The men sat at a table in the dark tavern, hewn from one massive stalagmite, lit by phosphorescent gems held to the walls by nets. They carried few weapons to speak of, but each had a staff more than a match for ten armed men, and the weapons they did carry bore runes and glowing auras. each held a wand in one hand, absent mindedly, as they talked and drank and ate.
Most towns would object to such a show of force, but the drow city would have laughed if the men hadn’t so obviously been prepared for a fight. It was well known that visitors to the city would sometimes, even often, just disappear, only ever again seen in the torture-galleries, or as part of some priestess’ harem.
The men, however, had no real reason to fear. Only a particularly foolish dark elf would risk trying to take them. They could be sitting in the street, without their robes, weapons, staves or wands, and would still be a target only a fool would dare aim for. Their bracelets marked them as mages of Hallius. The wizard nation-guild would respond poorly if high standing members were to disappear on a trip to the Underdark. Perhaps the drow could win such a conflict, but one is naturally cautious in dealing with a force that can turn the roof of your underground civilization into millions of tons of mud–or worse, lava–and drop it on you to smother your entire civilization. Even just a few discrete, disguised mage-sabotuers could wreak havoc by moving the very earth from beneath major temples and civic buildings and barracks, dropping them into pits or magma pools that could have been prepared far in advance.
All the same, just because no sane dark elf would target them for slavery does not mean any need help them. The men had traveled to the Underdark searching for information on planar trade rumoured to be conducted by the drow, but had hit a wall.
A slim male, clad in only loose breeches and a thin, open robe, slid into a seat at the table, lighting a long bone and metal pipe and drawing from long and smooth, before slowly exhaling it. The wizards sat patiently, waiting for the young elf-man to finish his little performance, waiting to reject services or defend themselves. He propped his pipe on the ash dish with theirs and leaned in close to their own heads, previously bowed in discussion.
“We all know what you’re looking for. Obviously.” he said. His words wafted like the sweet smoke of his pipe from dark lips. His eyes glowed in the dim light, and he brushed his hair behind one long pointed ear. A couple of the men shifted uncomfortably. “Pretend we’re talking normal business. My mistress would torment me all the more harshly if she had any idea what kind I’m actually about to speak.” he eyed their bracelets.
“What are offering?” one of the men said suddenly. Even a wizard’s patience has it’s limits, and theirs were all frayed by their fruitless search.
“You want to know about drow inter-planar trading. My mistress has some dealings in that arena, and some of the clients she has provided with my services like to talk when they’re exhausted.” Again the men shifted uncomfortably, “Oh, relax. Elves have only the hair on their heads, with our builds, you’d forget what sex we were in the right position.” he smiled. His night-black hands picked up his pipe again. “What I’m proposing-” he took a shorter drag, “is that I show you what you want to find, and help you with whatever information I can, and in exchange…” the dark skinned elf shuddered and–uncharacteristically for a drow, so learned in the ways of awareness and stealth–looked towards the bar where his mistress sat. He shifted closer to the wizard next to him, the one who’d spoke, who was clearly in charge. He put a hand in the man’s lap, and wrapped a look which up close said “I apologize, go with it” in one which at a distance spoke of carnal promises. “You take me with you.” He looked the man hard in the eye, and his pipe tapped the man’s bracelet to make clear just how far he wanted to be taken.
The men looked at one another, before the one next to the drow looked back “We’ll have to confer…”
“So take me to your room. Mistress, strange as it may sound, actually doesn’t observe the rooms. She’s found that when clients do find out, as some always do, it’s terrible for business.” he laid his head on the man’s shoulder, “just make it look convincing. You all can… take your time, and I’ll not mind at all. I’ll be as quiet or vocal as you wish.” he purred.
The wizard then shocked the elf, smiling before breaking into a raucous laugh, one hand grasping the elf’s rump, the laugh being picked up by his fellows. The laugh was an uneven, overly loud thing. A laugh one might expect from a table full of men who couldn’t hold their spider wine.
“My name is Ran, my price is 100 gold. I can make sure you’re recompensed, but it has to look right. Put the gold in the bowl in the center of the table.”
The man nodded and dropped a pouch of gold into the bowl. “Wizards. Don’t worry about recompensing us.” The group all stood, stowing wands and picking up staves. The lead wizard looked to the woman drow that Ran had looked to earlier, and tilted his head in acknowledgement. She smiled to him, a wicked curve on her lips, and tilted her head in response, and Ran led the group through the curtains near the bar.