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Hellgate Keep, formerly Ascalhorn and later Hellgate Dell, was an ancient elven city on the northeast edge of the High Forest that was overtaken by demonic forces and eventually destroyed in 1369 DR.
After the explosion wrought by the Gatekeeper's Crystal an array of wild magic regions were left lingering throughout the surrounding area, as well as several layers of dead-magic zones nestled between them in the central ravine created by the explosion. In particular, all magical times, potions, and spells that granted the ability to fly would not function in the area.
Two miles to the south lay Hellgate Dell, a 70 ft (21 m) tall crag of debris that flung from the Keep during its destruction. It was guarded by two treants and overtime became overgrown with moss and small shrubs.[note 1]
The southern cliff outcrop that the Keep was perched on had a wide rift open along it when the Gatekeeper's Crystal ravaged the surrounding area, turning it into what later became known as Razorthorn Rift. Treants blocked the area off to outsiders with sharp patches of briar and thorn that stood 30 ft (9.1 m) tall and stretched on across 50 ft (15 m) of land.
The central ravine created by the Gatekeeper's crystal destructive power became known as Grintharke's Gulch, a name coined by a bard for the sake of alliteration. This inverted-pyramid shaped gorge was 600 ft (180 m) long on each side and around 400 ft (120 m) deep.
On the western slope of this gulch stood a magical, thin pillar of water that rose hundreds of feet into the hair, stopping at one of the gulch's dead-magic zones. This was once the site of a public well/fountain that dated back to the days of Ascalhorn.
Levels of Hellgate Keep Edit
Following the destruction of the Keep, the treant forces of Turlang were determined to reforest the area and remove the corruption it had brought upon the land. It gradually became overgrown with shrubs, small trees, and various forms of vegetation. Massive vines and an extensive network of invasive roots snaked all across what remained of the Keep, crushing stone and undermining its structures respectively. Some areas were chained shut by the roots, while others were linked together by bridges of vines and ivy.
In 1370 DR, only three sites remained prominently above the ruins, though all were partially covered in vines like the rest and were fated to meet the same ruinous fate. The Tower Arcanatorus, the Three Torn Towers, and an armory.
In that same year, all that remained of the central Keep was a large pile of teetering stone rubble at the bottom of Grintharke's Gulch, below which was an ambient glow visible to those above. Along the sides of the gulch were accessible paths to the Keep's many storage cellars, granaries, cisterns, sewers, and crypts - all of which could easily be seen from those looking down. Those storage cellars reached beneath the ground in varied depths of 6‒25 ft (1.8‒7.6 m).
The granaries, which reached depths of 20‒30 ft (6.1‒9.1 m), dated back to the time of Ascalhorn. After the demons took the control of Keep they were utilized for corpse disposal. Following the Keep's destruction, the now-visible granaries were noted for being filled to the brim with bleached and crushed bones.
- Lesser Assemblies
Back during its days as Ascalhorn, a number of emergency shelters called the the "lesser assemblies" were built 120 ft (37 m) beneath the fortress-town for citizens to hide in during attacks or times of martial law. In the corner of each assembly were small cisterns and granaries, stocked with bunkbeds and tables. When the demons took over the Keep they used these spaces for a variety of purposes, including the testing magic and forced combat among their slaves. In 1370 DR, the granaries were noted as housing only bones and rotting corpses.
- Dlardrageth Redoubt
This small villa 170 ft (52 m) beneath the Keep, predating it by over five thousand years, went completely undiscovered by the fortress's many inhabitants and was undisturbed until the incident with the Gatekeeper's Crystal. The four surviving members of the demon-corrupted sun elf house Dlardrageth were imprisoned here with stasis magic and within that time they carved their cavern complex into its villa appearance. All areas within it were lit by wall sconce mounted everburning torches, which emitted neither smoke nor heat and would become mundane once removed from their sconce.
The only entrance to this level that was visible along the Gulch was a 4 ft (1.2 m) wide window, haphazardly clawed and chiseled out of the stone. Anyone who entered this opening, or so much as deliberately peered through it, would set off magical alarms put in place by Sarya Dlardrageth that alerted its elven cambion inhabitants. It opened into an area they called the Hall of Ancestors Strength, wherein six highly detailed statues of tanar'ri were displayed on its southern wall, interposed with bas reliefs of elves and crossbreeds of the two. By 1370 DR, the three statues closest to the newly carved entrance were partially buried in rubble.
This room opened into a circular chamber with polished floors that gleamed under the torchlight. Its walls rose 20 ft (6.1 m) high, up to a dome with elaborate gold inlays that depicted a golden wyvern in flight (the seal of House Dlardrageth) against three red crossed swords. The chamber was an intersection between two other halls, as well as a wide downward staircase to the south.
- Deep Garrisons 1
- Deep Garrisons 2
- Chambers Below
The audience chamber stood 70 ft (21 m) high, with a vaulted peak ceiling that had a broad hole roughly patched by rubble, and was largely empty. Hovering 10 ft (3 m) beneath that hole was an inverted purple pyramid, exactly 10 ft (3 m) per side, that illuminated the area with pulsing magical energy. It came into existence following the use of the Gatekeeper's Crystal on the Keep. The pyramid absorbed all magic that came in contact with it and nonliving items that weren't relics or artifacts would potentially be disintegrated.
In each corner of the audience chamber stood four cauldrons of oil, situated behind huge oil lamps. On the eastern half of the room were a series of cages, 20 ft (6.1 m) long and 10 ft (3 m) wide, that were so short that prisoners were to rest on their knees.
In the center of the audience chamber stood an eight-step dais, 20 ft (6.1 m) long and 10 ft (3 m) tall, topped with a throne made from the bones of a dracolich. Whoever sat in it was protected by a globe of invulnerability. There were also three steel rings in the dais, meant for chaining prisoners that brought before Grintharke and the Keep's later demon rulers.
The fortress town of Ascal's Horn was founded in the Year of Owls' Watching, −372 DR by the Eaerlanni elves in the northeastern corner of the High Forest on a jutting peak. The town was named for Ascal Rachiilstar, the elf commander who led the construction efforts, and the peak itself later adopted the name of Ascal's Horn itself.
Ascalhorn was generally thought to have been built by the Eaerlanni so as to protect the boundaries of their kingdom from the area's orc hordes. Though other scholars speculated that it may have been a preemptive defense against the rising human nation of Netheril, considering its walls were lined with wards designed to repel Netherese spells and quasimagical item effects while magnifying the elves' own magic.
Thirty years following their admittance to the town, the human population had grown to become the majority, taking up most positions of office. Its name had been shortened to "Ascalhorn" and it was renowned as a center for magic, where human wizards could learn the more humane magic of the elves and Mystra.
The Eaerlanni elves had given it over to the humans under two conditions. The first was that they had to help defend the kingdom, for they felt the humans were better fit for dealing with guarding against the orc hordes, while the second was that they had to abandon the use of Netherese magic Those who defied the the second law faced the death penalty.
When the city of Myth Drannor rose in 261 DR, Ascalhorn one of the first cities to ally with it and through this alliance their arcane nature grew even greater. Around this time they also cultivated close relations with Silverymoon. However, much of the arcane knowledge in Ascalhorn was hoarded by the elitist, paranoid mages and wizards.
Following the fall of Myth Drannor in 714 DR, many refugees fled to the city of Ascalhorn. They were generally accepted by the populace, but the magic elite of Ascarlhorn grew ever more paranoid and fearful of losing their positions in society.
One such wizard was the Netherese arcanist Wulgreth, whose concern for power led him to summon baatezu to the city in 820 DR. But Wulgreth could never fully control them and over time the baatezu steered Ascalhorn's wizards into more covert and open warfare with one another, encouraging rivalries and misunderstandings. It escalated to the point that they fought in the streets twice every tenday. The other citizenry, uncomfortable from the baatezu's unconscious influences and the growing fighting between the arcane elite, gradually emigrated from Ascalhorn.
Fall of AscalhornEdit
The baatezu's grew ever bolder over time until they eventually convinced their masters to accept lichdom. Through them they openly dominated Ascalhorn, torturing and devouring its citizens as they pleased. In an act of desperation the few remaining wizards, under the guidance of fey'ri, summoned demons to the city in 880 DR to combat them.
Within two years the demons were triumphant , though most life in the fortress had died in the process and demons claimed the area as their territory. The balor Grintharke would bring over more of his kin and ally with the nearby orcs to wage war against the kingdoms of Eaerlann and Ammarindar, bringing them to ruin as well.
The few survivors of the massacre that occurred at Ascalhorn fled to Sundabar, Silverymoon, and Citadel Adbar. One of these survivors, a bard by the name of Maerstar, would write a song in 882 DR that rechristened the fortress as Hellgate Keep.
In 886 DR, Elminster and Khelben Arunsun used knowledge from a collection of scrolls written by mythal designer Mythanthar in conjunction with the ancient wards the Eaerlanni architects placed in Hellgate Keep to construct a near-mythal ward that would prevent the demons from using their gate abilities. Their wards were placed around the keep by members of the Harpers.
In 890 DR, the demons began attempting to tunnel beneath the wards, in the process connecting many of Hellgate's cellars to its sewers. In 898 DR, some of the first tunnels beneath the sewer are opened up, exposing ancient hidden crypts with magic that the demons plunder. By 912 DR, the demons' tunneling efforts had brought them all the way to the Nether Mountains.
In 919 DR, the demons are forced to abandon their deeper tunnels due to the Morueme clan of blue dragons. Eventually they resumed their tunneling efforts and in 1221 DR had managed to connect with the deep tunnels of fallen Ammarindar and later the Nameless Dungeon in 1356 DR. In the years that followed they would establish a network of outposts throughout Ammarindar's Underdark, consequently coming into a great deal of conflict with the drow of nearby Ched Nasad and the beholders of the Greypeaks.
In 1365 DR, Grintharke faced seven Evereskan elves his forces had caught spying on the fortress a year prior in a gladiatorial arena for sport. Using the artifact Shattering Swords of Coronal Ynloeth, the elves managed to slay grintharke, losing three of their own in the process, and then killed his vrock lieutenant before dying themselves. The other demons flew into a frenzy of in-fighting, each wanting to assume control over the keep, and by the end of the day only seven of the greater and true tanar'ri remained. The most senior officers among them - the mariliths Ssaarn, Mulvassyss, and Amassyra - agreed to a truce and formed a triumvirate. Among their first actions following Grintharke's death was to recall the Keep's forces from their ongoing warfare in Ammarindar and to abandon their outposts there.
In 1366 DR, Amassyra was assassinated by her two partners. In 1367 DR the mad wizard Radoc, a long time foe of Grintharke, assaulted the keep with a monstrous army after learning of his death. Both sides suffer casualties, but the demons ultimately prevail by crushing Radoc and his siege engines with torn bits of masonry. Mulvassyss then took this moment to slay Ssarn, leaving her the sole ruler of the Keep. Meanwhile her son Kaanyr Vhok snuck away with a small troop of human slaves to meet with the annis hag Tanta Hagara, an ally of the Keep for over two decades, seeking her aid in overthrowing his mother.
In 1368 Kaanyr marched into Hellgate Keep alongside Hagara and her forces, the Blue Bear tribe, and slew Mulvassyss. He then married the hag, desiring a permanence to their alliance, and allowed her to be viewed by the Keep as its "leader" whilst he held the real power. Her tribal barbarians would become introduced into the Keep's breeding program and they strove to bolster their tiefling forces.
Fall of HellgateEdit
In 1369 DR, two Harpers - Cryshana Fireglen and Spellviper - infiltrated Hellgate under the guise of Blue Bear tribesmen and exposed Hagara's existence as an annis hag. They believed this would cause a riot among the tribesmen, but it did nothing to destroy their respect for her. Instead, the tribesmen viewed the hag's transformation as a gift from their god meant to cement their alliance with Hellgate. With this plan having failed and their cover having not been blown the two Harpers began spreading rumors of gates and various magical items, hoping to draw them out of hiding and trick them into overextending their forces.
Their deception ultimately worked, provoking Kaanyr and Hagara to send out scouts, reconnaissance parties, and eventually small armies. In the summer of that year they sent expeditionary forces against Sundabar, Silverymoon, and the High Forest under the mistaken belief that they contained gates which would allow them access to the Abyss and therefore reinforcements. Sundabar suffered heavily during this campaign of aggression, losing of its population, though the tanar'ri made little headway in their other battles due to the magics of 1⁄4Alustriel Silverhand and the Mistmaster respectively. The latter of which was also being aided by the treant forces of Turlang.
The final major rumor to reach the ears of the Keep's leaders in 1369 DR was that the legendary Gatekeeper's Crystal, an artifact that could finally destroy the wards surrounding the Keep, was hidden within the Citadel of the Mists. Sensing that something was amiss, Kaanyr decided to lean on the side of caution and sent many of his forces down through the Keep's secret tunnels and into the Nameless Dungeon. Meanwhile, Hagara assembled a fighting force of 100 cambions and 400 members of the Blue Bear tribe. In the latter half of that year, following the month of Eleasias, she commanded her forces to march upon High Forest and the Citadel within it.
While these forces were far away from the Keep, distracted by the heat of battle, the Mistmaster set off his plan. Cryshana and Spellviper, the two Harpers who had infiltrated the Keep months prior, each possessed a shard of the Gatekeeper's Crystal and positioned themselves atop its eastern and western towers respectively. Once signaled by them, the Mistmaster teleported to the nearby cliffs south of the Keep while invisible and hovered there under heavy protection as he activated his own shard of the crystal. Blazing beams of purplish energy shot out from the crystals and illuminated the skies, forming a triangular field of energy.
Once activated, the Mistmaster willed the Gatekeeper Crystal to compress the wards that surrounded the city, stripping them away from their anchor places and absorbing them into the energy of the pyramid that marked the Crystal’s area of effect. All other magic present was transformed into wild magic. The triangular field of energy around the Keep then contracted towards a point farthest from the crystal's shards and unleashed an implosion, followed by a brutal explosion of wild magic.
For over a 100 mi (160,000 m) around the ground shook from the force of this explosion and every building within the Keep was leveled, both above and below ground. The implosion destroyed magical supports of many subcellars, causing the over-mined and overburdened structures to crumble. The explosion of wild magic destroyed more of these supports and its blast launched much the fortress city high into the air. The two Harpers were flung from their respective towers and crushed beneath scattering debris, while the Mistmaster himself was flung 3 mi (4,800 m) away but suffered no serious injuries. The jutting peak cliff upon which the Keep once stood was transformed into a deep gulch.
The stasis magic that had imprisoned House Dlardrageth beneath the Keep for centuries was stripped away by the Gatekeeper Crystal and allowed the daemonfey and fey'ri to be released out into Faerûn once more.
In the years following its destruction, many factions in Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Evereska, and elsewhere mounted expeditions into the ruins. Many did so in hopes of finding ancient elven artifacts, while the dwarves of the North were interested in recovering lost treasures plundered from the ancient dwarven city of Ammarindar. Vendariiq Memtyn was one of many people known to have sent expeditions to scavenge the Keep's catacombs.
However, adventuring into the ruins was a difficult prospect for within a few weeks following its destruction the forces of Turlang moved in and occupied the ruins. The sealed off many entrances into the Keep and sought to keep out anyone who would try to venture down into its depths.
In 1370 DR, Alustriel Silverhand tasked a group of adventurers with going down into the depths of the Keep with the magical object Mythanthar's Orb and then activate it in order to permanently seal within it whatever evil still remained there. By this year the ruins of Hellgate Keep had come to be known by some as Hellgate Dell and this new alias for the location would continue to be used well into the 15th-century DR. (See Note below for further information)
Over the centuries the tanar'ri that inhabited Hellgate Keep under Grintharke's reign would capture and enslave nearby barbarians and orcs, forcing them to breed with either each other or the demons. This led to the birth of many alu-fiend, cambion, tanarukk, and tiefling servitors. Only of the cambions and tieflings that were within the Keep during its fateful destruction, specifically those that were in its lower levels, survived. 1⁄10 Around 300 tanarukk also perished in the destruction of the Keep.
Other times, the humans they captured were simply turned into ghouls and set loose across the Savage North. This latter fate usually befell human house slaves who became disobedient. The Shining Falls were one of many locations in which the Keep hunted for humans.
Within the first few weeks following its destruction the treant forces of Turlang quickly moved to occupy the ruined Keep. Several kinds of birds also took up residence in the cellars and exposed areas of the ruins, while ghouls and ghasts laired in the exposed granaries.
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- ↑ The sourcebook "The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier" (1996) details on page 55 of the Wilderness section that Hellgate Dell is the remnants of Hellgate Keep. The adventure module "Hellgate Keep" (1998) makes reference to that book on page 18, but retcons it that Hellgate Dell is a separate location. Explaining the discrepancy as, "...a few tall tales told by an overly excitable bard..." However, the later published "Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide" (2015) corroborates on pages 48 & 86 the view of the first sourcebook.
- Hellgate Keep
- Card Games
- Spellfire: Master the Magic
- Video Games
- Treasures of the Savage Frontier
- Referenced only
- Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 166. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), pp. 210–212. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 12. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Dale Henson (as slade), Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Steven E. Schend, Jennell Jaquays (as Paul Jaquays), Steve Perrin (April 1996). The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (The Wilderness). (TSR, Inc), pp. 12, 53, 58. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.
- ↑ Jennell Jaquays (1988). The Savage Frontier. (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 0-88038-593-6.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 4. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 17. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 18. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 23–24. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 99. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), A Grand Tour of the Realms. (TSR, Inc), p. 113. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 5, 8. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 26.2 Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 85. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark. (TSR, Inc), pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 147. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ 29.0 29.1 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), pp. 5–6, 8. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 30.5 30.6 30.7 Dale Henson (as slade), Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Steven E. Schend, Jennell Jaquays (as Paul Jaquays), Steve Perrin (April 1996). The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (The Wilderness). (TSR, Inc), p. 11. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 150. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 126. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark. (TSR, Inc), p. 58. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.
- ↑ Dale Henson (as slade), Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Steven E. Schend, Jennell Jaquays (as Paul Jaquays), Steve Perrin (April 1996). The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (The Wilderness). (TSR, Inc), p. 55. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.
- ↑ Kim Mohan ed. (2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 48, 86. ISBN 978-0786965809.
- ↑ Steven E. Schend (March 1998). Hellgate Keep. (TSR, Inc), p. 13. ISBN 978-0786907861.
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 Ed Greenwood (October 1990). Dwarves Deep. (TSR, Inc.), p. 52. ISBN 0-88038-880-3.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark. (TSR, Inc), p. 31. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.