Alas, it seems to take just as long to chronicle this series of events as it did to live through them! Indeed, the others have started to become impatient to move on as I continue to struggle to keep up a careful record of all that befell us underground. Yet however long it takes, this task I have set myself is a crucial one. These things must be written, they must be promulgated, and they must be remembered. I remain committed to these principles, and so I endeavor now to bring my account of that spectacular day to a close.
Our battle against the remaining four spider-creatures, three of them giant armored arachnids and one a grotesquely large half-spider, the Black Spider himself, began as a good many of our battles do, with Durgash charging forward to attack. Unlike most of our battles, though, by this point he had already been fighting for some time now, and his body was a mass of wounds inflicted by various kinds of spider bites. Indeed, even as he let loose with a powerful swing of his axe against the looming form of the spider before him, I could see him wince, and immediately upon landing that blow he seemed to think better of it and retreat towards Lillabelle.
Renbar, freshly healed from a state of unconsciousness, felt no such inhibitions as he instead charged forward, a look of fury in his eyes. No doubt he hungered for revenge upon his foes for bringing him so low. Similarly advancing, wherever possible, were the Albertan troops, moving forward and crying out with fervor, “To the darkness!” Just as they all reached the area around the dais, however, another pool of shadow seemed to form over a nearby alcove, rolling in like a sudden dark mist to obscure the form of another statue that had been placed there.
It was a spell that I recognized, similar in nature to one the Black Spider had used before fleeing into this ancient ruin, and it was most commonly referred to as “Shadow’s Embrace”. Here was confirmation of what I had suspected before; our opponent was quite adept at the manipulation of Shadow Arcana, and it seemed to me a very real possibility that he had taken this moment to shift in location beneath a veil of shadows.
Zahra had apparently had a similar thought, for she immediately struck out with yet another burst of flame, attempting to penetrate to the heart of this new source of darkness, and while the shadows still obscured any source of light she may have been hoping for, I could tell from the look on her face that she knew her spell had struck true. Sure enough, the troops that had moved to surround the dais now cried out in dismay. “There is nothing within!” They yelled to their leader, “He hath moved on!”
Just then, more of those black daggers, seemingly shaped out of the darkness itself, shot out from the newly formed pool of shadow. Where they struck, soldiers died. Indeed, this troop that had initially consisted of perhaps fifty men had now been reduced to but a handful, mostly in the rear guard. The spiders seemed to have worked quite the slaughter upon these forces, something which I considered myself fortunate not to have had to witness, encased in the spider webs as I had been.
Even so, I was determined not to hold anything back now, and felt driven to get us out of this situation as quickly as possible, so I reached into my pack once more for a new set of explosive vials. Hoping to save as many soldiers as possible, and wishing to build up as much good will as I could, I decided to target the hulking spiders threatening the troops rather than the uncertain target of the Black Spider, and had the satisfaction of seeing my plans take shape with deadly effect.
The concussive force of my blast vials blew one of the three giant spiders to pieces and severed a number of legs clean off another. The soldiers then moved in to capitalize on this situation, finishing first the spider I had weakened and then another that they had managed to surround earlier. Now all that remained were the handful of Albertan troops, ourselves, and the Black Spider himself.
Yet with his small army of creatures now entirely defeated, the Black Spider seemed to realize the precarious position he was in. So it was that he decided to flee out of the pool of shadows he had made for himself and clamber up onto the ceiling, which extended a good twelve yards over our heads. The tide of the battle had clearly turned, and now we needed to focus first on keeping our quarry from escaping and second on avoiding any hostilities with the Albertans.
On this latter point I had some reason to hope we were making progress. Lillabelle and I had directly helped to save the lives of several soldiers, Zahra had wisely chosen to hide her distinguishing features beneath the remains of some spider webs, and Vi had taken to chatting up some of the soldiers left in the rear guard. Even now I could hear one replying to her question about what they were doing here, and it seemed they had simply been assigned the task of destroying this same creature we had been pursuing.
Frustratingly, there wasn’t as much that we could do about stopping the Black Spider’s retreat. Lillabelle had by now managed to work her healing magic on Durgash, but the arcane blast she fired at the Spider didn’t end up connecting, and the crossbow bolt Durgash fired at him went wide. Fortunately, though, Meg managed to throw the last of her knives so that it caught our common foe mid-stride, sending him careening down off of the ceiling.
Unfortunately, to make that miracle throw happen, she’d had to stand directly beneath the Black Spider, and wasn’t quite able to pull herself out of the way in time. Thus as the large, half-spider form crashed down to the floor, it landed directly on one of her legs, and I could see her grimace in pain. The Black Spider, though, didn’t waste any time in all this confusion, and redoubled his efforts to flee.
Determined not to let that happen, I called together a blast of arcane energy directly upon him as he scurried away. The resulting explosion was larger than I had expected, leaving me briefly puzzled as to why, but the reason soon became clear as the shimmering magics dissipated and revealed that our enemy had reverted back into his human form. His flight was sure to be difficult now, and he still had the rear guard of the army to contend with.
Hoping to avoid a wholesale slaughter, therefore, Lillabelle called out for him to stop. All she got in response, however, was some form of dire insult in gnomish, and it must have been harsh indeed, because Lillabelle’s eyes immediately twisted in fury, and she released a powerful explosion of arcane energy that unfortunately came together a little too prematurely to do any actual damage to the Black Spider.
Yet he proved not to be quite so lucky in slipping past the rear guard of the Albertan force, and in the end it was the spear of a rank and file soldier that brought down this mysterious and powerful being of darkness. At this, the army then let out a cheer, and there was a palpable release of tension inside that old hall. It was a moment of victory, and we all took some time to relish that. Yet even so, it wasn’t long before the captain of the surviving Albertan forces approached us.
He was a brusque man, if not an ungrateful one, and he thanked us briefly for our assistance before telling us that for our own safety it would be best if we left. Seeing no reason that we shouldn’t take him at his word, then, our own humble group of adventurers banded together and made our way back to the surface together.
I was terribly disappointed that I hadn’t gotten more time to delve into the mysteries of the Phandelvers Pact, or even learn more about who or what this Black Spider had been. Yet as we were on our way out, Meg informed me that we might not in fact be entirely out of luck as far as the latter issue was concerned. Apparently, when the Black Spider had fallen from the ceiling, some sort of box had dropped from his person. Nobody else had noticed this, and Meg had the foresight to snatch it up for herself before anyone else could get ahold of it. This was reassuring news indeed.
And so ends my long and detailed account of one of the most eventful days in my life. It was a day that began and ended in mystery, which saw us discover the location of the legendary forge of spells, uncover the lost history of the Phandelvers Pact, and which culminated in a battle against forces we did not truly understand. Where will we go from here? What are we to make of the Black Spider, and his plans? And perhaps most important of all, what discoveries await us within that mysterious box? I for one cannot wait to find out.