Orrery

Episode 6.2 - Interlude: Where Xul'gos went

Down, down, down

Volcanic fires burned around him and the ground oozed infernally as two of Xul’gos’s companions whom he was unable to protect lie burned and dead on the smoking rock. He have failed them. He had been separated from his sister for over a day, and for all he knew she may have been killed as well. The eye device set into the shiny ground beckoned to him and he either possessed no will to resist or no will to live, for he approached it without fear or concern for his own safety. Conflicting impulses warred within him – drow bodies are accustomed to their kingdom deep, deep within the earth, they love the dark and chill of the catacomb and abhor light and roaring flame. There is a part of Xul’gos that sits opposite this, a small flame of his own that he has tended, the part of him that loves Moradin the just, the part that, despite every reason his civilization exists, finds goodness and dignity and decency in the forge and the hammer, in the making urge, in the stoked fires and the will that presses the bellows that bids the flames higher, fierce and white hot, the clean light of creation. Moradin, the patron of miners, finds treasures deep, deep within the earth, and raises them up into the light. He laid his hands on the eye insignia and the platform of polished glass slid and sunk on a mechanism of timeless smooth function, down, down, down to a depth at which he could no longer tell how far from the cave he was, or if the cave yet still existed. He passed through layers of the most hellish heat, and then beyond, to a deadness, an emptiness, a hollowness devoid of energy. The platform halted in a vast unlighted chamber rimmed with a smelting trough and six furnaces named for the six legs of Lolth, all cold and dark. The coal within the hearths had long since collapsed into dust. There was a mammoth statue or shrine at the far end of the chamber over what appeared to be a simple mausoleum. In the gloom he saw the shrine was that of a mammoth, helmed Moradin – hammer in one hand, torch in the other, magnificent armor, enormous holy symbol about his neck on a steel chain thick as a man’s waist, a look of serene calm protection on his face and – and – His face. His face.

Under the horn and curved hollows of the great helm the statue was wearing, Xul’gos clearly saw it was no dwarf’s face. The nose too slender, eyes long and thin, bones too prominent. It was a familiar face, horribly familiar, yet older, wiser, satisfied and grateful. It is the face of a drow who in the final moment stood true and did not falter. He knew that without understanding how he could possibly know that. Approaching the mausoleum, he saw there was an ancient and patina-covered plaque. On it was written in flowing common calligraphy: Here lies the one true Xul’gos. There are many who would have died in suffering and despair without him. And beneath that, carved by a less expert hand in broken and slightly ungrammatical Drow: I will see you again, but I doubt if you will be as fine. Still I will always be your friend.

Xul’gos proceeded forward, pausing only to read the inscriptions. His destination: The mausoleum. Striding past the plaques, he attempts to gain entry to the mausoleum—and, once within, to take hold of the lid of the tomb inside and pull it off to peer inside.

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