Second Darkness

Summary 15: A Candle in the Night

Chapter Four: Endless Night

Gunderhoff was first into the remaining passages. He did not like water and so tried to jump it. Yet his armor weighed him down and he plunged into the unknown depths. With his drow form, it only came to his chest, and didn't do any harm. Citrine decided to spiderclimb the wall, while Ruil followed Gunderhoff in his watery plunder. Corthana however soured over all their heads, landed nimbly on the other side.
They began looking in the various small caves and saw several morlocks coming from all directions, clubs raised, but with one possessing a greataxe made from a skull of some exotic beast. Ruil easily parried the two morlocks clubs that attacked him. Citrine meanwhile took a lucky bite from a morlocks that had come from behind. The remaining one leaped at Gunderhoff, its greataxe bashing through the dwarves defenses. As the blade sliced through flesh, a wound appeared on the morlock’s own flesh; a byproduct of the magic imbued within the weapon.
Corthana threw a trio of daggers dropping dead one of the morlocks. Gunderhoff smashed his hammer into the screaming axe wielder named Magnamaga, breaking bones with his mighty smash. Ruil and Citrine obliterated two of the morlocks with fire and lightening attacks. Gunderhoff then faced Magnamaga, allowing the axe to bounce harmlessly on his shield, but finding no attacking lane for his hammer.
Ruil teleported in back of the last morlock, making room for his friend Citrine to get into the fight and stab home with her scimitar. In response she felt the battleaxe cleave through her armor, and slicing through ribs. Corthana turned her daggers upon Magnamaga, knocking the barbarian down with her precise blades. Ruil then tried to knock aside the morlock’s blade with his own, the morlock's rage gave her strength and she held onto her greatest treasure. Gunderhoff smashed the morlock's head with his hammer, sending body fluids splaying out. Somehow, Magnamaga held onto life and sliced at Citrine's leg, nearly cutting both off with a one savage cut. Corthana again threw her daggers, and after they impaled the morlock’s body, the barbarian stopped moving.
A quick search turned up a few potions as well as the remains of the previous drow caravans. They found no more signs of life, and they dared not search the watery depths. Had they done so, they would have come across the spawn of Lamashtu, god of beasts. That would be threat the drow would have to deal with on their own however.
The Immortals healed up their wounds, and journeyed back to Zirnakaynin, along with the two soldiers who had been sent with them. Outside of House Vonarc, they came across the young drow Zaknafein, shoveling lizard manure. He seemed almost in awe over their successful mission, and their combat ability. He almost spoke hesitantly about how he noticed Godak searching the Immortals bunks in search of something. Zaknafein said that Godak was always curious about the doings of newcomers.
Within the house, they met with Slavemother Undamesta. She seemed very pleased with their success, and took the greataxe of the morlock leader as proof of the task complete. Given their skill, the Immortals were given yet another task to do. This one involved hunting down and slaying three runaway driders that had taken refuge in a small cave. Again, a pair of drow would accompany them to ensure they completed their mission. Yet the Immortals were exhausted after the morlock foray, and decided a few fours of rest was required.
On the way to the barracks, Citrine noticed that Godak was berating Zaknafein in hushed tones about betraying his actions to the Immortals. He said that he would tell Slavemother Undamesta on the drow slave and that he would be whipped yet again. The Sarenraenian and her allies decided to intervene in the conversation, asking what the trouble was. Godak then insisted that it was Zaknafein who had looked through their possessions, not him. Ruil said that, should such an event happen again, then the perpetrator might find trouble. This comment was clearly directed at Godak, but the merchant slave tried unsuccessfully to deflect the comment. Godak then insisted he had matters to attend to and quickly exited the Immortal’s gaze.
When the merchant was gone, Zaknafein again insisted he had nothing to do with the previous nights invasion of personal effects. He then took up his broom and began sweeping the floor. As he did so, Ruil noticed that the drow slave's movements had a bit of a sweeping weapon characteristic. Although not a warrior, Zaknafein's physic and muscle tone betrayed his lack of knowledge of the ability to handle a weapon. They decided to question him further about who he was and what he wanted. The answers they received were surprising. This was a drow who admittedly wanted to escape the life of darkness he lived in. He had read stories of the surface world and wanted to see it, to live it. But he said that to be able to do so would require a miracle, and that was something that simple did not exist in Zirnakaynin.
After a few hours, the Immortals were ready to attack the driders. They already had experience fighting them and so knew what to expect. Citrine cast spells to bath her in godly might, while Corthana melded with the shadows, disappearing from sight. Gunderhoff then simply walked into the cave, shield raised to face the three driders within. Citrine however was quicker with her spell, as she blasted one of the arachnid abominations with fire. Corthana then let her daggers fly, hitting one of them in three different internal organs.
The driders reacted quickly to the home invasion, with two of them blasting the Immortals with lightening bolts, while the other one created magical webs around the heroes to impede their movements. Gunderhoff took the brunt of the magical attack, but it would take another ten such attacks to drop the sturdy dwarf.
With webs sticking to his feet, Ruil found it difficult to maneuver into a position to attack, but moved in as close as he could. Somehow Gunderhoff overcame the tremendous pain from the electricity still coursing through his veins and blessed everyone. Citrine was closer than everyone and went to her sword, dodging reaching fangs and slicing through enemy flesh. Corthana waited for her daggers to return to her, and to her surprise, only two of them came back to her hand as the other one became stuck in the webbing. Nevertheless, she let them fly, bringing more pain to the same drider she had hit previously.
Again lightening came blasting away, this time from all three driders fingers, injuring the Immortals further Gunderhoff saw one of the bolts coming for him, and was amazed when the magic washed over him, doing no harm. Ruil was becoming tired of being on the receiving end of lightening. He teleported in back of one of the driders and then cleaved it from behind, the shocking grasp and steel nearly destroying it. Citrine then moved in to flank the same one, driving her sword up into its jaw, and through its cheek. Yet still somehow it maintained a hold on life. Corthana thus decided to finish it with a barrage of magical missiles, all of which dissipated into the wind as they were absorbed by its resistance.
The driders continued to defend their territory fiercely. One of them augmented his own defenses, while another one bit down on Ruil’s neck, and injecting debilitating poison into his blood stream. The other one pounded its mace on Gunderhoff's shield, but the metal held. The dwarf then retaliated but with the same results. Citrine cut her foe again, sending more black blood flowing. Corthana then moved to her stuck dagger, retrieved it, and threw it, killing the drider and stealing the glory.
One of the two remaining driders blasted Gunderhoff with magic missiles, but none of them pierced his magical resistance. The other one again tried to kill the dwarf in drow disguise with his mace, but again the attack was pushed aside. Citrine sliced open another drider's abdomen with a pair of sword slashes, her godly imbued magic making the wounds greater than they would normally have been. Ruil tried to outdo her friend, but the drider deflected the greatsword aside. Gunderhoff's hammer smash did not miss its mark, and he sent another drider dead in the dust. The last drider found himself surrounded by all four warriors, and they cut and bashed until there was no enemy alive.
After arriving back at house Vonarc, Undamesta simply nodded at the well done task. She then said that their next tasks would be individual ones. Gunderhoff seemed to be adept at the hammer and so he was sent to the mines. Corthana would be sent with Godak on a simple transport mission. Ruil would train with the Paintaster in order to learn what it meant to torture people and perhaps become a future Paintaster himself. As for Citrine, Undamesta demanded to know who she worshipped. After a lengthy pause, she said Abraxis. The Slavemother spit upon the ground, cursing the demon lord as that was the one Allevrah served. She thus said that Citrine would study with the Priest of Arashnekal to learn about the demons lord of Riddles and Portals as that was the recognized deity of House Vonarc.
At the Torture House, the Paintaster gave to Ruil a barbed whip and commanded him torture a slave. He then gave several pointers on how to better torture a prisoner, included using Ruil's acid spells to even further the torture of drow. Ruil went about the business with gusto. The Paintaster admired Ruil and his ability to bring out the screams of victims and mentioned that he would make a great second to him.
Citrine spent the day learning from a priestess about a demon lord that Sarenrae would have stepped on like an ant. Citrine asked the priestess about Allevrah and what the story was about her. She responded by say that Allevrah was an outsider drow who befriended the Azrinae house and then killed their head mother, effectively taking over the house. After that, Allevrah declared war upon the surface elves and took the entire house upon this crusade. None of the other Houses followed her in mission, although some did approve. House Vonarc was great allies with the Azrinae's. But when the Mother was slain, that made them enemies. The First Daughter of House Vonarc in particular hated Allevrah more than anyone.
Meanwhile Godak rejoiced in the stories of adventure that Corthana. He very much appreciated how Corthana went about slaying enemies by using shadow and quickness to down ones enemies as he too followed that path to fighting. Corthana asked Godak about how long he had been a merchant, and why he hadn't vied for a greater position in House Vonarc. The drow responded by saying he was content with his position. The higher up on the ladder one attained, the more danger one was subjected to. He did go on to say that he had seen his fair share of battles, some requiring him to use the time stop spell. After enduring further lies, Godak did say something with a ring of truth, that being that one needed a special amulet to enter the library and other restricted locations.
Near the end of the day, Ruil found he had mastered the act of torture. As such, the last slave to be brought in was Zaknafein, for he would see receive Ruil's acid many times in the future. The Paintaster said in secret that Undamesta cared for Zaknafein, and despised the feeling. It was for that reason she had the drow repeatedly tortured. There had been other reasons of course, including the worship of false gods, speaking in reverence about wanting to see the sun above, and many other sins. Despite Ruil's hatred for drow, he simply could not bring himself to torture Zaknafein. He said that he was tired and thought that perhaps putting off the torture was the best idea. The Paintaster agreed that Ruil had worked hard, and thus perhaps a branding would be the best as it required little labor. Ruil asked that the Paintaster get more wood for the cauldron while a brand was selected to burn upon palms.
Zaknafein look up, and speaking in elven, he said that Ruil did not have to do this. That caught Ruil off guard, and it made him think that Zaknafein may not be a drow at all, although that seemed a preposterous idea. In Zaknafein, Ruil saw a candle that seemed to burn in the darkness of Zirnakaynin. The warrior asked the slave who he was really. Surprised that Ruil spoke the elven language, Zaknafein asked who Ruil was? Ruil insisted that Zaknafein answer first, and so he did. He said that he was a drow who had snuck into the forbidden library and stolen books. From these he learned the elvish tongue, as well as what the surface world was. He dreamed to one day escape the city to the surface, but such a thing was an impossibility.
It was then Ruil's turn to speak. He simply said that he was not an enemy of Zaknafein, and that he might be able to help the young drow escape. Until that time though, he had to do things he was not happy with, including branding Zaknafein with an eye upon his palm once the Paintaster arrived with the wood for the fire.
That evening, the Immortal's found themselves reunited. They recounted all they had learned, including the fact that Allevrah was not in the city. That in itself was a huge blow to their plan. Yet there was perhaps a saving grace to everything as Ruil recounted his conversation with Zaknafein and how the drow was unique among his kind. Corthana couldn't help but point out that the elf had become soft living with the drow.
The following morning, Undamesta came to the Immortals, fury upon her face. She said that the First Daughter wished to speak with them, and honor she herself had never had. She brought them to meet with Erdrenneir, apprentice to the First Daughter. The mage said that his liege had a personal task for the Immortals and asked that they accompany him to the tower.
All five of them walked to the tower, with Erdrenneir levitating up through the hole in the ceiling to go to the second floor. As they went from floor to floor, other mages could be seen working on projects and memorizing spells. At the top floor, Erdrenneir asked that they step forth into a glowing portal. On the other side of it was a large room, with several undead devourer guards along the sides of the room. Sitting at a desk, was First Daughter Alicavnis, the archmage of all of Zirnakaynin.
After the apprentice left, Alicavnis demanded to know who they were. She wanted to know how they were hiding their identities. She wanted to know who they were working for on the surface. The Immortal's insisted they were drow, but Alicavnis said they were not, yet she could not see what they were as of yet. Despite that, she said she had a mission for them, and if successful it would garner them the information they had come all this way to find regarding Allevrah and her whereabouts. After agreeing to the terms, Alicavnis said that there was a narcotics bar called the Venom's Kiss. Several of her mages had recently gone there, and exited several days later, with no memory of what had happened. Fearing secrets and passwords might have been leaked out, she wanted everyone in the bar killed and all documentation including maps, journals, notes, to be handed over to her.
After some questioning Alicavnis said she had no qualms about surfacers. In fact, it was due to the surface elves that the drow came into existence. When Earthfall happened, the surviving elves who had not gone to Sovereign, fled underground. It was through years of survival that these elves evolved into the drow race. She also insisted that Allevrah was a drow, despite the Immortal's thinking the contrary, such as she being an elf enspelled. Ruil then asked about Zaknafein, including who he was. She responded by saying he was nothing but a slave, and a disobedient one at that. Ruil asked that Alicavnis be lenient upon the drow as he was more that what he appeared. The archmage thought the idea preposterous but did grant Ruil's request of keeping Zaknafein as his personal slave if they prevailed at the Venom's Kiss.
Soon the four of them found themselves at their destination, a pair of drow guard blocking the only door in. They asked the Immortals for the password to get in. Ruil simply said "Alicavinis." The guard said it was not the password, provoking Ruil to say that there would be a lot of killing soon if they were not allowed to pass. On that note, one of the guards began slowly retreating from the door. The other one however put his hand upon his rapier. That hand was cut off but a Ruil's greatsword. And before he could scream, Citrine's scimitar sliced across his throat. The second guard blurted out that the password was "Shiva" and opened the door.
On the other side, Corthana closed the door and then broke a dagger in the lock, sealing everyone inside. The bar was filled with patrons, as well as many different intoxicating odors. These drugs filtered into Ruil and Citrine, and Gunderhoff's noses, and fell upon their minds. They began feeling as though they were invisible in battle. They felt like throwing themselves into battle, no matter the cost as blades simply would not harm them.
Above, three guards were standing by a door, where likely their prey now sat in luxury. Shoving aside patrons, the Immortals moved toward the guards and said they wanted to speak with Orvignato. As they were not on the list, they were refused entry. Yet one look from Ruil and one of the guards said that he would see if his master would meet with them. Even among the noise below, the Immortals heard about a dozen voices speaking within the room after the drow entered and closed the door.
After a few seconds of the door not reopening, they realized that they would have to go in by force. They cut down the two guards outside, and then kicked open the door to see a dozen drow, and a drider. Ruil couldn't get to the bulbous arachnid, and so contented himself with slashing a nearby drow down. Citrine saw the massive amount of enemies and decided upon a house clearing spell as she threw a flamestrike in their midst, destroying nearly all the drow soldiers. Corthana then threw three daggers, but the drow were ready, deflecting them all aside. Gunderhoff then cast his bless spell to inspire his allies.
The drow all moved back to defend the drider, defending it from harm. The drider then let a lightning bolt fly. It seemed however that the creature had mispronounced a word as the burning from the spell that followed was very minor. Thus the pain was easily tolerable as Ruil let fly a pair of scorching rays, both of which missed their intended target. Citrine then moved into the melee, dodging a reaching bite and slashing away. Her scimitar however was batted aside by one of the drow defending its charge. Seeing so many human shields, Corthana decided to pick them off, knocking one to the ground with minor cuts. Gunderhoff then moved next to the drider, but his warhammer too was knocked aside.
Suddenly, out of invisibility, the fat Orvignato appeared smacking Citrine over the head with his flail. The drider tried to copy their master, but Citrine was able to duck the attack. Ruil then turned upon the new threat, but his greatsword was deflected way wide, and it took all his strength to get back in a defensive position. Citrine then got her revenge as she slashed at Orvignato head, sending blood and brain matter oozing to the ground. Corthana meanwhile timed her next strike upon Gunderhoff's success, but the dwarf's hammer got tangled in the driders feet.
Orvignato, still on his feet, again hit Citrine, but it was clear that he was hurt as the flail was a glancing blow. The drider meanwhile looked at Corthana and suggested that she attack lethally the ones she had entered the room with. The other drow continued to help the drider in its defense. Ruil again slashed his greatsword with more precision, gutting Orvignato. Citrine concentrated again on the drow leader, this time cutting off his weapon arm with clean swipe. Orvignato clutched at the stump and screamed in pain, before finally dropping dead.
Corthana, now enspelled, threw her daggers at Ruil's back. She then channeled her spellthief ability in the attack and robbed the warrior of a ray of enfeeblement spell. Gunderhoff again tried to hit the drider, but with so many rapiers in the way, it was nearly impossible to get a decisive strike in. The drider then cast a spell to even better protect itself from the massive force it found itself against.
Ruil wanted to get into the action, but there were simply to many drow, and to many friends in the way. He thus used his dimensional hop spell to teleport in back of the drow and cut down a defender and a little spider helping the driders defenses. Citrine, after seeing Corthana's actions, decided to cast a spell to remove the enchantment. However the spell failed to penetrate Corthana's drow resistance to magic. Corthana then threw the ray of enfeeblement at Ruil, but again the resistance to magic dissipated the spell. Gunderhoff again hammered at the drider, but still his hammer was parried aside.
Seeing the drow/dwarf fail time and time again, the drider began mumbling another lightning bolt, confident its allies would again defend it. The drow meanwhile were confident in the driders own defense that they assumed the arachnid would be able to defend again the any attack. As such, Gunderhoff's hammer finally found an opening in the driders defense, and capitalized by smashing his hammer home, and spoiling the spell.
Ruil continued to harass the drow shields, cutting and electrocuting to death two more. Citrine again tried to free her ally of the enchantment, but again the spell fizzled upon the aura of protection upon the spelltheif. Corthana thus fired a trio of daggers, with one going hilt deep in Citrine's lung. Gunderhoff, the forgotten combatant in the battle, continued battling hard, smashing through one of the driders legs.
Now mad at the drow in dwarfs clothing, the drider commanded its remaining allies to kill the hammer wielder. Yet again, Gunderhoff raised his shield and allowed all attacks to simply bounce off. As such, Ruil saw the drider was no longer being aided, and so easily slashed it dead from behind. After seeing their mighty combatant drop, the other drow simply gave up. The orders however were to kill all drow, and thus they were given a quick execution.
After a few minutes of searching, the Immortals found the stash of Orvignato, including the documents they had been sent for. There were many other valuable as well, including an emerald with a drow soul trapped within. There did remain the question of what to do with all the patrons down below. Alicavnis's orders had been to slay everyone in the Venom's Kiss, but the Immortal's were not all murders. Ruil thus decided to try to order everyone out of the building before he himself torched the place. Yet the drugs in the air were too intense, and no one heeded is command. Even if they had, they would have found it barred thanks to Corthana’s earlier trick with the locking mechanism. And so the Immortals decided to leave the place as is. A quick search of the documents turned up little of interest. There were no signs even that any passwords or illicit information was contained within. Mostly, the notes detailed portal locations; something which Alicavnis had in fact secretly wanted to begin with.
After arriving back at the tower, the First Daughter looked over the notes and seemed satisfied. She thus gave the Immortals the information they sought. She said that Allevrah could be found in a place called the Land of Black Blood. It was a place just beneath Kyonin, the surface continent of the elves and homeland of Ruil. She gave to them a map to a portal that would take them to Kyonin. She also said that Zaknafein was theirs to take with them. And with one last comment, she wished that the Immortals true identities be revealed. Corthana was the only one who noticed what had just happened as Alicavnis had just cast one of the most powerful spell known. Sure enough, the necrotic drow flesh upon her and her companions began falling off in clumps.
The Immortal's disguises were fading away, at the top of an archmage tower, and in the middle of a drow city…



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