Hordes of the Underdark: Where Darkness Resides.
I've never written 'serious' fanfic before (unless you count my Baldur's Gate mod!) – I normally either stick to my own stories or write parodies / silliness. I decided to write this because a) I thought it would be good practise b) it's a break from my own mammoth story that is getting far too big and confusing for its own good and c) Valen… (yeah, I admit it; I'm a bit of Valen fangirl…).
I started writing notes for this a couple of years ago, but never actually bothered to do anything with them - hence the reason this is so late in terms of the game's release date. It's really just a bit of self indulgence – the plot is basically the same, but I've decided to completely re-write dialogues and add in scenarios of my own invention (mainly because I'm too lazy to open up the dialogues in the game and re-write them here – the basic gist is the same, though). The main protagonist is a half elven rogue / sorcerer called Jenalil 'Jen' Allomann, and I've decided to start the story near the beginning of Chapter 2 of the game – mainly because Chapter 1 in the game is simply a dungeon crawl and therefore not that interesting to write (although I may go back to it eventually – we'll see how far I get with this!).
As for copyright – the plot and characters (apart from Jen) belong to Bioware and all that jazz.
Chapter One – The Seer
Such an insignificant thing. Tiny; unassuming. Who would've thought it would turn out to be so important?
Jen sighed to herself as she laid the small amulet upon the sheets of a borrowed bed, tracing the swirls that adorned it with a gentle finger. The relic was a small disc of gold; it looked as if it had once been part of something larger - a hilt of a sword, maybe. She knew the truth of it, however, and consequently she'd lost count the amount of times she'd try to be rid of it; each time, it had come back to her.
To haunt her…
Shaking her head, the half elf studied the room she had been given for this brief interlude. To the casual observer her general demeanour might have come across as merely curious, but her darting eyes and the imperceptible shaking of her hands betrayed the uncomfortable nervousness accompanied by fleeting periods of acute anxiety she was currently experiencing.
She must be wrong. She has to be wrong…
Jen near jumped at the high-pitched, slightly rasping voice that intruded upon her introspection. She had forgotten that Deekin had accompanied her to her room; truth was, she could have done with this time to herself, but there was no subtle way to discourage the little kobold bard from following her and sitting himself upon one of the spider-adorned chairs in the corner of the rather grandiose room she had been granted; hints just slid off his scales like water, and Jen didn't have the heart to have him forcefully removed from her room.
"Don't call me boss, Deekin. I've asked you before."
Deekin nodded as he swung his clawed feet back and forth, an endearing, if slightly annoying, sight.
"Yes, boss. Deekin was just wondering: why is we sitting in this room?"
Jen sighed again, mentally cringing at the deference he always showered her with and shrugged her shoulders.
"I thought we needed a few minutes to gather our thoughts," she answered carefully; for some reason, she was unwilling to admit that she needed some time to herself, as if it was some kind of dire weakness in this most dangerous of places. She smiled weakly at the kobold. "I thought they were going to throw us out immediately after charging us with this godsforsaken quest; I suppose we should be grateful that they've granted us this time to sort our heads out."
Deekin cocked his head to one side and looked away from Jen for a moment, strumming a few soft chords upon his curiously shaped lyre, as if the action aided his concentration. After a moment's pause, he looked back to the half elf.
"'Suppose so. Deekin thoughts the big goatman was going to chuck Deekin and boss out for sure."
Despite herself, Jen couldn't help but grin at the little kobold's unerring ability to hit the nail right upon the head. Their arrival to the Underdark hadn't been particularly pleasant or successful; placed under a geas by a mad wizard to defeat a drow queen calling herself the Valsharess, only to be greeted by a drow priestess who claimed that she knew of Jen and that she was there as some kind of saviour of her visions. Upon seeing the drow collective in the audience chamber, Jen had thought them dead for sure – it was truly ironic, then, that the assembled drow had been almost accepting of them once their Seer – the priestess - had vouched for her; it had been the odd-looking man – the only non-drow in the room (and possibly the whole city, Jen mused) beside herself and her kobold bard companion - who had stood so protectively to the right of the Seer that had been the most negative and aggressive towards her. Although she had seen drow before, she had never seen his like in all her extensive travels; with his curled, goat-like horns upon his head, cruel, ice blue eyes and long, sinewy tail he both piqued her curiosity and frightened her in equal measure. Beside him, the drow assassin Nathyrra's cautiously cordial attitude towards her seemed almost obscenely welcoming, and the Seer… well…
Jen pursed her lips and, locking her hands behind her head, lay back upon the silken covers of the bed as she thought of the Priestess of Eilistraee: hauntingly beautiful and ageless in appearance, her eyes the only thing betraying the wisdom of many centuries. Wriggling a little, Jen mused on how the bed was surprisingly comfortable; for some reason, she had always imagined drow life to be one of hardship and torture, and so she had never considered such simple things as beds in connection with them before. The spider motif that dominated the room did not surprise her, however; even if the Seer did proclaim to follow Eilistraee, the room was located in what was first and foremost a temple of Lolth, the Spider Queen.
Odd how things work out…
Jen's private reflection was cut short by a short, sharp rap upon the door to her chamber. Deekin, startled, stopped his strumming and looked apprehensively to his half elven comrade. Shaking her head at him, Jen sat up, leant across to the bedside table where her sword, Enserric, lay in its scabbard and crisply bade the knocker enter.
She knew it was Valen before his features became apparent in the dim light of the room by his sheer size; no drow could ever hope to match his height. Glowering a little, the be-horned man regarded her with a stony, measured gaze that bordered upon insolence; a silent challenge if she had even seen one.
"The Seer wishes to know if you are rested enough."
Clutching Enserric, Jen stood up and matched his stare, refusing to be intimidated by him. In the corner of her eye, she saw Deekin stand up and clutch his lyre to himself defensively; she knew the gesture and felt a small flare of satisfaction that, despite his small stature compared with the warrior that stood between them, the little kobold bard wasn't afraid to stand by her if things turned ugly.
"I am," she replied eventually, keeping her tone as flat as possible as she buckled her sword to her hip and snatched up the Relic of the Reaper from the bedcovers.
"Then the Seer wishes to speak with you again."
With that, Valen turned tersely upon one heel and near marched out of the room without a backward glance.
Feeling decidedly apprehensive, Jen attempted to straighten the overlapping plates of the simple black leather armour she habitually wore and tucked a rather unruly lock of chestnut brown hair behind one sharp ear. She didn't know why she felt she had to present herself in such a manner; after all, according to the Seer, she was the Saviour - the defeater of the Valsharess or some such nonsense, but the calm authority that the Seer seemed to exude reminded Jen a little too sharply of the classroom and therefore of Drogan, her dwarven mentor, and so the desire to present herself in a good light to the drow priestess was more an ingrained response than anything else. Behind her, Deekin followed meekly, his claws clacking lightly upon the highly polished marble floor. Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly, Jen opened the door that lead to the Seer's audience chamber and tried to ignore the score of dark elven eyes that followed her progress as she made her way to ornately decorated central dais where the Seer stood, a welcoming smile touching her lips.
Extending a hand, the Seer invited Jen to sit upon the dais with her and offered her a small cup which she filled with a sweet smelling red liquid.
"I do hope you were not roused from your rest too early; if so, I apologise," she tilted her head towards Jen in a gesture of regret. The half elf offered the beautiful drow a hesitant smile and a small, half-shrug, to which the drow smiled warmly.
"I wish I could allow you to relax to your heart's content, Jen, but as you are well aware, time is a simple pleasure that we simply do not have right now." The Seer's countenance grew grave as a shadow passed briefly across her ancient eyes. "The Valsharess moves swiftly against us; we must be prepared. As I said before, she has powerful alliances – alliances that we need to be broken," she gave Jen a significant look. "Alliances that you need to break."
At this, Jen swallowed hard and nodded dumbly, her mouth suddenly dry. She knew she had agreed to this, but it didn't stop her being plagued with self doubt. Seeing her discomfiture, the Seer gestured to the forgotten cup in the half elf's hand and offered her a munificent smile. Unconsciously, Jen smiled back and took a sip of the fragrant liquid; for a short moment, she was back upon the surface enjoying the sun on a summer's day and not in the claustrophobic confines of the hostile Underdark. Surprised, she looked quizzically down at the cup and then at the Seer, whose smile simply widened for the briefest of moments before settling back to her previous benign countenance.
"You are the one of my visions, Jenalil… of that I am certain," she glanced briefly to one side, where the warrior Valen stood in the shadows. "I know not everyone believes in my visions..." the Seer raised a delicate ebon hand to forestall Valen as he made to step forward and interrupt her; snorting irritably, the horned man stepped back into the shadows and took up his customary spot once more, offering Jen a flat, hard stare "…but you must believe me when I say that I would not send anyone into the wilds of the Underdark without good cause," the Seer sighed as a look of resigned sorrow settled upon her fair features. "The Underdark is a dangerous place; if it were possible, I would send you back from whence you came… but it isn't; Halaster has seen to it that even had you not been the one of my visions, you would have to face the Valsharess anyway, and for that, I am sorry." Before Jen could comment, the drow priestess continued. "However, I am not proposing you go alone. Nathyrra has petitioned me personally to allow her to accompany you, if you should wish her help…" At the offer, Nathyrra stepped forward, seeming to coalesce out of the very shadows themselves and nodded towards Jen, a slight smile upon her obsidian lips "… and Valen has also pledged his sword-arm to you, should you accept it," Jen couldn't help but glance with a flicker of surprise towards where the surly warrior stood with his arms folded over his chest, a stoic look upon his face, his gaze fixed unblinkingly upon a point just above where the meeting was taking place.
"And Deekin, boss! Don't forget Deekin! Deekin is coming, too! Deekin must continue to write the story of brave boss and her adventures in Underdark!"
Jumping a little, Jen turned to regard her kobold companion, having forgotten that he was present during this meeting - and by the look on the Seer's face, so had she. The priestess quirked an eyebrow and gave Jen a quizzical look. Blushing slightly, Jen glanced up at Valen and Nathyrra as they exchanged a slightly horrified look before remembering themselves and forcing their faces back to their former, carefully contrived masks.
"Uh, Deekin… it'll be dangerous…" Jen started, unsure of what to say.
"Deekin will be safe; he is with boss!" Deekin interrupted. Jen winced slightly.
"Yeah, umm, okay… but the Underdark… are you sure you wouldn't be happier, well, here? I'm sure you'd be… a… great….help….." she trailed off as Deekin's face fell with abject disappointment.
"But… Boss… we does these things together… how can Deekin write saga of brave boss if Deekin is here?" Deekin almost whispered, a husky edge to his voice. Closing her eyes, Jen sighed and patted the kobold upon his shoulder. Truth was that Deekin had proved himself to her on more than one occasion, which, when all was said and done, was more than could be said of Nathyrra and Valen.
"Okay, Deekin… if that's what you want, you can come." Jen heard a snort of derisive astonishment from behind her; to her surprise, she felt her hackles rise a little in response to it. Deekin, however, had obviously not heard it.
"YAY! BOSS! Deekin and Boss, together again!" the kobold trilled ecstatically, strumming an upbeat chord upon his lyre. Wincing visibly now, Jen shrugged helplessly towards the assembled audience; the drow that had before been pretending not to listen to the exchange between the rogue and the priestess had all turned towards the kobold's enthusiastic reaction and watched with raised eyebrows and perplexed looks, making Jen squirm uncomfortably inside.
"Yeah, okay, come on, Deekin… that's, err, enough now…" she mumbled, going an impressive shade of deep crimson as the kobold beamed happily at her. "Everyone is watching…"
"Then it is settled," the Seer interjected smoothly. "You will not be fulfilling your destiny alone," she smiled again, this time her attention fixed upon Deekin: "Not that I thought you would be…"
Standing up, the Seer smoothed the creases out of her silken dress and reached for a small box that stood upon a filigreed side table. Not sure if the meeting had come to an end or not, Jen followed the Seer's lead and stood up awkwardly, running a hand apprehensively through her hair. Just as she was about to lower it again, the Seer caught it tenderly and studied the ring that was glowing gently in the half-light of the audience chamber.
"You wear this so you can see?" she asked softly. Before Jen could answer with anything more than a nod, the Seer held the small box up and offered it to her. "External light will be your enemy down here, Jen; it makes you a target. You need to see as we, the drow, do." Opening the box, the Seer drew out a delicately wrought silver circlet with a small, highly polished moonstone set within it; after holding it up for Jen to inspect it, she presented to her.
"If you would allow me…" the Seer gestured for Jen to be seated once more. Slightly nervously, Jen complied. The Seer then carefully fitted the circlet so that the moonstone sat snugly upon her forehead: gasping, Jen surveyed the room.
No longer was it filled with murky shadow illuminated solely by bursts of lilac and green faerie fire; it was as if the entire room had been bathed in the bright moonlight of Midsummer's Eve. Colours that were once muted and distorted now became brighter and more apparent, and everything was suffused with an almost eerie silvery sheen. Turning once again to the Seer, Jen blinked furiously, unsure of how to thank the priestess for such a princely gift. As if able to read her mind, the Seer inclined her head towards the rogue and caught Jen's cheeks between her cool, ebon hands
"This is the least I can offer you, Saviour. Take it with my thanks; with the thanks of all my people. May Eilistraee smile upon you."
After Jen had accepted her gift, the Seer left the audience chamber with a couple of her drow entourage in tow. The remaining drow slowly turned their attention back to their own occupations, and so it was that the only remaining people left near the dais were Jen, Deekin, Nathyrra and Valen.
Deekin was the first to break the silence.
"Deekin thinks the drow lady wants us to work, now," he said thoughtfully, turning towards the doors that lead to the drow city of Lith My'athar. "We shoulds be going, Deekin thinks."
"On your own?" Nathyrra interjected, speaking up for the first time since Jen had entered the audience chamber. "My offer still stands. I am more than willing to accompany you."
Jen smiled gratefully at the drow and nodded appreciatively at her offer.
"In truth, I'm grateful. I wouldn't want to have to muddle my way through this on my own" Jen replied.
After a moment's hesitation, Nathyrra smiled back.
"I am knowledgeable enough with regards to the local environs; I can help you locate the allies of the Valsharess easily enough…"
"And I can help you defeat them," Valen interrupted and stepped forward to stand beside Nathyrra, dwarfing the drowess.
Surprised, Jen nodded slowly. Although the Seer had said he was willing to help, the half elf hadn't quite believed her. Seeing her doubt, Valen quirked one crimson brow at her in obvious annoyance.
"So… you're willing to help, too?" Jen said carefully.
"The Seer wouldn't have extended my offer if I wasn't willing to help," Valen replied, his tone clipped.
"But you don't believe in the Seer's visions. Why offer to help in the first place?" As soon as the question left her lips, Jen regretted asking it; the last thing she needed to do was make an enemy of the one man who looked like he could level an entire battlefield on his own.
Valen folded his arms once again over his chest and glowered down at Jen, his ice blue eyes colder than ever.
"If you do not wish my help, just say so. There are other things I can be doing."
"No, no! I mean, yes. I… I mean, yes, I do want your help, and no, you don't have to do other things. Unless you want to, of course," Jen stammered, trying to recover herself, bullying herself not to be cowed by him. From the corner of her eye she saw Nathyrra raise her eyebrows in a slightly incredulous way, but decided to ignore her.
After giving her an appraising look, Valen reached back and picked up his weapon of choice: a massive tangle of heavy spiked balls made of a cold, black bone fixed by chains to an ornately crafted handle. Goggling slightly, Jen watched as he wound the heavy flail's chains around its own handle and then slid it home into a complicated leather harness with practised ease that allowed him to keep his hands free. "Well? Where to?"
Nathyrra broke in, giving Jen an odd look
"I suggest we talk with Imloth; he knows a good deal about the various enemies we'll be facing."
Valen snorted. "Beholders, Illithid, undead… we already know how to fight these foes, Nathyrra."
Nathyrra frowned. "That may be the case, but I doubt Jen does. She needs advice, and I know I am not best person to give it."
Valen's countenance hardened again.
"And neither am I, I suppose? You forget; all the time you've been skulking in the shadows, I've been leading your troops and fighting skirmishes in your name for a long time now."
"I am aware of that, Valen," Nathyrra snapped back. "But Imloth is the Master at Arms in Lith My'athar – not only is he trained in fighting these foes, he knows how to train others to fight them!"
Glancing nervously from the warrior to the assassin, Jen was grateful when Deekin seemingly innocently broke the tension.
"Deekin knows of Mindflayers, also known as Illithid. They like to eat brains. Deekin recommends a helmet," the kobold commented, his reptilian face the perfect picture of earnest sincerity.
Unable to stop herself at the absurdity of the statement with regards to the seriousness of the rest of the conversation, Jen couldn't help but stifle a giggle behind one hand. Both Nathyrra and Valen rounded upon her with narrowed eyes.
"Well, Deekin has a point…" she said a little sheepishly, waiting to be chastised. At that, Nathyrra rolled her crimson eyes and grinned and much to Jen's surprise, a fleeting ghost of a smile touched Valen's lips for a mere second.
"Whatever we do next, we should get going," he commented, the usual gruff edge to his voice firmly back in place. "Time is not on our side."
Despite their differences, Jen couldn't have agreed more with him.