After our heroes enjoyed a nice long rest under the wing of the good crystalline dragon, they were led to the "annoying pest" mentioned earlier. Farther down the river (for that is what caused this chasm between the two cities), was another cave. Normally, a fully-grown dragon would cleanse such a cave with a breath weapon, but, as it happened, the tunnels in this cave had enough kinks and turns in it as to render that method ineffective. Hence, the temporary employment of our heroes. There were mechanical sounds coming from the cave, and as the heroes cautiously stepped forward, they discovered a small clockwork dragon (I say small, which for dragons means it was about as tall as an average human)!
The battle commenced, and it turned out to be a tough fight! It was hard for the party to penetrate through the brass and copper plating that formed the contraption's armor. But, Gregory the Great had a brilliant idea. In Tryxee's cave, he had bottled up some inert grey ooze, and he splashed it on the clockwork dragon's neck. The corrosive ooze weakened that spot a little, which was enough for Conseil to gain the upper hand in his attempts to grapple the metal beast, while Alice fired arrows from afar. The dragon spewed tar and poisonous gas at the group, but stopped when it saw Tynx. As if on cue, the dragon began to speak, or rather, a recorded message started to play within its voice box:
"Look at me! I can fly! I have wings that work and I can fly! Isn't that awesome? I'm so great because I can fly!" It was in Tryxee's taunting voice. It seemed that she had hopes that Tynx would stumble upon her ingenious creation and laugh about it in her face. This encouraged Tynx all the more to destroy the thing.
Eventually, the party was victorious. The clockwork dragon, Tryxee's annoying "contraption" was no more. Tynx and Conseil salvaged a few parts and gears from the wreckage before the party approached the crystalline dragon. Upon hearing the good news that the contraption had been destroyed, the dragon flew the party up out of the chasm and within walking distance of the drow city of Paerylliss.
The group received a rather cold and unwelcome reception from the guards at the city gate, because the guards were very skeptical of outsiders. Even Gregory's amazing tricks didn't seem to persuade them. They were eventually convinced to let the group into the city when they explained that they were with Soveliss and Joyn'ill (though it took a while for them to remember the drow diplomat's name, remember to take notes, everyone!). When they were let into the beautiful, dark city of Paerylliss, more guards approached them to escort them to the Grande Council Room in a tall spire in the center of the city.
There was another pair of guards just outside the Grande council Room. Through the doors, the party could hear Soveliss's voice. They also heard a harsh female voice answering him. Once it was clear to the guards that the party was the group of foreign representatives, the players were let into the room where things were happening.
The room had a cold, cruel atmosphere to it, not because of any decor or magic, but because of the glare given to Soveliss by an imposing female drow seated at the highest spot of the three-seat podium. To her right, seated slightly lower, was a male drow, and to her left was an unusual black dragonborn, unusual because he's perhaps the only dragonborn in Paerylliss and his black scales are made of metal. His very body seemed to be made of the same black metal, and any words out of his mouth had a cold, slightly monotonous tone to it. For now, however, there was silence in the room as the players entered. The female drow looked up at them with an incredulous, seethingly icy glare.
When the party was seated near Soveliss and Joyn'ill, the female drow leader, known as the Drow Matriarch, spoke, and when she did, it betrayed the unique drow accent employed by the natives of Paerillyss. [I gave the drow a cruel French accent, since Glundawn and Paerylliss are the "Two Cities," related to the London and Paris settings from Dickens' novel.]
"Am I to assume, my son" the female drow directed at Soveliss, "zat zis is your party of reprezentatives?" Soveliss replied in the affirmative. He was just about to introduce them individually, when Gregory the Great spoke first.
"Hi, I'm Gregory the Great, magician extraordinaire!" He said this as he conjured a dove with a flourish of his hand. The dove soon disappeared in a flash of light. Silence. A cold glare. Soveliss started to become pale with embarrassment. The Matriarch would have none of his cheap tricks. Soveliss quickly introduced the rest of the party. The Matriarch and her husband (the male drow at her right) turned their attention back to Soveliss to explain that they saw no reason to expend resources to give aid to the Surface people, especially when the drow were experiencing troubling issues of their own.
This discussion didn't last long, however, before Gregory tried to show off again, with the (vain) hope that he could add some light and cheerfulness to this somber occassion. He conjured a few more spells and tricks, which sent him backflipping over several rows of the audience and slamming into a wall. He even had the audacity to compliment the Matriarch for her fierce beauty. The Matriarch was furious. She banished Gregory from the room, asking the metal dragonborn, Aryan II, to escort (read: drag) him out.
Once Gregory was out, the Matriarch turned to the rest of the party.
"So, does anyone have zomething of zubztance to zay?" Tynx timidly raised her hand. Permitted to speak, she stood and explained how she was from Glundawn, and how important this crisis was to her. She soon started to shed sincere tears as she sobbed her way through her speech, describing her deep concern for her people and for the Surface people. Such a speech may not have been enough to convince the Matriarch to instantly join the cause against the Githyanki on the Surface, but it did pacify her rage such that she was willing to have further private discussion with her son, Soveliss, about the pressing issues at hand. In the meantime, there was one problem that the Matriarch wished for our adventurers to look into. Aryan II would give further details.
See, as strong as the drow were in the city of Paeryliss, they had long relied on the diverse geography and vegetation surrounding their great city for protection against the untame dangers of the Underland (or Subterrace, as called by the Surface dwellers). Their military strength has been supported by one named Shaarii Zaahd, who runs the factory (situated between the Twisted Quarry and the Lava Lake) that produces the armor and arsenal of the drow armies. The city itself was also blessed with one branch of a river running through it. The other branch runs through the Slime Marsh and the Fungal Forest to empty into the Frozen Lake and into the chasm between Paeryliss and Glundawn.
Recently, however, the river had become corrosive. The Fungal Forest was dying beneath an ever stronger layer of frost, creeping closer to the city. The cries and roars of unknown monsters could be heard in the distance. Worst of all, Shaarii Zaahd had gone missing, and the factory stopped producing anything. Many drow soldiers were sent to various areas around the city to investigate, including at the factory, but to no avail. Even more concerning was that some drow soldiers never return.
At this time, most of the city's resources were devoted to addressing the most pressing crisis: the polluted, corrosive river, which had previously been their main source of water. Even so, the Matriarch wanted some skilled adventurers to venture into the Fungal Forest to search for the cause of its slow, cold death. Aryan II explained all of this to the players, and gave them instructions on how to get to the forest. The more astute characters noticed that Aryan's metallic breath smelled familiar. It had a strong acidic smell…similar to some acid they had encountered before…
But, before leaving the city to explore the forest, the players wanted to explore several shops, hoping to resupply. Their attempted transactions were met with difficulty, for the drow merchants didn't seem to like foreigners. Furthermore, they charged exorbitant prices and always drove a hard bargain. Gregory the Great, in particular, was looking for magic items. He was able to get Goggles of Night so he could see in the dark. He also wanted to get his pocketwatch (the one obtained in Tryxee's cave) appraised. He almost lost the watch to the merchant, but ended up stealing it back.
Despite the many setbacks in the drow city, our heroes were soon set to embark on their mission. Little did they know the many dangers they would run into, nor the powerful figures they would encounter.