Part I—Chapter 3
Emily found the common room quite as busy as the room she had left. Most of the people seemed to be adventuring types, judging by their shiny, clearly magical equipment. Emily felt the banality of her non-magical armor even more fiercely than she had before. She struggled to fight the irrational jealousy she was feeling, and she almost succeeded until she caught the eye of a rather dashing young man across the room. Obviously a very successful warrior, judging by his gear, he looked pointedly at her little wooden shield and snickered. She bristled, and her brown eyes narrowed at him. Don't do it, Em. Don't throw your only shield at his stupid, perfectly proportioned face. You know you're not trained to fight without one. She felt her shield arm fall back to her side. Just stand tall and glare. You don't need a fancy shield to kick his ass. JUST GLARE.
To Emily's immense satisfaction, the handsome warrior dropped his gaze in shock and shuffled farther away from her. She smiled, strangely proud of herself, and took a deep breath to calm her rapidly beating heart. Her rage at being deemed inferior by the arrogant prettyboy slowly dissipated. No longer distracted by the nimrod in the corner, she resumed her search for the one person who could help her. Her eyes were quickly drawn to Durnan, the innkeeper. He was a stern and solid man, rumored to have once been a great warrior, who was clearly doing his best to keep his inn intact in the face of the drow raids. He looked relieved to see her and beckoned her over to him, but Emily merely smiled and waved. She had no use for the innkeeper at the moment; she was looking for his daughter.
She finally saw Tamsil at a table near the door, talking to a woman who was presumably her mother. Tamsil smiled as Emily approached. "Glad to see you out of your room, my lady," she said. "If there is anything I may do for you, do not hesitate to ask."
"I was hoping you would say that, Tamsil, for I do have a task for you," Emily replied. The girl's face lit up at the prospect of helping the great hero, though Emily knew the task she had in mind was far from heroic. "You see, there seems to have been an accident in the other room involving an elven woman named Linu—"
"Oh, dear," sighed Tamsil. "What'd she break this time?"
Emily looked surprised. "She didn't break anything so much as trip over a drunken dwarf. You see, he was holding a flagon of ale at the time…"
Tamsil laughed. "Say no more, my lady. I'll mop it up as fast as I can."
As Tamsil was walking away, Emily called to her, "So Linu has a habit of this sort of thing, does she?"
Tamsil smiled. "That's putting it mildly, my lady." As Emily watched her leave, she thought back to the elven cleric's offer to adventure with her in Undermountain. Well, if she hurts herself, she won't need me to heal her, at least. She turned back to Durnan and the task at hand.
As she approached the innkeeper, he extended his hand in greeting. "I am glad that you made it at last, Emily," he said in a booming voice. "I see you have met my daughter."
"Yes, she's a very sweet girl," Emily said politely, her grasp of social graces mercifully recovered after the night's misadventures.
"You are too kind. I trust your accommodations were adequate?"
"Oh, yes, I rather like simple furnishings. They remind me of my farm back home. If it weren't for that thief, I'm sure I would have had a very pleasant evening."
Durnan's features hardened, giving Emily a glimpse of the sudden, deep anger that likely served him well in his adventuring days. "Tamsil told me what happened. I cannot apologize enough, Emily. Once I would have been able to ensure the safety of my guests, but no longer." The man was clearly so pained by this fact that Emily regretted bringing the subject up. She felt an irrational need to apologize to him for some reason, but thankfully he continued on before she could. "As you know, our city has fallen on dark times. The enemies of Waterdeep must have learned you answered our call for heroes. Given your reputation, it's not surprising that they targeted you."
"My reputation." Ugh. Curse my reputation, and curse Deekin for giving me one! Emily did not actually wish her kobold friend any harm, but she would gladly trade all the free drinks her reputation had got her to have her old things back. Her thoughts returned to something that had puzzled her about the previous night's encounter. "Surely if they knew who I was, these enemies meant to kill me. Why, then, would they steal my equipment first? Wouldn't it be easier for them to take it once I was dead?"
"Hold on a sec, there," came a voice from behind her. Emily turned and saw Tomi and his companions walking in from the other room. The halfling was staring at her, astonished. "A drow thief came in and stole all your equipment? Ha, ha, ha! If I'd a known ye were such an easy mark I mighta nicked your stuff meself! Ha, ha, ha!" A soft nudge from Daelan's formidable double-axe silenced his laughter.
Sharwyn looked her up and down skeptically. "I suppose that explains why you aren't dressed as a legendary hero…" The bard's voice trailed off, leaving Emily certain that the woman still was not convinced of her identity. Emily felt indignant, but she knew there was nothing she could really do to change Sharwyn's mind. After all, she didn't look like she was supposed to, she wasn't dressed like she was supposed to be, she had no one to vouch for her… could she really blame the bard for being suspicious? Emily forced herself to put the problem out of her mind.
Linu looked at her sympathetically. "I'm so sorry you had your things stolen, dear. I've misplaced some of my equipment from time to time, but I'm sure being robbed feels much worse." She looked down sheepishly. "By the way, Emily, it really wasn't necessary for you to send that girl to help me. I was getting the situation under control…" Judging from the expressions of her companions, this was quite a bit less than the truth. Emily grinned and turned back to Durnan.
"I'm guessing the drow likely figured you'd be more vulnerable without your equipment," he said. "A drow assassin would probably have shown up a few seconds later to finish you off in your sleep." He addressed the group as a whole. "Waterdeep is under attack; its people live in fear. That's why I made the call you all responded to… we're going to do something about it."
"Good," replied Emily, "because that's what I'm here for!" Her heart quickened in her chest. This is really happening. I'm a real honest-to-goodness hero! Part of her still viewed herself as Drogan's inexperienced student, in spite of everything that had happened to her since her unconventional graduation. This was the first time that she felt like a true adventurer, choosing to undertake this quest instead of having it thrust upon her. The rest of the Sword Coast considered her a hero because of Undrentide, but Emily viewed that experience as simply a legendary accident. If she could save Waterdeep, she would finally prove her heroism to herself. She took a deep breath to calm down. One way or another, things will never be the same.
"But Undermountain has existed for centuries," said Sharwyn, pulling Emily out of her inner reverie. "Why hasn't there been any trouble before?"
"That's what we need to find out," answered Durnan. "Halaster, Undermountain's creator, used his powerful magic to keep the creatures from pouring out to overrun Waterdeep. Now Halaster has suddenly decided to unleash his creatures on this city, and we need to find out why. I want to know what that mad mage is up to!" he screamed.
Halaster? I thought the Valsharess was in charge. Oh, right. She was in my crazy dream. No one else here knows about her… Emily conceded it was possible that the two might have formed an alliance of some kind, so finding Halaster could lead to confronting the Valsharess. She could tell, however, that Durnan obviously had strong feelings about the wizard, and she worried that he might forget about the threat from the dark elves. She didn't want to broadcast her strange visions to the rest of the group, though, so she simply said, "But I thought most of the attackers were drow. Why do you think Halaster is even involved?"
Durnan frowned, puzzled by her question. "An alliance with the dark elves is certainly odd since Halaster has never been too fond of them." Five pairs of eyebrows went up at Durnan's apparent insight into Halaster's mind, but no words were said. The innkeeper shook his head. "But the drow are attacking through Undermountain, and that means Halaster must be involved. We can speculate how and why later. Right now I think it's best we determine your best approach once you're down there… assuming I haven't scared you all away yet."
Emily smiled. "Not a chance, Durnan."
Daelan resolutely shouldered his double-axe. "I swore an oath to defend this city. I will not leave before that duty is done."
"And I ain't leavin' 'til there's another hundred thousand gold pieces in me purse!" cried Tomi.
Sharwyn laughed. "I know these folks have a talent for finding all sorts of trouble, and I'm going to be there to record every minute, glorious and otherwise," she said, with a sidelong glance at Linu.
Linu flushed but kept her composure as she said, "I will help however I can, Durnan, above ground or below."
"It seems we're all in agreement then, Durnan," said Emily happily. She was growing more excited by the minute. "Tell us what must be done."
Durnan seemed relieved that these five had agreed to the task. "Very well. As many of you know, this inn is built around one of the entrances to Undermountain: a magical well that descends thousands of feet down into the very depths of that ever-changing labyrinth. Now, I don't intend to send anyone into Undermountain unprepared, so I'll offer you what advice and equipment—"
Tamsil, who had been sweeping near what Emily had assumed was a cellar doorway, ran up the short flight of stairs. "Father, there's a noise coming from the well room!" she cried.
Durnan listened intently for a moment, then his eyes went as wide as his daughter's. "Prepare yourselves! The inn is under attack!"
Emily grabbed Tamsil's hand and pulled her to a far corner of the room where a priestess Emily hadn't met yet was calling on her god for aid. "Stay near the healer," she told the girl. "This is the safest place for you to be." Tamsil nodded at her fearfully, and Emily hoped that her words had broken through the girl's panic.
The room was in chaos as adventurers ran to strategic positions while trying not to collide with fleeing civilians. Across the room, Emily saw Linu casting preparatory spells, reminding her that she should do the same. As she muttered a quick prayer to Lathander, her eyes were drawn to the center of the room where Sharwyn was singing an inspiring battle song. Emily thought she heard another voice join in, high pitched and slightly off-key, but with all of the commotion she couldn't be sure. She ran, mace drawn, to join Durnan and Daelan at the top of the stairs. The door to the well room suddenly burst into flames, and drow warriors began pouring into the inn.
Emily tried to help the warriors stem the tide of dark elves by blocking the stairs, but she soon had to fall back to tend to those who had fallen prey to vicious spells from the enemy casters. As she was preparing to run back to the front, the room was engulfed in a cloud of darkness. Emily grinned. Clearly they don't have many priests of the Morninglord in the Underdark. The Dawnbringer raised her mace to the sky and cried, "By Lathander's will, let there be light!" She was instantly surrounded by a column of golden light, and the darkness around her was dispelled.
As she regained her bearings she found herself face to face with a drow wizard, mid-incantation. Before Emily could react, the spell hit her unprotected head. Why didn't I grab that ridiculous looking helmet? she asked herself as tiny images of the iron helmet with the single spike on top from the supply room danced across her dazed vision. She stared helplessly and murmured, "By the gods, it's more hideous than I remembered…" In an instant the floating helmets were gone, replaced by a drow corpse crashing into her. She stumbled backward, catching the falling body in her shock. A nimble hand pulled a bloody kukri out of the warrior's back. Emily looked up and saw Tomi looking at her with concern. He could obviously tell she was out of sorts. "Don't be raising this one any time soon, aye?" he offered helpfully before he disappeared back into the shadows from whence he had come.
Emily shook her head roughly and dropped her would-be attacker to the ground. She quickly threw a flame strike at the casters gathered by the door and surveyed the battlefield for serious injuries. Suddenly, a lute-wielding kobold streaked across her vision. "Deekin…?" she whispered in confusion. She tried to find the kobold, but he was lost to her in the chaos of the battle. If he was ever there at all… Dismissing Deekin's image for the time being as an after-effect of the drow wizard's spell, she resumed her search for casualties, quickly finding a red-headed woman on the floor. She maced a drow in the back of the head and quickly rushed to Sharwyn's side. By the time she had healed the bard's bleeding shoulder, the battle was over. Well, the battle in this room was over, at least, for Durnan shouted, "To the well room, quickly!"
Sharwyn was up and running in a flash, though Emily tried to hold her back. "Come along, cleric, my shoulder's fine!" she yelled over the shoulder in question.
Emily rolled her eyes as she began her pursuit of her patient. "I know your shoulder's fine, but what about the gaping wound in your side!" Sharwyn paid her nurse no heed as she leaped over the smoldering remains of the well room door with Emily close on her heel.