The water beside the sheer cliff lies dark and still as you consult your map along its shores. Though the stone before you appears seamless, the notation on your map promises a secret door. You approach the cliff and run your fingers across the cool, smooth stone. Magic prickles your skin, making you pause. Sensing this is the spot, you whisper the password.
Light races across the stone, tracing a silver outline in the dark gray surface. At a second touch the door swings open.
Beyond it is dark, but a faint trace of smoke drifts out, promising you that the passage before you is more than just an empty tunnel. You stash your map inside your vest before striding inside. The door swings shut behind you with a creak and a groan.
It only takes a moment for your eyes to adjust. The tunnel is not pitch dark. A warm glow seeps from somewhere up ahead, casting eerie shadows and beckoning you forward. The mountain's depths are silent for a moment then you hear it, the distant tap, tap, tap of something or someone banging metal against stone. The roots of the mountain are alive with those who would seek its riches.
You reach the end of the narrow tunnel and the source of the light. You stand upon a ledge at the edge of a massive cavern. Torches guard this entrance and a winding stair carved into living rock descends before you. Ahead the cavern is crisscrossed by more stairs and bridges, spanning between mighty gates. Shafts of light pierce the darkness around you from great openings far above.
Water cascades in a frothing torrent beneath you, its roar muffled by the immense size of the chamber that contains it. Folk with lanterns move across the bridges and ascend and descend the stairs.
Someone clears their throat, and you turn to find a dwarf in chain mail and a heavy-looking helmet gazing at you with intent eyes. In his hands, he holds a broad axe, and his face has no merriment.
You quickly pull a rolled-up parchment from within your cloak and hand it out to him. The dwarf's eyes widen as he recognizes the seal upon the letter, and he waves you forward, down the stairs and across one of the great spans towards the largest of the gates.
You cross the threshold and climb another stair to a great hall. A roaring fire crackles at one end while musicians pluck at instruments, tuning them in preparation for their nightly performance. A long table stretches the length of the room, covered in roasted meats, crisp golden potatoes, and bowls of ripe, fragrant fruit. Dwarves surround this, eating and chatting merrily, but the gathering falls silent as the guard leads you forward.
At the head of the table, the lord and lady sit, gazes keen, faces solemn. The guard whispers something to them and the dwarven man bids you to approach. You bow before them then hold out your scroll. The woman sips from her silver chalice, her eyes never leaving you, and you fidget beneath her scrutiny.
After a moment of reading, the dwarf leader's face lights up. Apparently, the news you bear is well-taken. He welcomes you and motions towards an empty seat at the table. You are to be their guest for the evening.
Red wine splashes in a wooden mug as the servers pour you a generous portion. You taste the drink and find it sweet and strong, spiced with exotic ingredients. The conversation and laughter begin once more and the musicians start their song. Tonight will be a grand night. One you will long remember.
Burn Royal Dwarves with Underground Kingdom for the full Dwarven experience.