Our brave adventurers were roused from their rest by the most curious of sources: An imp flying around their cave, trying desperately to get their attention. Fan Fan immediately recognized it as Brie, the familiar Titania had granted to Ara shortly after they escaped Velkynvelve.
What this meant is that Ara was close.
Our heroes hurried to reunite themselves with their missing companion. Even Sarith was willing to take the time to find the half-elf. There was no telling what kind of peril she could be in, alone in the Underdark. Any number of horrific fates could have befallen her, or be set to befall here. The duergar, the drow, quaggoths…the young warlock could be at death’s door. Or, as they grimly noted, crossing the threshold.
In a short time, they found Ara. Standing behind some rocks, her jaw dropped, breathing heavy, and gripping a stone hard enough to leave her knuckles white. As they approached, they noticed the beads of sweat on her forehead and dilation of her pupils. She didn’t even notice their approach, so intensely was she staring ahead.
Our heroes initially suspected some kind of madness had overcome her, until they followed her gaze and saw what had her so singularly focused.
Some 50 feet ahead of them, back to a wall and slightly covered in cuts and bruises? Stood perhaps the most gorgeous man any of them had seen in weeks. Even before entering the Velkynvelve.
And this man was surrounded on all sides by a group of five derro, brandishing their derro weapons and gibbering incoherently.
Ara snapped out of her stupor long enough to give a cursory glance and nod at her companions she had not sen in days before her eyes went back to that man in the distance. She suggested that they aid him for reasons solely related to altruism, and nothing else.
The derro were quickly dealt with by a few well placed sleeping speels. Afterwards, they went to check on this lone figure in the Underdark.
This man introduced himself as Vanael. He thanked them profusely for saving him, and told them his story: He was part of a travel delegation from the Hillsfar region, trying to open up trade with some of the native races of the Underdark; the duergar, in particular. His party had been attacked by a purple worm, and he had been the only survivor. While wandering in these tunnels, he had been attacked by the crazed derro (he tried to hide giving an askance glance at Buppido as he said this).
Let it not be said that our intrepid heroes are naive. For they checked Vanael’s story even as he spoke. Tarrin, their cleric, noted that his injuries were consistent with his story. Moreover, his equipment and clothing marked him as a scholar, not an explorer. By all accounts, he was telling the truth.
But something still seemed amiss about the character. Eldeth voiced her suspicions first, saying she found it suspect that he seemed to have an answer for every question. She quickly dismissed this, though, as her own paranoia, chiding herself for letting this place and this journey get to her.
But it was clear she still didn’t trust him.
Still, our heroes questioned this tall, dark, and astonishingly handsome stranger. Quiddie pressed him intensely about this background. He mentioned being from the Hillsfar region, and that he was responsible for the exchange of arcana and other magical goods: Scrolls, tomes, amulets, and the like.
While he spoke, Ara noticed his preoccupation with Brie. Eventually, Vanael mentioned how peculiar it was to see an imp that was not quite an imp.
Ara froze, for the first time looking beyond the perfectly chiseled features of Vanael. She quietly addressed the rest of the group, telling them in secret that she had not told him anything about Brie’s true nature: A sprite polymorphed by Titania into an imp, to better survive the rigors of the Underdark.
Before the group could bring any of this up, they were distracted by a sudden intense and continuous bout of screaming. It echoed throughout the cavern they had found themselves within, yet it had no discernible source. This was followed by whispers, then moaning, then gibberish. The cacophony lasted for some time. Jobe questioned Sarith about this, but the drow told him that this was new to him. As the sounds continued unabated, it began to take a toll on our heroes’ sanity, and a few of them were afflicted with madness.
Mercifully, as they continued on, they were eventually free of that cavern, and the sounds. But that still left them with Vanael.
Ara pressed this time, and he divulged more information. Vanael actually had been from Hillsfar, and was present when the First Lord reenacted the Great Law Of Humanity (an edict saying simply “Only humans are allowed within Hillsfar”). Vanael’s occupation and studies with so many eldritch items had allowed him to cultivate an eye for seeing through illusions and deceptions, and he had been approached to ferret out undesirables trying to sneak into Hillsfar. But he was opposed to that on principle, and he had left.
There was something, though, Ara did not trust about his story. Quiddie eventually got him to confess his shameful secret: He had not left immediately upon the reenacting of the Great Law of Humanity, and he had identified at least one non-human trying to sneak into Hillsfar. And though he was not told as much, he knows that he was responsible for the fate that had befallen that person. A fate, he later realized, that was fatal. He had sent at least one person to their death.
Quiddie consoled him, offering him a shoulder to cry on.
Jobe then asked if he could apply this expertise to determine if Derendil was wearing an illusion or disguise. Vanael listened to the tale of the elf-polymorphed-into-a-quaggoth, then told them that if he had truly been polymorphed, it would not be a disguise…thus rendering his expertise useless. They would simply have to decide for themselves if they believed Derendil’s story.
Derendil heard this conversation.
After some time had passed, our heroes took a moment to rest. Fan Fan began to cover their tracks, and some of the adventurers took a break to play some gambling games (though, wisely, not with Jimjar). Some of them kept watch. Some of them cooked.
Quiddie was left alone with Vanael. He thanked her again for helping to save him, and showing him kindness as they had traveled. He then leaned in close, and asked if he could express his most intimate thanks on a far more physical level.
The bard needed little convincing, and the two stepped away; perhaps forgetting that caverns tend to amplify noise. All noise. Especially voices. Echoes. And screams.
A shrill, pained scream cut through the cavern, bouncing off the walls. Our intrepid heroes ran to the source, and they were treated to an unexpected sight.
Quiddie was barely conscious, a look of sudden fear, confusion, and pain on her otherwise flushed face. She weakly reached out to our brave adventurers. The only reason she was not on the floor was a hand holding her up by her unbuttoned tunic. An obsidian, six-fingered hand attached to the form standing over her.
The figure turned to face them. It was Vanael’s face, but it had changed. Horns were visible atop his head, and his slightly sweaty obsidian skin almost gleamed in the torchlight Trevor had. A cruel smile spread across his ravenous lips, his forked tail moving back and forth. Large, bat-like wings had sprouted from his back. But it was Vanael’s voice that spoke.
“This one…delicious,” he said, licking his lips while looking our heroes over. He closed his eyes, then continued. “Tastes like wildflowers, honey, spiced wine and need.” Quiddie stirred, then fell prone behind him. Vanael turned towards her, leaned down, and ran his fingers against her lips, then brought them to his own. “You have to understand. I can’t get enough. Most can barely take it. She took all she could, but I was too much for her to handle.”
“How about you?” Vanael’s eyes moved hungrily over our adventurers in turn. “Am I too much for you to handle? Do you think you can handle me? Like you handle your staffs and swords? Come on. Who wants to play?”
Enraged and slightly violated (possibly liking it), our heroes closed ranks with the fiend. Tarrin recognized him as an incubus, which, really, was kind of obvious at this point. The battle was intense, as Vanael proved resistant to many of their attacks, and felt the need to share that fact in innuendo laced ways: Fire (“C’mon, baby. I like it hot!”), cold (“Ooooh…ice cubes down the spine”), bludgeoning (“Again. Harder. Harder, damn you.”), and so forth.
Vanael flew across the battlefield, a sable seducer, filling their minds with telepathic images of unimaginable pleasure. At one point, Ara locked eyes with him, and fell victim to his charm. Mesmerized by his magic or muscles, she cast Hold Person on Jobe, paralyzing him as he was about to strike a decisive blow.
Vanael swooped down, wrapped his arms and wings tightly around the half-elf, then rewarded Ara with a Draining Kiss, leaving her breathless, weak in the knees and a stone’s throw from death.
Quiddie, her mind still awash in thought and images of unspeakable pleasure and exquisite pain, rose shakily to her feet to join the fight. This was far from over for her, and she placed a Phantasmal image into Vanael’s mind…of her reaching into his chest and crushing his heart.
“Hands on chests, lover?” Vanael grimaced, but held his ground. “We can get rough. You haven’t even seen rough.”
Vanael seemed to shrug off their attacks. Arrows, greatswords, sacred flame…he taunted the adventurers during the entire fight.
And then Fan Fan punched him squarely in the jaw, knocking him out cold and proving that sometimes the simplest solutions work the best.
This left our heroes in an odd state. Ara and Quiddie were still reeling from Vanael’s kiss, and an unconscious incubus on the floor. Jimjar noted that an incubus was odd for the Underdark, and many of the other natives agreed. They tied up Vanael, preparing to interrogate him.
Ara weakly looked at Quiddie. “That was devastating. He charmed you, too?”
Quiddie looked at Ara in silence for several seconds, then “Yes. Charm.” The bard brushed a stray pebble out of her hair, then nearly collapsed again. The cleric and monk came to her aid, checking on her welfare. “I’m fine,” he reassured them. “This is nothing. You should have seen the first month at Bard College.”
She smiled to herself. At least no citations for leaving her carriage at the wrong building. And she had bedded a fiend, which was an adventure worthy of song on its own.
“Best night ever”, she said to herself.
Players: Fan Fan, Quiddie, Ara, Jobe, Tarrin, John Willow, Zoe, Xon
Enemies Defeated/Dealt With:
- 5 derro
Potentiality For A Disastrously Negative Outcome Based On The Current Plan: What, from using rope to bind and interrogate a telepathic, shapeshifting fiend? No, everything will just be hunky-dory.