Once, long ago, in distant memory, the Drow dwelt on the surface, with the other races of elves. At that point, they dwelt in places rich in overgrowth--old forests, jungle spaces, places with overhanging trees and branches thick with moss--and even then, they were known as 'dark elves', for the color of their skin.
Because they prospered in their places, and were highly skilled with magics, over the talents of their hands, the lighter-skinned elves called them lazy, excessive, and decadent. Because they believed punishment should be dealt quickly, rather than stretched out into the endless time the 'light elves' would allot...the other elves named them vicious and cruel.
The other elves banded together--light elves, grey elves, High elves of the ruling councils, small brown elves of the forest lands. Through superior numbers--and because at that point, the dark elves feared no treachery from other elven hands--they were forced away from their homes, away from the surface world, their numbers depleted.
They ended up underground, in vast echoing spaces lit by oddly glowing crystals, radiant waters, populated by beasts the surface world could never understand. There they made their stand, formed soaring cities lit by new illuminations, and met their Demon Queen, the goddess Lloth.
Welcome to the Underdark.
One of my friends has recently become involved with Avilion Isle. He loves it there. I have to agree--beyond the long-lost Tusk, it's the most impressive build I've ever seen on the grid. And he found a passage to chambers below the ground, and wanted me to see them.
The passageway down, long and steep, is littered with torn wings--demifae swirled sets, majestic angel feathers, butterflies' best adornments--making it very clear that going down is more dangerous than departing. Making it clearer was noting, about halfway down the passage, the corridor-filling spiderwebs, glistening with dew and artistry.
Once we reached the bottom, the source for the dim violet illumination became plain--large, freestanding crystals, giving off their own subtle radiation, their own illumined glow. The main space was huge; I couldn't see to the top of the overarching ceiling.
I can only assume some giant creature died, at some point, or was killed by the denizens here, and the skull dragged into position over this small pool. It's very large.
We met up with a resident of the Underdark, a Drow male, who challenged us. As I was in the pose of a Drowess, I challenged him back. Whereupon he laughed at me, and said that sometimes, our true faces shine through any disguise.
Turns out he also shares space with the surface Drow of Lumindor. And he knew of little Em the shifter's ways.
That turned to our advantage, though--he was so tickled by my attempt to conform to Drow appearance he gave us the freedom to wander, for a night, assuming we did not run into any acid-tempered drowesses about. We bade him travel safely, and we were off.
We still do not know what this structure was. Formed partially of the same ultraviolet crystals, part of natural stone, it was linked to the main land on which we stood by an arching bridge, over another of those radiant streams. We carefully walked over the bridge, keeping very quiet.
In the large space inside, were three thrones. One was obviously the throne of the Matron Mother, or perhaps the highest priestess of Lloth this particular Underdark city had. Another was simpler, but cut from the same dark stone as the hall. This one, though...
Why would Drow have something so obviously of the surface world? White marble...white stone...is it ancient, that they have kept from their time above? Was it a gift from the rulers of Avilion Isle?
We didn't know, and we didn't want to wait there to see. We watched the spider fire bowl, looked at each other, and carefully walked out.
My friend showed me another way out, an arching stone path winding around the main cavern space, that led through more cobwebs to the surface. Oddly, we never saw any spiders--barring the ones I brought in--though we would have been careful, had we. Killing a spider in Drow lands generally results in death, and in particular, painful, excruciating death. Spiders--as living avatars of Lloth, the Spider Goddess--are sacred.
Several more giant cobwebs stretched across the path. Most we were able to gently phase through, the act of a small moment of concentration, before we continued on. It took some time. And always, the pervasive silence of the deep, soothing and unsettling at the same time.
The passageway opened up past spiderwebs and curving stone corners into a cavern behind a waterfall, marked with the arching tree of Avilion Isle. Sparkling crystals inset into the walls gently chimed, dancing lights within swirling, as we arrived from the Underdark. As magical as the lands below were, and are, I think we honestly appreciated the return of vibrant colors.
Walking through the waterfall led us to a garden; the garden led us to a torch-lined path; and on the other side of the torch-lined path, the gentle slope of giant flowers I'd first seen when he'd first brought me to Avilion Isle. Oh, my. Come full circle, indeed.
Then I took him to E's, and showed him Eeron Kilian's Drow skins. While there are many Drow skins on the grid, I truly believe that Eeron's and Nomine's are the best-looking. And Munchflower Zaius, the mind behind Nomine, doesn't offer demo skins for the Drow.
If you're going to visit the Underdark...tread lightly, offer no one disrespect, travel armed, and travel in stealth. Try very hard not to be seen. And you may escape with a night of wonders behind your eyes...instead of wondering why there's a Drowess debating between the heated tongs and the thumb clamps...