on Nov 23, 2005
In the morning Endo wakes and goes outside to stand in the sun.
The party decides to spend another day in this town, with Skeeve studying the orb and Enoch studying the book. They hope the extra time spent in study will yield the answers they need on the road ahead. They also hope to change their sleep schedule so that they are no longer awake at night and asleep during the day.
But first, it is pointed out to them that Endo has no money. In fact, the only things he owns are the pants he’s wearing and the staff he’s holding. Skeeve takes him shopping for basic supplies: Backpack, bedroll, food, and some basic commoner clothing. Endo spends the remainder of the day at rest, recovering from his ordeal of the last few weeks.
In the meantime, Thordek meets with Magistrate Stonefist and explains that they need travel papers for their two friends. The dwarf offers travel papers for 500 gold a piece. They pay, and the papers are drawn up.
The day passes. Enoch completes work on another chapter:
The name “Khelberg” is simply the Dwarven rendering of “The Mountain” in Common Speech. This seems an odd name for the Dwarves to have chosen, given their habit of naming mountains after the Dwarf who first discovered, owned, or mined them. Perhaps Khelberg was so great in their minds that they did not think any of their names would be worthy, and so left the mountain “nameless” by calling it Khelberg.
It should also be noted that Khelberg is not a single mountain, but a small cluster that is roughly horseshoe-shaped. It was the custom of both Dwarves and Elves in the Earlier Days to name the hills in groups this way. It is said that the Dwarves had names for each of the peaks within Khelberg, although I have not found any record of them. The other races that dwell there now have continued the habit of referring to the entire group as Khelberg, as if it were a single mountain.
In the center of the crescent is a wide flat valley. Of old it was simply called “Greenlands” by the Elves, although that name was dropped once it ceased being green. As the valley turned gray and filled with gravel and brackish water, the city was largely abandoned and became little more than mining camps. At one time the elves (when they had control of Khelberg) gave the camps the name Della Minera (“The Mining Valley”, in Common) and the name remained, although the Elves did not.
Other notable names on the island include Tal Podere, (in Elven, “the Farmlands”), Tal Lengo (in Elven, “the woods”), Valle Calma (in Elven “Silent Valley”), and Fol Thron (in Dwarven “Strong Throne”).
The island itself is still called by its original name Mar Tesoro, which means (very roughly) “Treasures Island”, or perhaps “Island of great value”. Is it possible that the Elves were aware of the gold and gems in the mountain, yet chose to leave them be? Or is the name speaking of the value of the island as a place to live, and not of the riches it contained? It is impossible to know, as the legends from those days are few and unreliable.
Another curious fact is that although Elves and men have captured the city of Fol Thron many times, it has never been renamed. It has been the capital city of many empires, yet still bears its original Dwarven name.
– Chronicler Norvus
The party reads over this latest section of the book. It is not as helpful as they might have hoped.
Skeeve studies as well. He spends his time outside, making sure to keep the orb in daylight so as to keep Mordan in a weakened state.
While they wait, they have a long debate on the rules of Mordan’s Phylactery. They discuss various plans, such as dropping it into the ocean, having the owner commit suicide, burying it, and various other things that could be done (not that any of them is seriously contemplating suicide) to defeat Mordan forever. They examine the rules Skeeve has uncovered so far, looking for a weakness or a loophole they might exploit.
The conversation ends without arriving at any answers. Skeeve studies the orb again, and unlocks the final secret:
He can now study the orb without revealing his position to the Lich. However, since this was the last secret, he no longer needs to study it. Still this explains how the undead monsters have found them each night: For the last several days they have been keeping the orb in darkness and studying it regularly so that Mordan would always know where they were. They were actually helping him.
To sum up the challenges of defeating Mordan:
- He was once the most feared and terrible rulers of this island. This is a big deal, since there have been a lot of rotten tyrants here over the centuries. He was a wizard (Lich) of such vast power that he could take on armies.
- It took several of the most powerful heroes in the world to defeat him last time around, and even then they only managed to imprison him, not destroy him.
- He’s a Lich, so if he’s defeated he will simply rise again the next day, at the location of his Pylactery. (the Orb Skeeve has) The only way to keep a Lich from rising again is to destroy his Phylactery, but this one is trapped in such a way that it will kill almost everyone within 100 miles if it’s destroyed.
- He’s lost an undetermined portion of his former power. He needs to reclaim the orb in order to recover this lost power.
Late afternoon becomes early evening. At this point they have been awake for a long time. Having remained awake all day, they now retire for the night. Tomorrow they plan to head south.
They wake after midnight. They plan to leave when the sun comes up. While they wait, Enoch studies and obtains another chapter:
This section will highlight the middle years of Mar Tesoro. Again, a full account would fill many books but the record of conquest is given here in order to complete the timeline of this book. The reader should be aware that this list is very brief and leaves out many important figures and events. True students of history should consult other volumes to learn about these events in detail.
– Chronicler Norvus
the Dwarves held the mines for fifty years, enduring two sieges and many Orcish raids from out of the north before finally falling to the Elves.
The Elves appointed a king, who was assassinated within weeks, and then replaced by King Loemus. Loemus survived two attempts on his life, one from human assassins and one from among his own advisers. He was maimed in the second attempt, and as time went on he became more paranoid. He executed countless people he suspected of plotting against him. His purge was so vigorous that work stopped in the mines for some time because he lacked competent leaders.
The kingdom of Loemus collapsed on itself and many other forces moved in to seize the mines. From here a proper account of ownership becomes difficult. War raged around the mountain for several years, and more than once there were multiple factions mining from from different sides of Khelberg.
After a decade of fighting, a Human female named Rhone gained the mastery in the conflict, aided by a large group of Wizards. They drove the other forces from the mountain, captured Fol Thron, and set up a Mageocracy. This was the most diverse and stable government the land had known since the fall of Ellas Morad and the original Mountain-Elves.
It was during this time that the Mage Wars raged in Dunlock. As that war ended, the Guild of Mages was formed. (See also, The Mage Wars Vol. III and the charter for the Guild of Mages) Since members of the guild were generally discouraged (but not prohibited) from making war openly with one another, this had the effect of strengthening the rule of Mistress Rhone. If anyone sought to oppose or oust her, they could usually only attract non-guild mages, who were generally weaker or less disciplined.
Mistress Rhone was, by all accounts, the most peaceful and patient of all the leaders of Khelberg. While she put down many rebellions, she had a habit of imprisoning her foes instead of the usual policy of public execution that had been the norm for centuries. During her reign she fought two successful wars against foes attempting to reclaim Khelberg, and finally died of an unknown poison after ruling for thirty years.
They have breakfast and prepare their horses for travel. As the sun comes up, they see a crowd has gathered at the northern gate. Some people are weeping and there seems to be some trouble. Thordek heads over and speaks to the Magistrate, who is waiting at the gate, looking tense.
Magistrate Stonefist explains that two strange creatures attacked during the night. They tried to enter the town in secret, were discovered, and a battle ensued. The creatures took the lives of two of the guards before they were slain. Then one of the guards, who was clearly dead only moments before, rose up and attacked his former friends. Once defeated, all three bodies were taken to a field north of town and burned.
The magistrate described the creature as a gaunt humanoid with massive claws. Thordek recalls the creatures they fought in Dockhouse days earlier.
Thordek offers assistance, but the Magistrate declines. There is nothing more to be done at this point. After saying their goodbyes they set out, heading south. They have seven party members, yet only threee horses. They leave town with people taking turns walking and riding.
The party travels south until dark, and finally makes camp along the road.
They have traveled at walking speed heading toward Hillstead. It is getting dark and they decide they need to make camp. Skeeve suggests they have a full camp with a campfire, and that two people stand watch instead of just one. Enoch consecrates the ground and a fire is built. Throughout the night, Skeeve has a creepy feeling – as if someone is watching him.
The night passes without incident.