Part 46: There's men underground who will never see the sun, but they really know how to party
Chapter 34 - There's men underground who will never see the sun, but they really know how to party
What, exactly, are we to be ready for, Phaere? Why have you brought us out here? Is this some fool ambition of yours?
None of my ambitions are foolish, Solaufein. And we are here to perform a service for the good of the city and the Matron Mother.
I wasn't aware Mother Ardulace did anything 'for the good of the city'.
Silence! You will obey, male! An eye tyrant... a beholder... is in the city, smuggling adamantine. The Matrons have decided we are to kill it.
What is this?! Did you say 'we'?
I did. I am to join you in this duty. The eye tyrant has come on his Spelljammer ship, near here. Solaufein and I will go and scout it out, alone. Veldrin... I trust you can find your own way to the eye tyrant. It is expected to appear on one of the platforms in the southeast of Ust Natha. Do not take too long to catch up. Come, Solaufein. We can catch up on 'old times'.
And thus, it was off to kill a beholder because drow find them terrifying! God drow suck.
Concentrate all of your effort upon the eye tyrant, Veldrin. And do not bring harm to Phaere or myself... such 'accidents' happen far too often for my liking.
Hmph. Indeed... although I can -- wait! Wait, be still! It comes, I sense it! Be ready!!
Followed by really short battle!
Indeed. Well done. Do not disturb the carcass, however. There will be several acolytes coming to deal with it.
Deal with it? What do you speak of, Phaere? Why would acolytes wish to do anything with the corpse of an eye tyrant?
Ask me no questions, Solaufein. We shall return to report to the Matron Mothers. Veldrin... I will see you again in the tavern in three days.
What is going on, here, Phaere? This is too suspicious.
Do as you are commanded, male, and live. Veldrin, journey about the city at your will... but remember our meeting. Do not be late!
So, we took a quick trip around the city, and ran into this guy.
Make your case quickly, slave, I have little patience for your ilk.
I would not dream of bothering you with my own petty concern, oh great Drow. No, it is the wishes of my master that you must hear, please. I beg that you come close to the tank, that he might make contact with your mind.
Very well, though I am not accustomed to speaking through glass.
The tank is a hindrance that my master would rather do without, but it is more comfortable than the coldness of the stonework in the city. Come close to him, and he will speak to your mind. It is the way of his kind. Please do not tarry, he will announce an alarm to the city if you keep him waiting.
We had a chat with his master, the creature in the tank.
What kind of creature are you that can step through my thoughts so easily?
I am superior. That is all you need know, SURFACER! Yes, I see what you are. It is printed across your transparent mind. You will do the task I set before you, or your identity will appear in the mind of every Drow within this city. Are my thoughts clear? Good. I ask of you... I command a deed of violence. I call for a death, that I might learn more of this place. It is simple, brutal, and more suited to you than my petty servant here. Qilue... a priestess... I would learn of her faith and the power it grants. Her mind is the prize, and I would have you bring it!
Kidnap a Priestess? She will not cooperate.
I do not require her as a whole. As I said, it is her mind that I require. Kill her. Slay her in her home and temple. Retrieve her brain, and bring it to me. That is the task. That is the command I give. You will obey, or I reveal you, and you die. That is your choice.
You don't leave much room to maneuver, do you. Very well, I will do as you say.
Qilue makes her home behind the second door from the bottom in the Female Fighters' Society. Attack quickly and none will sense the deed. Return swiftly, I demand.
Note - the critter is an Aboleth, one of my favorite creatures in Dungeons and Dragons. They have some pretty awesome abilities. Also, that conversation bothers me based on the protagonist's dialogue choices - it's like they just don't notice that the aboleth told you to KILL Qilue.
Lacking any acceptable options, we charged into Qilue's house, killed her, and removed her brain. We also took Boneblade from her corpse. And so, plus one squishy trophy, we returned to the aboleth in the tank.
Thoughts enter my mind... I see their ways more clearly... I see the faith... yes... this will be most useful...
I assume we are through? I wish to leave your presence with all haste, creature.
Go, you are freed and dismissed. Your secret is your reward. I leave you to your petty concerns. Speak not of me... or you will be exposed to all...
After that little interlude, I wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone else in Ust Natha, so I went and talked with the person I had to.
So I shall be brief and send you on your way. You would like that, Solaufein, yes?
Just spit it out, if you must.
Very well. The Matron Mothers have decided the deep gnomes, the svirfneblin, have not shown enough fear of the drow as of late. So it is time to teach them a lesson. Mother Ardulace has volunteered you for this particular service.
You... you want me to kill svirfneblin?! Gnomes?! Such a minor task, and I am to waste my time on it?! I have better things to do, woman!!
You have better things to do than to serve the Queen of the Demonweb Pits? Mother Lolth, herself?
Bah! As if the Spider Queen would care what we do with the deep gnomes! Send Veldrin, if you're so interested! I'm sure he can do it without me, I assure you!
No. You will go with Veldrin. Argue again and it shall be your tongue, Solaufein. Approach the svirfneblin village in the great caverns and await a patrol. Slaughter them... and bring back proof of the deed. Return here in a few days.
But... what harm have the deep gnomes done? They are harmless, really, just miners and other types of simple folk. Perhaps a bit dour, and I never heard of one of them ever liking a turnip, but not too bad overall. Is all this really necessary?
An odd sentiment, for a drow. What would you propose? Mercy? How would that look to our true enemies? You shall do as I say without a further word.
If this is what the Matron Mother decrees, then I have little choice. I will go, now. Veldrin, catch up quickly... I expect you there without delay.
Off to slaughter deep gnomes with us.
I can handle this myself, Solaufein, if you would prefer to return to the city.
Hmmm. Perhaps I will take you up on your offer, then. Phaere enjoys making me dance, and I have no desire to comply. Are you sure you can accomplish this?
Yes, of course.
Very well, I will go. Once the deed is done, take the helmet of the leader and return to the tavern in Ust Natha... I will meet you there. Do not fail, Veldrin.
Oh, and by "slaughter deep gnomes" I mean "lie my ass off about it because they were actually, you know, nice to me".
I'm sorry, but I don't understand your tongue.
Ah... I had be thinking most drow knowing simple tongue of the stone. Let me be talking the tongue of dark ones, yes? We be greeting you, dark ones. And we be asking for your purpose this place for being. Respecting you the peace as we?
I was sent here by the drow to kill you and your patrol... but I do not wish to do that.
Most alarming, this is! Why would the dark ones be killing us? We be at peace, we is!
They feel you don't fear them enough, and want to send a message to you and their enemies.
We be fearing dark ones plenty! Always could they be all killing us, if they be wishing to! Grateful, we are, for your mercy!!
I just need some proof for them that I have done as they bid. Can I have your helmet?
My helmet? If it be saving my life, yes... here it be. We will be going, now, and telling deep lords that much bowing and scraping to dark ones is to be done, if war to be avoided is. Thanking you for your mercy, we are. May the Deep Brother be smiling on you kindly, always.
And so, we took his helmet back to Phaere. Because we totally killed him. Yeah. Not lying at all.
Hmph. Ah, yes, I am sure the gnomes were suitably impressed by our display of viciousness. No doubt they had no inkling we were capable of such a feat.
What is this? Are you losing your stomach for blood, Solaufein? The Spider Queen would be displeased to hear such, I would think.
I save my wrath for the drow's true enemies. Lolth knows this, as does the Matron Mother of my own House.
It is not for you to decide, male! I shall have your bloody heart ripped from your chest on the altar if you continue to speak!
I call your bluff, arrogant one. Act and you risk war between your House and mine. How would Mother Ardulace see that, I wonder?
It is almost worth it to silence your impudent tongue! If a Handmaiden were to see you speak to me such, she would flay you open without a second thought!
You should be so lucky, Despana bitch.
Bah! I will listen to no more! Veldrin! Meet me within my private quarters in the Female Fighter Society tower. Within one hour, Veldrin... do *not* be late.
Very well, I will be there.
Good. You, Solaufein, will wait until the Matron Mothers find another task to set you to. May it lead you to a gruesome death, worm.
Given the strict time limit, we hurried there.
You needn't look so nervous, fool. If I desired you for intimate matters, you'd be naked and sweating already. No, I need you for something else. You are aware of my relationship with Solaufein, yes? You do not need to stare at me blankly. Our animosity is open and obvious. His insolence is beyond all endurance. I cannot tolerate it further without risking my position in Lolth's hierarchy. But I also cannot take action that would be traced back to myself or my House without risking war. So you shall take action for me. You will kill Solaufein.
How do you propose I do this?
Solaufein has been given time off from his regular duties... you will find him in his quarters in the Male Fighter's Society, sulking as is his wont. He will not be expecting you... but nor will he suspect your true intentions, I imagine. He will greet you, and then you will kill him. Those of my House would be the first questioned for his death... but you, without allies of any House, can get away with his murder. Once you are done, take his... hmmm... take his piwafwi cloak and bring it back to me here. It shall make an excellent trophy. That is all. Do you understand what I ask of you, Veldrin? Telling anyone will bring death down upon yourself. I shall keep your secret if you keep mine.
I suppose I have little choice in the matter.
That is true. Ohhhh, it is not all bad, Veldrin. In Ched Nasad did you have the favor of a House's eldest daughter and the promise of riches? I think not. Go, then. You have three days to hunt down the fool and return with his cloak. Do not fail me, Veldrin.
Before we leap upon our target, my raven, at least consider the possibility that perhaps their are other choices. Perhaps we should play a game of intrigue, as well, and see what Solaufein has to say, yes?
Haer'Dalis has the best interjection there. Instead of "OH NO THIS IS EVIL DO NOT DO IT" he basically says "Eh, they're manipulating us, so let's fuck with them just because." Also, I decided to let Solaufein live based more on all the times he gives Phaere an than anything else.
Nay, we must not do this! This drow hath done us no wrong, nor is his heart black--
What does she mean?
Phaere sent me to kill you, Solaufein, but I'm not going to do it.
I see. It was only a matter of time before she acted, I suppose. No alliance of mine to any House could prevent the unseen dagger from plunging into my back. Phaere and I were... lovers once. Mother Ardulace felt Phaere cared for me in a most un-drow-like fashion and had her taken by the Handmaidens. They tortured her with tentacle rods... tortures I can only shudder at the thought of. When they were done all that remained of Phaere was her ambition. And I... I remained only as a constant reminder of her weakness. (sigh) I have been expecting this for a long time. So, then. If you are not going to kill me, what do you propose that we do?
You can join with us, Solaufein... and leave this place.
Join with you? Leave? To where, Ched Nasad? No... I can see that you do not mean that place. In fact... in fact, you are not from that place, are you? You are not drow. I should have known sooner, I think... Who are you, then? Why have you masqueraded yourself as drow?
My name is Asim, and I'm a surface human. I have been sent here to retrieve the stolen eggs of the silver dragon.
I know a little of this. The Matron Mothers claim the great silver dragon guarding the entrances to the surface elves' temple would no longer be a hindrance. In fact, it was Mother Ardulace that made that announcement. I believe she would hold the eggs you seek... but I do not know where such things would be kept. A... surface human? It explains much, including the mercy you show me now. No drow would do such, I suspect, and I shall not betray you, Asim. I cannot return to Ust Natha without endangering you... and myself. Since you are from the surface, I will tell you something I would tell no other... The Spider Queen holds no sway over my heart. I worship Lady Silverhair, Eilistraee, and like her I believe that my people have strayed from the path. I will remain in the shadows, and seek out others like me. There must be more... I am sure of it. Perhaps my people can yet be saved from themselves. Thank you, Asim... for your mercy. Perhaps one day I will stand on the surface and see the moon of my Eilistraee... Until then, farewell.
He gave us his piwafwi to "prove" his death.
Here... give it to me. "All love is foolish." You have done well, Veldrin... you have earned a place of honor in this House by serving me well. This shall not stop, naturally. First... I will speak to you alone, Veldrin.
I'm all for that!
Speak up, male. What did you say?
I'M ALL FOR THAT!
Speak up, male. I will not ask so kindly again.
I... I can't, Phaere.
What do you mean 'can't'? I command it! Why do you balk?!
Because I mean what I say... OH HELL YES I "can't"!
You... you speak of a physical disability of some kind? Surely you jest.
I... ah... yes, a disability. I'm completely unable to agree audibly or apparently explain it... ah... a eunuch?
(sigh) We shall have to solve this problem... but I have no time now. I thought you were more of a male than this, Veldrin. Bah! No matter. It is time to introduce you to the Matron Mother of House Despana, Veldrin. Mother Ardulace is anxious to see the male who has done so much for Ust Natha. You will go to the temple and meet myself and Mother Ardulace there. Do not delay, Veldrin... Mother Ardulace wishes to speak with you immediately.
Saerileth did something useful! Well, everyone will do this eventually, but since she started out at a higher level than the other characters, she did it first. She gained a high level ability!
Since it would be a while yet until Asim could summon planetars, I chose Summon Deva. It's pretty nice for paladins - it's a special ability and can be taken however many times you want, actually. Thing is, planetars are infinitely better, so the second Asim gains that spell, I'll never use this again.
Not knowing the exact circumstances of my refusal, Saerileth was happy about it. I had a strange compulsion of the same sort that made me unable to accept Phaere's offer to tell Saerileth about it all but this wasn't as strong, so I could resist it.
I am SO NOT TRANSCRIBING THAT and you had all better love me for it. Also she totally kicks it or something if the PC has sex with Phaere.
I can see him well enough, fool girl. You think I am blind? Ehhh... I see nothing special about him. What fascinates you so?
Matron, he is an excellent fighter... and he is the one that rid House Despana of its... other... problem.
*This* is that one? Illithids, eye tyrants, gnomes... and the mighty Solaufein! Are you sure? To me he looks scrawny, and there is... something... odd...
I am positive, matron, that he could prove of great use to you.
Ehhh... perhaps. Let him prove it, then, if he is to become so favored in the eyes of Despana. You, girl! You there... Veldrin, is it? Pay attention. The eye tyrant you killed coming from their so-called city. It was not the right type. I told the girl, here, which type I required and that was not the one.
But, matron, I --
Silence, girl! I'll not swallow your lies! Speak again and I'll send you into the pits of Lolth... would you like to deal with the drider again so soon, girl? Now, Veldrin... you have proven yourself as competent. This is good. House Despana needs competence, a rare commodity when one is surrounded by fools. House Despana is about to embark on the path to greatness, Veldrin. You can tie yourself tightly to us. Mother Lolth approves of the successful. But I require something rather rare to begin this path. You might acquire it for me. So I shall give you the task and see if you can earn Despana's favor. I need the blood of one of the neighbour races, Veldrin. The noble races only, and blood from one of their most powerful members. A dangerous task. Your first option is to acquire the blood of an Elder Orb, most powerful of the eye tyrants. Its blood or its eye. I bade the fool girl do this, but she failed.
The Spelljammer tyrant was supposed to be an elder, matron! I swear that is what the spies had reported! They must have exaggerated!
SILENCE!! You should have checked on it yourself, girl! Do you rely solely on this male to be your strength and your wits?!
No, matron, I do not.
Enough! Should you go after the Elder Orb, you will no doubt find one in their tunnels in the southeastern portion of the main caverns. Your other options are to gather blood from the Elder Brain of the Illithid or from a Prince of the Kuo-Toa. Either would be as difficult as the Elder Orb. The Elder Brain is guarded in the Illithid city, through the southeast caverns. An old ruin of the Kuo-Toa lies in the western caverns, ruled by a mad Prince. Go, then, Veldrin. Bring me the blood of one of these creatures. House Despana awaits your return... but do not tarry. This is my command.
I actually collected some of the blood from the Elder Brain when I was at the illithid city, earlier. Will this do?
You... you have already...? Yes. Yes, you have! I have attuned my magic to sense this blood, but I did not think to look for it on you!!
You have the blood! You have done it!! Outstanding, Veldrin!
Ahhh... the Spider Queen smiles upon us. Our gamble is not wasted, daughter. Your champion has brought us the blood that we need!!
Praise Lolth! The ritual may finally be begun! Despana will rule Ust Natha without question as the pre-eminent House!
Indeed. But we must be cautious, daughter, ever cautious. The ritual may be disturbed before it is completed. The silver one may get desperate.
You are going to seal the city, matron?
Yes. We cannot be disturbed from the outside. I shall go, now, and begin the proper preparations. This shall be a glorious day, indeed! Veldrin. You have done House Despana the greatest of services. You will be a male without equal... riches and slaves shall be yours. I shall see to it as soon as the ritual has been completed. Now is the time for you to rest, strong one... there is nothing more for you to prove to me.
Well, I am not done with him just yet. Veldrin... come to my personal apartments. I expect you to meet me there within the hour... this is not a request.
On the way back to Phaere's apartments...
Who are you?
I am Visaj, a merchant of some note within this city... although you will not have heard of me, no doubt, since you are newcomers. No matter. I notice you are well equipped with magic, among other things, so I have assumed you may be interested in purchasing an item I currently have in my possession. See this golden rope I have here? 'Tis a relic of no small power, yours for the buying... if this is of any interest to you, of course.
That depends. What does this rope do?
Well now, what this gilded rope can do and what it can be used for are separate things. A bit of explanation is necessary in order for you to understand.
Go on, then.
First, to add credibility to its value, you must know that the rope belonged to the infamous Jarlaxle, until I stole it, that is. You do know of whom I speak, yes?
Jarlaxle? No, I don't think I've heard of him.
No? That is rather odd. I thought all Drow knew of the mercenary Jarlaxle. No matter, all that you need know is that he has many potent magics in his possession. Or at least he *did*. This gilded rope once belonged to him, and from what I hear he sorely missed it during his stay in Ust Natha. Sad, really, but it's not my fault.
Sad? What is sad about it?
As the story went, Jarlaxle came on a mission for House Jae'llat, helping in a war against House Gillish. 'Twas done in an orgy of blood to please even Lolth. In the sacrifices that followed, though, the Matron of Jae'llat refused to pay Jarlaxle, saying that the service rendered to the Spider Queen should be payment enough. According to the tales, Jarlaxle simply bowed and left even as the gathered House mocked him and spread the story of his foolishness.
What does this have to do with the rope?
Jarlaxle enacted a plan of revenge... he planned on acquiring the wardstone that would allow him entrance into House Jae'llat so he could return their favor. But the wardstone was held by the ancient founder of Ust Natha, Deirex, a powerful lich residing in the mage tower. The rope was to protect Jarlaxle from Deirex's magic. I, ah, swapped the real rope with a fake, however. Jarlaxle's men were imprisoned by the lich and the rogue was laughed out of the city for the failure. This is the real rope, however... with it, you would be immune to Deirex's power and could loot the mage tower as you pleased! Consider the possibilities!
How do I know you aren't just trying to sell me some other fake rope?
I assure you it is real. The dweomer is obvious; see how it glows! And to be honest, if the rogue ever attempts to regain it, I'd rather not have it on me.
Interesting. How much are you asking for it?
Not much at all. A mere thousand gold and it's yours, my lord.
Is there no way you could charge less for it?
Very well. 500 gp, my friend... but no lower. It is a steal at that price.
Alright, I'll take it. Here you go.
Excellent, that is a relief. You should be able to enter the mage tower and be safe, though I wouldn't attack Deirex if you can avoid it. Good luck, friend.
And then, JUST outside Phaere's apartments...
We have just crushed a sect of blasphemous Ghaunadaur worshippers, but they have fled and now hold themselves against our vengeance. You will proceed to the southeastern corner of the city and eradicate them. We will allow no such heathen gods in the sight of Lolth's children!
Yes mistress! Immediately!
You will speak when asked to speak! Now go, and perform the will of Lolth! She demands!
The deva destroyed everything, Haer'Dalis was only there to let me take the screenshots.
It was an honor to serve. Thank you.
Do not presume to speak to me. Lolth calls upon you regardless of your honor! Go, you are of no more use for now.
Yeah, she wasn't very, ah, grateful. It was like she thought the city of Ust Natha could stand against us, or something. Anyway, we finally got to go see Phaere.
Archival Commentary - yeah, you can totally see me hating the mod more and more as we go along here.