. I will go to seek her out now. If you are intelligent, you will go to the entrance platform quickly. The Handmaidens are notoriously impatient.
Since there was nothing else to do, and the magic seemed rather faulty to me, we made haste to the platform.
As I said, a Matron Mother has designated a task for us. Imrae, favored of Lolth, this is the traveler from Ched Nasad who might be of great use.
Your story has been verified so far, Veldrin of Ched Nasad, and that is why you have not been sold as a lowly slave or made an amusement in the tavern... but you still have no place, here! You are fortunate, indeed, that many of our finest warriors are busy with... preparations. Elsewhere. Fortunate enough that a Matron Mother has decided to make use of you. Cling to that sole hope, worms, and do not fail the Matron Mother... for if you do, the horrors of your punishment shall be far more terrible than had we beset you at the gate! Explain what has occurred, Solaufein. And be quick about it, male, for the Spider Queen demands my attention.
At once, Handmaiden. If I were to speak to you of the devourers, Veldrin... you would know what of I speak, yes?
You mean the illithid? Yes, I know what they are.
Yes, I believe that is the name they call themselves... very intelligent of you. The psions have long been one of our fiercest enemies. A Matron Mother's eldest daughter ran afoul of devourers while scouting. Her fool companions fled or were slaughtered, and she was taken captive. They know a prize when they have one, the devourers. They will bring the daughter to their city, and should they reach it she shall be lost forever. With the... preparations... of the armies, we are the only ones who can intercept these devourers. We must go to their cavern entrance and wait for them. Handmaiden Imrae has given me a blessed item of Lolth that will pull the devourers from their astral travel there... and it is there we must pounce. The Matron Mother has no desire to see her eldest daughter become a snack for the devourers, so we must not fail! Do you understand, Veldrin?
I am to meet you at the entrance to the illithid caverns and ambush some illithid who have a Matron Mother's daughter captive.
Exactly. The illithid tunnels are in the southeast portion of the main Underdark cavern. I will be scouting and you will find me there when you arrive. We do not expect the illithids for some time, yet, so you have the opportunity to rest and resupply yourself, if that is what you wish to do. You must meet me at the entrance to the illithid tunnels within the next twelve hours, no more. Do not be late.
Indeed. There are many exquisite horrors that may be found for you in the Demonweb Pits, should you fail. And if you decide to run, the driders will eventually track you down. As for you, Solaufein... the Matron Mother expects even better from you. Report to the temple before you leave the city.
As... as you wish, Handmaiden.
Along the way to where we were to meet Solaufein, we encountered an odd adventuring party.
Well, I say "we" and "encountered". I should say "I" and "nuked with magic". One of them had a halberd, Dragon's Breath.
But your timing could not be better. I sense that the illithids will come within range, soon, and I may safely pull them out of the astral plane. Have you a question before the battle, Veldrin? Make it quick.
No, no questions.
As you wish. Do not hesitate to strike the illithids when they come and you shall please both I and the Matron Mother. But enough talk. I sense the illithids' approach. Wait and I shall bring them out of the astral plane when they come close.
(I was, and still am, quite mystified as to why the hell the illithid would try to go back to that city, being that I kind of, uhh, wiped it clean of all life.)
Greetings, Phaere, daughter of Ardulace. I trust you are uninjured?
Who is that? Solaufein? So... Matron Mother sent you, did she? How that must gall you, risking your life to save mine.
I did as I was commanded.
Yes, you did... as any male should. You have done well enough, I suppose, you and your... assistants. Hmmmn... who is this male with you?
That one? That is --
I am sure he can speak for himself, male. Am I correct? You have a tongue, yes? Who might you be?
I am Veldrin of Ched Nasad.
Indeed? A foreigner? How very odd. We shall have to speak more, you and I, once we are back in Ust Natha. I shall head back to the city on my own and inform the Matron Mother of your... successful service, Solaufein. You have proven useful. You should be grateful.
You are going to return on your own? No! What if you encounter danger once again?! I shall not be responsible for --
I appreciate your touching 'concern', but I can handle myself, Solaufein. And it is my command, so you have no choice. Farewell.
I shall follow her, to ensure her over-confidence does not endanger us all. Return to the city on your own, Veldrin. I shall meet you at the city's entrance.
Minsc fell during the battle to the intelligence draining powers of the illithid. They drain 5 INT per hit and it is fatal to have a statistic reach 0 (or lower). Minsc has 8 INT, so he dies in two hits. It's really fucking annoying.
After that, it was back to Ust Natha with us.
Yes. The daughter of the Matron Mother is safely returned. You have done an excellent service. I am told the Matron Mother is pleased. Phaere has also sent a command to you which must not be ignored. You are to meet her in the tavern here in the city. She wishes to speak with you, although I cannot help but wonder why. She asks for you, too, Solaufein. You are all to rest and relax in the tavern as a... reward... for your service.
But, Handmaiden, I have no wish to --
Do you wish to earn punishment a second time, male? You shall do as she says. She shall see all of you at the tavern within a day's time, no more. That is all.
We went to the tavern - Minsc headed over to the fighting arena.
You seem a hardy type. There are several dread beasts that have been captured and await your death-blow, if you dare. You are a Nasadran, yes? Recently arrived? I have heard of you. There are many, here, who would desire to see if you fight as well as they say. Of course, if you are pale and cowardly, you need not make the attempt. The Spider Queen, however, respects only those who are strong.
Very well... I'll fight in your pit, Szordrin.
It is gratifying to see such steel in you, male. You shall first battle an umber hulk, a creature of not-inconsiderable size. It is... angry. I shall open the gate for you now. Go in quickly. If you survive, come and speak to me once you are done for your reward. Go, then! For Mother Lolth!
Minsc vs Umber Hulk. Yeah, there was only one way that could have ended.
Here is the reward. Now... should you wish to continue to show your prowess, there is another slave who awaits bloodletting at your hands, male... A dreaded Nabassu of the lower planes... captured by the Handmaidens for crossing a Matron Mother and sent to fight in the pits. What say you, male?
Yes, I will fight the Nabassu in your pit.
Very well! I shall alert the tavern that a glorious battle is about to begin! Prepare yourself, male... the gate will only open a short time.
Haer'Dalis, do you know of any way someone could get a nabassu to be their slave?
Yeah, I figured this guy was full of crap.
You have defeated the Nabassu? Praise to you, male! We were very entertained by your struggle... here is 500 gp for your display. Dare you continue? There is a prince amongst the shark-fiends... the ones called 'sahuagin'. A strong one captured with difficulty during a raid on their city. It is a strong fighter, this one... but then so are you. Perhaps you will succeed where others have failed. What do you say, male?
I'll do it. Open up the gate, Szordrin.
Very well! I shall alert the tavern that a glorious battle is about to begin! Prepare yourself, male... the gate will only open a short time.
You have proven yourself amongst us, male. For such a show, I give you 750 gp. Take it and know you are worthy of Lolth's favor. There is no need to continue. The, ah... the only slave left is one nobody has been able to defeat. It would be a waste to see you killed by such, male.
What slave is that? What type of creature?
It is... an eye tyrant, male, nemesis of the Underdark. Captured four years ago by a party of vengeful drow, and it has never been defeated in the pits. It has many deadly powers. Only the bravest warriors have dared it, and have died. There is no need to fight, male... unless you wish to...
I'll fight it, Szordrin. Open up the gate.
You are sure? Excellent! ATTENTION ALL: a most BRAVE drow male has agreed to take on the most horrid of our battle slaves!! The fearsome EYE TYRANT!! I shall open up the gate for you... move quickly, as I will not keep them open long. Lolth's favor to you, male!
Hey, remember this thing?
Yeah. Victory was assured.
I see now why the House Despana shows you such attentions. Despite being Nasadran, a male of your potency would be a worthy addition to any House! Unfortunately there are no other battle slaves in my pen... none a worthy foe for you. Perhaps if you return at another time, I'll see what I can collect, yes?
Fine. I'll be on my way, then.
As you desire, male. May the Mother Lolth smile upon your path.
Haer'Dalis then headed over to the other fighting pit located in the tavern.
A well respected male such as yourself will know that the only opponent worthy of the Drow is another Drow. I provide the opportunity. The current match is just beginning. It will be an inspiring display of skill on the part of our most illustrious competitor.
Very well, let me see this duel of yours.
Excellent, I will signal the combatants and have them commence their efforts. It will be a grand show. If I might have everyone's attention! If I may, with the permissions of our most distinguished females, and the interest of our most hardy males, might I draw your attentions to the pit at the fore! The pride of the males of the First House, master of blades Lasaonar, is here to prove his ability to us all. He has accepted an... unusual challenge. Four members of the Male Fighters' Society have answered a slanderous comment with demands for blood. Lasaonar has shown his contempt by facing them all at once! Watch now, and all concerned will place their lives in the pit, and their fates in their blades! As always, the victor may lay claim to all of the vanquished's equipment.
It is a scripted victory for Lasaonar so I kind of hurried things along with ctrl+y because I am impatient that way.
You were obviously their superior in both age and skill. Do you gloat over children?
What? Who slanders me! Step into the pit if you think yourself better than I!
I believe there has been a challenge. Do you accept? I will allow time to prepare if need be. We would want both sides at their best. Be forewarned that this will be a one on one affair. I will allow no more lopsided slaughters.
Haer'Dalis shall face him now.
As you wish! Attention! We are to have another challenge immediately! Haer'Dalis will now enter the arena and face Lasaonar.
Haer'Dalis can cast Stoneskin. This made Lasaonar a pushover for him.
I yield. You have proven the better combatant this day. I... I yield the victory. My sword is yours, I no longer deserve it.
Lasaonar gave his sword to Haer'Dalis. Chalinthra, a female of some note in the First House, was not pleased with Haer'Dalis defeating her prized warrior.
I thank you. I take great pride in my ability.
I can see that. You will have ample opportunity to test it as well. Lasaonar is my favorite male and his honor is of value to the First House. Speak with Sondal when you are ready to face me. You have a debt of honor to pay.
Then I will answer that challenge.
You may again choose who shall answer the challenge. Are you ready to do so now?
Haer'Dalis shall face him now.
Haer'Dalis faces Chalinthra! Attention all!
Haer'Dalis eviscerated her. After that, it was my turn to do some battles. Magely battles.
I thank you. Are there any more challenges?
If you are willing, I have a mage that wishes to further his status in the pit. If you have a mage of your own you may face him.
Tell him that Veldrin stands ready.
Veldrin, in you go. Attention! A wizard's duel is next in the pit! Mage versus mage!
My magic was stronger than any of the three mages I fought. After that, there was no one left for us to fight in the arenas, so I talked to Phaere.
Ah. I must have been invisible and uninvolved during that encounter, I see.
I was speaking to Veldrin, Solaufein. When I speak to you, it shall be to command you to lick my boot. Keep your bitterness silent or lose your tongue. Now, ignore your emasculated commander's outburst, Veldrin, and consider this a time for reward and enjoyment. Mother Ardulace was pleased by your performance. Solaufein's abilities are known to her, but she was delighted to learn you are such a powerful fighter. Ust Natha could use such as you, Veldrin. Amongst the drow, only the strong survive... You could have slaves at your beck and call, rewards at your fingertips... the favor of Lolth. How does this sound?
What's the catch?
The catch is that you have to earn that favor, Veldrin. Favor and comforts are not given out lightly... they must be purchased with blood and sacrifice.
Why don't you go ahead and carve out his heart now, Phaere? You will get to that part eventually, won't you?
Silence! Not all drow forget that sometimes a reward is worth spending a part of yourself... or everything. It is a lesson you would do well to re-learn. Seeing as you are so capable, Veldrin, you and Solaufein have been given another task to complete for the greater glory of Lolth. You will meet me on the city platform, away from curious ears. But not right away... rest and amuse yourselves for a time. I shall be here awhile. After I leave take no longer than a few days before you meet with me on the platform. This is as the Matron Mother commands, and so shall it be.
And so, I mingled with the rest of the drow in the tavern and listened to some interesting stories. One quite awesome, actually. I save it for last.
This fellow didn't have much to say, since he'd only done one thing in his entire life, it seemed.
We drow gather to tell tales of our conquests on the surface. Or dark stories of our past. It is tradition in Ust Natha, this place that was the first.
Do you have any tales to tell?
I have few accomplishments yet, male. I completed the Blooding but a year ago, when I made a long voyage to the surface with two brothers. It is a blinding and foul place, the surface... my brothers and I found one of the surface elves, however. A female, pale and delightful to look upon. She was almost too easily slaughtered. We were hunted by elven patrols, and my brothers were murdered, but I carried the head of the female back to the Underdark. It was considered a fine trophy for a Blooding. My matron was pleased, and has sponsored my entry into the Male Fighter Society next year.
Any other tales you could tell me?
No, not really. I came here more to hear the others speak, myself.
This guy had a story in the same vein as the previous, though full of much more blood and .
Tell me something of Ust Natha's history, then.
Something of the city's history, eh? Yes, I suppose you would know nothing of it, ignorant lout. Do you even know of the part Ust Natha played in the Scattering?
Bah! Are you completely devoid of sense?! Your house-mother should be flayed alive for her neglect of your instruction! When the magical battles caused the collapse of Bhaerynden, the great cavern once held by the dwarves, most drow were crushed. Only the favored survived. Groups of drow fled the rubble in every direction, seeking new holds to establish their power, set upon by our enemies. *That* was the Scattering, fool. Ust Natha was untouched by the great war, and hordes of drow came to our walls for protection. Devourers and eye tyrants followed, seeking to eradicate them. For one century, our enemies waged constant war upon us. The walls of Ust Natha held, however... and we pushed our enemies back in a merciless victory. Many of the drow then left Ust Natha to find larger living spaces, more resources to plunder... establishing your beloved Ched Nasad, amongst other places. There would be no Ched Nasad, were it not for the walls of Ust Natha. *That* is the part Ust Natha played in the Scattering. Do not forget it.
What about your own feats?
I have slaughtered many in my time, male, so do not ask such a question as if I have not. I am as battle-hardened as any in the fighter societies. I took part in a glorious Running one hundred years ago, when a cavern leading to the surface was found. I helped raid the communities during the hunt. Many pathetic humans fell to our blades in that Running, in memory of Ust Natha. I stumbled into a village of the sub-race known as 'halflings'. The diminutive worms scattered! I hunted them all -- I have their tiny skulls to this day. The Running lasted a week before the humans marshaled their defenses. The humans collapsed the tunnel, but one day we shall find another... and I pray to again be amongst the drow who will take part in the Running!
Can I ask you about something else?
I'll tell my own tales as I wish, and I'll not be prompted by you. If you want to ask insipid questions, go bother someone else!
I'll do that.
Yes, you do that. Go.
From this guy, we learned some gossip about Phaere and Solaufein, as well as an old legend concerning Adalon.
Do you have any tales of your own?
I have many tales of my past, but I have told them so often I do not care to repeat my words. Let the younger drow boast and beat their chests as they wish.
Can I ask you some questions, then?
Go ahead and ask if you need to know something. I suppose I am old enough that I can sit still and answer a query or two.
Do you know anything of Phaere or Solaufein?
Hmmn? Oh, yes... the daughter of House Despana and the commander of the Male Fighter Society. Oh, yes, indeed... there is a history there if you have not heard it from elsewhere. It is said that the daughter Phaere held this Solaufein in high esteem, once. And not merely as a personal male, as Lolth decrees... she did not use him and cast him off as is a female's wont. It is said that Phaere held feelings for the commander that were most un-drow-like, indeed. The Matron Mother of the Despana was greatly displeased by her daughter's weakness. What was done then, who knows? It is obvious they hold no regard for each other, now. Indeed, the commander would be a drider were it not for his position and favor in another House of great rank. Go ahead and ask if you need to know something. I suppose I am old enough that I can sit still and answer a query or two.
Do you know anything of dragons in the area?
Hm. I know of only one dragon that inhabits the near caverns of the Underdark, and that is the ancient silver beast, Adalon... she who was sent by our surface cousins to guard the old passages.
Yes, that one... what can you tell me about her?
It is said that the silver dragon once had a mate, long ago... a mate who was captured by our people when we were still dwellers of the southern reaches. The heart of her mate was ripped from its body whole, as I hear. The Queen of the Drow used its heart in a ceremony of great darkness, one that angered an old, pale god of the surface elves... I know not which one. Does it matter? When we were driven beneath the surface, sentenced by our fiendish cousins, their god made a pact with Adalon. In return for her vow to guard the old passages to the surface, he would give her what she desired most. At a time of her choosing, when she had grown old, Adalon could call on the god and he would grant her children... eggs that would be made real by the soul of her lost dragon love. Or so the story goes. I hold little truck with it, myself... but, then, I would never venture into those old passages just in case the tales of her presence are true.
Is there any news more recent? Perhaps you've heard of her eggs?
Well... I have heard the passages to the surface are open once more. At least the Matron Mothers certainly believe so, gathering their armies as they are. Perhaps Adalon is dead, I know not. Go ahead and ask if you need to know something. I suppose I am old enough that I can sit still and answer a query or two.
I'll be going, now.
As you wish, male. On your way, then.
This guy... This guy didn't like me. At all.
I have sawn the tentacles from the face of devourers, pried the teeth from the mouth of human babes and plunged daggers into the very eye of an eye tyrant... but these tales are worth too much to share with you. Begone! Share your foul presence with another, male.
And this guy was just full of awesome things to say.
I have a tale for you, if you're interested. Something my house-mother once told me, in fact. If you're of a mind, that is...
Sure, I'd like to hear it.
Excellent! Hah! My tale... my tale begins long ago, when our people first descended into the great depths and dark caverns. During a day when our homes were not carved out of stone and clay. Drow homes were made of twigs and black grasses, grass that many had brought with them into the Underdark. There were few homes, of course, but the largest belonged to the first Matriarch. The Matriarch led the early hordes of drow, helping them to survive in hostile lands. She was powerful, potent and cunning... a great boon to her people, who admired her greatly. To honor her, a group of drow set upon the shark-fiends and stole the stone throne of their King, to secretly present to the Matriarch as a trophy. They stowed it in the grass rafters of her Hall. The Matriarch arrived in her Hall and the drow warriors went to retrieve the throne, but much to their horror its weight caused it to fall through the grass rafters and crush the Matriarch below. It is a sad, sad tale of our early travails in this dark place... and it holds a moral, as well. Can you think of the moral, male?
Hmmn. Don't stow thrones in grass houses?
Yes! Yes!! That's it exactly!!
Imbecile! How dare you tell such a moronic lie about the history of our people! Lolth will sentence you to an eternity of poisoned agony for such madness!!
Bah! The Spider Queen has no sense of humour! Now, Vhaeraun, on the other hand...
You dare?! I shall kill you in the name of the Mother of all Drow, fool!! He is mine... no one interfere!
Unfortunately, the jerk drow won.
He pretty much always does. There are things to happen if he loses, but he has 60 HP versus Merind's 48 so this is really pretty rare, considering the fact that they tend to do around 6-8 damage to each other.
After that, we headed upstairs to see what was there. Some drow taunting other drow, something about House DeVir.
And this guy with his weird machine.
Such a marvelous magic!! Hahahaaaa-haha!! Here... I shall show you how it works! Who is the unlucky slave to be today, hmmmn?
Yes, I want to see another slave explode!
Two problems with this - one, and this is an issue I have with the game, how the hell does this affect your reputation? You're in a drow city. You look like a drow. Everyone thinks you're someone else entirely. What the FUCK? Also, Saerileth has nothing to say about this. At all. In fact, and I found this funny as all hell, she actually said her "pleased with the party's reputation" line after I did it and lost reputation, for the same reason that evil characters leave if your reputation drops from 20 to 19 - it was just a change TO a level she liked, no matter where it started. But I found it funny as hell that the preachy paladin said "it is good to journey in such company as this" after I made a slave explode.
In other news, every update up through the end of Shadows of Amn is written and ready to post, but I will want a new page before I start that because this one's looking a little unfriendly to some browsers.