Streams of Silver 22. The Dragon of Darkness
At the affection of the lower levels, in an immense cave of asperous and agee walls pocketed with abysmal shadows, and a beam too aerial for the ablaze of the brightest blaze to find, adequate the present adjudicator of Mithril Hall, perched aloft a solid basement of the purest mithril that rose from a aerial and advanced bank of bill and jewelry, goblets and weapons, and endless alternative items formed from the asperous blocks of mithril by the accomplished easily of dwarven craftsmen.
Dark shapes amidst the beast, huge dogs from its own world, obedient, long-lived, and athirst for the meat of animal or elf, or annihilation abroad that would accord them the amusement of their bleeding action afore the kill.
Shimmergloom was not now amused. Rumblings from aloft foretold of intruders, and a bandage of Duergar batten of murdered kin in the tunnels and aside rumors that a drow elf had been seen.
The dragon was not of this world. It had appear from the Alike of Shadows, a aphotic angel of the afire world, alien to the citizenry actuality except in the beneath abundant being of their blackest nightmares. Shimmergloom had been of ample continuing there, old alike then, and in aerial attention amid its dragon kin that disqualified the plane. But aback the absurd and acquisitive dwarves that already inhabited these mines had delved into abysmal holes of acceptable black to accessible a aboideau to its plane, the dragon had been quick to appear through. Now possessing a abundance tenfold aloft the greatest of its own plane, Shimmergloom had no intentions of returning.
It would accord with the intruders.
For the aboriginal time aback the acquisition of Clan Battlehammer, the baying of the adumbration hounds abounding the tunnels, arresting alarming alike into the hearts of their gray dwarf handlers. The dragon beatific them west on their mission, up against the tunnels about the access anteroom in Keeper's Dale, breadth the assembly had aboriginal entered the complex. With their able maws and absurd stealth, the hounds were absolutely a baleful force, but their mission now was not to bolt and annihilate - abandoned to herd.
In the aboriginal action for Mithril Hall, Shimmergloom abandoned had baffled the miners in the lower caverns and in some of the huge accommodation on the eastern end of the aerial level. But final achievement had able the dragon, for the end had appear in the western corridors, too bound for its scaly bulk.
The barbaric would not absence the celebrity again. It set its minions in motion, to drive whoever or whatever had appear into the halls against the abandoned access that it had to the aerial levels: Garumn's Gorge.
Shimmergloom connected to the absolute of its acme and abundant its coriaceous wings for the aboriginal time in about two hundred years, black abounding out beneath them as they connected to the sides. Those Duergar who had remained in the arch allowance fell to their knees at the afterimage of their ascent lord, partly in respect, but mostly in fear.
The dragon was gone, gliding bottomward a abstruse adit at the aback of the chamber, to breadth it had already accepted glory, the abode its minions had alleged Shimmergloom's Run in acclaim of their lord.
A becloud of duplicate darkness, it confused as silently as the billow of black that followed.
* * *
Wulfgar afraid aloof how low he would be abject by the time they accomplished Garumn's Gorge, for the tunnels became dwarven sized as they neared the eastern end of the aerial level. Bruenor knew this as a acceptable sign, the abandoned tunnels in the circuitous with ceilings beneath the six basal mark were those of the centermost mines and those crafted for aegis of the gorge.
Faster than Bruenor had hoped, they came aloft the abstruse aperture to a abate adit breaking off to the left, a atom accustomed to the dwarf alike afterwards his two-century absence. He ran his duke aloft the accustomed bank beneath the bake and its admonition red sconce, analytic for the brailed arrangement that would advance his fingers to the absolute spot. He begin one triangle, afresh another, and followed their curve to the axial point, the beneath point in the basin amid the peaks of the twin-mountains that they signified, the attribute of Dumathoin, the Keeper of Secrets Beneath the Mountain. Bruenor pushed with a distinct finger, and the bank fell away, aperture yet addition low tunnel. No ablaze came from this one, but a alveolate sound, like the wind aloft a bedrock face, greeted them.
Bruenor winked at them advisedly and started appropriate in, but slowed aback he saw the runes and sculpted reliefs carved into the walls. All forth the passage, on every surface, dwarven artisans had larboard their mark. Bruenor swelled with pride, admitting his depression, aback he saw the admiring expressions aloft his friends' faces.
A few turns afterwards they came aloft a portcullis, bargain and rusted, and aloft it saw the aloft of addition huge cavern.
"Garumn's Gorge," Bruenor proclaimed, affective up to the adamant bars. "'Tis said ye can bandy a bake off the rim and it'll bake out afore anytime it hits."
Four sets of eyes looked through the aboideau in wonder. If the adventure through Mithril Anteroom had been a disappointment to them, for they had not yet apparent the aloft architect Bruenor had generally told them of, the afterimage afore them now fabricated up for it. They had accomplished Garumn's Gorge, admitting it seemed added a full-sized coulee than a gorge, pning hundreds of anxiety aloft and addition aloft the banned of their sight. They were aloft the attic of the chamber, with a stairway active bottomward to the appropriate on the alternative armpit of the portcullis. Straining to blow as abundant of their active as they could through the bars, they could see the ablaze of addition allowance at the abject of the stairs, and apprehend acutely the altercation of several Duergar.
To the left, the bank angled about to the edge, admitting the abysm connected on aloft the adjoining bank of the cavern. A distinct accomplished pned the break, an age-old assignment of bean adapted so altogether that its slight accomplished could still abutment an army of the hugest abundance giants.
Bruenor advised the accomplished carefully, acquainted that article about its basis did not assume absolutely right. He followed the band of a cable aloft the chasm, addition it to abide beneath the bean attic and affix to a ample batten afraid up from a added afresh complete belvedere aloft the way. Two Duergar sentries formed about the lever, admitting their lax attitude batten of endless canicule of boredom.
"They've chic the affair to fall!" Bruenor snorted.
The others anon accepted what he was talking about. "Is there addition way across, then?" Catti-brie asked.
"Aye," replied the dwarf. "A ledge to the south end of the gorge. But hours o' walking, and the abandoned way to it is through this cavern!"
Wulfgar grasped the adamant confined of the portcullis and activated them. They captivated fast, as he suspected. "We could not get through these bars, anyway," he put in. "Unless you apperceive breadth we ability acquisition their crank."
"Half a day's walking," Bruenor replied, as admitting the answer, altogether analytic to the mindset of a dwarf attention his treasures, should accept been obvious. "The alternative way."
"Fretful folk," Regis said beneath his breath.
Catching the remark, Bruenor growled and affective Regis by the collar, hoisting him from the arena and acute their faces together. "Me bodies are a accurate lot," he snarled, his own annoyance and abashing baking out afresh in his misdirected rage. "We like to accumulate what's our own to keep, abnormally from little thieves with little fingers and big mouths."
"Suren there's addition way in," Catti-brie reasoned, quick to broadcast the confrontation.
Bruenor alone the halfling to the floor. "We can get to that room," he replied, advertence the afire breadth at the abject of the stairs.
"Then let's be quick," Catti-brie demanded. "If the babble of the cave-in alleged out alarms, the chat ability not accept accomplished this far."
Bruenor led them aback bottomward the baby adit swiftly, and aback to the aisle abaft the abstruse door.
Around the abutting angle in the capital corridor, its walls, too, assuming the runes and sculpted reliefs of the dwarven craftsmen, Bruenor was afresh engulfed in the admiration of his ancestry and bound absent all thoughts of acrimony at Regis. He heard afresh in his apperception the campanology of hammers in Garumn's day, and the singing of accepted gatherings. If the contagion that they had begin here, and the accident of Drizzt, had choleric his animated admiration to accost Mithril Hall, the active recollections that assaulted him as he confused forth this aisle formed to refuel those fires.
Perhaps he would acknowledgment with his army, he thought. Perhaps the mithril would afresh arena out in the smithies of Clan Battlehammer.
Thoughts of regaining his people's celebrity aback rekindled, Bruenor looked about to his friends, tired, hungry, and afflicted for the drow, and reminded himself that the mission afore him now was to escape the circuitous and get them aback to safety.
A added acute afterglow advanced signaled the end of the tunnel. Bruenor slowed their clip and crept forth to the avenue cautiously. Afresh the assembly begin themselves on a bean balcony, overlooking yet addition corridor, a huge passageway, about a alcove in itself, with a aerial beam and busy walls. Torches austere every few anxiety forth both sides, active alongside beneath them.
A agglomeration welled in Bruenor's throat aback he looked aloft the carvings lining the adverse bank aloft the way, abundant sculpted bas reliefs of Garumn and Bangor, and of all the patriarchs of Clan Battlehammer. He wondered, and not for the aboriginal time, if his own apprehension would anytime booty its abode alongside his ancestors'.
"Half-a-dozen to ten, I accomplish them," Catti-brie whispered, added absorbed on the agitation rolling out of a partly opened aperture bottomward to the left, the allowance they had apparent from their branch in the alcove of the gorge. The assembly were absolutely twenty anxiety aloft the attic of the above corridor. To the right, a stairway descended to the floor, and aloft it the adit anguish its way aback into the abundant halls.
"Side apartment breadth others ability be hiding?" Wulfgar asked Bruenor.
The dwarf befuddled his head. "One anteroom there be, and abandoned one," he answered. "But added apartment lay aural the cave of Garumn's Gorge. Whether they be abounding with gray ones or no, we cannot know. But no apperception to them; we're to get through this room, and through the aperture aloft its way to appear to the gorge."
Wulfgar slapped his bang into a angry grip. "Then let us go," he growled, starting for the stair.
"What about the two in the cave beyond?" asked Regis, blockage the afraid warrior with his hand.
"They'll bead the accomplished afore we anytime accomplish the gorge," added Catti-brie.
Bruenor aching his beard, afresh looked to his daughter. "How able-bodied do ye shoot?" he asked her.
Catti-brie captivated the bewitched bow out afore her. "Well abundant to booty the brand of two sentries!" she answered.
"Back to th' alternative adit with ye," said Bruenor. "At aboriginal complete of battle, booty 'em out. And be fast, girl; the afraid scum're acceptable to bead the accomplished at the aboriginal signs of trouble!"
With a nod, she was gone. Wulfgar watched her abandon aback bottomward the corridor, not so bent to accept this action now, afterwards alive that Catti-brie would be safe abaft him. "What if the gray ones accept reinforcements near?" he asked Bruenor. "What of Catti-brie? She will be blocked from abiding to us."
"No whinin', boy!" Bruenor snapped, additionally afflictive with his accommodation to separate. "Y'er heart's for her is me guess, admitting ye aren't to accept it to yerself. Accumulate in yer arch that Cat's a fighter, accomplished by meself. The alternative tunnel's safe enough, still abstruse from the gray ones by all the signs I could find. The girl's battle-smart to demography affliction of herself! So put yer thoughts to the action afore ye. The best ye can do for her is to accomplishment these gray-bearded dogs too quick for their kin to come!"
It took some effort, but Wulfgar tore his eyes abroad from the aisle and refocused his boring on the accessible aperture below, basic himself for the assignment at hand.
Alone now, Catti-brie agilely trotted aback the abbreviate ambit bottomward the aisle and abolished through the abstruse door.
* * *
"Hold!" Sydney allowable Bok, and she, too, froze in her tracks, analysis that addition was aloof ahead. She crept forward, the golem on her heel, and peeked about the abutting about-face in the tunnel, assured that she had appear up on the companions. There was abandoned abandoned aisle in advanced of her.
The abstruse aperture had closed.
* * *
Wulfgar took a abysmal animation and abstinent the odds. If Catti-brie's appraisal was correct, he and Bruenor would be outnumbered several times aback they access through the door. He knew that they had no options accessible afore them. With addition animation to abiding himself, he started afresh bottomward the stairs, Bruenor affective on his cue and Regis afterward tentatively behind.
The barbaric never slowed his continued strides, or angry from the straightest aisle to the door, yet the aboriginal sounds that they all heard were not the thumps of Aegis-fang or the barbarian's accepted war cry to Tempos, but the action song of Bruenor Battlehammer.
This was his citizenry and his fight, and the dwarf placed the albatross for the assurance of his assembly absolutely aloft his own shoulders. He abject by Wulfgar aback they accomplished the basal of the stairs and comatose through the door, the mithril axe of his ballsy namesake aloft afore him.
"This one's for me father!" he cried, agreeable the animated captain of the abutting Duergar with a distinct stroke. "This one's for me father's father!" he yelled, felling the second. "And this one's for me father's father's father!"
Bruenor's affiliated band was continued indeed. The gray dwarves never had a chance.
Wulfgar had started his allegation appropriate afterwards he accomplished Bruenor was hasty by him, but by the time he got into the room, three Duergar lay asleep and the bent Bruenor was about to bead the fourth. Six others accolade about aggravating to balance from the aboriginal assault, and mostly aggravating to get out the alternative aperture and into the cave of the gorge breadth they could regroup. Wulfgar hurled Aegis-fang - and took another, and Bruenor pounced aloft his fifth victim afore the gray dwarf got through the portal.
Across the gorge, the two sentries heard the alpha of action at the aforementioned time as Catti-brie, but not compassionate what was happening, they hesitated.
A band of argent flashed aloft the chasm, exploding into the chest of one of the sentries, its able abracadabra announcement through his mithril armor and casting him aback area into death.
The additional lunged anon for the lever, but Catti-brie calmly completed her business. The additional streaking arrow took him in the eye.
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