Well, I must say, we have had an adventurous morning. After our little encounter with the crazed, feral monkeys from underground, we were quick to move. After all, if these were minions of the drow we sought, they would certainly be, uh, missed? Missed seems like the wrong choice of words, a bit more sentimental than I find it believable to think anyone could be about them, but you take my point.
Rock and Katarina and Katarina’s “pet” moved ahead of the party about a mile and a half to the top of a small hill. On the other side they beheld a small, shallow valley and, on its other side, another small hill of similar height as their own. Rock spotted a cave on the far side of the valley with what was clearly the path of the evil monkeys coming out of it. Badl was in bird form, overhead, and between the four of them they were able to spot that the small campsite – complete with roasting pig – off to one side of the valley floor was an elaborate illusion designed, without doubt, to snare any unwary adventurers who happened past. Fortunately, they also saw the drow lookout perched in a tree, wrapped in a cloak and keeping an eye on the illusory campsite.
Katarina, Badl and Rock were quick to take him down, and soon they were slipping away from the valley with a bound and grumpy drow in their possession. Upon returning to us, we all questioned him and learned that there were 64 other drow in the cave, a dozen slaves (all elves, he claimed) and that they were here purely to collect slaves. I asked pointedly if they had any halflings and he got wary of us – and confessed that they had three. He also told us that there was, among the forces of the drow, a priestess of Beshaba. I have a number of reasons to dislike Beshabans, not least of which is the time some very bad people tried to slander Tel by claiming he was a “brood” of Beshaba.
I wrote a song about it. I have to say, it was one of my best.
After finishing our discussion with him, Badl asked him one more question: bunny, squirrel or chipmunk? The guy knitted his brow and said, “Bunny?” Badl accomodated him by turning him into a bunny and he shortly was off running through the woods eating various wild lettuces. Delightful!
The rest of us agreed that now we had taken a scout we would have to move quickly. I made myself appear to be a drow and everyone else hid. En masse, we took position in the woods outside the cave and I perched in the scout’s former post. Katarina’s shadow explored the cave for us and came back wounded – I am very bothered by the sort of talk going around about what it takes to “heal” a shadow, but we’ll
just save that one for some other time – with a report that inside there were countless dead bodies, one very large crab and a woman in armor perched in a tree atop the hill. We agreed to take out the
priestess at the top of the hill first – the giant crab was, we hoped, unintelligent and, in a situation where one of them got away, the crab would at least be easier to track.
I have to say, you know you’re a seasoned adventurer when you’re sitting up a tree in the middle of the Cormanthor pretending to be a drow, a shadow appears out of the ground and tells you a “giant crab”
is in the cave ahead of you, and it’s just business as usual. Adventuring is a very strange profession.
We gathered our various means of sneaking up on her and then flew up to take care of what seemed to be the most immediate threat. Katarina, Shadow and Bonzo went into the cave to cover the priestess’
exit and the rest of us gathered together the frontal assault. Between the five of us up top, it was a quick matter to take the Beshaban priestess down a peg or two, knock her unconscious and bind her in her treetop turret. However, I should note, spells seem… slippery around these drow. It’s like our ability to reach into the guts of the universe and make things simply happen just sort of slides around
them. It’s very disturbing.
Memo to self: Nigel has expressed the opinion that there must be a balance between all things, good and evil, law and chaos. If this were true, would it also be true of a balance between random events and controlled? After all, magic seems to slide off these drow like water off a duck, but it also seems to feel like the same sort of “random” event I can nudge in one direction or another like so many other apparently random events. Are there, in fact, laws that govern chaos? If so, are they true laws or merely an impotent effort to recognize the slow creep of chaos into all events and, in their recognition, subsume them into a larger but ultimately hollow framework that seeks but fails to fully describe the structure of the world? Is it all a matter of perspective? Is the world utterly chaotic and, in the wide spread of truly random outcomes, is it possible to pick and choose interpretations such that any belief in laws or other preordained structures and rules can be amply but ultimately falsely supported? Or is it quite the opposite: that there are vast and near-immutable rules of operation but that the Powers That Be have the capacity to twist and shape the rules to their own advantage, and do so with such frequency that the appearance of chaos is merely a smokescreen for their backstage machinations in the lives of such mere
mortals as we?
I am, above all, a believer in fate. The TTC clearly was, and continues to be, fated for greatness. And yet, many of our best efforts have been, throughout our history, stymied by seemingly random events. On the other hand, I have made it my specialty to have the ability to do some of that twisting myself. If there are levers and pulleys in the machine of the universe that allow me to
do such things, then there must be structure to the chaos. And yet, the structure itself allows chaos to be, well, chaotic.
I suppose these are the sorts of things I should think about when I’m not on the job. After all, we have a door to open and this damp old cave is murder on my look..
After we’d taken her out, I asked Greebo to keep an eye out in the direction of what we suspect to be at least another drow scout if not another outpost – the priestess, as we approached, was using a giant mirror to signal some remote part of the forest. Rock wanted to break the mirror, but I reminded him doing so is, quite frankly, terrible bad luck. We’d just bested a priestess of the goddess of bad luck, and, you know, my whole deal is sort of actively working against the idea of luck altogether. The two don’t really mix to
begin with, and I wasn’t terribly interested in poking Beshaba with yet another sharp stick and seeing what happened.
Anyway, we tucked our prisoner away with a gorilla and a shadow standing over her ready to beat her back unconscious if she came to (and a Tressym watching our backs), and went downstairs to examine the
wreckage of the drow caves. We found a variety of interesting things – a badly burned boullette having seizures in a metal cage, a larger cage hanging open and a variety of corpses scattered about. Perhaps most interestingly, we also found a door that read, in ancient dwarven runes, DO NOT ENTER. Rock was kind enough to lend me his listening cup, but even with that I could only make out the clanging and banging of metalworks behind the door. Our current theories run towards constructs being back there, but we
haven’t opened it yet. More on that in a bit.
The time had come to find out what was up with this “giant crab,” and Katarina volunteered to scout out the room where it had been seen. Inside she saw a bunch of metal boxes, a huge pile of dead bodies and, next to it, an umberhulk I find it hard to describe adequately with mere words. To start with, it must have been twenty feet tall, and its claws were enormous. Unfortunately, it had the ability to cause people to go temporarily mad, and in this regard it found Katarina an easy target. She ran screaming toward
it, sword out, and the rest of us knew we needed to act quickly or our new friend would be remarkably dead. Rock and Badl ran in, Nigel and Adric and I fired some spells at it, and although it did manage to very nearly kill Rock with a single hit, we managed to drop it (with quite a thud) in short order. No sooner had we started to relax, though, than we spotted three drow hiding in a corner of the room. They
tried to put up an effective defense but, really, they were no match for us. I confess that there was some, um, collateral damage in terms of slaves, but they were all drugged so, well… at least they didn’t suffer. Or, at least they weren’t alert for the suffering. I guess. I am yet again very, very glad for
Adric’s presence, for he has been specially blessed with the ability to ease the suffering and heal the wounds of others, gifts beyond the ken of any other cleric I have ever known. (It doesn’t hurt that he seems to have an especially civilized air about him.)
At any rate, now we have another drow prisoner, the rest of the cave to explore and an ancient dwarven EMPLOYEES ONLY sign to go bust open. As I sit here writing this and chewing on a trail ration, I
have to hope that what’s behind that door is, frankly, mind-bendingly dangerous. Does that make me some kind of weirdo?