The dwarves were at a local festival, the Feast of the Gold Tadpole, in the tributary settlement of Klassa. It was good to spend the week away from Whiskey Forge, because the clan home spent the week with a tanning focus, so it was awfully smelly, and it was also an important week for political meetings.

The dwarven children used skimmers to harvest the bright orange tadpoles, which were like living jello shots with a cheezy texture coating. For every ten ingested, a dwarf got a little carved tadpole to hang from a beard, mustachio, hair construct, etc.

Gudrun won the Golden Frog award as royalty of the festival, receiving a frog hat with back leg earflaps that was luminous gold, with sparkly eyeballs.

The Speaker of Klassa called for them after the ceremony; a matter of some urgency came up. Four humans had infiltrated the Forest Door and found their way to Klassa to bring word to the dwarves, and the Speaker delegated dealing with them to Vecna, as she was a diplomat and figure with some stature in the clan.

Vecna, Gudrun, The Dan, Devron, and Onexia Delvestride (Mauler, Carouser, Mechinician, played by Bess) heard out the emissary. His name was Bug Eyed Turner, and he represented a bandit named Bromley Luck. Luck had attacked several caravans of dwarven goods in the past, and had a sour reputation. But the bandits brought word of a growing threat.

A goblin with mechanical genius settled in to mine and craft in the mountains. He was making magical flying ships, and mechanical monsters that were huge and could stomp a much bigger force; when Luck sent his forces against the goblins, not only did they drive him back, they counter-attacked and stole his son Briggs. Turner tried to imply that the dwarves would be well served by stopping this flying menace before it affected their mountain home, but it was clear he just wanted help and couldn’t expect to get it from the humans or elves.

Sending the humans to sleep in the beetle barn, the dwarves talked it over and decided to go have a look.

The Forest Door

Taking two giant riding beetles with howdahs (Ringo and Mr. Tap) they ignored Ralph, one of the humans who was vomiting constantly unable to handle the rhythm of the beetle stride. They traveled to the Forest Door, and overnighted near it. The next morning they spoke to the elves, who granted them safe passage. They overnighted in a stone ring as they had before, but headed towards the human lands. Passing through elven territory was uneventful.

The Shieldsplitters

They entered human lands, and as darkness approached, they decided to stash the beetles in the wild and go to a coaching inn for the night. However, as they entered, they saw half a dozen Shieldsplitter mercenaries who were already quite drunk and had alienated the locals.

Resolving to ignore the Shieldsplitters as long as they were able, they were nonetheless accosted almost immediately. The Dan threw a punch and got things started, and before the Shieldsplitters could properly show up for the brawl they were missing teeth and strewn about the room.

Otherwise, the night passed uneventfully, but it was good that they didn’t linger. They spent the next night in a known bandit camp that was safe from authorities.

However, upon leaving they encountered a pack of thirty Shieldsplitters, looking to get revenge for the battering of some of their number. Vecna stared them down from astride her majestic beetle, holding on to her enchanted prestige weapon, and the Shieldsplitters reluctantly parted to let them pass.

The River Through Corpseknife Badlands

They entered bandit territory, opting for the more heavily guarded river approach rather than the sparser highland workaround. Soon they were intercepted by the Blue Slash bandits, weirdo cannibals. The bandits blocked their path (after the dwarves failed to ride into the pit trap) and their leaders emerged.

Two of them had primitive flamethrowers, then there was a giant with a helmet made out of pieces of other helmets. He bore a broken executioner’s sword and a mace with a horse head pointed either way reinforced with metal. Vecna challenged him to single combat.

They had a brutal fight, but she managed to kill him at last with a hammer blow that broke his face. The Blue Slash reluctantly parted to let them pass, and began infighting to choose a new leader immediately.

The dwarves were followed and shadowed by other groups as they proceeded, but they didn’t slow down until they entered the underground hideout used by Bromley Luck’s bandits.

A Lucky Hideout

There they met with the bandits, who had killed a giant crab and were sharing its chowder. They spoke with an educated bandit who was better at Neverecht, the language they had in common. He told them about the goblin encampment for years, quiet and keeping to themselves, then how they came out with lift gas in balloons, flying and pillaging, and how they had some “volt” mechanical contraption that could break into parts or recombine. Very frightening stuff.

The dwarves resolved to investigate further.