Part 9 : Questward Ho!
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 05:57 PM
Twilight part 9 : Questward Ho!
The setting sun cast a pleasant orange-red glow over the city of Calimport just after Vierna and her party had gathered all the supplies for their upcoming Trek through the dark undercity of Calimport : The muzad. After coming back to the inn, Daoud had presented the tired adventurers to a seven course meal to burst the buttons on the pants. Lenny was sitting back in his chair, recovering from the biggest meal of his life, while Gerty still wasn't quite full and was having some turnips for desert. Glyill was looking a bit greenish, a fact which she would never admit to anyone. Brimstone was sprawled on the floor, laying his side and was generally drowsy from the sheer amount of chicken he had eaten. Meanwhile, Vierna and Shivon, who were handling the food better than their other friends did were silently chatting, while Shivon clasped Vierna's hand.
Suddenly, Brimstone slowly managed to roll to his feet and snarled softly in the direction of the door before deciding in was probably in his own best interest to lay down again.
Looking up from her conversation, Vierna glared to the door : She had picked up the pungent smell of...
Tipper Quickfist slammed the door open and calmly strolled inside the 'Smiling Camel Inn'. To Vierna, it seemed his annoying toothy grin was even wider than ever before. If she didn't know any better, she'd say he was even cockier than usual.
"So," Vierna spoke up, deciding get the first verbal round off, "I don't see any rocks here. Were'd you crawl out from under, then? Could it be the garbage heap across the street?"
"Haw, haw," Tipper replied. "And you must have been intimately acquainted with that garbage dump. I've heard you crashlanded a rug in there sometimes back."
"Whoa, some big words there!" Vierna giggled. "Have you been listening to a speech at the university to write them down? Oh, I forgot. You only know the first five letters of the alphabet!"
"Well," Tipper replied with a snarl. "I see you made it out of that desert alive. I'm surprised you lot made it out in one piece. Especially you, DeVir. Little girls like you shouldn't be allowed to play with the big boys... You might get hurt..."
"This 'little girl'," Shivon broke in, "is a more of an adventurer than you will EVER be, jerk!"
"'Jerk'?" Tipper snorted. "What kind of an insult is that? I tell you, girlie, that boytoy of yours is as weak and scrawny as you are. It seems you can't handle the real men either, little girl."
"Oh," Vierna grinned widely, "let me just tell you that I know for a fact Shivon here is ALL man!" In the background, Shivon's face grew as red as a beet. "Now," she added, "is there a purpose for your visit or did you just stop by to foul up the air with your pungent pheromones."
"Huh?" Tipper stared at her with open mouth. "Whaztha?"
"It means smell," Vierna chuckled. "I guess you're not so hot with big words as you might think..."
"YOU!" Tipper started to snarl, but then calmed down. "You might have survived the desert, but there's no way you'll get out of the Muzad alive! Just you SEE! Then it's Tipper's time to shine! Just you wait!" he shouted while he bolted out of the door.
"Vierna," Shivon asked after the both of them watched him leave, "how did he know we were going into the Muzad?"
"Ah, there you are!" Tipper greeted with a mouth full of fried dades and chicken while he sat at his favorite table, all covered to the brim with food, while having an excellent view of the two dancing girls on the stage ten meters away. The cloaked figure once again stood in front of him.
"What's your assessment of her recent performance?" the figure asked in a deep gravely voice.
"Huh?" Tipper said while staring at the figure with open mouth.
The figure seemed to shake its head while sighing. "First of all, close your mouth and don't open it again until you have swallowed! Then, tell me about Vierna DeVir..."
"Oh," Tipper replied after painfully swallowing his food, "well, she looked alive. In fact, all of them did. Even that scrawny elven bedwarmer of hers. By the way they were celebrating their success, I'd say they got the water and the scales. But how they did it... I can't imagine that little girl being able to pull it off."
"Amazing," the figure spoke, "but definately not surprising, considering what I've learned of her the last few weeks."
"You've actually spent time to study those misfits? She's a little elven girl dolly-adventurer who just got lucky sometimes. Why invest the time studying them? Why, you'd be better of eating, drinking, and partaking a few of the ladies in this fine tavern!"
"Your sheer frivolity never ceases to amaze me," the figure snorted.
"Was that a crack about my weight?!" Tipper asked. "I'll have you know I'm the epitome of health! Just look at those biceps!"
"Which just goes to prove : The bigger the muscles, the smaller the head..." the figure retorted. "And for your information, 'frivolity' equals 'stupidy' in this case. I am in no way inclined to continue to finance your excesses."
"Access?" Tipper asked. "Hmmm, maybe I should write that word down. I might look mighty impressive dropping those words you use during one of my combat sessions."
"I truly doubt that," the figure replied. "And to come back to your earlier remark, I do find it worthwile to study my enemies. A healthy respect of your opponent is always recommended, since it will prevent feelings of superiority and conceit clouding your judgment. I urge you not to underestimate her. El Ja'afar made the same mistake and... ended... poorly."
"Suproritty, conseat," Tipper muttered while writing down some more words.
"Yes," the figure shook his head again, "I've often wondered why there are so few competent adventurers of a dark nature... It seems the smartest and wisest people tend to pick up arms for the sake of good..."
"Not me!" Tipper said, while biting on more chicken. "I am strong, smart, sexy and brave!"
"Yes," the figure snorted. "Well, that depends on perspective. Compared to a goblin you are... but compared to Vierna DeVir... Not a chance... She was a key element in the latest war between Rashemen and Thay. Due to the actions of her and her party, Thay suffered a crushing defeat and lost almost a half of their territory. And the tales of her deeds in Luskan, Cormyr and Icewind Dale are..."
"Oh, she can't do squat," Tipper snarled.
"And you may not kill her..." the figure said.
"WHAT!" Tipper jumped up from his seat. "But... but... but... I really, really, really WANTED TO!"
"Vierna's parents are quite potent individuals. If you kill her, her mother will undoubtedly bring her back to life, but will also stop by at this is to slowly cut you to pieces! And given your whiny nature, her ministrations of pain will certainly lead her to ME. I cannot afford that right now, so you will obey!"
"THIS... IS NOT FAIR! YOU PROMISED!" Tipper sniffed in the most whiny voice he could muster.
"This might only be an astral projection of me," the figure snarled. "But I am quite capable of ending your misable life right here! I will be observing. You and your toadies will simply wait this out. Is that information processed through your tiny brain?"
"You... promised..." Tipper sobbed.
The figure sighed once more. "And to think that I could have hired that ghost-pirate and his entire crew much cheaper," the figure muttered to itself. "The ghost-pirate had such wonderful references, save for that rootbeer incident..."
Late at night, while the light of the moon illuminated the room on the third floor of the 'Smiling Camel Inn' which Vierna and Shivon shared, the elven mage opened his eyes, only to stare in the face of his beloved, barely an inch away from his own face. She was looking very peaceful in slumber. He briefly wondered how their future would be. Looking towards what would come, he briefly wondered how many more adventures they would have together. An thousand and one thoughts coursed through his mind, ranging from the question if his mother would ever accept her, to the question if he would someday have enough guts to ask Vierna to marry him. Regardless of the future, she was here with him now, and he could not resist the urge to kiss her on the lips...
After this small peck, Shivon couldn't help but give Vierna another kiss, this time on the tip of her nose. But shortly after pressing his lips to her nose, Shivon received harsh slap on the cheek. Backing off a little in surprise, Shivon noticed Vierna grabbing the blankets and rolling on her other side to turn her back to him. "Darn... quito's," he heard Vierna mutter before she again fell silent. Smiling to himself, he prepared to go to sleep again, only to notice Vierna has stolen all the blankets in her roll. He knew that any attempt to wake Vierna would be futile, and she seemed to have completely rolled the blankets around her body.
Shivon shivered in the cool night air, realizing this would be a very, very cold night.
"AUCHOOO!" sounded through the small home of Daoud's cousin Rabba, where the party had once again gathered to go over the findings of the senior mage of the Calimport scholardistrict. As usual, the small home seemed to be simply too small for all the scrolls and books it contained, and it seemed Rabba was making even more mess as he tossed books, scrolls and items of power aside to find a bound leather book which he needed.
"To Shivon!" Gerty chuckled. "The only person who can catch a cold in the desert!"
"Sure, laugh it up," Shivon sniffed, then blew his nose again. "Glyill? Are you certain you don't have another 'Cure Disease'-spell in your repertoire?"
"Sorry," Glyill grinned. "I will pray to Ilmater soon to obtain one, but it will take another day or so..."
"How did you catch a cold?" Vierna said. "Didn't I tell you to wrap up warm at night?"
"Yeah," Shivon chuckled, then coughed, "you did..."
"Concerning the Muzad," Rabba said while putting down the book. "First, do you have a map?"
"Yes, here," Vierna said, folding out the map on the table. "It's a magic one."
"Ah, nice," Rabba said. "First let me tell you some things about the Muzad. It's an active dungeon, changing regularly unlike the Waterdeepian one. It's also not as complex as that dungeon, and consists of fewer levels. You are familiar with our city's history? Then you should know the city was destroyed quite often, and it has been a tradition to rebuild the city on top of the ruins, meaning that some parts of the Muzad look exactly like the surface, save for the brick heavens. Now, the Muzad is home to all types of people. About one third of this dungeon is controlled by the Sharrans, who have the temple of the Old Night in the Eastern side of the undercity, but you can also find the Nadhari in the western part of the undercity, which is a movement of escaped slaves... but you did not hear that from me!"
"Nope," all five adventurers confirmed.
"But the rest of the Muzad is under no one's control. There are vicious monsters living there, as well as a huge tribe of Kobolds and a very active smugglers-guild. Now, to get the skull of an Aboleth," Rabba said and pointed to the lowest level of the Muzad on the map. "You will need a guide to get there, and I have aranged for one. Take a look at this book," Rabba said and opened the volume to show a picture of a huge, tentacled fishlike creature. "There is a rumor that an Aboleth has settled there. Be wary of it's mental attacks and, whatever you do, do not let these tentacles touch you, or you will be infected with a foul disease and become its slave forever!"
"The flowers you seek," Rabba continued, "will be there as well, though on the other side of the deepest cavern..."
"And what about the other three items?" Vierna asked. "The Staff of Deceit, a Fruit of a Demontree and a Flechette of DarkDust."
"No luck there, but..." Rabba sighed a moment, "there might be a place where you can find those... But I'm not sure if you'll like the answer..."
"Oh, come on, already," Glyill stressed.
"Well, I have never been there, and I've only heard rumors..."
"Rabba?" Vierna asked gently.
"The Drow city of Thalranink'lar," Rabba sighed.
"GREAT!" Gerty exclaimed. "Why don't I just go slit my throat right now! That certainly would save me a trip!"
"You misunderstand!" Rabba said. "If the rumors are true... And I sincerely hope so, the city is a trading outpost where all races are welcomed to trade. It is said that if an item cannot be acquired there, it does not exist. But I gather it will be a costly venture..."
"There's a Drow city in the muzad?" Vierna asked.
"Not really," Rabba said, "but according to the rumors, there's a magical portal to the city somewhere in the Sharran part of the Muzad... But you'll have to find it yourself..."
Well, we've made it back from the desert and were welcomed back by Daoud with a big meal! We're on the trail of something really big here, you know. It's scary sometimes... To realize you might be a part of an adventure of which the outcome can affect so many, I mean...
Okay, momma... I've been thinking on how to break this next bit to you... In fact, I have considered not telling you at all, but I've never kept something from you, and I am not about to start.
But, momma? You might want to sit down for this one... Are you sitting down? Oh, momma, I told you to sit down, so you'd better do it... Please?
Okay, sitting down? I hope you're calm too... Momma? Besides exploring a very dangerous dungeon, I'm going to a Drow city. The city of Thalranink'lar to be exact. Now, don't bother running of to help me here, since this letter will probably only arrive after I come back for it. I am kind of scared, though. Especially after all you have told me about our people... But I have to do it. I just know I have to see this through. I hope you can understand that, momma.
I'll write more after I come back. Give, daddy, aunty Imoen, Valas and Rauva my love,
Your loving daughter,
"Are you sure I cannot persuade you to abandon this dangerous undertaking?" Muzar, the city's chief of the guards, asked as he opened one of the many entrances leading into the Muzad below.
"Thanks for the concern, Muzar," Vierna smiled. "But I have to do this..."
"I think I understand," Muzar said, "but just remember : 'It is good to see you go, but it is even better to see you come back...'"
Vierna smiled and nodded, and then attended to Brimstone, who had been raised in a harnes, suspended over the floor with a small device consisting mainly out of pulleys.
"Sorry, boy," Vierna smiled and petted his nose. "But we have to do it this way. You can't climb down a straight ladder."
Brimstone was looking unhappy, but his wagging tail betrayed that Brimstone was eager to aid his mistress.
"Down we go," Lenny said as he climbed down the ladder.
A few moments later, Muzar stared down the dark hole for a few moments. "May the Gods be with you all..." He muttered. "Alright, men! Close the hatch!"
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