It has been about a week since the party was stranded (shipwrecked) on the war-torn island of Mar Tesaro. Yesterday they arrived at the city of Crossway.
The party has just met with the local leader of the city, Magistrate Noreeno. He seems to be corrupt in a way that is useful to them. He offers them a set of travel papers (which they will need in order to journey south, unless they want to fight their way through the Alidian soldiers) in exchange for a “job”, which he will not discuss in town. The party agrees to hear him out, and will meet him in Vale Calma on the morning of the 9th. This gives them the rest of today and all of tomorrow to prepare.
Enoch heads back to the Inn. He plans to spend the evening translating another chapter of the old book they found. This takes about five hours, at the end of which he has successfully translated the following:
Part III: Spirit of Fiore
The previous section records the tale of Thul Marblade, how he exterminated a supposedly idyllic race of mountain Elves and claimed Khelberg as his own. This section attempts to gather together the different accounts of Marblade’s rule and form a single coherent tale. The varying stories (mostly oral, as a rule) conflict in many ways but all have a few common threads. Most importantly, the actions of the “Spirit of the Mountain” are, in different accounts, attributed to various gods and deities. Nevertheless, the underlying theme of punishment and curse is present in all variants of the tale.
It is recorded here for those curious about ancient myths and folklore. The reader should not view this as a work of history.
– Chronicler Norvus
Thul Marblade took the Elven lands of Mt. Fiore, destroyed the Elves that dwelt therein, and renamed it Khelberg. Once all was under his dominion, he sought the depths of the mountain.
Yet the Spirit of the Mountain, sometimes called Fiore, did not forget the Elves, and greatly lamented their loss. So furious was the spirit of Fiore that it decided that none of the plunderers would have the wealth they sought. So it was that the mountain resisted the Dwarves, and fought against them as they dug.
The Dwarves found that each new shaft led only to trouble or death. Some caved in or flooded, others gave way suddenly, dropping the diggers into bottomless black holes. Still others issued forth molten rock which flowed from the holes like blood, filling them in and killing many miners.
Despite their masterful skills at digging and the making of mines, the Dwarves were defeated at every attempt. Many perished, and they were dismayed, saying that they should leave the mountain be and seek treasure where it may be less plentiful yet more easily obtained. They grew to fear the mountain, and dared not walk on the slopes at night when the land was restless and treacherous.
But Marblade was stubborn and would not turn away. He perceived the Spirit and sought to contain it. He sent word to the many Dwarf-clans, calling for the greatest wielders of magic and those with the knowledge of the arcane, that they should come to Mt. Khelberg and aid him in his war against Fiore. In exchange he offered all the gems that the Dwarves had managed to wrest from the mines. Many answered his call.
They met at the slopes of Khel Toten to gather their power together, and bind the Spirit of the Mountain. Using both strength and sorcery, both pick axe and spell-book, they drove a single deep shaft into the heart of the mountain. The battle was terrible and numerous Dwarves were killed in the making of it, but at last Marblade arrived in the lowest depths of the Earth, and there he cast the great binding-spell to forever contain Fiore.
Even as he did, the Spirit in turn cast one final curse: A voice came from the Earth saying, “Even as you have cursed this land, so now will the land curse you. All who dwell here are doomed to constant war. All who attack the mountain are doomed to also defend it. Foes will come from around the world to plunder this place, and those who gather my riches will only live to see them scattered.”
With that, Fiore was bound and silenced. The Dwarves sealed the tunnel they had dug, and called it a tomb, for many had fallen in the making of it.
While Enoch is doing this, the rest of the party heads for the tavern. Eomer spends the evening chatting with the locals. He wants to know what they will find at Vale Calma. His skill at adopting accents and his general charm gets people to drop their guard and reveal a bit more than the average outsider might glean, although he still doesn’t learn a great deal. It seems this area is covered in old ruins and is the site of many old battles. The townies are a bit superstitious and don’t like talking about the dead. However, Eomer does learn that probably heroes or champions from old wars are buried there. Perhaps a destroyed town? Stories conflict. It seems that the island of Mar Tesaro has seen a great deal of war over the centuries and the map has changed a lot. Towns have risen, some were destroyed, and everyone seems to have a different take on the old stories and legends.
Beck arrives much later in the evening and the rest of the party tell him about the job they have with Magistrate Noreeno. After he gets a few mugs into him, Beck opens up to them, and makes a little speech.
“Fellas, I’m glad we could travel together over the past week, but it’s time we parted ways. I’ve been in my share of scrapes over the years, and I like to think I can take care of myself, but you guys are something else. You seem to have a taste for danger. I just can’t keep up with you. I’m just a simple old sailor and travelling with you will be the death of me. “
He then reminds them that he lost just about everyone he knew when the ship went down. All he has left is a pregnant girl back in Bayhaven, and his whole goal is to raise enough money to get back there and settle down with her. He struggles a bit more, and then takes off his hat, “You know I’m proud and I don’t like asking for things. This is a bit hard for me. But if you fellas would like to donte a few coins to help out I’d appreciate it. I’m not asking’ for me, I’m asking’ for Talla and the baby.”
Skeeve and Eomer make no comment, but Thordek drops 150g into Beck’s hat. Thu’fir gives 200g, and finally Enoch the Cleric gives an astounding 700g to him. Beck is moved by this. He thanks them. He tells them his plan is to get some conventional job in town and see if he can earn some travel papers in some other way. He’ll then travel south and leave the island on his own. It might take him longer this way, but it will be safer and he has Talla and the baby to think of now.
I always get antsy when I send them out without an NPC, since I don’t have an in-game voice to use if they are about to do something really, really dangerous or stupid. This was even more true during previous campaigns when the players were new to the game. The NPC could be a sort of hint-dispensing member of the party, reminding them about facts they might not recall or suggesting they run if they get in over theor heads. When all else fails and they get into a REALLY bad spot, he might sacrifice himself to save them. This only works if they care about the NPC, value his advice and treat him as a companion. The system fails if they ignore or despise his advice, or if they just see him as a pawn they can sacrifice at need. So, I’m pulling Beck from the party for now.
Eric (Thu’fir), Joe (Thordek), and Bogan (Enoch) really surprised me with their generosity. I think they DID care about Beck. This was a significant percent of their cash, for all of them.
They finish their drinks and head off for bed at the Inn.
They party begins the day by getting ready for their trip tomorrow. Skeeve now has a membership to the mage’s guild, which means he can shop at some of the more exclusive places in town. He buys some potions. He purchases a potion of healing, which he presents to Thordek as thanks for saving his life a few days earlier. Thordek is grateful, although Skeeve’s begrudging manner does little to improve Elven / Dwarven relations.
Thordek picks up his new banded mail and sells off the old. Eomer gets himself some various useful tools.
Skeeve find a place with various maps for sale, and buys a map of the entire island:
Enoch spends the day in his room, translating the book. He has a little success and translates the following:
While other stories in this volume are little more than folklore, the following is very probably a true account. The events outlined here are supported by various other trustworthy documents. (See also: “Reign of King Oemar Vol III” and “The First Uprising of Khelberg”)
– Chronicler Norvus
The Dwarven King Marblade began a great dig within the gem-filled mountain of Khelberg. Several shafts were dug and many heaps of treasure brought into the world. Yet in the forty-second year of his reign over Khelberg, Elves came from out of the east. Some came from Dunlock and some from more distant lands. They swept through the country and drove the Dwarves away. The Dwarves were slow to relinquish their prize, and most were wiped out. The few who escaped were scattered and weakened, and would not return to Khelberg in their lifetimes.
The Elves claimed the mountain, saying it was the rightful property of their people, and just reparations for the crimes against their slain kin. Yet they kept the name Khelberg, and sought to continue the plunder begun by the Dwarves. They hired many Humans and Halflings as diggers, and sent them into the Dwarven mines. While these new races had less skill at such work than those that first created the mines, they were eager and learned much as they examined the Dwarven handiwork. In several years’ time, the mountain flowed with gems and precious metal such as had never been seen by mortals. The Elves became among the richest in the world, and their empire grew.
They expanded the number of mines, until the face of the mountain looked like a great hive. The mountain slopes became gray and lifeless as the trees and grass were stripped away to make room for more digging.
More workers of varying races were brought to the mines. Some were Orcish or Goblin slaves, who were sent to do the most dangerous or back-breaking labor. Others were Elves who were guilty of some crime according to Elven law, and had been sentenced to work within the mountain as punishment. Some were also of Halfling and Gnomish kind, although their numbers were always few. Of all the workers, humans were both the most numerous and useful. They were intelligent and strong, and did not hate the underworld as the Elves and Gnomes do. They came closest to the skill of the Dwarves in mine-work, and ever they strove greedily for the richest loads.
Yet less than a single generation later, the workers began to resent their place in the world. They noticed that the work was theirs, while the riches were not. A Human rose from among the workers and led them in rebellion. Lorman was his name, and he was both a cunning general and a powerful wizard. They overthrew their Elven employers, slaying many Elves and at last taking the land as their own. During this time, many Orcs and Goblins escaped and fled north where they would later multiply and grow strong.
The war was long and bloody, and many lives were lost on both sides. When at last the battle ended, Lorman was crowned their king. Once again the Elves had been banished from the mountain.
That afternoon they regroup. Enoch shows the others what he’s translated. Then they discuss their plans for the upcoming job. None of them really trust Noreeno. They were instructed to meet Noreeno at dawn tomorrow. They would like a bit more information going in.
Vale Calma is about three hours away on foot. They decide that Eomer will leave at midnight, which will bring him to the valley at around 3am. He will go and spy out the meeting site ahead of time to see if Noreeno is planning some sort of ambush. The others will leave later, and will arrive at dawn according to the agreement.
Since they will be getting up very early, they head right to bed to get what rest they can.
In the early hours of the morning Eomer arrives at the field where they are to meet Noreeno at dawn. It is empty. He conceals himself in the bushes at the edge of the field and waits.
After a while he hears some noises in the distance. It could be voices. He moves on carefully, proceeding further into the valley.
Just over a small hill he sees men working. They have a team of four horses and are pulling a massive stone slab. There is shouting and cursing as they struggle with the horses and the ropes that tie them to the stone. As the slab moves, Eomer can see that it is really a lid, covering a long-sealed tomb. Noreeno stands by, overseeing the operation. Eomer remains well hidden beyond the reach of their torchlight.
At last the lid is removed, and some of the men set to taking care of the horses. They remove the pulling harnesses and saddle them for riding. Other men descend the steps. The sounds of metal striking stone can be heard. It is unclear what they might be doing.
The soldiers regroup. All of this has taken a couple of hours, and now dawn is near. The men ride out, past Eomer (who is still hiding) towards the meeting field.
As dawn comes the other members of the party arrive in the field to meet Noreeno and his men. Eomer sneaks up behind him and then joins his friends.