Long Time No See

The next morning we awoke and ate Adric’s magical breakfast. We spoke a bit with Dyson and Rand as we did. Dyson is a member of an adventuring party that was based in Mulhorand until their encounters with the Ascended – the winged kobolds – led them to Waterdeep in search of information regarding some prophecied, apocalyptic event. There, he said, the Ascendeds attacked him and his friends. Most of them were killed, he thinks, but one of them threw him through a portal in Waterdeep that deposited him here, thousands of miles away, in Rashaman. That was a few days ago and he’s desperate to get back to Waterdeep to look for his friends but has no way back. As it happens, Rock and I needed to take some of the treasure we’ve recovered to Waterdeep – and we’d already discussed harvesting scales from the corpses of the dragons frozen in the lake inside the mountain for fifty thousand years to add to the TTC’s commercial inventory – and so we began to contemplate taking Dyson with us. In part this would be (one hopes) to put him at ease regarding his friends and in part it would let us assess the truth of his tale. It’s easy enough to believe that there was another adventuring party on the trail of The Mother – another term which Dyson recognized right away – but still, we know a great deal more of what all this is about than anyone else and we were still in the mode of trying to hide that knowledge from others.

The… seven? of us? I think so. The seven of us went down the crevasse again and began to explore the chambers underneath the mountain. Aside from the dozens – perhaps hundreds – of dragons frozen in the ice as they had tried to make their escape we found one hole bored out of the ice so that one could descend and enter into the ancient elven weapons-works themselves. We had to get a small, metal door open and then climb down a ladder into an initial sort of anteroom. During the battle those many millenia ago the building had been breached and water had begun to pour in everywhere; moments later, the water had all been frozen at once. Ice covered the floor of this room to about waist depth and in that ice we saw the perfectly preserved bottom half of some humanoid race, the top half, that above the ice, having decayed to naught but bone. Certainly some welcome wagon they have here, I thought as we trod stolidly past.

It would have been easy to believe that this place was nothing more than a tomb at this point but Rock was already tracking footprints, very faint, of unknown age but not too terribly old. We strongly suspected they were the prints of BOB in one of his man-sized forms – either Muad or the Faerath. We knew he had been here perhaps as recently as a few days before. As we wound our way down spiral staircases and through ancient security doors, the rooms became progressively larger. We were clearly in one of the Font-produced structures that’s largely spherical in shape. The next significant chamber we entered seemed to be deep inside the structure; it had a spiral staircase descending through the middle but there were open-air levels to either side onto which one could step from the stairs. One side had been effectively blocked by the rushing in of water right before it was all frozen in place. There was also the ancient, decayed corpse of an enormous dragon, the very one that had smashed in the wall so that the water began to pour through. I had to wonder at the determination those dragons had to destroy this place: they breached the mountain itself so that they could try to flood the whole building with the lake that formed one of its layers of protection? Did they think they would be able to escape, or were they so ready to end this war that they were willing to flood it from top to bottom with water even when they knew that the effort of certainty would require that they die at the bottom of it themselves?

Said dragon had, when it came in through the wall, crushed a strange and vaguely nondescript bit of mechanics when it landed. On the opposite landing its counterpart and twin was still intact: two metal hoops, one smaller than the other and sitting inside it, mounted at perpendicular angles to one another so that they spun in opposite directions – one over and under like a mechanical grass cutter and one from side to side like an egg beater. I turned on Greater Arcane Sight and could see that the device in question was a negative energy generator: a device that would produce the very stuff of anti-life. I couldn’t see an ON switch anywhere, which was good, save that it meant that neither could I see an OFF switch anywhere. We descended carefully past it and Rock continued to track the foot prints of our quarry off to the left from the bottom of the stairs, up to an enormous, circular door in the wall.

A little careful negotiation with the door led us to open it and find a long, circular tunnel. It had filled with water at some point and frozen solid, but the ice had been carved away by some means. We trod along it into a room that was surprisingly, well, sterile. It was all metal and glass, including little chambers behind thick glass that sounded different from normal glass when rapped upon. There were also man-sized cylinders of glass here and there around the room, some broken, but three intact: two filled with what looked to be metallic wasps and a third filled with tiny motes of fire. There were also small glass containers not unlike an oversized wine bottle which obviously had been crafted to fit into small portals at the base of each cylinder. Whether the elves had meant to collect the metallic wasps or motes of fire for some purpose we did not know.

Moving on we found more stairs and then a long hallway with doors to either side. The walls had placards reading WEAPONS LABORATORY here and there, and we had our suspicion about the wasps and such upstairs confirmed: this wasn’t a place where the elves merely built weapons. It was a place where elves tried to develop new ones out of whatever nature provided. I had to wonder what Badl thought of all this but couldn’t bring myself to ask lest it seem like prying or… I don’t know, taunting of some sort. It is times like yesterday when I most acutely feel something like shame at my High Elven heritage.

We carefully opened each door and in each room we would find more or less the same thing: some creature of a doubtless dangerous but not exactly menacing nature held in captivity. It was a wonder to me that these things were still alive, but then, they were mostly elementals or slimes or things unknown to us until later: a room with six lightning elementals trapped and howling – doubtless mad from millenia without contact or freedom – in more glass cylinders, a room with some being of utter darkness but capable of simplistic, almost childish communication via motes of light against the surface of another glass chamber, a room with what seemed to be a slime made of money. There were some rooms that were empty, no doubt chambers where they “tested” – ie, tortured, bred, manipulated and then abandoned – more short-lived, conventional forms of life. At the very end we found what seemed to be a sort of office with a few work tables in it.

The tables were largely empty except for one where there had once sat three objects but now two remained, the third indicated by its absence in the dust on the table. The two present and one missing objects, however, were of immediate interest: they were the white, gray-streaked stones like the one we had taken from the half-demon upstairs, the stones that allowed flight in the presence of this modified, mountain-spanning Undeniable Gravity enchantment.

No sooner had we congratulated ourselves on our find than an enormous slime rose up behind us and attacked. It was a short battle, but it reminded us that given this place’s nature – a facility where the ancient elves tried to weaponize animals and other entities – we should be more careful. We inspected the desks and, after destroying one to learn its workings, opened the others in a more conventional manner and found inside small tools and other indications that this was one of the various rooms used to create more traditional crafted items such as necklaces that would allow flight. It was obvious what BOB had done: he had come here, knowing that these stones had been left behind, and retrieved one so that his appointed guardsman, the half-demon, would hold the advantage of flight when we showed up to investigate.

But what else had brought him here? Or was it really as the half-demon had said, an enormous trap?

Regardless, we were here now and there were creatures still held by the evil work of ancient elves. Together we resolved to go back to the other beings still held captive and try to communicate with them to ascertain which ones desired freedom and which ones we could help. We turned back to the room of lightning elementals first and there Badl was able to speak with them and determine that yes, they were mad, but they desired freedom above all else. Badl could cast a Banishing that would send most of them back to their native plane, releasing them forever, but that would only be six of the eight in the room. We couldn’t face leaving two of them trapped for who knew how many more millenia so I asked one of the remaining ones if they would be able to contain the electricity that makes them so dangerous if one of us simply smashed the cylinders in which they were held prisoner so that they could walk out. “You are made of water and standing on a metal floor,” he said sadly. “I would kill you instantly regardless of anything I did.” We discussed our options and agreed that it was likely we were going to spend another night here anyway, so we could come back the next day and release the remaining two with another Banishing.

Next was the money-slime, which appeared to be simply that: a slime made of money. The explanation was simple enough once one of us thought of it: the elves were fighting dragons. Dragons have hordes. Deposit a slime that looks like a big pile of coins and gems in the horde and the dragon lies down to sleep on top of a bed of its own enemies. The notes we could find on the ancient elven displays – like the little “scroll” I carry of that ancient gardener’s at the embassy to the Netherese – indicated that the slimes were simply too slow and stupid. We left it to its own devices and that was that.

The last one was the room with the creature of pure darkness. It certainly seemed pleased to see us – it drew little smiley faces and such with the motes of light at its inexplicable command – but we could no more have a conversation with it than we could my left boot. (To be honest, we probably have a spell somewhere between us to have a conversation with my left boot, but that’s neither here nor there.) We decided to leave that one for now and head back to the main chamber where there was another big, round door that we imagined led to another big hallway and more chambers of tortured, abandoned beasts. BOB had not gone that way – we had, in coming inside and going to the workbench where there had been three medallions to allow flight (yes, we took the two remaining) then tracking back almost to the exit, retraced his every step – but we are curious. We are adventurers. Opening doors that say DO NOT OPEN is what we do.

We checked the door and, no sooner than we had found it free of traps and opened it up, a voice rang out across the chamber. It sounded tinny and slightly flat, like an imperfect aural illusion. In a calm, female voice speaking the ancient tongue of the elves it said: “Security breach. Deploying defensive measures. Security breach. Deploying defensive measures. Security breach…”

I had refreshed my Greater Arcane Sight before and now, as that remaining generator’s circular blades began to whirl in perpendicular directions to one another, I saw a halo of negative energy began to grow around it and sparks dance around inside.

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