The subterranean city of Amyaththalas was without the slightest doubt the brightest, most colorful, and most beautiful city I had ever laid eyes on. Of course, it only looked like that if you had darkvision, as all the colors and effects were done with special lights that showed up only to those seeing without actual light. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t any real lights in the city. Any place where people were expected to read or write was lit up normally. Darkvision, after all, is a greyscale, which means writing doesn’t show up in darkvision unless you use special inks or magic paint. Hence the fact that we could read the colorful signs without carrying torches or magical lights.
While there were some places that had lights, such as offices and anyplace selling books, for the most part if you saw light, that meant you were in an area of the city that catered to nondrow. Yes, nondrow did come to the city, though it was rare. Something about rampant superiority complexes when it came to other races tended to put off most visitors. At any rate, the inn the guards directed us to was in the ‘visitor’s quarter’. Lights were more common here, though still rare, since too much light would cause a glare that would keep people from seeing the Naluth, the great stone spire that rose in the center of the massive cavern that housed the city, a pillar connecting the great floor and ceiling.
There was a red glow coming off the spire, visible only with darkvision. When I asked, I was told that, without the sun, the Drow chose this means of marking the passage of time throughout the day. Each morning the Archmage would cast a spell, and that spell would cause light to slowly rise up and down the spire, completing a full cycle in a day’s time, after which the archmagi would cast the spell again. It was like a version of London’s Big Ben, but using only magic and the natural stone.
The inn we came to was called the Deep Crystal Inn, and one could easily see the reason for the name. Rather than torches or candles or other light sources that would require fuel and have issues with smoke indoors, the Deep Crystal used a series of enchanted crystals that glowed with an inner light, providing a soft glow not unlike candlelight throughout the building. But in the relentless darkness of the Underdark, it felt as though we were stepping out into the noonday sun. Despite the fact that we could all (with some magical assistance) see fine in the darkness, the sight of actual lights brought a bit of homesickness to those of us who spent most of our time on the surface.
The inn itself was a standard example of the fantasy tavern and inn with a common room sporting a bar and many kinds of beverages to take your mind off your troubles and a kitchen to fill your belly. Conversation, such as it was, stopped for a moment as we entered the room. Not surprising, since we were a large party, very well armed, and I had several drow females with slave collars with me. That kind of thing was unusual, to say the least.
As the various conversations started back up, I found the deep gnome that was responsible for running this inn. No drow would lower themselves to serving outsiders. Selling goods to them? Sure, though they would try and gouge you as much as possible. Buying from them? If they had to, and it wasn’t more convenient to simply take it. But serving them at a bar? No. Not down here, at any rate. Drow on the surface tended to have fewer options, but even then there’d be few places that would hire a drow to tend bar, since too many people would be worrying about poison in their drinks. Well, faster-acting poison than the rotgut some idiots insisted on drinking no matter how many times they had to get a cleric to heal their blindness.
Deep Gnome Female
Level 45 Lorespinner (Bard) / Fighter
The gnome trotted over and looked at us as we approached the bar. Looking over, I saw that she had a raised platform going on back there, allowing her at least see over the bar. Probably involved a lot of climbing and such, but it worked. “Hmm. An incubus. Don’t get those too often. What’ll ya have?” I looked at the gnome again. She was cute, in that ‘everything is at 1:2 scale’ kind of way. Leaning forward, I pulled my cloak back enough so that she could hear my face, and said, softly so my voice wouldn’t carry far over the conversation, “I need four rooms for myself and my party for a week.”
The gnome’s eyes glazed over, and I’m fairly certain her knees went weak. She grabbed some keys from under the counter, and looked back to the back and called out in the gnomish language, telling someone that she was showing customers up to their rooms. She barely made it out of the common room and onto the stairs before she said, “Top floor, first four rooms on the right. Now I want you to fuck my brains out, mister incubus!”
The pets just giggled at the poor gnome’s plight, but didn’t say anything about it. Soon, we were on the top floor of the three-floor building, and Hrozne and the girls were getting settled in the other rooms. I let them know that the priestesses were theirs to enjoy for the night, and took the gnome into the room I’d picked out for myself.
The physics and physiology of a three-foot gnome taking in a member like mine was naturally something of an eye-opening experience for her, and I’m fairly certain I might have dislocated her jaw at one point. In fact, without her having access to the pittance of healing magics bards had, she likely would have been considerably injured by the time I was done with her. By the time I left her staggering back to the bar, with her holes freshly widened and one of them leaking considerably, I just hoped she didn’t get in too much trouble from her boss for skipping work for so long. If she got in trouble, the rest of the staff might try and reject me while they were on shift, and that would just be annoying.
I was just settling back for a nap and maybe some work on my enchanting skills when a message came in for me, it was Lexichan, asking to chat.
Darkmore: Well, this is rare. Why would the lovely Lexichan need to be calling me out of the blue? Did Brecilac and Raunaeril get into it again?
Lexichan: Hi, Lexichan. How are you doing, Lexichan? I’m so happy you do all the insane day to day tasks needed to run a guild, Lexichan.
Darkmore: All right, all right. I’m sorry. So, what’s up? You didn’t call to berate me for questing, did you?
Lexichan: No, not just to berate you for skipping out on duties to the guild. I’ve got other reasons, as well.
Darkmore: Fine, fine. I take your point. Once the business in Amyaththalas is finished, I’ll head back to Lithaes for a while. What’s the problem?
Lexichan: You know those lightside types? There’s been some rumbling, building on the stuff Zephara and the Scions did before you curb stomped them. I think the crusaders are looking to try and stir up trouble between Wyrmwood and Ograin. Someone’s letting slip rumors that you are the one who unleashed Mirelth on the world, and using it to stir up the humans against the elves.
Darkmore: Huh. I was wondering when someone was going to try and play that card.
Lexichan: You’re not worried about war breaking out between the two kingdoms?
Darkmore: Not especially. Even if they march on Lithaes and ignore the rest of the elven land (and there’s no way the elves would just allow an army through their lands), they’d have to face all of Aria, and the defenses Lithaes has had worked into it by now. Plus, there’s at least six of us who can summon dragons once a week.
Lexichan: So it is a wait and see kind of deal, where we prepare defenses, and then nuke the poor bastards? What if it isn’t enough?
Darkmore: Then we also have a whole lot of people capable of the most shadowy work. I imagine armies would lose cohesion quickly if there were suddenly a host of new vacancies at the top that needed to be filled. Especially if we can plant evidence on the other factions so they think it is some internal bloodletting.
Lexichan: Divide and conquer. Got it. Anyone in particular you want to run intel on that? Can’t just be guessing at leaders when the fighting starts.
Darkmore: Johnist is an ‘everyman’ sort, and blends in with a lot of crowds. He can do the person to person intel gathering. Have Darkbunnys use her shadow powers to slip around and find any other intel she can that way. If we can map out who the powers that be are beforehand, we might be able to decapitate an army before the fighting even starts.
Lexichan: Fine. I’ll dispatch them when I’m done with this call. So, how is Amyaththalas? I haven’t seen any drow lands except for our brief jaunt to Have Dorei, and the week or so after the dungeon was set up.
Darkmore: Hmm. As the premier Drow in our guild, that just won’t do. You wanna come join us here? The Grand Temple, the leader of the city, and the magic academy are all on the tour this week, along with a visit to the local slave market. Might be able to find some intereting specimens.
Lexichan: Well, Ruva, Cookie, and I have been talking…
Darkmore: Should I be excited or concerned?
Lexichan: Hush you! Anyways, we need some material components and other such things for some of the skills we have, and they are either Underdark exclusives, or just rare on the surface.
Darkmore: Hmm. I could arrange for you three to stay with me and the girls. I’ve paid for a week, so it isn’t like there’s a problem with the rooms, especially once we drop off a few priestesses at the temple for sacrifices.
Lexichan: Excellent! We’ll also have the pet you gave me, so it will be four in total.
Darkmore: Let me know when you’re in the shrine, ready for the portal, then.
Thirty minutes later, I opened the portal to Lithaes’s dark shrine, and welcomed my new visitors. “Sorry for the close quarters. The five priestesses are busy entertaining the others in the other three rooms, so there won’t be as much room as you might like tonight.”
Feytouched Dark Elf Female
Level 70 Shadow Stalker (Ranger) / Tempest Blade (Barbarian)
Titles: Hunter, Tempest, Daywalker, Undead Bane, Sadist, Executioner, Trophy Hunter, Elf Bane
Dark Elf Male
Level 65 Bowmaster (Ranger) / Assassin (Rogue)
Titles: Elf Bane, Slave, Masochist, Hunter, Broken One
Half-fiend Medusa Female
Level 70 Hellfire Fist (Monk) / Twilight Mistress (Warlock)
Titles: Blindfighter, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Undead Bane, Celestial Bane
Cecily ‘Cookie’ Fogbrew
High Human Female
Level 71 Slaughterlord (Dark Paladin) / War Priestess (Priestess)
Titles: Battle Chef, Undead Bane, Beast Slayer, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Dark Chef, Blessed of Arrena
Looking them over quickly to see how far they’d come, I raised an eyebrow at Cookie, and said, “So, what kind of diety is Arrena?”
Cookie beamed at me, and said, “Goddess of the Hearth, Beer, and Feasting! Seems she approves of my work making sure the members of Aria have the best food they can get.”
I nodded. “Well, in that case, I’m fairly certain that deserves a reward. And I happen to have heard there’s something you’d like quite a bit in this world.”
Cookie blushed fiercely as the other ladies giggled. Apparently, the ‘reward’ Cookie wanted wasn’t exactly a secret. But then, trying to keep gossip from spreading is a losing proposition, no matter what. He turned to the others, and said, “And I suppose you’re going to watch?”
Lexichan whistled innocently, while Ruva simply grinned. “Actually, the plan was for Lexichan to sit on this drow’s face until he either satisfied her or passed out, while I enjoyed myself with his lower half.”
I shook my head and then looked over to Cookie. “You’re a bit overdressed for a reward, aren’t you?”
I’ve never seen someone shed full plate armor so fast.
Be sure to read my published works!
Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):
Frozen Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071R125QT
Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZZ52G37
Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy LitRPG):
Volume 1 - Tutorial https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VPRNDB
Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0774T354X
Into the Black (Sci-Fi LitRPG):
Book I - Game Start https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071LT5WGL
Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X2KR7Y
City of Champions Online (Superhero LitRPG):
Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075SHXQS1
The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0739V6R6T