Leaving the Hive (Uath 22)

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Uath 22

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In the morning, Fogey pronounces Awn ready to resume normal function as well, and with much relief and anticipation, the full group prepares to make their departure from the lair.

Carnail will be carrying the body of the Hive Mother, as well as all of the collected tyrant eyes.

The tyrant hides and doppelganger skins, still damp but not moldy, are divided up between the others.

Into the large chest are placed the vials of doppelgänger blood, the two necklaces, the bestiary, as well as most of the items recovered from the Hive Mother’s trove – the four potions, ten gems, platinum coins, metal sphere, crystal sculpture, and fine tapestry.

Jizam personally carries out the diary of the Hive Mother, the spellbook and the book of golem creation. Fogey carries the two scrolls with clerical spells and the History of the Underdark book. [1am-2am]

Leaving the chamber of the Hive Mother, they descend by rope to the floor of the hub, and then proceed to the closest of the diagonal passageways down. From there, they descend walking, but holding on to a belaying rope, until they get to the vertical shaft which hangs over the lower city. There they are surprised to find a rope has been fixed to the tunnel floor by means of an iron spike hammered into the stone. [2:15am]

The rope is slack, and they listen for a good time before proceeding. Lee lowers Carnail first to the platform below, taking a long time as Carnail is carrying the body of the Hive Mother. Lee then takes turns bringing everyone else down, some of them carrying the rolled doppelganger skins or stacked tyrant hides. Before she lowers the last person down, she cuts the rope that connected the upper city to the lower. [2:45am]

When they first attained the platform nearly a week ago, four great braziers were lit with flames. Now, the flames are out and the braziers are cool to the touch.

On the platform lies sprawled the body of a dwarf. It has been dead several days, and is bloated and foul-smelling. It is dressed in dirty rags. When Fogey examines it, he says it likely died in the fall – several bones are shattered. With a careful examination of the eyes, face, and hair, he says that it is a duegar, or “gray dwarf” in the human tongue. He explains that these are not true dwarves, but are an evil, Underdark race. He suspects that all the dwarf-sized buildings in the lower city were built by them. It may be that a few persisted as slaves to the Hive, or were brought in by the Hive Mother. Tracks in the dust around the body suggest that this was not the only one to attempt to flee the Hive, but no other bodies are about – perhaps it was just this one who fell upon descending.

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Lee asks whether she should track the others. “No, they won’t get far,” says Carnail. “Even if they don’t get eaten by centipedes, they are running away, not mounting an ambush for us. Let the poor bastards go, and good luck to them. And what if they do make it? There’s nothing down here – they will just run into a drow patrol or have their minds sucked out by ‘flayers.” [3am]

The party considers the fate of these escaped slaves somberly for a few moments before pressing on. They take the long, coiled rope of the duegar and toss it into the shaft, down the hole at the center of the platform they are on. No sound marks its descent or landing.
Carnail says that they will be walking across the “ceiling” of the lower city – over the chasms and ravines they previously crossed to get to this platform. She and Lee lower them from the platform, and then she leads the way, carefully choosing the route over the knife-edge rocks. They traverse gullies and ridges, at first simply moving “away” from the platform but not “toward” anything in particular. Eventually, they catch sight of one of the towers that ring the outside of the cavern and move toward it. At some point Carnail sees a group of red lights approaching them – flying and moving far faster than they can. She has the rest of the party take cover, but Fogey soon spots them and declares them to be fire beetles. [6am]

Carnail has several slips and falls, takes some minors cuts, scrapes and bruises by the time they make it to the base of the tower. There is the large open window at the top level, lined up to see where the platform would be, were it still lit. Lee levitates up to the window, preparing to set a line for the others to ascend.

Almost as soon as she sets foot inside the tower, though, she hears an insect-like scurrying and clacking, followed by a hissing sound. A web-like projection shoots past her, sticking to the wall over her shoulder as several lumbering forms come into sight.

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Lee turns and deftly jumps out the open window, activating her l_evitation_ on the way down.

Carnail says there is no point fighting the creatures, whatever they are. The group proceeds along the outside wall of the cavern, moving counterclockwise to the next tower, ascending on the outside and then, finding it empty, taking the long spiral stairs to the bottom. Once on the bottom, Carnail calls for the chest, and it appears without delay. [6:30am]

The party moves out into the lower city, finding themselves in the slave quarters, in the tower nearest the collapsed wall through which they entered the complex, and there is a collective sigh of relief. Moving to the rubble pile, they climb up the wall and then down into the long, straight hallway beyond. [6:45am]

The party moves easily up the wide corridor until they reach the gatehouse. Carnail estimates that they have been moving for at least half a day, and figures this is a good defensive spot for a rest. She calls for the chest and it again appears. [7-8am]

After their rest, they go up the gatehouse stairs and are lowered by rope off the ledge. They clamber over the shattered doors and come up to the edge of the river. Carnail calls the party forward to the water’s edge. They take one end of the rope and she the other. She switches out her ring of free action for her ring of water-walking. She steps across the river’s surface, moving forward and to the right to compensate for the current pulling her left, holding the huge body of the Hive Mother over her head. Once on the other side, she pulls on the rope and the party does the same. They cross one-by-one, hand-over-hand with just their arms and heads above water, in reverse order of weight, with Digger leading and Fogey last. They all come through soaked and chilled by the frigid water, but unharmed. [8:20am]

No one wants to linger there while damp and cold, so the group immediately continues walking up the tunnel, working against the slight slope. The glowstones are low, just enough for Jizam and Lee to see the floor and not stumble. After 350 yards or so Carnail, in the lead, spots the cool hole in the ceiling through which they entered the tunnel from above. Carnail calls for a halt. She searches for, and quickly finds, the token she had put against the base of the wall here. She will leave it for now. She again calls for the chest. It does not come. [8:25am – luck roll (-2)] Sometimes in the Hive there was a lag, so they wait. But after a while they have waited longer than it took them to walk from the gatehouse.

“What gives?” asks Carnail. “It has worked up until now.”

“Interference from that mineral.” suggests Fogey.

“It would make sense that they would make the borders of their city near the greatest concentrations of the stuff – so they might be able to move around inside the city, but not in or out,” says Digger. He points to the walls, which are criss-crossed with the faintly-glowing green crystals.

Carnail snorts derisively and tells the party to wait there. No sense subjecting them to another river crossing. She sets down the body of the Hive Mother and walks briskly back down the hall. Soon she crosses the river and enters the guardhouse – to her relief, the chest is still there. Trusting to her girdle, she throws the chest over one shoulder and returns to the party. [9am]

Lee levitates Carnail up through the hole in the ceiling, into the smaller, more steeply sloped tunnel above. She leaves Carnail there and returns for the Hive Mother, then the others, one at a time. They could use the rope, but it would likely fray on the sharp edge of the tunnel lip. [9:10am]

Once they are all up, Carnail arranges them along the slanted shaft. With everyone in position, she calls for the chest. She swears she can hear it scrape across the stone floor of the tunnel, as if it shifted an inch, but still it does not come. Digger shrugs. “Interference.” [luck roll: -2]

Carnail curses and tells Lee to go back down with the rope. Lee ties the rope around the chest. Carnail lifts it, and the others steady the rope and take up the slack behind. The first four feet are the hardest – after that, Lee can get under the chest, steady it, and lift with the power of her levitation as well. Once it clears the lip of the shaft, Carnail drags the chest a few feet up the slope, undoes the rope, and curses again. After Lee takes her position, Carnail resumes the lead. They walk single file up the steep slope, holding loosely on to the rope in case someone falls. It is hard work going up against the incline, but less dangerous than the descent was. [9:20am]

Carnail counts her paces, her steps short from the incline. When she reaches 100 she calls for a halt, then summons the chest. This time it comes, seemingly without delay. “Let’s hope we are through whatever protective barrier is around that city,” she says before continuing.

This time she counts to 200 before calling for it, and it again appears. “Now we’re talking.”

Four hundred paces later it again comes, although after a short delay.

Eight hundred paces beyond, and they have walked nearly a mile up the shaft. The chest comes without hesitation. [10:30am]

After one more hour, calves burning, they come up against the blackstone plug that presumably separates them from the skull face. Awn asks whether she should dispel it, but Carnail says no. She calls for the chest one last time and it again appears after a few moments. Carnail says that with whatever mineral that guards against magical transport far below, it should now be safe to recall out. [11:30am]

Carnail hoists the body of the Hive Mother over her shoulders and says the word of recall – they all are transported to the amulet room of the Tower. [2:50pm] Upon arrival, she immediately calls for the chest, although she knows that even without interference it will be several hours before it shows up. Carnail asks Digger, Fogey, and Jizam to wait in the amulet room while she takes Lee and Awn next door.

To Lee, Carnail says that she is to bring up the ship in the mirror – and take herself, Fogey, and Awn to the ship, which should still be in Traft. They will also be taking the body of the Hive Mother. Fogey will have to be blindfolded for his passage through the mirror. Once on board the ship, they are to sail it to the Holy City. Carnail will likely join them en route, but she first needs to visit Chare and break the news about Split Lip. Lee says she understands, and begins to work with the mirror.

Carnail returns to the other room and finds the amulet she took off of the body of the Red Mage. She turns to Fogey. “Master Fognar,” she says, using his actual name for once, “you were promised an equal share in the proceeds of this venture – but that was profit after paying costs. The bugbear Split Lip was not my follower, but that of the elven priestess you met briefly. I must compensate her for this loss. I intend to do so with this amulet we recovered from the mage-tyrant. Do you object?”

The dwarf considers it. “We do not know the value of the amulet, but I admire your loyalty to your friend. I accept the amulet as a cost of our expedition, in lieu of the Bugbear getting a share of the treasure.”

Now it is Carnail’s turn to think. “The bugbear will receive a full share of what we obtained up until the point he was killed…or disintegrated, I guess. That will include what we found in the lair of the Hive Mother, and will be given to the priestess so that she may attempt to recover him. However, as you know, we left many things behind, for later. Should we recover more in the future, he will not have a share of that.”

Fogey nods. “That is fair. I wish to go on that recovery expedition.”

“And you shall. But right now I need you to accompany Lee and Awn as they prepare for that. And that means you must allow me to blindfold you briefly.”

After Fogey, Lee, and Awn are sent on their way [arrive ship – 6:30pm], Carnail speaks to Jizam and Digger. Jizam, she says, is to go through everything when the chest arrives. He can take his time reading the books, the spell scroll, he can use his identify pearls on any items he detects as magic, etc. Digger can try the Tower door and see if it is clear to walk to Highfolk for training. Carnail asks him if he is sure he can go there alone.

“Mistress, do you know how many tyrants have tried to kill me in the last week? I can take the road to Highfolk myself. However, there is the matter of payment…”

Carnail says that if her promise of payment is not enough, Digger can stop by the Magic Guild. She still has several items there awaiting identification, and Digger can pledge their value against the cost of his training. The gnome thanks her. Carnail leaves her bag of unending nourishment with Jizam.

She returns to the mirror – Lee, Awn, Fogey, and the Hive Mother have already left. She prepares to look for Chare, but she finds Ziggy shaking erratically, his central eye misted over.

“Ziggy, what is it?” she asks him.

There is a long silence before she remembers to remove her mind blank helm so that he can speak to her.

“Gratitude, just gratitude,” he sends. “I saw the body of the Queen. You have done a great thing.”

Carnail bows in recognition of his sentiment.

Carnail moves to the mirror and concentrates on locating Chare, then steps through. [660 miles; leave 3:15 pm arrive 8:45pm]

After Carnail leaves, Jizam and Digger share a meal, then both rest on the cots in the amulet room. After four hours, Digger prepares phantasmal force and sanctuary – despite his bravado to Carnail, he is in fact a bit anxious about walking to Highfolk alone. He waits until it is dark to try the door – with both infravision and ultravision, he is much safer from human brigands at night. But when he tries it, it is locked – Teela is not home.

During the time he was resting, the chest appeared. Digger expects that Jizam will want to go through it – but the “resting” mage is in fact sound asleep. Digger decides to turn in for the night, as well.

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