Caskbound: Scouting the Gorecyst

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Sarbado, the general who assists the archon, called in Vecna, Gudrun, and Tancred. He told them that topsider agents in Brightstone were reporting that a human blood cult called the Summoners Argent was making noise about mounting an expedition to the Gorecyst. That was a corrupted corner of the Caskbound Pocket where Hellifino, a God of Ur, once battled a blood demon for weeks before vanquishing it. Where the battle unfolded, and the demon fell, the ground was corrupted and it became known as the Gorecyst.

The dwarves knew that a few decades ago a trio of medusa moved in, but they kept to themselves, so no one bothered to root them out. Also, the local wildlife was tainted with blood diseases and dangerous to visitors.

To the Cyst

The dwarves agreed to set out and investigate to see if all was well in the Gorecyst or if some further action was needed. They traveled for a few days, skirting the unhealthy center of the Pocket, and passed the settlement of followers of the Gods of Ur known as the Cysters of Mercy (mostly men.) They headed up to Tipsy Ridge, overlooking the Gorecyst, where a lone watch tower monitored the situation.

The lookout was an elderly dwarf who lived alone, with his liquorlizards and beetle pets. He insisted the sullen, unhealthy glow that suffused the plants and animals of the Gorecyst had changed its rhythm. They observed for a while from the tower, and resolved to get a closer look after they visited the Cysters of Mercy. When they visited the religious settlement, they heard stories of the ancient battle from the earnest believers, and they got a night’s rest before heading in.

After several hours they reached the Gorecyst. Its edges had been staked out with standing stones of warning, and the growths had continued 100 feet or so past the standing stones. As the dwarves approached, they saw one was covered in what looked like scabs. Upon closer inspection, the “scabs” turned out to be wings of blood moths, who tormented them briefly before Gudrun chopped them all out of the air with vicious axe sweeps. Where their blood fell, the mushrooms glowed.

Medusas

They headed in further, and were shot from ambush by a medusa. Averting their eyes as best they could while still fighting, they took her on. Gudrun was turned to stone, but the others survived the brutal fight more or less intact. They hefted their companion’s statue and returned to the Cysters of Mercy, who had an alchemist/healer expert with a vial of what was reputed to be the blood of a God of Ur, who managed to change Gudrun back to her fleshy self. After a few days for that process, they returned.

This time, they were attacked by both remaining medusas, and the following battle was savage. The first one fell quickly, but as they faced the other, Gudrun (already reeling from multiple snake bites) turned to stone, and Tancred struggled for victory only to be turned to stone also. The battle was down to Vecna and the badly injured medusa, and they raked at each other mercilessly–but the medusa survived long enough to turn Vecna to stone as well.

Whiskey Forge

The dwarves regained consciousness in Whiskey Forge, and found that when they did not return, the Cysters came out to look for them and retrieved the three statues (though the dead medusa were nowhere to be found, so a cure was difficult to manage.) They were shipped back to the clan home, where significant resources were bent to their recovery. Still, they did kill two of the three medusa, and they risked all for the clan, so Sarbado was grateful for their service.

He also told them that when the next expedition went to the Gorecyst, they would be considered veterans and likely sent along.

Caskbound: Rain of Terror

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Vecna and Devron went to meet with the Shieldsplitters. They traveled for a day, finding axes stuck in trees and trying to puzzle out the meeting location (the code was painfully primitive, but referred to common knowledge the Shieldsplitters shared that Caskbound didn’t.) A Shieldsplitter ambush caught them out, but Vecna persuaded the leader to go find a bigger boss, she had a proposal for glory for all of them. She was instructed to wait in a barn.

The next day she met Forkbeard Facestabber, and admired his crude magic hammer, Snoothammer (it was the front nose and fangs of a dragon, enchanted.) When she described how the goblins were attacking from the air like cowards, and they could be stopped on the ground, the Shieldsplitters put aside their gripe with Caskbound and agreed to go on this glorious venture. A retinue of 60 headed out that very night.

Scouting

Meanwhile Korvash caught up with the others at the bandit hideout. The Dan decided to go “scouting” and kill some goblins, and he took Korvash, Onexia, Tancred, and Gudrun with him. (They left Revelle to mind the beetles and make sure the humans didn’t hurt them or get hurt by them.)

Scouting involved attacking a group of goblins on a cliff, then finding another group on a cliff, but as the goblins sounded horns to summon more, the raiding dwarves withdrew back into the human hideout and worked on its fortifications.

Assault

Vecna, Devron, and the Shieldsplitters arrived before dark. That night, the goblins attacked, goading three trolls into rolling the rock aside and charging into the hideout. Gudrun and Korvash had used their enchantments to turn rocks into bombs, and they flattened the trolls. A combination of burning liquor, torches, shattered lanterns and hurled firebombs followed as the dwarves rushed out to burn the regeneration out of the trolls before they rose again, and before the goblins swarmed in.

As the goblins swarmed, the trolls were still being burned, but the Shieldsplitters surged and fought them off. The goblins withdrew, regrouped, and made another rush.

This time their morale was such that they pushed the Shieldsplitters back with superior numbers. The Caskbound dwarves leaped in and fought hard, reinvigorating the defense, and the goblins were driven out again.

The Caldera

The next day the dwarves marched out, shooting at airships and backing them off. The goblins withdrew their forces to the caldera, to face off against the dwarves there, with overwhelming numbers and lightning guns and airships.

Undaunted, the dwarves doggedly pursued. They reached the lip of the caldera and saw the goblin force, and the massive mechanical avatar construct lurched up out of the central shaft. The Shieldsplitters charged it, with Vecna, Devron, and Korvash trotting in their wake.

A quarter of the Shieldsplitters were incinerated by the defense field, and another quarter died in the close fighting, but they pulled apart the avatar Deus Volt and used individual weaponized walkers to gleefully terrorize the goblins.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Caskbound dwarves climbed up to an airship, took it over, outgunned another airship or two as they rose as fast as they could, and they launched an effort to take over the goblin’s biggest airship, with two gasbags and a long undership. After a short and brutal fight, they won in close quarters, and the airship was theirs.

Meanwhile Vecna led the charge down into the shaft to find Luck’s son; he was in a mechanical cage thing, and he kicked and screamed as they rescued him; he was well on the way to becoming a goblinish thing himself. They escaped before the self-destruct of the base detonated, frying most of the rest of the Shieldsplitters and most of the goblins.

The surviving Shieldsplitters wished to be named in Caskbound Ledger for their service, and such honor was promised. Then Caskbound returned the boy, and took their airship back to the Clanhome to knock off the goblin tech and replace it with proper craftsmanship.

Caskbound: Deus Volt

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Vecna, Devron, Onexia, Gudrun, and The Dan were already in the Luck Bandit Hideout. Revelle and Tancred took a route to follow them until they reached the Corpseknife Badlands, when they took the high road and avoided trouble. They too rode a giant beetle, and brought along Revelle’s hunting beetle Mr. Stab as well. On their journey, they saw several axes set into trees, painted with runes that the Shieldsplitters were gathering.

Revelle and Tancred were challenged by door guards, and there was a misunderstanding and the dwarves took them out; more bandits arrived, realized the mistake, and summoned Vecna to vouch for them. Soon they were all inside enjoying crab chowder. They got up to speed on the situation and decided to climb up into the mountain in the dark, and attack the goblins at first light.

While they rested, they reflected on the Legend of Fuggov Pass and regained some resolve.

The Dark Mountain Paths

As they headed out they saw some goblins with gliding gear and firebombs watching the hideout. Revelle and the Dan snuck up on them and pounced, taking them out. The Dan festooned himself with the volatile fire bombs, and Revelle tied on an unconscious goblin to interrogate below. They tried to climb down, and the Dan lost his grip. As he fell, he flung bombs away from himself.

Some of the dwarves evaded the falling firebombs, others got somewhat toasted, but the Dan fell into a chemical fire from the faster-falling bombs and bounced, coated in flaming material. Everyone got their fires put out, and they interrogated one of the goblins kept alive for that purpose. He told them of the gas harvesting and flying machines, but he wasn’t very helpful; they snapped his neck and moved on.

Evading more patrols, including gasbag airships that were flimsy but potentially dangerous, they approached the ridge that turned out to be the lip of a crater where the mountaintop should be. They saw it had been heavily harvested, with gas derricks set up and filling bags and tanks, goblins everywhere, plenty of airships. A much greater than expected force!

Into the Crater

The goblins had many devices where they used pedaling to generate energy to fuel lightning guns or steering machines. The dwarves sabotaged one of the towers so it would fry all the goblins involved if they tried to use it, then moved on one of the fuel tank/bombs. Onexia was a skilled mechanician, and Tancred was an engineer, so they had a distinct advantage.

The goblins fired up the tower and all died, and the dwarves got the massive tank unmoored and rolling, and Tancred’s expert gunner skills punctured the tank and actually got it to fire like a rocket, so it shot down into the shaft in the center of the crater and exploded, causing untold damage.

Now that the goblins were roused, the dwarves turned to thoughts of escape. They slaughtered an airship crew, including its tough leader (who almost slew Tancred as that brave dwarf ignored him and managed what passed for pre-flight on the goblin craft.) The rest of the group ground him up with the rest of the goblins, and as they attempted to escape, they saw a massive goblin construct that defied description charging up the crater wall towards them; held together with crackling blue energy, it was a goblin construct god, Deus Volt. Dozens of goblins crewed the obscenity; it was built for harvesting, construction, and war, and it appeared to be a fusion of independent constructs.

Flight

Onexia used the lightning cannon on their stolen airship to delay pursuit, as other dwarves doggedly pedaled the mechanisms to make energy and Tancred steered the craft. As Deus Volt built up a killing charge to blow them away, Onexia interrupted it with the lightning gun; some of the charge traveled up the beam and blew up the gun, rocking the ship badly and doing some damage. Still, they were on their way to escape when the goblins’ much bigger warship with dozens of goblins aboard generated a lot of propulsion power and came after them.

Tancred sniped at their tough pilot with limited success, and as the bigger ship got close enough to use its superior lightning gun, Tancred shot the gunners; but as one fell, another clambered into the seat.

The bigger ship gun came to bear, and the dwarves leaped from the airship, aiming for trees, some lucky few slowing their fall with anchor lines. They thudded down into the woods with dispersed dwarf-fall, and managed to find each other and retreat as fast as they could, limping and clutching their various wounds, as the airship burned and the goblins gathered to form hunting parties.

They found their way back to the Luck Bandit Lair, but trouble was sure to be hot on their heels.

Caskbound: The Legend of Fuggov Pass

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Long ago, Mad Marga was a master sculptor of Clan Bastion. Her gift and specialty was for sculpting nudes, which displeased the more prudish archon of the clan. He censored her work, so in protest Mad Marga seduced his wife and made an anatomically detailed and accurate four-times-life-size sculpture of her and displayed it in the public square of the clan home.

Predictably, she was banished. She fled to Whiskey Forge, where she was welcomed with fanfare. She inspired a whole movement with her nude statues of the clan leaders. Then a Chosen prophesied that she must go to Picnic Pass, on the surface of the mountain far above, higher than the snow line. If she did, then she would receive a great blessing.

After fifteen years, six months, and four days, Hellifino (the ‘h’ is silent) visited her. He was famed as a God of Ur, the Bad Hombre. He presented her with a rune-scribed hammer, to make sculptures. His only request in return was that she make a statue of him, nude. She spent 300 years practicing to get it just right.

Shortly before the final masterpiece statue was finished, Gorefang led a greenskin horde to attack the dwarves of Whiskey Forge by surprise, moving through Picnic Pass. Hellifino animated the hundreds of nude statues Mad Marga had carved through the centuries, and they crushed the green tide.

Meanwhile, a Chosen acolyte had a dream about Hellifino’s distress in the pass far above, and journeyed to check on Mad Marga. He found her burned out with divine energy, surrounded by a carpet of greenskin corpses, compulsively carving the last touches of Helifino’s nude statue.

The archon authorized a crypt be carved in Picnic Pass, renamed Fuggov Pass, after the massive battle that fended off the greenskins. The hammer was entombed with Mad Marga in the crypt, which was within the massive wall that sealed off the pass so no further sneak attacks would be possible. The orc-facing side was festooned with skulls fixed to the stone, a horrifying deterrent against future incursions, blessed with the power of the Gods of Ur.

Clan Caskbound was spared by the obedience of Mad Marga to the Gods of Ur. Follow their promptings, and the clan will prosper through your efforts.

Caskbound: Luck Be a Bandit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Forest Door

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

The Shieldsplitters

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

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

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

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

The River Through Corpseknife Badlands

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

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

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

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

A Lucky Hideout

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

The dwarves resolved to investigate further.

The Voskul Pit

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Subarchon Sabado called upon a few trusted warriors for a secret mission. They were distracted on the way in by watching a comical puppet show of the Miserable Union, then they continued on to the out-of-the way meeting chambers Sabado preferred.

  • Vecna. Vanguard, Diplomat, Chef, Chosen (Kristy)
  • Tancred Boiler. Skirmisher, Engineer, Gunner (Shaun)
  • Dandol “Dan”. Berserker, Carouser, Miner (Simon)

Seluvria, the elven ruler at the Forest Door entry to the Caskbound Pocket, sent word. The elves guard the Voskul Pit, a site in the woods that necromancers once used as a base. The occasional undead thing would shamble out and fall to the elven shafts. But traffic was higher lately, and Seluvria saw the Pit as a Caskbound problem.

After all, Pyoros the Dread Necromancer was the Pit’s last master, and he raided in the Pocket 200 years ago. Legend states that he got the Sifting Maul, a powerful weapon of the clan; the Coldsyvin family was the second line of thanes, and the Sifting Maul was their archonic dynastic name weapon. Returning it to the clan would be a victory indeed.

Journey to the Pit

They traveled down the Shot river to Klossa, where they were met as heroes. They chatted briefly with Speaker Kurtz, and they spent the night with the Boiler family (Tancred was from Klassa.) Dandol made it a point to bed one of Tancred’s cousins.

The next day they rode a beetle down through the rough terrain to the Forest Door, and they followed the water, encountering elves who spoke broken Neverecht. They were guided along to a henge, where they spent the night. The standing stones were built by dwarves, long ago, not elves. And they commemorated the site of a battle between one of the Gods of Ur and a dark force. Perhaps it was no accident that the necromancers chose the nearby pit as a lair; it was suffused with ancient darkness.

Eventually they had to walk, leaving the beetle behind, and the elves guided them to a narrow ribbon of rock that led across a chasm to the entry into the Pit. The stalwart dwarves roped themselves together and traveled the expanse, then descended.

The Pit

The doors lifted on a pivot, and could be turned to open. Tancred figured out the counterbalance (and some of the traps) and they entered. As they moved in, they saw pools set up to condense any memory of life and transform it to incorporeal undead. Not wanting to wake anything prematurely, they left that alone, and continued on.

They found a throne with a long carpet before it, and lights mounted on the back, with a robed figure slumped before them. They roused him, and the throne dropped into the ground so only the lights emerged, and the carpet became a ramp for an endless swarm of skeletons to attack them. After battling for a while, they realized the skeletons were endless. Tancred smashed the lights on the back of the throne, cutting off the entry, and the floor became solid once more.

They saw a metal door set in the wall like to a furnace, and left that alone. They also found what appeared to be a necromatic trash pit, and didn’t explore it. They did find a very fancy door, and once Tancred defeated the lock they stood before a massive brittlestone-infested statue of the necromancer.

Brittlestone grows slowly, it is like a mineral that infects remains and raises them as undead. It is the necessary ingredient for necromancers to do their work.

Pyoros the Dread Necromancer

As the dwarves regarded the hideous statue, a wraith of the necromancer emerged. It stuttered, crossing with the corporeal plane for just a moment, and the dwarves pounced and tore it to pieces before it could destroy them. Then the statue split in two, and they saw the mummifed remains of the necromancer inside it, and they smashed up the corpse.

A supernatural wall of thorns blocked the way forward, so they hefted a massive piece of the statue and laid it on the thorns, making a way through. They found a whole tree of brittlestone! No wonder the site was active.

The Apprentice

Exploring further back they found bushes infused with brittlestone, and a young human in bone armor boasting he would ascend now that his stifling mentor was gone. They pulped him at once, and had a desperate fight with his undead bushes. Then they settled in to rest and heal up some.

Pushing their luck, they ventured deeper in, and found a statue that was a horrifically expressive rendition of a pile of dead dwarves, a feast for scavengers. They understood that captive dwarves had been forced to make these horrible statues. They smashed it, and inside found a trunk of gems stolen from them centuries ago.

The Sifting Maul

The only light they could see was from one hallway, and they followed it to find the Sifting Maul; it had been glowing brighter as they got closer, in response to them. Vecna passed two creepy statues and pulled the maul off the display, triggering a foul wind that was likely to draw the undead.

They moved fast, encountering minimal resistance. A wraith popped up out of the undead making fountain, but the maul slashed through it and they kept going until they were safely back in elven woods.

The elves thought about trying to take the maul, but Vecna discouraged that line of thinking, and the dwarves were soon back under the mountain. They kept their prize a secret until they were back at Whiskey Forge, so the subarchon was the first to know.

They did the clan a great service, raising its prestige, and they were honored as they Told the Tale. In addition, Vecna was chosen to be the bearer of the Sifting Maul, so it could be an active symbol of the pride and power of Clan Caskbound.

Caskbound History: The Miserable Union

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During the war between Clan Caskbound and Clan Stonebridge, there reached a point where the embittered archons tried to make peace by contributing a child to marriage. The Caskbound archon sent his grown son Wilfram, and the Stonebridge archon sent his grown daughter Murdia (her annoying brother called her “Murd” and she hated it, but he mysteriously disappeared, and she preferred “Dia.”)

The marriage was a grim and heavily armed affair, and the subarchons didn’t waste any time making themselves and each other miserable. Wilfram and Murdia were totally wrong for each other (some would mutter for ANYONE) but forced into a marriage partnership they got downright vindictive.

Those who knew them on both sides were just relieved that their spite was pointed at someone else, and someone from the warring clan at that. The unexpected side effect was that a mutual dislike of the married couple proved to be the common ground that the prideful dwarves on both sides needed, and bonding on that common ground (“Aren’t Wilfram and Murdia the WORST?!”) they managed the peace that they could not find before.

The miserable union was the turning point, from war to peace.

The First Temple

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After the assault on Chain Crag following a daring scouting mission, the Templar of the Falls successfully wiped out the monsters lairing there. Slynn Keenblade led a group underneath, and the mithril-armored dwarves took many injuries but no casualties as they rolled through their foes.

A month later, the clan’s masons were finishing their careful repair of Chain Crag, restoring it to its neglected appearance while maintaining its functionality as a lure and trap for local threats.

The First Temple

The priority of the clan’s efforts had already shifted to excavating the site that could be the First Temple, the first shrine established near Beardfall, the clan home. It was buried in the conflict between the isolationists and the templar, part of the struggle about whether to open the holy sites of Beardfall to pilgrims or keep them safe and secret. The mountain wall above the valley with the temple collapsed. At that time, the First Temple was used as an isolationist base, but there was some speculation a double agent or spy working for the templar collapsed the mountain.

Now, over five centuries later, a huge steam drill was helping clear the way to the temple site. It was to open by Remembrance Day, in about a month.

Three Council members and the Archon called in a trio of scouts to help in the effort.

  • Revelle Keenblade. Mauler, athlete, armorer.
  • Velda Windspear. Support, healer, weaver.
  • Ruman Crackerstacker. Leader, topsider, brewer.

They were to use a magical ritual to transport into the buried temple, scout it out, and report back. If there was a good reason the First Temple was buried, then the templar didn’t want to find out what it was when they opened the doors. Advance notice would be better.

After the Council members left, the Archon called them closer and told them there were few records of the First Temple, which is a very strange omission for such an important location; not sabotage or theft, but an absence of information. Tread carefully.

Entering the First Temple

After a long day’s ride by donkey (they could have walked two days, but wanted to get there faster) they arrived. They heard the handiwork of the half-crazed “Steambenders” who tended the excavation as they approached. The steam drill was audible miles away, but they took a higher path to an excavation up on the slope, where mystics had prepared a runic gateway to send them down into the temple. Melinda Wintershade equipped them, and led the invasion ritual. They got magical clay slapped on the back of their necks, and they were pushed through the stone to land in the First Temple. The wet clay was the key to the door to get them back; they hid some extra in the entry room.

They also had pendants that generated air, in case it was stuffy or poisonous underground. Revelle carried an arcane ear, so they could communicate with base if needed. They were also given stimulant potions, in case they ran into trouble.

Crackerstacker pulled out a tube of glow grubs and fixed it on his helmet, and in that feeble light they explored the deeply dusty corridors. It appeared wind had eroded the long-buried site, which wasn’t normally possible. Rather than peeking into every door or following every hallway, they looked for a larger room.

They encountered sluggish shadows of thin tendrils that seemed to be submerged in the stone, but moving; when touched, they drained body heat and life. They were not very aggressive, but they came from an area that had been magically shaped, like something was doing some mystic digging into the stone of the First Temple. The digging resembled the magic Revelle had seen in the dam sabotage. The intruders followed the peculiar metallic tendril shadows in the stone, heading down the shaped corridor.

The Puppet Show

The tendrils were more numerous and harder to avoid as they proceeded. They came out in a chamber with stony figures made of what appeared to be rock and fossilized bone, their body plans making no sense, and behind those figures was a crazed puppet master; his lower half fused with stone, and with one hand he controlled stone and with the other he controlled the metallic life-draining tendrils.

Velda kept up firing with her crossbow as Revelle and Crackerstacker discovered the stone figures merged into a regenerating wall; they darted around the wall, avoiding tendrils, and began merrily smashing the puppetmaster. As Revelle struck the final blows, knocking the thing apart, they saw a faceted ruby in the center, dripping metallic shadow. Crackerstacker pocketed it, and they left the crumbling stone and dissolving tendrils, returning to the First Temple chambers.

The Unfinished Statue

They found a pillared great hall that repelled the metallic tendrils. Its floor was a mosaic of a dwarf-like cosmic creature battling a draconic cosmic creature, both figures deliberately vague, on a landscape that seemed to correspond to the Beardfall clanhome. The wall and pillar decorations seemed to echo the theme, making sort of a multi-media experience. In the center, recessed in the floor, a dais had what appeared to be an unfinished hunchback dwarf-ish shape surrounded by broken stone.

The statue slowly shifted to track them as they walked around the room, so Crackerstacker approached it. When he touched the ruby taken from the puppetmaster to it, the statue became more animated. There was a ruby-sized slot in its chest, so Crackerstaker put the ruby in to see what would happen.

The stone around the statue rushed up to it, finishing out its features or drifting around it like ioun stones. The powerful guardian of the site sensed a contagion lingering in the dwarves before it, but offered them the truth, assuming they lacked the courage to accept it. They said they wanted a look, so the guardian lowered a barrier, revealing stairs, and warned them it was almost out of time.

The Truth is Down There

The invaders headed down the stairs, in another mosaic hallway telling more of the story in its abstract way. They found a stone sepulcher to the Witness. Not wanting to disrespect the dead, they were planning to leave it, but the statue spoke in their minds and mocked their refusal of the truth.

So, they heaved it open. Instead of a body, there was a book wrapped in cloth. Velda recognized the cloth as being made of Callithorn, a magical plant long thought extinct, capable of making powerful protection. The book itself was not expensive or dramatic, but it contained the final will and testament of Olamanok, Son of the First Witness, the Viewer, who watched two gods fight.

The dwarves knew the legend that their clanhome was formed and printed with strange divine energy because a God of Ur did battle with another cosmic creature and the battle climaxed there in the mountain. This might be a primary source referring to that battle. Was it possible supernatural means had been used to cloud their memories? They took the book, and retreated.

Closing Time

The statue, which could be an echo of an earth elemental lord, ran out of energy or focus, and the statue began to crumble. However, he told them the easiest way out before he fell apart, and they pursued it. On the way, in a corridor, they found an inset earth patch, and recognized a living Callithorn plant! This was a tremendous find. Rather than risk damage to the plant, they withdrew, back through the spell wall, rejoining the other templar at the excavation site.

Velda stayed to lead the effort to recover the Callithorn plant, while Revelle and Crackerstacker mounted up and took the book directly to the archon. The grateful clan gave all three of them 10 ledger for their heroic success! Yet not all mysteries were resolved…

 

Armored Column

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We pick up directly after the events of last session.

Korvask, Gudrun, and Tancred were joined by Devron Leveller, a berserker chosen mason. He was up in the high sands of the Caskbound Pocket meditating and getting high, buried to the neck in the loose sandy soil. He sensed the call going through the whispervine in his altered state, and when he came to he headed to Klassa to help out. (He also found his mustaches waxed and pointed aggressively forward like mastodon tusks, and dubbed them “mastostache.”)

He arrived in Klassa to see the burning of orc corpses. He renewed his friendship with Korvask, and agreed to join them in their defensive efforts.

Holding Action

Speaker Kurtz asked them to take shellers and go head off the incoming orc force. If they could slow it, that grants more time for reinforcements to come to Klassa. More arrive every day, so there were enough youngsters (up to 50 years old, still indentured to the clan) to send them out with assistants.

Each of them would get an assistant to run the sheller, and another assistant. This is what they ended up with.

  • Korvask: Finley (delver) and Topaz (topsider)
  • Gudrun: Danella (delver) and Penn (cook)
  • Tancred: Slish (delver) and Akbar (engineer)
  • Devron: Kreg (delver) and Lessa (topsider)

The Forest Door

They reached the point where the Shot River flows out of the Caskbound Pocket into the forest. While they rested, Devron scouted ahead. He encountered an elven party. Lessa translated, discovering that the elves forbade the dwarves from entering the forest; if they tried, they’d be shot.

Devron took the news back, and the dwarves hatched a plot to seal the entry and let the orcs and elves duke it out in the valley. Or at least threaten to do that, retaining the option.

Tancred and Korvask went to talk with them, and managed to wring a concession out of the elves. Turns out Grumbletch the Choppa threatened Tevuria Selvuria and his people; if the dwarves came out, the orc would massacre the elves and burn their forest down. So, the elves would let the dwarves through only if they promised to slay the orc war leader. They cheerfully agreed.

Onward

They continued on, scouting, and talked to their topsiders about what was local. They found a waterfall, and beyond that a marsh, and beyond that a fork in the river, and beyond THAT a human settlement called Brightstone ruled by Major Donnelley.

They moved as far as the marsh, and sent a delegation on foot to reach Brightstone and see about potentially luring the orcs to attack the human settlement instead.

Negotiations

They bribed their way into the walled town after dark, finding a seneschal and laying out the news of an incoming orc threat. The delegation was respectfully housed in an unused dining room for the rest of the night, and humans sent out search parties to look for the orc army at first light.

They also found a huntsman that Lessa had been teaching the dwarven language, he sort of helped.

The scouts found the orc army, and the humans decided to camp out in their walls rather than riding out to meet them. (An overall sensible plan, but not much help to the dwarves.)

Korvask worked with the catapult, fixing it and painting a blood rune on a container of flaming oil so it multiplied impressively in midair, part of an effort to convince the mayor to lure the orcs to battle here.

Korvask managed an impassioned speech, and the mayor agreed to send a force of a hundred raiders to help out in attacking the orcs. The rest of his people were needed for defense.

Meanwhile Devron took the huntsman to the local tavern and acted as a moneybags quest giver, recruiting a dozen adventuring groups to go after the orcs for promised bounty.

The Camp

The first night the party was split, a mass of two dozen wolves attacked trying to get the delicious sheller meat. They were driven off by the stalwart dwarves.

The second day they moved to the fork in the river; closer to town, but where the orcs couldn’t sneak past. That night they were attacked by a scouting party of orcs, and they slew them after a harrowing battle.

Ride to War

The skirmishers, adventurers, and mounted dwarves prepare to meet the onrush of the orc invaders on the field of battle.

Orcs at the Ford

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A number of Clan Caskbound dwarves were in the tributary town Klassa, where the Shot River flows out of their territory.

  • Korvask Wryt. A vanguard enchanter scholar with some experience.
  • Gudrun Caskbound. A mauler enchanter scholar.
  • Tancred Boiler. A skirmisher engineer gunner.

Gudrun and Tancred live in Klassa. Gudrun maintains the enchantments around the pale, the edge of the community, and helps maintain the Holy House of Hops. It is a temple shaped like a huge barrel, with fanciful carvings of hops along the inside walls.

Tancred helps with spreading the fortified dung in the fields that the massive shellers, giant dung beetles, then roll up into big balls. The dwarves hollow them out and cure them, using them for living spaces. He also helps collect the special beetle materials this clan uses to make bio-gunpowder.

The Warning

Tancred was in the temple when the community’s cluster of whispervine that hangs over the alter activated. Someone from Whiskey Forge, the clanhome, was warning them.

Intelligence came in that a big force of orcs was headed to invade the Caskbound Pocket by coming in the Shot River entry. Further, a small expeditionary force was going to try and climb up out of the crevasse after crossing the Dakra Ford, from deeper underground. They would catch Klassa unprepared, and it could be bloody. Klassa needs someone to head them off to give the village time to prepare to fight off an attack.

The Speaker of the village, Kurtz, pointed out that he needed himself and his stalwarts to prepare the village defenses. The only tough guys the village could spare were Korvask, Gudrun, and Tancred. So, off they went.

The Crevasse

After walking a couple hours into the dark, lit by glow worms in clip-on tubes, they found the crevasse that dropped down to the lowlands where the orcs would be crossing the ford. Tancred took the time to whip up a sort of block and tackle mini-crane for them to use to climb down, steadying the rope to aid the others in climbing.

Gudrun had some trouble climbing down, her harness snapping; she did not fall, but managed to swing to the side and find a ledge. Cave morays climbed out to investigate the fresh meat, but while Tancred re-worked the harness, she slew a few of them. Then she used the rope to climb down without further trouble.

Once down, they headed for the Dakra Ford, following the increasing glow of underwater reeds in the eddy pools of the underwater streams.

Seeing the shadows of orcs navigating the shallow path through the streams and pools, they scouted the land using Tancred’s expertise as an ambushing skirmisher. They picked a point for the initial attack, and a point where they could fall back and climb a cliff, both points forcing the orcs to fight in bottlenecks.

Korvask made two “landmines” with explosive war glyphs, voice activated. One went on the path to the rocky climb, the other halfway up.

Huddling in the reeds to watch the orcs come in, they counted twenty two warriors, a tough leader, and… a monster. A lumbering creature that only vaguely resembled an orc, impossibly muscled and deadly, with a monster skull lashed on to a massive bone with sinew as a weapon.

The Ambush

As soon as the orcs were close enough, they opened fire, throwing hand axes while Tancred fired on them. Dropping a couple, they fell back to their secondary cliff site as the orcs chased them furiously.

One blast killed a mass of orcs, and as they battled at the top of the climb, they triggered the other blast to knock out a few more. Their efficient murder was grinding up the orcs that scrambled up the rocks, but the orcs feared their leader more than the dwarves, so they kept coming.

Frustrated, the monster hurled a couple orcs up to skip the climb, but it was too late; the dwarves had mowed down most of the warriors. The leader and monster scrambled up the rocky hill, the last of their warriors with them.

Crushing blows from the monster’s bone weapon nearly did in the sturdy dwarves, smashing at Tancred and Korvask as Gudrun fended off the leader as best she could. They realized they couldn’t win this, and while Tancred teetered on the edge of stubbornly fighting to the death, the three dwarves followed the tactics of their people and scattered. Each ran a different direction, planning to meet up at the rendezvous point.

A Desperate Escape

All the orc forces followed Tancred, and he ran until he found himself in a canyon. Rather than selling his life as dearly as he could, he climbed the rocks, with javelins rebounding from stone all around him. Only the monster climbed after him, and they squared off on the top of the rocky slope.

Tancred leaped off the other side of the rise, down to a dark pool, hoping for the best. He crashed into the water, and stayed down; the monster did not follow, instead returning to its master.

Tancred’s worried clanmates were relieved to see him at the rendezvous.

Interdiction

There was still hope of stopping the greatly diminished warband before it reached Klassa. They scouted, finding the orcs had reached the crevasse wall and were preparing to climb. They retreated to their own dangling rope, fortunate to find it quickly.

Tancred and Korvask made the ascent. Tancred had to haul Korvask up, but his help made it possible for a safe climb. Gudrun was not so fortunate.

She was near the top when she fell, slamming off several ledges and cracking  her wrist. Then the cave morays began sniffing around. Frustrated and feeling the ticking of the clock, she slid the rest of the way to the ground, to hide and rest as the other two dealt with the climbing orcs.

Korvask and Tancred trotted along the lip of the crevasse until they found the chimney where the orcs were climbing. Tancred fired on the chief, who dragged one of his warriors in the way of the shot. Korvask quickly used the blood brush to paint an explosive rune on a stone as the orcs climbed, then the dwarves pulled back.

The triumphant orcs climbed up out of the chimney–the leader and his two remaining warriors. The monster was nowhere to be seen. Still, they triggered the explosive, killing the warriors and badly hurting the leader, who teetered on the edge. Then Tancred shot him, and the orcs were doen.

Hunted

Gudrun found the pain too intense to bind her wound properly, so she crawled into the bushes and waited. Then the insects went quiet. Turns out the monster didn’t climb the cliff! It was hunting, and it was smelling her blood. The creature was momentarily distracted by gunfire and an explosion some distance away at the top of the crevasse.

She knew she couldn’t stay put, so she tried to sneak away. The monster heard her, and chased her as she took off across the dim landscape of pools and bracken.

She spotted a pool with the corpse of a massive crab in it, and dove in to the stinky water. The monster missed her, casting about to pick up her scent trail. It roared, startling some local wildlife, which it chased. After waiting for a few minutes, Gudrun headed back to the crevasse wall, where she found a very worried Tancred waiting for her. They climbed up with Korvask’s help, uneventfully this time.

Klassa

They returned to Klassa and Told the Tale of the warband, and their victory, leaving only the monster alive.

While they were gone, the locals had used the massive sheller dung beetles to roll the round houses into a ring, gluing them in place with beetle juice. They fixed platforms on top so they could attack with ranged weapons, out of melee range for a while at least.

They rested and healed, and Gudrun got her wrist taken care of, and a thorough bath. Still, everyone knew it was the calm before the storm.

Monster Reprise

In the middle of the night, a roar roused them. The monster had followed their trail back to the village. It tore a massive sheller in half, and ripped off two of its legs to use as a weapon.

The three dwarves that killed all the other orcs advised the villagers to defend their fortifications and stay inside, then they strutted out to face the monster.

Tancred shot it in the chest, then they all charged in and battered the creature mercilessly, disorienting it and cutting at it until Tancred fired his other pistol into its head. The creature toppled, slain.

The expeditionary force had been destroyed by the fellowship. Now to prepare for the main force…