I find myself in a place much the inverse of where I came from, an upright pyramid all in white. I see twin stairs leading up to a balcony, doors below and doors above. I decide to try the upper doors.
Beyond, a library. Four shelves of books, extending into the distance. I walk along and come to a wall, and a door. The door will not budge. I elect to leave it for the moment and try the door under the stairs.
It opens into a room. More books. On a table in the centre of the room, two books and a recent outline left by two more. Hmm – it’s seems I am not the only one who habitually keeps secrets.
The contents are indecipherable. The first is perhaps Dwarvish? The second script I do not recognise at all.
I spend an hour and turn the room over thoroughly, a trick I learned from a halfling pickpocket. The key is to search every surface once and once only, to neither waste time revisiting places you have been, nor to suppose that you have already searched surfaces that in truth you have not. Deceiving oneself is surprisingly easy, without discipline and mindfulness. A lesson, there.
But no, nothing. Or at least, nothing that I am able to find.
The candles are odd. Strangely bright. I put two in my pack, and two to light my way – perhaps the light is magical? I return to the door at the end of the bookshelves above.
This time I see that the walls are odd. I walk through – they are simply illusions. A simple trick, but it worked on me the first time. (How strange that I admit that so freely! I have not been among my own race for many weeks now, and I see them and myself more clearly. The defensive pride of the drow is rooted in their fear of one another.)
Beyond, more bookshelves. An arch filled with blackness that my vision does not penetrate. Beyond, a room and a dead giant. It seems that I am following Gabriel’s trail. I search the giant (why not?), but no loot.
And beyond that, finally, a dragon.
The dragon – I cannot focus on it, my mind or my eyes. Is it simply a huge dragon before me, or is it bigger than the sky? Its scales are a colour new to all the world: a new primary shade. I cannot name it, I cannot even visualise it in my mind’s eye. It slips beyond my grasp, even as I stand and see it before me.
It is fettered at every point with irons of metal, of some substance that I will not even try to name. Manacles on in its legs and feet, on each individual claw, on the thumb hook of its wings and each wing tip, on the joints of its tail and neck, heavy bindings around its head and jaw, a mighty pillory of solid metal across its back holding the base of its wings, and chains from all of them them anchored in the floor and massive dome of the chamber about me. Every link, every join written deeply with runes, deeply etched on the fetters and finely inscribed across each weld, every stone of the chamber likewise inscribed, even the mortar in exquisite detail, the very pattern and shape of the stones a great warding. The dragon is half suspended, half hanging from chains that have held it for an age, held as if about to take flight, its legs ready for the leap, its wings poised for that first great downbeat that will lift it free of the earth. Bright power plays across the runes of its bindings and the chains that anchor it to the ground, but they hold fast.
I waste no time, I probably have only one chance. “Dragon, do you speak?”
It replies! Psychically – its voice painful but not overwhelming. We talk. I am open with him – I think it wisest. I tell him that I am a renegade of my kind, that I desire to slip free of the hold of the spider-godess Lolth, that the blood of a progenitor dragon changed me and that I desire to change permanently. I name Io, I mention the war above. The knows the names Bahamut and Tiamat, and reacts, but what they mean to him I cannot guess. He tells me that he knows of no other dragons like himself and Io. He says that he was bound by two great infernal spirits, but he does not know their names, nor can he describe them to me.
He tells me that I may take his blood – he cannot keep me from doing so – but it will do me no good, for I have already tasted the blood of Io. I ask him if it is in my power to free him, but he says no.
A am … disappointed. We cannot bargain: I cannot help him, and he cannot help me. Nevertheless, I find a likely vein and tap a mouthful or two of his blood. It is like the blood of Io, but it seems to work no change in me. We talk a little more, but to little purpose. He says that the library contains “the knowledge of ages”, but I could have guessed this, as it is the nature of libraries to contain knowledge. It is rather the whole point of them.
I wander out, return to the room below, and retrieve the two books. I return to the dragon. His mind – his mind is clouded. He does not remember me. I think that the fetters about him also fetter his mind. The books are simply a pair of dictionaries. With the two of them, one may translate between supernal and dwarven.
The portal does not transport me away, but I neither eat, drink nor sleep. I read. I talk to the dragon, occasionally. With nothing to mark the time, I am not sure how long I was there.
I am suddenly snatched away …
Oh – apparently Gabriel said straight up that he was working for Big B, and that threw the dragon off. Big B isn’t Azroth’s primary thing (Big L is), so he kinda dodged a plot bullet just by way of his backstory. Cute.
I am at the portal in the inverted black pyramid below. People – humans, dragonborn. I am dazed, slow to react. One yells “I know that drow! Get him out of here!” I am clubbed unconscious.
It seems I am a prisoner again. Of the Black Magistrars, no less: The Platinum One’s legal assassins. I tally up the ways in which this could have been worse: there are many. Best of all, they are taking me out of the underdark, which is the direction in which I want to be going. My captor is that Gith whose assassination of that diabolist we failed to foil, all those months ago.
There have been more intrigues. It seems that one of Bahamut’s own generals has denounced the Black Magistrars, that nearly all of have been executed. The gith assures me that there is some mistake, that the magistrates are loyal to Bahumut. Or at least that he is. I promise to take his message. Left unsaid is that while I might convey his message, I cannot vouch for its truth.
One of the magistrars accompanies me. A bowman.
We make it to the capital. We are in a stable, preparing to infiltrate the Ivory Tower tomorrow. When utter chaos strikes – a major attack on the capital itself.
The bowman and I emerge. Dragons are warring in the sky, crashing to earth. There is some sort of enchantment on the whole city – ordinary citizens: barbers, tailors – are fighting one another on the streets. Singly and in knots of dozens and hundreds. In all this chaos, who should I see but my companions. What are the chances? Someone is moving the chesspieces around, I fear. Regardless, we need to make our way to the Ivory Tower, fast, without being waylaid.
Who was fastest? Kriv, of course, who can fly in short bursts – enough to get past the various melees and other obstacles in our way. I used my power to transform all of us except Kriv into small spiders, and we all
clung to him as he took us directly to the tower.
At the tower we change back – Kriv shedding allies, and join the crowd. Someone wearing braid addresses us all – it seems that one of the generals, the same that denounced the black magisters, has turned traitor. Well, well, well. The Platinum one is elsewhere. We march to regroup.
Apparently my companions were granted an audience with his metallicness himself, Gabriel describing his meeting with the progenitor. Bahamut insists that this dragon must be freed.
I’m not sure how this might be accomplished. I have diagrams and rubbings of some of the runes on the fetters. Perhaps the great one might tell us how we could proceed to accomplish such a thing as loosing them?
Oh. I’d like to meet the platinum one myself, too. For a specific reason, which I will not relate just yet.