The Hacktastic Blog
Session 7 recap
The curtains went up with the anti-hero, T'kal Zahara, traversing the endless corridors of the all-too-familiar Demonweb Pits. A dozen threats dodged, a dozen more slain, one tiny danger was missed by the drow's keen eyes. An infinitely slender strand of oblivion spider web was this danger. T'kal proceeded cautiously, ignorantly along, eventually running right into the dread web. Reality exploded, all quantum laws were promptly ignored, and T'kal's very essence was scattered about the multiverse. 1/10^10 of a second later, after having passed through every point in existence, his body and spirit reconstituted themselves in a slightly higher level of the Demonweb, safe and sound. Relatively.
Not a stranger to teleportation and physics-bending magics, T'kal cooly reassessed the situation, adjusted the straps of his dagger bandoleers, put a stray hair back in its place, and proceeded along once more. After only a few minutes of travelling the predictable bloodstone corridors of Lolth's domain, he happened upon a most curious door. Unlike every other door in the plane, which were constructed of the same bloodstone used in the tiles, holding the souls of the damned, this door was simple, wooden, though still hung in nothingness, like the others. Careful inspection with eyes that would put a dragon to shame revealed nothing more, just a simple door. Too simple. Armed with only his wits, shadow magics, and several dozen daggers, T'kal entered into a room even more odd than the gateway into it.
It was like all other rooms of the Demonweb: bloodstone floor, swirling mist in place of walls and ceilings. However, no other room had a door of beaten metal with elaborate patterns of spiders and arcane sigils inscribed upon it. I am close... thought T'kal. And indeed he was, as the party as a whole would soon learn. But first, T'kal had to get through this door. A quick scan revealed two amateurish death sigils (of fire and lightning, respectively). After a whispered charm of invisibility upon himself (just in case, of course. He smelled trouble, and feared it might smell him too.), T'kal opened the door, revealing yet another puzzling room... the opposite side also held a door of another peculiar metal, but the walls were of bloodstone, as was the ceiling. It might as well have had TRAP carved on every square inch of it. This is no hallway, no foyer... this is a slaughterhouse meant to be hip-deep with the blood of the fools who enter it. T'kal simply smirked at the idea. A minute flicker of motion caught his eyes, which promptly narrowed and focused on the movement. Though stillness instantly resumed, T'kal had already seen the drow eye surveying him through the tiny marble-sized peephole in the stone wall to his right. Alas, he only managed to see the eye because of the aura of flickering truesight-magics that surrounded it... which meant he had a rough time ahead of him.
T'kal sighed to himself even as he tumbled backwards to avoid the magic exploding around him. Grasping, gnawing tentacles born of magic whipped out at him, but T'kal managed to dodge, evade, and squirm his way free. Now breathing a little bit more heavily, he whirled back into the first room, finding some cover quickly. The final door slammed open, releasing a twisted half-breed of orc and drow: an Audrin. With prey close at hand, unseen though certainly savory smelling, he ran full out, blunt instrument of destruction in hand... right into T'kal's waiting sneak attack that slit him open from side to side, spilling steaming intestines to the bloodstone tiles, but also tearing apart the last of his shroud of invisibility magic. The archmagi waiting behind the charging audrin promptly began the harsh, grating chants and stabbing hand gestures that could only mean terrible magics were about to be unleashed. Those cruel eldritch syllables soon turned into curses and shrieks of frustration as T'kal nimbly backflipped off the platform, as if he was doing a backwards swan dive into oblivion. In reality, T'kal used a single hand on the platform as a fulcrum in order to use his momentum to fling himself down the platform, perfectly parallel to it. As his horizontal momentum waned and his vertical descent was about to begin, T'kal called upon the shadow magics woven into every seam of his piwafwi and thrust his hands up at the bloodstone floor that had become his bloodstone ceiling. They stuck as if he was atop the platform, not under. Spell blasts rocked the platform, causing the thick stone under his fingers to become the slightest bit warm. T'kal wasted not a moment with this diversion and quickly began scampering down the platform. Hmm... now to pick them off one by one, I suppose. One archmage hurried over to the edge where T'kal dove off, cast aside whatever remained of his pride, and dropped to his belly to peer under the platform. Hoping for the best, he spat out an arcane phrase, sending ice shards and elemental frost fortuitously towards T'kal. Twisting suddenly, T'kal evaded a speeding icicle the size of his leg, caught another dozen tiny shards in the weave of his piwafwi, and unluckily chanced into a fist sized spinning chuck of ice that caught him right in his right shoulder blade, shattering it. In his many years of cloak and dagger operations, T'kal had heard hundreds, nay, thousands of creatures' death cries. So, his imitation was quite perfect in every respect as T'kal let go of the platform, falling away to safety.
Six seconds later, T'kal focused his mind and called upon his birthright as drow: the power of levitation. His fall halted, he unsheathed a slender quartz-tipped wand and gingerly tapped his useless right shoulder. Brilliant white light flared five times, and T'kal suffered no more. Change of plans... Willing himself to rise, T'kal rose through the swirling mists of the Demonweb, back in action.
While T'kal fought for his life, dodging spell blast and steel, other adventurers slept in the quarters of the Peacemakers, a kindly circle of clerics who attempted to heal the suffering of those trapped on the Demonweb. Who were, as fate would have it, complete liars and in fact, werewolves. Four slept, and only one awoke, a grimlock mind-mage. Because he was a grimlock, he did not see his friends being torn apart in their sleep by the hungry lycanthropes. He felt it. Drops of raining blood pattering on the ground awoke the grimlock, each one reverberating in his sensitive ears. In an instant, one of the werewolves rushed to fell this bit of prey who did not sleep as easily as the rest. Instead of tender flesh meeting his maw, however, a silver battleaxe decapitated the werewolf in one swing. Now the others swung their heads, dripping with gore, around to meet this threat. At that moment, the door shattered inward and in came a knight riding a most strange beast, a stone flyer! Before they could react, the knight galloped through the room, catching one werewolf with a massive warhammer upside the head. In a few short moments, the combined force of the grimlock psion and the human dark paladin was enough to paint the room in the black blood of the shapechangers.
Few words were exchanged, for few were needed. They recognized the hunter in each other, not the prey. Hunting Lolth was always easier with company, and so they banded together. They searched the bodies of their mauled and quite dead companions, searching for supplies and equipment. As they did so, a chorus of disembodied, sibilant whispers spoke with one voice.
"You who so masterfully bring death... do you seek the death of the one who rules here? Of the Spider Queen herself?"
The two companions glanced at each other, and in unison nodded.
"Then know that you have found a partner in this task, and his name is..." The whispers hushed, and a true voice spoke, from a drow they had not previously seen in the shadowed corner of the room. Stepping forth from the embracing shadow, melting back into visibility, T'kal spoke, "... the Hidden Hand. T'kal Zahara." With wicked grins, the new adventuring party set out with deicidal intentions.
After hours of silent exploration of the corridors with T'kal in the lead, unseen in the shadows, he finally spotted something at the farthest edge of his darkvision. Two dark elves, wearing the elaborate robes and pouches of scented spell components of archmagi. Undetected, T'kal quickly hurried back to the main group and exchanged seven words before rushing back off again: Charge when you hear the first fall. Once again, T'kal climbed spiderlike on the underside of the platform until he was even with the archmagi. Peering a single eye over the platform, he saw only one wizard now, who was worryingly alert, with a wicked wrought iron wand in hand. Ironicly, he was alert for the right reasons, but looking in the wrong direction: towards where the rest of the party lurked. Using all his strength, T'kal silently flung himself into an arcing flip that landed right in front of the surprised magus. T'kal nonchalantly slashed three times at the mage's throat. He didn't have the time to scream. As the drow fell backwards, T'kal caught him and angled him away, so that the dying wizard made no sound and didn't sully T'kal's outfit with gouting lifeblood. A few short minutes later, the body was disposed of, all the valuables secreted away on T'kal's person, and the group was off again. Where could that last one be... she looked familiar...
In answer to T'kal's unspoken question, the party of stalwarts soon came upon a section of the bloodstone corridor that was suspiciously frigid to the touch. The out of place, wooden door confirmed T'kal's suspicions. "Grimlock, hu-man... this is it, I know for certain. Lolth lies beyond these doors. This is the most heavily guarded room in all the Demonweb Pits, of that I assure you. Mages, audrin warriors, and most likely a few cutthroats like myself lurk behind those doors. We act quickly, or we lose the element of surprise. Grimlock, you're in front; Hu-man, behind him with your lance. Now." In the blink of an eye, they had taken their positions, and the grimlock beat down the first door with his axe, not bothering with the latch at all. Rushing through, wind in their hair and the taste of battle coming to their mouths, they kicked open the next metallic door, revealing a very surprised and very healed audrin, who promptly received an arrow to the eye, mouth, and heart. T'kal grinned with feral glee, and the reverberations of his twanging bowstring filled the room. The grimlock roared, raising his axe and charging the final door, smashing it open. Death awaited them, greater than any of them had anticipated. To the front, a wild witch woman with prismatic, multicolored hair and mad eyes stood, a spinning shard of pure entropy whirling in the air next to her. An entropomancer. To her side, a cunning male assassin, knives in hand. To the right, a mighty archmage stood cloaked in layer upon layer of magical enchantments. Behind the peephole that offered a view into the entry rooms, a strange female drow wearing the skins of beasts, with rune-carved bones in her hair and a savage glint in her eyes. In the midst of all of them were ranks upon ranks, dozens upon dozens, one hundred animated corpses of all shapes and sizes. Displacer beast zombies shambled next to drow male sacrifices which were next to screeching svirfneblin skeletons. Ogre zombies and skeletons towered above all of them, often using their own bones as huge, improvised clubs.
Without hesitation, the doomed company of drow, grimlock, and human charged forward. An unexpected ally from Session 6 materialized through the floor in the shape of a fearsome drow maiden, slinging psionic blasts of energy left and right. The dark knight put the spurs to his fearsome stone steed, which flew forward in a majestic and deadly arc, allowing his rider to skewer several undead on the tip of his lance. T'kal leapt through the doorway, came up in a shoulder roll and let fly with a searing blast of lightning at the shaman drow woman, though the eldritch energy washed over her natural spell resistance. Strangely, she grinned, winked, and made a single sign: that of an apprentice to a master. Then, she dashed off, a spell on her lips, an imperious finger pointed at the rest of the party. The grimlock focused on something entirely different, something the rest of the party either did not see or did not pursue. In his vibration, scent, and hearing-based "vision", this something literally hummed with arcane power, though it was slowly and steadily decreasing. To the others, this form was a dying or dead female creature with once-graceful, now broken and crushed wings, bristling with a dozen drow crossbow bolts. Most odd of all, her form was licked by a fire that did not consume. However, the grimlock had a tidal wave of shambling undead to get through in order to get to the female. With literally hundreds of individual events in this battle that would make a veteran weaponmaster or great archmage gape in awe, it is difficult to put into words. To be succinct and to summarize, the grimlock found quite a surprise in the erinyes' body: a key to a portal that would inevitably lead to Lolth's domain; the knight engaged in aerial combat with the great drow archmage, had his brave steed disintigrated out from under him, and in the end struck the archmage with a mortal blow; the psionic creature of many names destroyed the minds of "her" opponents, created deadly electric and fiery bursts, and destroyed several dozen undead with an artfully placed fireball; the Hidden Hand blasted through the lines of undead, incinerating twenty at a time with his potent wand, and when the way was clear, deftly severed the life force from many of the drow combatants. In roughly a minute, more blood, gore, ichor, and general filth was spilled than in several weeks of a well-fought war of maneuvers. One particular threat to the party should be noted: the mortally wounded archmage, choking on his own blood, removed a black scroll, curled and tattered with age, but still emanating raw magic power. He read from it a hideously corrupt spell, one that abandons one's current body and thrusts one's soul upon another body, destroying the soul and essence of the previous occupant of the body. He targeted T'kal, spitting out broken teeth and blood along with the final word of the incantation. The mind and spells of this archmage in the lean, conditioned, and thoroughly deadly body of T'kal Zahara, the Hidden Hand? Twould have been the end of the party. Twould, if the spell had not merely brushed against T'kal's innate and mighty spell immunity, like water off a duck's back. The dying mage shrieked in anguish as the spell fizzled, his body collapsed into dust, and the gem containing his soul fell from the lofty heights where he'd been levitating, and shattered against the bloodstone floor. Lucky break indeed.
Once the bloodlust had left them, they gazed around the massive room in wonder, now littered with burning or bloody corpses. Three huge pyramid-like sets of steps led up to platforms in the center of each wall except one. Also, in the center of the gory room was a sandstone statue of a hulking warrior wielding a very large blade. After a thorough search of the room, very little was uncovered in the way of valuables (besides the drow warriors' and magi's equipment), other than a set of mysterious, unidentified though obviously magical bracers. While searching the sandstone warrior, however, T'kal happened upon something quite interesting. A single lever. T'kal's hand hovered over the lever, but wouldn't dare pull such a mysterious thing, not until all other possibilities were explored. Vhaeraun, Masked Lord... I have come a very long way for you, for our cause. As far as Lolth should be concerned, I am you. And, to be frank... now would be a good time for a little -help-. If you don't quite feel like it... than to hell with you! I will kill her myself. And with a wicked smile upon his face, T'kal began to pull the lever, than halted himself, chuckling under his breath. "Grimlock! Come, pull this lever." Obligingly, the grimlock did so, after the rest of the party had adequately hidden themselves or prepared to charge.
Shhhhh-click. Click. Clickclickclick. Whrrrrrr-click. Clickclickclickclickclickrumblllllllllle...
The sandstone warrior came to life, ancient eyes filling with evil, hate, and the capability for absolute killing efficiency! The grimlock quickly backpedaled, raising his battleaxe in defense. As the construct stepped off its platform, a rather interesting new development became apparent. Even to the ignorant or superstitious, the whirling miasma of crackling lights and swirling energy under the platform was clearly a portal. Every one there knew just where it would lead to. T'kal ran full speed from his hiding spot and dove into the portal, tucking himself into a ball as he did so. With a bit of quick thinking, the grimlock dove under the creature's tree trunk-like legs and slid into the portal. The knight came around from behind his cover and dove into the portal before the ponderous golem could even react. The psychic entity wafted through it as well, leaving the sandstone warrior free of injury, with no more enemies to fight.
The world span dizzily under them, then fell away into nothingness, and darkness overwhelmed them.
In a second or an eternity, it was hard to gauge which, they realized that they were, in fact, alive. This was to be the last time any of them gazed upon the endless bloodstone and swirling mist of the Demonweb Pits. Unlike any other platform or level of the Demonweb, the section they found themselves sprawled upon had an end. Two ends, in fact. It was only thirty feet, from end to end. Compared to the rest of the plane, this section of corridor was a feast for the eyes. Into each of the doors was carved a pictorial representation of what ostensibly lied beyond. On one, a picturesque Arthurian kingdom, complete with castle and moat and cute trees. On another, the words "LOLTH'S PRISON" were carved hurriedly. On another, a representation of a fish swimming underwater. On another, a snowy realm. Quiet discussion began on whether or not they should try one of the portals in the hopes that they could, rest, regain their strength, bolster the forces, and then move on to the final battle. Several more doors awaited, but only one truly drew the attention of the would-be Lolth-slayers. A delicate, effiminate, and completely horrifying spider was elaborately embossed on the stone door, enlaid with precious metals, jewels, and intricate designs. Behind the assembled adventurers, the faint traces of a portal opening up and the stony face of a sandstone warrior began to appear. No more urging was needed. T'kal unlatched the door, and purposefully strode through, twin wavy daggers at his side.
It is impossible to describe the sense of complete and utter despair that oozes from this particular layer of the Abyss. Ancient, desicated sand stretches out for endless, infinite miles in every direction. Umbral, twilight violet suffuses the sky, and countless stars streak erraticly across the sky, so fast that they are painfully white blurs. In the distance, a colossal metal spider palace sits, perched precariously on the wasteland plane, as if eager to spring upwards. T'kal vaguely wondered how many of those stars were Lolth's, how many had yet to fall to her power, and how soon he would sheath his dagger in her cold carcass.
In Session 8, it all comes to an end. This is not a time for heroes. No hero could do such a thing.
Now is the time when we all discover who is the greater villain. Our band of villains marches confidently up to the very doorstep of Lolth. Will they march away, victory in hand, or will they join the eternally damned of the Abyss? Session 8. Be there.
This is it
That's right, boys and squirrels, this is it. The end, or at least the beginning of the end. We have come a long way...
Once upon a time, our humble heroes were hired for a seemingly simple job: to escort a caravan through the oft-deadly Underdark. A survivor, street thief, and assassin. A mercenary. A dancer of luck and misfortune. A berserker warrior, pit fighter. They happened into events far greater than they could imagine, let alone survive. A crystal maze, a dungeon in the deeps of an unknown and dread plane threatened to snuff the life out of the entire party, but they persevered through amazing odds: a crimson vampiric mist, a zin-carla, roving beholders, metal-plated badgers, flesh-eating fish, and living columns with skin-flaying tentacles.
Once upon a time, our tried and true survivors held off an entire family of voracious cave wyrms, killing two and driving off the third. From there, things got worse. Priestesses of the spider goddess Lolth swarmed out of Arach Tinilith, the High Temple, killing all in their path. No N'Telquessir were left alive in the great and terrible city of Erehei'Cinlu, and precious few drow. Madness roamed the streets in the form of hungry bands of bloodlust-driven priestesses. Our heroes personally felled an entire warband of Sorcere wizards, Selvatarim blackguards, and priestess-spawned giant spiders, including a great House weaponsmaster. Blood flowed through the streets at an apple's depth.
Once upon a time, our bloodstained and weary slayers dismantled two gargantuan spiders and a dozen Type IV demons. One would think a long rest would be deserved after such a battle... But no. The greatest challenge was yet to be found. Our heroes had not dreamt of the carnage they would face in the Demonweb Pits, of the hellish twists, turns, and anti-architecture of that abyssal chasm.
And now, back to the present... Our heroes have trudged through wave upon wave of fiendish creatures, devilish traps, and cruel spells... On Thursday night, it all comes to an end. Either Lolth dies, her gluttonous reign of terror at an end, or we all perish, condemned to eternal perdition. Perhaps the two foes who started it all, T'kal Zahara, the Hidden Hand, and Orka Balmung, Merc Lord, will join forces once again to banish Lolth's tyranny back into the cold peace of oblivion.
All or nothing, death or glory, flames or fame. All will be decided Thursday night. Behold the exciting conclusion of Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits, the most deadly dungeon-crawl ever conceived by mortal mind!