The celebration rang throughout Gloomhaven unabated, hour after hour, as the heroes of the Alliance - the evil side, at least, made their way home. Some of the Trolls who had journeyed to fight the Vile One stopped by, sloppily sharing mugs of mead and whiskey with the Duergar barely a third their size. Clerics of Laduguer lit the halls with colored flashes of light, and minstrels from every clan gathered at the various street corners, celebrating in varying horn and drum beats the sound of victory.
It did not come to pass.
Artikerus could hear the continued cheering, even through the solid stone walls of the Halls of Gloom, through the magically sealed doors of his antechamber, all the way into the deep cavern that made up his throne room.
His people were happy.
He had sent off the last of the processions, which had included every Duergarish clan in the Realms - Underdark and Surface keeps combined. They had heard of the great sacrifice the King of Gloomhaven had made to finish the Vile One off, and had left great magical items, trophies, and coins, in appreciation of the Duergars selfless nature.
A selfless Duergar. Interesting thought that.
Indeed, Artikerus had let rumor take more than a dragons share of twisting the story of the Final battle. While it still remained, and was in full, true that the Duergar King had sacrificed his body and soul - his final blow with a magical artifact, the Thunder Hammer, sundering the Vile One's corporeal essence - and the Duergars life - into pieces. How many thanatars, silversaan, and other adversaries the Duergar had defeated single handedly - tossing them about like rag dolls and similar ilk - were a little embellished. Artikerus thought about the part where, "He commanded the great hordes of dragons" in battle was especially amusing - and had enough truth in it that it wouldn't be refuted outright.
Artikerus wondered about that voice in his head. It had been a surface dwarf, undoubtedly, but perhaps one of the earliest of Delzoun, one of the founding fathers of Clan Duergar. Perhaps it had only been a sympathizer with the Duergar plight - it had mentioned the 'dealings with goblinkin and their ilk' many times in his head, relating them as if Artikerus understood the weight of that burden himself.
Artikerus did understand that. He knew that if the Duergar were to ever be accepted on the surface without facing the armies of every surface race rising to push them back into their holes, that he would have to make many amends, primarily, cessation of trade with Drow, Troll, Ogres, Goblin, Yuan-tis, and Illithids.
No small feat that - you can't remove a tradeline without an already established tradeline to take over - within weeks, or months, the Duergar market would fill with unmoving goods, and his people would suffer, grow angry, and revolt.
Economically, it just wasn't a feasible move for the Clan Duergar. He had discussed much with the various ambassadors of the other Clans.
He shrugged shoulders already bearing a new weight on them, although he had only hours before finally released the weight of an Alliance off of them. He looked at his hammer - the replacement of his once-mighty Blindhammer - and frowned. It looked so worn, beaten, and ...weak, compared to the might that had been the Thunder Hammer.
He looked around at the various treasures brought before him by his supporters and nodded. It was time to get back on the road to building his surface keep, lying the foundations for bringing Clan Duergar out of their hole.
It was time to finish his original plans with Clan Blindhammer, and lead them to the glory he expected and deserved. First thing to do - replace his hammer with one more fitting of a King.
And then?......Only goblins' n' dragons were knowin' fer sure....
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