The party spent half the day recharging a few random powerups -- it turned out that drained powerups could be easily recharged by any satyr. Drained items and potions needed skilled enchanters or alchemists to re-enchant them, and while Serene had studied enchantment sufficiently (in order to be able to maintain Gamble) it would take weeks or months to recharge any but the simplest items, like powerstones.
Sadie and the other squirrel-satyrs left while they were doing that, to try to go find the rest of her gang, who'd been hanging out near the arena, working the crowd.
Eventually, the rest of the people with them started getting antsy and hungry, so they headed to the refugee camp they could see near the closest gate. It turned out that refugee wasn't exactly right -- the city guard was organizing the people into squads to systematically cleanse the spiders and glow-beetles from the city, and had already retaken a few blocks. No one could do anything about the vines, though.
The guards pointed them to an armory in the clear zone, where people were grouping up for expeditions to specific, more distant parts of the city. There wasn't anyone else heading for the arena -- a group going there had just left, about an hour ago -- but there was a large group preparing to hit the Dark Lord's tower. Even without the magic items, he was rumored to have a HUGE hoard of gold and gems! This appealed to the party's greed, so they changed plans, and instead of chasing after Sadie, decided to head for the tower.
They wandered through the city streets for a while. A woodlander bear was the leader, and led them on the main roads so that they could see spiders coming and shoot them before they got close enough to bite. This worked fine, until just after crawling through a dense thicket of spiky vines, they found themselves face to face with a huge swarm of spiders, who were hanging cocooned victims off the thorns of a giant vine.
Carnelian: "Okay, we can't fight all of those... does anyone know explosive fireball?"
NPC fire mage: "Sure!" *starts charging it up*
Carnelian: "Gah! I didn't mean cast it right now!"
Unfotunately, the spiders noticed the fireball charging, and attacked! Carnelian ran for a large hotel, and started screaming for everyone to get inside. The bear tried to protect her from the spider swarm, and ended up paralyzed. A wolf and cougar woodlander pair screened the fire mage, who blew up a bunch of spiders with his fireball, but only managed to piss them off -- he did finish some of them with Create Fire by summoning a patch on his own location, though. He managed to bolt for the door, which Gamble was holding while they waited for everyone to get inside, but was bitten and paralyzed right on the threshhold. The cougar tried to drag the wolf, who'd been bitten and paralyzed, but when giant armored spiders appeared -- soldiers, instead of the workers they'd been fighting -- he tried to run for it too, only to be bitten and paralyzed on the threshhold, as well.
Gamble picked them both up and dragged them inside, and then he and Serene barricaded the door against the giant spiders. The door was too weak to hold, though -- but Serene had studied the 'panic' spell after the fiasco at the graveyard, and sent the giant spiders running. In the meantime, Carnelian had found a group of civilians living in the hotel, and convinced them to let the party hide there, so they locked a few sets of doors behind them and gathered on the upper floors. Carnelian -- with some help -- managed to rescue the paralyzed wolf, levitating him up to the window before the spiders finished cocooning him. The bear was too heavy to lift, though.
The people in the hotel didn't really know anything, except that spiders were *everywhere*! Serene was curious about why they were hanging the cocoons on the vine, but didn't know much about the skyplant. So she asked the party to accompany her to the owl's library, where they might be able to find some answers. Since the party had basically saved all their lives, the NPCs agreed to go whereever they wanted; they didn't want to stay behind in the hotel, which was the other option.
They headed for the library underground, winding their way through a tangled slum on the lowest level of the city that didn't count as miner-cat tunnels. This turned out to work pretty well -- the glow-beetles weren't very aggressive on this level, and the spiders up above didn't hear them moving around, two levels down. When they got to the library, Serene turned invisible and intangible and went up to scout.
The library was unmolested -- in fact, there was a wide safe zone around it, about a hundred feet that the spiders were avoiding. The upper level of the underground was between them and it, though, full of glow-beetles... except for one sunken plaza that had spiders instead. This gave Carnelian an idea. She made a towel glow brightly, and used some of their no-longer-magical honey to make it sticky. Serene planted it on the back of one of the spiders, and sure enough, the glow beetles attacked!
The spiders were losing, until a soldier showed up to help them, so they planted anther glowing beacon on its back. It took a while for the glow-beetles to chew it off, and the worker spiders were all killed in the meantime. But once the beetles had it, they ran away, and the soldier, with nothing left to fight, also left. So the party was able to quickly rush up through the scene of the battle without having to fight anything.
When they got near the library, it loudly SHHHHH'd at them. This wasn't the sign Serene had had made for the librarian, which was disenchanted of course, but the sign had inspired the defense -- the owl in the library had seen it repelling the spiders during the initial attack, before the explosion, and when people started fleeing into his library to get away from the spiders, one of them knew how to make loud SHH noises and had cast a maintained version on the door.
So the library was another safe zone, and they did some research. The research seemed to indicate that the 'sky-spiders' that lived on the skyplant were (a) vegetarian, and (b) friends to all children. They shouldn't be attacking people! Also, the Dark Lord of the City was rumored to have control over them, and over the skyplant as well. But why would he have brought it down to attack his own city? Was he mad, or were the spiders out of control? Or were the books wrong?
They levitated in one of the dead spiders and dissected it, and sure enough, it was neither natural nor meat-eating -- the dissolved goo in its stomach was plant-based. So, if the spiders *were* eating people, this one hadn't eaten anyone yet. Maybe they were feeding the people to the vines? It also looked like it would eventaully suffocate if it wandered into a low or no mana zone -- its 'breathing' was magically assisted.
Serene asked the owl about the Dark Lord, and the owl went on and on, boasting about how he and the lord were such good friends. "Oh, that means you have to come with us, and introduce us!" "Um..."
The owl's suggested approach was to fly up to the top of the tower, onto the lord's balcony. "Oh, except that the defenses will fry you if you aren't invited." "Aren't the defenses disenchanted?" Serene popped out to look at the tower with mage sight and check, and saw that there *was* a glow of magic on the top of the tower -- someone had re-enchanted it, or cast spells to protect it. So flying was maybe not the best idea.
That left the direct approach -- heading to the center, making their way through the courthouse and noble chambers, and then climbing the tower, past the checkpoints. The checkpoints would probably be guarded -- by actual, living guards -- but surely the owl, as such a good friend of the Lord, could get them past. The sound-mage cast Great Voice on Carnelian so that she could SHHH away any spiders that tried to attack them en-route.
So they arrived, finally, at the center of the city, and... a godzilla-sized spider was perching right on the courthouse, staring at them with eight beady-humongous eyes that seemed to stare INTO THEIR VERY SOULS. "Let's... go see if we can get into the building through the tunnels," Carnilan suggested, and they all carefully backed away.
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