Part 42: I am actually building up a buffer this week off! YAY ME
Chapter 31 - I am actually building up a buffer this week off! YAY ME
The Underdark, as it turns out, is full of a fair number of horribly annoying things. To name two...
fucking illithid. I hate illithid. They want my brains. They are my brains and the illithid cannot have them.
Anyway, there were these duergar(?) shopkeepers, it seems.
Ol raugh corl saugh? Xunder to thuldin sonn? Thudul ol torst?
I am sorry, but I cannot understand the tongue you speak.
Gordul! Ta jarge.
Ahh haha. (ahem) You must excuse my fellows. It is not often we encounter surfacers down here.
Yes, very seldom. They do not live long.
Well, unfortunate things can happen in the depths, but we do not partake in such events. I am Carlig, a trader of sorts.
I am Asim. I am looking for a couple of other 'surfacers' as you say.
I haven't seen many strangers around here, and I talk to everyone. Well, almost.
Those two creepy ones were back, Carlig. You remember, the neck-biter and the mage.
Oh yes, those two. Bad news, I would wager. I've seen them near the Drow city. Must be up to dirty dealings; those ol morugh dark elves don't usually let strangers live.
Those are the two I'm looking for! Bodhi and Irenicus! I'll have to go after them!
Well then, I'll wish you luck, though you won't be able to simply walk into the Drow city.
That place will come down on your head harder than a llargh tunnel unshored.
That's their choice to make Finderlig. No need to worry them more. Ask about before you go assaulting that place. Might be a better way.
Well, in any case, I've wares to sell if you are interested. Always looking for fresh faces to trade with. No matter the color of shadow within you.
I'll have a look. Let's see what you have.
I bought a scroll of Freedom from them.
The scroll of Freedom is pretty nicely placed there - well, all four of them, actually. You see, you just take it, walk up here
Voila, one free mage.
I am indebted to you. Perhaps we might be of use to each other. I had great plans before I was so rudely interrupted.
Who were you battling here?
I am unsure of that myself, though I imagine that I simply insulted a local resident with my ignorance of custom. The value of my goal may have blinded me. Regardless, I must continue what I have begun, and would do so with your help... if you are willing.
I will consider it.
Hear me out, and I am sure I will entice you. The prize is wealthy, but the finding is tricky. This spot is 'thin', and careful spells may breach the walls between dimensions. On the other side one might find some valuable magic, if one knows where to look. If you aid me a bit I would be forever grateful. There will be items enough for us both.
What is required of me?
I cannot lie; there will be combat. I thought I was prepared for such but my failure has obviously proved me wrong. With your aid things should go smoother... though your first duties would be less dangerous by far. A few errands...
I am no stranger to mundane tasks.
I apologize if I have suggested anything that would demean you, but the greatest plans have simple flaws. I can stay here and begin preparatory spells, but I cannot cast the actual dimension-breaching spells without the procedures outlined in my book of rituals. I imagine it was taken after I imprisoned. There were svirfneblin observing my conflict; perhaps they took it. I cannot blame them. I am sure I appeared quite permanently lost.
I will fetch your book of rituals for you then. Where might they have taken it?
I believe there is a svirfneblin village to the north. They may have taken my gear there. If you go, tell them they may keep everything but the book. Thank you if you can do anything. I will be at the earth elemental portal 'softening' the area with minor spells.
Anyway, a bit away...
Drow! Also a mild mishap with wild magic left me feeling rather... gaudy.
Anyway, after some annoying mishaps (you would not believe how many times fucking chromatic orb ruined my shit) they were dead and we managed to score one suit of Drow Full Plate.
Seriously, this is very powerful armor. It can only be used in the Underdark, since there's a script that turns it to dust once you get outside. Yeah, there are exploits to keep it, but I will not be doing any of them. But note Minsc's AC before
The Drow Chain is pretty nice too.
Also, this conversation. This fucking conversation. Just...
Y-yes... yes, sir.
No need to be formal, lassy. Call me Jan. I was recently reminded of my ex brother-in-law, Burt Wunderkind, fabulous griffin-baiter.
A... A griffin baiter?
Yes of course. It's something of a cottage industry amongst Amnish gnomes. Quite simple, I've heard. You merely tame a couple of wyverns and WHOOSH, tear through the sky to fling insults at the hapless griffins.
Oh, I didn't think you could tame a wyvern.
Really? Everyone I know has a pet wyvern. Taming wyverns is child's play, literally. As children, we'd tame wyverns. It's easy since they have such an affinity with turtles. Back in the old days, it used to rain turtles on even days and frogs on odd days.
Why, that's ridiculous!
That's what I thought until the drought hit. There were ornery wyverns everywhere. After a rich diet of turtle mash, you couldn't expect them to merely accept bacon without eating a few human nobles, now, could you? Of course, by then, Burt was such a successful griffin baiter that the authorities just couldn't find it in their hearts to make us leash the wyverns. The loss of the noble class is truly a small price to pay to maintain the continuity of such a fine sport. There's nothing like the look of incredulity on a griffon's face to keep one's spirits up.
I... I wish I could fly. I haven't since I was a-since I was a kid.
Don't you worry, lass. If Burt ever pops by, we'll get you up in the air faster than a chicken with one of Jan Jansen's Flasher Master Bruiser Mates tied to his rear. Trust me, that is fast!
Also, this thing. It has six facets - four release hostile things, two release friendlies. One of the four hostiles is fucking evil and you will soon see how.
Visions! More sights of my mind! Ha! I deny you! I know wherefore I remain! More people that wander my head? What is the point? I've seen as much time and again. Curse my stagnant brain for its patterns! Whatever you be, I banish you! I will not be a slave to phantoms! I know wherefore I am!
I have released you. Relax and be free.
My own thoughts taunt me with freedom, when I know I remain trapped! I have seen too many dreams of release to believe! Back! Back to your hidden places in my head! BACK! I will not believe this lie!
You are confused... perhaps mad. Calm yourself or you will come to harm.
Back! Your words are my own! I see nothing here but more illusions of freedom! Back! I will force you!
And it all followed that pattern - release, banter, we murder the thing.
Semi-catatonic drow guy...
And this fucker. This fucking lich. Jesus christ. I mean, he went down easily...
Except that this son of a bitch came with him.
Oh, and he could SUMMON ANOTHER OF HIMSELF. And each one of those could SUMMON ANOTHER. PIT FIENDS.
And after that the hostiles were done. Which is nice. There was a svirfneblin...
You... you are not the ones... you are from the light? I have not seen your tone before... Please, speak to me of your good intent. I am humble and only wish to go home.
I don't know who you are, but you've nothing to fear from me.
Then I thank you for releasing me, but I must be on my way most quickly. My father will be worried. If you ever make it to our village be sure to speak with my father. His name is Therndle Daglefodd, and he will be most grateful, I know.
And this guy.
Who... who are you people? I was... I was facing a group of Drow with my party and... I demand to know your intent! Where is the group I traveled with! Speak!
I cannot speak for your party, I have only found you imprisoned here.
I was imprisoned? Damnation, that blasted Drow and his spells must have got me! I thought they looked to be too easy an opponent. Hmm, a tricky lot, those Drow; very smart to split my party with magic. I hope my fellows fared better than I did. So, am I to face you in battle or not? I must not have been in the spell for long because my mind is sound and I know that nobody does good deeds for free. Speak your intent.
I did not release you to do battle. You are free to go as you wish.
Well, that's an answer that gives me pause. I did not to expect to meet friendly sorts in these tunnels. Take care down here. Your charity will find very little appreciation from the inhabitants of this place, as you well know.
There are dangers here for everyone, no matter how long you have stayed.
Knowledge is the key to safety. I learned that quick, I did. To the East, you'll find a group of Kuo-Toan's guarding a bridge. A nasty lot, they are. Also, to the North is the gates to a drow city. I was ambushed by a drow war party near there, I barely escaped with my life. I'd urge caution if you travel in that area. I must try to find my way out and discover what happened to my own group. I wish you well.
Loot report! Jhor the Bleeder, Backbiter and some assorted repeated scrolls.
As we pressed on (slaughtering some myconids along the way) we reached the svirfneblin village that Bedlen Daglefodd had mentioned.
I'm sorry, but your meaning escapes me.
(ahem) You there, you who are there! Stand and identify yourself and your purpose!
Asim, and I'm not here to cause trouble. I come in peace, as they say.
I assume you wish to be taken to our leader, then? Strangers from above, are you? Come here you should not, though useful you may be. You may enter, but on your best behavior be. Go and speak to the Lord of our fair granitehome. He will see to your wellbeing.
After we were allowed entrance, we found Therndle Daglefodd, who very kindly gave us some Bracers of Defense AC 4.
And then, to their leader.
Come, I would have words with you, if you are willing to hear.
I will trade you words. I need information about some fugitives I am chasing.
I will help as I can, but my matter takes importance. Too much svirfneblin blood has been shed over this already. I will give you the details of the task first, and you may decide if you wish to accept. I tap rock that you will. As you can, our granitehome village is quite empty. I have sent the majority to deeper climes far from here. It was no longer safe, and it is our own fault. We
Could you not just collapse the tunnel upon the creature?
The tunnel will readily collapse, of that we are sure. What is unsure is whether that would kill the beast now that it is awakened.
Ahh. I have encountered beasts that were 'awakened' before. This is no natural animal, is it?
As I said, it is a beast out of dreams, or of nightmares, if you prefer. It is not of the rock. I do not know what to call it.
The goal is clear enough. Now I must mention what I will need from you.
I am listening, but keep in mind that we are not the richest of granitehomes. We are under constant pressure with the Drow being so close.
I require no payment for helping others, but I seek two surfacers that came this way.
Surfacers other than you? Ahh, I know of them, but you will have a hard time finding. They passed within the city of the Drow, Ust Natha. Now before you ask, I may know a way into the Drow city. Well, I know a being that might help you. She could see you safely inside, but after that you would surely be dead. If such is the risk you would take, I will gladly point you in her direction. The great staircase goes to her lair. It is the blackest of all the tunnels, but there is glorious light on the other side. She is called Adalon by choice, though 'My Lady' will suffice just as well. Show respect and you will have it in return.
What manner of creature is this Adalon? Is she Svirfneblin like you?
Oh, goodness no. She is a creature of great beauty, as you will hopefully see. She does keep very particular company though, more so than others of her kind. I'm sure she will see to your concerns if you approach politely, but I fear I must restrict your access until the needs of my village are met.
We would help regardless. Please know that.
The passage to her lair is guarded against intruders by a force of her design. It is the blackest of dark, preventing even the Drow entry. When the beast in the cavern is dispatched I will give you a 'light gem' to banish the darkness of the tunnel. I carry it with me always, but I will gladly give it to you for this service.
Fair enough. Where must I go to find this beast you need killed?
I am glad of your decision. The passage is to the Northeast, guarded by one of my best breachgnomes. He will let you pass now. Take this Stoneshape scroll. It is linked magically to the stone of the cavern. When the beast is dead, use this to bring the cavern down upon it. I shall make it a forbidden area forever after. Thank you, Asim, you do not know the good you have done here.
Off to the cavern!
Oh god DAMN it.
Actually this one is very easy. Possibly something to do with me overpreparing.
Upon dispatching it, I used the scroll and...
returned the cavern to normal.
I heard the rumblings of your battle, Asim, and I am glad to see you alive. I thank you immeasurably. With the tunnel collapsed, the creature will not be disturbed again. I know it is dead, but who knows what could happen with such things.
Indeed. Your mining hadst awoken a mighty demon. Have a care how deeply thou and thy people do delve hereafter.
And you have a care about shutting the fuck up. As for you, Asim, I thank you, truly, for what you have done. Our danger was even greater than we had thought.
It will trouble you no more.
Yes, and with all haste. I will not delay your own goals a second longer. Please, accept this magical item as partial payment. And also the light gem. With this you will be able to pass the great stairs and enter the lair of Adalon. I wish you well.
Skullcrusher is a mildly enchanted mace that is good against humanoids, and the Light Gem has mystical plot powers.
Over here we encountered a drow war party, which we dispatched.
And then, Adalon.
My lady, you honor me with your words.
I'm sure I do, but flattery is not why I have allowed you to come here. Do not think me too generous; I am not as tolerant as others of my kind. I am Adalon, the guardian, and I have done my duty as well as I have been able for many a century. I was not the first, but I know the history. My charge here is the elven ruins above, an ancient temple that marks the gateway to the Underdark. There are others elsewhere, but this is the first.
The first what?
The temple marks where the elves of dark hearts first descended, truly separating from the Elven kind and becoming Drow. The Drow keep the outpost of Ust Natha here as a symbol, one that is fought over regularly, though I have governed the hostilities and seen peace for decades at a time. But there has been a crime here recently, and I can no longer honor my commitment. I will ask your assistance, and in return I will aid you.
Speak on. I will listen and see what I can do.
Silence! I... I will tell you when you may speak. This is a VERY important matter, and I will not be interrupted. The Drow respected the borders of this place for centuries, only venturing out for sport and small skirmishes. That was the balance. The two you seek, this Bodhi and Jon Irenicus, I believe they have made a deal with the Drow for their own safe passage and offered a way to tip the scales against their Elven enemy. You may ask why I do not extend my influence. I cannot. Irenicus bargained with my most prized possession. He violated my lair and stole from me. They have taken my eggs.
Unfortunate. I assume they threaten to destroy them should you venture out?
I have been informed that to move from my lair is to cause the destruction of my eggs. It is the final straw in a long list of atrocities I have been witness to. You must retrieve them for me. Do this, and I will reveal a safe escape route to leave the Underdark, one that emerges close to where Irenicus plots his next move. In addition to placing you near your target, I will also make a gift of an item from my hoard. It will be powerful, and worthy of your service.
I wonder what it is that you think I can do? You ask me to face an entire Drow city.
I realize the danger of the request, but I do not ask you to simply assault the place. No, there is a much more subtle way to succeed. You will take the identity of a group of Drow I dispatched recently, a party from another city destined for Ust Natha. I will transform you, and you will be able to pass among the Drow with ease. They will not see through the fiction I create. When you arrive at the gate, tell them you are from the city of Ched Nasad, and that you seek sanctuary within Ust Natha.
I question the logic of this. I do not know the ways of the drow as well as I should.
Improvise. They are in the turmoil of war at the moment and will overlook much. They will not turn away extra hands. You will not be discovered by any other means than your own mistakes, so be careful not to make them.
Let the casting begin.
Yes, let it be done. [Casts the spell] It is done. You now resemble the denizens of the Drow city, complete with a house insignia that will not draw undue attention. I suggest you act like Drow when speaking to anyone you meet.
[Saerileth looks curiously down at her hands.] How can a people so dark be yet so lovely?
A drow's treachery relies in YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP. [ahem] You will also have knowledge of the language of the Drow, and your speech will be heard as though you have spoken their dark tongue all your life. The illusion will last as long as it needs to. Trying to leave the city through their main gate at the surface will dispel the magic. You will be on your own against impossible odds. I am sorry, but I must protect my interests. The only safe escape is through my influence once my eggs are recovered.
I will do what I can, Adalon.
I thank you. Remember, you are from the city of Ched Nasad. Take a Drow name as well. Use 'Veldrin,' it is commonly used.