More Questions Less Answers More Miles
There was a long road to hoe, the companions had many questions that seemed to have vague answers. What happened to Vonrictoven’s sacred druid grove? Where was Vonrictoven’s druid grove? The same went with Spongicus’s ancient homeland. Was the downfall of Spongicus, and Vonrictoven’s and the two dwarves ancient homelands connected? Perhaps. They journeyed severals days to the south to a settlement called Three Claims, a mining outfit that traded various types of ore, but mostly in iron ore. Upon entering the front gate of the encampment and rather rough looking dwarf stopped the road weary travelers.
“You there. Stay where ye be til I can git a good look at ye. An’ who might ye be? I donnae recognize ye—wot clan do ye hail from?” The stout hill dwarf commanded.
“We managed to dig our way out of Kardathas after being holed up fer nearly a century. Our friend Burk there had a vision from Illithion, our friend Cryssan had a falling out with family. Vonrictoven sought to seek out what happened to his ancestors ancient druid grove, and Spongicus is seeking to reclaim ancient family grounds as well. Borazan explained to the dwarf named Thirgouck.
“Khardathas, eh? Well ye migh’ need to come talk t’ Gravelbeard. I think he will be interested in yer story.”
Upon arrival at Gravelbeard’s quarters he cocked an eye toward our direction. “Aye, and who are ye now? Yer quite a sad, motley bunch ain’t ye? Wot business have ye in me camp?” After the detailed explanation on where they were from, where they been and where they were heading, old Gravelbeard had a little info of his own to share.“I’m ‘riginally from far to th’ Northwest in Dverngard. I came here wit’ me pop when I wos a young’un—back when Ghuldahar wos still a sea port. When th’ shit started flyin’, we got our arses outta Ghuldahar wit’ some o’ our fellows and lived off th’ land fer awhile until things calmed down. When people started tradin’ wit’ each other instead o’ killin’ each other, I figured out that findin’ good ore wos pretty difficult, so I set me back to minin’ the hills here. ‘Course I wosnae only one to ‘ave that idea. There wos some o’ yer kin from the north that settled nae too far from ‘ere. An’ the Ilnathgar, o’course, had to get their piece o’ the action too.”
“I see you trade with Illnathgar, last I knew they were no friend to any hill or mountain dwarf” Borazan started.
“Them? Those are the Grimmerzhul clan. Look lad, wot ‘appened b’fore th’ breakin’ o’ the world is back then an’ none o’ us alive ‘ad any hand in it anyway. We cannae afford t’ ‘ave too many enemies these days, ‘specially among dwarves. There nae ‘nough o’ us to go ‘round an’ the rest o’ th’ world arenae too keen on bein’ particularly nice t’us.
We got a good arrangement fer all o’ us. Grimmerzhul takes all their stock t’ Ebonspire, we trade our stock wit’ Cragscar, an’ yer kin trade wit’ Ghuldahar. We keep the prices up, we all make a tidy profit, an’ none o’ us is competin’ fer anything. People are dying fer good solid iron an’ most of the minin’ to th’ south in Cragscar or Gallows Gate is copper and tin.
Donnae go kickin’ stirge nests ‘cos ye want to avenge some ancient ideal. We got bigger battles t’fight.”
At this point in the conversation Burk was a little more than curious and asked Gravelbeard if he knew where other dwarves in the area could be found.
“I donnae know too much about me own kin. From wot I understand, th’ roads to Dverngard are riddled wit’ hobgoblins an’ other foul fellows. Nae that I would know anyone back there anyway—I wos jus’ a youngun when I left. The Kaerngar that fled down ‘ere from Khardathas kinda spread out. A goodly number o’ them settled in the dwarven ghettos in Ghuldahar. Some o’ them are workin’ mines down near Cragscar an’ a ‘andful o’ them are right ‘ere in Three Claims.” Gravelbeard continued on about other notable settlements and pointed them out on the companions map so as they could keep track of all the information they’ve learned. “Ghuldahar would be east and a lil south of ere. It used to be a port city on the Glaive Sea. It was a pretty shinin’ city full o’ bustle. After th’ breaking o’ the world, the sea disappeared, leavin’ behind a stinking misty bog and the city wos little better. Now it’s a den o’ vice, run on the backs of slaves and colludin’ merchant houses. Overlord Barakas runs the city from his castle, though some whisper the Iron Circle runs th’ whole of it.”
“What about Malag Kul and Cear Mora, can you tell us anything of either of those two places?” The always astute Borazan asked.
“Donnae know much about Malag Kul.. They’re way off to the southwest and they donnae let in any visitors. I’ve heard tell that they kind of spook people in Ghuldahar. Th’ halflings sure donnae like them much—they are always messin’ wit crop prices. Somehow they produce more food an’ ore than they consume themselves. That donnae make the Kaerngar too happy themselves, though they apparently purchase a lot o’ finished goods from the dwarves in the city, so that softens the sting a bit.”
“Cear Mora?” Vonrictoven quickly began.
“Ehh, I ‘ave not heard too many good things ‘bout the elf-lands. I hear it’s cursed or some such. I donnae deal with the easterners much. Thorgrim Leadbraid might have a little more information fer ye in that regard.”
The meeting with Thorgrim Leadbraid went as expected they sat had a few dwarven stouts, and told the tale of the road to which lead the group here. Thorgrim explained the best he could and offered all the information he had knew about Von’s ancient grove. Seeing the despair wash over their friends face they all wasted no time in assuring Von that that they all would see this curse being lifted, with that assurance a bit of resolve would find its way to the table. Taking this Q Thorgrim scored a round of secret brew he had stashed away, to ease the duress from the sorry tale. As everyone relaxed a bit, Schnelthek the deep gnome the companions freed from Kardathas on their way to the surface noticeably looked upon Thorgrim’s smelter and mining pack. He must have drifted back to a place in his mind where good memories of mining must have flooded him because Borazan tried stirring him for a few moments before Schnelthek snapped back.
“Looks like yer set to run the legs off yer friend, ‘ere. Tell ye wot—I need me an extra hand, especially wit’ the smelter. If ye need some transport, I got a horse and wagon ‘ere I’d be willin’ t’ part with. I just need a bit o’ a favor from ye, but ye’ll come out better fer it. I donnae normally trade much with the easterners because it’s often more hassle than I can handle and it makes me clients in Cragscar a little ornery, but I’ll load ye up wit’ some ore to take to Brialf Eraldesen in Farstead. He buys it fer an aurak per pound out there. I’ll let the 400 pounds I promised to him go for 250 auraks and I’ll throw in the horse and cart. All ye got t’ do is deliver it. That’s a tidy profit for headin’ t’where ye were already headed, eh?”
The group could not refute Thorgrim’s offer for the amount of treasures they were acquiring were far surpassing the amount in which they could carry, also more importantly Schnelthek was free to go where he pleased and if he so chose to stay in Three Claims by all means no one in the group had a single issue. In fact they all wished him well and left him with a small sack of coin to begin his new journey. He was happy Thorgrim was happy and the Sons of Kardathas were all happy for Schelthek as well. With that the companions said theyie goodbyes and departed the first thing in the morning to deliver Thorgrim Leadbraid’s load of ore to Farstead.
The road to Farstead was a long arduous trek, several times we ran into road ruffians, a strange dog, and one wild storm. The storm alone sidetracked the group for an extra day, it was like they ate funny mushrooms that grow in the wooded areas. Something wasn’t right they were spaced out, confused, and argumentative with each other, not a single one of them could even determine which way to travel. So they guessed, and eventually managed to regather their wit before long.
About a day out of Farstead the group ran into a rather cocky fellow, later they would learn his name was Sylish Creed. “Friends, I would petition you for some assistance!” Taking his time to draw in the companions, and let a few of his friends slip into position for an ambush.“Friends, it is your lucky day! This crummy weather makes me feel sympathetic to your plight. As such we will only relieve you of your wagon and other valuables and allow you to continue on your way unmolested! And only a day’s walk from Farstead. Heck, if you hurry you might make it there before your stomach is rumbling again.”
“What is your deal man, yer robbing us, and what do you mean, we?” Borazan asked while he and the rest of the companions took a quick look around, each noticing they had been surrounded. “Well maybe it’s your lucky day and my friends and I will let you live if you wish to play the smart card and just walk away while yer ahead.”Fighting to hold back a smile and winking toward Burk, Borazan replied.
“Well friends I can’t say I didn’t give you a chance. Kill them!” Is all he said. At this point there was a large brute of a man standing behind Sylish allowing him to slip around and behind so that the large man could charge straight toward Borazan.
Von Rictoven and Cryssan loosed arrows left and right Spongicus directed his beloved zombies and generated a flaming sphere to chase would be attackers, while Burk smashed with his hammer and zapped ranged attackers with radiant streaking bolts. The large brutish man that had charged Borazan leaving him to parry, parry, parry until he could get his feet back underneath him. Once Borazan collected himself he came forward with a dwarven fury of deft offhanded movements that confused the large man. It sounded a lot like lightning striking a tall tree, SMACK, the Rockcarver family crest had managed to stamp itself upon the forehead of another foolish sap. As the brutes eyes found center and dropped to his knees, Borazan looked round and noticed the rest of the group had the situation under control. He then turned to looked for old Sylish…… “Where’d that rat bastard skin off to?” Burk demanded.
“Easy buddy.” Borazan calmed. While Von and Cryssan tried to turn up a trial to no fortune. After a short break the group continued on toward Farstead, where the rest of the trip was uneventful.
Rolling into town the party was greeted with strange curious looks. Humans resided on on side of town while elves on the other. Both humans and the elves didn’t much care for one another but managed to keep the peace. One humans approached the group,
“I don’t know who you are or what your business is here, but you look like strangers to me. A word to the wise for a newcomer—Farstead is a town of bitter peace. The humans and the elves grudgingly get along, but not well. You see, before the cataclysm Farstead was a wood elf outpost on the far western border of their homeland. It was in this town they engaged in trade with non-elves. When the cataclysm hit, the humans and such who were still here stuck around. Eventually the elves started arriving because their own land was blighted and in shambles. They didn’t take too kindly to the non-elves having stuck around and so there was a lot of fighting between the two groups. We eventually settled on a truce but the elves and the rest of us rarely rub elbows.” One of the Human townsfolk stated to the companions as he curiously approached them.
“We don’t mean to impose kind sir but we ave a shipment o ore from three claims that we’re ere to deliver to Brialf Eraldesen” Burk said simply.
“Aye well you’ll find him down the end O the road ere and three streets down to the right, you’ll know it when you see it by all the scrap iron laying about and the giant forge he has set up.” Offered the man. Borazan’s eyes beemed at the mere mention of the word forge, “C’mon boys off we go lets get this ore delivered so that we may take a load off for a minute.”