Bearer of the Shard

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Clan Caskbound, played 4.10.20 IRL, 8.25.2121 IG.

  • Devron Leveller (Mark) Berserker. Chosen, Mason.
  • Dandel “The Dan” Deeptunnel (Simon) Berserker. Carouser, Miner, Brewer.
  • Korvask Wyrt (Michael) Vanguard. Enchanter, Scholar.

The Beetleback Brewery

The Dan leveraged Clan Caskbound resources to smooth the way with the Magistrate of Ryvolko to open a brewery and tavern in the City of Spires. After months of shuttling supplies back and forth over the sea and working tirelessly to rehabilitate the brewery from its sturdy dwarven bones and patching up the human structure atop it, they were ready to open.

The Dan also acquired an apprentice, Zuuker Roth, who ran a successful tavern in Whiskey Forge. Zuuker wanted more than professional competence, trading in his tavern for a chance to study the secret arts of dwarven brewing under the award-winning brewer The Dan. He eagerly set to the work in the Beetleback Brewery, acquiring human staff and running the place to exacting standards.

Opening Night

As The Dan looked after all the details and handled hosting duties, Devron settled in as security and Korvask used his bloodbrush to paint a brilliance rune on the mantle of the fireplace, preparing it to breathe out a whimsical display of fire-fly like witchlight illusions on his command, for ambiance.

Over seventy patrons could fit in the establishment, and the grand opening drew far more than that, with people cycling through and enjoying the exterior of the building as well as the inside. (Apparently humans require room to dance to properly enjoy anything.) The Dan’s custom brew to please the human palate (and capacity) was popular. Patrons were a bit rowdy, but Devron’s stern presence kept things from getting out of hand.

The visitor from furthest away was the sorceress Shoyara, all the way from Stoneshadow. She even brought her apprentice, who avoided eye contact with the Fellowship.

The Magistrate of Ryvolko

When Magistrate Plaxton arrived with his bodyguards, Korvask triggered the rune of brilliance, and the humans were awed by the display. The Dan presented the magistrate with a custom-built fanny-keg like the one he carried, which the magistrate appreciated.

Plaxton confided in The Dan that two days ago something fell from the sky, landing not far from here in unclaimed territory. Plaxton considered the opportunity to investigate to be a good test for his new neighbors from Caskbound; how they comported themselves and managed success (and also how they handled success) would instruct him on how to view them.

What’s Up?

The Fellowship managed some quick conversation in the midst of the roaring party, and also found local contacts to consult to find out more. Kroy, the cleric to the Church of Unsteadiness, was present and had been seen chatting with Tangler earlier. Kroy agreed to get them up to speed on the situation if The Dan would install a shrine to the Church of Unsteadiness as a lean-to or area within his new tavern; functionally, it would serve as a place for incapacitated revelers to be laid out to recover in relative comfort and privacy. The Dan agreed.

Kroy reported speculation that the object that fell was keenly pursued by several factions because wizards believed it was a peculiar material important for their work. She had a sample (not from this skyfall, but a previous one) that was a crystal that Korvask instantly recognized as a mind shard. The yellow material matrix could be imprinted with a mind’s pattern, by one who knew the art, and could also serve as a conduit for remotely controlling constructs.

So far, Kroy knew of four expeditions pursuing the skyfall. Daggerface led a cohort of orcs. Lord Fangbox led a Mosobdian expedition, with Straybeam piloting a skyship and the wizard Scheduler providing mystical guidance. Two wizards, Iskavol and Yaru, formed an expedition loosely affiliated with the Keyin Protectorate but mainly in service to the secretive network of mages. Clan Caskbound’s Fellowship would be the fourth. The others had about a twelve hour head start.

Towards the Skyfall

Leaving Zuuker in charge of the party, the Fellowship recruited Nymeer and the Sea Scout, taking off at once with minimal supplies. By mid-morning they saw the tower impact cloud over the site that somehow had not dissipated over the last couple days. They did not want to fly into the cloud, so the final approach would be on foot.

The edge of the cloud had a balloon and basket airship drawn by geese, landed and magically warded; the Fellowship did not want to enter so close to where the wizards had touched down. Circling around, they saw the Mosobidian airship of Lord Fangbox, and continued around the perimeter. They saw an orc airship, still in the air and awaiting a signal. Steering clear of the other expeditions, they landed and left Nymeer with the ship as they continued into the murk of the cloud.

Seeking the Impact Crater

The Fellowship heard the sounds of desperate battle between a wizard and bestial foes nearby in the fog. They chose not to interfere, keeping a low profile as their dwarven senses helped them stay grounded in the disorienting fog. Using the poor visibility to their advantage, they found their way to the edge of the crater. Past mining experience suggested something large tunneled nearby underfoot, so they moved with stealth and speed. They heard sounds of orcish battle nearby, and it didn’t sound like the orcs were winning.

As they slid down using a rope to anchor them so they could retreat quickly if need be, they pushed through the destabilizing waves of thought that rolled from the rock at the center of the crater, far too intact to have fallen naturally. The Dan, accustomed to resisting the mental strains of carousing and drinking, saw the strange burned crystal ooze out a fresh yellow shard.

Korvask’s excitement grew still further. Mind shards were useful material, but their source was not well understood. If this was a Nexus of the mind shard, it could be a connection to a whole set–and it could be capable of growing more. A Nexus was multi-dimensional, and attuning to it could allow access to its inner workings. He bravely took up the shard and stepped through its surface; the skyfall rippled like water, and he vanished into it.

At that moment, a couple armored burrowing monsters launched out of the side of the crater at Devron and The Dan, who cut them down and warily awaited Korvask’s return.

In the Nexus

Korvask entered the crystalline chamber, majestic and alien. He felt the presence of the Nexus of the Mind Shard coursing around his thoughts, and he projected admiration for it as both a scholar and an enchanter. The alien presence was open to him, and they connected; it looked through his present moment and sensed how Clan Caskbound had corrupted the ecology of the Caskbound Pocket with their weaponized alchemy in the founding of the clan, and harnessed that mutated wilderness to their own ends, and it reacted aggressively to the threat they represented. The Nexus snatched at control of Korvask, to neutralize him.

As a vanguard trained to move for no force, Korvask managed to hold out. The wave rolled out at his companions outside the Nexus, and as they staggered under the assault, more burrowing creatures more hideous than the last lurched out of the earth at them, threatening them with acid; they defended their minds and bodies.

Korvask, inside the Nexus, did not react with aggression; instead, he focused on the worse threats the dwarves contained. The Nexus slowed its push, and Korvask used his bloodbrush to paint a connecting rune on the crystal. Connection was vulnerability, and the Nexus boldly explored his psyche further. It was stranded in an alien place, projecting ideas he could not contextualize, focused on its own defense. Korvask was profoundly successful in attuning with it, and they formed a partnership.

For a moment, Korvask could see through all the creatures the Nexus had planted a mind shard into, that were operating as a hive mind in its defense. He chose to relinquish control of them, and his intuitive sense of the workings of the mind shards was such that he dissolved them and retrieved their essence, freeing the creatures from the Nexus.

The skyfall dissolved from around his form as the Nexus folded itself into his psyche and bones, and his eyes gleamed gold as he stepped forth carrying the Nexus inside. The magically anchored fog over the impact crater was released, and began to drift apart.

Escape

The Fellowship retreated with speed and stealth, taking advantage of the confusion of the released slaves of the Nexus and successfully avoiding the other expeditions. As soon as they reached their skyship and Nymeer, they set course directly for Caskbound; this victory and cargo was too precious to risk detours.

The implications of acquiring a living Nexus of mind shards was worth 3 Ledger, and the clan’s prestige and strength would both increase, raising the total to 5.

Yivica

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Clan Caskbound, played 4.3.20 IRL, 5.23.2121 IG.

  • Devron Leveller (Mark) Berserker. Chosen, Mason.
  • Dandel “The Dan” Deeptunnel (Simon) Berserker. Carouser, Miner, Brewer.
  • Korvask Wyrt (Michael) Vanguard. Enchanter, Scholar.
  • NPCs: Helbek and Nymeer.

To Yivica!

On the airship voyage back, the corrupted dwarf Droktho told them of Yivica, the colony Lorcrow relocated from Ryvolko after the heavy losses at Scream Peak. He gave them the location and directions to reach it, as well as the lantern codes (communicating by blinking lights) to communicate with the defenders of its airspace. He told them to keep an eye out for the Gorebug, a red airship, and its captain Prug Chor.

With Droktho turned over to the loremasters of Whiskey Forge and the archon informed of the need to send enchanters to reinforce the Seal Chamber, the Fellowship made some rapid preparations to check on the Yivica colony. The Dan discovered his signature brew, Beetlejuice, was award winning! He laid in a stock to share with the colony as a gift. Korvask prepared a book with the history of the clan’s activity since the separation, and Devron acquired a wheel of expensive troll cheese; a bit of an acquired taste, but it slowly regenerated, an excellent “cheese starter” to keep a family supplied. (Cheese is holy to Ellifino, his patron God of Ur.)

The Fellowship once again crossed the waters, a five day voyage by airship, passing over the sea witches without incident. They were intercepted by the Gore Bug, but the captain recognized the lantern code (Korvask had a knack for it) and agreed to escort them in.

Meet and Greet

They closed in on Yivica, a straightforward keep built over the entry to a quarry and mine that was used to supply its materials. The archon, Seddven, met them with his pick, Javis, at his side. After the initial introductions, they entered the great hall, geared for long-range defense, and met with the rest of the clan in a great celebration with cave strider drumsticks for everyone.

Upon discovering they were scholars, Seddven mentioned to them that artifacts from the Old World, when it was only humans and neither dwarves nor orcs had been created yet, had been unearthed nearby. Helbek was enthusiastic and torn; he wanted to catch up with the colony, but also see these rare finds, which were not extant in the Stoneshadow. Korvask assured him he would check it out, and if the find was legit, involve the elder. Satisfied, Helbek decided to stay in Yivica while the rest of the Fellowship checked out the site.

The Tomb

The next day the Fellowship caught up on rest after the exhausting celebration the night before, heading out in early afternoon. Nymeer cut the day-long slog to a couple hours by airship, with Javis pointing the way by air. The canopy was too thick to land the ship, and tying up was problematic since the active jungle life could pose unpredictable threats, so the Fellowship asked Nymeer to return before dusk the following day.

Lowering down to the site by cable, they met with the chief academic on site, Reskin. The dwarves had discovered the tomb by accident a month or so ago, and he had burrowed into it and found a stone box at its center. Since the fire wasps on site were easily antagonized, he drafted the Fellowship to help carry the massive stone box back to the campsite nearby, where they put it in a shallow pit they used for fires and covering things they wanted to keep away from local wildlife.

As a mason, Devron was able to concoct a solution out of the local plantain wine that dissolved the seal on the stone box. Opening it, they found a mummified corpse covered in jewelry, holding a skull-sized rounded stone. The stone had a fascinating texture and coloration, especially interesting to Reskin, who began guarding it jealously.

Korvask was especially intrigued by the jewelry, depicting (possibly deifying) a six legged jungle-lizard thing, and the numerous little statues in the box.

The Fellowship also met three orc scouts who were assisting the dwarves; Tarhun, a hulk who was a bit dopey. Ixandra, a calculating and sly jungle orc. Grell, a suspicious warrior.

Stone Warriors

In the dusk hours, as their studies continued, flaming javelins were hurled into tents. The dwarves reeled as attackers swarmed out of the treeline. The Fellowship were quickest to respond, springing into battle as the other dwarves scrambled to put out fires and gear up.

The dwarven victory was swift and decisive, leaving the attackers sprawled all over the site. With closer examination, the attackers were human, daubed in mud for camouflage and possibly religious reasons.

The Fellowship identified a dazed stone warrior and tied him up, asking Tarhun to try and communicate with him. The stone warrior apparently shared some language roots with the orc language, and mainly threatened them; when asked why he should be spared, he said he would go to his god and demand their deaths if they killed him. They shrugged and let the orc bash his head in. The orcs dragged the fallen stone warriors over to the burn pit and ate some of them.

Ixandra reported she had come across the trail of the stone warriors, so they could be tracked; considering the darkness, and the futility of killing more of them for the sake of killing them, the Fellowship passed.

The stone warriors mounted another raid in the night, this time focused on the stone, but they were easily repulsed.

Bait and Switch

Reskin was eager to get his prize stone back to Yivica. The Fellowship formed a plan with his input. Send all the dwarves and the orcs on foot, giving every indication they had all the loot from the tomb. Then the Fellowship, Reskin, and Tarhun would wait by the tomb and catch a ride back with Nymeer before dusk.

The dwarves and orcs obediently packed up and headed out. While the Fellowship waited by the tomb and the day wore on, an enterprising stone warrior managed to rope a cave king as a mount, and rode on the Fellowship. The brutal dwarves made short work of the bipedal monster and its giant jaws, killing the stone warrior as an afterthought.

Pickup

The sun went down, and in the gathering gloom the Fellowship tried to rig a beacon. Using lanterns wasn’t going to be bright enough, and they tried to make a fire in the wet jungle and only succeeded in wasting The Dan’s fanny keg of the good stuff. Korvask used his blood brush to sketch out a sizable rune for brilliance, pouring life force into it, and it shone up to illuminate the canopy overhead.

Hours late, the Sea Scout limped into the airspace overhead and lowered a rope. They climbed up, distressed to see the fire wasp scoring and bat goblin corpses hanging from the carriage. Nymeer and Javis fought off several waves of attackers that damaged the airship some, but they could limp back to Yivica.

On the trip back, Korvask was suspicious of Reskin’s content contemplation of the stone; as a scholar, he should be trying to interact with it. They experimented some, to the point of rapping on it and licking it. Korvask persuaded Reskin to agree to take the stone to Whiskey Forge to look it over, provided he could go along and retain ownership and control of the stone.

Conclusion

Once again the Sea Scout carried them over the waves, back to Whiskey Forge. Upon presenting the stone to the loremasters, they discovered it was a basilisk egg. Basilisks had not been seen for decades at least, maybe centuries. The stone was likely two to three thousand years old, and could yet hatch if exposed to some kind of draconic royal jelly. At least, that’s what legends suggested. No one was in a hurry to hatch a basilisk.

Scream Peak

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Clan Caskbound, played 3.27.20 IRL, 4.28.2121 IG.

  • Devron Leveller (Mark) Berserker. Chosen, Mason.
  • Dandel “The Dan” Deeptunnel (Simon) Berserker. Carouser, Miner, Brewer.
  • Korvask Wyrt (Michael) Vanguard. Enchanter, Scholar.
  • [Gudrun Caskbound (Iris) Mauler. Enchanter, Scholar, Armorer.] Character present, not player.
  • NPCs on the expedition: Nymeer, Helbek, Scout LePeek.

Possibly Relevant Details

Once the airship was some distance away from Ryvolko, their human guide, Scout LePeek, revealed that he was not totally forthcoming about where they were headed. There was a mine where the dwarves were based, and he spent a month and a half there at one point (for undisclosed reasons) and that’s how he learned some Dirit, their native language. They have a pretty friendly arrangement with the local orcs, who scout and hunt for them, but the Krung Throneshadow doesn’t want to look soft or admit they collaborate with dwarves.

This sounded highly unlikely to the Fellowship, who viewed their scout with fresh distrust. Still, one way or another, they had to investigate.

Rithbod and Scorns

They set the airship down, leaving Gudrun and Nymeer to protect it. Scout insisted they should intercept an orc, Rithbod, and his scorns, or ranger guards in the jungle. They navigated through the jungle well, reaching a vantage point where they could see Rithbod and the scorns feasting on some local animal they brought down. Scout went down to talk to them, and the nervous dwarves followed when violence didn’t immediately erupt. Rithbod spoke decent Dirit, and urged them to follow as he took them to the other stumpies.

On the way they were attacked by more of the bipedal jungle lizards, almost mount sized, called cave striders by the orcs. The battle was fierce, but the dwarves and orcs won through; Rithbod stuck it out, even though his scorns ran into the jungle to regroup later.

The Dwarf Gate

The Fellowship, led by an orc and a human, reached a hidden fold of the mountain with a rickety bridge stretched across a couple rocks to a back door into the mountain. Wary, they crossed the bridge to find a shaft sunk into the rock centuries ago, looking neglected. As they entered the mountain, they encountered another orc, Locrag, who was assigned to aid the dwarves that resided in this place. He led them to their kin.

The Fellowship met the local dwarves in a spare, utilitarian forge storeroom common room chamber in the mountain. They were introduced to the leader, Chimur, an enchanter engineer with an enchanted locked gauntlet, Hellbiter; a bane weapon against the infernal. His pick, Sagaba, and shield, Inoru, as well as Yabar and Droktho (who was currently assigned to guard duty deeper in.)

They celebrated together, draining The Dan’s gift keg and singing the old songs together, both delighted to fill in some gaps in times past. Finally, some answers.

Previously, at the Dwarf Gate

Over 400 years ago, the orcs approached Lorcrow, at Ryvolko. They were struggling with a problem that outgrew their shamanistic solutions, and they thought dwarven enchantment could help. A massive fire demon they called Mruloor was pushing out of a volcano, and they could not contain it.

As a proper Bloodcrag enchanter, Lorcrow knew how to use volcanoes to flow lava into channels and create large-scale binding runes. He led his people in an assault on Scream Peak, the mountain overhead. Again and again they drove at the demon’s forces, conjured out of thin air with infernal energy and flame and bone. Lorcrow lost his brothers and his son in the final assault, but the dwarves bound Mruloor long enough to construct the Seal Chamber to keep the demon restrained for centuries more.

The battered clan could not stay under Scream Peak, for the leaking infernal energy was too much to subject them to day after day for years on end. A handpicked elite stayed to maintain the site and its enchantments, and the rest were granted a nice location for their colony, protected in the Krung Throneshadow, relatively nearby. Lorcrow would not allow travel and visiting back and forth, to minimize the risks and preserve the secrecy. So most of the dwarves left, and over the centuries, those who remained dwindled to a handful.

Since the orcs handle hunting and defense, the main casualties were from leaking infernal energies pooling in them in secret; rigorous as their testing is, it is difficult to be vigilant decade after decade, and there were lapses.

The Seal Chamber

The Fellowship was keen to see the seal chamber, center of the runic defense of the site. Chimur and Inoru escorted them, and they met with Droktho along the way. Korvask detected infernal energies accumulated in Droktho, and quietly alerted the Fellowship.

When they reached the lava-baked column that anchored the seal chamber, they were alarmed to see how it had deteriorated. A surge of infernal energy shoved up out of the lava, creating a massive energy and lava cave king lizard that roared at them and attacked. Slagging weapons, they managed to batter it down to slop apart, and they withdrew.

Now that they knew the seal was badly weakened, and they knew the location and story of the Dwarf Gate, they could return to Whiskey Forge and send some specialists out to shore up the defenses–with orc permission, of course.

Covering and Defending

Lorcrag, the orc assistant, agreed to work with the locals and get permission to bring more enchanters out to anchor the site–as long as the dwarves weren’t preparing for expansion or war. They agreed.

The fellowship insisted Droktho return with them, as his infernal contamination could compromise the site at any time. He flatly refused, and as a vanguard, challenged them to move him. They let it go–but The Dan was a carouser with long experience in manipulating dwarven honor. He got Droktho drinking, regaling him with tales of Whiskey Forge, and tricked him into promising to come take a look.

In the sober light of morning, Droktho’s vow held, and he grudgingly left with the Fellowship. They began the long trip back to the airship, and from there, back to Whiskey Forge. Once they arranged for reinforcement of the Seal Chamber, they would check on the colony to see how the rest of the dwarves had fared in the Throneshadow.

The Lost Colony

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Clan Caskbound, played 3.20.20 IRL, 4.22.2121 IG.

  • Gudrun Caskbound (Iris) Mauler. Enchanter, Scholar, Armorer.
  • Dandel “The Dan” Deeptunnel (Simon) Berserker. Carouser, Miner, Brewer.
  • Korvask Wyrt (Michael) Vanguard. Enchanter, Scholar.
  • Devron Leveller (Mark) Berserker. Chosen, Mason.

To Ryvolko!

The Fellowship was expanded as the honored scholar Helbek involved another of his nieces, Nymeer, because she was recently promoted to captain of a small airship, the Sea Scout. They also added Devron, a Chosen who could lend a hand in their expedition.

Croydon, the human they rescued from the clutches of a wizard, used his skill as an airship crewman to direct them across the sea to Ryvolko, the City of Spires. Districts in the city were separated by walls, and there were spires to dock airships. Moving from one area to another involved elevators to go over the walls using machinery.

Unsteadyness

They docked on a spire and went to a public house, where they met Kroy, a human cleric of the Church of Unsteadiness, and her assistant Pama. She agreed to help them make a contact who could possibly lead them into the Krung Throneshadow if they wanted to follow up on rumors of a dwarven presence there. She was impressed with The Dan and his partying and alcohol, and they headed off for a tryst.

The others in the Fellowship asked around for more information, and encountered a sneering orc slaver who offered to take them to join up with their friends, but they were suspicious of his “helpfulness” and declined, still strong enough that he kept his distance and watched them.

Touring 

The Fellowship got a meeting set with Tangler, a local fixer, at dusk. In the meantime they explored Ryvolko, trying out the elevator between walled areas, wrapping their minds around the human infestation of dwarven architecture and infrastructure.

They went shopping, and found some lore books that a merchant was keeping aside for a local wizard. Passing on that, they took in a number of sights and experiences, returning to meet their contact at the appointed time.

A Favor for a Favor

Tangler, a local fixer, agreed to send them on their way to check out a dwarven settlement in the Throneshadow. His fee was their airship. They declined, so he countered.

He was a smuggler, and he used the vaults under the local temple for storing his goods. A local noble pressed his business too hard, so he killed the man; but his lover was distraught, and loaded up the body with brittlestone (she knows magic) so now it is dangerous to move goods in and out. Sort that problem out, and he’ll send a scout with them to find the dwarves.

The Vault

They agreed, and followed Tangler to the unobtrusive surface entrance to the vaults below the temple. The sturdy locks on the dwarf-built vault had all been drilled out so the humans could use the place unobstructed.

They poked around for a bit before shadows coalesced and assaulted them; fortunately their enchanters had prepared them. Gudrun used her bloodbrush to enhance their weapons, and Korvask used his to provide them with sealed life force, protected from ghostly forces.

The dwarves were confronted by a more substantial apparition, and put it down handily. Still, they knew that it was just a projection. They had to find the source, or it would simply return.

The Well

They found a pit, but that didn’t seem right; the Chosen and enchanters didn’t feel the energy emanating from that. When they found a well-like shaft, they knew that was where the brittlestone was growing.

Gudrun guarded the top of the wellshaft in the undervault, and Devron climbed down. Dropping the last length, he found a fungal chamber with brittlestone over the remains of the source of the haunting. The corpse lurched up, armored for battle, and shadows formed to slay the intruder. Devron called for help, and set to work.

The Dan steeled himself for the hit and leaped down the shaft, crashing down into a roll and coming up fighting as Korvask climbed down. Together, the dwarves lay about themselves with enchanted weapons, repelling the undead assault; their defenses burst under the combined pressure of the attacks, but they tore down the dead, indomitable.

The enchanters helped Devron bound his ritual, and he called upon the powers of the Gods of Ur to drive the animating force from the brittlestone, rendering it inert. Exhausted, the dwarves knew they had defeated the haunting of the undervault.

Conclusion

True to his word, Tangler secured the services of Scout LePeek to take them to a dwarven settlement, deep in the Throneshadow…

Rescuing the Scout

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Clan Caskbound, played 3.13.20 IRL, 4.12.2121 IG.

  • Gudrun Caskbound (Iris) Mauler. Enchanter, Scholar, Armorer.
  • Dandel “The Dan” Deeptunnel (Simon) Berserker. Carouser, Miner, Brewer.
  • Korvask Wyrt (Michael) Vanguard. Enchanter, Scholar.

On a rainy night in Klassa, Gudrun’s uncle Helbek, a respected scholar, caught up to her. He was quite pleased to find her with Korvask, he trained them both in dwarven scholarly traditions. He had an opportunity, and The Dan was welcome to come along and provide support as well.

Helbek was over 600 years old. His father, Lorcrow, was given leave to found a colony in the Waveprint Isles, in 1552 (568 years ago) and Helbeck only saw him a couple times after that. The colony was named Ryvolko, and they lost contact over five centuries ago when the sea witches closed the ocean traffic to dwarves.

Helbek’s topsider contact Uraboro in the human city of Brightstone informed him that a human soldier named Croydon showed up in town and claimed to be from Ryvolko. Helbek was beside himself with excitement to potentially find out how this soldier made it across the sea,and whether they could reconnect with Ryvolko and find out what happened to his father’s legacy–and maybe the dwarf himself.

Searching in Brightstone

The Fellowship traveled to Brightstone and found Uraboro, who was tipsy in a tavern. (As a carouser, The Dan knew to holler “Roll the rock!” in Dirit, to which any dwarf in any state will echo the sentiment.) Uraboro had not kept very good track of Croydon, but knew he liked to gamble, and where. The Fellowship headed to his favored den of iniquity.

At the Briarbush Public House, they weren’t the only ones looking for Croydon. A tough orc, Brandelbot, was also asking for his whereabouts–and hiring human muscle. After some flexing and growling, the orc backed off, and the dwarves (now keenly aware they were being watched) followed up on Uraboro’s lead and consulted with a human scoundrel, Meddel.

The information broker told them that Croydon was a card sharp who had fleeced Plendry, the apprentice of a local wizard. Plendry seemed pretty distraught right before Croydon disappeared. Maybe check out the Stellarium where Shoyara, the wizard, holds court.

The Fellowship secured Uraboro as their guide, and headed out of town towards the Stellarium. On the way, they were ambushed by Brandelbot and his hired thugs. They handily thrashed the thugs, and the survivors ran away. They also bested Brandelbot. They demanded to know why he was after Croydon, and all he would say was Daggerface (another orc) was waiting for him at the port and would come looking when he didn’t return. The Fellowship left him tied to a tree.

The Stellarium

The Stellarium was nestled into a cliff, under a dome, with no easy access points. There was a climb to a back door, and a grating for drainage, and the dome had been damaged in a previous siege and never repaired. They also saw a sort of sign that those seeking audience could bang a gong and the wizard might consult them from a safe distance. Not wanting to risk asking about Croydon and being denied (and losing the element of surprise) they decided to sneak in.

Climbing up to the drain was a challenge, and there were a few tumbles, but they reached it and bypassed the grating, slipping into the wizard’s lair. Wary of the layer of sand on the floor, they proceeded anyway. They found a trapdoor for dramatic entrances and tried to jimmy it open, but the old mechanism broke. Continuing to explore, they found Plendry at his studies.

The Apprentice

They surprised the apprentice Plendry, and persuaded him to show them where Croydon was being held. He reluctantly agreed, and took them to the broken trapdoor; trying to open it, he triggered a fall, and it bashed him in the head pretty hard. The dwarves revived him with some of The Dan’s brew, but it was far too strong for him, and he went a little berserk so they had to help him take a nap.

The Prisoner

They stealthed through the wizard’s lair and found Croydon, nude and hanging upside down as a decoration in the wizard’s posh quarters. They cut him loose and gathered up his gear, heading back down through the tunnels.

This time a perfume mechanism trap sprayed, and they were marked with a scent that aroused the sewer dumpling that guarded the drains. It attacked, and they managed to batter it down and slosh past, escaping the wizard’s lair.

Grateful for the rescue, Croydon cooperated fully. He was on an airship out of Mosobida, assigned to suppress pirate airship activity, and Daggerface attacked. His lifeboat made it to Stoneshadow, where he wandered to Brightstone. He knew the way to get to Ryvolko, if they had an airship he could guide them.

According to Croydon, Ryvolko was a human city now, though it had been built by dwarves. He had heard rumors that there might be some dwarves enslaved in a mine in the Krung Throneshadow, the orc domain, but he didn’t know anything for certain. The Fellowship resolved to find out.

The Orc

Brandelbot had predictably freed himself from his bonds, and headed up the slope, seeding it with boobytraps. He challenged the Fellowship, demanding Croydon, but they had put up with enough. Charging up the hill through his traps, they reached him and slew him.

Conclusion

With Croydon in tow, they returned to Whiskey Forge to mount an expedition to their lost colony.

 

Search for the Baroness

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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 Butler

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.

The Baron

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.

The Cellar

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?

The Baroness

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.)

Powder’s Rest: Rumbleseed Clanhome

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Powder’s Rest is the clanhome for Clan Rumbleseed. The fortress is close to the surface of the Delve, and at the beginning, in the grandad time (about 900 years ago), the first families in grabbed tracts of territory as fast as they could. The spread out homestead forts based in Powder’s Rest created a kind of gold rush town culture that continues to the present, with suspicious noble factions vying for influence and territory.

Grimeater Family History

The Grimeater family was a pack of sky dwarves who were familiar with the upper areas of the Delve, and they offered to assist the gunners when the Rumbleseed formed a new clan–in exchange they got a hereditary seat in the clan council, and some holdings, as well as coming under the Stonefist shield.

Dunn Family Hopyards

The Dunn family controls a massive hopyard spread, several levels below the clanhome in the Delve. Their management of the source of grain for alcohol and food gives them significant clout in the clan, and other families always keep an eye out for how to take over the choice assignment for the clan.

Macropede Chasm

To get from Powder’s Rest to Dunn Hall requires crossing a chasm that the dwarves have not bridged for security reasons. There are shattered columns of rock in the fissure, and once or twice every three days or so one of the massive 100 meter scale macropedes scrambles smoothly over the obstacles to cross the chasm; this behavior is encouraged and reinforced by specialty delvers who track the macropede movements and provide something like an irregular train schedule to travelers. Wagons and travelers must leap onto the macropede’s broad back and be carried across, disembarking at one of several identified points before the macropede slides back into tight tunnels on the route.  This workaround is necessary to avoid passing into Deadfast Reach territory.

Mire of the Forgotten

On the far side of the fissure from Powder’s Rest, but before getting to Dunn Hall, there is a passage to a cursed valley that hosts the Mire of the Forgotten. An otherworldly fog hangs over this bog, and those who breathe deeply of its vapors become forgetful as the mist erases their memories. A small settlement, Mourning Rest, services the guilty and the grieving and supports a fringe of dwellers who try to manage the amount of mist they breathe. Visitors experiment, trying to ease their minds without erasing their identities. Those who venture into the mire become dull, then eventually feral, all traces of their former lives gone. This location attracts humans, elves, dwarves, and stranger races. The obelisk by Mourning Rest is carved with an old saying; “Remember, if you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget.”

Wedding Chimes

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Clan Rumbleseed, played 3.28.20 IRL and 3/25/2121 IG.

  • Miraeg Dunn (Jonathan) Leader, Performer, Mechanic.
  • Ivo Flynt (Imre) Support, Gunsmith, Engineer.
  • Cagroot Hopstrider (KC) Skirmisher, Brewer, Delver.
  • Thoreson Grimeater (Anders) Berserker, Chef, Healer.

Wedding Preparation

Lady Kreshka, Marchionesse of Sinlaya was to marry Lord Santeel, Count of Vandov, to unite their families. Border skirmishes between their domains had gone on too long, and a wedding was the way to end the fighting. The Sinlayans won the concession of having the wedding with their allies, the dwarves of Rumbleseed, in Dunn Hall. Miraeg was in charge of making sure everything went smoothly.

Of course, everything didn’t go smoothly. The hall steward, Dobbis, was a self-important toady managing the hall to keep him out of the way. He didn’t order the specialty mandibles Thoreson planned to use for the main dish, so Thoreson expertly substituted glazed carrots. The beverages special-brewed for the human palate were a day late, since the shipment was too late to ride the macropede across the chasm between Powder’s Rest and Dunn Hall.

Miraeg was practicing the puppet show and music for the wedding with Ivo’s help as his shield. They were interrupted by Elder Priest Murinor, who had gotten nowhere dealing with Lady Kreska as she struggled with cold feet and insisted on backing out of the wedding. Miraeg had a conversation with her, wary of her rapier as she armed up in her dress and considered cutting her way out of the deal, taking her frustrations out on her dressing dummy. Miraeg offered words of wisdom, noting that if you set issues of free will aside, you could be a craftsman to construct a marriage relationship, shaping your partner over time. Mollified enough to be resigned to her fate, she gave up thoughts of escape.

Guests Arrived

Cagroot had some close calls getting the beetles to carry the alcohol down the curving stairs to the hall, and barely got the barrels stowed in the hall before the groom’s party arrived. He greeted Lord Santeel, Count of Vandov, who was somewhat condescending. Daynell, the Count’s vixen agent, was somehow both flirty and insulting, but Cagroot wasn’t interested in responding to either attitude. Cagroot also greeted other guests, including the wizard Master Delter who arrived as a bird with his raven familiar, and Lady Litiska, an elven princess ally of Vandov.

Ivo set up the seating to evenly mix the limited delegations from each faction, thinking they would not be able to escalate and make plans and start fights if they were isolated from each other. The elven princess Lady Litiska (and her more diplomatic agent Nevesti) flatly refused to go by the seating cards, which Ivo had painstakingly hand-lettered. Ivo caved, and the guests sat wherever they wanted–predictably isolated by faction. The dwarves suspected the elves might be planning something underhanded.

Right before the wedding started, Lady Kreshka’s agent Hen got in a heated argument with the Vandov agent Daynell. When Thoreson shooed them away from the kitchen, the fight escalated to drawn steel in the hall. Ivo intervened, but Hen pushed past him to assault Daynell. Miraeg interrupted the fight, and the Count insisted Hen be removed. The dwarves managed that tricky issue as Ivo stepped up and offered to stand in as Lady Kreshka’s guard, in Hen’s place. Lady Kreshka agreed, and Ivo was delighted to escape puppeteer and musician duty.

The Wedding Commenced

Miraeg sweated through running a subtly satirical puppet show of two humans finding love, without the aid of a partner to run the other puppet. Then he played a musical piece using mechanical assistance. Exhausted, he was pleased to step back as the Elder Priest completed the handfasting between the sneering count and the grim marchioness.

As the handfasting was completed and the legality became binding, magical darkness plunged through the hall, so the only light was the dimly magical glowing of fossilized carapaces in the quartz streaks of the walls. Still up on the stairs, Cagroot gusted a flaming breath out to push the darkness back somewhat, and in that ruddy smear of light Ivo spotted a sleek figure diving down through the central column of the hall. He managed to snap off a couple shots, and the unnaturally lithe target dodged one of the bullets as the other one sent bursts of blue sparks off her supernatural defenses.

As the intruder leaped at the wedding party, Miraeg snatched a loaded dynamo from the torso of a mechanical puppet and jammed it into the dimly magical quartz, his force of will bridging between the stored energy and mystic residue; the magical darkness was dispelled, and Cagroot leaped down from the landing to try and tackle the intruder.

The intruder managed to flip around and over the dwarves, stabbing the startled bride through the back with a killing strike. The assassin sprang up the stairs, into the hall’s corridors; but there was only one way out.

Thoreson was wheeling the dessert cake into the room as the assassin struck, and he raced over to the bride and managed to preserve her life force so the killing strike was crippling instead. Cagroot and Ivo raced to the top of the stairs to keep the assassin from escaping. Cagroot managed to spot the ripple because of his delver training, and he blasted another jet of flame at the distortion, slathering the elven assassin in flame. Together, Cagroot and Ivo captured her.

The clan was especially grateful for not only avoiding embarrassment of a successful assassination, but capturing the assassin–alive. They got 4 Ledger.

 

 

Firing Griffinwatch Ruins

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Played 3/21/20 IRL, 3/20/2121 IG.

  • Cagroot Hopstrider (KC) Skirmisher, Brewer, Delver.
  • Thoreson Grimeater (Anders) Berserker, Chef, Healer.
  • Miraeg Dunn (Jonathan) Leader, Performer, Mechanic. NW Warclub, animated legs.
  • Ivo Flynt (Imre) Support, Gunsmith, Engineer. NW Falkata.

Event Planning

Torala Dunn, patriarch of the family, operates Dunn Hall. A local human ally has rented the hall for a tense marriage to ally two skirmishing domains. Before inviting the humans to travel to the hall, Torala summoned his nephew Miraeg to take some of his friends and go flush the bandits out of a local ruin overlooking the road, prone to hosting bandits who prey on trade.

Miraeg took Ivo, Thoreson, and Cagroot with him. They first borrowed a pack of four grubblies and a cannon to haul out into the wilderness in support of their assault.

Offroading

After traveling through the night, they approached Griffinwatch Ruins. They left the road, knowing it would be watched, and guided the grubblies and cannon through the dense forest. They were delayed by going the long way around some nesting wildlife, and had to course-correct near the riverbank to get close enough to fire on the ruins with the cannon. In the final approach, they were spotted by scouts, who used birdcall signals to summon reinforcements. Grimly aware that they would soon be assaulted, the dwarves fell back to the river bank and set up the cannon on some boulders that would protect their flanks, herding the grubblies around behind the rocks to minimize their danger. No one wanted to explain to the handlers that they lost grubblies on their expedition.

Bandit Assault

Growing bold, a couple dozen bandits advanced on their position. In the rear, the two bandit leaders arrived with reinforcements. Darveen, a hard-bitten scoundrel with a history of piracy, and Carroway, a swordsman wizard assassin, led these mercenaries who turned to banditry in these hard times.

Ivo fired the cannon, wiping out a swathe of them, and the Fellowship boldly charged the approaching bandits. Tearing through them with brutal force, the dwarves knocked back the first wave. As Carroway led a flanking team of skirmishers around towards the cannon, Cagroot hurled a firebomb that torched the wizard and most of his troops.

Darveen called for the bandits to withdraw, and the dwarves let them–but set up the cannon to take aim at the ruin. They pounded a number of shots at the tower until it collapsed. Satisfied they had driven the bandits out and made their point, they packed up and headed back to the clanhome.

Conclusion

Torala Dunn was pleased by their efforts when they Told the Tale, and offered Miraeg the honor of becoming his Pick. Now a dwarf of some stature, Miraeg offered Ivo the honor of becoming his Shield.

With the road secure, the wedding could commence–and Torala wanted the Fellowship to make sure everything went smoothly.