"We Duergar toil along with many in the deep places of the stead. It is thus how we know of your family. Many here hold them in regard," as she looks into his eyes. Even being deprived of light her eyes glow red in your heat vision. It is the easiest way to differ between them and the other dwarves of the stead.
"We are nearing the Arch of Holmkell," as she cautiously continued forward. "It is a sacred place and one few outside of Dumathoin's servants know of."
She made a few more turns before you both stood facing what appeared to be an solid stone wall from which a natural arch of stone emerged. You had passed this a few times, but beyond the stone arch it appeared as all the other myriad of tunnels and mining shafts that inundated this region.
"Behold the Arch of Holmkell," as she struck her flint and steel igniting a torch.
What had appeared as stone, now glistened in dark rich blues and greens. The arch itself appeared to be comprised of Malachite mixed with a variety of crystals. The arch was easily ten feet wide and covered a span of a hundred feet. No doorway appeared to be present at all.
Ferous follows her toward the arch, staring at the black wall. Stopping when she does.
"It will be an honor then."
Dolastr strikes her torch, causing both she and Ferous to momenarily flinch from the bright light.
As Ferous allows his eyes to adjust he looks with wonder at the site.
"Silverbeard's whiskers, that is huge! What possibly would pass through that?"
"The malechite is of a rare type, see how it almost reflects gold?" "Very impressive".
Ferous takes a small step forward and stops. He looks to Dolastr, "What now mum?"
"We pass through it," as she murmurs something under her breath and rubs the emerald that had been partially obscured before. In the torchlight you can now make out more of her features, which your heat vision could not make out. Her skin is the color of aged polished marble and her gray hair is braided disappearing into the hood of her cloak. She has no beard, nor a hint of hair upon her face which is certainly something that differs them from your other kin. Her facial features are gaunt and her appearance being almost malnourished though from what little interaction you have had with those few others seems to be another distinct difference as well.
She slowly reaches out to caress the stone. At her touch the gems and glint of the stones becomes sharp, the colors deep and rich as if calling you to them. A serene feeling of compassion for all your fellow shield dwarves pervades your mind. You have a difficult time speaking and can only whisper quietly.
She smiles at you when she finishes. Her looks are quite chiseled, yet her eyes are the softest blue you have ever seen. She holds out her hand for you, suggesting she might help in your passage through the arch. It seems that this event has some significance to her due to her solemnity.
Ferous, doing his best to hide any trepidation, mirrors Dolastr's smile and extends his hand.
Stepping forward, first he looks for a long moment at her and her eyes. "How have they kept beauties like this a secret?" He thinks.
He then takes a deep breath and looks what lies beyond the gate.
The rough stone wall does not appear any different, but a sense of calm and trust settles over you as you take her small hand in yours. She begins to slowly step toward the stone wall as she whispers to you, "Close your eyes, it will be much easier."
You feel a sensation as if you had grasped a lodestone and your hairs all stand on end. A wave of nauseousness overwhelms you accompanied by a slight vertigo. As your senses come back you glimpse your immediate surroundings. You are in a vast chamber its height stretching far into the dark. As your eyes slowly adjust to the absence of light, Dolastr's eyes again return to their blazing red. Around you both lie numerous cold mounds that rise to your chin. It is only as your eyes adjust that you realize that they are crypts.
"Are you alright?" Dolastr asks with a hint of concern.
As the sensation ripples through Ferous, he can feel his beard bristle up. At first he jumps then relaxes, as he realizes he is fine.
Looking about, he is once again in the familiar surroundings of the dark. He looks to the mounds, and upon realizing they are crypts, he feels that he understands the solemn nature that Dolastr assumed.
"Aye, I'm fine. Is this a resting place of kings?"
He looks about, wondering what truly surrounds him.
"This is the resting place of the Atticahammer, Watchever and Bucklebar clans. We maintain and watch many of these throughout this region, each separated into a few clans. Many great dwarves do lie here, though the hall of the Blackalbryn's is kept hidden from all but ourselves and the royal family. We honor the dead here and maintain their eternal sleep," as she starts to maneuver about the tombs.
"Be wary and follow me closely," as she picks her way around the crypts headed toward what appears as a great set of stone doors that seem to mark the exit to the tomb.
As she approaches the stone doors, she whispers a prayer to Dumathoin and quietly opens the massive stone door with but a slight push. It opens easily, a testament to the skill of the mason's that constructed it. As the door opens light again can be seen, yet it is far in the distance. The dancing light creates shadows and fissures in the rough cavern wall in which you emerge. You do not recognize the area immediately.
"Please follow me," as she shuts the stone door reverently. She begins walking toward the growing light that appears to emanate in a larger room in the distance. As your eyes shift back into the visible spectrum she again returns to her natural shade, her blue eyes capturing yours for but an instant.
Doing as he was bid, Ferous follows Dolastr through the crypt, stopping when she does to address the next door.
"Have we entered another plane Dolastr?" "What was that sensation as we passed the arch?"
Ferous continues to follow his guide closely, continually looking about, and continually thinking of what to say to the great Thane that he is destined to meet.
"The sensation was of traversing Dumathoin's gauntlet. It was a barrier that has always been, but only those chosen by the Lord of Secrets may pass. Had you not possessed his favor..." leaving it up to your imagination. She continues down the rough hallway toward the sputtering light walking beside you and speaking in hushed tones. "Do not worry yourself of what might have been, you are well and now I am certain."
The hall emerges into a large expansive cavern that is lined throughout with numerous crude tunnels that branch off of the superstructure. It is nothing compared to the main cavern of Uerythtar, but is impressive. Some small and crude dwellings are scattered across the floor and very old paths weave amongst the dwellings. The few lamps and torches are far scattered and seem only there to provide more shadows and minimal light as they sputter.
You can see only a few dwarves that move along the paths and all seem to be duergar from their appearance. They all are very guant and seem to have on very shabby clothing. You have only seen a few of the upper clans that are comparable and those are amongst the poorest.
Your attention is broken as a small group of young duergar emerge from an alley and dash silently across the pathway. They seem to be chasing another in some sort of game though you do not remember playing anything similar as a child. The children wear little more then loincloths and have not bathed in quite some time.
"Welcome to our clanhold, my home lies but a bit to the left," as she points into the distance.
Ferous, listens to his companion, as he did before. Enjoying the melodies of her accented speak. He smiles to himself, as he is beginning to relax and enjoy the feeling of well being that has infected his psyche.
He doesn't even move his hand to his axe, as the children move across the street rapidly. Memories of his childhood come rushing back. Memories that do not include playing games, but working in the tunnels with his family. As long as Ferous can remember, he has toiled in the tunnels. Toiled for his family and his duty, whether it be with a hammer, or an axe.
Ferous takes a deep breath, taking in the surrounding smells of earth and this clan hold.
The dwellings remind him of the small conclaves of miners and merchants that make up the social structure of these tunnels. While they are different, they are not alien. He enjoys the light, as it allows him to once again see his companion with the bright colors of darkness lifted, and to enjoy her blue eyes.
Sleep deprivation and his close encounter with death has made Ferous drift from truth and untruth, reality and the veil of dreams. He believes the position he's in, only because Dolastr has told him so. Soon, he will have to rest, or he will have no command of where he will collapse for a deep slumber.
As Dolastr points out where her home is, Ferous smiles, and quietly recites the songs he knows, bending the words to force his mind to be active. Soon he knows he will face not only her family, but a great man.
Will he be up for the task?
"Does your family live here mum?"
"Yes, my family does dwell here. Very few of our kind dwell elsewhere in the stead. Once we were yet another branch of the shield dwarves, but it seems that our isolation and imprisonment have clouded that fact. Perhaps one day that will change, but I do not believe it likely," with a slight grin and nod.
"Come let us find my home that you might recover some and enjoy a bed," as she sets off amongst the crumbling buildings. Your trek is not long, but you are able to get some sense that the poverty here is quite common. Many never consider the gray dwarves when dictating policies and with only a solitary Thane they have difficulty on providing for their people. That is not to say that they are enslaved or maltreated, it is apathy that is their plight and it can be much more cruel.
You approach a stone door that leads into a small building. She approaches and opens it without unlocking it. She holds the door for you and quietly closes it behind you. The building consists of two rooms, one bedroom and a larger communal room. Little adorns the walls, though written upon the walls is some very ancient dethek script that is very old indeed.
"Welcome to my home Master Goldvein. Please make yourself comfortable and I will see about acquiring us something to eat," as she opens a cabinet that reveals a tap and keg. She draws forth two large mugs and begins filling them with a dark and cloudy stout that has an acrid black foam.
Looking about the home, he begins to feel himself winding down. There is so much to talk about and find out, but his fatigue is beginning to bear heavily upon him.
He sets his shield down near the door, as it begins to feel as though it's weight has trippled. Pulling his balderik off and hanging it on a hanger close to the shield.
His quite aged armor is in bad need of oil, as the extreme dry conditions of the tunnels take their toll on the leather. As he has always understood that this is why Dwarves wear chain or plate armor. Alas, he has never had the money to afford it.
Ferous steps up to the Dethek writing, though he cannot read it. He imagines the sounds of it, much like the sounds of Dolastr's voice, music to his ears.
Ferous looks over and sees the ale being poured, and happily claps his hands. A broad smile grows upon his face as his expectation of ale was almost none. Dolastr is startled slightly, though doesn't spill a drop.
She looks upon her guest as she turns with the mug, his eyes are quite glazed over and his long red beard is matted and tangled. He smells of oil, dirt, filth, and sweat. He will need to bathe before he meets her master, not that her master would care, but Ferous will. She looks at his armor, so worn and dry, it must be over a decade old, and his helmet squeaks at it's hinge, also easily a decade old. His shield is red with a single diagonal line across that must have been gold at one time. She smiles at him as he is so overjoyed to drink her ale.
Ferous drinks the stout without even smelling it. While the taste is more bitter than his usual, it is good all the same.
"Did you write these runes upon the wall mum? What do they say?"
She draws a deep drought of stout with some foam remaining on her upper lip as she moves to where you stand.
"Nay my friend, it is old indeed. It is an old tale passed down by my blood. It was composed by Anthic the champion of our folk. It speaks of where we are from and what challenges we have faced to get where we are now. It is something that all our kin share, no matter what their religious preference," as she herself looks it over. "When my kin first came to this fair city they wrote it down and although my clan has grown they have kept it here. I was honored to have been granted this home. It is old, but I can feel the good will that will always reside here. Beronar has seen to that," as she smiles openly.
"It speaks of what was," as she takes another drink. "Of Deep Shanatar and of the First great age. Once there were eight of the mighty clans and they did construct a great throne of skulls. It was an age of kinship and expansion of greatness for our folk. We were besieged there by a dark and evil force. We occupied the caverns of Barakuir that lay East of the other holds. The war took many years and countless losses before the combined armies of the high thane were able to stem the tide of battle and eject them from Shanatar. It was only after that they found our clan's hold empty and its citizens gone. Long was it thought that we were no more, a casualty of the Mindstalker war, as it became known. Unbeknowest to the others we had not all been lost though. These creatures had taken most of the clan back to their subterranean city of Oryndall and there they enslaved us. We were bred as servants and fodder for their insidious culture. It was a dark time for us and one we have burned into us from an early age."
She pauses to take another sip and offer to fill your tankard before continuing, "I make it myself, though I am fond of a few of the Verbain brews as well. I myself prefer more hops, but to each their own," as she returns with your tankard again brimming.
"They did atrocities upon my kin that are unspeakable, but in so doing they forged their own downfall. They had imbued some part of their sorcery upon my kin and we had kept this well hidden. We gathered what we could and prepared for a time when we could flee them. It was then that our dark brother appeared amongst us. He had never left as had some of the others and he had been twisted as had many of my kin. I understand their torment and know well the rage they must certainly feel," in explanation of her people and culture.
"We rose and did war upon our captors and although heavily decimated we did secure our freedom from that accursed place. We fled into the dark with nothing and wandered for many centuries. Many whom lead would not return to our long lost cousins on the surface. Their pride had become large and returning in poverty was unfathomable. I often wonder if they blamed them for never seeking them out as well, though it is my own opinion and little more. Well, some did seek out and rejoin our cousins while others choose to remain in that darkened land," as she finished the tale.
"That is what lay upon the wall you see, it is sacred to us as it is our history. It shapes us and makes us different then our cousins. Most know little of why we are apart and separate. Now that you have heard it what do you think of the tale?" she asks as you drink from your tankard.
Last edited by mnemenoi; 08-28-2009 at 05:53 PM.
The first drink of ale by Ferous, was also the last in the mug he was presented, for even though he did have plenty of water, his thirst still was not fully quenched.
Listening to her story fully enthralled him, as he was now within a slight dream state as it were anyways. Her melodic voice drew him into the tale, to where he could actually feel and see her story.
As Dolastr fills his mug again, he barely acknowledges the fact that she refilled it, instead, he sees the visions of her people.
As she finishes her story, she looks again at him, and once again he has drained his mug. His facial features look different as he is experiencing something from within. She has learned much of him since gaining his aquaintence, while he is not a verbose Dwarf, he is a passionate one. She admires his sensitivity to the ancient presence of this home and of this stead, very few of her own folk fully feel the power of this story.
As she completes her story and fills his mug again, he looks to her very briefly, before taking his free hand, and wiping his eyes and rubbing his nose.
He takes a deep breath, then another, "The magic of this place is strong, as it is in you." "You have been given a great honor to live here, as you said".
"Can I touch the words? The sing to me, like you do. When you tell the story, the words pulse and dance, showing me the story as you tell it."
"This ale is very good, and you make it your self? A woman of may talents you are mum."
Ferous releases a might belch, making his eyes water. They both laugh, and Ferous moves closer to her.
"Can I touch the words?"
"Of course, they are only words. It is the tale that makes it strong. Knowing my blood went through those tribulations makes any challenge I face seem weak in comparison," as she laughs.
Their is a slight knock upon the door and Dolastyr glides toward it, allowing you to inspect the Dethek. She opens the door with a slight push and reveals a very elderly dwarven matron. In her hands she holds a large iron pot. Although the lid is on it, the smell infuses the room wafting upon the subterranean breeze. She nods and speaks in a language you are not familiar with to the elderly dwarven woman. She replies in the same tongue before she departs. Dolastyr closes the door and sets the pot upon a counter.
"Dinner has arrived," as she opens a cabinet and retrieves two crude ceramic bowls.