Clan Rumbleseed, played 4.4.20 IRL (in real life) and 10/15/2121 IG (in game).
- Miraeg Dunn (Jonathan) Leader, Performer, Mechanic.
- Ivo Flynt (Imre) Support, Gunsmith, Engineer.
- Cagroot Hopstrider (KC) Skirmisher, Brewer, Delver.
- Thoreson Grimeater (Anders) Berserker, Chef, Healer.
What’s Been Going On?
In the seven months since the last adventure, the dwarves were busy with various projects.
- Miraeg was summoned by his aunt, whose health was failing. Her time to die was drawing near. She was instrumental in teaching him stories and songs as a performer, and as her memory was failing, he performed for her the material she taught him. He also used his expertise with machines to keep her life support machinery optimized until it was no longer needed.
- Ivo spent time reinforcing the Deep Wall, one of the fortifications in the Lower Delve. He served there during his First Fifty and it was pleasant to be among those charged with defending the reach, whose perspective was perhaps clearer on certain issues than those safely entrenched up above. He supervised the critical cannon maintenance.
- Cagroot invested in networking and study with some of the clan alchemists, continuing his life-long fascination with their art. His family insisted he become a brewer, but he had always been enamored of the alchemical arts, and he may yet master their secrets for himself. In the meantime, nobody parties quite the way alchemists do, and his brews were welcome mediums for experimentation.
- Thoreson took on some secret messenger work for the Archon of the clan. Due to his success in dealing with the topsiders in the celebrated wedding (where he also happened to save Lady Kreshka’s life) he was allowed to satisfy a current Sinlayan noble fad for dwarven delicacies. He took loads of candied mandibular treats to the surface, a confection he called “elf noses” (and some of the elite versions had a point you could squeeze so the top peeled open, called “sneezers.”) He carried confidential messages back and forth on these trips as well.
Expedition to the Various Gardens
In the background, Torala Dunn continued his negotiations and jockying for position in the upcoming joint venture for Rumbleseed to send a new expedition into the Various Gardens. Their haphazard rush to snatch territory for each family of the clan created complications at the Delve access point that have only magnified over time, so breaching this new territory was to be a joint venture with agreed-upon articles of cooperation. The Dunn family had a seat at the table, and would have a delegation in the overall expedition.
Torala’s nephew Felvis, Miraeg’s cousin, considered himself a shoo-in for the position. An experienced delver, he was confident enough that he was getting in a lengthy hunting trip before Torala headed to Powder’s Rest for the Council meeting, since he would be too busy with the expedition for recreation later.
Supper with the Patriarch
Torala invited Miraeg and his friends to supper, where he usually had a dozen or so dwarves enjoying table fellowship. Over the course of supper, he explained he was headed to Powder’s Rest for the Council deliberations on the expedition to the Various Gardens, and the final roster would be revealed in three weeks, at the Palegate Festival.
An old friend had reached out to him and ordered three casks of a specialty vintage of wine (Torala was a skilled vintner.) Torala had been friends with Baron Jer Rennet, they went to war against goblins together. Torala was also friends with Jer’s son, they hunted together occasionally. Humans age so fast he lost touch for a bit, but now he got a request from Baron Henrik Rennet, great-grandson of Jer. The baron was throwing a harvest party, apparently it was that time in the weather cycle on the surface. Torala was sending wine he laid in the year Jer Rennet was born, 136 years ago, and it seemed a fitting exchange with his friend’s descendant. Besides, occasionally reinforcing friendships with allies was a critical peacetime activity, because when war comes it’s too late to make friends.
Normally Felvis would handle such a trip–Miraeg was quick to catch the drift, and offered to take the shipment. There was some clarification that this wasn’t a negotiation, no promises were made, but the service would be considered in assigning the Dunn faction participation in the Various Garden expedition. Miraeg was honored to handle the task as Torala’s shield, and Ivo smoothed the way diplomatically so everyone was on the page with no awkwardness.
To Rennet Hall
The paths between the surface hall and the Delve were mostly steep and narrow stairways, unsuitable for pack animals. The dwarves shouldered the casks and supplies and stoically undertook the three day trip through fairly safe territory. They arrived at Rennet Hall without incident in the late afternoon, noting that the hall looked somewhat like an inhabited tinderbox. It was pleasant to see the minotaur skull mounted over the doorway from a hunt almost a century ago, recalling that Jer’s son teased Torala about missing out on a good adventure. None of the current residents had been alive when that hunt happened, and it was already legend for them.
Servants were preparing the hall for a big party, and they were awed and respectful to the visiting dwarves. Baron Rennet swung out to meet them on his crutch, and was awkward but respectful, not quite sure how to handle them (as dwarves were not common visitors to his hall.) He invited them to stay for the celebration in three days, and they agreed.
The discomfort soon eased. Rennet’s butler, Casic, saw to it that they settled themselves. As Thoreson deposited his live puppy-sized rollingbugs in the root cellar, to be prepared for the feast later, Casic took the opportunity to reveal a potential problem. The baron’s wife, Elenor, went to a celebration at a neighboring baron’s estate. She was over a day overdue. The baron had a difficult year, and loved his wife deeply, and to send out a search party would be to admit something was wrong. Casic asked the dwarves to follow the Outer Road to Lebrim Manor, about a day’s walk, because Elenor should be there or on the road back.
Baron Dav Lebrim just inherited his father’s title and lands, so the masquerade ball was a title-warming party as well as celebration for the summer’s end to the hostilities with Vandov, as well as a harvest celebration.
Thoreson swore he’d protect the baroness and see her home, and Lynn Casic was relieved; she would owe him one. He formalized the agreement by marking her hand with a circle of his blood, because favors are a solemn thing for dwarves.
When Thoreson returned to the others, they were reflecting (in their native language Dirit) on the oddities of human culture (they burn wood!) He told them they’d go after the baroness tonight, not even resting overnight. They would “tour the local countryside.” But the cook insisted they stay for supper, and they agreed.
Over mealy human food with inoffensive drink, they chatted with the baron. Ivo asked when his new leg would arrive, and the embarrassed Baron explained the crutch was pretty much it. He lost his leg to Vandov horsemen in the summer battles, when he took an arrow to the knee. Shocked, Ivo promised to make him a prosthetic. The animated conversation that followed got the baron excited about the prospect of a fitted chitinous mechanical limb, and grateful for their promised gift.
To Lebrim Manor
As the human day wrapped up, the dwarves set out on their hike, weary from their long day but not exhausted. Navigating the surface was strange and difficult under the open sky, and they lost half a day trying to keep the wagon tracks humans call a road separate; the raiding with Vandov resulted in many signposts being defaced, so the “outer road” was not easy to follow.
They arrived as dusk was settling in, noting that there were no lights on in the manor and the decorations for the party appeared neglected. Circling the perimeter of the house first, they saw a stable, a guest house, and a pond in the back. They checked the stable, finding a number of dead horses. What killed them? Maybe poison, hard to say with surface creatures; no visible wounds, anyway. One terrified horse was still alive, and they left it alone. They did see three carriages parked behind the stable–the baroness probably didn’t leave.
Rain fell from the sky. Rather than check the guest house, they headed into the manor itself. An eerie silence saturated the main hall, and they looked to see where something bloody had been dragged from the dining room to the kitchen; something had gouged the door frame, also, and the manor was redolent with the stench of the dead and corruption. Miraeg and Ivo checked the dining room, while Thoreson and Cagroot checked the kitchen.
Leftovers of the Feast
Costumed revelers were sprawled around the dining room, and a mass of rats helped themselves to the remains of the meal on the table. Miraeg leaned in to inspect one of the revelers to try and figure out what happened to him. The corpse snatched his wrist, and a mass of the dead sprang to their feet with impossible energy.
Ivo fell back and blasted away with hollow tip and explosive rounds, and Miraeg blocked the doorway, battering away at the shamblers. As the corpses lunged for them, the rats swarmed off the table, pouring between the shamblers’ legs and springing up onto the dwarves in a frenzy.
The dwarves flung the rats off and leaped out of the way as Cagroot charged in, chewing up the incendiary beetles he kept under his beard so he could spray a gout of flame like a breath weapon, immolating the vermin before they could follow up. More shamblers hammered into the Fellowship’s flank from the kitchen, and Ivo scooted down the hall away from the melee, expertly flicking more rounds into his gun and continuing to blast the shamblers.
The Fellowship battered the shamblers down with minimal injury, and checked to make sure the baroness was not in their number. (They saw a portrait of her and the baron at Rennet Hall, painted in happier times.) They rested to catch their breath and tend their injuries.
Ivo heard an intermittent, almost aggressive heartbeat. No one else could hear it, and he assured himself there was nothing in the walls, using his expertise as an engineer. Wary, the Fellowship went into the kitchen, and saw something had previously burst out of the cellar below (because of course there was a cellar below.)
The Fellowship descended the stairs and saw a gooey mess of corpses and rancid wine in the cellar. Maybe something was stirring in one of the kegs in the basement, also. They needed to know if the baroness was here, but they also knew that disturbing the dead might provoke some of them to rise. Ivo was prepared to toss a grenade and be done with it, but he had evaluated the house’s structure, and it was a risky prospect–the hall might come down with them in the cellar. Then they could not know for certain that the baroness was dead. What if she was not among the corpses?
Using his combat training as a skirmisher, the ultimate lightfoot, Cagroot carefully stepped between the rotten dead, studying each. He found the baroness, then carefully returned to the others and reported back. Still, if they didn’t return her body, it was hearsay; would collecting jewelry be enough? They grimly agreed it would not.
Cagroot once again stepped through the corpses, this time to retrieve the body gently without arousing any attackers; a heroically difficult undertaking at long odds. He managed to get her in his arms, but before he could rise, the dead sprang up! He was sprayed in the effluvium gluing them to the floor, and surrounded by deadly danger.
Cagroot relied on his reflexes and strength, hurling the baroness’s body out of the scrimmage and scampering clear somehow. Miraeg slapped the baroness’s attacks aside, swept her up, and pounded up the stairs as Ivo hurled the lit grenade into the swarm of shamblers. The explosive detonated with a deafening crash, and the manor trembled and collapsed as the dwarves sprinted out. They swiftly pummeled the baroness’s corpse into passivity, then bundled it up.
A Glum Night
The dwarves hunched in the nearby woods under the pouring rain. Several of them had heard the intermittent heartbeat after Ivo mentioned it, but now Ivo could hardly feel it. Only Cagroot was troubled by the heartbeat. In his dreams, red and wet, something squirmed.
(3 Ledger, deferred until they can Tell the Tale.)