“A prison?” Connor asked, looking concerned as he looked around.
“Yah... explains why this wasn't found until recently,” Edda said, looking over the stone work now, running his hands over a wall.
“Why's that?” Sergeant Jint asked, “I thought the dwarves had to give up the location of all their strongholds when their King surrendered, back at the end of the Dwarven War.”
“Th-that's obviously a lie.”
Everyone turned, the dwarven expert Fredson the soldiers had with them finally speaking up. He coughed, then straightened his robes, “We know that they did not surrender all of the locations... also being the old dwarven king and his court didn't know all the locations. And as pointed out earlier... this is a prison, not a stronghold. Even if they did know of it's existence, they wouldn't have given it up. Dwarves are very particular about their wording.”
Paul nodded in agreement after Edda glanced to him, and Edda nodded back, turning to look down the hallway.
“Alright then, we need to stay in a group. I doubt anything is alive in here, but there's bound to be traps,” Edda said, “I'll take point.”
“You will need someone to read the dwarven hieroglyphs,” Fredson said, stepping forward, “Being the only expert here-”
“Paul here can read the dwarven writings too,” Rumi said, patting Paul's shoulder with a grin. Fredson frowned at him, straightening himself up.
“I doubt an uneducated commoner like himself could actually decipher the language. It takes decades to truly appreciate the nuance of the low language,” the expert said, “As it is, you are all trespassing in affairs of the Court of the King. Sergeant, as a representative of the Court, I order you to accompany me here in the front, and I will guide us out.”
The sergeant frowned, but saluted, “Understood, sir. Sorry kids, but I have to agree with the expert here. You aren't trained. Pliken, take the rear. Jackson, you're a mage so I can't exactly order you around, but you're also our medic, I'd like you in the middle, if you would. Thanks. Same for you civilians. Any good with that sword, kid?”
The last comment was directed to Edda, who nodded.
“Yes. I lost my sword fighting a couple fey above ground, but the military makes good swords too. I know how to use it,” Edda answered.
“Alright, you're a civilian and I'm just a sergeant, so I can't order you around either, but I'd appreciate it if you would keep an eye out on Miss Testerossa here and our medic,” Jint said.
“Can do,” Edda nodded. He looked towards Paul now who was frowning, and the two shared a brief glance.
The party headed down the hallway, several old cells lining their right and left. They came to a stop where three doors presented to them, made of stone with old faded writing chiseled into them, slightly worn by age.
“Alright expert, which way?” the sergeant asked. The expert looked over the doors, ignoring Paul who had stepped forward to take a look. After a few moments Paul turned away, signing towards Edda and Rumi.
“Already given up?” Fredson asked, smirking, “Of course.”
“Actually, he figured it out already,” Rumi said. “The middle door. Food stores.”
“Think we'd actually find some food here?” Pliken asked from the back, perking up now.
“Don't be daft Pliken,” Jint yelled, “Best we might find is dwarf bread, and I think I'd rather try some of the stone before I go for that stuff.”
“The entrance we came in was far too small to bring in enough food for how big this prison is,” Edda said, “So there has to be an alternate way in and out for bringing in food. The door on the left is their armory, and I doubt we'll find anything of value left, and if we take too long, the fey might catch up. It's probably defensible if it's built like one in a fortress, but our goal is to escape, not fight.”
“And the door on the right?” Pliken asked.
“Leads further down into the prison,” Edda answered. Fredson scowled as he turned around, shaking his head.
“I'm afraid you are wrong. The armory will have a forge as well, and needed to bring in metal and coal and other supplies. The food stores will not have a way out... As everyone knows, dwarves grow their own food underground,” the expert said, indicating the armory.
Edda and Paul simply stared flabbergasted at Fredson, before Edda finally shook his head.
“Fine. You go into the armory. Get yourself killed by the fey when they figured out how to get in here,” Edda said, “We're going through the food stores.”
“I think not. Sergeant, I order you to arrest these three in the name of the King,” Fredson said, pointing towards Edda, Paul, and Rumi.
“May I ask the reason for this?” the sergeant asked, knowing full well he still only had one good arm to fight with, along with a mage that wasn't much of a fighter, and a very raw recruit.
“I am a representative of the Court, an expert on dwarven writings and culture, and they presume otherwise! To argue with the Court in a punishable offense!” Fredson said, his finger trembling at the three.
Jint sighed, “Very well... I don't like this, but rules are rules. However, sir, if I may? We are still in hostile territory, and according to military laws, any representative of the Court must also listen to the senior military commander on the scene. Since that's me, I would like to make a suggestion.”
Fredson shook, glaring at the sergeant, “Ve...very well sergeant.”
“Since we are in hostile territory, and do not have enough guards or ways to arrest these three, perhaps you should grant them leniency? They are civilians, not soldiers,” Jint said. Fredson frowned, considering it when a noise sounded behind them.
The group turned, hearing noises down the hallway. There was only one group that could be.
“I think I smell some humans! With their delicious magic...” one voice said from the gloom, echoing off the stone, “One, two, three, four, five, six humans with their magic I smell!”
Rumi frowned as she looked at the group, silently counting, when Edda turned back to Jint and Fredson.
“Okay, we need to go. Now,” Edda said, “We don't know how many there are. If you want to go to the armory and get yourselves trapped, fine, but right now my job is protect Rumi here, and that involves going to the food storage.”
“Fine, get yourself killed!” Fredson said, “Sergeant, let's go!”
As Fredson went to the door that lead to the armory, a burst of magic flared into the air. He jumped back when it hit the door, sizzling. It popped, and a fey appeared in the light, cackling as it grabbed Fredson.
The dwarven expert reeled, Jint pulling out his sword with his one good arm, too late as the fey plunged it's hand into Fredson's chest. It laughed, feeding off the magic of the expert, leaping back when Jint swung his sword.
Another scream, Pliken shooting the crossbow as another fey appeared in front of him. It hit the creature dead in the chest, who just looked down and seemed almost amused.
“Go, Paul, Rumi, hurry!” Edda yelled, pulling out his sword. Paul grabbed Rumi's arm, hurrying towards the middle door, when a third fey landed in front of them, smiling.
“Oh, that girl has a nice bit of magic...” the fey laughed, “Quite cute too. Might keep her alive...”
Paul let go of Rumi, his hands moving as he focused, sending a blast of air forward, knocking the fey back. There were more footsteps, and a door moving...
“Get in, hurry! Not the way we need but it's better then nothing!” Jint yelled, having gotten to the door to the right, which lead deeper into the prison. Weighing their options, Paul and Rumi headed towards it, Paul making a light.
“Mage guy, go with them!” Edda yelled to Connor who was ducking a fey that slashed at him. A couple more fey had arrived, a few of them looking at Edda curiously, “You're a healer, right?”
Connor paused, then nodded. He couldn't help Fredson or Pliken now, it was too late. He focused his magic, sending a blast of light outwards which seemed to have no effect on the fey, who simply laughed.
“Magic doesn't seem to work on these things! They just feed off of it!” Connor yelled, “Now come on!”
Connor hurried to the door, jumping through as Jint stabbed his sword into one of the fey, forced to let go as the creature jerked backwards, scrabbling at the metal embedded in it.
“You too, kid!” Jint yelled as Edda made a leap towards the door.
“Come on, you first, I can close it after you,” Edda said, motioning towards the opening. Jint shook his head, eying the fey who had paused, regrouping before they attacked.
“Kid, I'm already wounded, and someone has to hold them off... I'm a soldier, this is what I was meant to do,” Jint answered. He paused for a moment, then reached into a pocket, producing a small pocket watch, along with a folded piece of paper, “I wrote this earlier, thinking I wasn't going to make it. Give it and this watch to a Captain Kallin. They'll know what to do with it.”
“But...” Edda protested, taking the objects only when Jint forced them into his hands, “You... fine, but take the sword.”
Edda held out the sword, and Jint took it, “Alright then... thank you. Good luck, kid.”
Jint then moved, shoving Edda through the opening, before he closed it and turned back to the fey, who were still watching with some mild amusement.
“Alright you sons of bitches, who wants some?!” Jint roared.
[. . .]
“Edda, down here!”
Edda took a deep breath. He didn't have time to think about what just happened, just putting the watch and paper away, heading down some stairs and trying very hard to pretend he couldn't hear the fighting behind the stone door.
He didn't have to pretend for long, coming to a stop as he saw Rumi, Paul, and Connor looking over a device hanging in the air, held aloft by what looked like rope.
“Paul says it's some kind of old dwarven elevator,” Rumi said, “It seems sturdy enough.”
Edda took a second to look over the three. Paul seemed fine, and Edda knew he could count on him. Connor looked a little shaken, but okay as well. He was a medic, he had to be use to sometimes not being able to save someone. Not that it made it any easier, but he could put it aside until he had the time to deal with it...
“What happened to the others?” Rumi then asked, looking at Edda. Her eyes dotted downwards, towards the empty scabbard at Edda's waist.
“...Didn't make it,” Edda said quietly, “I'm sorry. Paul, do you think this works?”
Paul paused, then shrugged, making a few gestures.
“True... better to take our chances then,” Edda said, “Come on, let's head downwards. Best chance now is just to keep going. Hopefully find another way out this way.”
The four got into the device, Paul looking over some controls. He pushed a lever and something went click far below in the darkness, only the floating light Paul had made earlier giving them any illumination.
“I can make some light, if you want,” Connor offered to Paul as they continued downwards. Paul shook his head, then looked towards Edda.
“He's good, it's no problem, really,” Edda said, “He doesn't need to focus to keep the light up.”
Connor frowned, looking at the three now, “Do any of you have any training in magic?”
“Paul and I don't. Paul just sorta picked it up. Can't do any magic myself,” Edda answered, “Can't even make a little spark.”
Connor frowned again, though a puzzled one, glancing between them. He was about to speak again when the lift they were on came to a stop, making the youths tumble slightly, but stayed upright.
“End of the line?” Edda wondered, glancing towards Paul. Paul fiddled with the controls, then nodded.
Paul walked off first, looking over some over dwarven hieroglyphics. Rumi followed after him, then Connor, Edda giving one last look around. As he stepped forward there was a snapping noise from above, and the lift jerked. Paul turned, spinning around when he heard the noise, seeing the lift start to fall.
Edda dove forward, leaping and landing on the stone ledge as the lift fell into the darkness below, the blond haired young man taking a few deep breaths.
“Well... guess we don't have to worry about the Fey using that to follow us down,” Edda said after a moment. Paul shook his head at Edda, frowning at his friend's lack of apparent concern over almost plummeting to his death, then pointed a thumb towards the hieroglyphics.
“You can read these?” Connor asked, impressed as Paul went back to the walls, looking over them. Paul held out a hand and waved it up and down idly.
“Sort of,” Rumi translated, as Paul made a couple signs, “They're apparently really old. He can kind of piece it together from newer dialects.”
Paul pressed his hand against one of the symbols, the stone shifting and revealing another door. Light burst from the door as well, some illumination coming from it. He turned towards the group, arms out with a wide grin on his face.
“Good job Paul,” Edda said, taking the lead and going first, looking around. “Wow... everyone, get a load of this.”
Rumi, Paul, and Connor came in as well, also stopping as they saw the room. Large stone archways greeted them, some kind of lights hanging down around them. There were several doorways leading off down to the sides, all with various symbols above them. Stretching down to the end was a final door, one large symbol on it.
“What is this place?” Connor asked quietly, looking around in amazement, “It still has light too... where is it getting it's power?”
Paul made a few signs, Rumi turning to translate.
“Dwarves didn't have magic, they couldn't use it, so they made things that could last,” Rumi answered, “As for where we are exactly...”
She glanced towards Paul, who made a few more signs.
“It looks like this is part of the prison where they keep especially dangerous prisoners,” Rumi answered, “Though I doubt there's anything still alive in here after so long...”
Connor nodded, stopping at one door and looking at the symbols on them. He looked back to the other three, not sure what else to say or do. Right now his best bet out of here was to keep following them.
“Normally I'd think we wouldn't have to worry about anything still being alive down here... but until yesterday I thought the fey were just a children's tale,” Connor said, “So... do we need to worry.”
“What kind of magic do you know?” Edda asked. Connor frowned at the apparent non sequitor, taking a moment to decide whether to answer or not.
“Light magic. Healing magic,” Connor answered, “Along with basics all mages should know. Why do you ask?”
“Healing magic? Heard that's one of the more difficult ones,” Edda said, “Well we have a court trained mage, and Paul here knows magic. I can handle myself in a fight even without a blade, though I'd prefer one.”
“And I can handle myself,” Rumi said with a small nod, “Don't worry about me.”
“I think if we're smart, we should be okay,” Edda said, “Just stay ahead of the fey and find a way out of here. Dwarves always like back ways out. Usually good at planning ahead.”
Paul motioned Edda over to one of the doors, pointing towards the symbol over it, then making a few motions with his hands. Edda's eyes widened, and he nodded, turning back to the others.
“Paul says their might be a way out of here, through here... But it could be dangerous. I'm gonna scout it out and go check,” Edda said.
“Woah, hold on, are you sure that's safe?” Connor said, stepping forward now.
“Well, no, but I'm the best for this job,” Edda said, “I don't want to worry about someone else too, then it might just get both of us killed.”
Connor sighed, then nodded his head, “Fair enough... this is out of my field of expertise.”
Edda turned, stooping as he came to the door built for dwarves, getting down and heading through it now, one of Paul's floating lights darting down to accompany him and illuminate the way.
As Edda left, Connor turned towards Paul and Rumi, looking back and forth between them for a moment.
“So why are you all here anyways? And tell me the truth... We're in this together, I should know,” Connor asked, leaning against the wall.
“This place was on land my family owned, and I wanted to explore it,” Rumi said, “I didn't want to just turn it over to the court... who knows what they would have done with it! I did some investigating and found out about Paul and Edda here, only person I could find within like two hundred miles that were qualified without going to the court.”
Paul nodded, counting on his usual method of being unable to communicate with others to stop Connor from thinking there was more to this story, which there was.
“That... is a serious offense, you know,” Connor said, looking worried, “All dwarven artifacts and places of interest are suppose to go to the Court.”
“Yah, where they can look for weapons and use them against people,” Rumi frowned, shaking her head, “I wasn't going to let that happen.”
Connor looked over towards Paul, trying to study his expression, “And you and Edda took the job?”
Paul nodded, glancing towards Rumi, wondering if he should elaborate and have Rumi translate, but decided not to.
“And you can use magic? I've never seen a mage that doesn't work for the court... outside of very low level ones,” Connor added, “How did you avoid being found?”
Paul made a few signs, Rumi looking towards him, nodding a little.
“He says no one ever came looking for him, and he's been keeping it quiet. But considering what we've found out here with the fey, he thinks that hiding that skill right now isn't going to do anyone any good,” Rumi answered.
Silence as the three stood there for a few minutes, waiting for Edda to return when Connor spoke up once more.
“But you don't have to concentrate to keep your magic going?” Connor asked, “Why is-”
He stopped mid sentence when they heard something thumping through the door they came in on, voices, hissing...
“The fey!” Connor said, eyes wide as he turned. The door started to move, “Do we follow after Edda, or...?”
He looked at the other doors, wondering if one way would lead to escape. Or if they should try and stand and fight.
Paul paused, then pointed towards a different door, then made a few signs.
“No way!” Rumi yelled, “We are not leaving you behind!”
Paul shook his head, making a few more signs, then pointed towards the door that Edda had gone through.
Rumi frowned, shaking her head still, the door leading into their room starting to move open as the fey started to get it open. Paul frowned, looking towards Connor, then stepped forward, holding up his hands as he focused.
His hands glowed as his power started to culminate in his hands, one of the fey managing to squeeze through the opening. It hissed at Paul, stepping forward before several pieces of sharp metal materialized in the air in front of Paul, shooting forward and hitting the fey rapidly, knocking it backwards to the ground, where it didn't get back up.
“Damnit!” Rumi yelled, shaking her head, “Fine, I'll make sure you can follow us! When Edda gets back, come after us! Don't be a hero!”
Paul nodded as the door began to open further, another fey poking it's head out. Rumi grabbed Connor's arm, pulling him towards another door, opening it and disappearing through it, Connor following after her...
[. . .]
Edda moved through the small opening, crouched as Paul's light floated in front of him. Soon he came to another stone door, opening it up carefully. He stepped into a larger chamber, straightening up as the light glowed brighter to accommodate the larger space.
He froze, eyes wide as he looked in front of him. Heavy iron chains were driven far into the wall, leading to an impossible figure that was curled up by the wall, it's arms, legs, and neck covered in heavy iron collars. It moved slightly, breath entering and leaving it's body. Two massive wings were tucked on it's back, and it's scaly hide was red, reflecting slightly with the light.
Edda took a step back, trying to decide if he could bolt back through the way he came, before a voice called out to him, from the being in front of him.
“You're not a dwarf... too tall...”
Edda tstared upwards as the dragon unfurled itself, though stayed close to the wall. It stretched it's wings some, though didn't have enough room to fully unfurl them.
“You're... a dragon...” Edda said quietly, staring up at the creature, “I thought... you were extinct...”
“Are we? It's been... a long time. The dwarves stopped coming so long ago,” the dragon said idly, “What is a human doing here?”
“We're... fleeing. From the fey,” Edda said. There wasn't any reason to lie. The dragon looked at him with a curious expression, bringing it's head down so it was more on level with Edda. “Umm... who are you, anyways?”
“Who am I? You ask a dragon his name?” the dragon asked, then laughed, “Perhaps, in due time, human. Are there any dwarves left in here?”
“No,” Edda said, then paused, “Well... not that I know of. As far as I know, it's abandoned.”
“And the fey... not a name I have heard for a long, long time...” the dragon said, “An enemy to all they were... Hrrmmm... you are a human, yes? Only you... smell a bit like a dwarf...”
The dragon peered at Edda, who shook his head, “No, I'm human. No beard, and I'm like six feet tall.”
“Hrrrmmmm... this is true,” the dragon nodded, “Yes, you do smell human more. Perplexing. Tell me, human... are you attempting to leave this place?”
“I am. I... have friends. Some others... didn't make it. We're trying to get out,” Edda answered, “We need to warn others about the fey.”
The dragon was quiet for a long moment, then spoke again, “I was imprisoned here by the dwarves because I chose to fight alongside the humans when they turned against them, fearing you. Even the dwarves, with all their ingenuity, couldn't figure out how to truly kill a dragon. Hmph. Human, if you will help me, I will help you. Get me out of here, and I will pledge myself to your service until you leave the mortal plane.”
Now it was Edda's turn to be quiet. A dragon as a ally was... well, it was something that was unthinkable. He had heard stories of course... Many dragons were rumored to have fought against the fey as well, and allied with humans against the dwarves. Others... others were black hearted and cruel.
But the same could be said of humans.
“...Okay, I don't think I could walk away and leave you here. But... I don't know how to get you out. You're... too big to get out of here,” Edda said. “And we still have to worry about the fey...”
“Hrmmm... yes, the fey... In this place, if memory serves, there is a weapon. A sword. A feybane. I recall the dwarves discussing it once. I do not know where exactly... but it would be a place of little to no magic. I should warn you, that only dwarves seemed able to wield it. It wounded anyone with magic who tried to take it,” the dragon said, bringing it's head down to stare at Edda, “But I think for you, young human, you could wield it without problem.”
The dragon then smiled, and fire suddenly sprung around the creature.
“As for my size... soon, I shall be smaller. I am dragon, immortal flame. I will die now... but become reborn in an egg. Take that egg, and I will hatch later,” the dragon said. More flame swirled around the creature, “I make this pack with you human. I am Sol, dragon of fire. I pledge my flame to you.”
“I am Edda Adwr, and I accept,” Edda said. The dragon nodded, and there was a burst of heat and light, and laying on the stone floor now was a single egg, the same red color as the dragon. To Edda's surprise it was rather small, about twice the size of a chicken egg. He stepped forward and picked it up carefully. It was warm to the touch, and he put the egg into his jacket for now. If legends were anything to go by, a dragon's egg was remarkably tough. He wouldn't be able to break it if he tried.
He turned to the door now, stooping as he went back through. He hoped the others were okay...