Friday, May 15, 2015

K45 - Poking a sleeping Balrog

Taking care of business

The viceroy, Bain Stonetongue, resumed his command of the expedition and immediately dispatched the ragged remnants of Battlegroup-West to recuperate away from the Balrog's curse. A "lot" from Bronze-Attack was moved forward to keep an eye on the mutinous Mithril-Attack dwarves and the mercenary dwarves of the Adarcer-Attack. 

Bain promoted Roghel MoonOath, Attack-Lord of the Silver, into the inner circle. This was a fitting reward for showing such loyalty during the mutiny while he had been slated by the rebels to become the new viceroy. Bain also covertly entrusted to Sanddan Shieldcrusher, Lot-Herd within the Mithril-Attack, to hound and expose all of the leader of the mutiny such as to sanitize the Mithril into a reliable attack-unit again.

Food for Deema

Khazek had fathered a very live son with an ambiguously alive bride. He returned to Deema, hidden in a lost dwelling off the Hall of Trees. She was well, but getting hungry. Khazek went back to the East Gate and seeked the loremaster. Gesdrek was beyond caring and, althoug capable of speaking with the wraith, ignored his plea. Khazek then proceeded to convince Thordar to follow him and stock up on food. Thordar got a bit nervous when Khazek lead him to leap over the endless chasm by hanging on miner's chains: a setup virtually identical as the moment of Khazek's death where Thordar had been suspected to murder him at the time.

Thordar eventually met with Deema and agreed to bring food on a regular basis. The obsessive curse for Deema had been lifted, and honestly Thordar couldn't fathom quite why he had behaved so irrationally with respect to the bride.

Trolling for a soul

The Viceroy and the inner circle met in his study to decide on the next course of action. With the slaughter of the ancestors at the hands of Battlegroup-West, the loremaster was worried that much of the Balrog's soul had gone back to his reposing corpse. The question was: where could the body be?

Thordar suggested to sacrifice one more ancestor soul and entrust to Khazek the task to shadow the soul on its journey back to the Balrog. Khazek did just that: he flew across the chasm, slew an ancestor and followed its soul down into the depth of Khazad-dum.

Thifaim Chertfoot and the Flint Attack

Soon after Khazek's departure, messengers from the Flint Attack arrived to announce the arrival of the last component of the Emerald Unit. Thifaim Chertfoot was the Flint's attack-lord. The viceroy filled him in on to the situation. Thifaim proved eager to get into the action. He unloaded months worth of food and carts full of tools. His fresh troops showed a marked disdain for the Mithril-Attack and their mutinous reputation.

When Gror reported back for duty, Bain sent him to the 4th deep to scout ahead and find out more about the siege of the Infernals on the Durbagash orcs. Thifaim immediately volunteered to be part of the expedition.

Settling into the 4th Deep

Gror was released from its cell when his father returned and uprooted the mutinous elements. It took him a few days before he returned to duty. Gror insisted to command the scouting and occupation operation on the 4th deep. They descended down to Halin's mine and established a base camp. Gror then sent two lots to explore in a sweep from the East and heading into the city.

Meanwhile, Thordar smelled opportunity and requested his leave from his duty as the viceroy's butler. Bain released him so that he could infiltrate the Flint-Attack. The hitch was that Thordar was already infamous with the Flint-dwarves, much to his surprise. Thordar has offended much of the NCOs in the units in the past, and there he was today, beardless and disfigured: a huge slash across his neck and an unhealing wound caused by blighted corpse in recent past. Each dwarf in the Flint would have gotten out of his way to get Thordar in trouble.

Thordar approached it professionally and linked with the officers in his official position as the viceroy's right arm.  What really normalized his relation with the dwarves was his ability to laugh it up and be one of the boys. Thordar, through professionalism and his natural carousing demeanor had managed to be accepted, although not particularly liked.

This would come handy soon enough.

Flicking a booger on the Balrog

Khazek followed the soul down to the 6th Deep. He passed by richly decorated areas which he assumed to be near Durin's palace. He had to dodge into the dark near the ceiling to avoid detection. He encountered more and more units of infernals busying along the main highway. He passed the endless stairs, but the soul was accelerating and he didn't have much time to explore. 

He followed up until he got to a large hall where a 6m diameter well was spewing hot air and sulfurous fumes. The soul of the ancestor evaporated and got stuck at high speed into the well. Khazek dove as well and suffered a grievous wound from the arrow of an infernal sentry. He went down into a huge cave, some thousand yard below. The cave was filled with steam and a river of lava was flowing from North to South down below. 

Khazek wandered for a while and decided to follow the river of lava to the North. Time passed, hours, maybe days. Until he managed to arrive into a gigantic chamber.

The Balrog's tomb

At the far end of the cave, which spanned maybe a mile long, was a lake of lava. In the middle of the lake, a hill protruded and on it lay the body of the Balrog. Khazek flew over the cave, bypassing a number of infernal priests and approached the body. Up into the vaulted ceiling, he hid between a number of suspended iron chests. 

The priests were performing some kind of ritual while the Balrog's body was laboriously breathing fire. It was, however, not moving. Khazek floated over the maiar and, true to his old living self, got the urge to spit, pee or flick some kind of bodily fluid on it. The Balrog was half alive, struggling to open his eyes as Khazek flicked his fingers overhead. A burst of fire filled the place, Khazek nearly got roasted in the blast. The priest got excited and started to shout as Khazek understood that it was good time for him to leave the place and head up. 

A powerful earthquake shook Mount Silvertine. Thousands of yards above, as the ground roared and the stonework rattled, Bain and the other had a sinking suspicion that Khazek had something to do with this.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

K44 - The long and painful march of Battlegroup West

Life beyond the gate

Bain and Thordar were last pushed out of the East Gate Hall by a mob of mutinous dwarves from the Mithril Attack. Bain had been injured at the hip by a bolt, Thordar was still grievously wounded during the battle with the infernals and was still on the mend. Some 25 loyal dwarves, unarmored and pockmarked from the brawl made for a jolly company.

They descended to the 4th deep to find weapons and a place to rest. Down into Halin's cave, they found old tools and weapons. They rested and launched a number of exploratory scouting parties in all directions. They decided that the gold mines to the South bored the best chance to break into new territory. They explored south but discovered nothing by a fraying network of caves and mines, and no real evidence of a fresh gold vein.

Bain traveled in dream to the surface and found his son, Gror, whimpering in a jail cell. He figured out that Deema was probably dead by then as there were lots of dwarves set on getting rid of the witch. Bain snapped Gror back into the old grumpy and mean commander that he is and took his leave. Work in the real world had to be done.

There was some noises coming from up above into the Endless chasm. Hungry, tired and weary of the growing curse on them, Bain lead the dwarves back to the 1st deep to meet their fate.

Meanwhile in Hatchet Dwelling

After repelling the dwarves that came for the "witch", Khazek figured out that he had to find out that was going on at the Gate. He found Deema behind the door, a silver hatchet in hand, ready to smite the next living dwarf to invade the room.

Khazek approached the dwarves through the Endless Chasm. He found some Adarcer dwarves guarding the ruins of the bridge of Khazad-dum. They were discussing of a mutiny going on. Khazek slipped into the shadows overhead and set out to find out about the mutiny.

In the East Gate, he found two groups of brawling dwarves. One of the group was protecting Bain and Thordar while a group of armed ones was attempting to arrest the viceroy. Khazek intervened by showing himself and sowed terror to anyone watching. It disrupted the brawl such that it became possible for the viceroy and his supported to withdraw beyond a large gate. His attention was drawn to a group of going North to get to "the witch". Fearing for his bride, he left Bain and Thordar to their fate and flew ahead of the withc hunters.

They crossed the Endless Chasm using the miner's chains. Ironically, the very same kind of chains that had costed Khazek his life. Beyond the chasm, they found dwellings that had not been deflied by orcs over the years. Khazek was satisfied that Deema and their unborn child would be safe there. Then, they fell asleep with the sleep of careless child and didn't pulled out of slumber for what looked like days.

A mutiny suspended

Thordar was sent ahead of the dwarves to scout near the East Gate. Instead of an organized hunt for them, Thordar found a feverish scene bordering on panic. There were dwarves from the Ardacer, the unit on garrison duty, begging for guidance regarding what was going on into the Hall of Trees. Thordar was spotted, but nothing came out of this. Thordar figured out that there was worst on their mind than the misguided impulses of the mutinous dwarves.

Bain arrived with Thordar and descended to the Hall of Trees where the source of chaos seemed to emanate. There, he found Drolf ordering volleys of crossbow across the chasm. Gesdrek the Loremaster was there, carefully observing something in the depth of the Hall.

Bain approached Gesdrek and asked for a report. Gesdrek cued them to listen for the sound of war drums. The dwarves from Battlegroup West had made it all the way through and were fighting the ancestors at the far end of the Hall. A faint light from torches could be seen amidst the rows of pillars. All present understood that dwarves killing ancestors was a bad thing for it was slowly releasing fragments of the soul of the Balrog back to its body.

Going in

They resolved to cross the chasm and link with Battlegroup West to order them to stop. Messages using war drums remained unanswered. They piled combustible on a cart and wheeled it on the beams, across the chasm. A Lot (50 dwarves) was tasked to block while the Viceroy and his entourage would advance beside the burning cart.

The ancestors were frenetically engaged against Farin's dwarves and didn't interfere with the party until much later. The order was to strictly push back without "rekilling" the dead until the cart had reached the line of Battlegroup West. It became quite clear that by then, a lot of damage had been done on the precious ancestors. Thordar went ahead to locate the commander of the force while Bain busied himself to order a withdrawal.

The BG-West dwarves had been distorted into ragged shells by the curse and the continuous fighting since their entry in the city, some 3 weeks ago. They were barely controllable, but the Viceroy's legendary leadership prevailed. Thordar found the leader and "convinced" him to order a break from assault. Farin was apparently long-dead, only 300 or so of the 900 original dwarves were still standing.

As they pulled out of the Hall of Trees, Khazek roused from his sleep and ran into them as they marched back across the chasm. Gesdrek told them that he feared the most for the fate of the Balrog as much of his soul had been released back to it by now.

Time was getting short, assuming that he is right, for if the old King of Moria was to rise again, Khazad-dum would be lost for another 1000 years.