Sharde

Blackmail and Blackguards
Opal's Journal, pages 14-15

So, it has come to this. Wandering amongst the blocks of the Stonering and the shanty town of the Surface, rubbing shoulders with the disgraced and the despicable. And to think not so long ago we supped as honoured guests at the King’s Table! Horthgar at least seems not uncomfortable in these base surroundings and speaks to the Dishonoured Caste with an ease and familiarity I find disconcerting. I know he bears little love for his betters but surely he must realise that to maintain the respect and trust the Dauntless Mercenary Company have earned to date we must not be seen to sympathise with the ignoble and the ignominious.

Such is the lot of the mercenary it seems. We are not yet in a position to pick and choose our employers and so here we are, at the behest of the Kaz Dorn Merchant’s Guild. Over recent months a criminal group calling themselves the Broken Rune have risen to prominence under the leadership of a mysterious new leader known as ‘Blackbeard’. The Broken Rune have branched out from minor underworld illegality amongst their own kind and begun blackmailing and sabotaging legitimate members of the Merchant Caste. Obviously this Blackbeard and his blackguards have to be stopped.

Our only lead was a Surface trader named Daneg, one of the dishonoured and by all accounts a dealer in stolen goods. His initial reluctance to impart what he knew of the Broken Rune swiftly gave way to craven cooperation. Their leader was named Kardruz Blackbeard and Daneg also directed us to a block address in the Stonering where he might be found. We left the fearful fence in no doubt as to the seriousness with which we took the integrity of his information, and how upset we may be if it proved false.

Fortunately for Daneg he spoke true, and we were attacked by several Broken Rune thugs at the house. They fought to the death save one young thief named Penndhing, who we captured and questioned. After the skirmish we uncovered a trap door leading to another part of the Stonering and the gang’s lair. In return for sparing his worthless life Penndhing quickly betrayed the Broken Rune, warning us of traps along the route and of the gangs numbers. Forewarned is forearmed, and with this advantage we moved through the theives’ lair laying low any that dared oppose us in our search for Blackbeard.

The leader of the Broken Rune was holed up in the heart of his lair with several guards. With a little time to prepare to face us, and with the home territory advantage Blackbeard and his associates presented us with challenging opposition. Yet with dauntless tenacity we outlasted his tricks and traps, and eventually overcame his guards and brought the time of Blackbeard and his Broken Rune to an end.

Naturally, the Merchant’s Guild were very grateful and rewarded the company with a generous trade discount on goods and services at all Kaz Dorn guild merchant’s establishments.

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The Missing Patrol
Opal's Journal, pages 12-13

Not a day passed since setting Fundgar about his task, when our company received a request for aid from none other than Borenorn Stonemasonsson. The Stonebeard officer was in need of a band of dauntless individuals to investigate the disappearance of a patrol. Recalling the competence we displayed upon our earlier encounter with him, sent for us.

Borenorn explained that a regular patrol comprising six Stonebeards and a Runecrafters seem to have vanished without trace. Worse yet for the poor dwarf, that Runecrafter was his own nephew Karzan Stonemasonsson out on his first patrol! Naturally Borenorn offered fair remuneration to uncover the fate of the patrol, rescue any survivors, or if too late return their remains for proper burial; plus a bonus for young Karzan.

A thorough search of the section of Dwarf Roads where the patrol was last know to be revealed very little. Naturally the hard stone surfaces yielded not easily followed footprints or other such clues, yet it was realising one of those very surfaces to be illusory that revealed the Stonebeards’ doom. Beyond lay a circular system of tunnels and caves (some natural and others worked stone) looping around a central chamber; apart from one tunnel leading directly away from the Road, although that was blocked by deadfall.

Dwelling therein we found both goblins and orcs, and at the heart of the complex even a bugbear; all were put down. Notably one of the foul creatures was some kind of primitive shaman who invoked a potent fire spell, arcane in nature … and not unlike Grandfather Haamoch’s old favourite the ‘Scorch’ spell. As one might expect the beast did not (could not?) transribe the workings of the dweomer in a spellbook in the normal manner. It did however wear a bone vest covered in strange patterns that I believe may hold the key to understanding the spell.

Of the patrol we found but three survivors; two Stonebeards and the young Runecrafter Karzan Stonemasonsson, who was soon gratefully reunited with his Uncle Borenorn. Between us we bore the grim duty of bringing the remains of the other Stonebeards and their possessions home.

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You Make Your Own Luck
Opal's Journal, page 11

Great-Uncle Kalkor used to say “You make your own luck”, and it seems the Prince of Chance is smiling upons my actions of late and a solution to the question of retrieving my apparatus from the secret subterranean chamber that became Gorin Goldenbrow’s doom.

The king is sending an expedition to search for any further clues of the fall of Caer Banorn, and I shall second my own recovery operation to them. In my stead I have appointed my new cousin Fundgar Ironstone to oversee the collection and transit of the apparatus.

This is an excellent opportunity for young Fundgar to begin forging his own noble reputation and finding his place in society. Success in this endeavour should also begin to give him personally the sense of belonging and pride that his previous status denied him; a grounding and foundation that is the right of every mountain dwarf.

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(untitled)
Opal's Journal, page 10

Glued onto the tenth vellum page of the stout journal is a sheet of a finer parchment similar to that used by mannish scribes, and the runescript thereupon does not conform to the neat paragraphs adorning the other pages. Instead the reader is presented with a single block of runes with no spacing or punctuation to identify words or sentences; indeed the whole page is filled with seemingly random letters.

OBHAQOLOYBBQNANPPBHAGBSGURQBBZBSPYNAFVYIREORNEQ
ARNEYLBARGUBHFNAQLRNEFNTBGURERJNFNABOYRPYNAERAB
JARQSBEPBAFVFGRAGYLCEBQHPVATPUVYQERAOBEAJVGUGUR
FCNEXGURGNYRAGGBYRNEANAQJVRYQZNTVPGURQBBZBSGUVF
UBHFRJNFNFFHERQJURAGURCEBQVTNYFBAXNATEVZFVYIREO
RNEQJNFOBEAABGBAYLJVGUNAVAPERQVOYRNCGVGHQRSBEZN
TVPOHGNYFBGBBXGBEHARPENSGNFVSOBEAGBVGXNATEVZOEB
HTUGHACERPRQRAGRQCERFGVTRGBUVFUBHFRNFURZNQRBART
EBHAQOERNXVATQVFPBIRELNSGRENABGUREVGJNFURJUBQRI
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VENALQNZNTRGBGUREBPXJURERGUREHARJNFFRGVGJNFORPN
HFRBSUVZGUNGGURQJNESEBNQFORPNZRNFFRPHERNFGURLNE
RABJNFXNATEVZTERJBYQUBJRIREURORPNZRBOFRFFRQJVGU
SVAQVATNJNLGBNIBVQUVFBJAQRNGUNAQJNFPBAIVAPRQGUN
GSHFVATEHARPENSGVATNAQZNTVPGJBNEGFCERIVBHFYLORY
VRIRQGBORHGGREYLVAPBZCNGVOYRJNFGURNAFJREVAUVFQR
CENIRQBOFRFFVBAURGHEARQGBNAQSBHAQUVFNAFJREVAOYB
BQZNTVPNSBHYNEGYBBXRQQBJABAOLNYYPVIVYVFRQENPRFO
YBBQZNTVPQENJFHCBAGURIVGNYYVSRSBEPRBSBGUREFGBNH
TZRAGGURCBJREFBSGURFCRYYPNFGREGUEBHTUQRPNQRFBSF
JRNGNAQGBVYXNATEVZQRIRYBCRQGURQVFPVCYVARBSOYBBQ
EHARFGUBHTUEHARFUNQNAHAEVINYYRQVASYHRAPRBIREVAN
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BVASYHRAPRYVIVATZNGGREXNATEVZPYRNERQGUVFUHEQYRO
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HNYGBGENAFSREUVFFBHYGBUVFBJAPUVYQJUBNYFBCBFFRFF
RQGURFCNEXUVFSBHYCYNAJNFQVFPBIRERQQHEVATGUVFGVZ
RURUNQVAQBPGEVANGRQZNALBGUREFBSUVFUBHFRGBOYBBQZ
NTVPNAQZNALQJNEIRFBSXNMQBEAYBFGGURVEYVIRFVAGURO
NGGYRGBGNXRXNATEVZQBJAPYNAFVYIREORNEQJNFNOBYVFU
RQNAQRIRELQJNESVAPYHQVATUVFARJOBEAFBAJRERRKRPHG
RQSBEABARXARJSBEPREGNVAJUNGXNATEVZUNQQBARNYYBSU
VFERFRNEPUVAGBOYBBQEHARFJNFPBASVFPNGRQJURERVGER
FVQRFGBGUVFQNLVAGURQRRCRFGNAQZBFGFRPERGQRCGUFBS
GURZNTRPBHAPVYFINHYGFNYYBSUBHFRFVYIREORNEQJRERO
HEVRQVAGURPYNAPELCGNAQGURRAGENAPRYBPXRQNJNLARIR
EGBORBCRARQNTNVASHAQTNEVFGURYNFGFHEIVIVATZRZORE
BSGURFVYIREORNEQOYBBQYVARUVFNAPRFGBEPNFGBHGBSGU
RPYNASBEFRRXVATGBZNEELNJBZNAYNPXVATNALZNTVPNYGN
YRAGNPRAGHELORSBERGURSNYYBSXNATEVZFVYIREORNEQNA
QURNYFBCBFFRFFRFGURFCNEXXNATEVZFFCVEVGFGVYYYVIR
QNAQFNJVASHAQTNENFHVGNOYRUBFGGBPBZCYRGRUVFEROVE
GUVAGBNARJOBQLFBGUNGURPNAYVIRBAPRZBERNAQGNXRERI
RATRBAGURQJNEIRACRBCYRGUNGURORYVRIRQORGENLRQUVZ

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Dreams of the Dishonoured
Opal's Journal, pages 7-9

It seems my logistical proposal must wait. Upon finding my adventuring companions in the merchant quarter they were already occupied with a new acquaintance: a hysterical dwarf of the dishonoured caste babbling of nightmares haunting his sleeping hours; visions of a great tomb and a Destiny that called to him.

For all his wild talk though there was something odd about the stranger that I found compelling, and I bore him close attention as he hounded Hrothgar for our aid. Our self-appointed leader was unmoved by the wild paranoid pleas of the dishonoured dwarf until I intervened. I had discovered what it was that had piqued my interest. This deranged individual was a being of latent power, a possessor of the arcane spark marking him a potential mage!

With Hrothgar’s attention caught our aberrant associate seized the opportunity make his case, urging us to help him discover the cause of his haunted dreams and bring him peace. In payment he offered an heirloom of his discredited family, a necklace Hrothgar appraised to be worth aroud 250 silver pieces. That clinched the deal. For all his big talk of the Honour and Glory of us Dwarves, it’s a rare day Hrothgar will lift his axe without some exchange of coin!

The very next day, freshly provisioned we dauntlessly set forth along the Dwarf Roads to find the place that tormented our ignoble employer. His name is Fundgar and to his shame he has no clan or family at all, and no memory of any. Born nameless into the dishonoured caste he was also without any profession as between his low birth and delirious ravings he had found no master of any craft willing to take him as apprentice; not even a thieves’ guild!

Hrothgar has made one stipulation in addition to accepting Fundgar’s necklace as payment for this mission, that he join the Dauntless Mercenary Company as an apprentice under my tutelage. An outstanding turn of events for which I thank the gods, as by so appointing me the company’s Arcane Tutor our leader can count on me to provide him with detailed and regular invoices for magical supplies required and appropriate fees for the use of my new premises in Kaz Dorn.

Approximately two weeks into the journey we happened across a Stonebeard patrol beset by orc and goblin intruders. With the aid of our axes the interlopers were soon dispatched, and in gratitude Borenorn Stonemasonsson (the patrol leader) warned us of a nearby Breach from which the creatures had most likely come and to be wary of others until the Runecrafters could seal it.

Before long we came to a point where Fundgar’s dreams no longer called him along the road but beyond the very walls. It seemed the tomb he envisioned may be near as this part of the tunnel housed a noble crypt. Impossibly as Coran pointed out, the runes identifying the crypt’s clan seemed to have been chiselled away; a simple vandalism the warding runes should have easily repaired. There appeared to be no way to gain entry to the crypt to continue Fundgar’s quest until Hrothgar bade him touch the stone doors. They slid open at once revealing a long narrow corridor which Coran insisted on checking for traps. Hardly necessary I’d have thought; traps are to prevent trespassers and in Fundgar we obviously had a key. Obvious to me anyway; I sometimes forget my companions are less intellectually gifted. Needless to say, there were no traps.

Partway down the tunnel a small burrowed passage had broken through the wall which we ignored to our detriment. Several giant ants emerged behind our party leaving us no choice but to deal with the monsters and investigate their burrow lest we be set upon again. At the end a nest of many more of the oversized insects and after a hard battle against those guarding the nest we felt it prudent to seal up the breach with rubble than risk the wrath of the entire colony at our backs.

With that distraction taken care of we returned our attention to Fundgar’s predicament. As we advanced deeper into the crypt his madness grew and deep within we found ourselves at the entrance to an enormous square chamber.

The vast room appeared to be at once both a tomb and a prison. A ledge around the perimeter gave access to three shrines, each housing a giant statue of a god gazing into the chamber. Good-aligned deities according to our company priest Yosive, silent sentinels standing guard over the body interred within. At the centre of the mausoleum a single stone sarcophagus sat on a stone column, seemingly unreachable.

Upon further investigation we found secret mechanisms that lowered elaborate gantries at the mid-point of each side of the chamber. Once lowered Fundgar’s madness took full hold and he could not be restrained from crossing to the tomb. Dauntless, we followed.

What awaited us at the heart of the place was an abomination. An example of the corruption that comes with power and the greed for it that can consume any of us. The spirit of a long dead dwarven mage named Silverbeard whose lust for absolute power had annihilated him and his Clan as he perverted the purity of runic spellcraft with the evils of blood magic.

The mage councils of his time uncovered his wicked ways and ended his insane works, imprisoning his remains here lest he rise from the dead. Never willing to accept defeat, Silverbeard had one last trick to play. A powerful ritual to retain his essence here indefinitely until such time as he could claim a new body and return to his evil practices.

Hence Fundgar’s nightmares. It is rare that a dwarf of such raw arcance potential as his is born outside the noble clans, are rarer still they exist unseen by the Council. Perhaps Silverbeard’s invasion of young Fundgar’s mind has shielded him from the Council? In any case, the task before us was as simple as it was dangerous. We had to utterly destroy Silverbeard’s remains before he could complete his possession of our companion.

The battle was harsh and the fighting fierce against our deadliest foe to date. We were triumphant however, against the odds Silverbeard was finally slain and Fundgar saved. With his mind clear of Silverbeard’s polluting influence at last we had hoped he might recall his lost memories. Alas, it seems he will bear the cruellest scar of all and be forever seperated from his ancestors.

Having spoken with Fundgar at length on the return journey to Kaz Dorn I have made the decision to adopt him into the Ironstone Clan. Formally becoming my cousin will elevate him from the ranks of the dishonoured and make him eligible for the proper training he will receive under my tutelage.

Welcome home, Fundgar Ironstone!

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Knowing One's Place
Opal's Journal, page 6

There is nothing quite like the hangover one gets from King’s Ale! It was several days after Goldenbrow’s wake when my head was finally clear enough to seek council from the Fraternal Order of Aptitude in the matter of establishing my arcane laboratory. Discussion with Brother Awgrym has confirmed my instinct that Kaz Dorn is the ideal location. He made the point that basing myself in rooms already belonging to Clan Ironstone made financial sense as gold saved on renting or purchasing property is better invested in pure research, and the libraries and resources of both Clan and Council will be nearby. Brother Awgrym also argued against Helm’s Watch, it being a human town any rooms there are unlikely to have the thick stone walls required to contain certain ‘experimental’ arcane procedures necessary for proper research. One must be dauntless in the search for knowledge, and not held back by short-sighted neighbours complaining about the noise!

So, over the past few weeks I have installed myself in my late Great-Uncle Kalkor’s rooms. His old workshop and it’s three antechambers have been stripped back to bare rock, leaving only the stone benches for their new purpose. The adjacent living quarters are more than adequate for my own needs and will easily accommodate an apprentice or two when the time comes.

Now I just need to find some way of transporting the laboratory apparatus and fittings found in Goldenbrow’s tomb north to their new home here. Perhaps I can persuade Hrothgar of the benefits my arcane research will bring to our Company…?

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Subterranean Secrets
Opal's Journal, pages 4-5

The Fehenan soldiers’ mission was not the only secret to be learned at the fort however. Beyond a secret door and a deviously trapped antechamber (through which our pathfinder Coran dauntlessly negotiated a safe route) lay a subterranean laboratory, sealed and forgotten nigh on a score of decades. Hidden therein were treasures greater than gold! On a practical level this dormant chamber of knowledge held ample apparatus for me to establish my own laboratory back in Kaz Dorn.(1)

Our more momentous discovery however was the history of the former occupants of the room; an evil human mage and his unfortunate dwarven prisoner. The nameless mage had captured our unfortunate cousin on the surface and subjected him to all manner of foul arcane procedures. He did however keep a record of what he learned from the dwarf and it is most auspicious for us that he did. That dwarf was none other than Gorin of the noble house Goldenbrow of Caer Banorn. Goldenbrow had recently departed Caer Banorn seeking aid from Kaz Dorn against the terrible invasion that brought low the ancestral home of my very own clan. But who, or what were the invaders? Eagerly I pored over the rotting remains of the mage’s diabolical diary in search of enlightenment.

One entry in particular had survived the parchment’s long entombment remarkably well.(2) It was a short account of Gorin Goldenbrow’s last day in Caer Banorn, which I transcribe below to preserve the original:

“Without warning the King’s guards were overcome and running battles were fought throughout the Royal Level. The King’s last stand on the steps of the Diamond Throne shoulder-to-shoulder with his Council was as brief as it was brave. Noble dwarves of Houses Forgingrimm, Highbeard, Axingrimm, Ironstone, Hammerheart and Goldenbrow were slaughtered in short order. Nothing and nobody it seemed could stand against the sudden assault of the dark-skinned demons pouring forth from below.”

Following a brief stopover in Helm’s Watch neccesitated by our reporting of the Fehena situation to the mannish authorities, we returned to Kaz Dorn with these revelations regarding Caer Banorn. We bore Goldenbrow’s remains with us for an honourable burial and King Hammerfist himself opened the Royal Vault of his hold for his proper interment. The Dauntless Mercenary Company were also made welcome guests at the King’s Table at the wake Hammerfist hosted in his honour.

Rest in peace, Gorin Goldenbrow.


Footnotes

  1. Or perhaps Helm’s Watch? If the Dauntless Mercenary Company are to be employed predominantly by surface-dwelling folk it may prudent to install myself amongst them? I shall give the matter some thought and consult the Brothers in Logic at the Fraternal Order of Aptitude in Kaz Dorn for guidance upon my return.
  2. Given the poor condition of the remainder of the document, the thought occurs that maybe we were meant to find this information? That perhaps even Maultier himself kept it safe from the ravages of time until such time that it’s secrets could be gleaned…
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Onward Bold Champions
Opal's Journal, pages 2-3

Pausing only to heal our most grevious injuries and to help the villagers restore some semblance of normality to Holdt, we marched south to investigate the fortified mountain hideout on Gast’s map and found it with little trouble. Despite being long since abandoned as a regular military outpost, much of the fort was in reasonable repair (for a human construction) and provided the bandits within a distinct defensive advantage. To overcome these foes would require brain as well as brawn, and we approached the ruined gatehouse at twilight in the guise of a group of pilgrims from Gun Gadrun seeking shelter for the night.

A group of the brigands came forth to meet us at the gate and hear our request, whilst their fellows looked down on us from the towers with readied bows. They not only refused us refuge but demanded our weapons and coin-pouches on pain of death. Well, our ruse at least got us to close quarters with the bandits and drawing battle axes we charged and made short work of the men barring the gateway. Faced with two archer-manned towers to overcome and fuelled by overconfidence from our brief triumph at the gate, we were about to learn a valuable and painful lesson. Hrothgar ordered a charge of both towers at once, causing us to split our party into two forces; an act which nearly got some of us killed. Together we could easily overwhelm each tower, but divided the archers had the upper hand. It was only through our dauntless dwarven tenacity that we survived the assault and could regroup ready to take on the keep and however many more brigands laired within.

Holed up in one of the towers we patched up our wounds as best we could, and carefully watched the windowless keep for signs of more bandit activity. Fortunately we had been swift in our attack and luckier still we had not happened upon a rotation of the guards, so those within had not been alerted. Undeterred by our injuries we pressed our advantage. Room by room and corridor by corridor we moved quickly, using the brigands own noise to mask ours as we made our bloody way through the keep. The defenders fought uncharacteristically bravely for common bandits and when we eventually confronted their leader he proved to be a warrior of great skill, although by then he no longer had numbers on his side and he fought to an well-earned death.

With our foes defeated we ransacked the keep looking for the goods stolen from the merchants and villagers of Holdt. Searching the leader’s quarters however we discovered a dark secret; these were no mere brigands and their leader no bandit king. We found irrefutable proof that these men were soldiers from Fehena in the south, probing the Farthian defences with an eye toward invasion. Naturally we returned this proof to authorities in Helm’s Watch at our earliest opportunity.

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An Ironstone Abroad
Opal's Journal, page 1

It would appear there is some truth to the tales of adventure sung by the skalds; our first began when we were approached in a tavern by a mysterious old man! He is Elder Konnalt, hailing from the mannish village of Holdt to north of Gun Gadrun. Holdt had been beset by bandit raiders, and Konnalt barely escaped with his life to seek aid. Whilst escorting him home we were ambushed by a small group of these bandits, though they proved little match for dwarven steel.

Upon our arrival in Holdt we questioned those who had survived bandit attacks and our investigations led us to a man named Maron Gast, a merchant recently settled in the village. He soon crumbled under logical dwarven interrogation and attempted to flee. Dauntlessly we tracked him through the extensive cellars of his warehouse vanquishing surprisingly numerous and martially competent lackeys. Eventually the coward could run no more and was laid low in the darkest corner of his lair.

Needless to say, Elder Konnalt and the grateful villagers of Holdt acclaimed us as great heroes. Modesty prevents us from acknowledging such titles so early in our careers, although we have taken an important first step on a glorious road. Our job was not complete however, as we discovered a crude map on Gast’s broken body indicating the brigands had a hideout in an old fort near the southern mountain pass to Fehena.

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In Dauntless Company
The Journal of Grundopal Ironstone

And so here I find myself in Helm’s Watch. Sipping weak-as-piss ale, sitting on a bar stool too tall for even my feet to brush the floor, and squinting in the human’s beloved sunlight. As luck would have it I am not alone up here. For the time being I have taken up with a newly formed band of stout dwarven axes-for-hire. At present we number five hardy souls, of such varying personality and skill I marvel we are all hewn from the same stone.

Our nominal leader is Hrothgar, a dwarf who talks a good fight though rarely stays on his feet long enough for his axe to back up his boasts. Next up is our scout Coran Pathfinder, a rough diamond who lends a subtle flair to complement the company’s brute force. Talking of which, the fiercely named warrior Dorn Mansmiter is one of the brutest forces I have ever had the pleasure to meet; thank the gods he’s on our side. And on the subject of deities the fourth member of our party is Josive Braveforger, an industrious priest of the Holy Mother to see we all make it safely home after our adventures. Finally there is myself, Grundopal Ironstone; an simple dwarf with an honest thirst for knowledge. Together we are the Dauntless Mercenary Company.

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