(Being an excerpt from Bertha Wildhearth's letters home.)
Greetings, beloved family,
I bring news of my journeys far from our mountain stronghold. As you know, the outside world is bright and full of sunlight, neither of which particularly appeals to any Dwarf worth his beard. But up here in the north, near Falcon’s Hollow, at least there are plenty of dungeons and caverns where I can at least feel comfortable for a short while. And there’s gold too, if we can find it. As everyone knows, all gold in the world is Dwarven gold, it belongs to the Dwarven kingdoms no matter who currently has it out on loan, so I really have no problem taking it back – by force or stealth, I’m naturally good at both. Well, pretty good. Well, I’m pretty, even if I’m not so good.
Most of all, of course, the world outside our home in the mountains is full of weirdos. And Elves, who are the weirdest of them all, that goes with saying.
And the people I’ve ended up with are weird. Make no mistake about that. A Halfling Cleric who does next to nothing but heal us, a half-Elf sorcerer who is… shall we say flamboyant? Yes, that’s probably the best word for it. The rest of the group tells me he has a way with women. I’ve yet to see it honestly. Where was I? Oh yes, an Elf archer who talks way too much during combat, and a Half-Orc ranger who likes killing and occasionally babbles upsettingly about someone she lost called Randy. I can’t tell yet if that’s a person or a pet. At least those last two are strong, capable women, that’s something I suppose.
Oh, and do you want to know the worst? When in Falcon’s Hollow looking for adventure, I ran into Pint Bloodthorn. Do you remember him? Half-Pint, we all called him, do you remember? We went together to the Party Revering Our Mountain dance at the end of our schooling. Yes, him. Thankfully he no longer has that horrible powder-blue armour with flared greaves he wore back then. I wanted to go with Othrik Granitesoul, the dragonslayer, but no, you said I had to go with Pint as he came from a good family. Yeah, we know how that worked out, don’t we? Look at his deranged half-mad cousin, Tankard. He was worse. Anyway, apparently Pint still has a thing for me, no matter what I do to discourage him.
But I suppose there is some safety in numbers, the legends tell us this, and woe betide any Dwarf who ends up delving into the underdark by herself. So Pint recruited me into this party of adventurers and we set up to catch the rest of the group who were scouting the wilderness for some lost humans. Yes, I know, only a human would be dumb enough to get lost in the wide open spaces of the outside world. It’s not like the mountain, where dangers lurk around every corner, is it?
So after we caught up with the rest of the party, we made our way to the Kobold temple, which I think is where I ended my last letter. I wanted to send that by pigeon post but sadly Pint ate all our pigeons one night around the campfire. So instead I guess I’ll mail it when I get back to Falcon’s Hollow with the human postal service. As weird as Pint is, I doubt he’d eat a human... no, no, he wouldn’t. No. I’m almost sure he wouldn’t.
We had tried had to figure out the true meaning of the two large discs of stone in the very centre of the ruined Kobold temple. I figured out that the lettering meant the discs were some kind of calendar (you know I always good with languages) but other than that we were all completely stumped. Baewynn... that’s the Elf, she’s good with a bow, I’ll give her that, but she has an inquisitive side that gets her into trouble from what I’ve heard – oh, and get this, she’s only supposed to be writing this epic poem of Pint’s exploits out here in the outside world, like he’s some kind of hero! Yes, the same gawky teenaged Dwarf who didn’t even bring me the usual gift of a Goblin’s head corasage for the Party Revering Our Mountain, can you believe it?
I lost my train of thought there, sorry. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, so Baewynn really wanted to try to move the stones. Bad idea. I mean, horrendously, gloriously, horrifically bad idea. An idea so bad that to describe it with full justice we would all have to admit it could only have been put into Baewynn’s mind by the goddess of bad ideas. That’s an Elven goddess, in case you didn’t know, but that should have been obvious.
Luckily Baewynn couldn’t move those massive stone discs all on her own. Still, she asked everyone for help and although I wisely said I would take no part in such foolishness several of the others volunteered, including Mira (the half-Orc) and Pint, believe it or not. He said it was something about party I think he was trying to show off his muscles and impress me. Needless to say it did not. Fortunately even the combined might of all three had no effect and those stone discs didn’t budge an inch.
But still that infuriating Elf bard wouldn’t give up. She insisted on examining every square inch of that monument. Which, it turns out, was probably just as well as she found there was a large sapphire hidden between the two discs. I offered to appraise the stone’s worth but apparently Pint had warned told the others in the party of my thievery tendency to borrow things without people’s permission, so naturally my kind offer was refused. The half-Elf sorcerer in the party informed us that there was a touch of magic about the stone, a simple illumination spell of some sort, don’t ask me, I’ve never really understood magic. I’m one of those people who is perfectly happy to use magic but who really has no idea how in the world it actually works.
At this point in our tale, I will admit I took the time to lecture the other women in the party of the evils of the patriarchy that currently dominates all modern society, even the foolish Elvish kingdoms. Kingdom – there! Right there that sums up what is wrong in today’s world. I mean...
(Long and exceedingly boring excerpt, all in the original Dwarven text of course, was cut from the original text here. You’re welcome.)
...and I’m sure my sisters in the Delta Omega Rho Kappa sorority would be sorely disappointed in me. Pint was the only one in the party who would listen and although he wisely agreed with me I fear he only did so in order to impress me.
Once Baewynn was finally done with her thorough handling of the two large circular objects she insisted on moving further down and nimbly exploring the mossy mound. The Elf found four charred corpses by the entrance to the mound and Pint made a lot of noise and a big thing out of nothing, pretending to have invented his own particular brand of science. Again, I’m not so smart so I didn’t really understand it, it’s something to do with ill birds. At least I think it is. He called it for-wrens-sick, so I guess that’s what he meant. Which is weird, as he spent ten minutes poking around the dead bodies. But then Pint always was a bit odd, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
I think Pint disturbed the sanctity of the corpses somehow as at that point the four of them stood up and advanced upon us menacingly. With glowing red eyes, their deathly visage obviously terrified some in our party but to his credit Pint bravely charged forward into battle. Brave but foolish it appeared as these creatures struck him easily and greatly sapped his strength, reducing him to the strength of a mere infant. Luckily the Halfling Cleric summoned up the power of his deity and struck down three of the accursed creatures through prayer. Both Mira and I then raced to deal with the remaining corpse and we both struck at the same time. My magic hammer, Jacqueline, broke several of the creatures brittle bones but Mira’s battleaxe, although connecting, did no damage to the unnatural magic that summoned up these enemies. Njord and Ortho managed to destroy this last creature through a combination of their magic.
Despite their unwillingness to trust me with a priceless sapphire – as if I would walk off with it, in the middle of the wilderness, really... I’m at least smart enough to wait to get back to Falcon’s Hollow and to find a decent fence and then I’ll walk off with it – the party suddenly decided they wanted my help to check for traps around the entrance to the burial mound. Suddenly I’m useful, go figure. I found a magical trap hidden in the runes that were carved around the entry way easily enough but I couldn’t disable it while wearing by bulky armour, so I told the party this. Of course they insist that I disrobe so that I have better chance of disabling the trap and for the party’s sake I agree, although needless to say I felt quite humiliated by this, especially with Pint leering and cheering me on. And Baewynn insisted on playing some kind of bizarre music to accompany me, which was not appreciated. Elvish humour is lost on me, I’m afraid. At least Mira, the half-Orc, was nice enough to help me dress again after I disarmed the magical trap.
Still wary of what might lay in wait for us ahead in the burial mound, Baewynn used her bizarre and unsettling Elvish magic to turn invisible for a short time and scout ahead. She reported that there were stone stairs leading downstairs into the barrow to find a square room with fountains in each corner, the water running from vicious looking fish head statues with gaping, needle-toothed, jaws and the water running into basins beneath carved to look like the fish’s arms. Not exactly as classy or refined as Dwarven architecture but to each their own, I suppose. Another archway led to a corridor and a room beyond, but the Elf did not dare tread further.
When Baewynn returned to the outside, she informed us of what she had found and how she was certain that the water everywhere in the room was in reality water elementals, magical guardians summoned to protect whatever lay within the barrow. Njord then went into the barrow, with the logic that as he speaks Aquaean, the language of the water elementals, he might be able to persuade these defenders of the barrow into letting us past. However, at this point in my narrative, dear family, things went a little wonky.
Firstly, when Njord walked down the stone steps and through the rune inscribed entrance, the trap I thought I had disarmed was triggered. Not my fault, of course. I can only surmise that I had been distracted by my state of near-nudity and the constant whistles and cat-calls from the rest of the party that in my attempts to disarm the trap I had overlooked something. Njord was affected by the trap’s magic, a curse slowly turning his heart colder and colder. But he still bravely carried on, down the steps to converse with the elementals.
That conversation went nowhere as despite speaking the same language Njord could get little out of the water elementals, only that they were here to stop people getting into the tomb and they would let us by it we had a pass. Which obviously we did not.
But while Njord was trying to talk his way past the water elementals (and from what I’ve heard that half-Elf can talk his way into a devout nun’s undies, so his lack of success came as something of a surprise to us all) I took the initiative and decided to use Jacqueline, my magical hammer, to smash the runes in the hopes of permanently destroying that evil trap. This particularly clever idea backfired on me however as my destructive tendencies led to the trap being triggered with all of the party well within range. Fortunately only Baewynn, Ortho and myself were affected, each of us feeling those cursed icy fingers clutching at our hearts.
When Njord returned to tell us of his chat with the water elementals the party broke into a lengthy discussion of whether or not it was safe to continue. After all, we didn’t know exactly what dangers lurked in that barrow and Pint was greatly reduced in strength and everyone else complained of being tired due to the day’s efforts. I, of course, wanted to continue on, and eventually it was agreed that rather than returning to the logging camp to rest we would press on and face our foes.
Once all of the party were down the steps we were attacked by the water elementals. Although the weakened Pint did his best, it was up to the rest of us to fight as best we could. Baewynn impressively shot and killed two of the creatures, while Bertha and Mira killed the remaining two.
With the water elementals dealt with, the party pressed on deeper into the burial mound. Baewynn once again scouted ahead into the next room, a large and rectangular chamber with three exits leading off to the east (directly ahead), west and north. There was a decorative mural painted all around the walls, depicting a godlike being among the clouds.
But there was also a real mist hidden among those painted clouds. At first we thought it was a trap the Elf had triggered but as it descended when Baewynn crept into the room it coalesced into a large face and claws, with a tremendous gaping jaw that lunged at Baewynn, who wisely fled back to warn the rest of the party in the first chamber. But the mist followed and launched its smokey tendrils at the entire group of us.
Njord was the fastest to react, launching a series of magic missiles at the mist in that strangely flamboyant gesturing manner of his. Pint charged in to attack the mist and even managed to do a little damage but was then grabbed by the jaws of the mist and flung around like a ragdoll in the mouth of a hunting dog. The group flailed with several attacks at the strange mist. Again, Baewynn stood back and let fly with her arrows, inflicting a small amount of damage on the unnatural cloud. The mist somehow seemed to evade the party’s attempts to harm it, with only Njord’s continual barrage of magic missiles seeming to have any effect on it at all. And then finally, after Njord had managed to whittle away at the creature, I stepped forward and swung the deciding blow. My hammer, Jacqueline, smacked through the mist and forced it to disperse.
With the mist finally dealt with, the party pressed on. We moved east, towards the sounds of humans moaning in torment, thinking we might find some of the missing logging company workers we had been assigned to find and rescue. And find them we did. But first a large group of zombie Kobolds that stood in our way had to be dealt with. The trio of warriors in the party – myself, Pint and Mira – stepped forward and bravely battled the undead. Further back Ortho channeled the energy of his Halfling deity and the spiritual power promptly smashed their bones apart.
Njord made another over the top gesture and sent a blast of cold fire bursting forth from this outstretched hands, killing several more of the undead Kobolds. Mira managed to get overwhelmed by the Kobolds and in the process she accidentally swiped at Pint and her battleaxes sliced into the already weakened Dwarf’s muscles. Pint muttered a curse that I’m sure he never learned in our mountain stronghold, I can only assume it is some saying in the Common tongue that I’m not familiar with. To my Dwarven ears it sounded like “Dood wottha ell” but I couldn’t be sure.
I struggled to kill one more of the Kobolds but the battle was finally decided when Ortho channeled his deity’s energy once again and sent the remainder back to whatever graves they may have once had.
In the next room, we finally encountered two of the lumberjacks we had been sent to find, bound and tied behind a sarcophagus with a crude stone throne upon it. Seated on the throne was the Kobold King who, according to what I was told after anyway, the party had already killed once before. Now undead, this insane cackling Kobold King had two bodyguards, both armed with spears.
Baewynn, with her fast Elvish reflexes, immediately shot two arrows towards the King but only one struck him lightly, as he was quick enough to dodge the other. Mira and Pint faced off against the two Kobold bodyguards, so thinking quickly, I leapt forward to attack the King. The two bodyguards did their best to stop me, jabbing their spears into my ribs as I ran past, but I ignored those minor scratches. My hammer blow knocked the King off his feet and on to his back, but he nimbly jumped up and scrambled backwards, hiding behind the sarcophagus like the true coward he was.
Hiding behind the sarcophagus and throne did him little good, however, as Njord sent several more of his magic missiles unerringly towards the cowering Kobold King and then the Halfling Cleric Ortho summoned up the power of his prayers and weakened all the undead creatures a little more.
It turned out that the King of the Kobolds still had a few tricks beneath his rotten red cloak though. He muttered a few evil sounding curses and the room was suddenly filled with a sleeping enchantment. The weaker-willed members of the party immediately collapsed and started dozing. I personally struggled vainly against the effects of the wicked spell but I too soon succumbed to the sheer magical power.
This could have been the turning point in the battle (and of course, dear family, I must rely briefly on unreliable sources at this point in the narrative as I was unconscious and thus unaware of what happened around me, if only for a short time). Baewynn was still proving a skilled archer but she could not stop the Kobolds on her own, and while Pint was weakened by his earlier undead encounter, Mira could not seem to summon up the skill this day, and so neither proved able to dispatch the Kobolds as easily as they may have on any other day. With Ortho, Njord and myself fast asleep, the three proven biggest threats to the Kobolds had been taken out with just a few simple magical words and gestures.
However, Baewynn’s luck rubbed off. Due to her superb oratory skills the Halfling Cleric managed to resist the effects of the sleep spell and stagger back to his feet. I woke soon after, thanks to a spearpoint that one of the undead Kobold bodyguards shoved into my arm, but thankfully that was only a flesh wound. Enraged at this unfair assault on an unconscious foe, and at the patriarchal use of such a phallic weapon, I jumped to my feet in anger, even if this opened me to more attacks. Spears and blades clattered against my armour, cut my flesh, but I paid them no heed. I leapt forward and slammed my hammer into the chest of the Kobold King, smashing ribs and pulverizing his heart, killing him instantly. It was a more generous and kindly fate than the old crazed revenant King deserved, believe me.
But one of the bodyguards took advantage of my anger and carelessness and stabbed me once again. I was by now quite weak myself through blood loss from numerous cuts, wounds, and scratches and hardly able to stay on my feet. Luckily Baewynn’s expertise with her bow put an arrow through the eye of one of the two Kobold bodyguards and Mira finally found some good fortune and chopped the other neatly in twain with her battleaxe.
We found a small magical adamantium battleaxe upon the corpse of the Kobold King and I must confess feeling somewhat grateful he never had the chance to use it.
Once we had recovered somewhat, thanks to the healing spells of both Baewynn and Ortho, Baewynn insisted that we open the sarcophagus and after some thought and much heavy lifting it was decided to tie a rope around the lid and see if it could not be pulled free. No luck. Nothing, it seemed, would enable us to lift this lid. Either it was sealed in some way (and I could not detect any locks, nor any traps), perhaps magically, or the lid was simply far too heavy for just a few of us to budge.
I therefore decided to be more direct and started to smash the stone apart with my hammer. The noise of my efforts, however, attracted the attention of more undead Kobolds which ran into the rest of the party. Battle quickly ensued but I was quicker, rushing up to strike at the leader of these creatures. However, the leader stuck back at me and her claws sheared through my armour, sickening me through some form of witchcraft. Ortho continually prayed to his Halfling God and begged for divine assistance in defeating these foes while we fought and his prayers were answered, with several of the undead beasts being dispersed by his power. Between Baewynn’s precise arrows and Njord’s spells (he cast a spell that summoned a rolling spherical ball of flame that badly burned anyone it touched) the leader was thankfully dealt with. Once we had mopped up the last few undead that still challenged us, we realized we had left the fleeing lumberjacks unattended and unguarded. We raced after them only to find a couple more of the undead Kobolds attacking them. Due to my speed I managed to smash one into a pulp with a single blow of my hammer and Baewynn dropped the other with two arrows shot into his spine.