|A Dawnbringer in the Dark
Author: Bondari the Reloader PM
Emily Emeraude, cleric of Lathander, travels to Waterdeep to aid in the town's defense, but she soon gets wrapped up in a plot much bigger than she can imagine. A Hordes of the Underdark story.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 11 - Words: 37,548 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 02-15-13 - Published: 04-29-12 - id: 8072133
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Part I—Chapter 4: An Unorganized Foray
Emily found herself standing at the top of some very steep stairs. Looking through the bars of the cage that encased the stairway, she saw Durnan, Daelan, Tomi, and Linu engaged in combat with a few drow warriors who hadn't yet retreated back down into Undermountain. She saw Sharwyn at the foot of the stairs, charging head first into the fray. Seeing that the other four seemed to have the situation mostly under control, Emily raced down the steps after the still-bleeding bard. Before she could heal her, however, a drow assassin materialized out of the shadows, ready to bury her dagger in the beautiful woman's back.
"Sharwyn, behind you!" Emily yelled frantically, hastily loading her sling. Sharwyn swung around, expertly striking the assassin with her two-bladed sword. She flashed Emily a grateful smile and turned back around in time to see Daelan slice the last of the drow stragglers neatly in half.
"We did it!" cried Linu happily as the six adventurers gathered near the well. Emily rushed to Sharwyn's side. The bard looked puzzled at her concern. Emily sighed in exasperation. "Do I have your permission to heal you, now?" she asked, pointing at the growing patch of blood on Sharwyn's leather armor.
Sharwyn looked down at her side and laughed in surprise. "Well, naturally, priestess, that is your job, is it not?" She arched an eyebrow wryly.
Well, naturally, storyteller, but it is much easier to heal people when they aren't CONSTANTLY RUNNING AWAY FROM YOU! The bard was correct, however; healing was Emily's job, so she summoned all the professionalism and poise she possessed and bit her tongue. She gestured to Sharwyn to turn so she could examine the depth of the wound while Durnan addressed the group.
"It looks like we've managed to drive them back for the moment," he said. "I'm going to go back upstairs and check on the guests. In the meantime, I need you five to stay here and guard the well until…" His words died away upon observing the shock and fear reflected in the five faces in front of him.
Emily had never before seen a creature like the one that rose from the depths of the well room. A single floating eyeball with many smaller eyeballs sticking out of if hovered before her. One of the smaller eyes met her gaze, and it started to glow with a magical energy. She could feel Sharwyn trying to pull her away, but she was transfixed by the sentient eye. She was dimly aware of Durnan falling to the ground next to her before the magical blast hit her and she knew no more.
Emily's eyes opened slowly and unwillingly. She was staring at the ceiling, as far as she could tell, though a dancing eyeball was flitting faintly in the corners of her vision. Add that to the helmets and kobolds from earlier and she was having a banner day for seeing things that weren't really there.
She forced herself to sit up, though her back screamed in protest. Next to her, Durnan was wiping the dust off his clothing brusquely while the beautiful blond priestess Emily had seen in the common room ran her delicate hands along his back. Neither one had noticed that Emily was awake.
"Blast those four fools!" shouted Durnan in frustration. "What were they thinking?"
"There, there, Durnan," murmured the woman, in a tone far more sultry than the average healer's comforting words. "They seemed like capable sorts. I'm sure they'll be just fine." Emily found it difficult not to laugh at the way the woman elongated each syllable for maximum seductive effect. Ironically, Durnan seemed to be paying as little attention to the priestess's obvious advances as the priestess was paying to his rantings about the missing adventurers.
"Rushing headlong into the well like a bunch of impatient children," he grumbled. He looked in Emily's direction and shouted, "Don't they realize how dangerous Undermountain is?" Emily shrugged and fought back a smile as Durnan slowly realized that he had directed his question to an actual person. He cleared his throat, clearly trying to cover his surprise. "Ah, well, good to see you're awake, Emily. Thesta!" he commanded the priestess. "Check and see that Emily Emeraude isn't hurt!"
The woman, Thesta apparently, frowned at Emily and raised her nose ever so slightly in contempt. She made no move to leave the innkeeper's side. Emily smiled at her serenely. "That's quite alright, Durnan, I am a cleric after all. I can tend to my own wounds. Thank you for your gracious offer, though, my lady." She inclined her head slightly, and Thesta grudgingly responded in kind. "Do either of you know what that thing was that attacked us?" Emily asked as she quickly checked herself for any broken bones.
Durnan responded by grunting and spitting over the side of the chasm where the creature had first emerged. Emily stared at him blankly until Thesta finally said, "It's called a beholder, or eye tyrant if you prefer." Emily immediately noticed the woman's more business-like tone now that she was forced to address someone other than Durnan. "One can unleash more magic out of each of its eyes than any wizard can ever dream up."
"And those fools have chased after it into Undermountain!" Durnan blurted out, facing the women once more. "I wanted an organized foray into Undermounatin, not this mess!"
Thesta's hand flew to his hair in an instant. "Not so loud, Durnan," she practically cooed. "You must have hit your head pretty badly when you fell. Best not to aggravate it any further. Besides, Emily Emeraude will find those silly adventurers in no time at all. Won't you, Emily?" she asked the cleric as an afterthought.
While that had been Emily's intention all along, a part of her resented that she had been volunteered, yet again. So much for making my own choices this time… "Of course I will. I'll need some more supplies if I'm to go down there by myself, however. Any idea where I can get some?"
"Hmm," Durnan considered, completely oblivious to Thesta running her long fingers through his brown hair. "Most of the stores in the district are closed, seeing as there's very little traffic coming through with the curfew." The innkeeper was able to tell her the locations of a couple stores that might still be open and to tell the doorman Grayban that he said she could leave the inn. He then turned to Thesta, who quickly dropped her hand from his head and smiled at him. Emily swore she saw the priestess's eyelashes give the tiniest flutter. "Thesta, do you have anything Emily might be able to use?"
"Durnan, I have just the thing!" Thesta cried happily. "It's upstairs, at the moment, but don't move. I'll be right back!" Emily noticed she walked away slowly to accentuate her swaying hips. When the priestess looked back, however, Durnan was absorbed in inspecting the lever that raised and lowered the well. Seeing the disappointment on her face, Emily smiled wide and waved exuberantly at the woman. Thesta rolled her eyes and stalked off.
Emily chuckled softly as she approached Durnan. "Anything else I should be looking for while I'm down in the dungeon?" she asked.
"Halaster, of course," Durnan replied. "He's the key to Undermountain, always has been and always will be. Until you find the mad mage we won't really know what we're up against."
"Just how mad is Halaster, really?" Emily asked cautiously.
For the first time since the beholder attack, Durnan smiled. "As mad as they come, I'm afraid. If you do find him, be very, very careful. The mind of a madman and the power of an archmage are a dangerous combination."
Emily rocked on the balls of her feet to hide her sudden nervousness. "Good to know," she said softly. "Good to know."
After a few moments, Emily began to feel restless. Thesta still had not returned, and Emily had quickly learned that for all of Durnan's skills in battle he was a less-than-stellar conversationalist. The man seemed incapable of talking about anything but Halaster, yet he spoke in such a vague way that what he told her wasn't particularly useful. Emily planned her escape on the pretext of getting a drink from the bar, but before she reached the stairs she saw something that stopped her in her tracks.
Standing at the foot of the stairs was a small kobold, so intent on writing in his small tome that he was unaware of the cleric standing in front of him. Emily smiled broadly as she ran and picked up her former companion in a big hug.
"Deekin!" she cried. "I haven't seen you in ages, little buddy!" She set him gently back on the ground, his eyes wide from the shock of her greeting. Recognition slowly dawned on his face, and he returned her smile.
"Boss-Lady Emily Emeraude! You comes to big human city! Somehow Deekin just knew you would come!"
"You know, Deekin, I thought I heard the Doom Song during our battle earlier, but I just chalked it up to that spell the drow wizard hit me with." She absently crouched down so she was eye-level with the kobold. "I've been so worried about you since we got separated on the Plane of Shadow."
Deekin looked at her in surprise. "Boss really worried about little Deekin?" he asked slowly.
Emily thought she saw tears in the bard's eyes, and she suddenly felt embarrassed for being so emotional. She dropped her eyes to the ground and hoped to Lathander she wasn't blushing. "Well, yeah, Deekin, I was really worried," she mumbled. "I felt kind of responsible for you, dragging you through the ruins of Undrentide and all." She sensed Deekin was beginning to make the kobold equivalent of an "aww!" sound, so she cleared her throat sharply and looked up. "I knew you were okay, of course, when I found a copy of that book you wrote," she said matter-of-factly.
Deekin jumped for joy. "Ooo! You gets book? Deekin so very pleased! Did you reads it, Boss? Did you likes it?"
Oh, brother, how am I going to answer this? Emily decided to start with overall praise and then address her specific criticisms later. "I greatly enjoyed it, Deekin," she said, which was definitely true. "It was much better than this book I read about the plague in Neverwinter."
"Deekin read that! It not gots kobolds, though, so Deekin think it very boring. Dumb elven lady no substitute for good kobold."
Emily sighed. She knew the "dumb elven lady" Deekin was referring to, or rather she knew of her. Aribeth de Tylmarande, paladin of Tyr and leading figure in the city of Neverwinter until she betrayed the city to the dark powers that were trying to destroy it. Emily had seen her a few times when she accompanied her father to Neverwinter to sell their crops from the harvest. She had watched the paladin organizing a charity mission to the Beggar's Nest, a commanding presence in her plate mail but always with a warm, welcoming smile for everyone she met. Emily had admired her greatly as a child, and she had been beyond shocked to return home from Hilltop to find her hero dead and branded a traitor. She had read and listened to all she could about Aribeth's fall, but all that she learned only served to make her feel… well, uncomfortable was the only way she could really describe her feelings. Now, hearing Deekin call her dumb, Emily found herself inexplicably defensive. "Aribeth wasn't dumb Deekin, she was just… in love, and, well… people in love do dumb things sometimes…"she finished lamely.
Deekin looked at her strangely. "Is Boss in love right now?" he asked. "Because Deekin think that a dumb thing for Boss to say, and Boss not usually say dumb things."
Emily snapped out of her reverie and stood up with her arms crossed. "No, I am not in love, Deekin, and even if I were I certainly wouldn't tell you!" she snapped. "Who knows what you would write about it? With your habit of changing the facts, I'd probably end up married to a goat."
"Deekin doesn't change facts, Boss. Deekin embellishes. Deekin exaggerates. That what makes Deekin great bard!"
Emily rolled her eyes. In the five years since she'd last seen Deekin, she'd conveniently forgotten just how exasperating the little kobold could be. She attempted to frown at him, but she couldn't quite manage it. Deekin smiled at her mischievously. "Good news be that Deekin work on new book, now. See?" He handed the book he had been writing in up to her. As she flipped through the pages, Deekin said, "Deekin think call for heroes make great plot for second epic story! Deekin not gots title for it yet, however—"
"Hey!" cried Emily. "Why am I in here? You didn't even see me until today!"
Deekin shuffled his feet nervously. "Oh, that… Well, you see, Boss, Deekin be new to great big human publishing world, and Deekin thought that it would be better for building reputation as great kobold bard if second epic story feature same protagonist as first epic story. Publisher say there be greater chance for profit if Deekin write a series, so…"
"So you were going to put me in your book without even asking for my permission?"
"Well, Boss, it not like Deekin know how to contact you…" Deekin glanced up to face Emily's withering glare and continued rapidly, "But now that Boss is really here, second epic story be even better!"
Emily shoved the book back at Deekin and shook her head. "Fine, you can put me in your book, but I want some things in return. You have to let me read it before you send it to your publisher, and I reserve the right to correct any 'embellishments' I deem to be excessive, starting with my hair color!"
"You wants Deekin to change hair color? But Deekin like Boss so much better as a blonde!"
Emily's hand was in a fist before she realized Deekin was laughing. She gazed at the marks her fingernails had left in her palm. Lathander help me, I'm going to kill him before the day is done. Fortunately for Deekin, Thesta chose that moment to return to the basement.
"Durnan?" she called from the top of the stairs. "I have the gift you asked me to bring."
Durnan, who was staring out into the chasm again, seemed not to hear her. Thesta, disappointed, appeared to be on the verge of calling out again when Emily loudly whispered, "Shh! I think he's meditating."
Thesta looked at the cleric with contempt. Emily smiled serenely as she walked up the stairs, Deekin trailing behind, quill in hand. "The poor man has been through a lot, as you know," she said sweetly. "And since that gift is for me, and I'm right here, there really doesn't seem to be any need to bother him, does there?"
Thesta forced her face into a calm smile, though Emily could see the fury in the priestess's eyes. "Yes, of course," Thesta replied briskly. "Let's get right to business: I have a Rod of Resurrection for you—an item of such power it can actually raise the dead." She held the rod out to Emily. "Based on all the rumors about Undermountain, you're going to need it."
Emily took the rod and looked at Thesta in confusion. "Umm, Thesta, you know I'm a cleric, right? I don't need a rod to resurrect people; I can do that on my own."
Thesta's eyes blazed. "Well, you can just shove it up your—" Emily and Deekin's eyes went wide. Thesta turned away for a moment. When she turned back to them, her face was completely calm. "Perhaps, then," she said softly, "you should give it to your little kobold friend. After all, no cleric, no matter how powerful, can raise herself from the dead." She attempted a smile, but Emily thought the expression was more like a wild animal baring its teeth.
Deekin snatched the rod out of Emily's hands. "Deekin think that be good idea!" said the kobold, his voice even higher pitched than usual. "Well, Deekin and Boss be going now. Have to start epic adventure before everybody dies!"
Emily followed Deekin up the stairs back to the common room, with a backward glance at Thesta. The priestess's fake smile made her gulp in spite of herself. Emily turned away quickly and hurried up the stairs.