It took us a while, but we eventually found an entrance into the Dwarven settlements under the mountains. After we found the trapped door, finding another set of rocks that were a bit off-color from the rest of the mountain was just a matter of finding it. I let Tilly do her thing this time, and she was able to get us in. The first set of Dwarf guards we ran into was hesitant about letting us in, but Gin was able to talk them into it. Part of me thinks the novelty of seeing an orc and a goblin was enough to get us through.
Before long, we found ourselves in the absolutely massive Dwarven city of Montläken. The city was completely under the mountain, but you wouldn’t know it from where we were standing. The stone around the city had been carved to a smooth dome that extended into the air for what looked like nearly 3,000 squares. Standing at the entrance, I could have thought I was looking at Anglachel were it not for the tunnels that dotted the streets.
“What do you think those are?” I asked Dara, gesturing to one of the tunnels.
“It must be mining tunnels. It is simply fascinating that they treat these tunnels the way we treat any other kind of infrastructure in Angalchel,” Dara beamed.
“It’s where they all work, it’s got to be part of the city,” Tilly reasoned.
“So what do we do now?” Gin asked. “Just walk through the city and find a way out on the other side?”
“That’s as good a suggestion as anything I could come up with,” Dara said.
We entered the city limits, and Montläken only continued to get more impressive. The buildings appeared to be carved out of the same stone as the ground. They’d literally carved their buildings out of the mountain instead of constructing them. I couldn’t even begin to fathom the amount of forethought that planning this city would have taken. This would have been enough to blow my mind fully, but then I noticed the fine detail carved into each building. They’d carved all of this by hand! I would have been willing to bet they’d used magic to dig out this place.
We had only begun admiring the city whenever we were stopped by the local guards.
“Grüezi,” one of the guards said, speaking in Dwarven.
Tilly said a couple of things back and forth until Tilly eventually said, “They said they’ll take us to the King. They said he’ll probably want to meet us anyway, and he speaks common.”
“Should that worry us?” I asked. I didn’t know much about Dwarven culture, but I did know that being escorted to the leader of a nation immediately after entering didn’t seem like the most normal thing to happen.
“Nah,” Tilly replied. “In my experience, Dwarves work hard, but they’re mostly friendly. They are brusque but friendly.”
I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I was trying to start trusting Tilly. I kept my apprehension to myself and followed. We were led around a large, central lake to a towering castle with pyramid-shaped roofs topping the different towers. It also appeared to be carved directly out of the mountain. Flags were flying on the rooftops. They showed the same image of the science beaker Dara had shown us before we entered. I guess doing science really is what they prioritize.
We were led through a long hallway until we finally made it to a huge set of doors.
“The king is in there,” one of the guards said.
I looked around, and my party looked pretty apprehensive. They were definitely feeling the same way as me. I knew one of us had to be brave, and since I’d already shoved my doubts into the back of my mind, it was up to me. I walked up to the door and pushed it open. I could feel my friends following at my heels. There was an intimidating Dwarven figure sitting on a throne on the other side of the room. He sat stoically, so I continued to walk forward.
I didn’t know enough about Dwarven culture to even know who exactly this person was. Obviously, he was a king since the guards said so, but is he the king of the entire Dwarven nation of Ferreira? Or was he just the king of Montläken? Did Dwarves even consider themselves part of one nation? I was starting to wonder why we even agreed to come here.
“Do my eyes deceive me, or do I see an orc, a human, a gnome, and a goblin? What a curious party to pass through Montläken.” The king said with a bright yet gravelly voice. His face was covered with a bushy beard, but the top of it seemed to rise, indicating he was smiling.
“Yes, sir,” I began. “We were hoping to pass through Montläken in order to reach Reyes.”
“Would it be safe to presume you are a group of adventurers then?” The king asked.
“Yes! We definitely are!” Gin said excitedly. “What gave it away? Is it because we look so cool and strong?”
“Something like that,” the king said, a slight giggle in his voice. This was going better than I thought. He at least seemed happy to see us.
“I will grant you passage,” the king stated. “But I need you to do something for me in return.”
“Anything,” Tilly immediately responded.
“The tunnels we use to mine obsidian have been challenging to access for the past month. It has greatly set us back on our research,” The king explained.
“So you need us to do the research?” Dara asked hopefully.
“I’m sure you are smart,” the king said. “But I was hoping you could provide a more violent solution.”
“We can do violent!” Gin exclaimed. “Ruki here is an incredible fighter!”
“Good, good. The tunnel has been infested with imps. You see, if we dig deep enough, our tunnels tap into The Hells. Nasty things sometimes find their way in. Our researchers aren’t equipped for combat, and our guards are really mostly for ceremonial purposes. You would be doing us a great favor if you could clear out the imps. If you could find a way to stop them from entering, that would be even better. If you follow the tunnel, it will eventually lead you to the city of Valnan. Valnan will have an entrance to Reyes. Bring back something unique from the tunnel that we haven’t studied yet, and I’m certain the King of Valnan will reward you handsomely.”
“Awesome!” Gin said. “We’re in!”
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!