“You’ve been giving us the runaround for nearly a week! Where is Angus?” That was the first thing I heard as I entered the inn. Walking into the dining area, I saw they had done some renovations. There was a single large table, with Khaliss at the far end. Arranged facing him were four drow, but that’s all I could tell from the back. Damn androgynous elves.
“I’m right here, so relax.” I said, before Khaliss could answer. The elves all turned to look at me, and surprisingly I recognized the high priestess of Lolth from my short time in Menzoberrazan. “Apologies for keeping you waiting, priestess.” I said, giving her a small bow and getting a smirk in return.
“It’s fine.” She waved away my apology, and the three males with her seemed less than amused.
“Just where have you been?” Demanded the one whose voice I had heard earlier.
“Busy doing things that don’t concern you. Now sit down and stop acting like a petulant child.” I ordered.
“Like a what?” He demanded, starting to rise. Before he could get halfway out of his chair, chains of shadow had shot out and bound him.
“Like a petulant child. I was busy, it was important, and that’s all you need to know.” I said, walking around to sit next to Khaliss. “We are here to plot our attack on Pelor. Not to fight amongst ourselves.”
“Angus has a point.” The priestess said, before the other drow could speak. “And you should know that I am in charge of this, not you. Remember your place, clanless.” She said, voice getting darker. Clanless? As a drow? This could be interesting.
“Forgive my ignorance, but I thought drow that didn’t have a clan had a rather, short life expectancy?” I asked in a curious tone.
“Indeed.” The priestess answered. “Very rarely there is a house that excels in a certain aspect. So great is their talent and knowledge, that eradication would be harmful to Menzoberrazan as a whole. When such a thing occurs, the family is spared, though they become clanless. They are allowed to live a life above that of a slave, but below those of noble families until they may remove the stain upon their history.”
“I see. Thank you, for enlightening us.” I replied. “May we know what his family is skilled at?”
“Enchantments.” The sulking drow replied. “We specialize in enchantments.”
“Good to know.” Turning back to the priestess, I continued, “So, have you worked out any portion of the plan?”
“A bit. We will start in our embassy in Ascencion. As a concession to us, we were allowed a building that is both near the gate and faces the church of Pelor. From there, we will infiltrate the church. One of the men you sacrificed has sworn himself to Lolth, and is assigned guard duty that night. We shall only need to kill one of them. I have others who are set up to circle the building with special enchantments from our clanless here. These will be placed in such a way to ensure that all noise from within is cancelled. As we leave, the embassy will provide travel via spider.”
“Ok, I like the blocking of sound, that will be incredibly useful. Can I hear more about this exit strategy? We are just going to ride out on giant spiders?”
“Yes. It is well known to the humans that daylight is too harsh for our sensitive eyes. We often have trade caravans coming and going at all hours of the night. One more will not draw undue attention. It’s just a pity that we cannot raze the building behind us.”
“I’m actually working on a way to go about that, but first I need to know a few things. How can Pelor talk to his people?”
“There are a few ways. The Pontiff can always hear him, as well as any priest in his main church.”
“And if we break the consecration on the church?”
“He will immediately know, as will any priest on location.”
“Alright. So it sounds like we need to kill every priest, then break the consecration, and destroy it after we leave.”
“Psh. As if it would be that easy.” The clanless snarked at me. “You’re just like the general, may he rot in whatever hell he finds himself in.”
“I never assumed this would be easy at all. I always assume my enemies are competent. And I’m sure Lolth is taking her pleasure in pointing out to Drul’kaath exactly why it was folly to abandon her for a lich.” The drow contigent hissed at my words.
“Hold.” The priestess said, raising a hand. The three bodyguards had started to draw weapons. “Lolth herself favors this one, and I won’t be responsible for alienating a possible ally of hers before she has had her fun. Angus, perhaps you could explain to the rest of our party here why you know the betrayer’s name and that he is in our goddess’ unmerciful embrace.”
“Simple. He was a general serving under a lich I recently killed in the desert. The Cardinal over at the temple of Thanatos told me that his soul has been passed on to Lolth.”
“Lies!” The clanless hissed.
“I’m sick of you. Here, call this a lie.” I said, sliding one of the scimitars I had gotten from the general’s body across the table. “I took this from his corpse, and still have the other.”
“Interesting. The first time we met, you gifted the drow with the Herald of the Coming Twilight’s blades. Now you have the Drul’kaath family scimitars.” Her voice had gone sultry, and she was looking at me with half lidded eyes. “I see that advice you gave me wasn’t just for show.”
“Of course not.” I said with a smirk.
“What is your price?” The clanless asked desperately. “Name it, and I will make sure my family pays it!”
“I assume this is his family’s only way back to Lolth’s good graces?”
“Indeed. And you have them in quite the bind it seems. Normally any means would be excused when obtaining the family symbols. Yet, they can’t move against you. You hold not only Lolth’s favor, but were also instrumental in the destruction of the betrayer.”
“I see. So, this family must deal with me in good faith, at least until they get the scimitars. Are you able to represent your family in negotiations?” I asked.
“I am not.” He said, hanging his head.
“Very well. We may come to an agreement for services after this issue with Pelor. Now, back to our assault. Do you have someone capable of casting silence spells upon a high level priest?”
“Excellent. Our first objective upon entering should be silencing whatever priest is on duty and slaying him. After that, send your drow assassins through the building to kill any remaining priests.”
“Does it matter how they die?”
“So long as it is silent, I don’t care. Why?”
“Because, we shall be giving much tribute to Lolth that night. These daggers are what we shall use.” She slid one down the table for me to examine.
Sacrificial spider dagger
A truly vicious dagger, the eight legs that act as a hand guard will flip around to form a cage around the heart of the sacrifice, ripping it out. Victim souls are automatically given to Lolth’s care so long as the heart is within the cage.
“Mind if I keep this?” I asked, surprising the priestess.
“Not at all. You don’t care that we are sacrificing them?”
“Nope. Thanatos has said I will be fine if I sacrifice a high priest or higher rank in the church, and you are at war with Pelor. What you do to his followers is your own concern.” That statement got a vicious smile from the priestess. “Ok, so we sacrifice the priests. Once everyone is dead, we break the consecration. What will happen with Pelor?”
“One moment.” The priestess said, bending her head in prayer. Seconds later, her head flipped up and she stared at me with incredible intensity. “Ah, my darling Angus. I haven’t had time to thank you properly for my last gift, and already you plot to sacrifice enemy priests to me? In their god’s main church? If I didn’t know any better, I would call this a marvelous courtship gift.”
“Greetings Lolth.” I said with a bow. “May I assume the general is getting a proper reeducation?”
“Indeed. There were two things he truly feared, his own mortality and my wrath. And now he must deal with both. I must say, his terror is. Hmmmm. Excuisite.” She said, licking her lips. “Ah, but we have more important matters to discuss. Dark matters, don’t we?”
“Indeed. I was wondering what actions Pelor would be able to take, should all his priests in his main church die right before its consecration is shattered?”
“Oh my, you do know how to get a girl’s heart racing. I’m sure he would be addled for a few hours from a backlash that large. When he comes to, he will be impotent. He might be able to reach a few preists if they are asleep, but dream messages tend to be garbled.”
“That is fantastic. Is there any chance of another god stepping in and helping out?”
“Hmmm. It is unlikely.”
“Thanks. One last question. What would be the best way to destroy the altar?”
“That is why my priestess is here. She has the blood of one of my pets, which is more than strong enough to get the job done. After the consecration is broken, the altar is just another stone table. Though this one happens to hide the stairs to their vault.”
“Oh? Thank you very much for the reminder. I had nearly forgotten about the vault underneath. Shall we split the contents, say sixty-forty our majority?”
“Perhaps 70-30, we get the majority of course. For all of our efforts.”
“Ah, but you are forgetting all those tasty priest sacrifices.”
“Hrmph. We are covering the escape. Sixty-forty ours.”
“Yes, but this is striking quite the major blow in your war against you enemy. Has there ever been such a blow struck? I’m sure even gods enjoy having bragging rights. Fifty-fifty split, right down the middle. We are taking the same risks, after all.”
“Very well mortal. I wish you luck on your assault. I suggest doing it the night after tomorrow. It is the winter solstice, and Pelor will already be at his weakest.”
“Perfect. Thank you for gracing us with your presence Lolth.” I said with a deep bow. Slumping in her chair, the priestess took a few heaving breaths to recover.
“Did. You get. What you needed?”
“We did, and thank you for calling your goddess. She was most helpful.”
“Good. Now, I must get some rest. When is the assault?”
“The night after tomorrow. I would suggest emptying your embassy in that city as well, as they will be looking for someone to blame.”
“Actually, we will be leaving it fully manned.” She said. “And the new ambassador will be able to answer under truth compulsion that he and his employees had absolutely no hand in what transpired.”
“Devious. I like it!” I said with a chuckle. “And I think the priestess has a great idea. Let’s all get some sleep, and we can make major preparations tomorrow.” Khaliss had placed his hand on my arm before I got up, so we watched as the drow headed upstairs and to bed.
“We need to make sure there are no possible spies in the city.”
“I know. I told Inkler to amuse the elf, and that she had to leave at sundown. Perhaps the captain of the guard should be there to enforce this?”
“A good idea.” Getting up, we headed outside. I had a general sense of where Inkler was, and we followed it around a few times before ending up in the market area. The glutton was sniffing at each stall, begging for treats at any one that smelled good.
“Inkler, I do believe you’ve had enough for one day.” I said as we walked up. “Thank miss elf for entertaining you for the afternoon.”
“Oh, it was no trouble at all!” She replied chipperly. “He’s just so adorable when he chases that red dot. Just like my own cats.”
“Well, either way thank you for entertaining him. He deserved a reward for all his hard work recently. Though I am sad to say, we are going to have to part ways. Due to some dignitaries arriving shortly, we are requiring all non monster adventurers to leave the city and surrounding areas.”
“Oh, that’s fine. Inkler, I hope we get to play again sometime soon.” She said, giving him one last hug before bouncing away down the street.
“I don’t believe I will ever understand you adventurers.” Khaliss said while shaking his head. “She treats one of the most feared ambush hunters as a common housecat.”
“You must remember that most of our lives don’t have nearly the same amount of danger as what we face out in the wilds here.”
“It must be nice.” I could hear the longing in his voice. “Now, you really should tell me what you have done with Inkler, and how did he end up with armored plates?”
“Tell you what. Let’s head back to my house, and on the way I’ll fill you in on our adventures in the desert.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Ahoyhoy!” Jon cheered as I made my way through the café. “Y’all got a nice city going on there.”
“Thanks. I wish I had some hand in the design of it, but all I did was provide an evolution material.”
“So, Derrick informed us that you had a plan?” Phoebe asked.
“Yeah. Tomorrow, we are going to do a massive day of prep. At the end of the day, anyone who is going on the mission will need to ride three hours via spiderback to Ascencion before logging off. The night after that is when we strike.”
“You don’t think monsters will be noticeable?”
“I’ve got a disguise cloak for myself, so I’ll be fine. I think we might be able to get you guys something as well if you want.”
“Naw. I’m not big on assaulting churches.” Jon said. “Any chance we could be added to the party? If nothing else, party chat could be incredibly useful.”
“I hope we can do it, depends on what the devs have set up for us. I thought you were at max level?”
“Three low. Phoebe is the only one who is at max, but she hasn’t found an evolution material yet.”
“That’s ok. Hopefully when we finish this it’ll let everyone use the same material.”
“So how are you holding up?” Phoebe asked. She clarified when I raised an eyebrow. “You just went on a fairly long quest, and haven’t really had time to process the loss of your innkeeper.”
“It’s still a bit rough.” I said honestly. “Never thought that I would connect with an NPC like I did. I never did with my previous characters.”
“It’s the lack of other players.” Derrick pointed out. “I’ve even made a few good friends with the giants.”
“I don’t know about that.” Jon said thoughtfully. “I think they might have given the NPCs a better AI. Even the children have unique personalities. I think a lot of the NPCs that have higher interaction with multiple adventurers also tend to be a little flat.”
“You would too, if everyone you saw kept asking for the same quests day after day. That has to be mind numbingly boring.” Phoebe pointed out.
“Which is perfect for a lower level AI.” Jon countered. “Seriously, if six different responses can get you through 95% of encounters, you need a minimal program to do what it needs to finish.”
“Good point.” I said around a mouthful of chicken. I dug back in to the bucket of fried deliciousness.
“Seriously? Your last meal is gonna be fried chicken?” Derrick asked incredulously.
“Nope. This ain’t gonna be my last meal. We’re gonna come out on top after this.”
“Gotta love the confidence.” Phoebe said.
“Of course. Look, we’ve been unstoppable ever since we hit our evolutions. And that was fighting alone. It would almost take a raid to take us down as we are in a group. Now add in that this is going to be a surprise attack, while everyone is distracted by the new desert quests.”
“I forgot about that.” Jon chuckled. “Did you by chance name a group recently Marty? Something along the lines of ‘Notice me Senpai!’?”
“Well, I couldn’t just say that I did it alone.” After that admission, the talk devolved into mad capers we had gotten into in the past. Phoebe had gone from town to town selling a hair product that turned the user’s hair bright pink after three days. Jon had gotten stuck in a slime dungeon, but was massively underleveled. By the time he finally figured out all of the attack patterns, his gear had all been destroyed. Imagine the horror a group saw as they came to a normal dungeon, only to have a nearly naked man come running out of it screaming about freedom. Though Derrick’s took the cake. One of his more famous pranks when he was running a thief was to break into wherever the city’s ruler was living, steal their underwear, and fly it from the flagpoles in town. With a much lighter heart, I headed off to bed. Tomorrow would make or break our preparations.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.