Now You Don’t

As we flew in over Unther, the first thing we noticed was that there’s very little of it left. Mulhorand has conquered, well, everything except the very rim of the farthest corner of the Untherian coast. That this happens to include the Untherian capital, however, guaranteed that the slim arc of land in question was not going to stand for much longer. Unfortunately, Unther is the only land in the realms that venerates Tiamat, the (chaotic, evil) goddess of dragons. Stuck between saving a goddess we already know and dislike or letting her fall to a new power entirely was not an easy decision but when it comes right down to it that old saying about the devil you know carries a lot of weight.

We coasted in over Mulhorandi camps and some of their soldiers interacting rather generously with the Untherian serfs in their remaining outlying agricultural villages. The peasants were not being pillaged or abused. Mulhorand had arrived, conquered them and started feeding them. I could feel myself starting to think about maybe at some point in the vague future second-guessing what we were about to do – try to arm the Untherians against the Mulhorandi – but I bit that back in favor of helping what I view as the greater good: keeping The Mother from having a vacant godhood waiting to be filled.

We arrived and made our way to the home of the noble who had arranged the purchase. I’ve already forgotten his name. His master of arms, however, was an Untherian named Azrael who came out to inspect the goods. Finding them to his (rather sadistic) liking, we made the deal and got the hell out of there. I cast a magical mansion in an alleyway behind an inn and the rest of us went to sleep or on watch in the doorway while Badl set out to do some reconnaissance work in the villages outside the main city. Upon his return I heard him tell Adric that the villagers mostly don’t venerate Tiamat and mostly don’t love Unther and mostly are grateful when the Mulhorandis arrive. We expressed a few doubts about what we’d done but went on about our business – this was at best a side trip on the way to trying to catch BOB disrupting yet another political or social system to create a diversion while he stole some ancient knick-knack, and we had to keep our heads in the game.

On taking flight again we found the trip to Underhome – the capital city of the Gold Dwarves, marked in ancient records as the home of the Dragonflight in the time of Muad Ter’thalas’ and the Faerath’s war against/with them – uneventful. We stopped at a small farm and Badl approached them to ask directions to the city itself. He was told by a dwarf – deeply suspicious of us – that the proper means of approach would be to visit the above-ground trading post outside Underhome and inquire there for permission to visit. We did so and, upon arriving, found a heavily armed and fortified encampment of Gold Dwarf forces arrayed around a tiny trading post. A dwarven soldier of some sort greeted us on our arrival and when we asked about going down below he told us we would need to go into the fort itself to ask permission of the military guards.

So far, so good. Not having to kill anyone or anything to get into a place of power would be a nice change, after all. We went in, spoke with some other soldiers about our situation and finally were told that we would need to speak to Eric, one of their priests and the most senior member of their staff present at the moment. A Gold Dwarf wearing what looked for all intents and purposes to be a barbed, iron, full-body fishing bobber came in and sat with us, asking us the purpose of our visit. We unrolled our poster of BOB and his many forms and launched into our tale. Remember, by this point we had decided to abandon discretion or secrecy; the more people who knew of BOB and his capabilities, the better. Eric listened with interest and said that yes, that would probably qualify us for entry into Underhome so that we could pursue our researches, etc., assuming the authorities down below agreed with us. He said he would need a few minutes to have our entry cleared and the elevator prepared for us and off he went.

We sat around for a few minutes congratulating ourselves and then he reappeared and asked us to follow him. Leading us out of the fort and behind it, he showed us to four metal boxes on chains that are used to lower people or goods into the port of entry for Underhome. We piled in and Eric began the mechanism to lower us. We sank slowly into the dark, chains rattling and gears and other mechanisms clanging, and then with a jerk the metal box ceased to descend and the shaft of light from above winked out as the metal door was sealed shut. With a sharp ping! one of the chains hold us up gave way and the metal box shifted with a shriek to one side so that it was hanging sideways from its normal trajectory.

Down below, the lights of magic spells lit up and Dyson – wearing his darkvision goggles – called out that there were two Ascendeds and two dark dwarves – Dwerger – at the bottom of the mine shaft.

The fight itself was brief. So many of us can fly or otherwise take care of ourselves in open air that it wasn’t really much of an issue to keep from falling. A few Sonic Fireballs and an Orb of Electricity or two, plus a variety of stabbings and shreddings from everyone else in the party, left us alive and well with one dead Dwerger and one live one and two Ascendeds who had abandoned their compatriots the moment the tide turned against them. Adric did once get knocked unconscious during the fight but I called out to Snowdown to meet me beside him and cast Revivify through me into him to bring him back immediately. After that the rest of us shielded him with our bodies so that our foes had no chance to repeat that sticky circumstance.

Rock and Dyson scouted ahead at the bottom of the shaft to tell us that it opened into a huge shipping and receiving complex, a cross behind a warehouse and a dock, sort of, as Adric and Badl and I watched over our dark dwarf prisoner. Badl sat on his chest and looked hungrily upon him while I fought back giggles. Adric sat in concentration, communicating telepathically with Rock, seeing with his eyes. Eventually Rock and Dyson saw a squad of what looked like dwarven – Gold Dwarf, not dark – security forces marching through. They hid, but the dwarves have long grown accustomed to the shadows underground and found Rock and Dyson lickity-split. The squadron announced itself as agents of the authorities of Underhome and, given we had no reason to believe them already corrupted, we willingly surrendered ourselves – except for Badl and our prisoner – to them with a peaceable mien. We explained our experience of being sent down in a metal box that was booby-trapped and attacked by Ascendeds – leaving out the Dwerger for now – and when their commanding officer heard that it was Eric who had sent us down he looked wary and surprised. “Eric’s been missing for days,” he grumbled at us. “C’mon, we’re taking the lot of you downtown.”

That they did, walking us – quite politely – into the dwarven city of Underhome. It is a strange place, squat buildings and slightly narrow streets and contained entirely in one immense cavern. There was a guards station – these were city watch, not soldiers – nearby and they took us there to ask us a few questions. Once there we came a little more clean about everything, showing them the poster and telling them why we were here. We described “Eric” from top-side to them and they nodded in confirmation and then shook their heads at the trickery. Once it was clear they were releasing us – and we had cleverly confirmed that the punishment for being a dark dwarf in Underhome would be relatively humane treatment in a prison cell, not some barbaric ritualized torture or something – we told them about the Dwerger and that one of them was still alive and where to find him. Then we engaged the captain of the guards, who had been interviewing us, as to whether there were any political shenanigans or other troubles afflicting Underhome, explaining that this was BOB’s way, to create strife and capitalize on the distraction. Every single dwarf hemmed and hawed and hurried to let us go. The captain refused to discuss it but was quite emphatic that we should visit the museum of history they had in the city, one devoted to the history of the Gold Dwarves in general and Underhome in particular. There was a specific tapestry he wished us to see, he said, and noted the museum is often open later than posted hours because the curator forgets to go home at night, so devoted is he to his work.

We nodded and agreed that was something we should see, then set out to find another alley next to another inn, in which I could summon a magical mansion to be our temporary haven. We went to sleep, finally, and rested well for the remainder of the day. When we awoke that night – and bathed and put on clothes freshly cleaned by my ethereal house-staff – we ate our meal and agreed to go visit the museum in question. If the captain wanted us to see it so badly, it was probably worth seeing. This sort of thing is referred to, I am given to understand, as a clue.

Leave a Reply