The Underdark was nothing like Odra thought. For one thing, it wasn’t as dark as people thought it was, with phosphorous green rocks serving as torches. It cast some very interesting shadows on everyone’s faces.
“You used to live down here?” Odra asked.
“I mean, not in the tunnels- you’ve never been to the Underdark, have you?”
Odra shook her head no.
“You’re gonna love it.”
And the moment the tunnel opened up to the city of Isath Dorei, Odra knew that Garl was right.
Right past the gates that were just carved out of the cave itself, they entered a marketplace. Lavender, blue, and yellow light motes that resembled fireflies danced around the air. Odra tried to catch one but her fingers just went right through it. Stalls sold all sorts of things, spices, silks, and jewelry made of the shiniest gems. Most everyone around was drow, with a few hobgoblins and beastfolk that resembled rats or black cats. If they were merchants or business owners, they were women. If they were runners or hard laborers, they were men.
Odra frowned as something occurred to her. “You knew I’d like it because there’s a bunch of in charge hot ladies,” she accused Garl.
Garl smirked but didn’t respond. He didn’t need to.
The leader of the drow shooed her comrades away before she turned to the adventuring party. She pushed her goggles up to her forehead, revealing her rose pink eyes. “Right. So your human told us what we needed to know.” She nodded at the gargoyle on the cart. “Normally this wouldn’t be a hard task, but we have to go see Queen Rillana first, for reasons that’ll be clear once we speak with her. I am Lydia, my house is right there. You may leave your dead comrade there,” she said.
Garl twisted his mouth. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to stay with him,” he said.
“Of course. You can’t bring him into the throne room though. If the floors gets scratched, we’ll be hearing about it for months.”
Garl looked grumpy but he nodded. Lydia nodded before she turned back forward. “Let’s keep going then.”
The city itself was beautiful. Buildings were seamlessly carved out of the ground, and the palace itself looked like it was made of a thousand stalagmites, reaching to the ceiling of the underdark cavern. The guards were all women as well, each nodding at Lydia and tipping their heads at her.
“You important or something?” Odra asked.
“I’m one of the most respected sorceresses of the Underdark, yes,” Lydia said.
Damn. Odra brushed off her cloak and tried to seem casual as she said, “That’s cool, cool, coooool… are you single or…”
Garl snorted as Lydia turned her face to avoid letting Odra see her smile. “I appreciate your confidence. But I am not single, and although my wife is polyamorous, I am not. I must say, I’ve only met a few goblins who speak Common, and you speak it very well. I’m impressed,” Lydia said.
“I’m talented. Soooo, who’s your wife? Think she’d be into short ladies?”
Lydia quietly giggled but said nothing as they entered the throne room. Garl parked the cart next to the door, patting the still gargoyle on the shoulder before he followed after her with the rest of the party.
Lydia gestured forward to the throne, made of obsidian and bone. “Ladies and your men, Queen Rillana, Ruler of the Northern Underdark.”
The queen sat tall, her ivory hair ornately braided around her moonstone circlet. Odra nearly tripped over her feet when she saw the queen had a third eye tattooed onto her forehead that seemed to look around with her actual ones.
Dullahan nudged Odra. “You have to talk, she’s not gonna listen to me or Garl, and Sylvia gets anxiety just talking to the bartender at the guild,” he whispered.
“What?!” Odra looked up at Dullahan like he was crazy. “I’m a goblin! Who listens to goblins!?”
“You’re a female goblin. The matriarchy is total bullshit, I know, but you’re the best one to go with. Lydia just listened to me because I said I was your go between, so start being charming.”
Greeaat. Odra gritted her teeth but chose to hold her head high as she nudged her way to the front of the group. Queen Rillana had five men kneeling around her throne, three of her fellow drow but a gnome and a gray skinned dwarf were amongst the number as well.
The Queen eyed the group, barely passing her eyes over the men before she focused on Lydia. A small smile played on her lips. “Lydia, good to see you back safe,” she said softly, gesturing her forward.
Lydia practically skipped up the steps to the throne before she knelt to the ground. “My queen,” she gestured to the party, “we found these adventurers not too far from one of the hidden entrances. They appear to be skilled warriors, and they were dealing with the problem we’ve been struggling with over these last few months.”
“The undead?” Queen Rillana guessed.
“Yes, your majesty.”
The Queen glanced among the group, narrowing her eyes at Garl. “Some of them seem to not know their place,” she said in a clipped tone.
Garl glanced to see Dullahan already kneeling. Ignoring that immediate urge to whack the human on the head, he just hesitantly knelt down on the ground. “My apologies, your majesty. I don’t find myself in royal courts often,” he grumbled.
The queen smirked as she leaned forward. “Mouthy. But the mouthy ones are more fun to tame,” she noted aloud.
Odra finally found her voice. “Your majesty!” She yelped, immediately regretting how high pitched her voice went. “Q-Queen Rillana?”
“Hmmm?” The queen’s gaze shifted towards Odra. “So, the goblin’s the speaker of the party? How interesting. Are you a woman? I can never tell with your kind.”
“I guess? I mean, yeah.” Odra swallowed, feeling her heart race in her chest. “Listen, it’s great that we get to talk and all, but why did Lydia bring us here? We just need to take this gargoyle body back to where he died, respect for the dead and all that.”
Queen Rillana gave her that same gentle smile that she’d given Lydia and Odra felt her knees turn to jelly. “Brave. I rather like goblins, you know. It’s a pity I’ve never found a male one suitable for a harem… too… smelly.” The queen shuddered at the thought. “Lydia brings you and your party forward for a request. If you are going through our kingdom, I can tell you where the nearest nest of gargoyles are- which I presume is your destination?”
Odra perked up. “Really?”
“Yes, but unfortunately for everyone involved, there’s the matter of getting there.”
The queen tapped her fingers on the arm of her throne as she frowned. “How many undead were up there?” she asked.
“Um, I lost count, but there was a zombie ogre and like a dozen zombie humanoids?” Odra scratched the back of her head. “Is that what you’re talking about?”
“Indeed. We have a necromancy problem.” The queen gestured out. “You see, I’ve had a bit of conflict with my twin sister. I was born first so the throne is rightfully mine, but I only beat her to it by a few moments. This has caused a bit of strife, and now she’s taking it out on me by hiding outside the city and raising the dead. It wouldn’t be a problem… except we can’t find what hole she’s hiding in, so she keeps sending hoards out. It’s affecting our trade and our livelihoods. The main attacks happen on the path that you’d take to the nest.”
Garl shifted. “I know I’m speaking out of turn, but how are the gargoyles?” he asked.
“I’d love to put a gag in that mouth,” Queen Rillana shook a finger at Garl and for once, Odra saw her friend was completely speechless. “But the question is a fair one to ask. From what we can tell, they are perfectly fine. They’re able to repel the undead, and my sister has no quarrel with them, so they’re safe from her powerful magics. However, until my sister is arrested and brought back here, she will continue to blockade the city with her guerrilla warfare. So, adventurers- how would you like to handle a bounty?”
Odra grinned. “I think I speak for all of us when we say- we’re one hundred percent in. You got any hints to make the search easier to find your sis?” she asked.
Queen Rillana laughed quietly. “I love your enthusiasm. It’s exactly what I need. I can give you a map of the area, her most likely hiding places, but I only ask you bring her back alive- she’s a nasty woman, but she is still my sister. In return, not only will I send an escort to take you to the gargoyle nest, but I’ll give you all a personal reward. Now, go and rest. I’ll have the servants prepare quarters for each of you.”
Yes! Odra fistpumped and turned to the gang. “Let’s get ready to smash some ghouls’ heads in, guys!” she whooped before remembering that she was in the presence of royalty. She sheepishly turned around, expecting to be scolded…. only to see the queen was now distracted by Lydia now sitting in her lap, the two nuzzling noses and giggling like lovebirds.
Queen Rillana noticed Odra gaping and quickly composed herself. “Yes, um, smash those ghouls. You may leave now,” she shooed them out.
Odra bit the inside of her cheek but she bowed before leaving the court with a surprising lack of sass.
Garl allowed himself be led to one of the quarters set up for him. It was a lovely room, a plenty large bed, a private bathroom with running water (thank whatever artificer came up with that), and even a light outside the glass windows that seemed to resemble the moon. Overall, it wasn’t bad.
But Garl wasn’t alone.
“All right, come out, right now.”
A soft laugh echoed off the walls of the room and the queen appeared out of nowhere, a smirk on her face. “What gave me away?”
“Just a hunch with how you were looking me over in the throne room.” Garl crossed his arms. “I’m not gonna sit pretty and be one of your little boy toys, your majesty. No offense.”
“None taken. I would never attempt to permanently restrain a creature as yourself.” Rillana crossed the room, fearlessly looking the gargoyle right in the eye. “Those wings might not carry you far, but they still need to beat free in the skies above the dark I call home. That, and I think if I separate you from your little friend, I will have quite the riot on my hands.”
“Just because she’ll be jealous of me.”
Rillana laughed again before resting her hand on Garl’s bicep. “I have no doubt. But, and I’ll be straightforward, have you wondered what it would be like? To be… restrained, for the night?” Her fingers slid over to his chest. “Bow to the knee, serve a queen?”
Garl lost the ability to speak momentarily as the drow drummed her fingers lightly. “Um… are you making a pass at me?” he asked.
“Obviously. You’re cute.”
Rillana flicked his nose before she backed up. “Consider it your special gift, if you’d like. A night with me.”
“… And your boy toys and wife won’t mind?”
“On the contrary,” Rillana grinned before she slowly faded from sight. “If my hunch is correct, I’ll be entertaining all of them with stories of what happens for days afterwards.”
The door briefly opened and shut and Garl was left standing there, presumably alone. And very obnoxiously turned on.
A bit direct, but who said that was a bad thing? And nailing a drow queen would be a new experience, to say the least.