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The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords - PART ONE
(Adventure via forum/email)

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Recap: Heroic adventurers have won control of the Halls of Tizun Thane. The Halls contain the Wizard Tizun's magical mirrors, which allow limited travel between far-flung destinations and even different worlds. However, the Halls are besieged by goblins and cut off from surrounding lands.

Dwarf-Lord Faradin, Chosen One of Clanggedin, has come through the mirror from the land of Cantabria, with about sixty of his dwarf troops, to reside in the Halls, as have his adventuring companions and assorted others.

Latest adventures included: Claiming Kerok the Trollslayer; slaying Rats, Trolls, Trogs; repelling Goblin mass-attack; destroying a Roper; and blasting the Goblin barricade.

The assault on the goblins besieging Faradin Thane's Hall was successful - enough to break the siege (even though they were not quite been finished-off). Characters who wish to can now get past (e.g. fly/levitate/climb) and, at last, reach the lands beyond - i.e. the Principality of Ulek, in the World of Greyhawk.

Jengo takes opportunity of returning to the Citadel of GreyCrag, near the (ex-) Temple of the Golden Spire in Dreadwood, and to seek new spells.

Mistatri and Findecano also go via mirror to the town of Kendra and help guide/introduce Sir Geradil's foreign elf party to the elves of the Dreadwood.

Faradin's dwarf rangers, Thorbli, Odli & Bomdri, are sent out to find a route to the nearby dwarf-town of Thrunch - which must be warned about an approaching army of goblin Chief Akhil GreatAxe. They find a trail west to the town, obviously used by the goblin horde - but also discover the goblins have turned aside, instead heading northwards to some mountains. So it seems the time pressure is off, for a while.

Deciding to leave the delicate job of establishing diplomatic relations with a whole new dwarven nation to their Lord, Faradin's rangers return to the Halls. But they can't help wondering why the huge goblin horde (confirmed as numbering tens of thousands, from it's swathe of destruction through the forested hills) would have turned away from their target...

(Someone recalls Noble Lord Guthwin trying, but failing, to summon a storm from the top of the Rock just outside the Halls, and maybe seeing some pesky pixies nearby...)

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[Initial postings adapted from email thread by SJW:]
Mike, you had Claudia last time but, as there's been a natural break, Ferric would be equally possible. The mirror-portal to Faradin's Hold in the Red Cantabrian Mountains is in constant use - but there's no such well-established connection to Pandaria yet, though, so any characters from there would need explanation (e.g. we explained Grmok arrived via Plane Shift bringing Swiftclaw, Santor's paladin-mount griffin, as the beast is banned from Cantabria by 'the gods' - didn't we, Quent?)

If anyone wants to play other character, just shout. For now, I think it's...
Paul - Lord Faradin, Chosen One of Clanggedin
Peter - Sword-Lord Zelinus Duetti, Paladin of Sif (or Jengo the Black, Lightning-Mage)
Phil - Sword-Priest Clave Nechratall, High Priest of Sif
Mike - Mistress Claudia Nova (or Warrior-Mage Ferric IronHand)
Quent - Grmok the Bloody-Handed, Dwarf Fighter

You are here: http://pandaria.orgfree.com/oerth/GH_HallsArea.gif, which fits into the World of Oerth (Greyhawk) here: http://pandaria.orgfree.com/oerth/ulek_principality.jpg

So - things to do (not necessarily in this order):
1) Clear out last of the goblins from their fort at the end of the ravine leading into the Halls caldera.
2) Establish relations with the Dwarves of Thrunch and warn them about the Goblin Horde.
3) Find the Goblin Horde and defeat it with your usual heroic-ness. ;-)
4) Find the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords - which Origol says legend relates must be around for The Abomination to be manifesting itself.
5) Complete Sword-Lord Zelinus' Quest to destroy the Shadow Dancers - so a Temple to Ukko, Sif & related gods can be consecrated in the Halls. (You do know that means a return to the Tomb of Horrors, right?)

And if you want to do anything else, please let me know asap!
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[At 21:30 01/11/2012, Phil Thomas PDKC wrote:]
What specific things do you want to research? I could pray to my goddess for divine help, although my nephew Zelinus has been travelling and smiting a lot recently, he might have picked up some information?

I'm quite taken with doing two things

Find the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords - which Origol says legend relates must be around for The Abomination to be manifesting Itself and have Faradin give a larger donation to finish my new church

Complete Sword-Lord Zelinus' Quest to destroy the Shadow Dancers - so a Temple to Ukko, Sif & related gods can be consecrated in the Halls, as it would be nice to bring some order to the heathen masses, perhaps with not as much deathly vigour as Zelinus has been practising.

Clave
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[On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 1:21 PM, Mike Whelan wrote:]
Hi Party

Claudia thinks that researching "The Abomination" would be a good idea. She has no idea what it is or means.

She also asks Faradin for a concise summary of the the legends surrounding the "Axe of the Dwarvish Lords", and if she helps Faradin to find it will he promise to help her find her long-lost brother in return.

Mike
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[Quent:]
Grmok will do some intensive studying of quaffing at the local hositries

I presume that Fradin is paying?

G
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[PaulW:] Let's see now, what shall we do....? Ah yes, THE AXE!!!
Origol is the source of all wisdom (often literally) on this.

Lord F
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[At 19:27 03/11/2012, Peter Wells wrote:]

Hi guys.

Fairly long message, if you can't be bothered with it all; the TL:DR is at the very bottom.

What I can remember of the story so far:

The Axe has been found, is in 'unworthy hands', and this is causing the abomination to keep turning up - Very vague on this, could use clarification.
King Akhil (Goblin chief, probably the one who found/has the axe) has mustered up a huge force of assorted goblinoids.
He has a powerful magician as his advisor who is not a goblin.
- This magician (Maybe in combination with goblin priests/other wizards) has been providing large amounts of anti-magic to Akhil's army.
Akhil has dwarven slaves making him arms and armour.
He has a 'base' somewhere where - Sif Confirmed - he kept those dwarven slaves when father Clave communed before.
'Something' made Akhil's forces divert to the north (Perhaps towards the other site of interest on the map?)

Occurs to me the first couple of tasks (Dealing with the last few goblins and their fort to clear the causeway exit from Faradin's volcano lair/warning Thrunch) don't necessarily need to be done face to face. If I recall, the skeleton* crew Akhil left to keep us bottled up was mostly dealt with in pitched battle, and further diminished when we stormed their first barricade. With only the shattered remnants of a depleted force there (Without, I might add, their mass-produced anti-magic, or they'd have used it in battle...) i'd have thought we have more than enough ordnance to put them to flight.

This would leave the way clear for Lord Faradin to head to the dwarf town of Thrunch with an appropriate retinue and try to make a good first impression on the local dwarven movers and shakers (For which Zelinus would be happy to lend him the frost giant Jarl's circlet of persuasion) and ask them for anything they might know that could help.

Local knowledge would be useful to ascertain:
The identities of Akhil's dwarven slaves.
Powerful abjurations experts who've not been seen around so ,much who might be the goblin king's mysterious advisor. (I'd think anyone able to provide antimagic on the scale we've seen should be pretty well known.)
Any likely things of importance Akhil might have heard of to the north. (And if they know nothing about that, perhaps some rangers could be dispatched to scout that out?)
Probable places Akhil might have his base.
... and they could probably help with other things I can't think of at the moment.

Something in all that might turn up some hints about the location of the axe, and if not perhaps we could ask Sif whether Akhil usually keeps it with him or not.

If that can get done pre-game, then we might not have to waste so much time before getting straight to finding the axe and defeating the Shadowdancers once and for all.

TL:DR - Killing a few goblins and warning the dwarf city could probably be done in downtime letting us do proper pre-adventure research.

Thoughts?

Peter W.

* Not skeletons, goblins.
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[MikeW]

This is excellent, just what I was hoping for. I agree with it all.
So ... we would preferably want to have:
a. remaining goblins near Tizun Thane cleared out,
b. talk to the dwarves of Thrunch and get all the gossip,
c. get the clerics communing about the Axe. 
sounds good to me.

Claudia the definitely not mysterious new abjurator,
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[
SJW:]

Cheers Guys. Just what I was hoping for too! :-) Bonus XPs all round. OK, here goes...


A.) Clearing Goblins
The remaining goblins in their fort at the ravine entrance to the Halls of Tizun/Faradin Thane are duly 'cleared out'.
[Who wants to take part in the glorious defeat of the residual goblins? How gung-ho do you want to be - assault or siege? Using what if any magics?]

B.) To Thrunch
After that Lord Faradin [or, should he perish v the goblins, your new leader] marches with a splendid retinue* through light winter snows to the large fortified dwarven town of Thrunch (pop. c.3000+). The place is a little shabby and run-down. Quite quickly, Lord Faradin et al gain a meeting with dwarven Mayor Cluggin, clean-cut and fairly young, democratically-elected representative of the town, he says, and Secondary Minister to His Serene Highness Prince Olinstaad Corond.
[* Any details? Who wants to go along? Want to do anything else there? Your Leader can try a CHAx? roll for special favour, if desired... (with the Circlet?)]

He listens patiently, then replies "Well, you certainly are from another world aren't you, ha, ha! You'll find it rather different here in Ulek - we are modern, forward-thinking, peaceful and tolerant. The Hateful Wars are long gone - seventy years - ancient history, and should be forgotten. Are we not all 'humanoid', hmm! Such race-hate is illegal now. But you weren't to know, so we may overlook it - just this once. We do have occasional troubles with bandits - of all races - it is unfortunate you encountered some so soon after arriving. Law enforcement is very important - I will press the Primary Minister to restore funding for our provincial militia as soon as the economic recovery allows. As to this 'army' - well, as strangers you won't know the Cahli forest is notorious for pesky pixies! You have been fooled by a prank. So no need to worry. It's probably best not mentioned again, as you'd only embarrass yourselves - and no one would believe you. Or if they did it would be worse - wouldn't want to fall foul of the laws against inciting public panic, now would we! The good people of Thrunch are suffering enough in these difficult times - many traditional foundries and smelteries have had to close - they will be greatly cheered to hear of this new opportunity for trade with a new land. I will immediately announce this much-needed boost to the Ironhelm Province economy."

He thanks you for coming, introduces you to some officials who will sort out details of the necessary trade and tax arrangements, and leaves.

Lord Faradin [or, if he has perished, the new wielder] is regarded with awe and silent trepidation by locals seeing him with this mighty weapon - Kerok the Holy Lance!

Sergeant Gromok gets on well with the guards assigned to escort you all around town and back to the Halls, and does a lot of drinking with them. They wonder why he hasn't been promoted to Captain yet - is Faradin showing religious prejudice, or deliberately holding back his highly-talented rival?

Sword-Lord Zelinus hears the northward mountains lie mostly in the County of Ulek, ruled by gnomes - a stunted and degenerate form of dwarf - with whom relations have become somewhat strained in recent years. Anything could happen up there, locals say. For example, Esmerin (the 'site of interest'?) is there - a hidden valley community of halflings and grey giants, which is notoriously difficult to find unless you have actually been there before, supposedly due to strange magic in the area.

Mistress Claudia Nova finds there are virtually no mages in Thrunch or Ironhelm Province, being a dwarven land, let alone powerful specialist abjurers. No-one seems to have heard of "the Abomination" - does she mean a giant yeti? Local gossip is dominated by scandals surrounding disgusting fornicatory exploits of a recently-deceased bard.

c) Clerics Communing
Meanwhile, back at the Halls, Sword-Father Clave, Axe-Priest Origol and Noble Lord Guthwin pray to their respective deities for guidance.
[Sorry, none actually get 'Commune' under the rules now. Divination (4th level) can sometimes give visions, but the rituals should be done in a temple.]

Clave dreams of regiments of sword-wielding dwarves marching off in serried ranks to glorious battle, with golden hair and beards gleaming in the sunlight.
Origol has nightmares of a fierce-looking axe in the hands of an angry evil-seeming yellow-eyed dwarf, followed by a bizarre six-clawed creature rising out of the ground and sucking the life-force out of terrified dwarves - the Abomination!
Guthwin just gets buzzed by pixies, and pelted with both real and illusory snow, when he stands atop the Rock outside the Halls trying to commune.

Faradin's Rangers follow the goblin army's swathe northwards a fair number of miles but then lose the trail, saying it just disappeared. Perhaps they missed it in the snows. [Or is Faradin willing to risk checking it out himself?]

Origol's Wisdom
Axe-priest Origol knows from legend that the FIERCE AXE (known to humans as the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords) was created by the first Dwarven King, Silvervein Moradinsson, with the aid of Moradin himself. THE AXE passed down the generations from one Dwarven King to the next, in the ruling One Clan. But eventually, in the reign of Dwarven King Irontooth, a traitor, his nephew Brassbeard, plotted to slay the king and take THE AXE. An underworld demon called Diirinka, ancient enemy of dwarves, created the Abomination for Brassbeard, who with it treacherously slew the king and seized THE AXE. Long civil war followed, but eventually Brassbeard was killed and THE AXE buried with its rightful holder, King Irontooth. His burial place was the stronghold of the now-defunct One Clan which, after the many many centuries since, has been lost to all knowledge. THE AXE is rumoured to have sometimes appeared since, in times of great need for Dwarven Folk, but if it falls into the wrong hands, the Abomination will also appear...
Origol recognized this monster as that horror of dwarven legend - the Abomination of Diirinka, created solely to destroy dwarven folk. Legend also says the return of THE AXE signals a new Age of Dwarven High Kings and restoration of the 'One Clan', of the original Dwarven High King - but that THE AXE's return also heralds a time of great peril for all Dwarven folk... And the duty of all true Dwarves must be to rally to the cause of THE AXE!

Paul - 1) Will Faradin promise to help find Claudia's long-lost brother in return for her help? 2) How large a donation will Faradin give towards the new Church of Sif?

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[Quent]

Excellent back story!

Gromok is used to being overlooked and anyway the Sargent are the real backbone of any army
The officers may give orders but we carry them out!
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[PhilT]
Clave's up for flame striking in option a) and Paul, the answer to Steve's second question is important :)
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SJW:
Thanks, Quent!

Nice, Phil. Simple, direct... and violent! Oh, and mercenary. Perfect. :-)

After continued devotions, Sword-Father Clave has another dream - a green devil and red skull come together, forming black clouds, dispersed by white powdery snowfall to reveal a menacing clawed darkness with another evil red skull far beyond - suddenly a Sword lunges forward piercing the darkness, releasing a light that shines upward, and grows to obscure first the skull, then everything.

At the Halls, despite breaking the siege, the ever-present threat of another Abomination attack saps morale. Makhan had to break up a fight between a dwarf trooper and ranger - one saying losing a whole goblin army was either idiocy or cowardice, the other that following thirty thousand through three icy rivers and twenty miles of mountains left nothing to prove - and only just in time to prevent Origol giving them axes.

[04 Nov 2012]

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[PaulW]

First some answers:
Faradin will lead the glorious defeat of the residual goblins, in a workman-like, non-perishing manner.
Faradin promises to help find Claudia's brother.
Faradin will give a generous donation.
(Steve, how's the finances? Can we profit from new trade with Thrunch?)

Sounds like Esmerin or its surrounds is our place. But the way is concealed by some magic.
We should set out on the goblin trail.

Questions:
Is Mayor Cluggin a stooge or just a fool?
The pixies control the gnomes control the goblins? Hmmm....
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SJW:
Thanks Paul. And thanks guys - this is giving me some good pointers on directions the adventures may take.

Faradin's latest sheet-back seems to show about 7000gp (but also debts of 800gp) and I guess that's *before* his 50% donation to 'The Barony'...

Of course - trade benefits all parties, right? Surely the Ulekish free-market regulations can't be too onerous. And you can trust Castellan Makhan to make sure the Halls & Hold get a good deal - he always has before... ;-)

Aren't you going to roll for "Special Favour"...? (D100, tell me what CHA multiple you make, with CHA +4 if you borrow Zel's Circlet)

[PS: My bet is stooge - but who knows? Not sure where the gnomes come in... Are you saying it's time for a pixie cull ?]
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[MikeW]

Claudia will offer maximum magical help in clearing gobbos (especially fireballs and fly but NOT the wand), and is happy to accompany Lord Faradin/brain-in-a-jar to Thrunch.

She'll also try to get Sword Priest Clave drunk and singing lusty songs, for a laugh.

Good fun !
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[PeterW]

Jengo will of course help to the best of his ability before flying off on other business. (Assuming he doesn't get dropped by a lucky arrow)

Staying as far out of the line of fire as he can without rendering his contributions useless, he would unleash lightning bolts to damage their fortifications, a wall of ice to stop goblin missiles raining down on advancing dwarven forces, enlarging the most powerful combatants to inspire their allies, and so on.
Nothing massively unusual. 

Re: Esmerin, it's probably our best lead so far, but I can't help thinking about the clerics' dreams about a dwarf holding the axe rather than a goblin or a gnome. It might just be a window into the past, showing us Brassbeard's treachery and the original summoning of the abomination, but since we already know about that from Origol it might be something more current. Either way, most info. from Thrunch seems to be a bust.

'Democratically elected representative...?' no wonder their economy's suffering. Finding the axe is more important than ever.

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[SJW: 13 Nov 2012] I've gone off the idea of running the game [FaceToFace]. Meanwhile, I'm happy for us to do stuff by e-mail.....

Clearing the Goblins - Lord Faradin leads dwarf troops plus Clave, Claudia and Jengo to attack the goblins' ravine-end stockade. On the way they are peppered with arrows from lurking gobbo archers (20%:99) utterly inneffectually, as they are gunned-down with crossbow bolts and magical missiles; then spot a hidden ravine-side cave (80%:00) from which, after tossing in a fireball and lighting bolt, a charred snakey-haired woman tumbles, dead. Further on, rocks hurled down from on high (50%:43) slightly hurt one dwarf (D30:3hp), before a flying Clave destroys the zombie-goblin chuckers above. The end of the ravine has a view towards forest and mountains beyond, and the goblins' flat-roofed stockade built against one cliff-wall. Jengo's Lightning Bolts breach the wall (there was no door for Claudia to Knock open) while shots are exchanged with snipers on the parapet (40%:57), though no attackers are hit. Cloaked in Jengo's Darkness, dwarf troops charge in - (50%:36) one falls, literally, and dies - plunging down a shaft inside the otherwise empty stockade shell. Lord Faradin orders caution: Jengo's Clairvoyance reveals a wide, low chamber at the shaft-bottom, all in darkness; Claudia's Invisible/Levitated probe-dwarf finds side-tunnels half-way down. Therein battle is joined with the goblins (4x70%:57,76,14(s),46) - two dwarves are seriously injured, one killed, but all goblin troops and a shaman are despatched. At the bottom, a horde of evil shadow-spirits attack en-masse (80%: 95) but magical protections hold them off and Clave destroys them with holy power plus Origol & Faradin's aid. A score bodies of human prisoners are found, and decently laid to rest.

Esmerin Valley - Ranger Odli, son of a noble so less afraid to speak out, contradicts Faradin: "My Lord, we followed the goblins' trail beyond Esmerin valley, twenty miles futher west through mountain passes, before their swathe led north up another river and... er... vanished."

Celebration Time - Lord Faradin is invitated to an important dwarven wedding, to take place at Foghollow in early spring. Apparently, it will mark the end of a feud between two influential clans and many dwarven notables will be in attendance. For a new comer-in to the area, such an invitation is an exceptional honour...

Money for Nothing - On returning home, the Thrunchian local govt officials inspect and discover that the Halls could get an Ulekish 'development grant', to help with the cost of installing a forge. Regulations require one to support any significant militia defence force, and the officials believe the Halls may have enough troops to qualify - perhaps enough for two. Makhan is delighted! 

I Wanna be Elected - They also find the Halls have sufficient occupants to be represented on the Ironhelm Provincial Council. The Councillor must be selected via a proper democratic election process. Anyone wishing to stand for election should let the officials know...

OK Guys - Your responses please! Who wants to try running for office? ;-)

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[MikeW] PS: I'll not take part in e-mail D&D, I'm not very good at it and don't enjoy it.

GM: Claudia Nova departs via mirror-portal on her continuing quest to find her missing brother. Lord Faradin's promise of help allows her to use the mirrors and to consult Mage Zapp or the spirit of Tizun in this cause whenever she desires.

Ferric Ironarm gives the Wish Ring of Tizun Thane to Faradin, for safe keeping at the Halls, before returning through the mirror to Cantabria.

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[Quentin Earle] If the call comes then Gromk will accept the peoples choice

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SJW: OK Guys - any other actions/reactions?

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Faradin fulfils his vows by giving half his 7000gp in tithe - 2000gp to Origol for the new Church of Clanggedin at the Halls, and 1820gp to Makhan for upkeep of the Barony.

Paying off his debts of 800gp and giving a generous 2000gp donation to Sword-Father Clave - enough to finish and furnish the Sif church back at Sprit - then leaves Faradin with comfortable personal wealth of about 1000gp.

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This is done at about the turn of the year - the New Year being 578 CY ('Common Year' of the local Greyhawk calendar) and 2088 AC ('Anno Cantabria').

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Election of Thane Halls Representative to the Ironhelm Provincial Council

Candidates declared so far:
Gromk - Sergeant of Dwarven army from Khuzan, Pandaria (Nominated by guardsmen of the Halls Guard)
Faradin - Lord of the Halls, Knight of Red Mountains Hold, Soudall County in Veloii (Nominated by Sword-Lord Zelinus Duetti of Sif)

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[PeterW]

TLDR: Firebomb Cluggin's House

If the halls were going to submit to this ridiculous 'electoral process' with regard to the mastery of the Halls, it seems only fitting that the candidates only be selected from anyone with a legitimate claim to them. If the Lord Faradin had brothers or heirs, perhaps they would be suitable to stand against him.

As it stands, however, I don't believe we ought to even give the corrupt and slothful Cluggin the satisfaction of submitting to his preposterous 'Democracy'.

He has refused to take us seriously concerning the threat Akhil and his horde poses. Whether this is due to simple complacency or despicable treachery on his part remains to be seen, but it's safe to assume he isn't prepared to act in the interests of the dwarven people under his so called protection. By stalwartly opposing the suggestion that Ulek raise its troops, he's dooming them to be crushed by the Goblins at their leisure.

Therefore, we should concentrate on encouraging troops to be raised in the most direct manner possible.

I think we should declare our own "war" on the Ulekish Dwarves.

While we should refrain from causing too much damage, it would be important that they take us seriously enough to raise at least enough levies to mount a significant defence.

The tragedy here is that simple raids on farms and the like surrounding Thrunch are unlikely to meet with the desired results. Since the most likely situation is that Cluggin has sold his people out to the goblins already, their suffering is unlikely to convince him to muster anything against us.

So it's my contention that, instead, we should attack his interests. To be elected to the prestigious position he now holds, presumably he himself is landed in some form or another. Even if this is not the case, he will have needed influential backers to campaign politically and win over the people of Thrunch. In order to provoke a reaction we should target the lands and holdings of his backers and try to disrupt the trade of any financial interests he or they have.

Awaiting Lord Faradin's Command;

Zelinus

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[QuentinE]

Gromock will withdraw his candidacy and support Zelinus.

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Head of the Ulekish election observers, Aliz Kleinkey, tells Castellan Makhan that the election must be "Free and Fair" and must have more than one candidate - and so requests that Lord Faradin guarantee the safety of opposing candidates, to counter rumours they are being deterred by threats of violence.

Commissioner Kleinkey also assures the castellan that, until the border fully opens following the election, applications to cross into Ulek will be processed as swiftly as possible (of course subject to the requirements of maintaining security from extremists, such as religious fundamentalist fanatics, racist nationalist terrorists, etc).

He reminds everyone that free cross-border trade and movement, development grants and future investment all depend on the Halls having democratic representation. The election is not to 'rule' the Halls, but just to give ordinary folk a voice. So, win or lose, Faradin will retain supreme executive power. The Halls' Guards can expect much higher wages, reflecting their added prestige. All will benefit!

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Enquiries reveal Mayor Cluggin is from an established family of moneylenders, with peninsula-wide interests, but has devoted himself more to public service. He has earned a modest personal fortune (est. 100k gp) in Ulek-wide government posts, particularly distributing charitable aid to formerly-occupied states of Eastern Ulek.

He is elected Mayor of Thrunch and Secondary Minister by virtue of leading the 'Liberty' group of councillors and giving their support to Baron Kamrin of the 'Preservative' group as Primary Minister, to help the Principality through its current economic difficulties. (In normal times, the Liberty group pursue policies of charity work, localized governance, deregulation of herbs and oppose anything the Preservatives do).

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[Mike C]

By my reckoning, I currently have two characters active in the Halls, so:

Sword Brother Anderson: will follow and support the actions of Zelinus.

Absinthé: Declares no interest in Dwarven politics, but takes notes of the goings on for composing future ballads and tales.

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Absinthé, the elf-maid bard, notes the Ulek dwarves - mostly guards for the few election and tax officials - take their politics seriously. They spend much of their time earnestly discussing the finer points with members of Lord Faradin's Guard and Castellan Makhan's mercenaries.

She hears the Principality is governed by a Primary Minister and his chosen sub-ministers, in the name of the venerable Prince of Ulek - His Serene Highness Olinstaad Corond, beloved by all his dwarven subjects.

Various factions exist among the elected councillors, including the aforementioned Preservative and Liberty parties (currently notionally allied) and mainly opposed by the Industry party (notionally representing labourers). A new councillor could affect the delicate balance of Ulek government, so the incomers keenly explain the virtues of their own favoured parties to the dwarves of the Halls, over many ales...

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[MikeC]

To the casual observer, it looks like Absinthé is just gaining a general overview of what is going on.

If observed more closely, the questions she asks and the people she speaks too, indicate that she is acquiring a greater knowledge of the election processes and mechanisms than would be expected for her stated purpose.

[The goal of Absinthe's research into the election process is uncertain.] At one end of the scale is producing a show that dwarves see as a hard hitting documentary explaining Dwarven politics (with songs), and everyone else sees as a fine piece of comic opera...

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GM to Players: Please feel free to add your own comments or character actions anytime, either to this forum or to me via email (which I will incorporate).

NB: Your characters can't act on what they don't know. Thus even 'secret' stuff can be published here for us all to enjoy. I trust your RP skill is good enough!

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Absinthé meets another bard already there - Corky Snobbin, a wild-eyed bald dwarf. He seems friendly and says bards are highly valued throughout Ulek. The Bardic Brothers company he belongs to is always looking for new talent - she could go far...

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Some of the region's history is also learned.

Over seventy years ago, the elves of Celene and dwarves & gnomes of Ulek made war on the tribes of orcs and goblins, driving them out of the Lortmil Mountains in the Hateful Wars (498-510CY).

Tribes driven southward found the petty states of the Pomarj ruled by weak and indolent humans, and quickly deposed them, capturing strongholds and becoming masters of the peninsula. Decades of hostility followed between the Ulek states of the West and those to the East in the Pomarj, with raiding but few actual battles - sometimes called a 'cold war'. As the nations of both sides concentrated on maintaining military strength the ordinary peoples suffered economic hardship, particularly in the East.

But then everything changed.

At the Battle of Emridy Meadows, ten or so years ago (569CY), the army of the Temple of Elemental Evil was destroyed, its Walls torn down and demons banished. Good finally defeated Evil!

The evil influence gone, despots immediately capitulated and were replaced throughout the east with democratic governments of the people, hungry for the western life. Trade treaties have created the Ulek Economic Community, with most states of west Ulek and the formerly-occupied east now members - a new era of peace and prosperity has begun. Hurrah!

--------------------

[Zelinus:]

QUOTE “Head of the Ulekish election observers, Aliz Kleinkey, tells Castellan Makhan that the election must be "Free and Fair" and must have more than one candidate - and so requests that Lord Faradin guarantee the safety of opposing candidates, to counter rumours they are being deterred by threats of violence. Commissioner Kleinkey also assures the castellan that, until the border fully opens following the election, applications to cross into Ulek will be processed as swiftly as possible (of course subject to the requirements of maintaining security from extremists, such as religious fundamentalist fanatics, racist nationalist terrorists, etc). He reminds everyone that free cross-border trade and movement, development grants and future investment all depend on the Halls having democratic representation. The election is not to 'rule' the Halls, but just to give ordinary folk a voice. So, win or lose, Faradin will retain supreme executive power. The Halls' Guards can expect much higher wages, reflecting their added prestige. All will benefit!”

It's interesting to note that the Dwarves of Ulek can insist on 'Freedom and Fairness' while not only restricting our movements but also moving onto our soil in direct contravention of their own demands in order to spread their propaganda and interfere with our governance.

As they have flouted the 'due process' that the self-proclaimed and - as far as I know - unauthorised "Commissioner" Aliz Kleinkey has insisted on for crossing the border, they've committed something tantamount to an act of war by moving into the halls and attempting to incite the guardsmen to revolt by feeding them barefaced lies about the lack of a clear and present goblin threat.

As such, they should be detained until such time as their release is secured by their Ulekish friends, family or superiors. Not only have they been trespassing, but we can only assume them to be 'Nationalist Terrorists', and 'Fundamentalist Fanatics' that these laws are in place to prevent, to say nothing of the propaganda they've been spouting to try and force their views on free men and dwarves.

After attempting to gather a relatively healthy amount of support for the act, Zelinus would proceed to arrest what Ulekish dwarves have infiltrated the halls, particularly the head of the 'Election Observers' terrorist group.

Preferably this would be done without bloodshed and with the authority of Faradin Thane himself behind it, but time is of the essence, so if that isn't possible, it should go ahead even without our lord's explicit approval. Since we're only upholding the law in his domain, his approval can be assumed. After all, the lord of the land is at liberty to come and pass judgement on the criminals whenever he chooses.

Though it would be hard to see how they could see resistance as justified, if the interlopers do not come quietly then they should be subdued by force.

--------------------

Tense moments ensue in the Halls mess, as Zelinus and his few loyal Sword-Brothers face the Thrunch dwarves' defiant protectors.

Faradin's dwarves, lacking guidance stand hesitantly by. One scurries to find the castellan.

But "We of Ulek will see this resolved peacefully", says Observer Kleinkey and signals his guard to lower their weapons. "We had no idea local bye-laws required any entry formalities - none were mentioned when we entered alongside your Lord, Faradin. Perhaps he waived them, as we did when you came to Thrunch, in goodwill? Maybe not all in his service were told - a simple communication lapse? But of course the law must be upheld - we are civilised folk, not brutes ruling by force and whim. "

Makhan shortly arrives. Zelinus is insistent - and quite persuasive - and so, with many apologies and promises of luxuries to be brought and the brevity of their stay, the Castellan oversees the Commissioner and his delegation locked in the cells. And rushes to find Faradin...

--------------------

Absinthé notices her fellow bard, Snobbin, is not among those detained.

-------------------

January 2088AC (Fireseek 578CY; 988TR)

Character (Player); Status; Cash (SP/£); Actions.
Lord Faradin (PaulW); Noble; 20506+£875(Hold)-£1000(co.)=?; Helps an aristocrat - who thanks him.
Sword-Lord Zelinus (PeterW); Noble; -0(in.)-£1000(co.)=?; Receives a proposal of marriage.
Sword-Father Clave (PhilT); Priest (nob.); +£1600(in.)-£130(Zel.ma.)-£1000(co.)=?; A barbarian friend has offended an important person and asks for help.
Mistatri (MarkW); Priest (nob.); -£130(ma.)-£1000(co.)=?; Guards search his rooms for stolen goods.
Origol (SteveB); Priest (nob.); +£1600(in.)-£1000(co.)=?; Befriends a merchant, who offers a 25% discount.
Captain Corith Runeaxe (IanC); Armourer (art.); +£260(in.)-£200(co.)=?; Re-joins Faradin's Guard, giving up armouring duty.
Sgt Grmok (Quent); Soldier (pleb); +£80(in.)-£40(co.)=?; Muggers stole all his wealth, and he was thrown into debtor's prison.
Absinthé (MikeC); Bard (art.); +£210(in.)-£200(co.)=?; Dreams a prophetic vision she has to tell everyone about.
Quidderil Lightfinger (PaulS); Mage (nob.); -£130(ma.)-£1000(co.)=?; His room becomes infested with mice.

[This is testing the form of monthly character updates. Any comments, let me know! Incomes/Events are from AH's RQ Cities (a version of Midkemia's Cities), except for land holdings (C&S). Cities 'pennies' (gp) translate as £10 (interestingly meaning that Midkemia also uses the 1sp = £1 standard). Events monthly rather than weekly.]

UPDATE: On second thoughts, the 'Cities' events won't work if used month-in, month-out (there aren't enough). So I'm now working on an EnGarde-like system for downtime, adapted to the fantasy setting. Maybe the occasional random event like those above will find it's way in!

-------------------

February 2088AC (Readying 578CY)

A small contingent of dwarven clan guards - about a dozen, led by warrior-cleric Durrl Filwhyr - arrives from the nearby settlement of Foghollow. Curate Durrl politely but firmly requests the release of Kleinkey's election advisors & inspectors, and their honour guards. "...And we've still had no reply regarding MY forthcoming wedding. If this hostage situation isn't amicably resolved, I may have to withdraw your Lord Faradin's invitation", he says.

An embarrassed Castellan Makhan apologetically releases many detainees, as a sign of goodwill. Mage Zapp mostly keeps away, saying quite a few Ulek dwarf prisoners, particularly leaders, have rather "cold eyes".

Commissioner Kleinkey restrains growing impatience. "The Halls could be given 'associate membership' status," he says, "though that would require a democratically-elected representative to negotiate the terms, as there are those who rightly point out that this is geographically already a part of Ulek. Continued uncertainty could be very damaging - and put at risk the economic benefits of free trade and training. However, my team believes the local apes to be Nandies - a rare species, for which a generous grant is available to maintain their habitat..."

--------------------

January 2088AC

After confronting the 'Election Commission' and detaining the dwarves of Ulek, Zelinus sets about the task of poisoning the attitude in the halls against such widespread democratic process. His attitude is that this 'Civilised Democracy' is not protecting its people against significant threats to their lives and homes, leaving their very country vulnerable to the massing horde of goblins and their ilk that we have seen and fought as they've assembled and prepared on Ulek's eastern border. He also stresses the willful ignorance and greed of the 'Elected' leaders of the country, the fact that their own representatives only ever talk about money, making money, getting more money showing that they care little for other things like justice, honour and loyalty.

Such corrupt individuals should not be permitted as much power as they are given. Businessmen and artisans, while valuable, contributing members of society should not be allowed undue influence because it opens the door to rampant corruption and complacency.

The orc-friend Cluggin, for example, has spent time claiming that the goblins to the east have long been friends to the dwarves and that the so-called 'Hateful Wars' are long over. But when on this world or any other have the dwarves of Cantabria ever encountered orcs or goblins that they could peacefully co-exist with? They're cruel and vicious, killers to the core, and no lasting peace will be found while they keep up their violent ways.

Hopefully these sentiments will be well received by the masses. The anti-orcish sentiment should appeal to the followers of Clangeddin, while the citing of common dwarven virtues should go some way to convincing the rest. With Zelinus' charismatic bent and the way he has risked his life for Faradin's men in the past, (To say nothing of the promised support of Grmok, who had been nominated by the guards themselves,) he should have a very good chance of winning over a distinct majority, if not everyone.

With Kleinkey detained, even if he wanted to he could not loudly and persuasively denounce the arguments in support of traditional Feudal leadership.

When not speaking to the denizens on the Halls, Zelinus will ask the detained dwarves of Ulek about their homes - whether any 'Lords' still exist, whether they retain any power or not. He will earnestly try to convince them in one-on-one sessions that the dwarves of the hold are not lying about the impending goblinoid invasion, despite what their leaders may have told them. He will repeat much of what he has told the Cantabrian dwarves, impressing the clear danger of an attack and if they seem receptive mentioning that he suspects Cluggin of selling out the dwarven people to the goblins of the eastern peninsula for the sake of gold.

He will also spend a little time with Tizun Thane's former guards (The Chaots?) and try to convince them of the merits of a slightly more disciplined god and life.

OOC: Perhaps Oratory would be useful for winning over different 'factions' among the dwarves of Ulek, dwarves from the Hold and converting the chaots? Bonuses for Charisma, arguments, support? Re-roll for honesty trait? (There is an invasion coming.)

--------------------

February 2088AC

Zelinus is displeased by the castellan releasing detainees without consulting him, but justly acknowledges his ability to do so as a man who acts with Faradin's authority.

He asks that preference be given to those detained that seemed particularly receptive to his arguments. If any seem to genuinely reconsider their stance and agree to swear an oath that they will not speak a word of it to anyone else, he will give them a message to take to the nearest 'retired' dwarven Lord/Thane/X.

OOC: Don't know how this would be decided. Are there any monarchists/anarchists visiting that would be prime candidates?

--------------------

[OOC: Great! Could I please have 3 Oratory rolls (72%), with backup CHAx? (22!) rolls, for Zelinus speaking to the Cantabrians, Ulek Dwarves and Brazuro's chaots respectively. Yes, Honesty can give a reroll v the Ulek Dwarves, and this may ignite monarchist/anarchist sympathies...]

--------------------

Zelinus
OOC:
Cantabrians: Oratory 19 - Normal Success. Charisma 79. (x4)
Ulek Dwarves: Oratory 04 - Special Success. Charisma 67. (x4)
Chaots: Oratory 27 - Normal Success. Charisma 75. (x4)

--------------------

Zelinus' warnings of the inherent weakness of Ulek 'democracy' persuades many Cantabrian dwarves to be wary. Yet some reject his 'scaremongering', keen on the idea of an egalitarian society, with workers rising to rule by merit not birth.

The higher-ranking Ulekians are uniformly defiant and dismissive, but the majority nervous in the Sword-Lord's presence and, outwardly, simply disbelieving: "The threat of Evil hordes is now gone, destroyed at Emridy Meadows and by the fall of the Wall" they say, shaking their heads sadly at the alien paladin's outdated ideas.

However a few, spoken to gently and alone, whisper their sympathy with Zel's assessment, though warn it's seen as bloodthirstily racist and loony - "no offence". Some separatist eccentrics live in Foghollow but famously feud among themselves. Almost all prominent Ulek Lords and Masters support ever-closer union with the east - the bards say so, and sing the praises of it's benefits of peace, prosperity and law-and-order all the time.

Captain Brazuro's rough guardsmen listen with a little patience to the Paladin's theory of 'discipline'. One, Margen, is quite taken with the thought of a Sword Goddess, and says he may come along to a Sif-ite parade-service sometime.

--------------------

"Look 'ere, Lord Zel", says Makhan, the Hall's flame-bearded castellan, "It's like this - we can't afford to go makin' enemies of these Ulekians. They's got some strange ideas but they're a great Dwarven nation, such as us Cantabrian folk can only dream of. With their 'elp, mebee we can rebuild our great nations too. An', I mus' say, the idea o' 'ard work bein' rewarded instead o' rank-an'-privilege ain't so alien to some of us as you..."

"Mebee we 'as been tricked by them pesky pixies, 'bout the gobbo army. An' if not, well, we'll jus' be defeatin' 'em anyway, 'eeroic-like, izznit?", he winks. "Lord Faradin ain't given no orders 'bout it, so I reckon I'll 'ave to do like this Curate Durrl asks an' let the rest o' your pris'ners go - an' pretty soon too..."

--------------------

Zapp, Faradin's slightly-built part-elf mage-in-residence, happens to meet Zel in an otherwise empty corridor one day.

"Ah, Sword Zelinus, perhaps you would be so kind as to clarify a point of Lady Sif's doctrine for me? A mere lay member such as myself may have it wrong, but I believe Her emphasis places greater value on Truth rather than Law - would that be correct?"

The pair converse. Then Zapp says "Truth is paramount, you say, Sword? Excellent! In that case..." but trails off as Zelinus continues. Then "ah... 'Law is the Truth', you say? Oh well, er, never mind. Thank you for clearing that up, my Lord. Good-day." and hurries off, with a nervous glance back, and all around.

--------------------

Zelinus

"One thing is not the other, but you cannot have justice without truth."

--------------------

No monarchists are identified among the remaining Ulek dwarves, and in a few days, Castellan Makhan duly releases them to Curate Durrl's Foghollow contingent.

Kleinkey is coldly furious. "Curate, as a Commissioner, I instruct you to station your troops here, and keep these persons within this valley until we make sure they are not a threat to the State... of Ulek."

Curate Durrl is apologetic. "Sorry, Commissar. I guess you from down Thrunch don't know, but this here land isn't in t'Principality. You're beyond your authority." Several Foghollow dwarves are suffering in the chill wintry air, it seems, and cough copiously.

"This won't be the last you hear of this, Filwhyr" growls Kleinkey. "And it's Commissioner." he says, then marches off with his 'honour guard', in their once smart but now rather rumpled uniforms.

"Whatever" replies Durrl, watching the Thrunchians go, amidst his own less-smart but grizzled veteran warriors.

"So they didn't enjoy their stay?" he says, turning to Makhan. "Please give my kind regards to your Lord Faradin. Durrl Filwhyr, curate of t'Dwarven Church of Foghollow, at your service." and he bows low. "I'd be very pleased if your Lord or his representatives would come to my wedding. 4th of Growfest, Foghollow temple of Berronar. I'm sure Runa would be happy too. Can't stay, I have to get back for th'arrangements."

"But I will just say we didn't spot any gobbo-swathe on t'march up - but mebbe we wouldn't, with t'snow." Durrl continues. "And, well, mebbe I was stretching t'point just then. Mebbe this col is in t'Principality. And if t'Prince had ordered us o'course... Anyways, we usually take t'County as being past mountains edge - that'd be your ravine-mouth. Noniz don't come here tho' - mountains across the valley west be cursed, they say. This is a Borderland - in truth, it belongs to whoever can hold it. Best of luck with that! May Moradin bless you and your Folk, Brother."

--------------------

Soon after, Mage Zapp surreptitiously passes a letter to Zel and intones "I specifically instruct that you can read this, Sword Zelinus.", also saying "...but don't let anyone else. It would be dangerous, for them and others."

It reads: "Truth, not Law, being paramount, minor potential infringement of a Hold bye-law, which could even be argued as not extending to the Halls, is subborned to Justice, I trust. During the questioning of detained Ulekians, no directly useful information could be revealed by extra-sensory detections. This in itself is significant. Only unusually guarded or deranged minds - specifically trained or undead - reveal so little to the magic. The Ulek officials exhibited such and lower-ranks also but to a lesser extent, characterized by 'Cold Eyes'. Among the living this effect is normally associated only with merideal monks, the insane, or professional spy-assassins. Evalin".

----

There being nothing much happening in Cantabria, Castellan Makhan orders the majority of the Hold's soldiery to the Halls. Once through the mirror-portal, they set to work building accommodations - and defences - on the land outside the Halls entrance ravine. Barracks, stores, a hall to serve as tavern/inn - just like 'back home'!

He also sends the rangers and prospectors out into the mountains and forests nearby, identifying sites for quarrying, mining, timber - and perhaps interesting new herbs for Lord Faradin...

Dwarves and others constantly arriving at Sprit & the Hold are allowed to pass through the mirrors, to settle the new lands. And many do - refugees from the plagues, increasing intolerance and rise of the darker Cantabrian cults - they are keen to build a better future here in 'Thane County'.

"I dunno if we can 'old this 'ere land" Makhan says to himself, "But we'll 'ave a darned good go!"

--------------------

Having had an invitation in person from Durrl Filwhyr to his impending wedding - will Faradin go, or will he send representatives?

--------------------

[Paul S] Quidderil will go, it will be interesting to witness the rituals of a primitive culture.

--------------------

OOC: A bit of admin, and sense-check...

Lord Faradin's Hold is equivalent to a C&S 'Shell Keep 4' frontier manor, with 2 sub-fiefs - the Gold Mine and Sprit village (the Thane Halls not being productive - yet).

Faradin gets only 1/5th of the Gold Mine revenue (it being shared 5 ways), but keeps the Hold's vassal-rent (as his overlord, the Earl of Soudall, does not claim it).

This gives him exactly 75gp income per month (i.e. £75000 from C&S figures), which is exactly half-way between the allowance of a 'Well-to-do' (50Cr) and a 'Wealthy' noble (100Cr), in EnGarde/OnGuard. Seems OK!

So Faradin will be rated as 'well-to-do' in OnGuard, gaining a 50Cr allowance, and assuming the other 25gp goes direct to Clanggedin/Barony. Temple tithes will take some more, and it'll be up to Faradin's discretion how to pay the remainder of the 12.5gp per month, due in accordance with his vow.

(The other Gold Mine shareholders - Origol, Finariel, Ferric & Makhan - get just over 3gp a month each from it, i.e. £3125).

--------------------

The Spring festival of Growfest arrives and Quidderil reaches the squat whitewashed dwarf-town of Foghollow, gloomy but fairly well-maintained. He is in good time to observe the nuptual celebrations.

The inn room he finds utilitarian, and its common area likewise austere but at least tonight enlivened by a gnomish entertainer's shadow-play. Very impressive! The dour local dwarves are unappreciative though - more interested in squabbling amongst themselves.

"If that girl [heroine of the play] were a Filwhyr, the Prince'd just get buried and burned alive fer 'is trouble...", slurs one drunken dwarf.

"And if the Prince were a Morklist, she'd be better off with the ogre!" retorts another - and soon beer-mugs and fists are flying. A bar-room brawl erupts, with half-a-dozen or so dwarves from each of the feuding clans hurling insults and not a few blows. Even sat alone is a quiet corner, the elf is unlikely to remain unharmed...

--------------------

However, Quidderil manages to duck the odd wayward tankard, while the dwarves eagerly continue brawling. After ten minutes or so five well-armed dwarves appear and a voice bellows "By order of the Foghollow Watch, stop this! You are all under arrest!".

The unruly combatants sheepishly disengage. Two of the larger side, the Morklists, are ordered outside - including the one whose drunken slur sparked the fight - and the watch promptly leave with them.

Immediately thereafter, some shouts are heard from outside - then a bloodcurdling scream. An arrested dwarf charges back in, yelling "They killed Enniag! They just cut 'im down! Murder! Filwhyr murderers!".

There is a momentary stunned silence, then the fight breaks out again - but this time in deadly earnest, with broken bottles and daggers drawn. Within a minute, about twenty more well-armed dwarves of the 'watch' burst in, bellowing for calm. This time ignored, the Watch set about the brawlers with heavy clubs attempting to restore order. Eventually the rioting is quelled - though some, particularly Morklists, have to be forcibly restrained. Wounds are tended, the Watch cleric healing some of the worst injured. Sadly, Enniag Morklist is beyond healing.

All suspects are taken into custody: the brawling dwarves, and some foreign elf who was skulking in a corner...

--------------------

PaulS:

Quideril would try to talk his way out saying he was an Elvish chronicler reporting on the nuptials.

--------------------

GM: Quid has no particular diplomatic/fast-talk skills. [So CHAx3 roll (48%), please. And any other points he'd like to make in his defence? Is Copernicus with him?]

The dwarves are pleased to hear he's here for the Wedding, a big event in Foghollow, though still suspicious. "Reporter? Bardic Brothers company, eh...?" says a Watch-dwarf, eyes narrowing.

Things look bad when it is discovered the deceased dwarf, Enniag Morklist, died with not a mark upon him, just an expression of terror - evil magic!

"Elves do magic..." one observes.

And if anyone else wants to happen by and help - feel free!

--------------------

[Before transfer to this page, this was the last post on the Pandaria Forum: http://www.forumforfree.com/forums/index.php?mforum=pandaria&showtopic=218&view=findpost&p=1777 ]

A black cat comes to the high cell window and stares through the bars into the elf's eyes.

Copernicus thus imparts to Quidderil that, having sensibly sauntered out of the inn when the brawl erupted, he observed the two gnome entertainers doing likewise. A third joined them from an upper-storey window, and one then made mystical passes. Some odourless dwarves appeared, briefly went inside and reappeared with two smellies - one then screamed and fell, one ran back in, the rest vanished. The gnomes crept off just as a load more smelly dwarves ran up and went in.

When Quidderil mentions this to his guards (apart from the 'smelly' bit) [CHAx3=48%, Roll 35] they find it convincing. So a while thereafter - during which certain important documents are discovered as missing from the inn rooms, and Watch-dwarves recall observing the gnomish trio leaving town in a hurry - Quidderil is released, with apologies. And he may even be just in time to get to the Wedding...

--------------------
[PJW, Thursday March 07, 2013 8:12 PM]

Barring objections, Zelinus will indeed put in an appearance with the Sword Brothers on behalf of the Halls - their small but professional contingent of competent combatants hopefully looking presentable with sword and mail shining.

Perhaps some of the refugees passing through the area could also be induced to sign up, though whether they can be armed remains to be seen.

--------------------
[GM: CHAx5 (110%) for Zel's recruiting, please? Or Clave (60%), who is spending more time 'Cantabriaside' ?]

[PW: 36 = (base 18) x2, GM/Clave: 27 = x3]

W
hilst supervising construction of the Sif Church at Sprit, Sword-father Clave recruits 3 into the ranks of the Sword Brothers, from amongst refugees moving south through Dragen-Sor Pass to escape the plague of central Cantabria. A further 6 are inspired by tales of Zelinus' heroic and honourable adventures to enlist in the goddess' cult also.

--------------------

The Sword Brothers march into Foghollow, along with the grey-cloaked recruits, ceremonial dirks a-gleam. The dwarf-town is a bit gloomy looking, but fairly neat and well-maintained. A pavement made from small blocks of hard stone, some grey, some white, covers the streets, the few potholes filled with stone shards, keeping the streets fairly smooth. Most of the town’s buildings are made of the same grey-white stone, which gives the place a monochromatic appearance. Some of the visitors think that the town looks as though everything has a coat of old whitewash; the less kindly compare the city’s looks to the bottom of a chicken coop.

Perimeter guards had greeted Sword Zelinus' squad in a very businesslike, cool manner, but warmed up quickly when he said they had invitations to the wedding of Durrl Filwhyr. Locals are proud he and Runa Morklist are to dutifully marry and end their families' feud.

The Sif-ites find elf-mage Quidderil at the wide entrance leading down to Berronar's subterranean temple, trying to persuade the dwarf guards to let him in.
”Well I dunno,” says one, “Evryone's 'ere now – we can't 'ave you interruptin'. And you's an elf, y'know.”
“But not
evry one's 'ere yet, Noggi.” counters the other. “We're still waitin' fer Runa – still, I spoze it's the bride's perogative to be late... You bride or groom's side?”

However, a dwarven priest in heavy regalia labours up the stairway and bellows “None may enter! Check them for weapons...!”

--------------------
[PeterW, Wednesday March 13, 2013 1:27 PM]

Zelinus will draw his sword and tacitly give the order for the sword brothers to 'Present Arms' similarly so that the guards do not need to search them.

They will expect that they are only needed to present them so that they can be blessed (or similar) before entering the temple. For Zelinus' part, he will happily leave his crossbow and other secondary weapons with the dwarven guards. He will not surrender his greatsword, however, considering it inappropriate to attend a wedding in the nude (Unarmed). He will, however, offer to swear to the Lady Sif that he will initiate no conflict, and encourage the Sword Brothers to do similarly.

'May any blade refuse my grip should I prove false' and suchlike.

The group will - if opportunity presents itself - inform the Dwarf Guards that they are here on the groom's side - along with the elf - representing Lord Faradin Thane of halls and hold.

--------------------

The Dwarf-priest pauses only momentarily when faced with the glinting blades, and says “Very good”. Then, at the recruits' dirks, “They will do – though you may borrow axes, if you wish.”

Continuing “The ceremony is an act of peace and reconciliation. Bows and the elf's staff are not permitted entry. Those without armour must wear one of these symbolic gorgets.”, indicating some neck-guards on a stand nearby. “All weapons must be bound to their scabbards...” he says, producing lengths of strong cord and setting to the job of tying them. “Let us be swift....”

Just then a grand carriage clatters into view, drawn by six horses.

“Here comes the bride! Don't worry, you may slip in quietly after she enters. Join the crowd at the back, on the right-hand side.” says the priest.

As the Brothers' swords (and Quidderil's dagger) are being tied, the carriage pulls up by the temple entrance. Three well-armed dwarves clamber stiffly out and help down the bride, with her flowing white dress, full helm and large bouquet. Four others leap off the far side. Leaving weapon-binding to the temple guards, the priest gives cords to the newly-arrived honour-guards, saying “Tie these yourselves. Let us make haste - everyone is waiting for you, Runa dear...” and leads them to the stairway down, in front of the visitors...

[GM: So can I have an easy Sense Assassin roll (25x2=50%) from Zelinus, and other rolls you feel relevant from anyone else present please... ;-) ]

--------------------
[PaulS, Thursday March 14, 2013 7:35 PM]

Is it too late to try and loosen my dagger without being spotted?
Can i sense (smell?) gnomes about after what my familiar told me about the events at the inn?

[GM: Sleight 60%, roll 48: success. Spot 82%, roll 82(!): success.]

The dwarf guards tied the elf Quidderil's weapons first, so now he is unattended. The filcher-mage's nimble fingers are quickly able to loose the cords binding his daggers. He senses no smell from the honour-guard, but does notice the four other crew beyond the carriage scampering rapidly away.

--------------------
[PeterW, Friday March 15, 2013 4:45 PM]

05 for sense assassin - a special success.

Zelinus will initially be all too happy to have his swords tied into their scabbards, but that may change depending on exactly what sense assassin reveals.

[GM:]

Zelinus is inspired with knowledge that the bride and her three guards are despicable assassins, imminently intent on his life and/or that of one or more of his associates.
His swords are tied, the dwarf priest having respectfully tended to him first. The priest now leading the Bride and her 'honour' guard down the wide stairway into the temple itself...

--------------------
[Mike C; Saturday, March 16, 2013 12:37 AM]

Andersen is watching the ceremony, but also keeping an eye out for a signal from Zelinus.

[GM: Spot 11%, roll 11(!): success]

Watching the bride's procession down the stairs, Sword-Brother Andersen wonders why she's lighting some sort of candle in her bouquet. What might that symbolize in dwarven rituals?

Meanwhile, the dwarf temple-guards continue binding weapons. Sword-Brother Smith glances questioningly at Sergeant Morpheus, only handing over his crossbow and giving access to his longsword when Sarge declares “I trust 'em”.

“I dunno why evryone gets 'ere late” grumbles one guard. “Evryone knows about it, an' the date's bin fixed fer months, after all, eh Gonther?”.
“Too right, Noggi!” replies the other, knotting studiously. “Like jus' now - you'd o' thought them four out-o-town relatives would've been early, coming to 'assist with clan security' an' all. It jus' makes our job 'arder...” he chunters, furtively scowling.

--------------------
[Peter W; March 22, 2013 4:43 PM]

Zelinus will take a good hard look at the bride and her entourage, attempting to penetrate any illusions that may be in effect around them.
(http://pandaria.orgfree.com/RuinQuest_Rules.pdf suggests WIS roll of some kind, result 32 on a D100)

As quietly as he can manage, he will communicate the fact that the bride and those who arrived with her may be planning something and to be on the look-out for anything unusual that they do.

[GM: Actually, in this case, the appropriate roll is good old Spot (32%): success!! ]

Sword Zelinus warns the Sword Brothers, with aid of signals known from his weeks of holy silence. He discerns no illusion but, though her entourage resemble dwarves perfectly, spots the bride does not walk as a dwarf – more as someone feigning dwarven gait.

Sword-brother Andersen, now alerted, realizes the bride's 'candle' looks more like one of the pots goblins used in the battle of the Halls – the little exploding kind.

Following the priest, bride and her guards down the wide long stairs, the Sif-ites and elf see smartly-armoured Durrl Filwhyr – the groom - waiting by large open doors. Beyond is a great chamber, high and 160ft long, with pillars, balconies, statues of the dwarf goddess and crowded with maybe a hundred dwarves. The great and good folk of Foghollow, gathered in their finery. Horns blare and drums strike up as the bride proceeds through, ushered to the left by the priest – who then guides the staring Durrl on his way to the right of the central forward-facing congregation – towards the far altar, where the High Priestess awaits...
--------------------

Sergeant Morpheus doesn't like this temple much – too many alcoves and so forth. But he and the other Sword-Brothers duly follow Sword-Lord Zelinus into the hall, taking up position at the back. Though behind the other guests, their view is not obscured and Morpheus remains watchful.

The Morklist bride lumbers forwards on the left-hand side of the crowd, while her groom Durrl Filwhyr almost skips along on the right, trying to glimpse her over the guests' heads. How touching!
The three bridal honour guards take places on a slightly raised central dais, amongst the most important members of the congregation. Now warned by Zelinus, Morpheus notes they've made an ineffective job of binding their battleaxes...

[GM: Another Sense Assassin roll (25%) from Zelinus, please?]
[PeterW: Roll... 70. GM: Oh well.]

--------------------
[MikeC; March 28, 2013 12:36 AM]

Andersen will signal back to Zel about the bomb, and watch for further signals.
Also check the other Sword-Brothers are aware of the 'conversation'

Remind me - what's our weapon status?

[GM:]
Andersen's two-handed sword and dagger are bound into their scabbards. He's not so strong (12) that he could just rip them out, but could probably undo each cord in a round.
The other Sword-Brothers are also now fully alert. The cowled new recruits are aware something is up, but unsure what. Several of them accepted pre-bound hand-axes from the weapon stand outside, in order not to be left behind, and have now belted them on.

--------------------
MEANWHILE – BACK AT THE HALLS OF FARADIN THANE...

A messenger brings good news! Mayor Cluggin of Thrunch has rejected Commissioner Kleinkey's recommended imposition of strict border controls between the Halls and the Ulek Province of Ironhelm.
Secondary Minister Cluggin does wisely see..., Free Trade is vital to restore Ulek's economeee...” sings the half-elf bard, So for a good market to Thrunch you may trek..., Relations are just as with all of Ulek...”. (And Kleinkey was shunted into some army post).

After regaling other news – coal shortages, moneylenders hoarding, extreme bad weather, kings confiscating half their subjects gold - the bard, Seon the White, dons a false nose and breaks into some comic relief. His skits about idiotic nobles, wicked but inept nationalists and corrupt priests raise few laughs, but his long tear-jerking tales of starving children force many to donate. He invites Absinthé to join in the show, too.

After the performance Seon warns her that, as an independent bard, she should get a licence from the new Information Commissioner - or suffer exemplary punishment if caught singing wrongful, defamatory songs. “In the Bardic Brothers Company we don't need one - because of who we are.” he explains. Further discussion reveals Ulek authorities now have maps proving the Halls to be within their jurisdiction. “But no matter”, he says, as the Hall residents could soon be allowed a vote on remaining part of Ulek: the Crown Prince's chief advisor, Primary Minister Kamrin, Lord of Spiv, has promised an In/Out Referendum when he is re-elected, “by the end of 582CY at the
latest.

--------------------
ALSO AT THE HALLS...

On perusing documents delivered by the bard, Castellan Makhan is pleasantly surprised to discover the Halls are entitled to various benefits from the Ulek state: discount on industrial equipment; a grant to keep the Nandie-ape colony, a protected species; funding for classes in traditional dwarven crafts; free public safety and security advice, and more! Of course, the Halls have to pay the local Ulek Economic Community taxes, such as a “Peace Added Tax” on financial transactions, to get them. But it says that he, Makhan, as the Hall's “designated administrative officer”, is allowed to set the P.A.T. rate as he likes, even as low as 1%! He calculates that makes it all very profitable indeed and, feeling rather proud of himself, sets about filling-in the required application forms...

--------------------

The Castellan completes the documents and details Captain Corith Runeaxe, with hand-picked Guards, to deliver them to the authorities in Thrunch. Entitlement to the various grants requires the Halls have a 'democratic representative'. As an accompanying letter explains, simply a legal nicety fulfilled as usual in such situations by an election without voting. Corith polishes his helmet to it's best shine before marching off to be installed – and bring back the cash!
[Captain Corith takes leave of Lord Faradin before his departure...]

--------------------

AT THE WEDDING – HERE COMES THE BRIDE...

[PeterW; April 04, 2013 4:30 PM]

Zelinus will advise the sword-brothers to unbind their weapons. It's clear the "Bride" - and potentially her guards, with their shoddily-bound axes - are determined to do the assembled dwarves harm. The fresher recruits, armed simply with their axes and little if anything by way of armour, are told they should take no serious risks, only to act in order to prevent widespread chaos or keep key troublemakers from escaping.

The rest of the men should be ready to rush to the defence of dwarven notables should unpleasantness arise when the "Bride" is challenged about the bomb.

Stepping into the aisle and preparing to charge them down should the "Bride" make any sudden moves, Zelinus will exclaim;

"Nobody move! Someone has slipped the bride an explosive!"

OOC: Some kind of charisma/oratory roll to keep everyone in their seats? If applicable, rolled 44.

[GM:]

Sudden silence falls as all (even the drummers and trumpeters) are shocked by the shout of Sword-Lord Zelinus. Just for a moment... but then Pandemonium reigns!

Gasps escape the congregation. There is commotion above on the balconies, where several dwarves pull out crossbows and take aim into the crowd...
“Runa! Runa!” shouts the groom, now running round towards the altar. Some drums and trumpets play a few more notes, fitfully...
“Surright, wunnertmee, dat ooman sezzo... oops” says the 'bride', with a shrill goblin accent. Then also runs toward the High Priestess...
“Runa? That's not my Runa!” cries a nearby Dwarf elder, apparently father of the bride. The three bridal 'honour-guards' leap onto the dais and rip out their poorly-bound axes to strike him...
Weapon-Theyns on the central dais try to heft their axes in defence, but cannot and struggle with the bindings - the honour-guard assassins close in,...
Defensive wedge, on me!” bellows Sarge Morpheus, ploughing through confused guests and intercepting a descending axe with his blade, as the Sword Brothers charge the dais to protect the elders...
“Guards, Guards!” shouts the High Priestess, then invokes her goddess at the eastern balcony “In the name of Berronar, Hold!”, a call her two assistants echo at the western, as does another from the dais. Two crossbowers freeze - but two shots twang out...
Half a dozen temple-guards, heavily armed with maces and twin-ringed shields, emerge from side-doors and rush into the crowd near the front, separating Morklist from Filwhyr...

--------------------

Ting, Tang!” - bolts glance from the fine plate armour of the two leading dwarf elders. Then commotion on the balconies becomes conflict as shouting and wrestling breaks out amongst the dwarf crossbowers.

“Buerla! Glyiur! What's this? Betray us t' Filwhyrs?!” yells one targetted dwarf, the bride's father, at the honour-assassins now trying to hack their way to him through the Sword Brothers.
Behind him, the other target, now ringed by shield-theyns, looks where the bolt struck them and shouts “Starag! Even you Morklists wouldn't shoot poison, surely! Are you hit?”
“Ha! I didn't know you cared, Cliara...” he replies. “Tis only a scratch... Aaahhh!” and staggers with pain.

The honour-assassins strike [00,27,94 v 99,36]: Sergeant Morpheus wounds his wide-open opponent but, his helm twisting, fails to finish them; Number Two and his attacker trade blows and parries.

The false bride, and groom, run on toward the altar...

[GM: Actions and rolls asap please, if you will, for: Zelinus (running-down the bride?), Andersen & Brethan (smiting assassins?), Quidderil (hide?)]

--------------------
[PeterW; April 11, 2013]

The 'Bride' is priority one. Cast Bladeskill (+?%) [GM: +15%, I think!] and use a Power Attack (x1/2%). 2H sword skill: (132+?[15])/2
Roll of 37 is not a special, but under expertise. Assuming Bladeskill grants at least 8% bonus to skill [It does], Power Attack confers +7 damage.
Damage: 2D6+16. Roll of 7 becomes 23 damage.

Under expertise grants second attack. Roll of 45. Same outcome. Not special, under expertise. Roll of 8 for damage. Total 24.
Greatsword speed factor of 10 allows for no additional attacks, but if there were enemies nearby Zelinus could cleave. (Assuming his opponent was dropped.)

Once the bomb threat is dealt with (Goblin in Dwarf's clothing dropped, vicinity cleared) priority should be given to keeping everyone alive. The crossbows seem the greatest threat to that. Will climb (99%, roll of 84 if necessary - plain success) towards them if possible, not knowing the usual route to the balconies. This will hopefully draw their fire away from the congregation or prompt their retreat, being a more imminent threat to the shooters themselves.

[MikeC, April 13, 2013]

I'll do some various assassin smiting!


[GM:]

The Bride sprints down the side-aisle, rounds a column, and turns straight for the high priestess. The Groom rounds the column opposite at the same moment, to face her not 30ft away. Zelinus magic boots propel him at tremendous speed, and he just just catches her there - directly before the bride-side guests. The first hack takes off her right foot, which flies off into the crowd; her resultant scream is swiftly silenced by the return blow taking off the left arm and slicing deep into her torso; the force of this blow sending the bloody body cartwheeling across in front of the altar, gore pumping from limb-stumps, to crumple heavily a few paces ahead of the Groom. The severed arm, bouquet still in hand, arcs upwards and back...

[Zelinus: DEXx3 to catch the bouquet; CHAx1 to face the groom (and that may be optimistic!); and a Spot roll please...]

Elsewhere, Sword-Brother Andersen smites a would-be assassin with his two-hander sword
[Roll 24: Hit, 8hp]; their deflecting his blow gives Brethan an opening [07: Special, 4x2+1=9hp], and his longsword pierces mail and leg.

Quidderil ducks for cover by the doors
[Hide 67, roll 15: ok] under the protective gaze of an 8ft statue of goddess Berronar, with armour, mace and twin-ringed shield. On the dais he sees a cloaked human woman, with golden ceremonial chain of office, cast a spell up at the west balcony – and look concerned.

On the east balcony, one dwarf is grappled and overpowered by others, but to the west another fights free and pulls out a small pot with fizzing wick...

--------------------

MEANWHILE – AT THE GATES OF THRUNCH...

“Peppers!” says the dwarf guard in ill-fitting armour to Captain Corith on his arrival.

Corith is distracted by the long black banners being draped over the squat city walls above. “What?” he replies.
“Citizenship peppers. Arms licence. Harness safety certificate. Trading permit.” the gate-guard elaborates.
“I don't have any of those” says Corith, “I've brought these...” and hands over the benefits application forms filled-in by Makhan. The guard sniffs and begins to inspect the documents.

Seeing Corith's curiosty, the other guard explains “General Baron Magyar's funeral. A great war-leader, and some say the best Primary Minister since the Hateful Wars. Some say otherwise, though...”. He trails off at a glare from the other, and fidgets awkwardly in his similarly uncomfortable mail.
“I'll have to get these checked.” the first announces. “You must wait - in here...
Please.” He indicates a door just inside the gateway, which leads into a bare room in the gate-tower base.

The long wait's tedium is briefly relieved when the sound of marching and raucous cries is heard outside. Corith & his squad see, from a small barred window, a column of perhaps two hundred well-armed troops of near-human stature nodded through by the guards into the city. Finally an official arrives, and warmly welcomes Corith on behalf of the Thrunch Metropolitan District Council. Corith asks about the troops, and the official replies “Ah... extra security for the funeral of Baron Magyar. Quite a controversial figure, you see – so we don't want any trouble. What with much of the regular army having gone to Foghollow, the Council has hired mercenaries. A very wise precaution, I'm sure you'll agree!”, but now he doesn't seem so warm.
“Your men can wait here to get their arms properly licensed, armour checked and safety certificates issued. Leave yours, so they can do the paperwork for you.” he says. “Good. Now kindly come this way, and we may just have time for your inauguration before the evenings feasting begins... Congratulations on your 'election', by the way,
Councillor Corith!”, and winks.

On the way through the grey shabby streets to the Council buildings, Corith enquires further about the mercenaries, saying “...they looked like half-orcs to me”.
“Now, now, Councillor!”, says Timfalin his guiding official, “There's no purpose in that kind of talk. There are laws against mentioning a person's ethnicity, you know! Don't want to be labelled an evil-racist-nationalist on our first day, now do we! Though, yes, I believe the Gold4uS Company who won the security contract do have many employees from our trade-partner nations of East Ulek.” Then “Here we are!”, and Corith is guided through a secure doorway from the dingy rubble-littered street into sumptuously-decorated marbled halls.

Before long he is invested with a small silver chain of office, and sat amongst other similarly-adorned (but generally older and fatter) dwarves of the grand Council chamber. There he has to endure long, droning and parochial speeches, regarding places and issues he knows nothing about. He can't help but wonder when the promised
feasting will begin...

--------------------

... but sadly it was not to be. When the dreary debating
finally drew to a close, and Councillors heaved themselves from the well-padded benches to queue for the fabled Refectory, an already-weary Corith was drawn to one side by his friendly guide Timfalin.
“We mustn't forget your Induction Course, Councillor Corith!” he said, cheerily sentencing the young dwarven warrior to further deadly-dull talk. Led down yet more panelled corridors and staircases, Corith next found himself seated on the bench of a smaller, though just as plush and ornate, terraced chamber – looking down on a lecture by a Sage. The greybearded, ugly and hugely fat human is introduced as Professor Glypta Panteles - “...from the University of Fenrill in East Jeblini, no less!” - an acknowledged authority on Demi-Humankind Demography, Law & Customs, Politics & Genealogy, and Biology.
“Listen carefully and you will understand much more afterwards.” says Timfalin, leaving drowsy Corith with the few other attendees, as once more droning begins...

[Corith's rolls: Listen 10%: 75(fail); INT9x5=45%: 60(fail); WIS12x5@-40=20%: 75(fail)]

Corith notes not the droning change its tone, nor sees the huge insectoid horror emerge from its bloated human cocoon and, when it buzzes to him in his turn, his mind has succumbed to its numbing drone. So the anaesthetizing sting is unresisted, and Corith feels only mild discomfort at insertion of the larvipositor. Most of the grubs hungrily worm into the chest cavity and belly, but one turns upward, thrusting tendrils into cerebral ganglions and neatly nibbling through spinal cord. Despite the extreme pain of this, Corith's body emits no sound but a slight gasp - he is no longer permitted to scream.

--------------------

Back in the Halls...

Sword-Father Clave returns from supervising construction of his new Sif Church for Sprit, now a bustling frontier town. The work is not yet complete, but the dwarf masons are reliable, now instructed in the doctrinal requirements. Cantabria-side, Clave had no success in his divinations to find that dwarvish axe – the runes landing seemingly at random, and prayers answered only with silence, or static. He hopes the Ulek side of the mirror-portal may be different.
On arrival the Sword-Priest sees Faradin deep in contemplation at another mirror, and immediately knows the Axe has not yet been located. He hurries off to the south-eastern corner chamber, temporary chapel while the Shadow-Dancers' evil still taints the great domed hall.
Auguring to find the Axe, with proper rites Clave casts his rune-tines upon the purified linen sheet:



There is the Axe! To the left, Othala the ancestral property must be it – but, opposed by the aurochs? And hard by, Zelinus with cleansing flame – the familiar Tyr & Sun Tiwaz-Sowilo combination he sees so often (though sometimes as Sif herself). All confirmed by the horses, Ehwaz. No need to worry about the boy, then! But, what's this? There he is again far up on the right... er, oh no of course not, that's the water-rune, Laguz. Similar, and Clave's eyes tire as the rest of him, after the day's march from Sprit and portal-shift. Ice – clarify. So is it then an adventure, success in travel, yet beset by Evil and Disease, signified by opposed Thurisaz and Kenaz? And there is yet more! Below, a rune of Heimdall lies with one of Freyr: Eihwaz the tree opposed with Fehu the cattle, confusion suffering failure - probably a good thing, then – confusion foiled? Back toward the left Wunjo, joy, which Clave has begun to associate with Faradin, opposed with Dagaz, the dawn or breakthrough – will the dwarf's contemplations be frustrated, then? And underlying that, Ingwaz the earth surmounting opposed Mannaz, mankind – fertility producing internal growth, tying-up loose strings with slyness, so no help should be expected now from that quarter. [http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/meanings.html]

Clave is astounded - less an augury, more a true divination! With such a strong response, he decides to try direct communing with the Goddess, not possible since before the divine disruption began. Placing upon it as sacrifice the trident of dark lord Kevin, taken by Zelinus on his questing, Sif's high priest prostrates himself before the altar and frames suitable questions in his mind...

--------------------
[Clave's rolls: INT16x5=80%: 83 (fail); WIS18x5=90%: 37 (ok); Listen 17%: 62 (fail)]

Sword-Father Clave lies cruciate to commune with the goddess, and intones:

“Where is the goblin army?” - “MARCHING FROM OLD RIVER'S HEAD TO YOU, TO ZELINUS, AND INTO THRUNCH.”

Where is the Axe?” - “IN AN ORC WARRIOR'S HANDS, ATOP A TALL HILL SIX MILES WEST-SOUTH-WEST OF FOGHOLLOW.”

In the Augury, did Laguz represent a Quest?” - “NO, MYSELF, BESIEGED BY EVIL, DISEASE AND MOST HEINOUS KIN-STRIFE.”

And what confusion is to be foiled?” - “YOURS, HE OF HEIMDALL AND FREYR, OF DESTRUCTION AND WEAKNESS, OF FAILURE AND COWARDICE, BETRAYS YOU.”

Will Faradin's endeavour succeed?” - “NO, HIS END IS NEAR.”

Who gives no help, and why?” - “A MAN OF EARTH WHOSE VIRTUE IS BOUND BY THE FERTILITY OF INTERNAL GROWTH.”

What do you think that meanz?” drawls a voice from the doorway - Captain Corith, just now returned from his mission to Thrunch and come to pay respects. Clave is annoyed by the interruption, and the purity of his concentration is lost.

“I'll need time in quiet
solitary prayer to consider it!” he snaps. “We need to muster the troops, obviously. 'Of Heimdall & Freyr', I know from past auguries, concerns a spider-elf spy of fiendish cunning, called Angrauko of Galador, a foe in the Uradili orc war. But... betrays us? And that about Faradin is deeply ominous – go find him at once, Captain!”
Military-man Corith, at Clave's barked command, turns instantly – and collides with elf-girl Arnumielle, lurking behind.

“What is thiz? A...
spy?“ demands Corith.
“No! I... I came to
warn you...” she blurts, slanted violet eyes darting side to side.
Seizing the elf's wrist, the dwarf-captain presses: “Aye? Warn uz of what? Tell!”
“Ah, stop! You're hurting me!” she whines, twisting in his grip. “Lord Faradin... bad me say not where he went!”
“Then how could you give 'warning'? You lie, traitor huzzy! What danger is he in? Tell uz now!” and the dwarf's grip tightens.
“Ah! He sought ancient wisdom... You know his mood, you were there! I... I but told him where to find it... aah, let me go!” the elf says. Then, staring “
I suggest... you let me go!but Corith just returns her stare and keeps his grip; Arnumielle gasps.

Then it is Clave's turn to interrupt. “I just saw Faradin. He is in the Hall of Tizun Thane's Mirrors – studying them.” he says to the dwarf, eyes narrowing.

Now Corith's eyes widen: “Even parti-elf fool Ferric dared not look long in that dead wizard's mirrors! 'Tis your plot, traitor elf? You do Angrauko's work, and deliver our War-Lord Faradin to his doom!” With that, valorous dwarf warrior Corith hefts his Rune-axe and rushes to his leader's aid, dragging the elf-girl behind...

[ Captain Corith encounters Lord Faradin in the Mirror-Hall... just in time! ]

--------------------
[Zelinus' rolls: DEX15x3=45%: 81 (fail); CHA22x1=22%: 52 (fail,x3); Spot 32%: 86 (fail)]

BACK AT THE DWARF WEDDING....

The bridal bouquet, plus arm, arcs upwards and back... just beyond Zelinus' reach. Thumping down behind him, it scatters flowers and gore but nothing more. The paladin's gaze whips round again forwards – and meets that of the groom, Durrl Filwhyr, blazing with hate across the bloodied mess of his would-be bride. A stunned, horrified silence momentarily falls there by the altar, but sounds of battle carry in from other quarters...

From the dais the clash of arms, as Andersen and the Sword Brothers hold off the turncoat dwarf assailants' coldly furious onslaught. Starag, father-of the bride, collapses and his weapon-thanes, now with axes untied and drawn, surround him as he writhes with envenomed agony.
“Let me tend him, you Morklist fools!” bellows Cliara, head of the groom's clan, but the theyns glare and threaten and will not let her – a Filwhyr – pass. The feud is not over...

Above, there is minor scuffling on the East balcony, as two interlopers are tied; to the West, loyal dwarves fail to grapple another – until a magical web, cast from the dais below, holds him fast. But he manages to drop his grenade, over the balcony edge and down into the thronged hall below. It skitters, still fizzing, right up to the dais' side...

--------------------
[PeterT; Monday, May 06, 2013]

I suppose this would be a good time for Geradil to arrive at the wedding party, with bear in attendance of course.
Seeing the grenade dropping in to the crowd the bear looks at Geradil, with a resigned gleaming in his eyes and growls.. " I suppose its my turn to be the hero today". He runs to flings his heavy bulk on top of the fuming explosive pot just as the fuse burns in to the explosive...

--------------------
[GM:]

AN ELF ENTERS, CHASED BY A BEAR, AT THIS STAGE - RIGHT?

Sir Geradil had fallen behind on the march into Foghollow, staying back with his bear as Zelinus and the Sword Brothers double-timed to reach the temple at the appointed hour. His arrival now adds to the commotion, as Geradil – uncaring of dwarven conventions - rushes in past the gate-priest and guards. They pursue and grapple the elf, who struggles as the dwarves try to force a ceremonial axe upon him – against his cult vows!
Seeing his friend attacked, the Bear lollops downstairs to help – but just then Geradil's elf-sharp eye glimpses the falling 'grenade'. A shared glance and growl, and the Bear changes course...

Quidderil observes this scene from on high, having sought sanctuary by scaling the rock face of the goddess Berronar and now straddling her nose. Sighing sadly at his fellow elf's exhibitionism, he stands – or, rather, squats – ready to unleash whatever magics may be required. But for now everything seems admirably in chaos without his help.

The groom, dwarf-warrior-priest Durrl Filwhyr, momentarily breaks his glare of hate from Zelinus to glance down once more at his corpse bride. Then cocks his head to one side, saying “I don't love you... because your feet's too big!”. He stoops and rips off the helm – revealing the swarthy bristly ugliness of a huge goblin's face! The crowd gasps - and then again are briefly stunned to silence. [Zelinus INT roll: 07 = x1!]

Then Zel too cocks his head aside, as through the momentary silence he hears tell-tale fizzing – from the crowd right by Durrl! One old-timer dwarf seems discomfited, but the others oblivious. Zelinus gathers himself to charge into action once more...

--------------------
... Sword-Lord Zelinus charges straight at the dwarf groom. Durrl tugs his mace but cannot get it free; he braces. But the moment before impact Zel swerves, snatching up the discarded helm, and plunges into the crowd shouting: “Everybody move! The bride's explosive has slipped under someone!” [CHA roll: 80 (x4)] Most of the dwarven wedding guests scatter but the old-timer remains. Zelinus pushes him aside [STR19v15: 70 (success – exactly!)] – the venerable dwarf staggers back, and falls. And there below is the thunder-pot, cord fuse burning! The brash paladin slams the bridal helm down over it...

Sword-Brother Andersen strikes his assassin opponent again [Att 40%:25(hit), Dam 2d6+1:5] but is parried, and Brother Brethan Aran [40%:50(miss)] cannot capitalize the opening gained. Their foe ripostes [60%:79] but wildly; behind him they see other thunder-pot, dropped from the balcony, and its fuming fuse burns fully down...

[Init d12+3: 15(max!)] In that moment, Sir Geradil's Bear pounds over – moving faster than it ever had – and belly-flops onto the pot. There is a muffled “boom” - followed by a tremendous screaming howl from the blasted beast. [4d6: 8 damage] The Bear is injured - but lives, as do the grateful bystanders.

On the balconies, the interloping sharp-shooters are fully overpowered – four in all. They are dwarves, but with a strange far-away look, and cold to the touch.

Those on the dais battle on, Sergeant Morpheus and the Sword-Brother recruits holding them back, while rival dwarf weapon-theyns face each other off – and one of their leaders, in poisoned agony, adds his cries to the Bear's piteous howling.

Zelinus waits, crouching... the fizzing sound still coming from within the helm he holds firmly in place. The dwarves around look on, eyes narrowing with suspicion...

--------------------
BACK AT THE HALLS OF THE THANE - FARADIN REWARDS MAKHAN...

Castellan Makhan hurries into the hall, where everyone is waiting, approaches Lord Faradin on his throne and bows low. Dutifully, the still-young red-bearded dwarf had come at once when Captain Corith had said “Go to the throne room; our lord wishes to reward you”.

Makhan Flint – who is your lord?” Faradin Thane asks imperiously.
“Er... well, you are, I spoze, Faradin.” replies Makhan, confused.
“And yet you have never sworn fealty to me. Why is that?” the dwarf-lord enquires.
“Er, well, I... Well, I guess it's 'cos you an' me is more... sort o'
friends, like, iznit?” hazards his castellan, smiling nervously, embarrassed before this assemblage of nearly all the Halls' residents.

“Friends” repeats Faradin Thane, and Makhan becomes even more worried. “Would a 'friend'
usurp the authority, monies and prerogatives of their friend and lord?” demands Faradin Thane, with cold barely-suppressed fury.
“I...
what?burbles Makhan in disbelief.
SILENCE!” Faradin Thane bellows, commandingly. “How dare you question your liege-lord!” Makhan stands open-mouthed and stunned, as do many gathered round.

“For too long, have you gone
beyond your authority, castellan! Collecting tax from my subjects, giving orders as you saw fit, inventing laws for my lands, without my say-so, and all the while building your own private army – given better equipment than my own loyal Guards...”, some murmur at this, “...and undermining our spiritual leader, my heir Axe-Father Origol, by favouring others over devout followers of Clanggedin!” the outraged dwarf-lord rants on.
“...
heir...” mutters Makhan, still numb with incredulity.

“Yes,
Heir, I say!”, the Thane seizes upon the whispered word. “Of course Lord Origol is my heir! His Noble Grace is of royal dwarven blood, son of Earl Kontos! Who else would be worthy? Some commoner...?” At this, Makhan bows his head. Faradin continues “Ah - yes, I have long suspected so. This was your plan, was it not, Flint? You hoped to take my demesne on my death. Deny it if you can!”
“...well, I 'ad 'oped that...” Makhan began, mumbling shamefacedly.

So it is true! You did hope to profit from my death!” roared Lord Faradin Thane, now stood towering over all to unleash his fury. “How can such a faithless servant be trusted? You are relieved of your duties as castellan!” The crowd gasps, and Makhan staggers backwards as if struck “...but, I...” he says, but Faradin continues: “Be SILENT! And await my judgement of just punishment. Lord Origol what say you?”
The elder dwarf-priest ponders a little, then “I wouldn't actually like the idea of anyone else 'running' things in my lands to be honest. It smacks of infiltration techniques.” says Origol.
“Wisely said,” says Faradin, regarding a gaping Makhan, “And for my part, I wonder how oft he held back in the melee that I might perish, yet not daring put a blade in my back.”

Now the Dwarf-Lord addresses the gathered throng.

“A goblin horde approaches these Halls. Who among you is loyal and brave enough to face them at my side?” After only a slight pause, there are general murmurs of affirmation, albeit subdued. “Very good! Hope yet remains while the company is true!” Faradin Thane glances at Makhan, then continues. “After consultation with wise Axe-Lord Origol, and much prayer to the Father of Battle, as His Chosen One – and your Liege Lord – I decree we will march out from this mountain-vale and meet the goblin threat head-on in the field of battle...”

“Outside our
defences? That's insane!blurts Makhan, unable to hold his tongue any longer.

BE SILENT!bellows Faradin, now incandescent with rage. “I will not hear such treason uttered! Makhan Flint, you are hereby banished from my lands, on pain of death!”

Captain Corith slips through the inward door and thrusts a sack of Makhan's scant possessions into his hands. Then escorts him, none too gently, to the outward doors. And Makhan is gone. Corith returns and stands attention at the throne-dais' base. “Find an
ethical scribe to check my Hold's accounts, Captain.” Faradin Thane instructs, loud enough for all to hear.

“But first – the battle-orders...”

--------------------

...and send word to our loyal friends and allies that we require their aid. If they ever held any regard us, this is the hour of our direst need!” says Lord Faradin Thane.

--------------------
MISTATRI DEPARTS TO THE DREADWOOD

On the dwarf-lord's word, elven warrior-priest Mistatri departs at once through the mirror-portal to Kendra town – and thence the Dreadwood of Keoland. Before long, the others of Sir Geradil's Company return from there to help Faradin Thane's dwarves. Mistatri himself, however, does not return – feeling no desire to get involved in these, perhaps fatal, “dwarven affairs”.

--------------------
FARADIN'S RANGERS GO TO GONDRA TERMAS

Lord Faradin's three trainee rangers, Thorbli, Odli & Bomdri, are dispatched on the long arduous journey to the Mountains of Hel in northern Cantabria, with orders to accept any aid or blessings Death-Priest Gondra Termas is willing to bestow. Finally reaching his remote church, they present him Lord Faradin's letter and wait as the priest reads, his face unreadable behind the mask of Hel. At length, he responds:
“Are you willing to receive the bounteous gift of Hel...?” he says. Ranger Odli, foremost of the three, answers as his liege desired “We are!”
At once the Hel-priest plunges his spear into the dwarf's chest. “Aaah! I was not expecting
this!Odli cries as he falls, stricken. His companions, at once seizing their battle-axes, leap forward and stand back-to-back over him. But the surrounding acolytes of Hel swiftly close in, cloaks & hoods slipping to reveal pallid grey flesh, extended claws and fanged mouths gaping hungrily...

--------------------
GUTHWIN TALKS TO SANTOR

Noble Lord Guthwin of Huric, priest of Ukko the land's supreme deity, rides his tired charger, Lightning, through the dismal streets of plague-wracked Canton, capital of the once-proud but now broken kingdom of Cantabria.

“How has it come to this?” he muses. “But dwelling here, Air-Warrior Santor cannot fail to see the Kingdom's dire need for sainted Sarco's Sword to return; how greatly it needs a hero to wield the holy Crystal Blade and re-unite Cantabria, purging these evils.” He gives a wide berth to another cloaked-and-masked pack of rag-tag Hel-ites, worshipping at some diseased pit. “A brave paladin, already skilled and now young again, a famed red dragon slayer - who better to wrest it from that wicked wyrm Breulentod? Indeed – if not he, then
who...?” The priest reaches his destination, the Adventurer's Guild house rumoured to house Santor; curious lodgings for a Templar of Mighty Ukko, but so Guthwin had been told. Guthwin dismounts and exhorts the stable-lad as he hands over the reins. “Ensure Lightning receives the finest treatment, or it's the worst for you, boy! Now, I have business with your master, Lord Santor. Knightly battle fast approaches, and the forces of Good are needful of him. Delay me not, pray tell...”

“Sorry - Santor is not available.” the lad replies.

Unaccustomed to interruption from stable-boys, Lord Guthwin turns in anger – and only then recognizes to whom he speaks. “Santor...?” Unusually, he is lost for words. Slowly, he comprehends the awful truth of the other rumour he had heard. As well as Santor's location, his new occupation – running this adventurer guild: a mere functionary, an official...
a servant. The blood drains from Guthwin's face, turning puce to linen-white. “But... Air Warrior – this would be the deepest shame. The choice is, of course, yours – I am not the evil orcish dictator here! That is the enemy we must face, and his armies. Why do you not feel it your duty thus to aid the cause of Good?”

Roll the dice often enough and everybody dies”, newly-young Santor sadly replies.

Guthwin is shocked to hear such cowardice from his one-time ward, and virtually begs: “You are a warrior of Ukko, Santor! A
hero! This life is Danger - and Glory! Naught else has import, even Death.” The outraged priest continues. “...And how many times has that dwarf-lord Faradin died now? I have lost count. And his religion doesn't even allow resurrection! Besides, battle holds little danger for a knight of your val...”, he hesitates, “...er, prowess. Wounds, injury, maiming, or capture mayhap – but death... 'twould be most unlikely.” Then his demeanour changes, and breaks into a grin, “Ah, you jest – surely? Tell me it is so - I will be jolly glad to hear this from you!”

But Santor does not smile. “So a chance of death, loss of favoured long long long life, and with no adventure or treasure. All downside – I mean, there's nothing in it for me.” he says.

His priest becomes more than a little angry. “That is a false assumption! Battle IS adventure! To prove your mettle! Your decision to fight (or not) should accord to what is right, for your role as an Air-Warrior... What matters death, in this just cause? And even death would not likely be forever. Your friends need you, as the kingdom, the world will need you! Santor - I urge you to reconsider.” Guthwin desperately pleads with his erstwhile paladin charge.

Santor is resolute. “Nope, this is not the role I play. I will not be there. Sorry.” he says, relinquishing the Air-Warrior path.

The Noble Lord Guthwin, for once, has the ebullience crushed from him. Downcast, he takes back Lightning's reins from the lad before him, now a stranger. “As I say, 'tis your choice. Santor will not be there, though Good needs him.” the priest mutters, mainly to himself. “That is most shameful. This battle would befit an Air-Warrior, though. Relatively little reward compared to questing, maybe - but all part of the duty, proving character, and so significant. Even such a seemingly small thing can have much larger effects on events – on history. Santor's absence will make a difference...” He remounts.

Cheers” says the young fighter, as the noble priest rides away without a word.

--------------------
AND BACK AT THE DWARF WEDDING AGAIN....

The injured Bear continues to howl, in pain and growing anger. Elf-druid Geradil struggles but is held fast by dwarf gate-guards. “Crazy elf! How dare you loose an exploding bear in the holy temple!” they shout...

Sword-Brother Andersen & the others fight on against the cold assassin dwarves, neither side gaining advantage. Behind them Starag the poisoned dwarf moans deliriously. “Don't... ahhh... let her... near! Uuuhrr... Turned... Runa... to aaaah... goblin.” he gasps. “... She'd... finish... me... uuuuuh.” Then Cliara the other dwarf-clan elder rages “You cretinous old Morklist coot! You'll
DIE!. At which words the weapon-theyns grip their axes tighter to defend the fallen lord all the more resolutely...

Bracing himself, Zelinus keeps the bridal helm clamped firmly down over the bomb, which just keeps on hissing. Dwarf wedding-guests mutter darkly and start to encroach, gathering round. They help the venerable dwarf-priest Zel barged aside back to his feet – and he looks angry...

--------------------
The bear snarls and snaps at those on the nearby dais; its friend elf, Geradil, still cannot slip the grip of his dwarf captors; Quidderil, perched above unnoticed, keeps quiet; the Sword Brothers fight on: Andersen takes a cut from his stocky but implacable foe
[2 damage: HP11/9] and is forced back.

The old priest-dwarf's rheumy eyes fix fiercely on Zelinus squatting awkwardly before him, as the other guests crowd in.
Pushing them aside, mace now in hand, Durrl the groom bellows “
Where is MY BRIDE!?but checks his ire, as the venerable one raises an accusing finger at the Paladin.
Leaning on a hickory stick, he says “I, Farvak, have served Moradin faithfully for more days than I can recall. But never have I and this Holy place suffered such profanation as you have committed, human! Faithful folk - seize him!”

--------------------
CLAVE GETS THE BIRD

To deliver Sif's news to Zelinus, Sword-Father Clave looks for the stuffy Ukko priest, Guthwin - but finds he's gone to Cantabria. Typical. Just when the old bore could have been some use. So much for getting a message to the boy by carrier-pigeon, then. (Clave knowing his own blue-jay companion, B.J., could not). But perhaps there's one left in Guthwin's part of the stables? Clave barges in...
... And comes face-to-beak,
giant-sized beak, with the griffin. “Oh – I'd forgotten about you...” says the priest. RAAAAAAAAAAK!” Swiftclaw replies, angrily.

Hastily executing a tactical withdrawal, Clave instinctively draws his long sword to hold the great beast at bay. But the creature likes this even less, screeches again, and attacks.
[Claw/Claw/Peck: hit (5), special (6), hit(15)] The claws tear at Clave's mail, and he partly dodges the vicious peck [15-10=5], so it too fails to penetrate. He mutters a prayer to the goddess, and it strikes him again [Peck: hit(9)], though he manages to parry, his fine blade turning the blow. “Get back, beast!” he yells.

Raaak! Call me not 'beast', ape!” screeches the griffin – and miraculously Clave understands. He didn't expect his prayer to be answered, but Sif's powers are some ways greater in this land, it seems. And at least the creature pauses its attack, giving the priest time to talk:
“Forgive the intrusion, noble... er, avian. I simply sought... some creature of
superior speed, brave and worthy enough to carry a message from the gods...” said Clave, appealing to its pride.
Raaak! I carry humans nevermore!” squawks Swiftclaw. Faithless! The One betrays the Air!” At least, Clave understands its words, if not all its meanings.
“No, no, noble avian!” the priest continues, perceiving the creature not averse to the task he intends. “No human – just this parchment, bearing words of the goddess Sif!”
Aaand you open the sky to my mountain?” the griffin looks askance at the priest.
“I swear I'll then do anything in my power to get you home.” says Clave. Shouldn't be hard – those mirrors can go anywhere. Swiftclaw bows and screeches his agreement. Clave swiftly binds the parchment to a foreleg, explains it is twenty miles south-southwest, and Zelinus' saddle gives his scent. With a final cry of
RAAAAAK!”, Swiftclaw the griffin launches out through the main gateway and up, wheeling over the broken roof - terrified nandies scattering and chittering as he goes.

Clave watches, then turns abruptly and marches back into the Halls. Coming upon a group of new-arrived adventurers – Sir Geradil's rag-tag henchmen – who badly need licking into shape. “
Right you 'orrible lot – ATTEN-SHUN!he barks. “Anyone wanting to die in the battle, stay here! Come with me if you want to LIVE! Time for proper military drill...!

--------------------
FARADIN'S OLDEST FRIEND ANSWERS HIS CALL

Satisfied his target is thoroughly charred, the part-elf mage-warrior steps back from the tower window and blows on his smoking metal fingertip.

“Was that
really necessary?” haughtily enquires his host, the Wizard Zoolemaigne, with no real concern. The blond guest shakes his head. “Fun though!” he says, and beams a broad fake smile, green eyes glinting.

“Ha-ha!” the wizard mirthlessly laughs, “Of course! But should you not be careful? If you fry all your 'friend' Faradin's dwarf messengers with fireballs, will he not... suspect?”

“Oh,
come on, Marik!” retorts the dandy, checking his emerald shirt, black trews, and fine cravat for any speck of bat guano. “It's been – what? - thirty-five years? If he hasn't realized by now, he won't ever. None of them will – they are naive and moronic. For Thoth's sake! In all this time I've never hidden my utter contempt for him and his stumpy little beasts, or the pathetic losers that hang out with them. They still think I'm on their side!” Though diminutive, barely over five feet, the half-elf's ego fills the high-arched room. “They'll do anything for me – 'rescue' me from Limbo, or even my catno matter how many of them die!” Both mages laugh long and hard.

“Besides, if the plan's worked, by now it's not even
him anyway. And we'll have an ally over in that world.” he continues at length. “Er... how can we check?”

“I shall ask
Lord Aim, when I pass on your report.” says Zoolemaigne, enjoying his guest's quiver at mention of their devilish master's name. 'This idiot's fear keeps him trying to be useful...', the evil wizard thinks to himself, smirking. “Your plan was well laid, to use that elf-girl and the dwarf's taste for herbs against him. But Lord Aim will know for certain if you succeeded. By time you have learned your new spell, in any case.”

“Payment is sufficient, then?” the visitor asks, shuddering again, and glancing at his two wide-eyed 'gifts' held fast in the claws of the Wizard's heavily-tusked, green-skinned servants.
“Aaah, yes - human children. My
favourite...”, Zoolemaigne reassures him, licking his lips. “Most... satisfactory.” At a dismissive gesture, the bestial orcs remove them to his pleasure chamber.

The Wizard's gaze lingers long after, but finally returns to his guest. “You have chosen the
Teleport spell, have you not, Angar...anco?he says, with a cruel chuckle.
“Don't even call me that!” the half-elf objects. “Yes, Teleport. Gotta be. You never know when...”
“...you'll want to leave your 'friends' in the lurch?” his mentor finishes, laughing wickedly. “Yes, yes – I understand. Travel must be
so tedious without it, since the Guild's teleporters were broken.” He smiles again. “The Spider's plans progress apace...”

And the two old fiends spend a pleasant evening enjoying fine Uradili wines, happily honing schemes for the coming bloody destruction of humanity, and reminiscing over dwarves mocked and sacrificed, fumbles feigned, heroic plans foiled and ridiculed, and companions corrupted or murdered.

[Ref. Old Party Diary entries: It Begins, Cat Rescue (Mar2065), Limbo Rescue]

--------------------
A MEETING AT THE GATES OF THRUNCH

Makhan the dwarf stumbled along a trail, then a road, not knowing where he was or where he was going. But after some days his path is blocked by a town's squat walls, draped with black banners.

At the gateway an impassioned warrior-priest, bigger and definitely heavier than your average dwarf, expansively remonstrated with the guards. His cohort of a dozen or more acolytes looking on, the war-priest gave vent to anger... and sadness.

“Too late for the funeral? Then it was conducted with unseemly haste!” protested the outraged dwarf. “Baron Magyar the Hacker was the greatest Primary Minister of Ulek since the Hateful Wars! Heroic general of our dwarven forces at the battle of Hilly Pastures! Where I, Grökhoin Mak Tranin, 'Feybane', was honoured to serve. The lying in state alone should have lasted a month!”

“Aye, I thought it was a bit quick...” mused one of the gate-guards, shifting awkwardly in his ill-fitting armour. “Closed coffin too...”
“Show your
peppers - whoever you claim to be.” interrupts the other guard.
“...don't see why – he were just a bit green, not too bad...” the first rambles on.
“Quiet, Private.” the second insists, glaring. “I must insist – Mister 'Grok-ho-in', on your peppers.”

“Don't have any damn papers! We came in a hurry. Been forced-marching – and I'm
ravenous.” retorts Grökhoin. “Green, you say?”

“Aye, just a bit. I were on coffin detail...” replies the first guard.
“That's enough, Private!” orders the second, “Say nothing against the Baron, even if he was no Hero of the People, nor Workers Champion...”

At this, Grökhoin bellows: “I want none of your 'protector of the oppressed' ways here! Hacker was clearly lawful, and at least nominally good, not a commie-chaotic type! Now, you – speak!”

Ain't no harm in telling...” the first guard says hesitantly, “The green were just a side effect of the medication, they said...”

“Private –
be silent!” shouts the second, “Don't give State secrets to these outlanders...”

YOU be silent!Grökhoin roars, and the officious guard cowers. “By Silverbeard, 'Outlanders'!? We are the Righteous Brothers of the Western Marches, stationed many years on the far-borders of Earthenmore province - but loyal to the Principality of Ulek til death, and beyond! I may move around a lot, but will not be so insulted in my own homeland! 'Outlanders' – pah!”
“But you” he says to the other, “Pray continue – what medication?”

The second guard shifts awkwardly, avoiding the gaze of both the war-priest and his fellow. “Baron Hacker got
Feebleminded years ago, on some adventure. But it were special-strong, apparently - couldn't be cured the normal way. Tried all sorts of medications, they did – didn't work though. Very sad. Sad end fer such a great Hero. But at least he had a posh room in the Council Offices in his last years, and close friends to watch over him all the time... and a great send-off.”

“Indeed - how was the send off?” enquires Grökhoin.

“Aye – like a
Royal send off it were, almost a State funeral.” the guard continues, “The crowds were mostly respectful, too – some celebrated, 'cos of him shutting the mines back when he were Primary Minister. But it went off peaceful – all them Eastern mercenaries haven't been needed! The current Primary Minister, Lord Kamrin of Spiv, came up and said a few words too – 'We are all Hacker-ites now', he said. Very moving.” The guard wipes a tear from his eye. “Oh – and as a special honour, they had the biggest pyre ever and scattered his ashes straight away from the tallest mountain in this part of the Lortmils.”

“So, then – not traditional burial under stone, as Magyar wanted? No tomb at which to pay our respects?” demands the priest, face red with anger.

“Nay, too old-fashioned, apparently”, says the guard. “Kamrin and Mayor Cluggin say we must be
modern, like in the East.”

“And these Council Offices,” Grökhoin asks, finally, “Do they house the fabled
Refectory...?”

Having edged closer during the exchange, and returned somewhat to his senses, Makhan the dwarf comes to a
realization.
“Lord Grökhoin! Makhan Flint at your service...” he says. “I think your 'omeland 'as been
taken over - by forces of EVIL! But I know where to get 'elp...”

The officious gate-guard scuttles away and slams the door in the great gates - then yells through a flap:
“Grokhoin Fey-Bane! You and your troops may not enter! I believe you are
Enemies of the State! Surrender your weapons peacefully, and no-one need be hurt!”

Suddenly the battlements above bristle with dozens of crossbows - aimed by well-armoured warriors, a foot taller than your average dwarf...

-

Escaping the quarrels, Grökhoin listens to Makhan's tale as he leads them back north along the road – towards Foghollow and the Halls. Appreciating his fighting skill, the War-priest invites the young dwarf to join the Righteous Brothers troop, but the red-haired warrior is unsure. “I'll fight wi' you fer now, Lord Grökhoin. I 'ope to get back 'ome soon, tho'. Maybe your offer of 500gp of your own monies for Axe-Father Origol's church will 'elp bring Lord Faradin to 'is senses. Meantime, please tell me more about the One True Dwarven Faith...”

As they march, the War-Priest elaborates. “I always think 'worshipper' to be a bit too exclusive, especially for me as a cleric. A dwarf could have a patron deity perhaps, but have to take account of all the deities in our pantheon, even dark ones, who might need to be placated... sacrificing to Abbathor occasionally stops him taking something worse. Just my perspective.” he says.

Then continues, “As a true follower of Clanggedin Silverbeard, goblin killing could be both duty and fun. A duty certainly, since such races are tainted by a tend'ncy to evil, which is overcome only by exceptional individuals of that race. Killing for killings' sake is an evil, and should be resisted, however. But it is quite acceptable to take pleasure in the thrill of overcoming the fears of combat, pride in stoic'ly enduring it's consequences, and satisfaction in one's skill-at-arms besting a worthy opponent. That could possibly be described as 'fun'. Ale, a good roast, and singing mining songs would be better though!”

Grökhoin sees his sermon has impressed Makhan. “Sounds good, eh Makhan? No Dwarf Cleric could object to your worship of Moradin. But just remember it's Clanggedin who hears your pleas over the din of battle...“

--------------------

THE DWARF WEDDING – AND FINALLY...

“...Seize him!” echoes the old priest-dwarf's cry around the Temple, but... “NO!” commands Durrl Filwhyr, the would-be groom. The guests pause and hold back. “Father Farvak, this
human....”

BOOM. [4d6:14 -7ap helm = 7 damage]

The helm explodes under Zelinus' vice-like grip. Many nearby dwarf guests are blown over and injured, but not seriously. Zelinus instinctively flattens to the marble floor and the main blast goes over him, only his hand being injured [½ Defence: 49, 4hp]. Durrl and Farvak are thrown back, the priest who was standing over Zel taking most of the force and landing badly, yards away. Again acting on instinct, Zelinus seeing the priest is seriously injured, races to him and at once lays a healing hand upon the dwarf's chest. Bones re-knit and the prostrate priest gasps his relief. Durll staggers over and, seeing Zelinus' own still-injured hand, shares a glance with the priest: “Father Farvak, this human... is of good heart. Let us hear his reasons for this seeming outrage.”

He sees Sword-Brothers Andersen et al successfully block the dwarf-assassins on the dais, til more guards overpower the assailants – and order is restored.

Then Zelinus explains.
[CHAx5 (110%): 08 - special]

The Sword-Lord is hailed as the hero of the hour, having saved all notables present from evil assassins, and his companions are guests of honour. (Though Zel is somewhat equivocal in acknowledging Geradil, so the dwarves keep the druid-elf bound and his bear is netted. And no-one notices Quidderil.)

High Priestess Ardinna tends Starag Morklist, the poisoned father-of-the-bride. He dismisses the concern of Cliara Filwhyr, the groom's mother, saying “I can take a scratch o'venom, I'm no weakiling Filwhyr!”; she retorts that she “Didn't want him showing off by dying.” The High Priestess just rolls her eyes.

Shortly afterwards the various assassin-dwarf prisoners collapse, leaving only piles of snow.

Zelinus is carried shoulder-high by the dwarven guards (i.e. about waist height) back up the stairway and out of the temple.

Suddenly, there is a screech from above:
Raaaak!”. A griffin alights by the procession, the dwarves drop Zelinus and (none having their crossbows) scatter. The fearsome creature rears over Zelinus, flexing its claws – and a parchment, and now-severed thong, fall to the ground beside him. Then the griffin, Swiftclaw, looks enquiringly down at Zelinus.

The parchment bears Sword-Father Clave's terse message:
“Zel - Gob army marching to you. Also one to here and one to Thrunch. Advise raise troops and dig in. Lady says Axe in orc hands atop hill 6 miles WSW Foghollow. Battle at last! Clave”

--------------------


ON THE ROAD TO FOGHOLLOW

Grökhoin Mak Tranin, the FeyBane, discusses matter further with Makhan, as they and the Righteous Brothers march west along the road leading past Foghollow to the Halls.

“I think the main purpose for our merry band will be to present ourselves at the Halls, to offer service for the forthcoming battle against the goblin horde.” says Grökhoin. “I am slightly suspicious, with all this talk of my homeland being 'subverted by the forces of evil'. I can't quite believe that as yet, Makhan, although you obviously do believe it.” he continues with good humour.

His companion Makhan tries to persuade him. “But iss
obvious...” he says. Corith was tekken over at Thrunch. An' now Faradin 'as been too! 'E'd never o' slung me out otherwise.” here the red-haired dwarf falters. “I'm sure of it!” he says, to convince himself as well as the priest. “Why else would Thrunch be crawlin' wi' half-orcs an' draped wi' black banners, eh? Yeah, okay, a funeral. But burnin' your great 'ero, wi' no proper burial in stone? An' 'im turning green an' bein' feebleminded? Too many coincidences, War-Father. There's one simple explanation – but you jus' don't want to think it 'cos it's too 'orrible...” Grökhoin halts the youthful dwarf-warrior's effusive babbling with a raised hand.

“I will discuss it with Lord Faradin and Lord Origol, assuming the opportunity is given, to enable me to utilize my religious knowledge and wisdom to discern any lies and sense true motives, to try to detect any subterfuge. You, Makhan, will be included in my cohort, as 'my new lieutenant', and if refused entry to the halls, we shall all turn away.” War-Priest Grökhoin concludes, fully intending to refrain from over-indulgence until the matters are resolved - but he is already having to endure the pangs of one forfeited feast...

“Lord Grökhoin!” calls the scout returning from the way ahead. “A goblin horde has joined the road ahead, and marches before us! We believe it is dividing, some taking the Foghollow road southward, the rest turning north along the trail we were to follow towards these 'Halls'. Which way do we go, my Lord? We await your orders.”

--------------------

[TonyH; Sunday, August 04, 2013]

Grökhoin will respond to the scout/messenger's news: "Not 'Lord', Lad - I've never been awarded lands and have always worked fur a living. Boys! Tend to your weapons and armour! Sharp blades, secure grips and sound straps! Looks like we'll be needing 'em afore too long. And, full your belly with oat-meal, One way or another, your next meal could be the hero's feast tomorrow eve!
[Warpriests have a spell of the same name, an enhanced 'create food and drink', in this case assumed to be the same as in a warrior afterlife].

Makhan! I would have your council. My memories of these lands are nigh a half-century old. To which battle should we march? Tell me your thoughts, as well as your gut feelings. Not only where is the need greatest, but where will our presence be of most effect? Time as it may be for us to fight the last battle, we should not seek a wasteful death - Glory will come to those who deserve it, and adhere to the warrior code, rather than those who seek it for it's own sake. Put aside your past loyalties and speak truely - while we may be best needed where you are not welcome, you owe no allegience to those who have spurned you, and should not seek them simply for past-times sake. Which road should we take?”

---

After much thoughtful stroking of his bushy red beard, Makhan replies: “South, to this place called Fog'ollow. 'Ooo knows if the Dwarf-folk there'll 'old against such an 'orde...” he says, eyeing the wide muddy trail churned by its passing.

“Aye, er...
Lieutenant Makhan,“ says the scout tentatively as the leaders approach, “We reckon ten thousand – five thousand going each way.”

“So where's the other twenty thousand, I wonder...? Makhan muses, then continues: “But one problem at a time, eh? Fog'ollow, I say, War-Father Grökhoin. The Thane 'Alls 'ave 'eld for years against a gobbo 'orde before now. The ravine leadin' to it is nigh-on impassable! That'll 'old 'em. An' meanwhile, the others'll figure out 'ow t'get Faradin an' Corith back t'normal – we've 'andled
demonic possession before – so no problem. Then we'll bash the rest o' the gobboes all together!”

War-Priest Grökhoin nods approval of this plan, and swiftly gives the order. The Righteous Brothers quick-march southward – to Foghollow, and to battle...!

--------------------


IN FOGHOLLOW

In Foghollow town square, just outside the Dwarf Temple, Sword-Lord Zelinus ponders Sword-Father Clave's note – and wrestles with his conscience. Heroic adventure calls, but how can he run off into the wilds, abandoning the folk of this town – now looking up to him as their saviour? So he turns to the dwarves, cautiously re-emerging, to advise they gather everyone into the defensible Temple...

But just then – a miracle! All turn to the sounds of well-ordered marching and, soon, over a hundred dwarven warriors march into the square!

Ignoring Zelinus, the troops halt in front of the gaggle of erstwhile wedding-guest notables, now attempting to regain their dignity. The cohort leader, flanked by well-armed guards, steps forward and addresses the magic-user of the group:

“Mayor Sherwynd, I and my command have come to Foghollow, by order of Thrunch Metropolitan District Council, when we learned of a
terrorist plot. I see that, as we heard from some citizens leaving town, a racist terror incident has indeed taken place. Do not be concerned, as I am now here to take charge and restore order. Everyone return to your homes! Members of Clans Filwhyr and Morklist will be escorted to their clan holds by Militia Peacekeepers of my command. Every priest is to remain in their own private temple quarters until questioned. Militia Peacekeepers will protect them and maintain the curfew, for public safety, until my investigations are complete. Allow me to introduce myself – Commissioner-General Aliz Kleinkey, temporary governor of Foghollow during this state of emergency.”

“Oh – and those present not domiciled in the town are under arrest, and must surrender their weapons –
at once!"

---
[PeterW; Saturday, November 09, 2013]

Zelinus, having been in the process of advising Foghollow's notables, is standing close enough to hear the corrupt Kleinkey's ill-intentioned speech. Words like 'terrorist' and 'racist' grate on his nerves and he grits his teeth, waiting politely for them to conclude their prepared spin.

At their introduction, however, his eyes blaze with recognition - and when they demand that he and his men surrender their weapons righteous anger stirs in his breast. For a moment, however, he controls himself. His own voice raised to be audible to all, he takes a bold stance against the slimy politician, answering their demands with a veneer of calm before calling his men to ready themselves to face this new and unexpected opponent.

"Sif and her followers are more than willing to acknowledge legitimate authority. Let it not be said otherwise. Men! Present arms!"

The Sword-lord takes his own greatsword in hand, resting the tip on the ground as he goes on.

"But in my country, it is not customary to put the victims of an assault under house arrest for having the temerity to live through it, and I have difficulty believing in the justice of any system that does. The loyal clans of Filwhyr and Morklist have suffered today, the Morklists in particular having one of their fair daughters kidnapped on what should have been the happiest day of their life. The culprits may have fled the town with her - and I am astounded that you did not stop the people you met-" and here the Paladin sneers with obvious distaste "-by chance, of course, fleeing the scene of their so-called 'Terror Incident'."

Zelinus then levels the point of his blade at the offending dwarf. "I care not what lies you told your followers to get them to leave their families to the tender mercies of the horde moving even now to destroy Thrunch. I care not that you failed to warn the loyal dwarves of Foghollow of the 'Terrorist Plot' you learned of. I don't even care that you must have had long enough to muster troops and march here all without sending a messenger ahead to warn of your arrival. I only care that this town and as many of its people as possible survive, and I will not let anyone stand in my way of protecting it. Not even you... Private Kleinkey. Fall in with the rest of the men."

[OOC: Roll of 33 for Oratory(Success)/Charisma(x2)/Whatever appropriate to cow Kleinkey and/or rally the people against the newcomer.]

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In an instant, the Sword Brothers' blades are bristling with Zelinus' own. Kleinkey stumbles hurriedly backward into his troops ranks. Those close around him, the best armed and armoured, ready their weapons; but those to the right stand unsure, muttering (
...did he say 'destroy Thrunch'...?”); and those to the left fail to contain their mirth, some laughing openly at the General's discomfiture.

However, now protected, Kleinkey quickly recovers composure, and denounces the defiant human: “This interloper lies! He is the enemy! A fanatic extremist, slave to an alien demon of war! It is he who is...” but the rest is drowned by a growing cacophony of cries from the gathered Dwarves.

No, Son Aliz. The Mother of Safety will protect us in her Temple Home – not you.” “What, was that all staged...?” “YOU let them take Runa?? You little...” “Mother! Let me handle this.” “This shambles was a Morklist trick to embarrass us Filwhyrs. They put that goblin in her place!” “Filwhyr is just another word for filth. Can't even call those critters dwarves...“ “Putting Mordag's dog in Soma's cradle was a little funny...” “Let's get inside the Morklist's stronghold, and find Runa. They're hiding her somewhere!” “I'm glad them Morklists got killed collapsing our mine! The only good...” “...Too ornery for pack mules, and too ugly for dogs. Must be cockroaches...” “It's a deliberate Morklist insult!”“Them Filwhyrs has gone too far this time!” “Everild Filwhyr used her evil sorcery to turn Runa int'a goblin – that's too much!” “There can be no peace between the clans after this!” “It wasn't me! I wasn't even here!” “...but why'd that witch do it, Ennior?” “Always 'ad 'er eye on Durrl, Starag...” “Cliara is honourable, but the rest of her clan...” “Good people, perhaps it is best to return home. Temple guards could escort...”

Would-be Groom, curate Durrl Filwhyr, pushes his irate mother Cliara behind him and stands forward. “SILENCE!” he bellows, and momentarily all is quiet. “Thank you, Commissar. Our
duty is clear – defend Foghollow from enemies. So we must be sure who is our enemy. If you would be so kind, Mother...?” And he steps aside allowing Cliara, matriarch of the Filwhyr clan, to draw forth a wand and – pointing it straight at Zelinus - mutter a word...

That's old mother Filwhyr's enemy-stick...” whispers a bystander. Reckon she jus' points it at 'oo she don't like...” replies another.

All eyes turn to her, garbed in clothing of the finest fabrics adorned with furs and jewels, and the wand seems to pulse magically. Immediately, it drags her arm around to a shuddering halt pointing directly at... Commissioner-General Kleinkey, amid his troops.

Those of Cliara's clan draw their ceremonial weapons and turn the same way, stony-faced.
Filthy Filwhyr tricks – don't fall for it! Morklists – to arms!” yells one from the other clan's end of the crowd, and they too ready axes – but toward their erstwhile fellow wedding-guests. Starag, Morklist clan-head calls out “Cliara! My people want Filwhyr blood and I can't hold them back forever, even should I want to. Stop your foolery!”
Mayor Sharwynd also speaks: “Put away your weapons, everyone! Let no more blood be spilled over this old-time Feud! First of all we must find out what has truly happened – to act recklessly now would be most foolish.”
High Priestess Ardinna then announces “This human stranger is a good man. I feel sure Divine Providence has sent him to protect us and our homes. The Temple, Priests, Guards and I are at his disposal. Those of True Faith should be also.”

Kleinkey fumes and shouts back: “Listen to your Mayor, folk of Foghollow! Not these deluded clerics, who show base disloyalty and contempt for the democratic will of the people of Ulek! My Peace Force will now briefly withdraw, and wait for you to see reason. Do not take long! Reinforcements will come soon – then justice will be done to any individuals fooled into rebellion.”
At a signal, his troops about-face and quickly march away - but just his core company. Those on the flanks remain - one laughing, the other halted by their Captain: “Company – Halt! I think we're needed here to 'Keep the Peace', lads. Volunteers only though. Any of you wanting to go with the 'General' is free to do so. Fall out, and get after him at the double!” Quite a few do, but most stay.

As Kleinkey's 'elites' withdraw, the remaining companies' Captains approach Zelinus, who is now joined by Durrl Filwhyr and High Priestess Ardinna. Elsewhere the Mayor, Siegrieda Sharwynd a human woman, is engaged in heated debate with officers of the town guard. Then they too come over to join the group around Zelinus – leaving the despairing mayor, head in hands.
“99th Thrunch Infantry Company...” “and the 38th Thrunch...” “...and Foghollow City Militia!” “...reporting for duty, General, Sir!”


---

Mere minutes later, the guards of Foghollow's north road come running into the square. “Klunkey's got
gobboes! FAASANDS of 'em!”, one pants. ...They are coming!”

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BATTLE AT THE HALLS OF FARADIN THANE

In misty pre-dawn darkness, the scanty forces of the Halls are arrayed along a ridge,
outside the entrance ravine. By Lord Faradin's order the inner gateway defence is abandoned for open battle, “as Clanggedin intended”. A hapless brigand of Captain Brazuro's brigade having been declared 'Traitor' and summarily crucified (upside-down) for laughing at the recklessness of the angry dwarf-lord's decision, none remaining dare question the wisdom of this deployment. Lord Faradin, with his most loyal Axe-Father Origol and Captain Corith RuneAxe, in the centre; Sword-Father Clave with Mistress Claudia, Mage Zapp and Captain Guntha Haig leading the Dwarf Mercenaries on the left flank; and the dwarven Hold Guard under Captain Gromok on the right (plus Sir Geradil's Irregulars – led by Dwarf-Man Dan and Bardess Absinthé in his absence – at the end).

The goblin hordes can be heard advancing through the dark forest somewhere below. Eventually dim shapes emerge, on the extreme right, the Irregulars' flank – wolf riders! The vast mass of goblin hordes lurk just beyond view on the southward track. In the centre, savage red orcs march out from the forest, beside Goblin-King Akhil GreatAxe himself, with his pet wizard and personal bodyguards. And – The Axe!

The red orcs form up in line below the ridge. Akhil's human wizard bombards the Hold Guard above with witchery, but they hold firm. Lord Faradin moves away to bolster the other flank.

The Goblin King shadows the Dwarf Lord, all the while his wizard cravenly casting from afar – but to no effect. Faradin joins Clave among the Mercs – and, as dawn breaks, leads the charge! Down the slope at the gathered goblin hordes already discomfited by crossbow-shot -
Baru Khazad! Khazad ai-menoo!” - and crash upon their ranks, hacking and scattering them by the hundred. But more, many more, advance through the forest, ready to take their place. And the Goblin King closes in on the dwarves now-exposed side, his wizard aiming more and more terrible magics at the dwarf leader...

Away at the far end of the dwarven line Dwarf-Man Dan can stand being slowly stalked by wolves no longer. The lifting mist finally reveals the enemy – and he too charges down, upon the savage orcs massed below! His companions follow. The Irregulars drive the orcs back - initially – but there are too many, and the small group of heroes will soon be overwhelmed.

However, then Captain Gromok leads the Hold Guard into the fray! They too charge down from their secure position and join the Irregulars, hewing the enemy side-by-side. Many orcs fall to the dwarven blades, and the orcish war-bands falter...

To the west, a company of the Dwarf Mercs bravely turns to block Goblin King Akhil's advance upon Lord Faradin's flank. They find themselves facing the legendary
Fierce Axethe Axe of the Dwarvish Lords! Each swing of the holy blade blasphemously slices dwarf flesh, hewing dwarven limbs from their bodies, and they die by dozens – in the way most grievous to their Creator.

The dwarf-lord hears their screams and pleas above the din of battle. He turns and rushes to face to the huge goblin king. Lord Faradin Thane strikes a heroic pose, standing over the bodies of fallen dwarves, defending them from further desecration, commanding his companions “Stay back! This is a foe beyond any of you!”.

“Too close, too close! We must get away!” squeak the several images of Akhil's greasy little wizard, dancing away behind well-armed bodyguards.
Eradicate the vermin!” shrieks the human, and a goblin lieutenant hefts a fizzing thunder-pot. King Akhil leaps unnaturally high, over his guards, bringing the Fierce Axe straight down at Faradin – who stands transfixed. Origol's thrown battle-axe whirls sparkling by, taking the lieutenant's upraised arm - the pot falls behind the wizard and... BOOM! Deflected by the explosion, Akhil crashes down. Faradin glares at Origol with cold grey eyes, glinting like sword steel, then looks back down at his injured foe. Just in time to see the muttering wizard, crawling with a foot missing, reach out and touch the Goblin-King – then both vanish.

Without their great leader, the goblins and remaining orcs lose heart and flee the field. Faradin's forces have won a great victory! After this, none will now think to question the authority of the Chosen One of Clanggeddin. Everyone cheers, except he -
The Axe was within his reach but is now gone.

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BATTLE AT FOGHOLLOW

The noon-day sun shines down, but Commissioner-General Aliz Kleinkey uncaringly orders the mercenaries of his Peace Force forward. No time must be wasted liberating the town of Foghollow from the alien demon-worshipping fanatics, who have illegally mind-controlled many of its citizens. Their disloyalty (which the town is infamous for) must predispose them to such influence. He resolves to mention this point in his report.

So the goblin hordes swarm along the road to the town, blinking against the harsh detested sun - but eager to taste dwarf-meat. Blood-soaked red orc warriors lead the way, directly towards the central Temple – where defenceless dwarven townsfolk rush for sanctuary – the 'Reds' hope to bathe again soon. Meanwhile, wolf-riders look down hungrily from foothills to the west.

A small formation of dwarves holds the road. Kleinkey's erstwhile command, the 38th & 99th Thrunch Companies, the Foghollow Town Guards, and over-dressed warriors of the Filwhyr clan, but lately from the wedding. Behind them, High Priestess Arlinna and her clerics protect the north-western approaches, flanked by her Temple Guards and the intractable Morklists (the latter only grudgingly serving, due to the clear and present goblin threat, and stern words from the dubiously-appointed human general). Elven druid hero Sir Geradil Courana, with his bear companion and a servant, graciously aids the High Priestess, while Priestess Cliara (Filwhyr matriarch, gladly away from feud-enemy Morklists) and old-timer Priest Farvak accompany General Sword-Lord Zelinus Duetti and his Sword Brothers.

As soon as Kleinkey's army comes within view of the defenders, a horrific demonic creature emerges from the ground – the Abomination of Diirinka! “Loyal troops of democratic Ulek – fear not!” says the Commissioner, tucking a small angular jewel into his pocket. “The alien extremist invader enemy cannot control the demon he has summoned! See, this horror has turned against them!” His dwarven guards remain impassive; some nearby orcs roll their eyes.

At once, Zelinus heroically rushes the monstrous abomination and engages it. Cliara Filwhyr gasps in horror at this mythical beast from dwarf legend; Farvak the Old mutters about the “Axe” and begins reciting a long doggerel, perhaps a spell to ward the monster off. After fighting it back and forth a while, the beast disappears into the ground – only to re-emerge across the battlefield, attacking the dwarf soldiers of the 99th! Several brave but unfortunate dwarves are seized and horribly drained, then discarded as husks bereft of life-force. Abandoning his command, Zelinus sprints across the battle-lines with his magic boots and smites the Abomination – which sinks into the ground and is gone once more. “Too easy” Zel thinks, and sprints back to his post.

In the meantime, the Red Orcs have outflanked the line of dwarven defenders and entered the town itself! Gangs of bloodthirsty orcs rush the temple – but are pluckily held off by the defenders, led by Mayor Sharwynd, paralyzing many with her wand (which were then slain were they stood by outraged dwarves).

The mass of the goblin army advances, grinding into the dwarven defensive line. The wolf-riders charge howling down off the hillside to attack the priestly contingent, but are held off, then slain; the Morklists venting their anger against supporting goblin mobs. On the town outskirts, dwarf soldiers engage fierce orcs house-to-house – and many on both sides are slain in the vicious fighting. Disadvantaged, squinting under the high sun, many goblins fall – but so do many dwarves. Too many – and the defenders are nearly overrun. Sword Zelinus & his Brothers battle heroically but cannot be everywhere. The 99th fall, the Laughing 38th are trapped and fall - to Kleinkey's vengeful delight – many Foghollow Guardsmen fall, and the rest are scattered.

Then, at long last, down the road rush the Righteous Brothers of the Western Marches, War-Priest Grökhoin mak Tranin and his new Lieutenant Makhan Flint leading. Zelinus sees their glorious foolhardy march, but the general does not join his dwarven troops in cheering. And so it goes – more goblins follow the newcomers, and ambush them – swiftly they are surrounded and cut down. The dwarves of Foghollow are close to breaking. Commissioner-General Kleinkey, perhaps sensing his victory may be near, orders his dwarf guards to attack – skillfully manoeuvering amidst his goblin mercenary hordes to engage Zelinus' Sif-ites directly. Kleinkey is no inspirational hero, though – only a bureaucrat. Urged on by Zel, the Sword Brothers make short work of the Commissioner's guards – who himself does not even fight, but cravenly flees!

In short order, thus leaderless under the bright sun, the Ulek army's goblin troops likewise flee. Many Righteous Brothers lie dead, and Grökhoin injured with broken ribs from a blow which luckily avoided piercing his heart. But others manage to fight on, including Makhan despite a wounded right forearm, protecting the fallen from goblins routing past back up the road north.

The defenders of Foghollow have taken heavy losses but, under Zelinus' leadership, the day is won. As War-Priest Grökhoin later says from his stretcher: “It was a damned close-run thing”.

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END OF PART ONE. The Adventure of the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords continues in Part Two...