RECAP: QwtCs, “The Death Of the Kuo-Toa Shrine”

There is a strange otherworldly stillness that leaks into the atmosphere when a big bomb is ticking downward toward detonation nearby. The air seems to choke in on itself, stifling the brain’s entreaties to get the fuck out of there, to run like one’s ass is literally on fire, to put anything made of brick or dirt or wood or anything between you and the oddly peaceful clock of doom.

This bomb was attached to an immense twist of granite, eighteen feet high and cut exquisitely, tenderly, in the shape of a demoness from a watery pit. Sovereign glue held the bomb fast, and the kuo-toa high priest knew, deep in his amphibian brain, that this was the end. He gave off trying to wrest the bomb from the stone, and instead wrapped his scaled arms around the statue, covering the gnomish device with his bulwark chest, to send final prayers to his goddess begging her forgiveness.

To the north, the fight continued.

  1. Understanding the danger to their key into Menzoberranzan, Hathaway and Storm rushed toward the lobsters even as Velkro called for everyone to move north. The damage was, or would be, done soon, and it was time to leave. Hathaway slew the first with those acidic words he spoke so easily, while the other was rendered senseless. T’rizira dropped to the ground, bleeding but quick on her feet and moving toward the exit.
  2. Ciaran flew at full speed ahead of the enraged kuo-toa from the east, yelling to his compatriots: head north! I will block the way. The sound of kuo feet and kuo screams seemed to bolster his flight, easing him forward on a cushion of black hate and sudden grief.
  3. Velkro, grievously injured and limping noticeably, moved into the hallway. “Gather close, into the twilight!” he yelled. “There is succor there, as my god allows!” He ran into the northern passage, hoping his example would propagate throughout the team.
  4. Duffy, flying invisibly nearby, concussed the lobster holding T’rizira
  5. T’rizira ran best as she could, but Helios could see that her injuries were slowing her down. He galloped forward toward her, scoping her up in his arms and wheeling to head backwards into Velkro’s healing aura. T’rizira held grimly onto the bow she’d been given, and her left hand, dripping blood as it was, sought the arrows in the second-hand quiver she’d been given, unconvinced that the danger had passed. Shock fluttered her eyes, and she held desperately onto Helios’ shoulders to avoid falling off his broad back.

The bomb exploded.

Like the proverbial tree in the woods, none were there to see it, but in the fractions of seconds that elapsed:

  • The bomb transformed the statue of Blipdoolpoolp into a cloud of granite shards and sent those shards outward at bullet-speed in all directions.
  • The high priest Vu-Gaalgh, who when once he’d realized that he could not remove the bomb, wrapped himself around it, in a vain attempt to, at the very least, mitigate the damage. He did not. His entrails and blood served as a crimson cowl flying ahead of the stone fragments, evaporating into the thick air above the shrine pool.
  • As Vu-Gaalgh died, his wall of protective water lost its magical cohesion and fell into the poisoned pool. It was a large ring of water, and with water weighing 60 pounds per square foot, it fell into the poisonous water below with a force approximately 1.4M pounds. The water below was compressed and then erupted, spreading purple poison throughout the shrine chamber. A cadre of Kuo, coming around the right flank, were drenched with poison and fell backward, croaking feebly as their lives ebbed away onto the stone floor.

Thus the Shrine died. Their goddess was shattered; their pools were poisoned; their spawn mewled piteously as they died, utterly ignorant of the factors that contributed to their murder; their noble females died, languishing in water that turned on them in a violet fume; their survivors, such as they were, raged impotently, as the lanes north filled with a magical blackness thinned by the elder dark, bestrewn with tentacled things reaching down to caress any foolish trespasser. Under the cover of that hemisphere of alien night, the party sped away into the tunnels toward the Drowish blockades.

Once clear of the shrine, and equally clear of the echoes of the groaning ghosts of hundreds of kuo-toa, the party followed T’riszira through Underdark passages barely wide enough for Helios’ flanks. They fled for what seemed like hours, until the both the sound and the memory of the dying kuo faded. At last, out of breath, hungry and cold, they stopped a wide place in the caves. T’riszira, after a quick reconnaissance, declared it safe, and everyone found a clear spot to sit, drag forth a skin of water and perhaps nibble on some dried rations. Once everyone had relaxed a bit, T’raszira spoke.

“Now then,” she began. “You saved me from the frogs for a reason: to get into Menzoberranzan.” From some hidden pocket in her clothing, she extracted a long cigarillo, somehow miraculously undamaged through her trials. which she lit with a taper from their small fire. “What is it that you need to know? What is your plan?”

There was no plan, it quickly came to light. Beyond a couple of givens, the way forward was one of chance.

  • Having dispatched the Kuo-Toa according to Jynzert’s instruction, the money was likely at Mandol-Tirith: 25000 gp, in gems, waiting for each of you that survives. A gift from Blingdenstone for allowing them the luxury of plausible deniability.
  • There were layers to the defenses of Menzoberranzan, the foremost of which was a series of blockades that protected the three main underdarkian arteries leading toward the city. There wre ways around them, to be sure, explained T’riszira, but those paths were always difficult, often patrolled, and sometimes home to things that were worse than drow. Possible, but not necessarily recommended.
  • That said, T’riszira explained, I can get us past the primary blockade – I know people there, and for a price I can get us across as merchants. Cost: 2,000 gp, for bribes, house sponsorship badges, and to keep people quiet afterward. This ruse will stand… for a time. Perhaps 48 hours inside the city until the caper is blown and then? Simply put: you’re on your own.

Then T’riszira asked, somewhat coyly, what was it that drew a bunch of topsiders to Menzoberranzan in the first place. Slowly at first, but with increasing detail and speed, they told their drow guide the story of Eclavdra. T’riszira looked thoughtful throughout, raising one pale eyebrow periodically at this or that revelation. Finally, she spoke.

  • Eclavdra, of House Eilserv, is known to her… but she is not from Menzoberranzan. Rather, she’s a matron mother of an Erelhei-Cinlu house. She’s been spending time in Menzo – making friends, renting a large villa, hiring guards and slaves. When in town, she’s a hostess of some note among the high Houses, throwing lavish parties and giving expensive gifts. It’s clear that she’s trying to ingratiate herself with the major Menzo houses, but to what purpose? There’s a fair amount of speculation but it’s overwhelmingly salacious garbage.
  • If it could be said that Eclavdra has actually allies in Menzo, they’d be Houses Hunzrin and Faen Tlabbar. Eclavdra’s source of wealth is slaves, so much so that she’s fiddled the market a bit in Menzo, and that’s gotten the attention of the mercantile houses, since their wealth is largely in the slave trade as well. So far there hasn’t been any overt action against Eclavdra, but
    • That’s not really the drow way (technically illegal, until such time as a complete wipeout can take place);
    • Eclavdra has been aggressively cultivating goodwill amongst the most powerful houses, and while those efforts have been largely dismissed by the most powerful houses, Eclavdra has very cunningly cultivated some safety.
  • House Hunzrin, Eclavdra’s primary ally in Menzo, is the primary agricultural house. They’ve accepted a huge volume of fresh slaves from Eclavdra, and subsequently have become her biggest supporters. Hunzrin controls the entirety of Donigarten and this a fair amount of the immediately local food supply.
  • House Faen Tlabbar is a bit of a strange bedfellow for Eclavdra, but on second glance there are certain alignments. First, they are old school Lloth worshippers, to the extent that they consider many of the other houses to be failures in their religious obligations; second, while most houses completely eschew any relationships with surface dwellers, Faen Tlabbar has openly tolerated and in certain instances welcomed and housed like-minded surface dwellers.

Practically speaking, getting into Menzo in the manner that T’riszira recommends looks like this:

  • For 2Kgp, we pass the primary and acquire a decent cover story as merchants, including fake badges and safe passage into the city.
    • What are we selling?
    • The fake badges will maybe last 48 hours before they are sussed. Once that happens, it’s be open season on the party.
  • Upon entry at the south end of Menzo, all non-drow are interviewed, and have their credentials checked, before they admitted to the city. Once that’s completed, the group is then moved into the city proper via the street (green line) that connects the entry area to the bazaar (red circle), and are expected to acquire lodgings at one of the many inns and hotels that cater to merchants and commercial interests (yellow boxes).
  • The villa that Eclavdra has leased is not far rom the bazaar, as befits a matron engaged is large-scale slave trading. She has several agents who are mainstays in the bazaar, which runs round the clock. Her villa is shown by he brown polygon. Her allies, House Hunzrin, are located at the blue square in the east side of hte city by the Donigarten.
  • House Baenre, the leading house, is shown in the light blue square to the northwest of the city.
  • The white lines indicate where the rifts that cleave the city. Often, slaves make their own communities at the bottoms and sides of these rifts, and all are festooned with spiders large and small.