It was early Tuesday when the four of us returned to the Temple of Tiamat to inform the Priest of our next steps, which involved Erilis losing his most promising cleric, we found that we were being watched. There were four (Minotaur, orc, a half-drow ‘giant’, and an ogre from Omars) but they were not acting in concert as they seemed not to be aware of each other.
Promptly ignoring them we continued toward our immediate plans.
Arriving to the Temple we happen across whispered conversation between Erilis and Anan Viator. It was more verbal sparring as each tried to get the upper hand on the other but it was out of mutual respect for and not of spite. A debt was owed.
Making our royal presence known Erilis offers us translators to better understand the local dialect in the form of three old sailors from Stormhaven. The offering was accepted and with thanks, but our path would not enjoy the presence extra men into dangerous unknowns.
Excusing them we turn to Erilis and formally advise him that we mean to abscond with his cleric from Nimbus; likely forever. It was not for him to refuse us however there was the debt owed.
Erilis was responsible for saving Anan from unknown torments when her house was attacked by a more powerful (first level) house. During this Anan realized the ‘truth of Tiamat’ and for that Erilis saved her.
Erilis respectfully asked us to recover blocks of Starmetal. With this he could not only finish the scaled alter but it would permanently hold her blessing and empower the Temple. Furthermore Starmetal is very much similar to certain nodes of magical power across the world of this plane. Through these nodes and the Starmetal one could access the elven Wayline crossroads. (Stormhaven?)
This prized metal however was stolen by a band of giants who insult us by presuming to build their own horde. Conveniently these bands of ‘Jack and Iron’ giants are between Nimbus and Darkell raiding the main trade road. These giants fight with either chains or wicked vines, have an affinity with earth magic, and like to daze opponents.
Our acceptance is two-fold: one, we agree to look into the giant problem and see to reclaiming the Starmetal and two, we each agree to Tiamat’s blessing from Erilis as we leave. With that satisfied we turn to Anan who graciously answers our inquiries.
· Darkell is a city of dungeon-like layers where the lower one descends, the higher the danger.
· Also called the Drow Hells. It is mostly lawful and evil but as one descends it becomes more chaotic.
· It is like a hallow pyramid with the slums at the top and Noble drow houses at its base.
· Below the third level are dead magic zones, wild magical storms, and even diseases. Some even leave with some affliction either sever or benign.
· It is an expensive city with a population of around fifty thousand.
· It is protected from surface elves as well as magical travel in and out of the city, however it could be overcome by having been in the city before.
· Usual access to the city was by way of Spraggle Tower and the drow guides charged with leading groups of individuals to the gates of Darkell.
Satisfied we talked and agreed that Spraggle Tower would be our next step leaving Nimbus behind.
Spragle tower lies ten miles away from the slums of Darkell in a cleared out area that looked like a military training camp. The tower itself looked carved from a mountain with three large towers; the larger central tower was seventy-five feet tall with two shorter towers leaning toward the large middle spire. Two-hundred practicing warriors were grouped into ranks of all various races with both drow and spriggan instructors. We descend from the sky in our now customary peaceful landing.
We were received by Grator Uzzi, a spirggan and the son of wounded and unconscious Hroogar Uzzi the steward of Spraggle Tower. After stating our intensions and even offering our healing resources we were cautiously thanked but unfortunately our help was not needed (or wanted) this was not time. He did however give us some directions, a common hall that may suit as our accommodations, the Embassy of the Minotaurs and a local monastery. Grator sees our difference to other half-dragons and asks if we are from Industria. No.
The Minotaur Embassy was a wide stout stone building hidden in a maze of trees on the outskirts of the training yard watched over by elite Minotaur rangers. Our approached is noted and we were challenged by three giant albino Minotaurs. We parley and peaceably land along with six of the rangers.
The largest of the albinos was Ambassador Katchlack. We introduce ourselves as members of the court of Averica and explain our plans of acquiring a force of troops to use in our endeavor against the giants (short term) and the elves (long term). Seeing our difference and our stated intensions he leads us to his office proudly boasting his direct service under King Fruges Saxo of the Minotaur Kingdom.
In his office etiquette is observed as we begin discussions with a three-month accord finally reached. Along with magic scrolls from Jaren and a quick potion eternal wand from Auge, Ambassador Katchlack agrees to service twenty Minotaur rangers within the area fifty miles outside Spraggle Tower and the Minotaur Kingdom against the Giant brigands. In the meantime, after three months, Kings and Mothers will advise their ambassadors on a longer term accord. Talk of sea trade with Stormhaven was also discussed but with the Minotaur Kingdom land-locked sea trade was not possible especially with the dwarf ships at the eastern coast.
With business sated Ambassador Katchlack grants us ambassador status within his wheelhouse and confides that in all the years the elves never once shared their arcane magics with the Minotaurs. Furthermore he was responsible for Hroogar Uzzi’s condition after a honorable duel and that Hroogar’s condition could be easily ended at Katchlack’s whim.
2 pm. The Monastery was quiet and full of students in Zen meditation surrounded by flowers and waters in a garden. As the rest of us stood back Versel entered and was challenged by an Ogre woman, Lotus Blossom a druid of the Monastery. The conversation was brief but did inform us of a ‘Spirit Tree’ and a nearby druid grove.
Looking for the Druid grove we find a lush vibrant land of milk and honey. Fields of wheat and other crops waved in the spring air like waves of ocean waters. In this grove and Elf wrapped in tree bark finery approach and hail us: Tenere, Master of Ceremony and Druid of the Spirit Tree.
We introduce ourselves as SONS Commodities and that we are pleased to discover the neutrality of the region and come as curious travelers. He sees our difference as non-devils however being creatures of fire his is naturally suspicious of us. Nevertheless Versel learns that the Spirit Tree can only be seen when one strips himself of all physical affects and achieves a heightened meditative state and Jaren learns of several viable areas where tar pits may be found.
9 pm. We are approached by the drow guides at the Common Hall where four other merchants accompanied by eight bodyguards also await travel to Darkell.
The travel through the night lasted about an hour when we could eventually feel the magical barrier surrounding the gate to Darkell, a single specific tree amongst a forest of similar trees. Traveling through the barrier we shrink to the size of rats allowing us to follow an earthen tunnel at the base of the tree. It was necessary for us to emulate drow traits as we entered the City, as no surface elf may enter Darkell without a curse negative levels upon them.
Evading the colossal bugs and huge earth worms we emerge from the tunnel and regain our usual dragon size when we are assaulted by the din of a large city. The drow guides depart with the four merchant and the rest of us group with Anan. Looking around we see water flows carrying containers to lower levels and trade being conducted between many races and individuals. This was the upper level of laborers and warehouses. Low light effected the area where we encounter the most drow we have ever seen with our fiery red eyes.