Seekers of the Ashen Crown week 21: Ilithid ingenuity

As Aruget slowly made his way out of the bottleneck and into the next chamber, the rest held back, with the normally curious Lestok tempered by the fear of that hideous scream.  Kayde called for a pause and proposed that he slip into his shadow form and be the one to do the scouting.  Jak and Lestok grudgingly agreed to the plan, while exhorting Kayde to be overly cautious, with the memory of the last time he’d scouted an enemy still fresh in their minds.  

Kayde disappeared into the shadows.  He was gone for quite some time, which didn’t do much for his friends’ anxiety.  He eventually returned with good news, and bad news.  The good news was, he’d found the moon pool!  It was beautiful!  The bad news: it was guarded by many dolgrims and dolgaunts…and an illithid.  Aruget, being from Droaam, was familiar with illithids and aware of just how bad this news was.  The party quickly got down to debating the best way to approach – sneakily, attempting to parley with the illithid from the ridge above, or to just charge in spells blazing.  Jak was concerned that the person whose scream they’d heard might still be alive and in need of help.  Kayde, on the other hand, proposed they only worry about the task at hand: he would go into the shadows once again, grab Zaraani’s Solitaire (wherever it was), and sneak back out, with no one the wiser.  After much back and forth, the party agreed to go in quietly and let Kayde do his thing, but be in a position to have his back if things went sideways.

Before continuing ahead into the moon pool cavern, Lestok furnished each member the party with a clever invention he’d managed to replicate: a tube with a lens at each end that allowed you to see far distances – but, he warned, don’t look in the opposite end, or it would bend the very fabric of reality itself!  Moving on, the party came to a ridge full of stone columns, with a staircase at one end leading straight down to the moon pool – a beautiful, clean-cut, octagonal pool lit in an otherworldly glow from the ceiling above.  This beautiful view was defiled by the sight of the illithid working intently at some sort of alchemy table littered with arcane apparatuses and strange liquids..and about a dozen assorted dolgrims and dolgaunts who seemed preoccupied with the ilithid’s work, just as Kayde had reported.  As Quentin and Jak looked through their S.C.O.P.E.s, they were able to make out several captives hanging from the ceiling in manacles, with pieces of skin flayed off of their necks and arms.  Perhaps mercifully, they showed no sign of life.  Kayde’s first thought was that the illithid was flaying off dragonmarks, and a better look at a dwarven captive confirmed his horrible suspicions.  Unlike the others, Kayde noticed some subtle movement in the dwarf’s chest.  Aruget, focused on the illithid, watched it turn around…exposing a large, yellow gem hanging from its neck.  Zaraani’s Solitaire, the piece of the Ashen Crown the party had come to retrieve.

As Quentin got to work calling up the winds to hasten their speed for an easier retreat, and Lestok applied G.I.N.S.U. to everyone’s weapon and C.L.I.M.B. to everyone’s boots, Kayde proposed that he go into the shadows and steal the gem right off the ilithid’s neck, then make a quick exit.  Lestok seized onto the idea and suggested that he and Jak shoot some of the volatile bottles on the alchemy table in hopes of creating a distraction at the same time.  Unsure of the wisdom of their plan but seeing no better option, everyone agreed, and Kayde disappeared into the rock wall.  A few short seconds later, the party saw Kayde’s hand appear out of shadow, rip the Solitaire right off the illithid’s neck as promised, and disappear back into the wall.

Everything happened at once as the illithid sprang into action.  Quentin brought a stalactite down on the staircase to prevent the daelkyr from rushing them.  Lestok’s shots went wild, but he guided Jak to shoot the right bottle.  Jak’s bolt found its target, and it blew up in the ilithid’s face, staggering it backwards.  As a pair of dolgrim rushed up the ruined stairs, one of them quickly lost its head to Aruget’s axe as five more illithids suddenly appeared around the one Kayde had robbed.  Sensing it was time to run, Lestok stood up tall and, much to everyone’s surprise, began speaking in daelkyr.  In a cunning attempt to turn two enemies against each other, he claimed that the party was working for Demise of the Emerald Claw, and that she sent her regards.  As the illithids and their minions hesitated, the party fled back towards the bottleneck they’d come from, with their foes sure to follow.

Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: What is the most mystical or magical thing you have ever experienced?
  • How about that exploding alchemy table? According to the DM, even with Lestok succeeding his arcana check to identify an explosive bottle, there was still only a 25% chance the bottle would blow. He chose low and rolled an 11 on a d100, sealing the bottle’s fate. Many bennies were spent causing that explosion, and it paid off!
  • History was made last night: our first session with zero crit fails on either side of the table. Though I do have to grudgingly admit that crit fails in Savage Worlds are not terrible. :p They can add a lot to the story in the hands of a skilled GM like ours.
  • Next week starts with a Chase! I don’t quite understand how those work in Savage Worlds, I’ve never been part of one, but I’m sure it will all make sense in the moment.
  • Jak and Quentin are likely to have some survivor’s guilt about that possible alive dwarf. Jak has the “Shamed” hindrance, and while it’s unrelated to this scenario, it’s possible it could play into it some.

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