To Anansi, Seneschal of the Council,
From Fa-Kseen, High Quartermaster of the Council,
Concerning the dwarven enclave beneath our great city of Xa-Charad.
To date, my quest has proven more fruitful than I might have believed. While nothing we plant may sprout in this dark land, I have found much that is edible, much of which seems to grow readily and is easily harvested. Including one of the most remarkably delightful of culinary reactions that I have ever witnessed.
Let me back up a bit. This day I left our fair city disguised, traveling in the company of three of the caretaken: Alpha and Erethon, two humans who served us well in the taking of Thorn Island, and Horn Void, a self-proclaimed “Dildicorn” (for the prosthesis which the poor pony used to replace his amputated horn). We descended the stairs beneath the great council-chamber into the library which was recently excavated, and thence to the dwarven caverns.
First, let me say, the centuries-old ashes of the texts from ancient library make the most remarkable spice. They may be a bit dry, but sing on the tip of the tongue, the taste being only describable as an embodiment of torrid desire. I was able to collect a sizable sample, and there is much to be harvested. The sea-stew which we have to date been limited to being rather bland, I think this will be a great resource, and it has shown other more remarkable properties which I shall detail later on.
In the guise of a dwarf and in the company of these brave folk, I descended into the hot, magma-lit dwarven mines. I was pleased to find that my elf-crafted apron stood up well against the extreme temperatures of the down-below; the pointy-eared caretaken have their uses.
We met first with the “Stalmers”, the short-folk in charge, and feasted with them before going on to meet their queen. The tube-worms which the dwarves feed on, “crusties” they call them, are remarkable. Smelling of sulfer, oily in texture, but with a rich, buttery flavor, they were exceptionally filling and made us all feel much fortified. Alpha and I both took substantial samples of the odd meat to supplement our provisions of seaweed and plankton.
The feast done, we went before the queen. A fine lady, very refined, and well-guarded. She lay amidst great mounds of wealth. We laid before her our gifts—200 pieces of hacksilver, my own silver whistle, and an adamantine couter provided by Erethon (which somehow ended up back in his possession later, a trick for which I dare not ask the means). The queen ensured her close friendship with the Stewards and laid the services of her guard, 150 strong, at the Council’s beck and call. I somewhat question her motives, for the floor of her royal chamber was laid of obsidian and polished to such a sheen that I was sure the Dark Lord watched over all the proceedings. I did my best to occlude the negotiations, pouring flour out onto the floor and prevaricating to the best of my abilities. Either the dwarves are unaware of the Dark Lord’s power, which I strongly doubt given how common the knowledge is, or else they are in direct league with him. The latter seems all the more likely considering that which we saw later.
She did ask that we investigate some issues—it seems that their miners have been getting lazy of late and output has slowed, possibly due to the use of a substance known as “spark”. Alpha was able to obtain a sample of the “spark”, which turned out to be a wonderful garnish. The “spark” is a fine, dark, rusty powder which tastes of iron, chlorine, and mustard—a wonderfully sharp pungeance which would be good on any variety of meets, but goes especially well with the “crusties”. As an added aside, a small taste of the spark was enough to grant myself and Erethon the ability to see in the dark, so it may have some strategic value, in addition to its culinary uses.
We agreed to speak with the miners and descended into the mines, trusting in the fine side-effects of the spark and leaving our light behind so as to not create a more dangerous variety of spark in the coal-dust choked pits. In the mines we met with the Dullkins, the mine-folk, and dull kin they were indeed—barely aware of their surroundings and allowing their mining apparatus to fall into great disrepair.
The food they prepared was equally dull. The “sponge-soup” as they called it was dark, thick, slimy, and barely palatable by itself. But I do love a challenge. I mentioned before of the remarkable properties of the tome-ash and some interesting reactions. Here you have it. Faced with the bland soup, I proceeded to add a heaping portion of the tube-worm meat, a dash of torrid desire, and a pinch of the spark. The results were amazing. Not only did it taste wonderful, but the chopped and roasted tube-worms began to animate and grow at an alarming rate. At first taste the creature came alive and burrowed its way into my stomach, an amusing, somewhat pleasant, and extremely delicious sensation. The Dullkins heated the newly created stew to boiling to kill the worms and the end result was nigh-perfect (and very meaty). Imagine! Food that grows while you cook it! What better way to provision an army.
Here I must digress further. The madness, the Chi-Julud seems to have taken me. It is an odd feeling. Such rage. Our pact with the native-power Serberus has helped keep the rage in check, but I find myself craving battle more and more. And battle we did…
Leaving the Dullkins, Erethon used his gift of scent to seek out further stores of the spark which we might use to recreate our culinary success. He tracked the smell to an outhouse, and, beneath a line of toilet stalls, we found a ladder leading to the water sluices beneath the mine. We descended and soon encountered a large number of goblins, which can best be described as short, hairy orcs, sinewy and long of limb. The battle was furious and very confusing, due in part to a cloud of mist conjured by Horn Void. I can say however, that goblin meat, fresh, is a wonderful thing. The blood is warm and sweet, and the flesh tastes like rage and joy all at once.
We smashed all but one, whom I caught up in my jaws and took prisoner. Alpha questioned the thing extensively in their black tongue, even going so far as to torture and maim the creature, cutting off its ears, fingers, and feet, but apparently obtained no useful information.
The water disappeared into a grate, and shortly beyond that, we came to a precipice. Below us we could see a great torrent of copper pouring out of a sluice in the side of the cliff and into the magma below, where it hissed and steamed forth great plumes of green, nutrient-rich smoke, in which great masses of the green sponge from which the dwarves derived their sustenance grew.
Backtracking to the grate, we forced it open and dropped down, seeking the source of these copper-flows. Near the outflow, we found a great steel plate set into the wall, almost door-like, and mounted above it a hammer, so massive that only one of our kind could hope to wield it. An odd thing for a dwarf-hold to be sure. Feeling overcome by the Chi-Julud, I pulled the hammer free and proceeded to pound the door in, raining blow after blow upon it. Here, I think, the rage may end up being my undoing, for behind the door lay a full four-score orcs in battle array, and, at their head, a dark legate making his foul sacrifices to the Dark Lord, pouring the blood of the orcs onto his black mirror.
Apparently overcome by the Chi-Julud themselves, my companions rushed in. Alpha used his magic to animate several axes we had taken from the goblins and turn them on the orcs. Horn Void summoned another cloud of mist, this time over the mirror to cloak our actions from the Dark Lord’s sight. Erethon and I charged headlong, not into the orc horde, but past them to where we saw a large pin of copper chits being melted by a flow of magma. Channeling some unknown power, perhaps a greater manifestation of the madness, we smashed open the side of the bin in only two blows, and sent a river of molten copper and rock rushing down over the orcs, slaying fully half their number in a matter of seconds. The other orcs, faced with a rushing torrent of fiery doom, fled through a door opposite where we entered. I must say, seared orc-flesh with a hint of copper is something you definitely must try.
Not wanting to lead my companions across a sea of magma to pursue the orcs, but also overcome by the Chi-Julud, I did the only thing left to me, I climbed atop the bin which held the copper chits and hurled the great hammer with all my rage-fueled strength at the bloody mirror, shattering the foul artifact and sending the blood of many orcs splashing to mix with the sea of molten metal.
Sadly the legate escaped and I am sure that our next course of action must be to pursue him, or else to confront the queen about the dwarves’ treachery in having such servants of the dark in their midst…