Delusions of Grandeur
Gracklstugh was but a memory after nine days. Jimjar had been left in Gracklstugh to look after the party’s holdings, namely the Halls of Sacred Scrolls.
Plans had been made to fashion the old den of the derro savants into a casino. The prospect excited the deep gnome, and negotiations were had. Jimjar, as the warden of the estate, would keep twenty percent of the profits, and was only allowed to gamble with what money was his… not money of the house.
Over the course of nine days they crossed many caverns, pausing every so often for Rihuud to commune with the stone. He would place his hand upon the rock, close his eyes and meditate. These pauses would be followed by long moments of silence as he led them in the direction dictated by the very rock of the Underdark.
Behind the lumbering stone giant, the party and the freed slaves followed, mounted on steeders. The giant spiders were eerily quiet, except for the occasional clacking of their mandibles, and unsettling sound at its best.
Derendil had grown fond of Quillathe, often speaking with her and offering her a seat by his side in his kingdom of Nelrindivane, in the High Forest. To others it was obvious that this elven prince was completely unaware that Quillathe, and especially her now friend Lia, were completely turned off by his grisly visage.
“Derendil?” Nashua asked one day as they foraged a grove of mushrooms. “How are things going with Quillathe?”
He placed his hand upon Derendil, hiding the stonespeaker crystal beneath his cloak. The crystal lit up slightly, but the dull luminescence was hidden by the phosphorescent fungi. Recent events had made the wizard curious if Derendil was indeed a cursed elven prince.
“Quillathe will be my queen when we reach my homeland,” the quaggoth said, looking to a sky that was nonexistent. “And you my friend? You will be our court wizard.”
Nashua frowned. Magic revealed that no enchantment, no curse, and no magic at all coursed through this quaggoth’s body. Like many such creatures in the Underdark, Derendil was nothing more than a beast given in to demonic delusions. The wizard thought it best to keep this information to himself.
A Quaggoth Broken
“There is no kingdom of Nelrindivane!” shouted Lia.
The party was resting in a fungal grove where the zurkhwoods towered to Rihuud‘s shoulders. Derendil was invading Quillathe’s space again, and the moon elf was too kind to brush him away. Lia, trying to be a friend, decided to finally burst the quaggoth’s bubble.
Derendil turned to her with a sudden snarl. The bestial rage within his chest was rising into his throat.
“Yes there is. And we will free it from the made wizard Terrestor!”
“There is no Nelrindivane,” she reiterated. “Can’t you see how uncomfortable you are making her? Leave Quillathe alone.”
Derendil was to his feet. He could feel the ache of his claws. White foam gathered in the corners of his mouth.
“Watch what you say, peasant. This beautiful elf will be my queen.”
“She will never be your queen because your kingdom doesn’t exist. Quillathe… tell him!”
“Woman, watch your words,” said Wolfe in a feeble attempt to diffuse the situation. “I have been there. It does, too, exist.”
Lia rolled her eyes, “I am from the High Forest. Quillathe is from the High Forest. Neither of us has ever heard of Nelrindivane. You are nothing more than a disgusting, deranged creature of this hell we walk through. Admit it, beast.”
Wolfe paused at the buzzing noise in the air. As disconcerting as it was, he dismissed caution in favor of keeping Derendil off of the woman. When the quaggoth leapt at her, raking his claws across her face, Wolfe grabbed him by his white mane and pulled him back.
“Are you insane?” barked Wolfe. This woman was escalating the conflict.
A stirge, a mutant mosquito of the Underdark, dropped out of the darkness above and impaled Lia through the eye. Its proboscis penetrated her brain, killing her instantly. Two more latched onto her corpse and drank her blood.
Kaz and Nashua gave a yell as they dodged the flock of stirges. Westra took off down the cavern screaming… but only made it twenty feet before one bore its snout into her back and sucked the blood out of her still beating heart.
“Moira!” Siva shouted as she batted a stirge out of the sky. Two more were buzzing around the girl, unable to hone in on her position as she concealed herself with the piwafwi.
“Moira!” he shouted to get her attention. Unlike in his dreams, the young girl lurched in his direction, and the stirge that would have taken her life found its way into Wolfe‘s weapon: Eldeth’s warhammer. The stirge splattered into pieces.
Kaz was busy stabbing those that were feasting on Lia’s corpse when Derendil, frothing mad, charged at Quillathe. His rage was pure, uncontrollable. He leapt at her, only to miss when Wolfe threw her to the ground.
Wolfe pled with Derendil to get his act together as he batted another stirge out of the air. He used the warhammer to choke Derendil from behind. Neither Nashua nor Kaz nor Wolfe wanted their long time ally dead. Derendil had been with them from the beginning.
“You cannot spare the beast,” the others told him. Rihuud excluded. The giant did not want to be involved in the affairs of small folk. “We must kill him.”
“We’ll leave him behind,” Nashua said. He thought they owed him at least that much.
Wolf countered, “He’s a friend and we will do no such thing.”
Not to be trifled with, Nashua threw himself into a rage. He took a punch at Wolfe, but was knocked unconscious. These fits were pathetic, thought Wolfe, but Nashua had never been the same since Sloobludop.
“No,” they both said. “Nelrindivane exists. We all will pretend that it exists until we reach the surface. Then we’ll figure out how to deal with Derendil.”