Hive Day 5 (Uath 17)

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Uath 17
Jizam has been casting alarm spells, so he will need to rest fully before studying the four new spells. It will be four hours. [U16 – 11pm-1am]

When Jizam stirs from his rest, he re-examines the spellbook Carnail has given him. He carefully counts the pages of magical writing, estimating how long it will take him, and finally decides that although it is a slim text, he should memorize two copies of read magic rather than one. That leaves him just one space for comprehend languages, although Carnail requested two, since he will need an alarm as well. He asks her about it, and Carnail asks how long the current alarm will last. Jizam estimates a few more hours. Carnail says they should be back from the library by then, so she can pull guard duty – he can let the alarm run out – there will be a lot of books in the library for him to examine.

Donning the Talisman of Memorization, Jizam makes short work of studying the four spells. [U17 – 1am-1:30am] His blur, knock and lightning bolt are all uncast from the day before, so he allows them to remain in his mind.

Jizam casts his first read magic and quickly scans the spellbook. Four different spells of two pages each, and a single spell of four pages. He reads the longest one first – dimension door. He then sets to work on the shorter spells: hold portal, blindness, knock – then his time runs out.

Jizam pauses to refocus himself, then casts his second_ read magic_. He studies the last remaining spell – feather fall – but it is curiously long. Just like the spell in Velinax’s book – it contains verbal components only, with no call for the feather that he knows the spell normally requires.

Jizam is loathe to waste the remaining duration on his spell – what else is magical and needs reading? He takes out the alchemy book from the laboratory. It was mostly recipes, true, but there were bits and snatches of magical text throughout, possibly helpful incantations useful in creating potions and such. As Jizam opens the tomb he is surprised, and then shocked – it all fits together! This is not a book of random recipes, it is a directed guide, a step-by-step manual for the purposeful creation of a central product…but what? With just a few moments of spell left, Jizam rapidly flips through the pages, trying to piece things together. There, on the final page – the incantation to bring the creation to life – a living creature summoned into dead flesh – a super zombie? No, a flesh golem!

His spell over, Jizam excitedly tells Carnail that in addition to the spellbook, she has recovered a manual of flesh golem creation!

Hive xp(23)

Carnail congratulates Jizam and asks him to prepare for the library trip. She, Lee, and Jizam leave the lair and Carnail wakes up Fogey, who had been dozing.
[U17 – 1:30am-1:45am]

With Lee levitating and carrying Jizam, and Carnail ascending and descending the rope, they make it down to the main circular hall and take a short walk over to the library access. Lee rises up to the top – there is just enough rope to let down all the way to the tunnel floor. She stays at the high point, belaying while Carnail comes up, then lowers her down into the first library chamber, then descends herself with Jizam.

Jizam explains that his two comprehend language spells will last nearly an hour, but that he will need to touch anything he is to read. Carnail nods. She sends Lee up to the shelves, tossing down books and scrolls for Carnail to catch, although there is little in the first chamber that is recoverable. Lee asks about some partially burned books and Carnail tells her not to bother – if it was magical, it would be better protected – they can do a more thorough job later, and this is just the first pass. They take the few things collected from this chamber, go into the third, and pile them in the center of the floor. Then Carnail and Lee go back to the second chamber and repeat the process, which also does not take long. In the third chamber, though, most of the books are intact, so that after they are done there there is a pile of several dozen books, parchment sheets, and scrolls.

Once everything is assembled, Jizam casts his first spell and starts directing the women at how to organize the volumes – history, herbology, geography, political theory, metallurgy, miscellaneous. Even after all of the volumes have been identified, there is nothing obviously magical.

Jizam casts his second spell and Carnail directs him to read the history books and try to find something useful. Most of the books involve human nations, but there are no names that Jizam recognizes. He reads the names to Carnail, but she has not heard of them either. Jizam does find one volume that is a history of the underdark – it details wars, alliances, and trade between the tyrants and drow, mind flayers, duegar, kuotoa, and others. Carnail says that they will be taking that one, but the others can be left here for the time being. [U17 – 1:45am-3:45am]

Hive xp(24)

The three of them return to the lair. Jizam confirms that the alarm is down. Carnail tells him to rest and restore it – in the meantime she will stay in the tunnel above on guard duty. She asks Lee to come back up with the slop bucket, though. Lee returns in a few minutes – the bucket is empty and doesn’t smell, even though Carnail knows they have been using it for almost a complete day. When she asks Lee, Lee explains that Fogey has been casting purify on the wastes, turning them into odorless organic matter that he then spreads on the moss gardens in the room below. That gets Carnail thinking – she tells Lee to have Fogey take some more purifies, since she wants to keep the body of the Hive Mother fresh.

“What about the other bodies?” asks Lee.

“We will be skinning those on our next foray,” says Carnail, “Hopefully thin enough to dry without rotting too much. And…”, she adds, “…have Fogey take a r_emove curse_ as well – I want to have Jizam read the Hive Mother’s Diary, or whatever that book is we found under her room.”

Fogey is rested and ready to go, but Carnail waits until Jizam is ready as well – she wants the alarm up while they are gone.

[U17 – 4am-8am] When Jizam is again ready to memorize, she has him prepare three alarms – which he says should be enough to get them through almost an entire day, with Carnail on watch for the remaining six hours. As his fourth spell, he takes comprehend languages again. After he casts the first, Lee and Carnail leave to retrieve the tyrant bodies. She skins them where she finds them. It is slow work for Lee, as all she has is a small utility knife, but Carnail tells her to take her time. Carnail stands watch and holds the glowstone for her.

The two of them spread the skins out to dry in the hall below the lair, and take the bodies down into the corkscrew tunnel, stashing them in the section that appears to be a petrified meat larder. Then they return to the lair. At the base of the shaft, Carnail notes the bodies of the doppelgangers, which gets her thinking.

“We should skin these, too,” she tells Lee. “Collect their blood, take their faces intact like a mask, and as much of their skin as we can. Might be able to make some sort of suit of disguise. Chare would know how to enchant it.” She prods one of the bodies with her foot. It has been dead several hours and is stiff, but not yet starting to bloat.

Lee looks dubious. As a ranger, she has had plenty of practice skinning things – much more than Carnail, anyway. “Blood is easy, if messy – we have a couple of empty potion flasks I think. But you’re not going to get an intact face – not with something as clumsy as this…” She holds out the utility knife she used to carve up the tyrants. Tough hide is not the same as a thin layer of skin over bone.

“Well then, we need something more delicate.”

“Like what?”

“There was all kinds of stuff in that lab room. I had a look while you were tossing down books. It’s a good bet they had some dissection supplies there.”

The pair return to the laboratory. Lee looks around, and sure enough finds several fine scalpels and other dissection equipment, as well as plenty of empty flasks and even funnels. It is a bit cumbersome, but they manage to get all of the equipment up and out of the laboratory and into the hall above.

[U17 – 8:45am] Returning to the lair is halfway around the hub, but at a quarter of the way is the shaft to the chamber where Carnail fought the first tyrant, and its two doppelgänger minions. She wants those as well so they leave their supplies in the hall and levitate up. These ‘gangers have been dead a day and a half and it is with no relish that Lee hauls their stiff forms back down to the bottom of the shaft before returning for Carnail.

[U17 – 9am] Lee, with the girdle, is able to manage both bodies, while Carnail carries the delicate glass bottles. They are nearly within sight of the shaft to the lair when they pass the entrance to the passage spiraling down. Lee sets the bodies down and tells Carnail to wait while she retrieves the other two.

With all four bodies together at the entrance to the shaft down, Lee begins draining the bodies of blood, letting the excess trickle into the shaft and flow away down its slope. It takes her a long time to bleed them out – major arteries are either nowhere to be found, or at least not where she is expecting them based on her understanding of humanoid anatomy. With time, though, they have no problem filling all ten flasks retrieved from the laboratory.

She then starts on the delicate work of skinning the bodies. This is strange going as well. The skulls are not hard bone, but spongy, cartilaginous stuff. The skin is not thin and delicate, but thick and elastic. It takes hours, but at last she has all four done, with a reasonably intact face and head and most of the back, so that it could conceivably be worn as a cloak and mask, though she shudders when she thinks about it and tries not to.

[U17 – 12pm] Leaving the bled, skinned, bodies there and taking the skins, Carnail and Lee return to the base of the shaft where Lee lays out the skins and turns over the tyrant skins she already had drying. Examining them, she shakes her head. Condensation has pooled up on their undersides and the part exposed to the air is no dryer than when she left them several hours ago.

Lee turns to Carnail. “These aren’t drying, at all. If we are going to be here several more days waiting for Digger and Awn, they are going to be covered in mold by the time we leave.”

“Options?”

“Salt – if you can make your bag produce a ton of it. Fire – if you can find anything here to burn. The lower city had plenty of scrap wood, but since we have been up here, all the furniture is stone.”

“Or Fogey?”

“Yes, if he has enough spells.”

“_Purify_ seems to be low-level – we should be fine.”

Carnail and Lee leave the skins and return to the lair. They place the vials of blood in the hallway above the lair. Once back, they answer everyone’s questions about what they did while gone, and Carnail requests that Fogey take as many preservation spells as he can. Later, Carnail asks Jizam to read from the Hive Mother’s book. He doesn’t get it all read in one sitting, but over the course of the next several days they learn the following:

The tyrant city that they are in originated from a long time in the past, when tyrants ruled not only it but the surface lands as well, and humans had only recently begun to appear in the area. It was called Ilth K’hinax in the beholder tongue, which Jizam translates as “Place of Spires”. The tyrants considered it a beautiful city, with a thriving population of hundreds of tyrants and allied creatures. Many of the other subterranean races knew of and marveled at its existence, and the more intelligent ones, from the perspective of the tyrants, paid tribute to it to establish peaceful relations and trade.

Still, many were jealous of the power of the tyrants, and they were constantly vigilant against invasion. On more than one occasion other underdark races tried to attack Ilth K’hinax, either openly or through subtle infiltration. Some of the fallen warriors of the enemies of the tyrants decorate the walls and pillars of the city still.

In the end, the downfall of the city came, not from without, but from within. Power factions within the city constantly opposed each other, plotting for prestige and control. Ultimately, the conflicts erupted into open violence and a civil war ensued. Some factions were eliminated and others fled, but a few were left and openly continued warfare throughout the tunnels and spires of the city. In the end, one faction prevailed, but the place was no longer a great city. The other underdark races, seizing their chance, converged on the city and wiped out the remaining tyrants.

After this, the city was abandoned and lay silent and dark. In the wilds of the underdark, legends of the city were passed down through the generations. It became more of a mythical than a real place. Ixathinion, who Jizam soon realizes was the Hive Mother and author of the diary, dedicated her life to finding the city. More than 150 years ago she began her search. She researched for years, examining shreds of evidence from tales and records bought, stolen, taken by force, and tricked out of the hands of other subterranean races. Slowly she began to construct a map showing possible locations for the fabled city, and then to undertake long journeys to explore the possibilities. Her perseverance paid off – she was the first tyrant to see the city in over a thousand years.

Overjoyed, Ixathinion led her own hive to the site and established it as their new home. She then began the task of reclaiming the city. She knew that she would not be able to re-establish it to its former glory within her own lifetime, but was confident that her successors would.

Very soon after Ixathinion had taken up residence in the city, she explored the tunnels to the surface and was angered to find that the world above was now filled with humans. Her research had shown her that the downfall of Ilth K’hinax had come from other races, and she was convinced that its great failing had been the interaction with and acceptance of other races. Under her rule, all other sentient creatures would either be killed, enslaved, or driven away.

Thus she decided early on that the place above called “Traft” by the humans would need to be destroyed, along with all of its inhabitants. However, she was aware that Traft itself was part of a larger human nation, and that even if her hive was strong enough to move against the city, it would invite reprisals from the humans. So, she devised a plan. One of her subordinates was dispatched to Traft to create a criminal organization called, in the human tongue, the “Unblinking Eye”. Her plan was to slowly and subtly degrade the fabric of Traft, siphoning off its riches and increasing its lawlessness until it ultimately collapsed and was abandoned.

The servant she sent to perform this operation was Qeqtoxii. While he quickly established a “Thieve’s Guild” in the world above, Ixathinion soon noted signs of disloyal thoughts from him. Although he was careful to hide his activities, he was not so smart as he thought. He had become corrupted by his time on the surface – he enjoyed too much the power and wealth he had gained there and even imagined that he could overthrow Ixathinion herself and rule in her stead. Jizam says that lengthy sections of the diary are devoted to the Hive Mother obsessing about Qeqtoxii’s disloyalty but about how he did not know that the Hive Mother knew about it. Some of Qeqtoxii’s plans are described, including how he adopted various human personas – the “Faceless Man” to rule the Thieve’s Guild, and “Velinax the Vermillion” to travel, gain knowledge and – in the end – recruit a band of human adventurers in an attempt to overthrow Ixathinion.

The last part of the diary explains how Ixathinion had not heard from Qeqtoxii for several weeks, and her suspicion that he had indeed found a suitable adventuring group and would soon be making his attempt.

Carnail and Lee discuss the text much in the next several days. Fogey is enraptured at Jizam’s readings. Carnail says she is relieved to know they actually (and unknowingly) eliminated the leader of the Thieve’s Guild – his escape was one loose end she wanted to tie up. She does wonder if any of the other tyrants escaped, or if they managed to get them all. Jizam says that there are references to other tyrants in the diary, but he skipped over them so as to get to the main story. In subsequent days, he goes back and identifies them, and Fogey takes notes.

Gazriktak is described is being craven and obsequious. The Hive Mother did not trust him with anything important. She knew he would always support her, but was of little use since he could not act independently or go far from her. She made him keep all of his wealth with her, which he seemed happy to do. Because of his cowardice, she allowed him to keep a “roper” in his chamber, but even still he is said to have filled his room with barricades. Based on the room description, Carnail believes that this is the tyrant which fled down the tunnel away from the first fight, and which later which hid under the table in her fight with the Hive Mother.

Khuxristul is said to be a mage. He lost his central eye but somehow learned to cast spells. The Hive Mother allowed him to have a full laboratory and conduct many experiments, but did not allow him to store many books or accumulate too much knowledge or magic items for fear he would rebel. He was not entrusted with missions on his own, but was often sent along with another tyrant to provide magical support. It was he that found and later animated the stone golem that Carnail fought upon entering the Hive. The description of both the lost eye and the magic items assures Carnail that this was one of the last pair she dispatched, the one that attacked with the delayed blast fireball necklace.

Qeqtoxii was Velinax, already slain before they entered the Hive. The description of his room seems to match the empty lair they found with several mirrors in it.

Sespetoxri is described as greedy and as being a sneak. The Hive Mother knows that he had several hidden treasure spots in the lower city, but not even she knew where they all were. She strongly suspected that one was in the water room. He is said to have delighted in traps, and was always suggesting ways that the Hive could construct traps. He was “allowed” to keep two doppelgangers, but only because the Hive Mother wanted them with him to spy on him. Carnail believes that this was the first tyrant she slew, in his own room with the doppelgangers.

Sikrewxes was a tyrant the Hive Mother actually seemed to respect, and even considered as a possible successor. He was always plotting and scheming, and the Hive Mother spent a great deal of time unraveling and analyzing his plots. She was satisfied that he always worked to gain her favor by pitting the other tyrants against one another, but he never actually moved against her or did anything disloyal. She notes that the other tyrants never liked to visit his lair, as it had some kind of disorientation magic on it. By this, Carnail takes the lair to be the one where she and Lee “fell” to the ceiling, but she is unsure of which tyrant this was or whether he was slain. She suspects that this was the tyrant that arrived during her fight with the Hive Mother, the one that stoned Reamer and disintegrated Split Lip, but she arrives at this conclusion through process of elimination rather than positive evidence.

Zulnethrac is described as the Hive Mother’s most loyal and trusted tyrant. He laired just outside her lair so as to warn and defend her. He is said to have been particularly skilled in charming monsters, and to have worked tirelessly at exploring and restoring the city below. Carnail believes that he was the second tyrant in the fireball fight, and that it was likely he that controlled the giant centipede that started the fight.

Carnail is very satisfied that the number of tyrants mentioned is the number of confirmed dead, even if she is not sure of all of their exact identities. Jizam says that the book mentions “servants” and “thralls” in many places, but does not describe them well. Some are clearly doppelgangers, but there may be one or more other kinds, as well.

Hive xp(25)

After finally resting themselves, Carnail has one more outing planned. She and Lee make a foray to the statue gallery to get a count of who is there, besides Reamer.

37 “columns”
1 kuo-toa
1 mind flayer
8 humans
27 elves

Two “walls” with 12 each
3 of unknown race
15 dwarves
6 gnomes

Image: Humanoid of unknown race
derro.png

After that, it is just a matter of waiting out the days, along with a lot of taking turns story-telling to kill the boredom and keep from going stir-crazy. Jizam and Fogey, in particular, are keen to hear any story Carnail has, and she has years of adventuring to draw on. Lee has heard all of these, before, but doesn’t seem to mind the repetition. Fogey has plenty of stories of his own, many he has heard, and many from personal experience, though almost all limited to the Yatil Mountains. When called on for his turn, Jizam has fables from the west, exotic tales of genies and flying carpets and rings and sultans, but does not speak anything about his own experiences. Carnail reminds him that he was already a seasoned adventurer when they met and surely must have stories of his own, but he shakes his head and says he prefers not to recall his past.

Once a day, Lee takes Fogey down to visit the skins and has him cast his preservation spells, pausing in the hallway above to do the full body of the Hive Mother as well.

Early in the waiting period, Carnail calls for the l_arge box_ they had left in the stalactite chamber, and is pleased that it shows up. By leaving behind some of the bulkier supplies, she is able to make room for all of the items found beneath the pedestal.

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