Tuesday, November 26, 2013

K19 - Under new management

It's all about location

Gror lead the assault on the huorn which lasted a mere fifty minutes. The tree fell to its doom from the top of the tower, freeing the path to the terrace where a contraption was mounted on a bronze brace. Lathmelen, the resident elf geek, didn't know anything about the artifact. Gesdrek was eventually pulled away from a book to examine the piece. It was a looking glass capable to terrorize whoever entered its sight. Unfortunately, the operation of the device remained a mystery and its effect a matter of conjecture. 

Goldo reported to Bain that Thalladan's library was a treasure trove of knowledge on dark arts and the underdeep. Most interestingly, Goldo identified a number of papers pointing to an agreement between Thalladan, the green wizard, and a party refered to as the infernals. The contract stated that Sarn Goriwig was to produce 150 orcs per years. The payment was to be made in exotic material, and take place once per calendar year.

Prince Imeptanen was eager to get the dwarves out of Sarn Goriwig. The dwarves delayed as much as they could. Many of them wanted to get back to the lower levels and explore the way beyond the door. The prince was adamant that this would not be possible. Bain managed to sidetrack the prince sufficiently to drag on the negotiation while he was grasping at straws. He saw an opportunity for Gror to shine and asked him to expose the role of the obsidian tower in the wider dwarven strategy. Unfortunately, the prince didn't seem to care at all for the business of the dwarves. Khazek attempted to throw the prince off with his trademark familiarity, but the attempt fell flat. The prince was visibly annoyed and wanted the intruders out of his property. 

Thordar pulled enough well turned sentences from his beard to distract the prince from his predicament. The prince was intrigued, maybe amused by the antics of the dwarf. The prince opened for further negotiations. Bain explained that Erebor was considering using the underdeep as a backdoor to Khazad-dum. This could get the dwarves out of Mirkwood earlier than planned. The prince liked that. After a few more minutes of negociations, the prince agreed to grant Sarn Goriwig for 10 years under two conditions: The first one was that the dwarves would prevent wickedness from deep underground to enter Mirkwood. The second term was that dwarves couldn't enter the orcs' nest until King Thrandhuil had presided over its purification. The deal was to be revisited in 10 years. 

Bain ordered the Bronze attack under Sundtak Orcslayer to take over the guard of the tower. Two herds were assigned to the task. The rest of the unit returned to Browek Bridge to await departure for Khazad-dum. Some hoped to go through Mirkwood such as Farin II, and others begged to go underground such as the commander of the Mithril-Attack, Kiro Rockdigger.

The thespian viceroy

Time flew by as the sun began to shine again on Mirkwood. Farin II, again, began to show disinterest for the whole of the expedition and spent all of his time training Battlegroup West. Thordar went by the command post a week later in search of new agents near Farin. His luck was thin, but he brought back a message from Farin to the viceroy requesting the permission to resume the overland walk. 

Bain obliged and returned to the CP of Battlegroup West. He found a pumped-up Farin who peeled himself from field exercises to meet the viceroy. Bain figured out that if he stroked his ego a little bit, he'd be able to get a clear idea of Farin's motivations (Psychology check). With this in mind, Bain played stupid (Acting check) and convinced Farin that he was really coming to see him to get a lesson in strategy. Farin, boasted his preparedness, and contempt for the troops on Battlegroup East. He exposed to Bain how he planned to take on the watcher in the water by the West gate. The lack of thought about the Eastern approach became evident. Gror suggested that taking on the beast may be a good way to come back to Erebor on a shield, but Farin dismissed the thought as weak. Bain estimated that Farin was probably capable to carry on his glamorous mission, decided that it was time for Gror to take over command, and ordered BG-West to march again. A date was set to begin the assault.

A day later, nothing was left of Battlegroup-West but a few kilometers of despoiled roadside encampments. Gror smiled and turned around to look upon the bustle of Battlegroup-East. Thordar, too was happy as the last of Farin's troop disappeared into the thick of Mirkwood. 

The sound of two shadows when they clash

Thordar had this itch in his hand. An itch that doesn't go away and comes to him when someone must die. He hoped for an orc raid, something fast and violent in which he could release the energy that he kept bottled in for weeks. A way to cast a net into destiny for him was to stroll around the HQ of Battlegroup-West. There was this Eastern dwarf there, Jaheev, which he suspected was responsible for the disappearance of Emerek: his agent in the Gold-Attack.

Thordar wandered around the unit, but didn't find much of a lead for his next agent. He had been drawing blanks for over two weeks and was wondering if he was losing his mojo. This is when he ran into one of the cooks working for the Attack-Lord himself. The guy's name was Kirel "Fanghook": an homely dwarf who feared him enough to pay attention. Thordar chatted a bit with Kirel and figured out that he was amenable to report to him on mundane matters. Kirel wasn't going to be the spymater that he was looking for, but at least he thought that he could count on him for simple stuff.

This is about that time that Farin III himself found Thordar and asked him to pass along the request to resume the march. Thordar scanned for Jaheev, who was nearby and observing him. He smiled, and returned to the viceroy with in his pocket a good excuse to come back with a distraction.

Thordar decided to take advantage of Bain's visit to confront Jaheev. If anything, this would prevent the Easterner from interfering with Bain's engagement. Thordar asked about Emerek, but Jaheev was dismissive. Feeling that this had something to do with his manliness, Thordar explained in no ambiguous terms that whatever happened to Emerk was better never again to happen to any other friends of his. Jaheev didn't need to be an empath to figure out that Thordar was glancing disturbingly at his throat. Jaheev made a veiled admission that he at least knew what had become of Emerk. He then promised to ensure that such dissapearance wouldn't happen again.

Jaheev was elated to hear that Battlegroup-West was leaving at first light. Most importantly, leaving behind Thordar and the disturbing twinkle in his eye.

The long way down

Khazek was a bit unimpressed when he learned that King Thrandhuil had been in Sarn Goriwig for the last few days without him noticing. Thordar also felt a little dejected to be the last to know about it. The King had gone and Prince Imeptanen came to Browek Bridge to inform the viceroy that the dwarven from then on had the duty to keep Mirkwood safe from the dark creatures of the underdeep.

The company comprised among many the viceroy, Bain, and his butler Thordar. The viceroy's son Gror was to lead a guard of axmen (7 of them) while Khazek, a royal family favourite was to take Gimvar and a guard of rangers to the depths. Also included were Gesdrek the Loremaster, Lathmelen the niece of the elf Queen Ildamadhui, Tov the holy dwarf and Goldo, and old friend of the viceroy and resident architect.  All 22 dwarves packed enough supplies to last a week, and headed deep under the mountains of Mirkwood.

The orc's nest was now a crypt for the tortured souls of 5 elves. Right of way to the Mirkwood elves was granted as the place was considered to be sacred to them. The company opened the gate and tip-toed through the rubble beyond.  Khazek identified a number of old tracks of orcs walking in files, and the strange footsteps of bipedal canine creatures, probably carrying whips. They proceeded down in a ricketty set of stairs going down a hastily dug shaft for 200 yds. They then reached a staging camp. There was more tracks there, and evidence of violence in the dust. The descent resumed for another 500 yds of vertical drop. At the foot of the shaft, there was the body of two orcs that didn't came down the slow way, and a squeeze leading into a large underground hall thundering with the noise of a waterfall.

The rangers proceeded to the Eastern end of the hall and waded into the river rushing down into the chasm below. They found the desiccated body of one of these dog-like creatures pushed aside along the wall. The river gushed into the hall through a carved portal of unknown origin. There was about 2 ft of water and a strong current. The water itself was not as cold as the rest of the hall. Khazek peered into the dark tunnel and turned around. The rest of the company was gravitating around the western end of the hall.

That end, unsusually, was walled in. Again, the construction was no more than 10 years old according to Goldo, and no one knew who would have been using this style. There was a steel door at it centre. Clearly, the concern appeared more to keep things from coming in than going out as the door was locked using a large steel bar hung on their side. They lifted the bar and opened the door. Tov's drumming was silenced, only one torch was left alight. 

Beyond the wall

Beyond the wall, the hall kept on heading west. The air was thin, but breathable enough to hike through for a few hours. The silence was deafening once that the roar of the fall were left behind. The door shrank as they proceeded forward.

The ceiling was low and uneven. Often, they needed to crouch to squeeze through to higher vaults in the tunnel. A small brook, mostly frozen, was trickling to the west. They hiked for some 300 yds in difficult terrain and tight squeezes until the rangers motioned to keep still. Something was stirring ahead. Goldo moved forward in hope to shed light. Only some faint motion could be perceived. Khazek swiftly ordered the rangers to spread out. At the edge of the light, they kneeled in a squeeze and readied their bows. Time stood still.

The ambush sprang on them as a countless ghoulish creatures tore from the dark towards their positions. It was dark, the little breathable air was filled with the steam from their breath and the echoes of dozens of screeching roars.

Beyond the wall, in a glance.

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