Streams of Silver 19. Shadows
“Garumn’s Gorge,” Bruenor said, drawing a line across the rough map he had scratched on the floor. Even though the effects of Alustriel’s potion had worn off, simply stepping inside the home of his youth had rekindled a host of memories in the dwarf. The exact location of each of the halls was not clear to him, but he had a general idea of the overall design of the place. The others huddled close to him, straining to see the etchings in the flickers of the torch that Wulfgar had retrieved from the corridor.
“We can get out on the far side,” Bruenor continued. “There’s a door, opening one way and for leaving only, beyond the bridge.”
“Leaving?” Wulfgar asked.
“Our goal was to find Mithril Hall,” Drizzt answered, playing the same argument he had used on Bruenor before this meeting. “If the forces that defeated Clan Battlehammer reside here still, we few would find reclaiming it an impossible task. We must take care that the knowledge of the hall’s location does not die in here with us.”
“I’m meaning to find out what we’re to face,” Bruenor added. “We mighten be going back out the door we came in; it’d open easy from the inside. Me thinking is to cross the top level and see the place out. I’m needing to know how much is left afore I call on me kin in the dale, and others if I must.” He shot Drizzt a sarcastic glance.
Drizzt suspected that Bruenor had more in mind than “seeing the place out,” but he kept quiet, satisfied that he had gotten his concerns through to the dwarf, and that Catti-brie’s unexpected presence would temper with caution all of Bruenor’s decisions.
“You will come back, then,” Wulfgar surmised.
“An army at me heels!” snorted Bruenor. He looked at Catti-brie and a measure of his eagerness left his dark eyes.
She read it at once. “Don’t ye be holding back for me!” she scolded. “Fought beside ye before, I have, and held me own, too! I didn’t want this road, but it found me and now I’m here with ye to the end!”
After the many years of training her, Bruenor could not now disagree with her decision to follow their chosen path. He looked around at the skeletons in the room. “Get yerself armed and armored then, and let’s be off – if we’re agreed.”
“‘Tis your road to choose,” said Drizzt. “For ’tis your search. We walk beside you, but do not tell you which way to go.”
Bruenor smiled at the irony of the statement. He noted a slight glimmer in the drow’s eyes, a hint of their customary sparkle for excitement. Perhaps Drizzt’s heart for the adventure was not completely gone.
“I will go,” said Wulfgar. “I did not walk those many miles, to return when the door was found!”
Regis said nothing. He knew that he was caught up in the whirlpool of their excitement, whatever his own feelings might be. He patted the little pouch of newly acquired baubles on his belt and thought of the additions he might soon find if these halls were truly as splendid as Bruenor had always said. He honestly felt that he would rather walk the nine hells beside his formidable friends than go back outside and face Artemis Entreri alone.
As soon as Catti-brie was outfitted, Bruenor led them on. He marched proudly in his grandfather’s shining armor, the mithril axe swinging beside him, and the crown of the king firmly upon his head. “To Garumn’s Gorge!” he cried as they started from the entry chamber. “From there we’ll decide to go out, or down. Oh, the glories that lay before us, me friends. Pray that I be taking ye to them this time through!”
Wulfgar marched beside him, Aegis-fang in one hand and the torch in the other. He wore the same grim but eager expression. Catti-brie and Regis followed, less eager and more tentative, but accepting the road as unavoidable and determined to make the best of it.
Drizzt moved along the side, sometimes ahead of them, sometimes behind, rarely seen and never heard, though the comforting knowledge of his presence made them all step easier down the corridor.
The hallways were not smooth and flat, as was usually the case with dwarven construction. Alcoves jutted out on either side every few feet, some ending inches back, others slipping away into the darkness to join up with other whole networks of corridors. The walls all along the way were chipped and flaked with jutting edges and hollowed depressions, designed to enhance the shadowy effect of the ever-burning torches. This was a place of mystery and secret, where dwarves could craft their finest works in an atmosphere of protective seclusion.
This level was a virtual maze, as well. No outsider could have navigated his way through the endless number of splitting forks, intersections, and multiple passageways. Even Bruenor, aided by scattered images of his childhood and an understanding of the logic that had guided the dwarven miners who had created the place, chose wrong more often than right, and spent as much time backtracking as going forward.
There was one thing that Bruenor did remember, though. “Ware yer step,” he warned his friends. “The level ye walk upon is rigged for defending the halls, and a stoneworked trap’d be quick to send ye below!”
For the first stretch of their march that day, they came into wider chambers, mostly unadorned and roughly squared, and showing no signs of habitation. “Guard rooms and guest rooms,” Bruenor explained. “Most for Elmor and his kin from Settlestone when they came to collect the works for market.”
They moved deeper. A pressing stillness engulfed them, their footfalls and the occasional crackle of a torch the only sounds, and even these seemed stifled in the stagnant air. To Drizzt and Bruenor, the environment only enhanced their memories of their younger days spent under the surface, but for the other three, the closeness and the realization of tons of stone hanging over their heads was a completely foreign experience, and more than a little uncomfortable.
Drizzt slipped from alcove to alcove, taking extra care to test the floor before stepping in. In one shallow depression, he felt a sensation on his leg, and upon closer inspection found a slight draft flowing in through a crack at the base of the wall. He called his friends over.
Bruenor bent low and scratched his beard, knowing at once what the breeze meant, for the air was warm, not cool as an outside draft would be. He removed a glove and felt the stone. “The furnaces,” he muttered, as much to himself as to his friends.
“Then someone is below,” Drizzt reasoned.
Bruenor didn’t answer. It was a subtle vibration in the floor, but to a dwarf, so attuned to the stone, its message came as clear as if the floor had spoken to him; the grating of sliding blocks far below, the machinery of the mines.
Bruenor looked away and tried to realign his thoughts, for he had nearly convinced himself, and had always hoped, that the mines would be empty of any organized group and easy for the taking. But if the furnaces were burning, those hopes were flown.
* * *
“Go to them. Show them the stair,” Dendybar commanded.
Morkai studied the wizard for a long moment. He knew that he could break free of Dendybar’s weakening hold and disobey the command. Truly Morkai was amazed that Dendybar had dared to summon him again so soon, for the wizard’s strength had obviously not yet returned. The mottled wizard hadn’t yet reached the point of exhaustion, upon which Morkai could strike at him, but Dendybar had indeed lost most of his power to compel the specter.
Morkai decided to obey this command. He wanted to keep this game with Dendybar going for as long as possible. Dendybar was obsessed with finding the drow, and would undoubtedly call upon Morkai another time soon. Perhaps then the mottled wizard would be weaker still.
* * *
“And how are we to get down?” Entreri asked Sydney. Bok had led them to the rim of Keeper’s Dale, but now they faced the sheer drop.
Sydney looked to Bok for the answer, and the golem promptly started over the edge. Had she not stopped it, it would have dropped off the cliff. The young mage looked at Entreri with a helpless shrug.
They then saw a shimmering blur of fire, and the specter; Morkai, stood before them once again. “Come,” he said to them. “I am bid to show you the way.”
Without another word, Morkai led them to the secret stair, then faded back into flames and was gone.
“Your master proves to be of much assistance,” Entreri remarked as he took the first step down.
Sydney smiled, masking her fears. “Four times, at least,” she whispered to herself, figuring the instances when Dendybar had summoned the specter. Each time Morkai had seemed more relaxed in carrying out his appointed mission. Each time Morkai had seemed more powerful. Sydney moved to the stair behind Entreri. She hoped that Dendybar would not call upon the specter again – for all their sakes.
When they had descended to the gorge’s floor, Bok led them right to the wall and the secret door. As if realizing the barrier that it faced, it stood patiently out of the way, awaiting further instructions from the mage.
Entreri ran his fingers across the smooth rock, his face close against it as he tried to discern any substantial crack in it.
“You waste your time,” Sydney remarked. “The door is dwarven crafted and will not be found by such inspection.”
“If there is a door,” replied the assassin.
“There is,” Sydney assured him. “Bok followed the drow’s trail to this spot, and knows that it continues through the wall. There is no way that they could have diverted the golem from the path.”
“Then open your door,” Entreri sneered. “They move farther from us with each moment!”
Sydney took a steadying breath and rubbed her hands together nervously. This was the first time since she had left the Hosttower that she had found opportunity to use her magical powers, and the extra spell energy tingled within her, seeking release.
She moved through a string of distinct and precise gestures, mumbled several lines of arcane words, then commanded, “Bausin saumine!” and threw her hands out in front of her, toward the door.
Entreri’s belt immediately unhitched, dropping his saber and dagger to the ground.
“Well done,” he remarked sarcastically, retrieving his weapons.
Sydney looked at the door, perplexed. “It resisted my spell,” she said, observing the obvious. “Not unexpected from a door of dwarven crafting. The dwarves use little magic themselves, but their ability to resist the spellcastings of others is considerable.”
“Where do we turn?” hissed Entreri. “There is another entrance, perhaps?”
“This is our door,” Sydney insisted. She turned to Bok and snarled, “Break it down!” Entreri jumped far aside when the golem moved to the wall.
Its great hands pounding like battering rams, Bok slammed the wall, again and again, heedless of the damage to its own flesh. For many seconds, nothing happened, just the dull thud of the fists punching the stone.
Sydney was patient. She silenced Entreri’s attempt to argue their course and watched the relentless golem at work. A crack appeared in the stone, and then another. Bok knew no weariness; its tempo did not slow.
More cracks showed, then the clear outline of the door. Entreri squinted his eyes in anticipation.
With one final punch, Bok drove its hand through the door, splitting it asunder and reducing it to a pile of rubble.
For the second time that day, the second time in nearly two hundred years, the entry chamber of Mithril Hall was bathed in daylight.
* * *
“What was that?” Regis whispered after the echoes of the banging had finally ended.
Drizzt could guess easily enough, though with the sound bouncing at them from the bare rock walls in every direction, it was impossible to discern the direction of its source.
Catti-brie had her suspicions, too, remembering well the broken wall in Silverymoon.