The imps infesting the dwarf’s obsidian tunnel were actually pretty easy to take out. They were essentially bats with tiny humanoid bodies and heads. As far as I could tell, they weren’t sentient, just wild animals. The tunnel itself was well lit with glass tubes affixed to either side. The glass tubes shined with a dull orange light, similar to candlelight but more consistent. Occasionally, the tunnel got dark because the imps had smashed up the magic lights. Dara was able to quickly conjure a bit of light that we could fight by. I know that we had figured out what was happening to Old Man O’Reilly’s beag sheep, and we are currently helping Tilly get her baby gwiber to Daragon, but slaying these things felt like our first real adventure. Striking down demonic vermin was the kind of thing me and Gin would talk about doing.
Eventually, we came to a fork in the tunnel. The magic lights had been busted up on both sides of the fork, and it wasn’t clear which was the right way to go. There was broken glass on either side.
“Which way?” Gin asked the group.
“Gimme a sec. I’m going to see what I can find out,” Dara said.
He closed his eyes and reached out one of his hands, moving it around like a dowsing rod. He did this for a couple of minutes until his eyes snapped back open and he faced us again.
“It’s weird,” he began. “Both sides show powerful magic.”
“Maybe both ways lead to Valnan,” Tilly suggested. “It is the next city along this path.”
“I don’t think so,” Dara said as he pursed his lips in thought.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s just. . . this side feels like identification and transmutation magic,” he said, pointing down the right path. “This way feels like destruction and elemental magic.”
“You’re the only one here that has any idea what any of this means, buddy,” Gin urged him. “Why don’t you just tell us what you’re thinking.”
“The Dwarves worship the goddess, Lovelace. She rules over identification and destruction magic.” Dara explained.
“Identification sounds more like Dwarves,” Tilly suggested. “They’re all about research and stuff.”
“That’s my first instinct, too,” Dara said. “But they could be using destruction to carve out new tunnels. It really could be either side.”
“What do we have to worry about if we get it wrong?” I asked him.
“Well, these imps have to be coming from somewhere. I’ve never read anything that says where The Hells are, but it makes as much sense as anything else that they could be way underground,” Dara reasoned.
“So we either make it to the city, or we go to hell?” Gin asked.
“Pretty much,” Dara concluded.
“Do we want to reason this, or do you just want to decide? We trust you either way,” I said.
“Elemental sounds like demons and devils, ya’ know, fire and stuff,” Dara said. “But we know for sure that the Dwarves use elemental magic. That’s what all these lights have been conjured from. And it frankly feels more like them to use destruction magic to build with than transmutation. They carved that whole dome and their buildings from the same stone, and the extra had to go somewhere unless it didn’t. Destruction magic fully destroys the matter it is used on and converts it to magical energy. To me, that makes more sense than them using transmutation magic. It would just turn the stone into something else.”
“So head towards destruction?” Gin asked.
“I think so,” Dara said, a little unsure.
“We’ve gotta go somewhere. Let’s head that way. Get us a light, Dara!” Gin decided for the group. We all began to follow him.
After a very long walk in near darkness, we began to see light at the end of the tunnel. It was a bright, white light, similar to what it looked like when we left Montläken. There were a pair of Dwarven guards standing on the other side of the well-lit hole.
“What are you doing there?” a gruff feminine voice said. Their armor made them indistinguishable. It seemed like, at least among the guards, Dwarves didn’t care about gender. I appreciated that.
“We’ve been sent here on a mission from the King of Montläken!” Gin exclaimed.
“Are you telling me you four took care of the imps in this tunnel?” The other guard asked.
“You know it! Don’t you ever forget that the Misfits of Fortune did that for you!” Gin said. I guess he picked a name for us.
“The King of Montläken said we should talk to your King,” I said.
“Oh yes, I’m sure he’ll want to reward you,” the Dwarven woman said.
“Shit!” Tilly cursed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I forgot about finding something rare,” she explained.
“Is this anything?” Gin said, holding up a hard gemstone colored in a swirl pattern of amber and obsidian.
“Gin! That’s concentrated transmutation magic!” Dara said.
“So, it’s something?” He said hopefully.
“It’s really rare. It is definitely something,” Dara said.
“Yay! We did it!” Gin shouted in celebration.
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!