Most descriptions of subterranean cities Seth knew from fiction described them as being built in some giant underground cavern, an underground space like hollow Urth, inside the cone of a dormant volcano, or maybe built at the bottom and into the sides of a deep crevice. All of it was things Seth had somewhat expected. But not the total lack thereof. The real meaning of ”Hall of Stones ” came to him, when the pillars in the distance were not pillars, but skyscrapers.
What Seth saw had nothing fantastic, but was almost unfathomable to him. Like a modern, planned-out city, completely made of massive high-risers supported this city in the darkness the weight of the mountains above. The closer they came, the more intricate and lavish the surfaces became. Completely carved out of the bedrock by the hands of true craftsmen there were many intricate ornaments and giant sculptures decoration these high-rises.
There were many different sources of light in different colors, either highlighting the artworks or as part of the art itself. Fantasy world? My butt! The dwarven city had a lot more of steampunk or cyberpunk. Living in this city was like living in an artwork.
The streets were packed with all kinds of people. Many were dwarfs, but there were also a lot of merchants, adventurers, and travelers. Compared to this place carved into the roots of the mountains, Ora outside was like a suburb at best.
”Is this your first time here? ” a friendly voice asked them. It was a young man in colorful clothes. The two had already nodded without thinking as he continued.
”Great! I´m with the Adventurers Guild. Take these brochures. They have a simple map of the dwarven district and the recommended inns and shops. ”
It was a similar booklet to the one they could get in the adventurer guild, but since not everyone that came here was necessary and adventurer, these were handed out publicly.
Looking at the map Seth was again reminded of a modern city. As beautiful and diverse as the giant buildings looked from the outside, they all had the same layout; a square. The streets were cut out between them a formed a basic grid called the warp and weft streets. There were 23 of these habitable pillars.
From the booklet, Seth learned that this was the City of Eternal Night. Each pillar was created by one of the great dwarven master masons and craftsmen of Ora ’s history. The rooms in these pillars were actually extremely expensive.
Seth felt a little relieved when he saw the normal parts of the city. They were similar in their layout, but in a lot smaller scale and divided into different layers similar to the outside Ora. Here the magic lights would follow the outside day and night circle.
The commercial District was actually like a giant department store. Each big field of business had its own layer except for inns. The most expensive inns even provided a view of the City of Eternal Night. It was their version of having a view of the sea here.
Obviously, the place Seth and Fin visited was the layer of blacksmiths. Here the buildings had several stories and normally belonged to one craftsman who had his workshop and in one place, often haring it with several generations of his family.
It was a true wonderland for Seth. Just window-shopping filled his material catalog with all kinds of new and exotic materials often from monsters he had never even heard of. He doubted that he would ever be able to get familiar with ALL of them.
He was so preoccupied with all the new sight, that he had almost missed the change in Fin´s expression. After the initial wonder had subsided, an expression of unease surfaced on her face.
”Fin… are you ok? ” he belatedly asked.
”Fin is… ok? It´s just so…so constricting. Everywhere are walls. Everything is Stone. Fin is anxious. Fin is not used to be this… cut off from the world. ”
This was simply not the right environment for a fairy like Fin, who descended from spirits of the wind and air. She was used to freely fly under the blue sky, this place exerted a similar influence on her like a tight space to someone with claustrophobia.
Seeing that Fin was not doing well, Seth resolutely decided to leave for now, despite her objections. Seth didn´t have the heart to watch the fairy suffer, just to accompany him on a sight-seeing trip.
”Fin is really sor- ”
”Zip it. ” Seth interrupted her attempt to apologize.
”It´s not your fault. Forget it already. Let´s go and eat! I know a great restaurant! ”
Seth and Fin fetched Puffles from the inn and visited the restaurant where he had met Mina and the party. The receptionist already warned the chefs when he assigned Seth to a table. The who had once ordered the whole menu had made a lasting impression on the restaurant staff. Now he had returned to continue his legend.
Accompanied by the voracious fairy and the insatiable Ivicer they pressured the kitchen staff to achieve their peak performance. As the lights of hope slowly dimmed in the head chef ’s tired eyes, the glint of greed grew in the manager ’s eyes.
Fin´s mood had marginally improved. With satisfied stomachs the group returned to the inn, leaving behind a dismayed kitchen staff and a happy restaurant manager.
They met Mina at the lobby of the inn. Fin and Puffles went to their rooms, leaving Seth behind to talk with the cat beastman. They talked about the party´s and Seth ’s future plans. After all, Seth achieved his immediate goal; to get access to the dwarven city.
Mina and Mike ’s party had become B-Rank to take part in B-rated quests. These quests would often require them to leave Ora for extended periods of time. They were fated to meet less often from now on. It would have been a lie to say that Seth did not feel a little conflicted about leaving their party. He had taken a liking to these new friends and Mina was even a little more than just a friend.
”Don´t think I will let you off. ” Mina suddenly said with a mischievous smirk. ”I had a hard time finding someone like you. I will still come and find you whenever we are back. ” it sounded almost like a threat, not a promise.
After getting over the more or less serious talk, they chatted about their day. Mina and Mike and spend time with their adoptive parents. There was a lot to talk and catch up on. Seth blushed when she told him that her mother thought he was a good catch and pressured her to make their relationship something more serious. Seth was glad that he did not have to make a decision in this case, since Mina herself made it clear, that she was not looking for ”something serious ” at this point in time.
Seth on the other hand told her about the City of Eternal Night they had visited and his plans to find a master. Though, he had no idea yet, how to find one. He also worried about Fin, if he was to find a master there, he would obviously start living there. He could not ask the fairy to stay with him and suffer.
”Hmm, maybe Fin could come with us? ” Mina threw into the room. She had gotten along well with Fin and the whole party like her. It was not just out of kindness. There would be a great increase in fighting power if the fairy joined their party. It was a good idea in Seth´s opinion and he told her he would talk about it with the fairy.
”Oh yeah, what about that guy from the bar? ” she suddenly asked.
”What guy? ” Seth had no idea what she was talking about.
”Don´t you remember that dwarf? What was his name again… Vathon something-something. It was shortly after we met and I was about to drag you o- I mean we were about to leave together. ” she interrupted herself blushing and changed her wording.
”He actually came after you and thanked you for paying his bill. ”
Seth had no memory of this at all. But how was he supposed to find a random dwarf in this giant city?
”How am I supposed to find him? It´s not like I can randomly wander around the Halls of Stone and hope that he approaches me after some random encounter in a bar. ”
”Hmm, true. How about visiting that bar again? It ’s worth a try and I wouldn´t mind having a drink. ” she got really close and whispered the last part in his ear. She seduced him to take her out so they left the inn and walked off to get drunk.
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