X'henvir - The City of Dreams

Deianaera's Journal (10)
Gnomes, Halflings, Elves, Lizardmen and Dragons... Oh My...

We arrived at our destination… well at least the beginning of the path to our destination. Nothing is ever simple, and I suppose a magical spring of natural wonder within the underdark qualifies as not simple. A wooden door barred our “path”, one with draconic symbols and ever so radiating magic. Seems our roguish sister, the one that collects everything, seems to have collected a symbol of Silvanus, which when pressed into the appropriate depression opened the door without the fireworks of forcing it would have.

We entered a maze where after a few intersections we arrived within a clearing that as soon as we did so, sealed the exits from room. We were trapped. And when one is trapped, one only hopes for disembodied voices to speak to you from the heavens with riddles. If I could express a sigh in writing I would be doing so now. We were asked by the voice to answer some prattling questions about their pathetic religion and it’s specifics. The seems to think were were initiates – how quaint. After the others answered the voices questions the exits to the room revealed themselves again and we carried on north. I would have no part in this blasphemous initiation or whatever Silvanus was doing in here – everything should be put to the fiery flames of Lolth… good thing I have a sister “gifted” in such things.

Another room, another set of exits disappearing. This time a stone block in the center with a riddle and some stone sigils in the corners depicting the elements. The blocked seemed to tell another riddle: I have a bed but do not sleep. I run but do not walk. I have a mouth but do not eat. I have a head but cannot see. I let my siblings solve this as well and we proceeded onwards.

Another room… you get the idea. This time there was mist in the room, mist that surrounded us and enveloped us. Apparently some really good visions came from them. I had one where I was standing in a hall of mirrors; Each vision of me looking back at me judgingly: They know. Now I was amused. First off, knew what? And secondly, what did I care if they knew? Hmm… by the sounds of it, my other siblings were encountering something much more intense. Maybe this “they know” mirror trick was meant for someone else? Or… do my siblings know something that I am searching for? Sadly I think mother would object to everyone being put to the rack for me to find out…

The exits revealed themselves again once the rest of my siblings came around from their dream states. The dragon was content to remain in hers, which suited me just fine. We proceed to the next room where we were ambushed… well at least they attempted to ambush us. A gnome, a halfling, and elf and a lizard-man… they should have moved to the surface and started a bardic performance troupe instead of a combat team… Ah well, they were eventually dispatched although the lizard thing did manage to bite me once… I felt ill to be honest, a bit nauseated from the thought rather than any toxin. Once they were all dead, a copper dragon swooped in from somewhere and landed next to myself and Ryltranzar…

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Deianaera's Journal (9)
Drums of... Kobolds?

So… it seems we are off to find some magical natural spring in the underdark that, possibly hasn’t been corrupted by the very nature of the evil permeating said underdark. Dearest Mother is still missing… well rather has not returned home from her journey, where-ever that journey was supposed to be. I tried to somewhat confront Sister Prime (shh don’t let her know I call her that in the most mocking of tones) about and she had the audacity to actually lie in my presence. I kept up appearances and etiquette and did not call her out on the lying… but perhaps I should have called her out on how bad job she did in attempting to lie to an Inquisitor.

We picked up our resident shadow dragon and since we had not really conceived of a plan to leave the city, and waltzing out in front of everyone might just be a bad idea, our shadow dragon was kind enough to open a portal to the realm of shadows and “escort” us through to near our destination so that we would not appear to have left the compound or the city. It should be enough to dissuade any untoward action towards our House.

After some traveling we decided to camp out… and our lookouts (who shall again remain nameless… but I know who the fools are) fell asleep and did not notice the ambush. Yes, we were set upon by kobolds. These kobolds were stronger than the rest an carried some strange taint on them. After dispatched them, the Shadow Dragon informed us that these kobolds had been in the presence of a powerful demon, a lieutenant perhaps? of Orcus, one of the Demon Princes. If so, their proximity to X’Henvir is worrisome and possibly a danger to the city. I am torn between turning back to warn the city and carrying on with our original mission. But that choice was promptly made for me…

A few moments after we dispatched the last of the kobolds, the sounds of war drums filled the cavern, it seems a lot more kobolds were to be coming after us? We packed up quickly and then made our way out of the area, continuing to our final destination…

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Deianaera's Journal (8)
Unknown Truthful Paths

It seems we were due for some entertainment… our brother was scheduled to appear in some sort of dueling match at a… disreputable establishment. Our esteemed guest, and that was sarcasm, the shadow dragon’s daughter, decided to book box seating for us and take up a disguise of sorts. The visage she used seemed familiar, but none of the family could place it.

The food and drink was actually quite good, and the entertainment passable. Our brother won the day- one could say it was expected of him and to be expected, but one can never know for certain. Regardless, the house may not have achieved grand fame for this, but at least it did not suffer any shame or indignity from a loss. Prior to the match starting, we were joined by the famed warlock of house Venlyral… and it was then that we realized just who our guest had polymorphed herself into… None other than Yevlanna Maladryn. The repercussions of impersonating… maybe if we start now we can get enough of a head start to avoid a very unpleasant and painful death.

Naldraen Venlyral seems to have been in on the joke of getting us all killed as after the match, my brother joined us and we had an interesting discussion and revelations party. Many thing were brought to light and time grows even shorter for us if we are to achieve everything and still be around for the fireworks that are inevitably to occur in the city. There will be fire at least, and we have decided to leave the city. This does not sit well with me, as I know for a fact that there are heretics and heathens crawling out of the woodwork in our fair city and very few of us know the truth… and that is going to cause an issue…

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Deianaera's Journal (7)
Symbols & Omens

I suppose these days were just like any other… just as good to take a stroll through the Underdark to visit an ancient draconic being of shadow and be ambushed by a pack of inept Drow. The ambush could easily be dismissed if it were not for the lead priestess, a recently promoted acolyte, uttering some interesting words on her death: “… but she promised…” Annoying if the “she” was some Matron of a House, worrisome if “she” might be an inference to Lolth herself. Very worrisome if Lolth is both actively guiding and assisting us and actively trying to hinder us. I hope my siblings assessment of the message to be of a more prime material variety.

If you could call an ancient Shadow Dragon a “he”, but I believe a better descriptor would be “it”. It was called Xarn. It was massive and immense, both in stature and presence. It exuded fear like an animal would exude musk, I could swear one of my brothers soiled themselves. Make no mistake, I may make light of it, but I am not ashamed to admit I was scared… I do not believe I have ever felt fear like that before in my short life – and yes, I was fearful my life would end up short in this shadow-filled draconic cavern.

As if the dragon was not enough, there was something else in there with us. Shadows flitted about, something amiss, something that should not be there was there. Planar studies are not my forte, but if I were to make an educated guess, I would say that the Plane of Shadow was leaking into the Underdark at this place… like a bad wound festering. Phaere did not seem to take notice, what ever she has become or perhaps what ever has addled her so, seems to have rendered her oblivious to many of these things… she strolled right up to the dragon as if it were to be dealt with as an equal… or even as an inferior… Phaere is starting to frighten me more than the mythical beings we are encountering – she might be the death of me.

Our roguish sister handled the negotiations for us, handing over the elvish babes… and we managed to pick up the Shadow Dragon’s daughter – I do not remember babysitting, tutoring, or life coaching as part of my job description, at least I can look forward to our next meeting with “Uncle” Chaerdeth.

When we finally arrived back home, I spent the night in a fitful dream. The stuff I dreamt should not be visited upon by anyone. If I had anything of my sister’s talent of augury, I would truly be fearful, as it stands I shall chalk this up to horrible nightmare that has no possibility of occurring… I hope.

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Deianaera's Journal (5&6)
The Truth

It seems discussions and planning are now complete, and a full frontal assault is our solution to Vhaerduun. An invisible full frontal assault that is. I’ll leave the meticulous and boring details to someone else, but suffice to say, we made it into the fortress just before someone else decided to assault it. And by someone, I mean another house with the balls to brush aside our normal societal etiquette and just force it. As if we were not on the clock already, this will be pushing us harder. The battle maze – yes, another grand plan (I should work on my sarcasm) – was our destination and we quickly found and entered. The Vhaerduun architects were quite good… but not good enough. We discovered their “secret” entrances through the maze and eventually arrived a guarded room… The first son and daughter doing the guarding.

I will admit that this combat I was not at my best. The warrior son was adept at the maneuver of making one sit down. Which I did a lot of. Regardless, our family pulled it together to get it done. We were still losing too much time, so we decided to just ignobly roll their bodies into our magical containers. We then proceeded to continue through the maze, though a portal, and into the bed chamber of the matron mother herself. This was much quicker, and like her children, she also was rolled into the portable hole… along with anything else we deemed worthy. We found the secret treasure room, but it was not the treasure I thought it would be. Oh there was money and most likely ledgers of boredom, but nothing that might help us against the shadow dragon. Aside from the drow twin babes we found.

Afterwards, when we returned home, I had expected a certain euphoria of victory; instead I experienced something along the lines of wastefulness. An entire house brought down. Victory, glee for some, but my purpose, my life is dedicated to the cold harsh reality of the truth. You may not like what you find, but you can never brush it aside or disregard it. And the truth is that the drow will never retake the surface world if we continue to slaughter ourselves. Do not come to me seeking solutions, I merely expose the truth. And yes, I am aware the messenger usually gets shot…

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Thoughts and Formulations Part 4
Lloth is Watching

Our house has gained prestige since the surface raid. Already the spiders are drawing closer, weaving their webs of deceit and hoping to swallow us whole. Two of my brothers have already fallen to another house. Gyi’drak has already given us an idea who is behind their disappearance, but we have no evidence of their involvement. Yet, the jealousy does not end there.

Our encounter with the illithid party has made it to the ears of House Maladryn. Mother was able to stay our execution for the time being. In return for the “mercy” of the ruling house we must help the illithids reclaim their lost brother and give them 50% of any reward offered. We have a time frame given to us by the illithids, if we do not meet it, our reward will diminish further. It is a fair bargain, but one that seems far easier than it will most likely be. Still, I want to see that druid filleted….but for the sake of the house I will stay my hand…for now.

Other houses did not fare as well as ours. An opportunity has presented itself for us to further our position and gain more resources. Even Lloth has shown her face to our House and given us favor.

This Chaerdeth the White, however……he is someone I wish to get to know better. There are secrets he is holding onto and a knowledge he possesses that I must know. Already our house has struck a bargain with him to be the broker of our goods. I believe there is far far more he can offer though….far more.

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Deianaera's Journal (4)
Drudgery & Divination

A day of drudgery. Perhaps not to those that take an absurd interest in diplomatic overtures and allusion wrapped in insinuation and stuffed into innuendo. Perhaps I should have stopped at the kitchens for a snack before settling in to write all this or perhaps the mad mages dinner is causing heartburn of a different kind? But I am getting ahead of myself.

The day started off with three brothers missing our appointed rendezvous. Perhaps they celebrated too much the night before. Regardless, we proceeded without them, no sense in shaming the entire house by being late. Our first stop was the Thin Blades, where we apparently were to be debriefed. Aside from the warning to keep what Szordrin said about dead gods returning to life to ourselves, much of the conversation was steered towards how the Thin Blades or just Gyi’drak could make more money or power by selling us information. I will give him credit for letting us know that House Evlaren are responsible for murdering two of our brothers – free of charge apparently. I did leave Gyi’drak a note about his fee schedule so perhaps some accommodation can be made for the information I seek.

We returned to the house to prepare ourselves for our next stop, where our dear sister Phaere let us know she was visited by Lolth herself and told her to go hunt down a Shadow Dragon. As if a powerful Illithid druid were not enough, now we have to take on a dragon. Perhaps a frontal assault on House Maladryn was next on the list? She also said that Lolth told her that House Vhaerduun was sitting on a large magical cache that would greatly benefit our own House if we could procure it. Plans were set in motion but had to wait until we returned from the mad mage.

We were off to see Chaerdeth the White next, and as we did enter, it was obvious to see that this creature was not a drow. He did let us know that at least, but not much else, more innuendo and more drudgery and then Sephir went on about acquiring a Moonblade. Perhaps the plan is giving it to the Shadow Dragon as a gift?

We returned to the House, and the information that I sought was no where to be found it seems. It appears other methods will have to be attempted and other avenues pursued if I am to find what the heretics in our city.

The night was spent in dreams again and the morning came sooner than expected with servants pounding on the door. It appears the Illithid delegation was here. Not many more interesting surprises other than the fact that we were caught in our lie about being the great house, sentenced to death and execution stayed on the condition we fulfill the quest set upon us by the mind flayers to return their “lost” brother to their fold. I do not think the surface dwellers could write a trashier adventure novel than this. What did pique my interest the most was Mother dearest wearing a very unusual sword to the reception. I memorized as many details as I could, perhaps Chaerdeth knows what that is…

The rest of this day was spent bickering amongst ourselves on which path to persue first, and as much as I value my sister’s unholy connection with Lolth, waltzing into the den of a Shadow Dragon for a banquet was probably not the wisest of first choices… not unless we planned on being the dinner served. No, the logical choice would be to handle Vhaerduun first, and hope that they have some magic to help with the dragon… yes, I think I’ll have to mention that to Phaere next time I see her, she had two visions after all, and sometimes we need to interpret them properly, obviously Lolth wants us properly equiped with the magic from House Vhaerduun to deal with the Shadow Dragon. Even if it needs to be hammered into her fragile head.

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Victory...
and Dread

We delved deeper into the forest, towards the elf village? or did they consider it a town? Regardless, we knew we had them on the run, surprise and ruthless ferocity was winning the night. This battle was much harder that anything we had faced previously, these were not militia we were fighting, but well trained combatants. One with a Halberd proved exceptionally difficult and required the aid of our guide for me to dispatch her. Somewhat troubling and perhaps embarrassing, it was almost as if Lolth was disinterested or preoccupied. My calls to her were answered, but not with the interest… more with lethargy and emotionless… Do not assume that I think myself grand enough for more profound illumination from her, but this was different. Perhaps that is why I fared below average?

The battle was eventually won, there was no doubt of that from our great house, the methods and decisiveness of the fact might be called into question, but none can deny that we won the night and would be returning with the spoils of war. It was, I suppose, slightly disappointing that I would not be returning with a living breathing elf to play with, but even though I was able to halt the escape of the last fleeing royal member with a spell, my anger was still spilling over and decapitation felt more rewarding at the time than dragging the elf through the tunnels back home… perhaps for the best, we would have to listen to the whining for weeks.

We encountered more Illithid on our way back home. At least this time it wasn’t the same druid-like Illithid as before. On the other hand, it was several Illithid at once. Of course, I immediately thought: Why can’t anything ever be easy? But it seems they were not interested in a battle but conversation… of course, conversation with an Illithid could very well be a battle for your mind. These creatures should be wipe from the face of creation, for the simple fact of ensuring the safety of our minds and our very selves.

The mind flayers were concerned about the druid-illithid, and they did not care to handle the matter themselves. Instead they wanted us to handle it for them, and would reward us for capturing the illithid and bringing it to them so that they could return him to the fold so to speak. There are so many things wrong with this that I cannot begin to describe, but since it is a long journey back home, I might as well go through them for the sake of something to do… perhaps someone will read this and understand the folly we took upon ourselves.

1) Capturing an Illithid… because we all come equipped with mind shielding? restraining a creature one thing, but how do you restrain a creatures mind? I suppose we could bash it into unconsciousness constantly… but that might annoy the non-crazy illithids… and who really wants to deal with annoyed Illithids?

2) Returning a crazy illithid to sane illithids… what would happen if the crazy spread? then we would not just have one super powerful illithid but several? tens? many? crazy illithids. Yes, nothing says safety of the drow civilization than crazy silvanus-worshipping drow-hating illithids. That was sarcasm by the way.

3) How do you even capture an illithid? Do we set a trap for it? And just who is going to volunteer to be the bait? A living breathing intelligent life-form would be needed… and since no one is going to want to volunteer to be illithid bait, it would have to be a bound and gagged living breathing intelligent life form. But how do you gag a mind? I mean wouldn’t the illithid just be able to read bait’s mind and discern the trap?

This whole thing is ridiculous. And to top it all off, I’m starting to dream some really strange dreams, nothing I can remember after waking, but there is a feeling of… something. It is as if our triumph is slowly being taken from us. I almost dread returning home now.

We’ve returned. Our victorious homecoming preceded us and there was a reception waiting. Why do I feel dread instead of happiness? Something is going to happen… something is happening… Why? Why?

I do not recall the reception much; Revelry. Food. Drink. I partook slightly in the latter two, but not the first. There was something about a prominent crafter of magic that wanted our presence. We kept the illithids to ourselves. The food tasted like dust, and the wine like vinegar. Maybe the ring of sustenance had some side effects.

There was more dreams, this time I remembered. This time I awoke with a start. This time… the dreams were frightening, discerning, compelling. I need to find out more, my sheltered life would not yield the answers I wanted… needed. I would have to start making enquiries… and maybe even some inquiries. Perhaps the real test of my education and upbringing is now.

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Deianaera's Journal (3)
A Royal Visit?

We have finally reached the surface. The trepidation I felt intensified as we approached the hidden access point. What would I see? feel? they call it the open sky, but others have compared it to an endless abyss. I could already begin to notice the change in aromas, the surface world smelled much different than our own, much less fungi-smell and the guano smells were becoming a fading memory. When I first stepped out, a tinge of vertigo struck me as I gaped in awe of the sky. Someone had painted a canvas on a domed roof so high… the Celestials glimmered and winked at me. The numerous new smells threatened to overwhelm me, but I managed to keep my composure. I gripped the snake-headed whip and my rapier tighter, letting the anger seethe slowly into me; it would be only right for me to repay our dear cousins for their transgressions, especially the one denying us the surface world and its beauty. Oh yes, they would pay dearly.

Gyi’drak only let us gawk for so long, ushering us along to our planned attack zone. We would make them pay for this. Anyone who would say that revenge is a dish best served cold does not know the Drow well. It seems our stealth and surprise were not, someone-or something, perhaps our friendly Illithid? had warned the elves for we were greeted by a massive… plant? My horticultural and herbalism studies have never mentioned anything like a twenty foot wide carnivorous plant. Very well, just another obstacle in my path to revenge.

We managed to dispatch the hideous flora, albeit with someone deciding to examine the inside of the monstrous thing while it was still alive. I shall not name names, as I feel someone less couth will
indubitably do so for me. We proceeded and met elvish resistance finally. A motley lot of what appeared to be barely trained militia with a couple of mildly dangerous sergeants. The battle was barely worth mentioning… except the part where I cleaved one in twain. I never knew one could keep a look of incredulity for that long after being slain.

Gyi’drak had stopped fighting during the battle to communicate with someone or someones, after we had dispatched the last of the pathetic elvish resistance, we found out what he was discussing. Apparently one of the royal houses was paying this disgusting community a visit. And that they were still here.

I think I could use a royal pet. Mother would be well pleased that one of her children could bring back a royal plaything…

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Thoughts and Formulations Part 3
Dying for my Siblings...Nearly

We travel for a few more days without any signs of the Mind flayer. I wish he would show his face again so I might ram my scimitar into his appendages and stuff them down his throat. He will die a torturous death if my sisters do not rob me of the joy of doing it myself.

Crayz has improved in his scouting abilities. He may prove to be somewhat useful afterall…Sephir on the other hand, as well as myself, do not appear to be of much aid in finding our way. Still, Gyi is patient until time became more pressing. He insisted on leading the rest of the way to the cursed surface.

On the way he tells us that the Mind Flayer has attacked the other Houses as well. Some have even had casualties. It means less competition in the end, yet I wish we had to compete with them all. The other matrons could say our success was due to the interference of this meddlesome illithid. Still, it is somewhat less disturbing to know we are not the only target. Gyi tells us that as far as he knows there has been no druid among the Copper elves we are to attack. Just because he has not heard of one does not mean it is the case.

After two long weeks, we emerged from the caverns into the moonlight. Our senses are somewhat overwhelmed with the new scents in the air. My senses are heightened as we make our way to the staging area. Something is amiss….I can feel it in my bones. Our hopes that the mind flayer was not in league with the surface elves is quickly squashed. And then it happens….

A giant tendril erupts from the ground with a massive maw just as cries from the other camps can be heard. It is an attack! The Mind Flayer! He must have warned the elves afterall! The foul creature dares touch my mind taunting us with lies….that we will all die. Not this day and most certainly not by some druidic concoction!

Gyi urges us to kill what Crayz tells us is a moonflower as the other camps are being attacked too. Without wasting time I call forth a scorching ray that tears into the flower and makes it scream in agony. Twice I cause it great damage while my siblings’ attempts fall short. The fools have mocked me for years….now they see my worth…or should!

Strike after strike, my fire burns through the cursed plant, enraging it until it no longer can ignore me. With a quick action, it wraps a tendril around me and swallows it whole. Stupid move on my part! Stunned and useless, I struggle just to survive. This was not how I expected my life to end. Yes, I want to die in battle, but not in the gullet of some monster.

Searing heat scorches the pod surrounding me. I can feel it but the cloak about me helps protect me from the flames. From where it came, I can only guess…Pal’entyr no doubt. Once more the flame burns at the pod and fresh air breaks through as I see Gyi’s face as his blades slice through the fleshy membrane. Acid splashes on me, burning my skin, but I am alive. One more scar to join the others, a price to pay for my failures. With one last grand summoning, fueling it with the rage burning inside, I send another scorching ray of fire to the creature, burning it to a crisp. The death howl is not nearly as satisfying as it should be. Still, my siblings are safe, especially the Oracle.

My eyes turn to Gyi and I thank him, as well as Pal’entyr…something I never should have done. His words and sneer spur my hatred for him even more. Were he not the Oracle’s twin, he would not have such a right to stare down his nose at me. I am more master of the arcane arts than he.

Even Phaere’s approving smile plunges the dagger deeper. I put my life on the line for them….for all of my siblings…. One day they will respect me….one day they will finally show me the honor I deserve. One day they will depend on me to save their life…then they will see.

Phaere does at least tend to my injuries as well as her own. While we still recover from the battle we heard the sound of battle horns in the distance. Rest would not come for us.

With my blood still pumping from one battle, we rushed in to meet our attackers. Gyi charges in and kills one elf immediately as Pal’entyr once more cast a web onto our attackers. Foolish brother! He cares only for his own skin….yet it is not he alone who makes it difficult for me and our other siblings to attack. Crayz too summons entangling roots to stop our attackers from advancing. Do they not realize we must work as one? It is for this reason our House has not risen further. It is for this reason we will be held back.

Though our enemy tries to take us down, they cannot stand against House Daervhaal. None are left alive.

While we survey the battlefield Gyi tells us that Lloth has smiled upon us. The children of the wood elf leader is visiting. We cannot let this opportunity escape us.

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