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=:Chapter 1: Assembly:=
Uzan Tallyflask felt the beads of sweat fall from his brow and soak into his well groomed beard. In his office deep in the administrative quarters of Taggoret, the Kingdom Manager crossed another name off of his list. The short list of highly qualified dwarves, the best of the best throughout the kingdom, again, grew shorter. Uzan cursed. Complacency was a virus that had infected the entirety of the Five Kingdoms. The dwarves had become complacent, settled, comfortable with the status quo. Trade with Druma, with Andoran, even with those highfalutin treehugging elves, had been good. The Kingdoms had become wealthy, drunk, lazy, content. The war with the underdark had conceited into a stalemate. Here and there a minor raid or defense of a small insurgency was touted as a major victory, but no grounds were ever gained. Strange religions and faiths had crept into dwarven society, and human gods now drank from the sacred reserves of Torag. And everyone was fine with it. But not His Majesty.
Something burned within King Dal Dberryl, Uzan had seen it in his eyes. The young king itched for something more, unsatisfied with the way things were. Like the dwarves of legend, who united the clans and drove off the orcs and conquered the surface, King Dberryl hungered for greatness. When the King returned from Highhelm and the Grand Council with a half naked slavering prophet in tow, who spoke in twisted riddles about the lost Axe of the Dwarven Lords, Uzan had known, the time of complacency was over. The long lost dream of Dwarven Might and Unity was now on the horizon.
The task had been given to him, to assemble the finest of Taggoret for a secret expedition to reclaim Droskar’s Crag from the humans of Andoran and to recover the glory of Jernashall. But, again and again, Uzan had been met with the sickness of complacency. The military commanders were comfortable with their high posts, and even the best soldiers weren’t ready to make the sacrifice of a “suicide mission”. The High Masons were too content studying ancient ruins and exporting their skills to the highest bidder amongst human nobles. Craft guild leaders balked at the idea of disturbing relations with their greatest trade partner to the south. Even the great Exarchs, Foehammers, Forgemasters, and Stonelords laughed at the proposal, calling the whole expedition folly.
Believing in his King, and not so easily defeated, Uzan crumpled up the list and tossed it aside. Badly needing a drink, he found his way to the nearest tavern to clear his brain and start anew. After an ale or seven, he found that he had become fascinated by the disjointed tales of a mysterious and unfamiliar dwarf in an unknown soldiers uniform. Emboldened by the sudden drop in inhibitions, Uzan approached this dwarf, Urist was his name he’d soon discover, and offered him the chance to lead the secret expedition. Surprisingly, the answer was yes. Even more surprisingly, Urist seemed to have an unerring intuition when it came to finding other recruits from the dregs of Taggoret’s nameless population: an iron-limbed foreigner blacksmith, a boisterous and perhaps dangerous explosives expert, a miner who seemed to be attuned to the very earth itself, a military reject and architect’s apprentice, an eccentric brewer who, rumor has it, talks to rocks, and even a gnome with a knack for cooking and spinning yarns. A motley crew, to be sure, but an excited crew, a crew thirsty for the glory of adventure. Better yet, because they were nobodies, nobody would know that they were missing, and the secrecy of the mission could be better kept.
Today, the recruits were summoned to the Great Hall of King Dberryl, to meet his approval, and to receive their charter.
Let’s open up with your first meeting with Uzan Tallyflask, Manager of the Kingdom, a dwarf desperate to find willing recruits for this secret expedition. Where were you when you were found? What were you doing? How did you react? Let’s start of with Urist and go from there.
Glor studied the stone as he walked. Nice work this. Top notch. he was thinking, instead of thinking on how he ended up here and how he might get out whatever this was. As he approached his goal, none other than the Great Hall of King Dberryl the reality of where he was and what he as about made him focus. I'll always venerate Torag, but some of his followers just sold me out! For my own good they said. Would be good to get out and see the sky. The sky?!? What fool talk is that! Next they will have me dealing with elves and the like. He visibly shudders. Just because I show a little talent with stone I am getting shipped out with likely a bunch of rabble. he mentally complains. His chain of thought is broken as he steps into the great hall and comes face to face with the dwarf who must be Uzan Tallyflask. Ah my good Kingdom master, I fear there as been some likely mistake. I am no seasoned adventurer who... The look on Uzan's face make Glor cut his sentence off short. He swallowed hard and, changing his tune states Glor Stonebeard reporting as ordered.
Toulbe had become perhaps well known around the city, he spent his time going everywhere there was any connection to the food of this world he had entered and made himself known, spending coin, tasting food, pestering people to even come home with them for a family meal. It had caused many a ruffled feather and several calls of the peacekeepers of the city. After a few days in the "drunk tank", Toulbe was back out onto the streets attempting to ply his Gnomish Cuisine and Ale for all to buy.
Sales weren't the greatest for Gnomish food was wild and varied and odd to a palate so completely different but still, he called out, he danced, and he sung to gather attention to his cart. Still, he was surprised to find the fruity ale, spiced rum, and spicy mead sell as well as it did as he bartner no so much coin itself but ingredients, liquor samples, and even dishes of their own.
It was perhaps the mirth, the stories he told of the dangers and his travels to everyone who passed that eventually garnered the attention of this Kingdom Manager's ear. He scratched his head, bringing his best personal dish and mead to the meeting. "Good morning...or is it evening? I couldn't tell with all the skyless ceilings above. Such a delightful and curious way to live. I imagine I was called here because someone was delighted by the wild flavors of Gnomish Cuisine and I have come offering samplings of my work in hopes to be able to establish a proper tavern in your humble city to improve my cuisine and develop my own Dwarvish dishes." he said and finally fully noticed the sternness in the man's eyes "No...no? I seem to have misunderstood. A shame, I imagine then I've broken another law? Am I to leave this fine city?" he asked sadness already in his voice fearing the worst.
However, it was quickly explained the need for someone who knew the world outside this Kingdom in an excursion to reclaim more of the Dwarves Kingdom. He was surprisingly enthusiastic about the chance to strike out, given his desires to set up a tavern and happily signs on.
Since Gunnar and I are both Brewers, it makes sense to me that we already know each other. Boomer makes hard alcohol, probably by distilling anything that Gunnar decides isn't quite good enough
Boomer was deep in his cups, loudly talking about the finer points of distillation, and what kinds of brews added what subtleties to which kinds of spirits.
"There's nothin' like takin' a overdone Stout and runnin' it through the pipes. Add in some molasses an' a bit o' birch bark at the' end, wait a few months, and boom, ye git the smoothest rum ye ever put past yer tongue." He pulled out a sturdy, unadorned flask and passed it to Gunnar. "Here, give it a shot. Made this from that batch yer cousin botched last year, when he'd overcooked his yeast."
Just as Gunnar took the flask, a courier dropped off a pair of letters at the table, one for each of them.
"Didja know ye c'n ferment mashed Plump Helmets down, an' distill that into a liquer too? It takes a few passes, when it's done it don't taste like much but fire and dirt, but I'll be damned if it ain't the quickest path outta sobriety you ever had. Good for degreasin' an engine too."
Boomer opened his letter, squinting a bit to keep the letters from wandering around in his drunken haze.
"Huh. 'S from Urist. He says th' King wants t' meet wit' me? The King? Am I readin' that right? The Crag? What's yers say?"
"Tad? Pfft. Fool's only good for wastin' good grapes on his brissy littl' wines; can't tell a real drink from the stream 'tween his own trousers." Gunnar takes a whiff of Boomer's flask, scrunching his nose; he shrugs and takes a swig, swishing a moment before gulping it down. "Still just tastes like old sweetbread t'me; doesn't feel like much of a kick. S'pose human folk might fancy it."
He sets the flask down as the courier passes by, glancing at the letter with disinterest. "Tried somethin' like that with mushrooms a time or two, but it just ended up so...flat. Lingered bitter on the tongue for ages. Hard t'reach a stupor if ye can't stand more'n a mug."
Gunnar sighs, resting his chin on his palm and turning the letter over in his other hand. "Bah, can't be worse than a cease and desist, I suppose..." he splits the seal and opens the letter, frowning and blinking as he reads it, then rereads it, snatching it close to his chest with a narrowed gaze at the stone table. "No one asked ye, ye grainy piece o' grout. Mind yer own, damn ye!"
He snorts derisively at the letter. "The same. Can't imagine ol' King Dal wants a drinkin' contest..." He scratches his beard a few times. "Uzan Tallyflask...the bean counter's got a job fer us? Somethin's afoot or I'm an Elven maid..."
With an exasperated huff Gunnar rises from his seat, stows the letter and pushes his back forward with his arms, stretching and popping just a bit. "welp, let's go see what manic fool's errand we're ta go on..." he then makes for the throne room, showing the letter where needed.
"So there we were, fifty 'o the finest dwarves t'ever hold an axe. Our buddin' little town's population conscripted ta the last, all set ta retake the whole underdark! And we had ourselves the best o' plans, ya see."
Clad in his usual attire, a blue-gray uniform showing signs of repeated repair, Urist McFatson sat in the Jowly Giant tavern, waving his hands as if sculpting an invisible stone. Before him sat a trio of dwarves in varying states of drunk, half listening to his story. "Aye. See, them dark-kin would expect us ta come fumblin' down some well guarded passageway, or into some sadistic trap they got set up, right? But what if, see, we came from ABOVE them? Like, above-above."
One of the three responded with an audible belch. Another rolled her eyes. Urist continued, unabated. "So we found ourselves the biggest, deepest hole we could. Put our masons to work buildin' a great stone bunker on top of it. Like a cap on a bottle, it was! And when it was stock full'a all the booze, bronze axes and beards we could stuff inside, we cut the support and dropped into action! Yeah, that's right, the whole thing! Down tha 'ole it went."
The response was universal, with a half dozen variations of what could politely be described as calling his bluff, but with more curse words and a rude gestures. "Sadly, ol' Urist couldn't come along. Someone had ya guard the hole, after all! But I imagine they're still down there, to this day, takin' mile after mile 'o ground for our side. I'm sure they'll be back any year now, just you see."
"Anyway." Urist stands up, rolling his shoulders and stroking his beard. "Say what'cha like. At least the king appreciates what a McFatson can do. Why, I've just been picked for a right and proper job that'll make use of my talents. Just like at the old fort. Now, then, I'm off to round up six more hardy bodies for a mission of glory."
After taking one last drink and paying his tab, Urist sets out on his mission, prayers to Torag for those six souls following behind him.
"I wonder if I can find a good mason..."
Holding the red-hot axehead in his iron hand, Hezekh pounded it carefully with the hammer he wielded in his flesh-and-blood hand. Having one hand that didn’t feel heat really came in handy sometimes. Just as he finished, Master Forgefire came in, a letter in hand and an odd look on his face. ”Boss.” Hezekh said with a respectful nod as he put down his hammer and the axehead. ”Something wrong?”
Forgefire frowned, and shook his head, before holding the letter out to Ironfist. ”Not sure, but this just came from a royal courier. You been up to something the King would care about?”
Taking the letter in his left hand, he scratched his head with the iron knuckles of his right. ”Hmm. Nothing comes to mind.” Opening the letter, he scanned it quickly, before shrugging. ”Sounds like someone’s putting together an expedition. I guess since I trekked across half of Avistan to get here, someone figured I’m fond of traveling. Or they’re going to Janderhoff and want someone who knows the territory. Or they just needed a smith and someone liked those axes I made for the Guard last month? Dranngvit alone knows.” he said, before turning to gather his things.
*Swish swish swish swish*
Barik cursed under his breath, sucking his bleeding thumb, as the axe whirled from his off-hand and landed on the floor, the blade making the weapon spin noisily before coming to rest. Not easily daunted, he smiled suddenly - the last time, it had taken the ministrations of a priest before he'd stopped bleeding.
He was definitely improving.
Picking the errant weapon up, he readied himself into another combat stance - only to sigh as he heard the steady tread of a visitor coming up the stairs. His father, again, he assumed - no doubt about to ask him what was happening with the plans he'd been entrusted with for the latest building project. A mausoleum. Or a throne room. Something grand, anyway. And deeply, deeply, boring. Hastily assuming a studious position by his desk, Barik unrolled the parchment, his face falling as he realised just how little he had actually sketched out since last time. Turning to face the door, he drew in a breath, ready to pour out a litany of excuses - but assumptions can be misleading. Instead of his father, it was a well-groomed dwarf who appeared at the doorway, a messenger of someone who was clearly of great importance, judging by the way their servant was dressed.
Bowing low, the messenger presented the scroll to Barik, before departing. He read the missive twice, just to make sure he had understood it properly. The king - or at least, the king's manager - wanted him! In person!
He grinned. The day was looking brighter already.
The young King Dberryl watched Uzan through the corner of his eye. The Kingdom Manager, one of Dal’s closest and most trusted advisors, was sweating profusely. Across from the Great Hall from the King’s Dias stood a dwarf in a tattered old uniform, confidently nonetheless. From Uzan’s apparent nervousness, the next six dwarves to walk through that door were to be less and less impressive.
On the other side of the King stood Etur Abbeystone, High Priest of Torag, another of the King’s most trusted advisors, and crouching low to the ground, mumbling mysteries in a forgotten tongue, was Tobul the Afflicted, Half-Mad prophet of the Forge-Fire, who the King had brought back with him from Highhelm. Already, Tobul had shed a few articles of clothing, fine spider-silk garments dyed in the royal indigo blue, given to him by the king. It seemed the Prophet preferred to be stark naked.
A booming knock sounds from the large oaken doors of the great hall, and the King stands, straightening out his beard. “Tis better be good Uzan,” the King half-jests, “or I’ll ‘ave ye demoted to garbage hauler faster ‘an a routed goblin wit’ ‘is trousers on fire.”
“Aye Sir,” was all Uzan had the stomach to say.
A second later the doors open, and six dwarves enter. Some more confused than others, the ones who had never entered the Great Hall before stand and gawk at the great silken tapestries, gold and bronze statues, great oaken longtables inlaid with elk bone, and the masterwork granite throne adorned with gemstones of the finest luster. More than any other King since the reclamation of Taggoret, Dal Dberryl had mustered and backed the craftsmanship and artistry of the dwarves, using his nobility to inspire and finance these great works.
At the awe in their eyes, the King laughs boisterously, “Long dead are te days of waste and languor,” he shots across the hall to the small assembly, “Wit te Glory of Taggoret, we will put te rest te days of Droskar. Soon, tat blight on history will be long forgotten. All glories tat was lost will be reclaimed!”
With a wave of his hand he beckons you forth as he descends the Dias to meet you all, eye to eye. A step behind him, Uzan wipes the sweat from his brow and follows. The high priest stays behind to keep an eye on the moody prophet.
Not expecting to meet the king, Glor stands as all and straight as he is able wishing he had bathed more recently than he had. At least my shirt is clean. I thought I was just meetin with Uzan! Mustering the bravery to speak Glor answers his King. I like this talk of reclaimed lost glories my king. If Glor Stonebeard can be part of that, well then I am sure gonna jump on to that mining cart. You have my knowledge of engineering and mining and you have my power of earth. Tell me how I am to serve. Glor bows low.
Toulbe looked around, practically vibrating with nervous excitement. He'd never met royalty before and the lavishness of the room was awe inspiring. He felt like a fish in a mud pie right now and he looked around at all the people present.
The sight of the naked dwarf eased him, as it seemed this was an interesting party to join in on at least. He took the pot off his head as he addressed the king. "It's an honour Sir Kingly King. While I might not been born a Dwarf, your city has inspired me in such a way that ten years of Gnomish cuisine never has. It's a honour ta be apart of this historic idea...I promise, the expedition will not get lost and it will not go hungry under my watch!" he said before saluting with the pot in his hand.
Gunnar scans the throne room absentmindedly, swatting away something that's not there as he looks the place over. As the king speaks his eyes focus in again and he stands a little straighter; he loops his thumbs into his belt and regards the king with a slight, casual bow of acknowledgement. He looks down at the excitable gnome's greeting and what obviously passed for a salute and rolls his eyes.
Barik has never been lucky enough to see the Great Hall in person, but he's read the schematics, of course, as almost any architect/engineer worth their basalt has done. He knows the span of the floor, the angles of the fluted vaulting holding up the ceiling, and how many pillars there are.
He just hadn't expected it to look so impressive. But then, that's its main job, he supposes. To awe those attending. Well, it's working. He is suitably impressed. So much so that he has to remind himself to pay attention to the King's words.
Well. Whatever Barik was expecting, it wasn't that. But then, he wasn't aware he'd done anything bad enough to have him hauled up before the king, so why not enjoy the moment?
Doing his best to remember his manners, he bows before the king. His father's voice rings in his head: 'Remember, you represent the Clan in everything you do - so do it PROPERLY!'
"So how can Clan Everast serve, your Majesty?"
As he marched into the throne room, Hezekh looked around. He wasn’t quite awestruck, but the place was still mighty impressive. He took a few sniffs, his unusual ability to smell precious metals coming in handy. This place is just full of pleasant aromas. he thought. Mustve cost quite the pretty penny, and taken a crew ages to build. As the others began to introduce themselves, he scoffed internall A gnome? Here in a royal dwarven throneroom? What’s next, hiring a gang of humans to mine for us? At least he appreciates the superiority of Dwarven culture. That’s something, I guess. He consciously avoided rolling his eyes, before stepping forward himself. ”Mighty King Dberryl, ‘tis an honor to be selected to serve ye. I’ll be usin’ all the skill I’ve got to smith for my comrades. We’ll make ye proud, we will.” As if for emphasis, he made a fist with his iron hand and thumped it against his chest.
Urist was impressed by the architecture, no doubt, but it seemed to be more comforting that intimidating. "Oi. I ever tell you lot 'bout the halls in me old fort? Close ta grand as these were! 'cept the stoneworkers, see, they decided to engrave every wall an' every floor with art. Art 'o dwarves, ye see." He makes a gesture with his arms. "Dwarf, wall ta wall, an' tha floor, an' sometimes the ceilin! Them old halls was so dwarf we couldn't even see each other outta the art! We 'ad ta make up a special little dance just ta..."
Then the doors opened. And there he was, the forgin' king himself. Urist immediately stood up straight, arms at his side. Perfect posture, careful steps. Years of military training kicked in like a set of instincts. "Urist McFatson reporting for duty!"
The wild eyes seemed a lot more focused, but his glance would find itself wandering over to the wild, naked prophet. Urist couldn't help but feel a bit of pity for the poor lad. He looked...
...well, if Urist had to put a word to what he thought he saw, he'd say homesick.
Boomer went quiet as he entered the great hall. He eyed the great works with a awed, envious, reverent gaze. When they were brought before the king he removed his hat.
"Ye speak and I obey, my King."
The usually raucous dwarf uncharacteristically poised and respectful before the throne.
The king looks each of you long in the eye as you make your introductions. He’s dressed properly for a noble, pristine supple leather boots, crimson spidersilk trousers and royal indigo spidersilk tunic. A cape of what looks to be bear hide drapes his wide shoulders masterfully embroidered with images of dwarven heroism. A golden crown beset with jewels sits upon his clean and wavy hair, and a holy sigil of Torag hangs from a mighty chain around his squat neck. There’s something in his eye, like the light of the forge, as he grasps your forearm and gives it a firm shake.
After making your acquaintance, King Dal addresses you once again, “Good to see proper dwarves willin’ ta fight fer te cause… ehem.” The King clears his throat and glances to Toulbe, the unexpected gnome in the mix. He proceeds with his prepared speech, “Ye may or may not know why yer assembled here today, so let me lay it out fer ye.”
He bangs a fist on the nearest longtable, and Uzan is quick to hustle over and unroll a parchment across its surface. The King gestures and as you approach you see a map, a mountainous countryside, forests, and plays. The King points to a large mountain dominating the center of the map, “Ye may know te legends of Droskar’s Crag, of te Rending of Jernashall. The oter Kings of Highhelm are content ta call it a loss and let te Andorans claim ta mountain. But tat mountain holds te glory of te Dwarven Empire!” He slams his fist down on the map to emphasize his point.
“It’s about time we reclaim our rightful heritage,” he again looks you each in the eye to make sure you’re with him all the way. “Tat’s why yer here. Under royal decree, you are to journey to Droskar’s Crag and reclaim it.”
At this point, Uzan unrolls another parchment over the map. This one is a lot less picturesque, and a lot more wordy. “Ehem,” the Kingdom Manager interjects, “Dis ‘ere’s de charter for you to sign. Dat’s if’n you agree.”
“‘Course tey agree!” the King declares outright, letting his passion get the best of him. “Te oter kings tink I should leave good enough alone, but this is our right, our heritage! In my lifetime I will see it restored to it’s proper glory, and you… will be leadin’ te way.”
“O’course, m’liege,” Uzan continues where he left off, “You’ll see dat everyting here’s in order. All you got ta do is sign.”
Uzan slides the document across the table and holds out a quill loaded with ink. The contract reads:
By royal decree of His Highness King Dal Dberryl of The Everlasting Kingdom of Taggoret, of sound mind, body, and spirit, the mountain popularly known as Droskar’s Crag is to be summarily annexed back into the lands belonging to the King. The undersigned chartered expedition heretofore represents the King and the Kingdom in this venture, and hereby retain the rights to settle Droskar’s Crag and lay claim to all animal, vegetable, and mineral contained on or within. By this Will of the King, all occupants residing within the bounds of the mountain shall forfeit their holdings to the undersigned or else submit their fealty to the Kingdom of Taggoret.
Signed into Law,
King Dal Dberryl
Beneath the King’s lofty signature is space for your names
Glow steps up first and places him name in strong dwarven script on the document. Done. he says reverently.
Touble beamed at the words and the offer. He signed in a flamboyant font and made room for the rest of the group "Oh my, just imagine what my ancestors will say to this. A Gnome being a part of Dwarven history. Think of jokes we could make. I best begin working on my beard, the mustache is simply not enough to be a part of this crew." he said stroking his mustache that was almost as large as his bicep.
Gunnar stands silent as the king digresses, ponderously stroking his beard as he scans the charter laid out before him. He closes his eyes for a few moments, tapping his chin with his thumb.
"S'pose yer right. Be nice to get out fer a bit and build a proper brewery. Maybe find some old lost family treasures and put a few noisy old souls to rest?" he looks over his shoulder with narrowed eyes to punctuate before stepping up to make his mark.
"Reclaim another peak for the glory of dwarvenkind? Show me where to sign." Hezekh says, not just interested in the chance at the glory of founding a new hold, but even more intrigued by what ancient artifacts might be found within the lost ruins.
"Right! Yes, me too." Barik hastily walks up to the parchment and signs, grinning through his beard as he pictures his parents' expressions when they find out.
"So, it's a reclamation, then? Tha's great! We'll take back tha plane 'n see to it tha' earth's bounties find their way back into dwarven hands." Urist's enthusiasm shows as he excitedly signs his name below the others. The name is written in a plain, but professional style.
In the same flurry of strokes, his hand moves the quill just a bit lower, right below his own name. His wrist turns as if to write a second signature just below his own, but he stops himself before the inktip touches down. After a pause, he backs away from the document, willing a smile onto his face. "Ahh. 'scuse me, yer grace. Must be tha excitement in tha room. Hands're a bit shakey an' all."
“Stone… Stone… logs… gems… bone… bone… metal… bone… FIRE… BLOOD… stone… stone…”
The crazed dwarf mumbles to himself as he paces lazily back and forth behind the King’s throne under the watchful eye of the high priest. By now he’s shed his attire all the way down to his llama wool thong.
King Dal lets out a hearty laugh of good cheer as you all sign onto the expedition. Uzan is quick to roll up the parchment as soon as the ink is dry. He ties a cord of twine around it and hands it to Urist. “Keep dis safe on yer travels. Show it to any Andoran officials ye may cross, or any dwarves ye may find. ‘Tis de new law of de land, and yer permit to conduct business in de name of da King, as ye see fit. And take dis,” he also hands Urist a bronze ring bearing the signet of the Royal House of Dberryl and the Crest of Taggoret, “Dis marks ye as an official of Taggoret. Stamp any decrees or correspondence wid dis seal, and it will be as law.”
The Kingdom manager returns your attention to the map, “Now, as I see it, yer first order a’ business is ta secure de mountain. All passage to de area has been lost, all save one. De Theocrats used de quarries of Taggoret ta build some forsaken temple here,” he points to the northern edge of the map (B2) in a rugged area north of the Kingtower Woods, “We call it da Vaults, as it’s where dey laid deir bones ta rest. Da quarry road has been kept sealed, but ‘tis de only passage not caved in or completely lost ta goblins. Should be ‘bout two days travel underground. From dere, ye can make yer way along de Coldforge River to da Crag.”
“Oder points o’ business,” Uzan continues without skipping a beat, “Da Kingtower woods is rife wid bandits come up from Andoran. You’ll want a ta clear da forest of banditry if’n ya want a successful fortress. Also, de Kingtower Pass (F5) is held by orcs. You’ll want ta secure de pass if’n ye want ta open trade wid da Darkmoon Vale. De Ol’ Broken Tower (C6) is likely full o’ wild beasties, but old tunnels lead to Taggoret, if’n ye open does up, we can get supplies ta ya more easily.”
“BONES! BLOOD! STONE! METAL! FIRE! STONE!” The now completely naked dwarf shouts and rushes toward the group, only to be intercepted by the high priest.
“Ha Ha!” The King laughs. One might wonder if the madness is contagious. “Tobul is right. Now to te real point o’ business.” King Dal points to the last statue closest to the dias and the throne. It is an image of a dwarven warrior, in the finest armor and wielding an axe of legendary make, rendered in the purest gold, silver, and electrum. A dwarf well learned in history might recognize the image as Eurad Dberryl, one of the great generals who stood up to Theocrat Ordrik Talhrik when he seized the throne. Eurad was the last known possessor of the legendary Axe of the Dwarvish Lords before he was defeated by Ordrik’s forces.
“Tat’s me great uncle Eurad. Greatest hero tat never was. He fought ta preserve dwarven might and history, but ‘is destiny were stolen by te Theocrats, cursed be teir names. Tat foul scoundrel Ordrik stole te Axe O’ Te Dwarvish Lords, and hid it away. No one has laid his eyes on it since. But Tobul..” the King let’s out another hearty laugh, “Tey tink Tobul mad, but I know te Gods speak trough his madness. Tobul says te Axe were hidden away deep below Droskar’s Crag. And tat is yer real mission lads. Restore history, reclaim our destiny, and bring me tat Axe!”
Boomer was nodding along, thoughtful and smiling as the king laid out his plan and their priorities.
Vault, yeh. Follow tha river, easy. Clear tha passes, yeh. Kill orcs an' bandits, can't wait.
Then his train of thought completely derailed.
Reclaim the bloody Axe of the Dwarvish Lords? Hot staggering f%+#.
All he could do was say yes and try not to give away how overawed he was at the very thought. "Aye, yer Majesty. We'll get it done."
I'm gonna need more explosives.
”The Axe?” Hezekh whispers, barely aware he spoke. The thought overawed him more than the entire room of statues and carved stone. ”’Tis the greatest work of dwarven craftsmanship ever created, and ‘twill be my honor just to lay eyes upon it, much less to bear it back to its home in your hands, milord.”
Gunnar follows the conversation with an almost dismissive expression as the various points of interest are detailed, cocking a brow at the mention of a legendary weapon. He scratches his cheek a moment, searching his thoughts, then his eyes light up a bit.
"Ohhhhh, THAT axe...so THA'S the rub, then..."
Knew there were a missin' piece somewhere...so the crown wants the axe thinkin' it'll make 'em all bow and cower again, eh? And they say Tobul's the mad one...
"Well, I say it's a fool's errand, but if it'll take the wind outta the preachers and upend a few lazy clans t'get off their rumps..."
He shrugs, then folds his arms. 'Well, I've done a few foolish errands m'self, so why not?"
My king, I am excited to be included in such an epic quest. But I feel ill equipped for the challenge. I am a poor minor and most of my gains have been sunk into opening new shafts and investing in more equipment. I have good mining gear, but lack much in what would be needed for such a vast undertaking. Glor looks shamed.
“Aye lad,” the King strokes his well groomed beard as he listens to Glor’s concerns, “I hear ye. ‘Tis a vast undertaking ta be sure. I know I’m asking much, and believe me, ye’ll all be well rewarded. But yer rewards will be all te more te more work ye put into it, ye understand. However, I’ve already seen to it tat you will be well outfitted. Fat’r?” the King looks over his shoulder to the High Priest, still minding the slavering, stark naked prophet.
Brightening at the prospect of abandoning his babysitting duties, Etur Abbeystone dusts off his robes, straightens his conical hat, and descends from the dias. “Hiya lads, an honor ta make yer acquaintances. Ye may call me Fad’r Abbeystone, de ones dat don’ know me already. High Priest o’ Torag, I am. De Fad’r o’ Creation’s blessins upon ye.” Etur beams a grin at each of you, giving a pat on the back to those within reach.
“His Highness here want’s ta keep dis venture under wraps, as ta not raise da suspicions of de od’r nobles. Dat bein’ said, any significant amount o’ wealth missin’ from da royal coffers will raise a red flag, so ta speak. But da church’ll be more tan happy ta outfit de expedition. De way I see it, dis is a holy crusade ta undo de evil wrought by de Theocrats o’ Droskar. So, ye have me backin’.”
“I’ll have a wagon waitin’ fer ya at the sealed quarry once yer ready ta leave. Ya lads just let me know whatcha need and I’ll fetch it fer ya. Just talk ta Uzan here.”
What this amounts to: As a group, you’ll be given a small wagon and a couple of draft animals to help haul supplies on your journey. Additionally, each of you can select up to 500gp of mundane, nonmagical items/gear/supplies. If you wish to upgrade your weapons or armor to masterwork quality, you may deduct the original cost of said weapons/armor and only pay the cost of the upgrade (300gp for weapons, 150gp for shields/armor). Please post a list of your requested supplies in the discussion tab.
Urist accepts the rolled up document with a stern nod. He graciously accepts the ring, clutching it in his hand like it was his most prized possession. All things considered, it was. "We won't let ya down, yer Majesty. We won't let anything stand between us an' our legacy."
After taking a moment to secure the parchment within his backpack, Urist turns to Glor. "Don' be silly, man. Yer a miner. Can't think'a anythin' more important fer a mission than a miner! How else ya gonna strike tha earth, eh? 'ell, I kinda wish there were more a' ya! I mean, I'm decent with a pick meself, but..."
Urist's stern face brightens up. "I tell ya, back at the Old Fort, it was just seven of us. A couple miners, a handful 'o picks, and not much else. Well, save for the dogs. Whole BUNCH o' dogs. But what I mean is, we made due. Even 'ad ta improvise our brewin' fer the first year." He then gestures to the group. But 'ere we are, with miners, brewers, an' a whole bunch'a fight in us. We're all gonna do great, lad, no need ta worry."
"And speakin' o' you fine gents, any ideas on what ta take with us? Ah go'a few ideas from tha last time ah did this kinda thing, but let's 'ere what you all think."
Barik has been listening quietly, as befits the youngest of the group in such exalted company. His eyes follow the route they are to take on the map, and he nods along as the king lists the various hazards: goblins, bandits, orcs, the Axe...
Wait. Back up a second there.
Oho. So that's the reason for this little expedition, is it? Well and good, then. It seems to Barik that a dwarf who was part of a success like that could ask for pretty much whatever he wanted in return.
Plus, it's just the sort of madcap foolishness that will really annoy the elders of his clan.
Gunnar folds his arms. "Huntin' gear, travelin' supplies, rations, weaponry. Things to keep us on track an' help us clear that tower an' open tha road home. Once we can get fresh supplies an' support from home, we can look ta buildin' the place proper. First though, I say we've got some "beasties" ta hunt an' tunnels ta clear."
Toulbe claps happily "Wonderful, a journey across the lands. I can show you all the wonders and joys of cooking in the wilds and the underground. I know quite a few wonderful meals that feature mushrooms and various animals of course. Ooo I'm so excited, I best get my cart all packed up as soon as possible. I might need one of you tall folk to help take down the tent though." he said as he pulled out a small journal and began scribbling in it ideas for the next few days worth of cuisine.
Gonna move things along here. Be sure to get your shopping lists in before the expedition heads out.
Uzan dutifully writes down all the requested supplies and heads off. “There’ll be a wagon waitin’ fer ya at the ol’ quarry at dawn,” the manager informs you before he departs. The King roars out in laughter, he’s certainly feeling good about all this.
“Right!” He shouts, demanding your attention. “Now tat tat’s settled, no good dwarven enterprise should be undertaken’ wit’out proper feast!” He bangs loudly on a table, and somewhere in the deep tunnels of Taggoret, a low horn sounds, calling the populace together for a feast. Before you know it, porters come rushing into the grand hall, covering the tables with fine linens, stoneware plates, and fine silverware utensils. Great kegs are brought in and tapped, and the hearty aromas of spiced roasted mutton and root vegetables precede large platters of food. The doors of the hall open, and residents of all classes begin to trickle in. None know of the true reason behind the celebration, but everyone is always grateful for a grand feast in the King’s Hall.
The King takes his place on his throne, as Father Abbeystone ushers out the naked prophet. You are now free to mingle and eat, and of course, drink.
Nows the time for you all to get acquainted with each other. You can make appropriate Knowledge checks about the adventure ahead. Specific inquiries will get specific answers. Also, you can make a Diplomacy check to mingle with the folks of Taggoret to hear news and rumors. Remember, rumors are just that. They could be misinformed.
Glor assists Toulbe with his tent. No one ever called me a tall folk afore. he notes as he works.
No knowledge skills and -1 diplo here, but here are some rolls. Edit - not as bad as I feared.
Diplo 1: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (19) - 1 = 18
Diplo 1: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (8) - 2 = 6
Diplo 1: 1d20 - 3 ⇒ (15) - 3 = 12
Let's start this out in true Dwarf Fortress style.
"Our settlement target, what's it like there? Terrain, plants, weather and whatnot. What kinda stone deposits? What're we gettin' ourselves intae?"
Knowledge Nature?: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12
“There’s a road that leads to the Theocrat’s Vault through the back. It’s been locked up fer ages. ‘Tis haunted is what I heard.”
“Aye, me pappy told me them Theocrats were gettin’ into some dark ritual magics ‘fore their empire fell.”
Asking around about Droskar’s Crag, Glor overhears a cheesemaker say, “They say Daralathyxl spends the winter months bathing in the topmost crater.”
”The Rending shattered the settlements in the area. It must’ve damaged the mountain itself grievously. How stable can we expect the land to be? Are rockslides, cave-ins, new lava tubes, etc common?”
Knowledge(Engineering): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25
Knowledge Arcane: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
Knowledge Local: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
Knowledge Nature: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
Toulbe squeaked a bit at the sudden slam of the fist on the table and danced about nervously when the long low horn started. He was unfamiliar with the calling of a feast in Dwarven customs.
But once the food started arrive, he was flowing through the hall eagerly grabbing a large bite of everything while offering up conversation with anyone and everyone.
He spoke partilly of the food but more of the trip ahead, though when he talked to one of the servers, he spoke only of the food they carried and the recipes for such if they were even willing to divulge.
Gunnar shrugs and nods as a feast is ordered, finding a seat as tables are filled, but otherwise listening to the group more than speaking. His brow sometimes furrows as he partakes of the meal, his expression more lost in thought than concerned. He occasionally glances over his shoulder at no one in particular and nods before returning to the meal. He frowns a bit at the drink on offer, but shrugs and quaffs it down regardless.
knowledge nature: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15 What are the most likely beasts we'll face clearing the tunnels between the city and the settlement?
knowledge nature: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22 What sorts of poisons can we expect to find?
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11 Any potential friendlies in the area that would chaff at the idea of a bunch of dwarves literally walking in like they own the place?
Urist wasted no time in getting himself situated with two plate fulls of food and a tall mug of ale, happily feasting and telling tales to the captive audience of dwarves sitting within arm's reach.
"Aye, ya wouldn't believe it, but back at tha Old Fort tha McFatsons had ta hunt down the food ourselves. Mayor liked 'em fresh. REAL fresh, see. So pappy McFatson had ta tackle a bison, punch its lights out, and drag tha thing kickin' and'a screamin' ten miles back ta tha fort! Then he had ta butcher tha thing 'imself, an' cook it usin' mamma's forge on account'a tha mayor not clearin' us ta construct a kitchin. Somethin' somethin' health codes, ah think."
He pauses to take a bite of his meal, speaking in between chews. "Pappy used forge-fire ta prep meals, see. A whole lot faster. Black on tha outside, soft on tha inside. Best. Damn. Meal. You've EVER 'ad."
Perform (Oratory): 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (12) + 0 = 12
Wild golden mountain strawberries are said to be found growing on the lower slopes of Mount Gustus and in meadows throughout the Kingstower Woods. The elves of Kyonin pay handsomely for these berries, which they brew into a wine.
While conversing with the wait staff, you learn the recipe for Mountain Goat Tripe Stew: minced mountain goat tripe, rendered donkey fat, diced bloated tuber, and diced plump helmet, all in an ox bone broth, delicious!
The Theocrat's Vault is built in an arid region where such dangerous critters as rattlesnakes, giant ants, giant scorpions, and giant centipedes make their home. Giant black widow spiders like to lie in ambush in the darker regions of the Kingstower Woods.
As you conclude your rambling tales, you realize a small crowd, mostly children, have stopped and gathered around to hear more. Nothing helps with digestion like a good story.