The New Mage of Undermountain

Firemane woke and her first words were a curse on the wretched ceiling for it must have beaten her over the head many times during the night.

She sighed and got to her feet unsteadily. Looking around she saw Rubicon on a long table peering worriedly at herself. The lab was intact, as was the miniature of her home.

Alauniira was looking at her with the warm smile Firemane remembered so well. The Elementalist frowned. There was some reason Alauniira wouldn't be here. After trying for a moment to remember Firemane shrugged philosophically.

The drow lady motioned the mage to look at the miniature. "Your home is behaving strangely." Her lovely voice was troubled.

Firemane frowned. "I don't have the gates under control yet." She apologized.

"You must fix this." Alauniira told her gesturing to the reflecting pool in the corner. "See what the creatures are doing to the realms."

Firemane saw the chaos the monsters of Undermountain were causing on the surface. "I don't like that." She said in a firm tone, addressing the dungeon itself. "Control yourself!" Her tone grew sharp and she glared into the pool. After an hour the creatures slowly began to return. Aluaniira smiled and then faded away.

Rubicon perched on Cat's shoulder and buried his head under her fiery warm curls. His soulmate was insane and only rarely was she lucid enough to know what had happened to her. Becoming the mage of Undermountain had damaged her mind, but it was at least a benign insanity. He could still read her thoughts and in matters of Art she was more powerful than ever but the whim of chance ruled how she reacted to intruders to what she regarded as her new home.

Her heart was still good and her love for himself and Hawk undiminished but when she spoke she reacted to the present as if advised by her companions of the past. In the past few months he had felt her speaking with no fewer than nineteen different folk beside him. All of them were people she'd once known both living and dead.

The Psucadrai was grateful Cat had not traveled with or trusted any truly evil person for the results in her present predicament would be disastrous.

He sighed to himself. Right now she thought an old adventuring companion Oriel was with her. She was very possessive of her spellbooks and of her home. She'd gated a group of adventurers from the dungeon up to the surface near Silverymoon.

Firemane glared at the Hydromancer. Melinda had just made a rather cutting remark on Firemane's lack of control. The tempestuous girl frowned down at the miniature of Undermountain. The undead swarming through its halls did nothing to prove Lady De Aquiel wrong.

Firemane tossed her head, her fiery curls writhing with heat and magical energy. Her gaze grew fierce as she stared down at the replica of her home. "Get out." She said firmly and mentally pushed the creatures through myriad different gates.

Melinda's cool blue eyes were fathomless. "Well enough for now, but take care not to let your temper affect your magics Lady Catriona. Power should not rise and fall on the whim of emotion."

She faded away and Firemane cursed. "Mystra's tears! Why must she always have the last word?"

"Lady Cat, I don't think they want to be here." Vash said to the mage solemnly as he pointed a large finger at the maze. A group of adventurers had just fallen afoul of one of Firemane's traps.

Cat rose from the table full of spellbooks. "Who?" She asked mildly. "Oh, I think you're right Vash. They don't belong at all."

"One of your traps burned them." Vash told her.

She nodded absently. "That's what my traps do Vash." Her brown eyes flickered golden and a gate appeared next to her. "I'd better give them a hand." She stepped into the gate; the giant warrior followed her silently.

The torches flared as she appeared and a dark haired man looked up. His sword was at her breast in a moment. "Who are you?" He demanded.

Firemane shook her head. "You can call me Firemane." She said simply. "Your friend seems to be hurt."

The dark haired man cursed viciously. "She ran afoul of a fire trap." By now the two other conscious members of the company had looked up.

Fireman glanced down at the frail brown haired girl. The burns were not too bad; the girl would be fine with a little healing. "What were you doing down here?" Her voice was gentle. She knelt by the girl and noticed the symbol the other lady wore about her neck. "You have no more healing?"

The woman shook her head. "I am Jenta of Lathander." She introduced herself. "We were in Myth Drannor and then suddenly we were here."

Firemane made a face and Vash chuckled. "Do all roads lead to that verdant green hell?" She remarked to him. "As I recall Lirren was ever eager to journey there."

Jenta looked confused and Firemane shrugged. "I never wished to go." She said simply. With gentle hands she spread salve over the burns. "She will be fine in a day or so." Her brown eyes flickered golden and she looked up at the sword still drawn and pointed at her. "You are uncommon rude." She remarked. "You invade my home, set off my traps and point a weapon at me when I come to your aid. And you do not even introduce yourself."

The man sitting beside Jenta smiled charmingly. "Let not Ornst disconcert you Lady." He said in cultured tones. "He is ever suspicious and thus rather rude to unexpected guests." He rose fluidly and bowed. "I am Lorenist of Falconmere, the discourteous fellow with the blade is Ornst of Mielikki and the unsociable lass you've so kindly aided is my sister Kali."

Firemane had glanced over at Vash throughout this speech and the huge warrior had merely looked confused before he faded away and Rhiann the Silver took his place. The elf balanced in a crouched position regarding the quartet with calm golden eyes.

"Most likely they are speaking truthfully." The follower of Eilistraee murmured. "Did you not open a gate to Myth Drannor only a while ago to rid yourself of the undead?"

Firemane nodded. Turning her attention back to the four adventurers she shook her head. "I understand that this place is strange to you." She said in more patient tones. "But it is my home. I dislike being invaded so. Still," she continued. "I would be a poor hostess if I didn't offer a meal to guests even ones who arrive unannounced." She muttered a phrase and a tome appeared in her hands. Leafing through it she began the gesticulations and sonorous murmurings of the spell. When she was done she touched the girls forehead. Positive energy slowly spread through Kali's body and after a few minutes she regained consciousness. "Now that you are able to walk follow me." She beckoned them through the gate that appeared beside her.

Ornst regarded the gate with suspicious eyes while Jenta, Kali and Lorenist were open-mouthed with astonishment. None but Ornst had seen the mage arrive. "Are you sure it is safe?" Jenta asked in a cautious voice.

Firemane looked at Rhiann in exasperation. The gentle swordswoman smiled. "Remember your own concerns when we were all trying to rescue Halaster?" the mage sighed and nodded. Looking at the quartet before her she explained. "It leads to my quarters, they are perfectly safe. You will be able to rest and refresh yourselves. My word of honor, on my life."

Lorenist hesitated a moment and then ruthlessly pushed Ornst through the gate before stepping through himself. Jenta and Kali followed in a more sedate manner and Firemane stepped through with Rhiann after them.

As she stepped into her lab she was greeted by Rubicon's hiss of warning. It came too late however, for a gleaming length of steel pierced her side. A gasp of pain escaped her and she stumbled collapsing against the side of the heavy marble-topped lab table.

Her gaze met Rhiann's and the elf stood helplessly next to the mage. Rubicon jumped to the table and growled angrily at Ornst whose companions regarded him with horror. With a grimace of pain Firemane pulled her katana from its sheath upon her back.

"I offer you hospitality and you attempt to take my life?" she asked, a magma-like rage underlying her words.

Ornst spat at her feet while trying to sway his companions to his point of view. "She calls this dungeon home!" He said excitedly. "Surely she is just Halaster, the mad evil mage in another form!"

Firemane laughed weakly before his friends could reply. "Halaster is dead you fool." She rasped. "I am the new mage of Undermountain. Don't make me kill you." She felt her side slowly healing and groaning straightened her spine.

Rhiann cleared her throat and Firemane looked at her. "I know he has attacked you and I would be the first to council a retaliation if his intentions were evil." The elf said quietly. "But he is afraid and tries to protect his friends." She regarded the ranger a moment and Firemane's gazed followed hers. "See how he looks at Kali? He is afraid for her. He feels responsible for them."

Firemane nodded wearily. "I will forbear attacking them for now." She agreed. Rhiann smiled and perched on the edge of the table next to Rubicon.

The four companions regarded her strangely, as she appeared to listen and respond to someone they could not see. "Lady?" Lorenist finally spoke delicately. "Is someone else here?"

Firemane nodded. "An old friend of mine." She said quietly. "Through that door you will find a parlor. Make yourselves comfortable while I go through my larder and discover what I have in the way of food." When they hesitated again she sighed in frustration. "I know it is difficult to trust the self confessed mage of the mountain but at least make the attempt." She snapped. "I would not go through the trouble of healing and feeding you only to throw you into the Night Below. I will find a way back to the surface for you. I no more desire your presence than you wish to be here." She caught Rhiann's reproving gaze as they left. "Yes Rhiann I know that was rude and I know you believe in kindness above all things but sometimes a little discourtesy is called for."

The elf smiled as she shook her head. "If your heart wasn't so tender you wouldn't need to be so rude." She told the mage. "I'll help you cook. Deirdriu taught me the most wonderful dish with Underdark mushrooms."

Firemane sighed and led the way to her kitchen.

Ornst paced the cozy parlor impatiently. Lorenist and Jenta watched him disapprovingly while Kali lay on the settee. The dark haired ranger hadn't stopped frowning since Kali had been set afire.

"I can't believe you attacked her." Jenta said finally. "She is helping us."

"But for what reason?" Ornst finally burst out. "I can't believe she doesn't want something from us."

"Oh I want something." Firemane said from the doorway. Rubicon was on her shoulder. The adventurers turned and got a clear look at the woman who'd aided them. The halls of the dungeon had been dark. In her lab they had been too worried about Ornst's actions to view her clearly but now in the warm light of the fire and candles they had their first true sight of Firemane.

She stood shorter than any of them; only six inches above five feet. Long gold and fiery red hair hung in curls past her waist, untamed by braid or ribbon. Her hourglass figure was lushly curved. And her face was one of the most beautiful the four of them had ever seen. Golden skin, dark brown eyes that shimmered with gold and high cheekbones emphasized a heart shaped face. Pouches hung from her belt, a katana's hilt could be glimpsed over her shoulder and daggers hugged the tops of her boots.

"However it is something you are easily able to grant me." She held up a hand for silence. "First allow me to explain the past several hours." Rubicon nuzzled her affectionately. "I am insane more or less." Her smile widened, as their eyes grew large. "I'm relatively harmless and I'm fairly lucid most of the time. Right now I'm aware of what happened to me, and how I came to be here. It should last a few hours at least."

"What happened?" Lorenist asked in a whisper.

"Halaster was kidnapped and killed. I was chosen by his magics as his replacement. But the magic that enables me to control the gates of Undermountain at will also warped my mind." She said quietly. "Rubicon, my companion here says that I am under the influence of my past. The people from my past to be more precise. I react to situations as if different people advise me at different times. When I first met you I thought Vashavarak of the Expendables was with me. A bit after that it was Rhiann the Silver a member of the Party of the Silver Light."

"And now?" Jenta asked. "Who is with you now?"

"Right now I am in control. You see Rubicon and I are soul mates and he carries my sanity with him. Now and then my mind chooses him as my advisor and I become sane for a few hours. As I am now." She sighed. "It's very tiresome but it could be worse. The most bizarre of my old friends is still a good man if a bit selfish. I am never influenced by evil for I knew no one who was truly evil as a friend."

"And what is it that you wish of us?" Ornst asked in a quiet voice.

"Well, I want you to leave." She said brightly. "And tell no one who I am. Oh if you choose you may say that Firemane is living in Undermountain. But you mustn't tell anyone that I am the new Mistress of the dungeon. I don't want folks popping in here trying to kill me for the power to run the dungeon. I try not to hurt folk unnecessarily but I can't say the same for others, not even Halaster. After all he created the blasted place."

"You mean that you protect this place and the people who wander into it by making them leave?" Lorenist asked in astonishment.

"That's right." She grinned. "It's my home now and I don't like uninvited guests. Especially ones that decide they can simply loot my halls of whatever they please. So I listen and watch and figure out which ones are here by accident and which are here to dungeon run as practice for more dangerous adventures. Some I let stay, since they mean no harm. Others I boot out as quickly as I can. And exactly how I do it depends on who is advising me at the time." She set the tray of food she was holding on the table in the center of the room and gestured for them to eat, taking a bowl of spicy mushrooms for herself.

"Lady Firemane, who are you?" Kali asked quietly. "You pulled a blade on Ornst earlier and healed me before that. Yet you are also a mage."

The mage looked at the delicate girl and smiled. "I am Lady Firemane, once of the Expendables, Knight of Cormyr, and late of the Party of the Silver Light." She said quietly. "My name is known in Daggerdale and Waterdeep, in the once great city ofEaglePeakand I've journeyed as far south as Halruaa. I was a healer before I was a mage and I learned to use a blade out of self preservation, being very fond of my head."

"The Expendables were the company that aided Tilverton." Lorenist said slowly. "And the Party of the Silver Light is based out of Waterdeep."

Firemane looked at him with dark eyes. "I see you are either a bard of a man fond of tales." She said quietly.

"I am a bard of sorts." Lorenist said in a deprecating tone. "I merely remember what I hear."

"Well eat and enjoy." She said dismissively. "I have two rooms if you wish to rest. Or if you wish to continue your journey after your meal I will contrive to send you to Waterdeep."

Jenta looked at the other three and smiled. "I believe I would like to see the sun rise over Waterdeep." She said. "And we will leave you to your privacy as soon as we may."

Firemane smiled slightly. "Remember. I may live here but I am not the new Mage of Undermountain. I don't need the notoriety." She began to concentrate and a golden gate rimmed in fire appeared beside her. "Go through this gate and then immediately through the next gate you see. You'll end up in Waterdeep. Keep your weapons in their sheaths, the owner of the building dislikes threats." Her beautiful face was mischievous. She watched as they stepped one by one through the gate.

When they'd gone she went back to her lab and watched as they emerged in a room filled with billowing black curtains. Ornst paused and looked around. In annoyance Firemane projected her voice into the room. "Go immediately into the gate Ornst." She said a hint of exasperation in her tone. A giggle escaped her as he jumped and headed for the gate. The others followed him and the last entered the gate just as the first cloaker detached itself from the wall.

Ornst fell through the gate and scrambled out of the way as Lorenist and Kali followed Jenta out of the glowing fire rimmed oval. A ghostly giggle drifted through the portal and Ornst swore at it. He looked around. The room they were in was wood paneled and the ceiling was nearly sixty feet above.

As they picked themselves up they all heard a cheerful voice calling: "Come down smiling! No weapons out, please!" The voice was masculine and obviously human.

Cautiously the ranger descended the stairs ahead of the others and looked around in confusion. They were in a shop filled with amazing items. A bearded man stood behind a counter his hand beneath it. He greeted them with a smile. "I hope you had a good trip?"

Ornst nodded uncertainly. "Where are we?"

The cheerful fellow smiled more widely. "You're in the Old Xoblob Shop, in Waterdeep."

"She did it!" Kali breathed in amazement.

"Who did what?" The bearded fellow asked.

"We got into Undermountain completely by accident." Lorenist said quietly. "We would have died. But a beautiful woman appeared and fed us. And she healed Kali of her burns, and she told us how to get out of the dungeon. She used magic to transport us to a place that would gate us here."

Jenta nodded. "She said she lives there."

The bearded man blinked and looked at them measuringly. "Where did you come from to begin with?" He asked.

"Myth Drannor." Came the reply.

"I suspect that you have quite a tale to tell." The man said smoothly. "I am Dandalus, this is my shop. Why don't you all have a glass of wine and tell me about your journey."