Chapter one: The Purple Dragonling
There was still as much green as there was brown in the tall grasses, and the patches of bluebells had not yet retired for the year. A bespectacled young man in faded blue robes and a wide-brimmed hat looked up across the field to the mountain ridge, leaning on his mahogany walking staff. The leaves were aflame in gold and crimson, yet the trees were still full, forming a brilliant wall of autumn colors. Down in the harbor town of Silverhaven, the jack ‘o lanterns were grinning, maniacal and orange.
He passed a small inland lake, avoiding the geese who lazed about the reeds towards where the grasses grew higher. A deerpath was there that led deeper through the field and up the ridge. Soon the town was lost behind the wall of wildrye to his left and a long, shallow pond filled with lillypads and croaking frogs to his right.
As he walked along the narrow, secluded path, the young man absently pulled out a mithril pocket watch, a graduation gift from one of his professors, and looks at its hands before stuffing it back into the pocket beneath his robes. He looks up at the sky. The sun was poking through some clouds that had gathered up over the afternoon. There should be a few hours of light left, he thought to himself, unless it starts raining again.
Both the high wildrye and the low frog pond ended at the foot of the ridge where two old maples stood flanking each other, their boughs forming a sort of doorway into the mountainous woods. Hoary beard moss draped over the branches, looking like remnants of tattered curtains. He passes through “Pinkletink’s Gate,” so called because the area swarmed with peeper frogs in the spring and early summer. But it was late fall now, where the only sounds to be heard here were the winds through the grasses and the occasional honks of southbound geese flying high overhead.
Once within the forested ridge, the wind died down and all was quite still. He walks along the winding path, over ancient, half-buried boulders and through moss and lichen covered trees. Oaks, maples, birch and pine dominated the area, with the occasional mountain ash that the locals called ‘ironwood,’ prized for it’s use as a long burning firewood in the wintertime. Soon, the pathway gets steeper as it starts to climb the ridge face.
Up he goes, the deerpath switchbacking east to west as it climbs the steep banks. He had told himself that he would not be going tonight, not again so soon. Oh, he enjoyed his evenings here, but that was the problem. He enjoyed them too much. And yet, despite his earlier assurances to himself, here he was walking up towards the rocky knoll near the top of the ridge by the stream with no name. No name any men knew of, at any rate. Well, he did, but few counted him among the ranks of men.
That still hurt a bit. Even after he returned from the University, the folk of Silverhaven still did not take him too seriously. He sits down on a rather large rock, one that was cloven centuries ago by an errant lightning strike, long since claimed by the mosses and lichen. He took off his wide-brimmed hat with the long, pointy cap. It was supposed to be a symbol of his profession, that of a sage. But the cap portion was damaged a bit, crushed from an accident a few years back, and now had a tendency to flop down and backwards. He looked at it, trying to get the point to stand upright. The thing refused, and remained flat. Much like his career so far.
His name was Merlock. It was a fine and respectable name, as names went. It had quite a pedigree, as well. Merlock was a variant form of the name ‘Myrddoch,’ a revered scribe and philosopher from ancient times. But few knew that, or cared. More recently, slang from the Empire to the south had crept up, commandeering the word and replacing it meaning something along the lines of ‘stupid, ugly and annoying.’
Apparently there was a small, walking fishlike creature that was brought up from the southernmost continent as a novelty pet for the nobles of Azuria called a ‘Merloc.’ Some had gotten loose, and now they plagued the beaches, befouling many of them beyond use. There was no danger of them getting as far north as the Free Kingdoms, for the long, snowy winters and short, cool summers were not conducive to their survival. But from Merlock’s point of view, the damage had already been done.
The slang was fairly new to the area, but it took off, as most ideas from the Empire did. He first heard it down at the Waterdhavian University where he spent a number of years studying, but it had soon reached as far as the Silverhaven. By the time he returned, he was greeted with a homecoming of ‘fishboy’ by the local bully Sadon. Soon the name stuck. Even in adulthood, Sadon was still a prick. Merlock sighed, re-donned his hat, picked up his walking staff and got off the rock, slowly shuffling down the path.
Silverhaven was located near the tip of the Greenhorn, a long, curved spike of land that cut deep into the northern seas. Generations ago it was a reaver’s village, and the local populace took to the sea, pillaging the peoples to the south as far as Polmerania. But once the Blackmoors fell to the Free Kingdoms, that all changed. Little did the Esyrrian people know that they would be next. But it was for the best. The Esyr were a savage people with a savage culture and the Dogma helped civilize them to a large extent. Though the rugged isolation of the place still made them rough around the edges.
Merlock came here as a small boy from Silene, the capitol city of Nova Mirabar, which was about two hundred leagues to the south and east of the Havens. He was ethnically of the Drunar peoples, the same tribes these Esyr used to prey upon and war with constantly. It was never brought up to him directly. But he could tell it was present in the minds of some of the locals. That and his father was a Praetor who was brought in after a failed secession attempt about a generation ago. Merlock was seven years old when they settled here. He barely remembered the lands of his birth, except perhaps in his dreams.
His parents were both dead now, died while he was away at the university. He hadn’t really planned on coming back, but found himself returning after taking a position as an Imperial Scribe. He had a nice title too, Magister, though no one ever used it here. Magister Merlock, Imperial Sage of Silverhaven. A title he earned. But no. It was either his childhood nickname of ‘little one’ if they liked him, or now ‘fishboy’ if they didn’t. Esyr were generally much taller and thicker then Drunar, so even after he grew into adulthood, he was always ‘little one.’
He was still waiting on the scribe’s tower that was supposed to be built for his position, but that, like all else in the Greenhorn seemed to take more time then it should. For the time being, the sage had been living in a private room at the Haraldr’s Hall Inn. Just this past spring, he managed to snag a small cottage on the outskirts of town. That was a good thing, since housing was always at a premium here. It was larger then his old room, and offered much more privacy, especially for his occasional ‘walks’ through the wilderness.
Still, he couldn’t complain too much. It was a beautiful area, safe, secure, relatively cheap to live in, especially with his official stipend. On the downside, it was boring, isolated and had a male to female ratio of about three to one. There was not much industry here anymore. The mines were still rich with silver, but the cost of extracting it from the earth became too cost prohibitive. Between the long winters and the worker’s riots that broke out years back, the king had decided it was cheaper to develop mines farther to the east and south.
Some timber cultivation took place, but again, the remoteness of the area made that limited as well. There was never a shortage of rumors about the new naval fleet which was about to be commissioned, but the rumor had been around for at least as long as Merlock could remember. Always within the next few years…
There were other rumors, too. Stranger rumors that were only ever spoken about in the alehouses of the Greenhorn late at night when the mongers had more beer then wits left. Rumors of strange things in the woods, queer folk, elves, gnomes, and fouler things. Every now and again someone would claim to have spotted an elf or an orc deep in the woods while they were out picking berries or hunting deer. Sometimes it was gnomes. But of course, the claims dried up when the tale-teller sobered up.
Merlock kept his opinions on such matters to himself. After all, what use was there talking about cracked things when you were seen as being a little cracked yourself already? Merlock did not hunt, did not fish, didn’t ride horses or do any of the things ‘normal folk’ did. He read books and made journals about the flora, fauna and mineral wealth of the area. Useless things, pointless things, wastes of time. Time that could have been spent drinking or looking for a woman. Yes, he was cracked. But he couldn’t be blamed. He was harmless enough, he was hampered by his blood. The old blood, the weak blood of those who used to worship trees.
The deerpath meandered along near the top of the ridge to the Overlook. That’s what the locals called it. It commanded a nice view of the sheltered harbor of Silverhaven, framed by trees that covered the steep side of the ridge. One of the upper legs of the Delavar mountain range that stretched along the length of the Greenhorn encircled the whole area of the town and its immediate environs. Legend had it that dwarves and gnomes once inhabited these ranges, that their subterranian cities could still be reached if you were to take some of the old mining tunnels. But of course, no one believed such things. You would have to be cracked to believe such things. Like that sorry little bespecticled sage from the south who spent more time with his nose buried in a book then most men spent between the legs of a woman. Yes, rough around the edges, indeed.
Merlock reached the edge of the Weissen Stream, the one that wasn’t supposed to have a name. But it did, just not to the locals. He followed it up along to the Laughing Knoll. The knoll had a name, at least. It was called such because sometimes, if the wind was just right, you could swear you heard laughter, or even singing. Some called it the Smoking Rock as well. There was a fissure near the top where smoke sometimes could be seen, but usually only in the colder months. This was said to be a natural occurrence, the result of the heat that sometimes escapes from the system of hot springs that dotted the area.
He reaches the mouth of a small recess in the knoll. Overhung with the dead root system of a large tree that had once stood over it’s entrance and drapped with prodigious tufts of beard moss, the cave-like area was about four or five feet deep and about three feet high. It was sheltered on two sides with short outcroppings of granite. The scribe sits down on a nearby stump, well worn and just the right height for a stool.
Pulling out his pocket watch, he looks at the time. It was just after four pm. He had a little time yet, so he pulls out his tobacco pouch and packs a bowl of Wizard’s Leaf into his meerschaum pipe. Out of habit, Merlock looks around to make sure no one is watching. When he doesn’t see anyone, he turns his attention back to the pipe and flicks his finger to light it. A small lick of flame shoots out of his fingertip, enough to light the smoking herbs.
Puffing on his pipe, he settles back a bit and lets his mind drift. A cold, stiff breeze cuts into his thoughts and reminds the scribe that winter’s return is near. Hells, he thinks to himself, already? It seems as though the last of the snows just melted a few fortnights ago. He sighs. It only took about seven years in the south for him to get spoiled by the never-ending summer months that the south seemed to enjoy. There, the winters were almost over after they had just begun. Here, it was just the opposite.
Still, winter was when they brewed cream stout, his favorite. He absently wondered where the Stout Stream was located. Merlock took a few more puffs off of his pipe, practicing the art of smoke-weaving, the making of shapes with exhaled smoke. The bluish-violet smoke twisted around itself like two fighting serpants. After a few minutes, he looks again at his pocket watch. 4:11. He yawns as he stuffs it back beneath his robes.
The sage thinks back to the first time he had found this rock. Back when goodfather Volkwin still owned it. He was dead for many years now, but his twin sons Rüdger and Rudger still maintained the place, and had become fine braumeisters in their own right. Or was it ‘rights?’
He had asked the old gnome why he had chosen to name his twin sons with such similar names, as they were hard enough to tell apart as it was. Volkwin replied that his family had already chosen a boy’s and a girl’s name for the child, whichever it was to be. That was the custom among his folk. But nobody had expected twins. And with the gnomes, since names were so important that the whole family got a say in the matter, it usually took all thirteen months of the pregnancy to agree upon something. Rather then go through all that again, he gave each boy a variant of the same gnomish boy’s name that was agreed upon. And when he was angry at something they did, he yelled out for them. When he did that, you coudn’t tell which name he was using, so he knew both would come running. Whichever one came last was probably the guilty one.
He was about eight years old when he first stumbled upon the old gnome, picking berries for his blueberry-weissen. Merlock wasn’t supposed to be out that far, but as he had no friends at the time and was still new to the area, he spent most of the day exploring the woodland glens and ridgelands. He had gotten all turned around when he spotted the old braumeister and went up to tell him that he was lost. Both were quite startled by the meeting. Merlock had never seen an old man who was shorter then he was, and the gnome was not at all pleased at being spotted by a human. But the wolves were out and howling nearby, so Volkwin couldn’t bring himself to leave the little boy outside to his own devices.
He brought Merlock in and gave him some roasted quail and chokecherry pie. The other gnomes at the Purple Dragonling Inn were quite surprised to come in for dinner and drink only to find a human child sitting in their midst. But he managed to charm them in ways he never could with his own folk. For Merlock knew some of the old tales of the days when gnomes were welcomed into the villages of men, tales his own aged grandmother used to tell him when he and his brother were at her knees.
When the gnomish constable Otmar asked what they were to do, now that they were discovered, Merlock himself supplied them with the answer. “I’m just a little boy. Who’s going to believe me? They’ll just say I’m lying, since no one believes in you anymore.” That made them all laugh, and sealed his welcome with the little folk. The only conditions were that he could tell no one of his discovery of the gnomes, that he would bring no one else here, and that when he came, it would only be at 4:20 pm. He could stay as long as he liked, but could only enter at that time, so they were sure it was him.
He’d stop by every now and again over the years, though with less and less frequency. As he grew older, he had more chores and responsibilities, and less time to wander the woods as much as he would have liked. After he was accepted to University, he left the area. For seven long years he was gone. He had almost forgotten about the Purple Dragonling and the little folk that patronized the place. But when he returned, he couldn’t resist, and became a semi-regular once more.
He looked at the stony knoll with an appraising eye. As the surface entrance to an inn, it was invisible. Had Merlock not spotted old Volkwin outside his own door, he would have never given the place a second look. Yet there was a door, windows and even a chimney, all cunningly devised to be completely invisible from the outside. Most of it was underground anyway, as was the main entrance.
Few dwarves frequented the place, since it was gennerally too above ground for their tastes. But gnomes had never quite forgotten their love of the surface, and so the occasional beam of sunlight was deemed a pleasent aesthetic feature for this particullar inn. The irony of the place always ammused Merlock. Sometimes the older and more pious folk of Silverhaven would refer to the ‘Laughing Knoll’ as ‘Drunkard’s Rock,’ since they assumed anyone who heard laughter up there was probably just drunk. Yet it was the drinking inside the rock, not outside, that caused the mysterious sounds.
The ‘Sage of Silverhaven’ finished his bowl, tapped out the ashes on his boot and checked his pocket watch once more. 4:19. Close enough. He got up off the stump and looked around once more, making doubly certain no one was near. When he was certain of that, he bends down and walks into the small cave. Reaching the back wall, he knocks, rapping with a specific cadence that was the tune of goodfather Volkwin’s favorite drinking song.
Rüdger pulled a gnarled oaken tap handle, carved into the shape of a strawberry plant. A deep, amber strawberry-wheat beer sloshes into Merlock’s ornate stein. Made from a high-fired stoneware, it was stained a deep shade of tyrian purple and decorated with depictions of dragons toasting with tankards. The dragons’ scales were gilded in gold leaf, and their eyes were studded with small garnets. To protect the gold, the stein was coated with a clear laquer. It’s handle was lined with gold-stitched black leather and the lid was made from burnished silver and copper, with a little old gnome on the top that resembled goodfather Volkwin smoking his favorite oversized pipe and stepping on a quarter-keg. Arcane runes were etched in silver along the rim and base.
Merlock was quite proud of the thing, as he spend quite a tidy sum having it made in Waterdeep. He commissioned it just for the Purple Dragonling, as it was customary for regulars to bring their own drinking steins for the Inn. All of the steins were cared for and displayed on shelves over the back wall of the bar. This was a common custom for gnomish alehouses, it’s status being judged by the ornateness of it’s displayed steins. Far from being deemed ostinatious, Merlock’s tankard was quite welcomed and displayed prominently. Being much larger then your typical gnomish half-pint steins, it was often the subject of much conversation for those passing through.
“Ah, thank you, my good gnome.” Merlock sets the stein down onto the bar with the topper open, allowing the beverage to breathe properly as Rüdger busies himself with preperations for the evening crowd. The sage looks at the gnome as he works, trying to pick out the fine detail of differences that distinguishes him from his brother Rudger. He was just a tad taller then his brother, and a little heavier. A small, barely perceptible scar etched about a quarter of an inch across the outter edge of his right eye. And while Rudger’s eyes were a bright blue, Rüdger’s had more of a grayish tinge to them.
“Tell me, Rüdger.” The gnome looks up at his first patron of the evening, arching the eyebrow with the scar. “How do you like being a twin?”
“Ho, ho! Vell zare iss a question! Hmm,” he purses his lips, crinkling his bushy mustashes. “I vouldn’t really know. At least, how doss von answer a qvestion if he doesn’t know how it vould be othervise?” He regards the young man, “Vhy do you ask?”
“Did I ever mention that I was a twin as well?”
The gnome’s eyes go wide at this new bit of knoledge.
“Unts vhy haff you newer tolds us zis before??” Rüdger sets down the tankard he was polishing, looking at Merlock with interest. “Iz zis the broother you haff mentioned afore, or yet anoother von?”
“The same one. To be honest, I never realized the fact until just before I left for Waterdeep. My father asked me to look up my brother when I got down there. He never came up here with us to the Silverhaven, but rather went to live with our uncle in Carevallis.”
“Unts vhy vas dat?”
“He suffered from a weak constitution, the result from a poisoning when he was young. He never really recovered, and my mother was worried that he would not survive the brutal winters that this area was noted for.” Merlock thinks back to that time, remembering the fights it caused between his parents. “My mother did not want to come here, but it’s not as if we had much choice.”
“Oh? I thought your Vater vas a poverfull man? He vas zent up here to rule za humans of zis lund, no?”
“Not so much rule, as to watch and report. He had a high position, relative to the other people of this area. He was sort of like your constible Otmar, with minor powers of justice. But he was still Duke Vren’s man, and when he was appointed to the position of Praetor of Silverhaven, he had to go.” Merlock smiles weakly. “Whether or not my mother liked it.”
The gnome smiles and nods, reflecting upon his own Enneleyn. Many a gnome joked that she was the one who wore the lederhosen. But the way she filled out her dirndl, Rüdger found it hard to care too much about that.
“So you don’t really know your own tvin, eh?”
“No, we were close once, of course, even after the accident. But I think our leaving was harder on him. He had become completely dependant on me. I always felt like it was…abandonment. But again, I had even less choice then my parents.”
“Vat vas zis ackzident zat affected your tvin?”
“There was an old, abandoned well out in the woods just outside of Silene that we used to play near. We were always daring each other to look over into it.” The gnome smiles, probably remembering some similar childish hijinx between himself and his own twin. “The area was always pretty dark, as it was in a rather dense grove of old oaks. But it was late autumn, around this time of year, actually. Most of the leaves had fallen and it was a rather sunny day. So the area was much better lit then it usually was. Maeglyn, that’s his name, was looking over pretty far into the well. He was saying that he thought he could make out some stairs that led down inside the well. He was leaning over pretty far, pointing when some masonry gave way and he fell in.”
“Ach! Vas he hurt badly from za fall?”
“Yes, he broke an arm, a leg, some ribs and his shoulder. But they were relatively clean breaks, so the priests said. They should of healed well enough. But something happened down there that…well…sort of broke more then just a few bones.”
Rüdger has both elbows on the bar now, his duties forgotten for the moment. This story was obviously more interesting to him then polishing steins.
“He told our parents and the priest that something down there bit him. And he had this wierd, ugly bruise on his stomach to prove it. I can still remember how it looked. It was a nasty purplish-green, oval-shaped, with two rows of what looked like…well…puncture marks.”
The gnome’s eyes grew wider. “Did he zee vat it vas dat bit him?” He asks.
“He told everyone that he thought it was some kind of snake, a adder or something, thats what it looked like. And sounded like too, with lots of hissing. But once he told me that he didn’t tell the truth, or at least the whole truth to our parents. He tried to tell the priest, but he said that he wasn’t believed, that it was only his fevered imagination.”
“Unts vat did he zee?”
“Maeglyn said that it was some sort of slimy monster. It was almost pitch black down there, but he could make out just enough. He said it looked like a pile of dung covered with rotting leaves, and it smelled worse then anything he had ever known before. It had no eyes that he could see, but had several ‘snake-like arms with wide hands that looked like shovels or maple leaves.’ It was one of these ‘hands’ that had smacked his stomach, causing his bruise. He said it kept it’s hand on his stomach for a few minutes, that it stung badly and he soon began to feel sick.”
“Did you ever zee zis think?”
“No. The duke had some men throw pitch down the well and lit it on fire. After the flames burned down, they covered up the well with a large slab of iron, so that no one would fall down it again. But as far as the men knew, it was just a nest of snakes.”
“Unts…do you…beleffe your broothers memory of vat happened?”
“I did at the time, but now, well, what could that have been? I’m sure he was telling me the truth of it, but most likely it was as the priest said, just his fear and fevered imagination. At any rate, he never fully recovered physically, or mentally.”
The gnome, still leaning on the bar, looks away for a minute, obviously trying to remember something. After a bit, he turns back to Merlock. “Your Vater asked you to wisit him, did you?”
“Aye, he had gone to the university a year before I did. I looked him up when I got there, I was quite excited to see him again. But…” The gnome says nothing, waiting for him to continue. “He had changed. It was as if he didn’t know me, or cared who I was. I wasn’t prepared for that kind of welcome. Or lack of one, rather. He seemed cold, hard. He had changed physically as well. We were like the two of you, we looked exactly the same. But now he looked almost nothing like me.
“His hair was gray, almost white, despite niether of us having seen twenty winters yet. He was also very lean and still slightly crippled. His features had grown much sharper then mine. He was very pale, you could see the veins through his skin. His eyes…they had seemed to change color, too. They were hazel once, like mine, more green then brown. But now, now they were almost reddish. But that might of been a trick of the light, they looked quite bloodshot in the fire-lights of the tavern.”
“Unts he did not velcome you?” Rüdger seemed genuinely baffled at that. He could not imagine being away from his own twin for longer then a few days, always feeling as if he were missing half of himself when they were apart for even that long.
“No. I don’t think he even recognized me at first. Hells, I didn’t recognize him, either! He tollerated me for about an hour. I was told later by others that even this was an unusually long time for him to talk to anyone. We met at the Black Swan, a popular drinking spot just off campus. But it seemed like I was talking to a total stranger, one who was not at all interested in getting to know me, his own brother.”
“His own tvin broother, at dat!”
“Aye. I tried to find out what interested him, in that at least he would talk. He had taken up studies in naturalism and the healing arts. Although I got the distinct impression that he seemed a little too interested in the aspects of death. But then I guess a healer would want to know his enemy more then others would care to.”
“When I tried to talk to him about my own studies, in mathematics, astrology and alchemy, he seemed to lose interest, his eyes lost focus. I wondered if he was even listening to me.” Merlock pauses for a moment to take a drink of the strawberry weissen. More to hide the look of remembered hurt then anything else. “We never met up again. I tried to pin him down a few times, but either he was to busy or he’d just never show. I only ever saw him from a distance twice after that, once in the stacks of the library, and another time walking along one of the commons of the campus.”
“You vere zare for zeben years, unts you neffer zaw him?” The gnome is utterly baffled at this bizare sounding account of the man’s twin.
Merlock just shrugged, taking another sip. “He left after a few semesters, off to another university in the Empire, or so I gathered.”
“Vat did your Vater zink of all of zis?”
“I never told him. He asked after him few times, apparently mother was quite upset that he never wrote or responded to letters. I had to appologize for him, I told them that his studies took up all of his time, that the duties of an apprenticed healer was quite a heavy load. I even added some things I attributed to him, saying hello and such, just to cover for him.”
“Hmm, zat iz vat I vould haff done. Exzept zat I vould haff not let him get avay vit iknoring me.”
“I tried, I really did. But I didn’t know where he lived. Most of the colleges where he studied were off limits to those not initiated into it. And most of the people who knew him knew little about him. Even the other healers would just shrug their shoulders when I asked about him. He was little known and even less liked, I gathered. Well respected, but…”
“There were whispers.” The sage smiled. “There are always whispers. Universities are like small towns. People fill in the blanks with their impressions and pass them off as facts.”
“Unts…vat…vere zees vispers?”
“I once heard that a professor had accused him of delving into some forbidden studies. There was a bit of a scandal in the College of Medicine, but they were pretty tight-lipped about it. Even I couldn’t find out any details. All that I know was that he left after that semester, headed off to some obscure university way down in Stygia.”
“Stai-jia? Var iss zat? I haff newer heard of zuch a lund.”
“Far to the south, south of the Empire. Even south of Numidia, and to the east.”
“Ho, I newer ewen heard of zis Noo-mee-dia, eizer!”
“Hmm, I’d guess…maybe…eight or nine hundered laegues south of here?”
“Ho, hoo! Must of been qvite a scandal!”
“I guess. It takes about two months by horse or carriage to reach the shores of the Azurian Sea. Then another two weeks to cross by ship, then finally another month on…oh what do they ride down there? Some sort of strange desert-dwelling mule, I forget what it’s called. But yes, that was the last I heard of him.”
As Merlock is finishing up the story of his lost twin, a group of gnomes passing through Middenholt enter into the common-room, hoping to catch some of the Purple Dragonling’s renowned seasonal Strawberry Weissen. When they see Merlock sitting at the low bar, they stop cold, utterly confused, slightly startled and unsure what to do. Slight as he was, the sage looked like a giant in this gnomish-sized parlor.
Rüdger looks over and immediately calls out to his new customers. “Ho, ho! Be vit you in a moment, goot gnomen! Just chatting vit one of za Dragonlink’s more esteemed regulars!”
This happened on occasion. All the gnomes of Middenholt knew of Merlock, most had stopped by at one time or another to see the strange human who frequented a gnomish tavern. But further down under, seeing him still caused quite a stir. Not that Merlock had ever ventured outside of the gnomish town that lie inside the ridge just south of Silverhaven. He had always hoped he might one day, but his duties elsewhere put an end to that.