Nadja’s Note: This report is a continuation of Kratz’s chronicles of The Bazaar Dungeon. Please read Part I before proceeding.
When we last left off, Kratz had just discovered the chamber holding the three elemental gems: the Jug of Wind, the Sword of Water, and the Book of Earth. Now a new set of discoveries awaits him…
No matter; I didn’t particularly care for these things anyway. I tossed the Sword of Water into my Bag of Holding without much thought. What I really wanted to see was in the next room: something, the Djinni had alleged, that my Mistress would like. Without further ado, I stepped through the threshold and beheld a most magnificent sight…
It was another chamber, a chamber of water. The entire floor was water save for a large, flat stone sticking up in the middle. The water’s smooth surface reflected the walls of the chamber, which in turn reflected the surface of the water. Into the walls, someone had carved intricate Elven patterns. Alas, I’m no expert on Elven heraldry, High Elves and Wood Elves being the bane of my existence, but a revelation dawned on me.
If the crests that decorated this chamber were Elven, then did that mean Elves built this dungeon? And if Elves built this dungeon, then whom did they imprison within?
Certainly not fellow Elves, for the patterns on the walls would remind them of home, and what kind of jailer would grant their prisoners that kindness?
There was only one answer, then. This dungeon was built by Elves to imprison non-Elves. And based on the size of the cage that hung from the ceiling and dangled precariously over the water, the intended prisoners were human, Orc, Halfling, Tiefling, Gnome, Dwarf, or…Drow.
This was no ordinary chamber. It was a torture chamber.
My hair rose on end. The Djinn was right; this was something my Mistress would like. Not because she liked the idea of Drow being imprisoned and tortured, but because I had been brought here and because of the deed I was about to perform.
All I needed was a pinch of dirt, a piece of rock, and a lump of clay.
I turned the sole of my boot toward me and picked off a lump of clay that had gotten lodged there while I was mucking around in the Chamber of the Phoenix. As for the dirt, I found some underneath the sparse grass that sprouted from the cracks in the tiles in the room holding the elemental gems. Now I just needed some rock.
I looked back at the torture chamber. That giant rock in the middle of the water would do perfectly.
I hopped onto the rock, laid the lump of clay and pinch of dirt on it, and then leaped up and grabbed the bottom of the bars on the hanging cage and fiddled with the padlock.
Wait, no need to pick this one; I had a key. Lots of keys, in fact. I hoisted the ring of keys that I had purchased at the purple altar in the Magipes’ roost and tried each one. The third one did the trick.
With a groan, the door swung open, and I hopped inside and began to chant.
“That’s great, it starts with an earthquake…”
“Birds and snakes and barricades…”
“And I, Drow Kratz, am not afraid…”
The ground rumbled ominously like a distant storm. A sudden wind blew into the chamber and snuffed out every torch, including the one I held.
“Eye of a hurricane, listen to the Faire burn; Elves serve their own needs; don’t ignore Drow needs; speed this quake a notch, quake, groan, no, strength; the ladders start to clatter; with a fear of height, down, height; liars in a fire, represent the fifteen SIMS and a Pawlice for hire and a combat site; left ’em, wasn’t going in a hurry with the Unweaver breathing DOWN MY NECK…”
The rumbling grew. Now pieces of chipped tile began to chatter, and dust shook loose from the ceiling.
Louder, I continued:
“TEAM BY TEAM, RELAYERS BAFFLED, TRUMPED, TETHERED, CROPPED; LOOK AT THAT LOW FAIRCHYLDE, THEN; UH OH OVERFLOW, POPULATION, SIM IS FULL; BUT IT’LL DO, SAVE YOURSELF, SERVE YOURSELF; ELVES SERVE THEIR OWN NEEDS, LISTEN TO MY HEART BLEED; TELL ME WITH THE RAPTURE AND THE REVERENT IN THE RIGHT, RIGHT? YOU VITRIOLIC, PATRIOTIC, SLAM FIGHT, BRIGHT LIGHT; FEELING PRETTY PSYCHED!”
The water below me sloshed and my cage swung side to side, causing the chain from which it hung to creak angrily. The quake was on the brink of climax; just one more push:
“IT’S THE END OF THE FAIRE AS I KNOW IT! IT’S THE END OF THE FAIRE AS I KNOW IT! IT’S THE END OF THE FAIRE AS I KNOW IT, AND I FEEL FINE!”
Upon the last syllable, waves of tremors erupted through the chamber, sending cracks racing down the walls and through the cursed Elven engravings. Chunks of gravel and rock rained from the ceiling. The waters whipped into a tidal wave and exploded over the threshold, knocking over the pillars on which the book and the jug stood. The crackle of ceramic shattering reverberated all throughout the two chambers.
I let my concentration go. I couldn’t hold it back anymore; I burst into laughter. Oh, such chaos as only the Unweaver could dream of!
“Where is your handiwork now, Elves?!” I shouted.
Suddenly, my stomach dropped out and my legs slammed into the floor with a sickening crunch. A jolt of pain ran up my spine and into my brain stem. In that horrible moment before I could even register that I was paralyzed, I realized that the cage had dropped from the ceiling with me in it.
The blood rushed away from my eyes and was replaced by static. No…was this it? Had I come so far only to die in the ruins of an Elven prison?
“Not yet, Kratz,” said a voice that I had only ever heard in dreams. “You’ve done well here. But there’s still one thing I need you to do.”
It was Her. My Mistress. My mouth struggled to form words.
“Shh, shh. No need to speak. I know what you’re thinking. My minions tell me.”
Hundreds of tiny legs scampered down my spine.
“I will heal you, Kratz,” She said. “And then you will leave these chambers. Follow my light until you reach the mirror. Then you will see him, the ruler, the one who holds the key to the Gate of Conflict. Extract it from him by any means necessary.”
I couldn’t understand what She meant. But then again, when did I ever, and what did it matter?
“My intent will become clear soon enough, follower. Now rise.”
Blind as I remained, I felt a magnetic force pull me by the straps of my harness up and through the cold bars of the cage. It whisked me like a rag doll through the chill, up and down and side to side, dodging the falling rocks I heard crash beneath my feet.
Tears trickled down my face. I couldn’t believe it. She was saving me. For eons I had dreamed of this day, the glorious day She would lift me up from the sewers and then drag me all the way into the Underdark to stand by Her side.
“Mistress, you finally noticed me!”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” She muttered.
And with a thunk, I was dropped to the floor, my legs miraculously healed. I wiggled my fingers and toes. They tingled slightly, like they usually do when I cast Cure Wounds on myself. Slowly, my vision returned.
I was back in the labyrinth, and before me bloomed the phosphorescent purple mushrooms. Her purple phosphorescent mushrooms. With a grin, I realized that the “kindly spirit” of whom the story stone spoke was none other than my Mistress.
“Thank you, Mistress,” I whispered, fondling a mushroom in deep admiration. “My soul is forever in your debt…not to mention my body…”
She made a melodious retching sound. Oh, how beautifully deities speak in the Underdark!
“Then make use of that body and find the mirror,” She snapped. “Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“Yes, Mistress. Of course, Mistress. Begging your pardon, Mistress,” I said, genuflecting.
“Good. I’ll be watching.”
With those last words, I felt myself released from her magnetic hold. I got off my hands and knees and let chill wind guide me down the corridor and toward another glowing story stone. In front of the story stone lay the ancient skeleton of some sort of humanoid. It wasn’t tall enough to be an Elf, short enough to be a Halfling or a Dwarf, or stout enough to be an Orc.
“No,” I whispered, realization dawning on me. “It wasn’t just the Drow men; it was the Drow women and the children, too.”
(For some reason, I suddenly hated sand. Good thing the ground was entirely stone.)
I held up my torch and called upon Fire. She roared in greeting, scorching my fingers.
“O-ooooh! I probably deserve that. Sorry for snuffing you out like that, darling. It was for the greater good.”
She blazed testily.
“Come now, my beautiful, I shall feed you! Mistress told me to seek out a ruler and get a key from him by any means necessary. You know what that means…”
She sniffed, sticking her nose up in the air. I sighed.
“How’s this: I promise I won’t snuff you out again without warning, all right? Nobody will put Fire in the corner.”
She seemed to nod, albeit begrudgingly. Now that was more like it. No one ever said no to a face like mine. Except for, y’know, Mistress. And the barkeep. And Adair. And that audience of Tiefling maidens I tried to hypnotize into throwing themselves into a volcano as a sacrifice to Mistress.
…You know what? I have more important things to think about. Carrying on—!
I entered the giant hole in the wall and wended my way through another set of corridor after corridor. The stench of excrement grew stronger as I burrowed in, which meant I was definitely on the right track. Whoever the ruler of this place was, he must be hidden deep within the bowels of this dungeon.
As I walked, I came across the occasional sigil of an eye raised slightly above the floor. Temptation beckoned me to step on it, but that was probably what the cursed builders of this dungeon wanted me to do, so I bit my knuckle and carried on.
Take that, Elven scum!
Soon, the stench of organic waste became so powerful that I could taste lunch and the absinthe from earlier. The ruler must be near, I thought as I turned down a particularly dark corridor.
I must pause here a moment to make something clear: Kratz never makes mistakes. Kratz is very in touch with the universe, especially dank dungeons such as this. Kratz only has happy accidents. Plummeting with the Earthquake I cast and paralyzing myself? Just a happy little gesture to get Mistress’s attention.
So when I say that I rushed headlong down that dark corridor brandishing my torch and screaming, “GIVE ME THE KEY,” at a giant monster that looked like something I spit up in the morning, which then snatched me with its rubbery fingers and devoured me whole, sending me back into a corner of the main square marked “Respawn Point”; what I really mean is that I thoroughly searched that wing of the labyrinth and found nothing remarkable.
Nope. Nothing whatsoever. Nothing to see here!
So, after trekking back to point where I made a wrong turn—I mean, saw absolutely nothing of interest—I tried jaunting down the other corridor, which was very simple to miss because the walls moved back and forth. One wall slid down slowly to reveal a hidden corridor, and behind that wall were a few other walls that slid side to side.
These must be the bowels of the dungeon, I thought, nodding sagely. These were the bowels, and they were having a movement.
Carefully, I tip-toed through the bowels, through the bowels of slidey deathtraps; Fire tip-toed through the deathtraps with Kratz.
What awaited me on the other side was a treasure chest I hoped was well worth the trek. A bonfire surrounded by the remains of some creature illuminated a story stone. No sign of the ruler, here, however.
“Shall I set you down here, darling?” I asked, pointing to the bonfire.
She roared in affirmation. I laid the torch down by the bonfire.
“Now there’s a fire worth schlepping around the dungeon with me, huh?” I joked.
She didn’t answer. She was too busy getting to know the new flames, and by know, I mean that in the— Oh! I probably shouldn’t be writing that for a general audience, should I? Is it all right if I show a picture of it, though? Nothing a five-year-old has never seen before:
The only obscene thing about the scene was the charcoal-black sword poking out of the bonfire like a horn. I pulled on the hilt and it came away easily.
“Hello,” it hissed, “My name is Fire Scimitar. I killed my last master. Prepare to die.”
I stuck the sword back into the fire.
“Wait! Please don’t leave me!”
“I think I’ve had my fill of sentient objects for now,” I said, flipping open the lid of the treasure chest.
“No, please, it’s so lonely here!”
Inside the treasure chest was a pouch filled with gold coins, a kit for making my own “bonefire,” and…a sword branded with the mark of fire?!
“What?! Fire Scimitar? How’d you get in here?”
“Um, magic. Duh.”
“If you can move, then why don’t you just skip on outta here, hmm?”
“I’m cursed. I can’t leave this room unless someone takes me with them.”
“Why would I want anything to do with a cursed sword? I don’t even have proficiency with longswords. Besides, I already have a Sword of Water I can’t even use.”
“Y-you have my brother? Then you must know of the secret of the Bazaar Dungeon!”
“Isn’t it obvious? Elves imprisoned my people here, and then Mistress sprinkled some magic dust to lead them to freedom.”
“Your people? What do you mean, ‘your’ people?”
“What do you mean, ‘your‘ people?”
“Whoa, easy, buddy. All I meant was you don’t really look like a Drow. To be honest, you look more like a Wood—”
“IT’S A CONGENITAL DISORDER, ALL RIGHT?!”
“I don’t need your judgment!”
With that, I tucked away the pouch of gold and the bonefire kit and made to leave the chamber.
“No, no, no, waiiiiiit!”
“What now, Scimitar?”
“Please, I want to be with my brother—and my two sisters if you have them: the Jug of Wind and the Book of Earth.”
The Jug of Wind and the Book of Earth are feminine? What is it with femininity and vessels, and masculinity and long, pointy objects?
“Even if you don’t, please. I can’t last another minute in here. I want to be where the people are. I want to see, want to see them dying, squirting blood from their—what do you call them—oh, veins.”
Puzzled, I frowned. I had to admit, I felt like I had met my match. I was Mistress’s figurative sword; he was a literal sword. And for some reason, it felt like we were tuned into the same wavelength, like we were two people in on some cosmic inside joke—a joke that involved a lot of slant rhyme.
“Ugh, fine,” I said, resigned. I took him by the hilt and pinned him to my belt.
“You won’t regret this.”
And, surprisingly, I didn’t.
As I reentered the main tunnels, a magnetic force grabbed the Fire Scimitar and yanked me along with it. The shaft of the Scimitar waved around like a compass arrow, pointing at the crazed trail of mushrooms that veered up the walls, around the ceiling, and back to the floor again.
“What is it, Scimitar? Did Timmy fall down a well?”
“What? No. Who the heck is Timmy?”
“Uh, never mind.”
“Anyway, weirdo, I’m getting a signal. There’s something large and metal nearby. Actually, a bunch of large metal things.”
“More cages? This is a dungeon.”
“No, no, it’s not just cages. There’s some real dark magic afoot, like Drow-level dark magic. I’m surprised you didn’t sense it, y’know, being a Drow and all.”
I drew the Scimitar and smashed him against the wall.
“Owww! Touchy much?”
“One more word out of you, and you’re going in the Bag of Holding.”
“No, not the bag! I’m claustrophobic.”
“Then shut up.”
“Look, buddy, all’s I’m trying to say is that there’s something suspicious nearby. I’ve seen some things, man, and stuff. I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Which meant, of course, that I had to inspect it.
“I see that glint in your eye. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Shoving the Scimitar back into my belt loop, I continued to follow the trail of mushrooms down a corridor flanked by windows. The windows looked down into a giant room lit only by a small bonefire in one corner. In the opposite corner was a pitch-black gnarled tree with a story stone next to it, and against that tree leaned a large mirror adorned by an ornate metal frame.
A mirror! This must be the mirror of which Mistress spoke!
I jumped through the window and tumbled into a patch of parched grass. Before me stood the mirror. It was like any ordinary mirror, perfectly reflecting its surroundings, but as I turned around it, shadowy forms materialized on the mirror’s surface. I whipped my head around. They weren’t there—or at least not that I could see.
“Well done, follower,” said a beautiful voice. “You’ve found the mirror, just like I asked.”
I fell to my knees.
“Touch the mirror,” She instructed.
As I reached out and put my hand on the mirror, I felt a hundred volts of dark energy pulse up my arm, sending darts of pain down every nerve ending and into my very marrow. My other hand flew to my mouth to stifle a howl. For a moment, all thoughts fled before the torturous rapture.
It hurt so good.
All too soon, however, the pulses subsided. A haze of warmth atop my skin was all that remained of Her touch. I whimpered in the afterglow.
“Thank you, Kratz, for bringing me one step closer to the Unweaver. There can only be only Bringer of Chaos in this world, and that crown belongs to me and me only.”
“Mistress Lolth…” I gasped. “You said my name…”
“Indeed, Kratz. Your deeds have not been in vain. With you as my avatar in the Fairelands, we will accomplish a great many things.”
A deluge of tears poured down my face and dripped onto my knees. At long last, I had descended. No words could describe the ecstasy of that moment.
“Look. Look in the mirror, Kratz.”
Through the blur of salt and water, I saw a devilishly handsome Drow with white hair and horns. His body was adorned with spider webs of the finest mythril and amethyst, and in his hands were two hair picks emblazoned with the holy symbol of Lolth.
I reached out to touch his face, only to realize that the Drow was me.
“Whoaaa,” whistled the Scimitar. “Now there’s a proper Drow.”
“It’s not permanent, mind you,” said Mistress Lolth, ever-loving. “It will last only as long as do the mists of the Fairelands. But stay faithful to me, and it may someday be your true form.”
“I don’t know how to thank you,” I babbled, rapidly dissociating from my own body.
“You have one last task here. Find the ruler like I asked, and extract from him the key.”
I nodded and rose to my feet, but the movements were not mine. I was a mere observer, drifting somewhere behind my head, shrouded in song and ecstasy.
As she lifted me up the staircase and out of the room, a voice from another dimension sang through me.
Here lies everything you wanted, the glory you wanted at my feet; your victory’s near complete.
So hail to the king…
Now the daydream’s real.
Now Drow Kratz is here—to make Caesar quake with fear, to make the Fairelands kneel…
And he won’t feel a thing.
This post features items from Attitude is an Artform, Ghoul, Loki Eliot, Poseidon, Raven Bell, Sinful Needs, and Trap and Plastik. For detailed credits and more pictures, please refer to Nadjanator’s blog.