Well, they needn’t blame me. They should simply know better than to take my advice when it comes to order of battle.
After the kobold’s victory and the rout of the goblins, we elected to rest and regain spells before tackling the drow fortress on the morrow. Rainen did a bit of a reconnoiter and noted some air defenses – spiderweb strung at intervals between a central tower and the top of the surrounding wall. FLying in was not recommended.
So our line of attack would be simple and rather a repeat of the heist on the armoury. We would not attempt the gate. Ovthen and I would saunter up to the wall invisibly, and Stone Shape a hole. I would be there just in case wee needed to get away quickly. Jope and Giacomo would then charge in, Rainen and Rainor from a bit further back. And then – well, it’s pointless planning any further than that.
Part 1 went well. We sauntered up and did a Stone Shape while Jope and Giacomo stood in plain view but out of bowshot to distract the attention of the drow. A second Stone Shape in, and still the wall was not breached all the way though. But only an inch or so remained. Ovthen began shoulder-charging the wall, but muffed it completely. So I signaled for Jope, hoping that he would get the job done. Well: he muffed it too. Eventually I dropped a Shatter on the rock, opening a crack which the boys were able to widen.
Now … we had discussed tactics prior, and I had argued that we should not put a Spell Resistance on everyone straight away, as who knows how long it would take for us to find the central citadel and whatever matron might be in charge of it. Well, I couldn’t have been much more wrong if I had fallen out of the sky and into a “being wrong” tree, hitting each branch on the way through. Of course the drow were ready for us and expecting our attack. Of course they had prepared the spells they would need to deal with an adventuring party.
(One thing we were right about was not flying in. The air defenses were – stunning. Those spiderwebs? Some were illusionary, some were invisible and most definitely not illusiory, some were positively thrumming with evocation, necromancy, and gods knows what else. There were air-pathways through, but you would have to know exactly where to fly.)
Within a few moments, Ovthen and Rainen were Confused and we were dealing with a pack of summoned spiders – a couple of swarms, a couple of elf-sized ones, and two huge ones. I moved around behind the melee and spotted dome drow fighters taking their time to enter the fray. A little more and I saw our main enemy – a drider and priest hanging upside-down in the central tower.
But while I was doing this, things just went from bad to worse. People were being poisoned, our priest was confused, and Giacomo – poor little scalyskin – was simply cut in half by a deadly competent drow fighter. I dropped a Dispel Magic on the Confusion, and that got the priest back in the battle. I had prepared three of them – having enough Dispel Magic prepared is a mage’s second job (the first is having a Feather Fall prepared at all times). But before I could fix Rainen, he was dropped to unconsciousness.
Anyway, Jope was screaming blue murder and ordering me to shoot something, so I wasted precious seconds to cast Blur and shoot something. I missed, of course. So wasted more seconds casting Improved Invisibility and moved in to shoot the priestess and/or her drider. But – I admit it – I’m just not a good enough shot to get past drow armour. Worse, one of them saw where the shot came from and caught me with a Faerie Fire.
Now … please don’t let me give you the impression that everyone else was idle. While I was bumbling about casting self-buffs and missing with my bow, Duke Jope was mowing down spiders and drow left and right. Ovthen was busy keeping people alive, and Rainor had done the same as me – but without the benefit of Invisibility circled around and approached the tower. Needless to say, he was pincushioned by the drider.
With Rainor down, and myself outlined with Faerie Fire, I ran over to Rainor and Dimension Door-ed us the hell out of there and next to Ovthen. Then I ran outside to deal with that Faerie Fire. I had a scroll of Dust of Twilight, but it causes fatigue and I didn’t want allies caught in the burst.
Anyway. When I came back in the drow were fleeing – the summoned spiders had returned to wherever it is that summoned creatures come from. Back at the central tower, the drider and rider were gone. They were simply abandoning their position. Chalk it up as a victory, if you like, but if they had continued the assault, they would have had us.
On a different note, we need to just accept that Switch isn’t that useful in combat – particularly against armoured drow – and let it go. The two useful things she did do: getting the Confusion off Ovthen and getting Rainor back to the cleric, were useful enough, I think.
Well, despite all the “freedom and sunlight”, a lot of the Kobolds – perhaps most of them – are content to stay here. Can’t blame them: particularly not their den mother. Better to rule in a pit at the bottom of a mountain than be a servant on the surface, I suppose. Particularly if you are born able to see in the dark. But many of the kobolds are indeed coming with us. And we will most certainly expand the duchy in this direction and annexe a rather nice mithril mine.
As for me: I desperately long to see colours again. Those few moments of winterscape on a mountaintop were not enough, welcome as it was to see the sky. I imagine that Jope and Rainor feel the same: I have been casting Darkvision for them every day for nearly a month now (perhaps longer), and I am certain they are heartily sick of it – even if grateful for it. The fact that it runs out every day and gives them 6 hours of absolute pitch dark perhaps reminds them that it could be worse, but also reminds them just how much they are depending on their caster. Not an easy thing for men of action like these.
(You know: seeing blood in shades of grey takes much of the horror out of death. Perhaps that’s why the drow are so savage. If they saw it run red, maybe their society would be a little different.)
Be that as it may: I’m spending a fortnight in the forest, and then a month or two replacing all the scrolls that I have used. I’ll also be sending away for some copies of certain spells that I absolutely should have had. I’d like to do up a wand or two too – a basic lesser orb spell is very effective if you know just where to aim it, has good range, and is relatively cheap. Unlike most, I don’t need to drop Fireballs or Flame Strikes to be effective.
Assuming the duchy is all right, of course. Which it won’t be.
Songwriter and poet. Stalwart companion. Liberator of Brightflame tribe.
We shall all remember you.