The Fade Giveth, The Fade Taketh: Episode 10 What Lies Beneath

(I don’t own some of what you’re about to read, and other parts have been created by my players, but if you’d like to read the saga from the party’s first adventure, click here.)

The citizens of Phandalin approached the dwarfen fortress, with nearly twenty percent of their numbers lost. The war parties — goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, and even orcs — had fallen on them in the early morning just hours before they were to head out for Axeholme.

Most of the sell-swords had earned their money the hard way, losing their lives in the process, but their sacrifice allowed the surviving citizens to retreat toward the mountains to safety.

The sounds of the chaos as the small town of Phandalin fell to fire and sword followed their escape.

Qelline Alderleaf guided her wagon, trying her best to avoid any bumps and divets in her path, but it was a painful chore traveling cross-country as they were. Still, the soft moans she heard from within the covered wagon served as answered prayers nonetheless.

It meant that her boy was still alive.

Carp turned in fitful sleep inside the wagon. The dream root tea that Sister Garaele had made for him as they traveled seemed to be working. But his burns were terrible. The fire had done its work well.

Lily sat cuddled in the corner, watching over her friend and clutching her dagger. The fire had been everywhere in the barn. No matter where the children turned, there was no escaping it, it seemed. But Carp had tunnels dug underground. He’d shoved Lily into one just as the roof of the barn fell.

Now Lily couldn’t even stand the sight of a campfire. Every fear she’d gathered from the nightmare scenarios she’d been traveling in now compounded in the smallest open flame.

She feared the fire above all else. Sticking to the shadows of the wagon, even in the light of day.

Finally, a weary cheer rose up among the company as Axeholme came into sight.

When news of Carp’s condition reached Vigo, he turned to sneak off into the fortress without a word to anyone.

* * *

Too many things had taken root in Kir’thiri’s mind of late, all screaming for her attention. But with the arrival of the refugees from Phandalin, she could focus on something outside of herself. People needed settling, and those who would be willing to stand in defense once she and her friends left would need to know Axeholme’s kill zones.

As accommodations were pointed out, and the people settled into their new living quarters, the questions she’d been trying to avoid since setting out for Axeholme started to assert themselves once more.

“How could I have been missing for decades?! Elyra said that Ry’ven searched for me, but I never left the High Forest! Ry’ven spoke of me to her. How was I described? She knew my name, but she couldn’t have known my face given that when I last saw Ry’ven, I didn’t look as I do now. What if Ry’ven has seen me since I left the High Forest but didn’t recognize me?”

The questions made Kir’thiri’s head spin, and she wasn’t sure if Elyra would even know any of the answers if she asked her. She wandered into a quieter part of the fortress, pulled her cloak around herself, and slid to the floor in the corner.

Kir’thiri found unexpected comfort sitting shrouded in the darkness with a view to the bustling goings-on of people not trapped in an unexpected identity crisis. She tried to steel herself toward this news of her questionable past, swearing that it would not affect who she was becoming, whoever that person might be.

Suddenly Kir’thiri wished she could talk to her mother. The memory of her mother’s blank stare as it turned into veiled distrust was more than Kir’thiri’s rattled nerves could take, though, and she began to sob. She pulled the hood of her cloak entirely over her face, becoming a slightly shaking dark gray heap. Ry’ven’s training kept her from being heard over the background noises of the fortress as she cried.

* * *

Vigo sat in the small antechamber and closed his eyes. The news of Carp had hit him hard and brought about desperate ideas. The type of ideas that bring about deal-making. Within seconds he was focusing his mind on Hyrsam.

“Prince, let’s make a bargain.”

“Indeed?” Vigo was familiar with the wildness in his patron’s disembodied voice.

“Hyrsam, I want you to heal the boy named Carp,” Vigo stuttered a little at first but evened out as he went. “I also want you to give him a protector. One that is loyal to him and will abide by the laws of the Material Plane. Send him a blink dog. The best one that you can find.

“In exchange for the boy’s health and this stalwart companion, I offer a memory of my father teaching me to fish. This memory holds one of the only times my father openly spoke about how much he loved me. This deal will drive me closer to you and further from him, further from Torm.

“I know I am not one to threaten you. You know what my heart wants, and if you sully this bargain with tricks or loopholes, I will turn to Torm as though I never knew your name. What say you, Prince of Fools?”

Hyrsam’s voice was silent in Vigo’s mind for a long while. So much so that Vigo began to think that Hyrsam had been offended by the deal.

Finally, though, Hyrsam responded.

“That is too much mischievousness, giving a boy so young that kind of power, even for me! But I like how you think, Vigo! The cut of your gib, as it were.”

A huge smile returned to the sound of Hyrsam’s voice.

“Tell you what I’ll do,” the sound of knuckles cracking entered Vigo’s mind. “I’ll heal the boy, right here immediately, if you’ll sneak off and away from your party. Now. Not for long — three or four hours at the longest — and nothing that would put you in danger. But alone.

Those are my terms, boy. Going once! Going twice!”

Within minutes, Vigo snuck back out into the hall and the darkness.

* * *

As the wagons pulled to a stop outside of the gate, people on foot walked past into the fortress. Lily hopped out of the Alderleaf wagon in a hurry.

“Qelline, come quick!” the little girl yelled, finally finding her voice in her excitement. “It’s Carp! He’s awake!”

Qelline jumped from the driver’s seat of the wagon and came around to the rear just as Carp flipped back the cover’s flap. “M-mom?” the young halfling asked, squinting in the morning sunlight.

“How can it be?” Qelline said, asking the heavens as she ran her slender hand down her young boy’s flawless face.

“Is everything alright?” Ben asked as he approached the wagon.

Lily ran up and stood before him; her eyes welling with tears that she refused to cry.

“I couldn’t protect him,” she said, staring up into Ben’s face, her too-small hands gripping the large dagger she was holding tightly. “I didn’t do good.”

Ben knelt before the little girl and put his hands on both of her shoulders.

“You did quite well, little one,” the fighter explained. “You got them here.”

Lily did start crying then and hugged Ben with a squeeze.

“I’m okay, mom,” Carp was saying from the back of the wagon as Qelline kept checking him over between hugs and kisses of her own. “Do we have any food?”

Ben walked over to investigate as Lily coaxed Carp out of the wagon.

“H-he,” Qelline stammered as she cried quietly. “He was burned. His little body was –,” but the halfling found she couldn’t relive the incident just then.

“Is there a healer among you?” Ben asked, looking around at the misplaced mining community that made its way past them and into Axeholme. “Maybe someone who cast some magic?”

Qelline could offer no answers.

* * *

“Are you going to be okay?” came a voice from the darkness that Kir’thiri immediately recognized.

“Sure, fine.” the gnome ranger said, though she kept her chin on her knees and didn’t lower her cloak. But the small exchange was all she needed to start unloading her problems onto the half-elf.

“And I’ve got to look to these people,” Kir’thiri finished, out of breath. “I don’t have a choice.”

“Oh, ivae nys,” Elyra said through a small smile, “there’s always a choice.”

“What do you mean?” Kir’thiri said. She didn’t know what language Elyra just spoke, but she still knew how the half-elf was going to answer.

“We can leave, you and I.” Elyra continued. “You’ve done your moral duty to these people. Their safety is their own at this point. What’s to stop you from sneaking out right now?”

Kir’thiri sighed. “I won’t do that. So I guess I don’t have a choice.”

Elyra was quiet for a long time. So long, that if Kir’thiri didn’t already know the half-elf was in the room, she would have sworn she disappeared. Finally, Elyra spoke again.

“I’m going to tell you a story, but I need you to listen until the end. And to not lose your temper. Can you do that?”

Kir’thiri said that she could.

* * *

Ben removed his armor and shirt (he had begun to fill out now that he was an adventurer and truth be told should probably shop for some clothes that fit better) and saw to the securing of the wagons once he helped to unload them. He then set up perimeter checks and armed details at crucial locations around Axeholme. He smiled when it finally dawned on him that the voice instructing everyone was his own, but that the words were Sildar’s.

Having been given one too many “yes, sir” and “thank you, sir” responses, Ben remembered about the ragged tunnel that they had found while clearing out Axeholme.

“I bet I can seal that up,” Ben thought as he headed that way. “After I inspect it properly, of course.”

Ben got dressed and gathered his gear, making for the tunnel. He passed two men who were guarding the western alcoves on his way.

“Sir!” they each saluted. Ben sighed and just walked by. All of this attention made him feel uncomfortable.

“He fought a dragon, single-handedly!” the first man whispered, thinking Ben was out of earshot. He wasn’t.

“Killed it, I heard!” the second man responded.

Ben walked away faster, eventually finding the tunnel. He pulled the helmet from his pack and slid it over his head, thinking that the glowing red eyes that it gave him would intimidate any unwanted guests hidden therein. Also, he still held out hope that the helmet might help him see in the dark like his friends.

* * *

Vigo slipped out of Axeholme without anyone seeing him, tightening his pack around his slender shoulders as he made his way . . . somewhere. He didn’t know exactly where he was heading, only that it was in the mountains nearby. Regardless, Carp would be okay now. So wherever this path led, it was worth it.

Vigo walked on, clear of purpose and sure of foot in the late-morning light.

* * *

“I was a child when Ry’ven found me,” Elyra spoke quietly amidst the darkness. “Yet old enough still to know the ways of this world — the lengths of its contempt, its cruelty.

“Ry’ven gave me this, and it helped.”

Finally, Kir’thiri looked up from her melancholy and watched Elyra pitching a leather cuff back and forth between her hands. Only Elyra was no longer the Elyra that Kir’thiri knew. Her pale half-elf skin was now blood red, and long black horns bent back from above her temples and around her skull.

Elyra was a tiefling.

“And so,” Elyra continued, telling her story to the darkness as much as to Kir’thiri. “I had a parent — a father — for the first time that I could recall. He gave me the means to hide how I look, and then he trained me to conceal who I am.

“We traveled almost the entirety of the width and breadth of Faerun, Ry’ven and I. And nearly all that while,” Elyra slapped the leather cuff back on her wrist, instantly returning to the half-elf form that Kir’thiri met. “In every village, every deep forest, every dirt-strewn thoroughfare, he asked after Y’sarra Thornwind.

“I named you ivae nys then. ‘Light sister’ in Elvish. For obvious reasons.” Elyra absently ran a slender half-elf finger down the side of her cuff.

“You don’t know this about me,” Elyra shifted her gaze from the empty room and focused on Kir’thiri. “But I can be a bit . . . possessive. I was uninterested in sharing my father and may have, a few years back, suggested to Ry’ven that if I found Y’sarra Thornwind before he did, he may never get the chance to reconnect with her.”

Kir’thiri lost in the tale as she was, sized up the threat that was Elyra then, and it was a formidable one. Yet the gnome could sense that pointed though her words were, she wasn’t threatening violence.

“Go ahead,” Kir’thiri offered.

“I wasn’t prepared for you to be . . . this,” Elyra continued. “In traveling with you and your band of misfits,” Kir’thiri emitted a chuckle in agreement at this. “I found you to be inspiring. Your fighter, Benjamin, saved my life with his only healing draught when that damned banshee’s wail brought me down.

“All of this to say that, when I call you ivae nys now,” Elyra straightened her back and took the four steps toward Kir’thiri that was between them, offering her hand as she approached. “There is no insult intended.”

Kir’thiri took her “sister’s” hand and stood up.

* * *

Ben cleared the tunnel of the ghoul bodies. He followed as it wended this way and that until finally ending in front of a door. Testing the handle, Ben pushed the door open and peeked inside.

A family of halflings was settling into the small bedroom on the other side of the door, unknowing of the secret entrance to an escape tunnel that it held. It was only when the patriarch of the family noticed a large demon with glowing red eyes stick its head into the room that anyone was the wiser.

“Eeep!” the halfling yelled and began to fall to the floor in a faint as his wife and eldest son caught him.

“Sorry,” Ben mumbled, pulling his head back into the dark tunnel as he closed the door.

* * *

Kir’thiri parted with Elyra and found Ben. She discovered a need to be with her party. No one was more surprised than her that this band of misfits felt like home.

“Where’s Vigo?” she asked.

“I saw him come back inside as the people arrived but not since,” Ben offered. “Speaking of which, there’s something strange going on with Carp.”

“I heard he had been burned,” Kir’thiri said, a worried look on her face. “Is he going to be okay?”

“That’s the strange part,” Ben nodded toward a small room as he led Kir’thiri over.

Inside, Qelline Alderleaf was bringing another plate of food to the table for Carp. A little boy who, Kir’thiri noticed, looked decidedly unburned.

“And no healers saw him?” Kir’thiri asked after hearing the mysterious details of the young halfling’s tale.

“Sister Garaele gave him a sleeping draught so he could travel, but no other,” Qelline said as she watched her boy’s healthy appetite at work.

Baffled, Kir’thiri looked over to Lily, who was practicing precision dagger cuts on a link of a salted beef stick. The little girl was nearly missable, sitting so far away from all torchlight as she was.

“I worry about her, too,” Qelline whispered. “She had to kill a goblin as we escaped town, and that can be a hard thing for one so young.”

A commotion arose from the main hall of Axeholme then, as voices began to rise over the general din of a misplaced people establishing refuge.

“What fresh hell,” Kir’thiri muttered as she turned for the hall.

* * *

A tall, lean firbolg with light gray skin and a mop of curly copper-colored hair made his way through the hall. His long, dark green cloak billowed around him with embroidered thistles covering its linework. He walked slowly so as not to outstep a worn and worried-looking gnome by his side.

The crowd grudgingly parted to let the duo through as Kir’thiri approached. Ben met her as she began to speak to the newcomers.

“Erky?” Kir’thiri asked, recognizing the gnome cleric.

“Ry’ven?” Elyra shouted down from the upper level of the fortress.

Kir’thiri’s eyes narrowed at the firbolg as his eyes went wide.

“Find Vigo,” Kir’thiri said through gritted teeth toward Ben at her side.

* * *

The air in the small room where Kir’thiri had led the firbolg for her interrogation was charged with electricity, so was the racing mind of the gnome ranger.

Ben had done as she bid, sliding away quickly to avoid the awkwardness that he sensed was about to come from their conversing. He asked around after Vigo, but none knew of his whereabouts after he came into Axeholme.

Finally, a halfling pointed, “I saw him enter that room there.”

Ben checked the room over, even going so far as to look under the bed.

Vigo wasn’t there.

* * *

The intensity that Kir’thiri projected toward Ry’ven took quite some time to ease. Elyra joining them, her feet propped up on the table as she grinned from her chair at their awkwardness, didn’t speed the process along, but eventually, a somewhat calm discussion took place.

Yes, Ry’ven had looked for Kir’thiri. Of course, he had. Eventually, Elyra grew uncomfortable and left Kir’thiri with her mentor.

“You have been difficult to find, Y’sarra,” Ry’ven said quietly. Kir’thiri bristled at the sound of her real name.

“I haven’t been hiding,” she said.

“No, but you’ve been changing.”

“How did you even recognize me?” Kir’thiri could feel her anger rising and tamped it down. “I mean, I don’t look as I did when you trained me.”

“That’s because you’re paying attention to the physical,” Ry’ven smiled. Kir’thiri found it hard to reconcile her mentor’s smile on another’s face. “I know your soul. So, that is how I knew you.

“But you must be mindful,” Ry’ven continued as his smile became a look of worry. “Until you can master your growing abilities amongst the planar, you are in danger of shifting planes with each sleep, and taking those you’ve bound your soul to with you.”

Ry’ven went on to explain, and Kir’thiri grew dizzy with the instructions. She’d bound her soul to Ben’s and Vigo’s? Just what was she becoming? Which led her to question just who Ry’ven was, to know all of this.

“I am of the Gloaming Fey, and I am very old,” Ry’ven answered. “And have spent the last millennium being cursed by the Maiden of the Moon to walk this world in a new body every twelfth full moon.”

Kir’thiri’s head spun at her mentor’s explanation but believed him. In light of the things he kept sharing, and what he shared next, she didn’t really have a choice but to accept it and move on.

“I discovered Erky captured in the depths of an ancient citadel by Belak the Outcast. The rest of the Heroes Triumverant were killed when I destroyed Belak’s Gulthias tree. It seems Belak was working in the service of Lolth.

“There was an artifact, you see,” Ry’ven’s voice sounded weary as he shared his information. “Rumored to have been stolen from Ao the lord of the Dawn Titans himself. The artifact is said to be able to control reality in some manner, but only useable here on the material plane.

“So, of course, Lolth wants it for herself. But now Tiamat has her minions out seeking it for their goddess. The entire affair is being referred to as The Race of the Queens by the cosmic beings, but no matter the name, everyone loses if either player wins.”

* * *

Ben made his way up to the second level of Axeholme in search of his warlock. He excused himself around a family of dwarves (who seemed quite at home inside the dwarven architecture) and cut back around a young woman explaining their new living situation to her elderly father. Finally, Elyra stopped Ben.

“What are you up to, handsome?” she asked with a suggestive smile.

“Oh, uh, looking for Vigo. You haven’t seen him, have you?”

“I have not,” Elyra looked around. “Where was he last?”

Ben guided Elyra back downstairs and showed her the still empty room. Vigo’s last known whereabouts.

“Give me a minute,” Elyra said, sitting down on the floor cross-legged. She pulled out a small ball and began to crumble it between her thumb and fingers as smoke rose.

“I see Vigo,” Elyra said through closed eyes. It seemed to Ben as though she was meditating. “He’s in the mountains nearby. I can lead you there.”

With the small ritual finished, Ben and Elyra went to gather their party.

* * *

Kir’thiri had a headache. It was all just too much. But a lead on Vigo was something with which she could work. A distraction from the mess of her headspace.

But did the clearly traumatized gnome need to come, too? Kir’thiri thought that one of those per party was plenty.

“Erky, are you sure you wouldn’t rather stay with Ry’ven?” she asked, almost more to the firbolg druid than to the cleric.

“He seems to have made up his mind,” Ry’ven nodded. “If that’s okay with you all?”

Ben shrugged, and so Kir’thiri sighed, nodding that it was.

* * *

Vigo blinked rapidly, attempting to make sense of the vision before him. He’d come to sit where Hyrsam had instructed, there in the Sword Mountains, what seemed like mere minutes ago.

But now Kir’thiri was walking toward him, angry and yelling at him in her “why can’t you get your act together?” voice.

“Where the hells have you been?” Kir’thiri asked. Ben and Erky walked behind her as Elyra brought up the rear.

“I’ve been here, just, here,” Vigo smiled in what he hoped was a calming grin. It was not. “What brings you along? How’d you find me?”

“Like we don’t have enough going on without you disappearing on us!” Kir’thiri shouted. Finally, she took a deep breath and regained her composure. “What are you doing?”

“I,” Vigo began and then stopped. He considered his next words, changed his mind, and then decided to spill the beans. “I made a deal with Hyrsam. To heal Carp. I didn’t know we had a healer now.” He gave a wave to Erky. “Hi, healer.”

“Now that we’re all together again,” Ben offered. “We go to Wave Echo Cave, right?”

“I think so, yes,” Kir’thiri said.

“I, erm,” Elyra pulled Kir’thiri to the side. “That’s not — I’m not built like you.” She looked to the ground and then back to meet Kir’thiri’s eyes. “I got you to Vigo. I didn’t sign on for the cave.”

“I understand,” Kir’thiri said. “Thank you for your help. Be safe out there.”

Elyra smiled, placing her hands on each of Kir’thiri’s shoulders. “You take care of yourself, ivae nys. Until next time.”

As Elyra walked by Ben, she winked. “You too, Benjamin.”

And then the half-elf rogue was gone.

* * *

The party traveled for another few hours before it became too dark to travel safely — as torchlight would give their position away, and Ben couldn’t see in the dark without it.

Kir’thiri found a spot to set up camp and took first watch, her mind weary from the events of the day. As she settled in, the cold night air blew across the mountains, causing her to raise her hood and tighten her cloak around her shoulders. A small package fell from within the cloak’s folds.

Picking it up, Kir’thiri carefully inspected and then opened the package. Inside was a small ball that left an ashy residue on her fingers. The paper it came wrapped in had a message written inside.

Because I know he didn’t tell you. E

Kir’thiri rolled the ball around a little more before pocketing it and getting some sleep on Vigo’s watch.

* * *

Ben took the last watch and looked around the mountains in the low gray early morning light.

“I wonder if there are bears out there,” Ben thought, rubbing his magical gauntlet-covered hands together for warmth. “I bet I could beat up a bear.”

As the sun rose and the party stirred with it, Ben noticed what looked to be soot on Kir’thiri’s fingertips and was surprised to find that he recognized it.

“Hey, that’s like from the stuff Elyra used to find Vigo.”

“What?” Kir’thiri asked. She pulled the ball out of her pocket. “This?”

* * *

After Ben explained how he’d seen Elyra used the ball of whatever it was, Kir’thiri started to follow the instructions. She fell to a sitting position as the ball began to pitch smoke before her eyes.

She saw her mother, Thistlefuse, as a much younger woman, tentatively making her way toward a footbridge over a small creek. On the bridge stood a male gnome, looking up at the moon in the early evening sky. Both gnomes smiled at the other, her mother glowing with adoration for this man.

They spoke, though Kir’thiri couldn’t hear what was said. In focusing, the picture flashed until next Kir’thiri saw the man in a room, the room that Kir’thiri recognized as her mother’s current room. In the vision, her mother slept as the man stood over a crib. His eyes filled with tears as he looked first to the baby inside the crib, and then to Thistlefuse in the bed.

It occurred to Kir’thiri then that the man was her father, and this was the night he left his family.

In the vision, the man gathered his things and walked out of the room. Kir’thiri felt hurt; felt rage. She focused on following the man through the bedroom door.

With her consciousness following the man in blips and flashes, Kir’thiri caught him next in a forest. The forest canopy was split, allowing the man an open view of a full moon. He cursed, still unheard by Kir’thiri, and then fell to the ground transformed. No longer a gnome but a human.

There the vision ended, and Kir’thiri stared wide-eyed at her friends. All the wiser for now knowing that Ry’ven, cursed by the Maiden of the Moon to change form every twelfth full moon, was her father.

* * *

The party traveled quietly toward Wave Echo Cave.

“The Gloaming Fey?!” Vigo had barked, astounded at the news once his friends caught him up on current events. “Oh, Kir’thiri, your dad is evil. The Gloaming Fey, that’s bad. They’re bad. Your dad? Bad.”

To which Kir’thiri responded in rage toward the halfling warlock. How dare he? What did he even know? He who gets captured every other day?

“They fight a lot, don’t they?” Erky, who had been fairly untalkative all the while, asked Ben.

“Yes,” Ben shook his head. “They really do.”

And so, the party traveled quietly toward Wave Echo Cave.

* * *

It took some effort, but the party finally made it to Sildar, who was managing his unit of sellswords and Lords’ Alliance-provided infantrymen and calvary.

“We’ve forced a retreat of the goblin horde back into Wave Echo Cave,” Sildar was explaining. “Until we have more insight into what they can do — what magics they can wield, if any, we’ve been ordered to stand down and watch.”

A commotion arose from the soldiers in the near distance.

“What now?” Sildar asked a lieutenant.

“Ry’ven has arrived, sir.”

Kir’thiri looked up. She couldn’t help but feel a shock of fear and excitement run through her body. As the familiar form of the firbolg came into view, suddenly, Kir’thiri, Ben, and Vigo all felt the air shift. Their bodies began to itch, and their minds turned upside-down.

And then Sildar was gone. His unit was gone. The entirety of the opposing forces of the goblin horde had disappeared.

There standing in the now-empty field in front of Wave Echo Cave was Kir’thiri, Ben, Vigo, and Erky.

“That’s totally on your dad,” Vigo added as an aside to Kir’thiri. “He showed up; we got wonked. ‘Cause he’s bad.”

And the arguing began again.

* * *

Had the party plane-shifted? That seemed unlikely since Kir’thiri hadn’t fallen asleep standing up.

“What if we knock you out, just to see?” Vigo offered.

Kir’thiri growled a no.

Had they traveled back in time? Forward in time? Kir’thiri began to wonder once they went inside a Wave Echo Cave devoid of, well, anything.

As they cautiously moved through the cave, the sound of the wind their only accompaniment, the party began to put their issues aside and function as a halfway decent unit, Ben thought. Corners checked before carrying on, listening at doors before they opened them. Sildar would be proud.

Then Kir’thiri saw ghosts of goblins in the tunnel turned hallway before them. Or, afterimages of them, something. She halted the party with a hand gesture.

And then reality corrected, snapping into focus at once. The wind was no longer all that the party heard.

The rancor of a goblin horde overtook it.

Fighting their way through goblins and bugbears, the party made their way to a staircase that led to a single room. Inside was a drow mage, standing over a stone cauldron and working magicks.

Stuck in a single-file position on the stairwell, Vigo took a shot at the drow, firing an eldritch blast. With a flick of his wrist, the mage blocked the blast with a thin green energy shield.

Another female drow, unseen by the party at first, slid out of sight once the battle commenced.

And what a battle it was!

The drow mage cast Darkness, disabling half of the party’s skillset. Ben ran into the magical shadow and hoped for the best, landing perfectly near the mage enough to engage in melee.

Working their way around the chamber for a suitable spot, Vigo and Kir’thiri found it empty save for some of the silver collars that Vigo had been trapped in at Helm’s Hold.

Mid-battle the drow mage fell to his knees. His face contorted in rage as he transformed into a giant half-man/half scorpion! Now contending with claws and a massive stinger, the party carved and hacked until the creature fell, changing back into a drow.

The party gathered the mage’s unconscious form and searched the room. Ki’thiri found a secret door (which the female drow must have escaped through) while Vigo pocketed some of the silver collars for research purposes.

Ben found and collected a chest plate emblazoned with a gold dragon, and a mace inside the stone cauldron.

“So,” the fighter turned to his party, the sounds of battle approaching. “What do we do now?”