Heroes of the Dark

Hunting Party

Minevre is a capable and steely huntress, and makes plans to escort the coterie toward one of many paths that lead to the World Above.  It is time to experience the world you were never meant to know.

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Personal and secret journals of Aunrae Sel'rue
Growing Pains.

(Written in drow, in a flowing hand.) 

I must admit I am beginning to trust my own council above any other. Valanrae is my twin, but she does not always know my mind. Our mother, loyal to Lolth though she may be, is blinded by anger at a presumed slight. 

I know my brother. Dyan'ette had a true appreciation of our culture and a sincere love for his sister. I know his hand, and I know his mind. It was oft opened to me in the early hours of the morning while the house lay sleeping. I cannot believe such a mind would be turned to treason without some sort of sign. 

I believe in my own council that he was made to behave in such disgraceful manner, these notes were not meant to be read by any but he, and that they showed such conflict that his mind did not posses proves to me that he was not responsible for his actions. Even Lolth would see that he be put back to her uses rather than wasted. 

Were he to be recovered he could provide all the evidence and access that we require to turn Menzoberranzan on its ear. We have time however, we have much time before we can be attacked again, and a means to send one out should the same happen again. A route that I plan to use myself, once I have everything I need to retrieve my Dyan'ette. 

My mother will refuse to see wisdom in this at first, which means I will need reasons a plenty for her to accept my choice. I will need to dedicate him to Lolth, in a way that will allow him his life, and glean all the information he can provide me. 

If I am wrong, then no one will ever know that I tried to return him home, they will know he was traitorous  and that he paid the price for his actions. … Not before telling me everything about those houses that seed corruption. 

Again, I know my brother and I know his mind. It is only one of two ways, either he left these things, knowing that I would find them and read them… possibly laying in wait for a trap. Or, he did not mean to leave them behind and he was interrupted in his progress and fled, when he realized that we had been attacked. The guards saw him flee, which means he was close enough to know we were losing… No, it is as I thought he must have fought against whatever they did to his mind. Poor, weak-minded brother… perhaps when I find you I will find a way to guard you against such things…  

Regardless we have work to do, and mine is most problematic, for convincing my mother, and my dear sister of anything they do not wish is no easy task. 

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Recognition

Base and debauched as can be are the drow, none more so than the masters of Baenre.

The party recognizing the rise of a new house into the Upper Third lasted three solid days, and in the traditions of Lloth there were fights, sex, drugs, and all the putrescence of the Underdark.

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Ultimately, the party ended and everyone went home, their bellies full and their minds blunted.  But still the priestesses refused to see that Matron Baenre was looking…. old.  And a priestess bearing the blessing of Lloth should be young, and strong.

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Blood in the Water
The Looters

The party sent from House Sel'rue to take command of House Freth on the Isle of Rothe in Lake Donigarten has discovered looters occupying the keep.  The powers of the keep, expected to be dispelled by the death of the matron, are still fully functional, but for some strange reason it seems under the sway of the looters.

One of them… must have the means of controlling it.  So the question becomes, "who lived?"

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First Night
Rising to the Upper Third

The envoy for House Baenre was in fact from the next house above, and they came with the banner of House Baenre, carried by the weapon master himself, a towering man carrying a trident strapped across his back.

House A'Lavallier offered entreaties of magic and jewels, if in return they agree to starve out House Symryvvin and House Hunzrin in preparation for an attack, their envoy claims.

Meanwhile, House Freth falls, and waits for its new occupiers to make a home of it.

 

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Prelude to Adventure, Part 2
War in the Dark

 

The priestess was near death.

Matron Sel'rue had been attacked suddenly, and she had begun to doubt herself.  It was very likely her house would fall this night, and even if they survived it was more likely her daughter would succeed her.

The assassin raised his knife and slashed at her midsection.  She felt the pain as the blow connected, and her vision began to dim.  He stood above her, and for a moment she lost her nerve and cried out in pain.  He raised the dagger, "Fear not, Lady Sel'rue.  I take no joy in this act, but your house has what my matron has demanded; and what the mighty demand, the weak surrender."

She bowed her head, and he moved next to her side swiftly.  He meant it as a courtesy, she understood, and she was too weak to fight any longer.  Her head was a blur of half-remembered spells and commands, and her vision shrinking to a narrow tunnel was nearly gone.

The sound of death.

It was not as she expected.  Then she realized it was because the sound was not her end.  As she fell under the weight of a body landing on her, she watched her would-be assassin's dagger topple from his grasp and clatter to the floor, a small glass bead at the head of the dagger shattering as a green fluid poured hissing to the ground beside her.

She fell backward as the body was wrenched off her, and she locked eyes with… a goblin.  He stood over her for nearly two hours after binding her wounds, and guarded her until she heard the horns of triumph.  Victory?

Her vision finally failed as she could hear the footfalls of her guards rushing down the hall.  "Mother!"  It was her daughter.  One.  Which?  Two sets of arms—two!  and the same voice calling her back from the darkness.

The goblin waited quietly, having placed the blade back on the floor.  Slaves were never permitted such arms in the presence of the matron, but this creature had just saved her life.  The guards towered over him, waiting for orders as her strength and voice returned.  "Release him."

The guards bowed low and withdrew, and she raised a hand to him.  He toddled over, and she realized that his gait was the only thing about him that reminded her of a child.  "You," she said.  "I remember you now."

"Yes, My Lady," he said quietly.

"How dare you speak in the presence of—"

"Silence," she said quietly, rising to her feet.  "He has all the right, having saved this house and myself personally."  She shook her head in disbelief.  "I do not know how, but this is not the first time this goblin has saved my life.  Arm him, and set him at my daughters' side.  What he has given me, let him now serve them with the same distinction."

And so it was the House Sel'rue defeated its rival, and rose to the Upper Third.

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Prelude to Adventure
Priestess of Lloth - A Darkness in the Darkness

The field of mushrooms was washed in rothe shit and stunk of death.  The bodies of three dead hopefuls lay amidst the remains of dead animals while goblins continued to toil without notice of the spectacle—scurrying of course from the path of anyone of higher station, which was everyone.

Meanwhile the goblin taskmaster keeping them on point flashed his whip frequently, glancing backward cautiously to see whether his matron could see his diligence.  If he failed to impress, he would die, whether at the hands of the hopefuls as a target for practice or the hands of his own slaves if he were sent back among them.

Two sisters came to the fore as the matron of House Sel'rue took interest immediately.  Twins were unheard of.  For one of them to survive to their trials was unlikely.  For both to survive and to test together was nothing short of miraculous.  Still, the two sisters kept to one another's sides, watching with interest as a far higher house tested next.

She stood defiant, leering at the drow male who stood at the gate to the next trial.  He did not stir from her path as she approached, and for a moment she hesitated.  "Stand aside!" she ordered with belligerence dripping from her tongue.

The drow male bowed low, and she could see the flash of a blade under his pifwafwi as he shook his head.  "I am sorry, my noble lady, but I am sworn to guard this path, and I've been given the power to defeat you.  None may pass without my leave."

She blinked at him in utter revulsion and shock.  To think, she needed this male's permission to move to her next trials!  She would remember this face, she knew, and deliver him to death soon enough.  "Very well," she said, her voice still dripping with vitriol, "what will give me your leave?"

"Death," he replied, pointing a finger at her.  Blood began to drip from her mouth, then her nose, and finally her eyes and ears as she began clutching at her face, finally tearing chunks of her flesh from her cheeks as the pressure continued to build… until she fell face forward into the muck and filth of the mushroom field.

The hopefuls looked on in shock.  A fourth death.  A fourth house denied a new priestess.  This one was powerful.  The fourth house, in fact.  Her matron turned her back on her, and nodded to the attendants standing nearby.  They rushed forward and began to remove the various magicks and gifts from her body.  When they had stripped her naked and left her in the dirt, the matron strode quietly away—though a few careful observations might tell that she had tears in her eyes.

The last two stepped forward as one.  If it gave the drow any concern, he did not show it, but stood firm against their path.  "Stand aside," one of them commanded.  Again, his reluctant bow and refusal.  One of them pointed a finger at him, "You are a male.  I do not ask your permission.  Now, stand aside!"

His face contorted into a rictus grin, and his visage faded into a growing, swelling spider body, and a low set of fangs driving from his jaw as his legs stretched out before him.  "Then let the final test be done!" he cried, and scurried into the darkness even as the guards raised their weapons to dispatch him.

The lead matron, Madame Baenre, nodded.  Almost imperceptibly.  Quietly.

But she nodded.

Within the foyer lay whips—the mark of a Priestess of Lloth!

They sneered in victory.  Each whip bore four heads, and as they reached forward the snakes coiled their long spindly bodies about their forearms and hissed their delight.  The two strode back to their matron mother victorious, and the trials ended.  It was a red evening as Sorcere tolled out the setting of the sun in the World Above.  Of six prospects, only two had survived.

House Sel'rue had been identified as a rising house, from a terrible set of trials.

 

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Character Creation
"Terror and Darkness"

Remember that this is a dark campaign.

Characters may have camaraderie, and they may develop friendships or even relationships, but ultimately the Lawful Neutral defends the letter of the law, the Lawful Evil twists the rules to their favor, the True Neutral is entirely self-serving, and the Neutral Evil defends the tenets of power.

Chaotic characters are unlikely to survive for long in the highly-stratified drow society, but those who do are rewarded with tremendous power if they can rise to the top and overcome their counterparts who seek to keep them in check.

And also remember that you are the twenty-third house.  You have only just beaten and clawed your way into the Upper Third, which means you are now the target of every house beneath you.  There are forty houses beneath you all richly desiring your seat.  It's how no lower house survives for long.

Create two guards (F4) to travel with you at all times, on your own personal payroll (10d12+60gp).  Give them stats consistent with warriors (straight 4d6 rolls, observing racial maximums) and make them demi-human servants.  A step up from the slaves running your mushroom and rothe farms, these servants are loyal, armed, and capable.  Purchase starting equipment for them (3d12+20gp), but no magical items.  They're still only slaves.

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Menzoberranzan
The City of Spiders

The year is 1340.

The surface dwellers call this the Year of the Lion.  I am uncertain what this lion creature is.  I presume it is some noble and proud looking beast whose pelt would as easily adorn my wall as any lizard or other denizen of the night-city.  At the very least I trust it would adorn my bedchambers and warm me as I sleep.

My two daughters are my blessing and curse.  Neither and both at the same time.  There is little use to identify either as the First or Second Daughter.  One would as likely kill the other and leave me less a daughter.  Still, it shall happen one ever-night, and our house shall be diminished.

The ruins of Freth are mine.  The great noble houses were only too pleased to relinquish their hold on this ruin.  Strange that none desired it before now.  Perhaps the rumors of the ghosts that wander its even darker halls have the barest ring of truth.

I've my own ghosts to bury, of course.  The death of my beloved house wizard, at the hands of my own son, are a menace to the rumors of the city.  The local massage parlors and planting circles all speak of our house, of our rise, and of the threat of power unprotected… or unbidden.  Dyan'ette, you will die above the world in the sun-reaches, and you will never look upon our beautiful dark holds again.  You shall never see the spires of Sorcere.  You will never be admitted to the halls of the divine, to take your proper place as a sacrifice to our dear spider-queen.

The spiders dance about our halls.  They sense our growing power.  Is it a sign of the favor of the one true goddess, Lloth?  Time will tell.

 

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The Underdark
Briethelle Auveryndar
Under the dragon cave, there was a tunnel.  Within, they found remnants of the ancient Underdark city of Fathel, and farther beneath they discovered a priestess of Lloth.  After some "collective bargaining," the Drow were willing to allow the party on its way.
 
Meanwhile, the dragon was buried in its mountain cave, never to be seen again.
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