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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…