Torchmen of the Dwimordelve

Contested Corridors, Part 2

From the rice farms to the catacombs of the Wolfscar Clan, here we are. We two, once three, missing Dillus, the poor boy — brave as he was, I couldn’t rescue him and Mondaal both from the tri-headed hell-dogs. It feels so long ago now, but I’ll never forget the screams, the growls and the yips — kobolds and dogs both, and that evil trap of theirs. But I’m getting lost in the reverie; this is a tale for the moment.

Here we are, so improbably, with a clan of orcs — pig-headed man-beasts that they are — but I’ll grant they make a good stew. Put some of it down myself. Full of all sorts of interesting spices and scents. Turned my head but for a moment and the Bootwhip was hovering over the bowl looking ill. Could swear it tasted a bit more flavorful after that. Who knew orcs could make such a filling meal?

I’m getting lost again. We spent some nights traveling with this caravan of a clan, moving as they were into a better spot to strike at their hated enemies, the goblins. All but the fourth night, of course, as that was rutting night. I dare not repeat here the travails of being in earshot and eyeshot of such sordid revelry, though little Pimpernel seemed undue fascinated by the acts. Perhaps he’s studious of shamanistic rituals, as I am — Oxtix approves of getting all the senses involved, especially the smells. The glorious smells! The scents I never had the chance to encounter back on the rice farm, except when Dillus — well, nevermind that, and speak not ill of the dead.

The fifth night, trouble brewed instead of stew. Woken ill from our slumber in the ‘beds’ of hay — I’ve had a night or two in the stables, and what they gave us was no bed — we were parceled weapons and encouraged to fight. Up to the sight of a row of orcish buttocks did we sprint, only to find their opponents not the goblins we’d hoped, but a band of humans! Just as we arrived we heard the shrill scream of one of their number cut down — Norrington, I was later to learn of his name — and then as the clash of metal rang around us we were forced with a moment’s decision. Cut down our own to stay with the orcs, or turn the tide positioned as we were to stab them, quite literally, in the backs?

Once we realized Brogan and Krogan were among them, the choice was made. Pervince, our dashing halfling, bladed blossoms of black blood with his knives while Jack the Bootwhip, curious name, put on dark displays of a different sort with a cutting beam of obsidian unlight that ripped through one of the fighting line and struck him down. I remember only that one of the dwarves — Brogan, I think — charged with a terrible battle cry only to slip in the muck of the blood already shed, and then I made to cast a spell on Diego, our fighter — then all gets hazy and I’m standing in a pool of orcish vitae with a blood-soaked spear in my hands some twenty yards from where I’d stood before, the battle won. One orc remained, who seemed willing to parley — apparently he’d turned on his own beforehand to secure himself a better position in the tribal culture. Such curious beasts, these! He ordered us not to loot the bodies — I noticed Diego helping himself anyway — and told us he would ritually burn the corpses and tell us we won despite a grotesque slaughter of orcs. I saw not how this would turn will in our favor, but what other choice did we have but to strike him down and set out alone? So we complied, Hernandius engaging in the surprising support of sundering Norrington’s dead head from his shoulders and taking it back with us to provide a boost of support for our story.

Unfortunately, this orc — a runty thing by their standards, and of the name Cur Dirtnap — had either little skill in politicking or had suffered some concussion from the battle, as his best explanation for the gathering orcs as to our deeds was “Trust Humans! Humans good!” Even our outsiders’ perception could see this was about to get ugly, especially seeing as how we were now sheltering a pair of orc-despised dwarves. Thankfully, in a shuffle of bone-encrusted robes, Orchimedes dispelled the building ire with a wave of his hand and a gesture of support for us. “Kill orc, kill goblin, kill human,” he growled, “not matter. Gruumsh say these destined to help us.” With the threat of orcish dismemberment dispelled, our day went much better from there.

We left with the scrawny orc Cur towards the home of the Wolfscar Tribe. Along the way, he expanded upon his plans. “Cur smallest of Dirtnaps,” he muttered in the echoing halls of the caverns, “but among goblins, he biggest. Cur take over tribe of goblins instead, rule over, steal their magic,” and here he spoke of the magic the orcs claimed supported the goblin tribe and kept the orcs from wiping them out as they felt should have happened long ago. We had little time to go into more detail when from above, death dropped. Crab spiders!

The devilish things, likely some wizard’s cross between the two species, hulked each nearly our size and sported venomous clawtips. Of sheer luck, Hernandius glanced up in time to drop into a roll out of the way of the one hovering over him, and we waged a brief and ichor-stained war for the hexagonal room in which the monstrous creatures laired.

Trial by fire must have tempered our fighters considerably, as we cut down the beasts without a single gruesome injury. Jack the Bootwhip failed a spell rather spectacularly — the first failure I’ve seen him suffer, curse mine own smoke-eared luck — and turned a rather glossy shade of shimmery oilslick. So far, it hasn’t seemed to wear off of him. We’ll have to be careful to keep him hidden when trying to stay out of sight in the future. Either way, he made up for his mistake with a skillful — or lucky — sling stone that punctured straight into the center of one of the crab spiders, dropping it like a sack of very dangerous, poisoned spines, and leaving Diego to finish it with a downward thrust.

So far we had evaded any ill fate. This goaded Hernandius into a shameful display of hubris which the universe promptly punished. In the next hall we did find a shadowed, evil beast of unspeakable horror — a chimera, if my lore comes to me correctly — a three-headed monster of human, leonine, and draconian heads. It left us alone — alone!, to think of it, in a place this dangerous. At least, until Hernandius tried to shoot it with an arrow.

Praise the dwarves, and especially Brogan, rest his metallic soul, for they held the line until we could flee. Brogan died crushed under the evil grip of this soundless teratomorph, his sword snatched by his brother who promised vengeance. Hope springs eternal, so the saying goes, but I do not think we will strike down such a beast anytime soon.

I am told my time to write comes to an end here, for I’ve gone on rather overmuch in the story. So we will say that we stayed to rest and remember a short time in a dingy closet of sorts, beside a roomful of gargoyle statues perched upon pillars, and allow another to take up the task of scribing in my place. I must study hard, for ill luck or no, I will defeat this curse that prevents me from casting any magic spells successfully. How can I say I am a wizard without more than puffs of ash and periods of black-out?

Ah well. We all bear trials, and I should be grateful I do not rest yet with Dillus.


Contested Corridors, pt. 1

It was another normal morning like any other. We were all asleep, Diego was keeping watch. Out from the hills he heard the sound of a flute being played, all of a sudden his feet started to dance, he was not able to control himself. Soon Tobyn appeared playing this magical flute. Behind him was a strange looking jackalope, whose name was Henry. When he entered the cave playing the flute we were all dancing wildly without any control! My Halfling friend Pervince, immediately saw the value of such a magical flute, and traded the boy for it.

Tobyn mentioned he saw Hagatha walk into Stonehell. Isn’t she dead? We gathered up our belongings and headed off to Stonehell again in search of riches. On our way to Kobold Corner, we saw a strange hairy ball roll across the floor. We did not think much of it, but some time later, this ball bumped into Goatboot’s boot. He picked it up, and Tobyn recognized it as Hagatha’s head! Even though the head was detached from her body, it still looked around at all of us as if it she were still alive! Goatboot tied Hagatha’s head to the end of his staff (like a madman) and we continued on our way.

We made our way back to the incineration room that we helped make so deadly on an adventure prior. We covered our eyes, and felt our way across the edges of the room, taking extra caution not to step too close towards the center. As we left that room, we heard some jabbering, and screams of what sounded like a horse. We got within viewing distance to see a group of goblins dismembering a pony that was tied up. Jackknife was the first to initiate battle with these wicked creatures. He summoned a magic missile the likes of which I’ve never seen: a black beam of light manifested from his hand as two more soared up in the air and dove at their target, blowing the goblin captain to oblivion! The helmet of the captain rolled to the ground, sending a few of the nearby goblins into a frenzy for the “crown”. Needless to say we slew most of the goblins with relative ease, save two of the devils who boasted speed and awareness like I’ve not seen. They bounced around the room from, hands to feet, as if they’d been fighting their entire lives. One ran off before we could react, while the other was somehow able to nimbly bounce around all of our blows before back-flipping out of sight.

After the battle we noticed a few sacks on the ground. Opening them up, we found a strange fellow with an even stranger way of talking. At his side was a gnome, who seemed to be his companion, and surly looking orc. The orc claimed his tribe (the Open Sores) would be able to help us find Kobold Korners. We joined him, but with caution; this orc’s tribe was the same that Goatboot had goaded into combat in the week past. The man and his gnome agreed to join us as they were lacking protection or equipment of their own. At the request of the group, Goatboot wrapped himself in a cloak and set his walking stick out of the hole where one would put their head, appearing as if Hagatha was with us. Goatboot would be safe from recognition.

As we approached the Open Sore tribe’s camp, the orcs tried to strip us of all our weapons. Only the halflings, the ones the orcs believed to be children, were able to hold our weapons. When the orcs asked for a leader of our group, Jackknife stepped forward, but quickly shied away upon realizing that he was being called forth for combat. Coward. I bodly stepped forward to face this challenge.

As one of the orcs was giving the details of combat, I turned around to face an ugly gargantuan of an orc putting on plate mail. It was evident that I was meant to face this monster. As the rules of combat were being explained to me, I notched an arrow and let it fly. Swift and true, my arrow met its mark. It hit the behemoth square between the eyes, killing him instantly. All of the other orcs trembled in fear as I was invited into the tent of Orchimedes. Before entering the tent, I strode over to the dead orc and pulled my arrow out of his skull. I wiped the arrow tip off with my shirt and put it back in my quiver.

Inside the tent, Orchimedes told of a great guardian that watched over the entrance to Kobold Korners. It would be foolish to enter according to his account.

Instead he made a proposition. He wanted us to enter the goblin tribe’s territory and kill their Lord of Eyes, a recently established benefactor of sorts. This Lord of Eyes was said to be supplying the goblins with strange magics. Orchimedes seemed to believe that killing the Lord of Eyes would not only give the orcs the upper hand over the goblins, but also grant us access to Kobold Korners.

We were given Orchimedes’ word that the tribe escort us to the lair of the goblins. I accepted these terms on behalf of my friends. Orchimedes offered me a few bits of advice, one in particular standing out: “Trust your strength.” I exited the tent and returned to my fellows for the evening’s activities. For the orcs, it was time to celebrate. It was time to rut.


The Rabble is Roused, pt. 2

From the journal of Pimpernell Bangbottom

After 30 temultuous days spent in that sweaty pit, The Cudgel, the weaker members of our troupe had recovered their health and appeared ready, albeit wary, to resume our task. As we finished one last pint of effervescent swill, a small band of hoodlums invited themselves into our conversation. We quickly learned of a shared interest; of the five of them, Goatboot the magic-man and Roderick the brute were not only familiar with our employer Mr. Gnast, they were on his payroll as well! I think. The details are fuzzy…

As I’ve mentioned, there were three more wanderers at our table. Mandaal MacGarus, the unsuccessful jeweler; Bingles, the Smoke-Eared rice farmer; and Dillus, yet another rice farmer. Apparently all the rice farmers in our famine-stricken land have taken to plotting around, stealing coin from goblins.

The lot of us set out toward The Yard that same day, aiming to dig around in the dark of Stonehell again. Meeting the gatehouse first, Roderick suggested we take a look inside. He produced a badly drawn map of the area and waltzed right over the derelict portcullis. After dodging a few arrows from the dog-men who had evidently taken up residence there, we found ourselves in a long yet narrow hall.

Further exploration of the area revealed a kennel of sorts, filled with large dogs…dogs that had not one, not two but three heads! The unbelievable things we’ve seen so early in our adventure… I believe it was Mumbles who said…well nothing really as he provoked these hellish beasts into a frenzied charge. Whilst this battle ensued, Roderick spied a stairway leading upward to a pack of dog-men, likely the same group responsible for the torrent of arrows moments prior. He took poorly to their jeering and caviliered headlong up the stairs, his weapon waving about.

I feel it an appropriate time to disclaim…not one of us had the wherewithal to fight off the nine gnashing mouths of our canine foes, the steel of the dog-men that entered the fight without even my knowledge and tend to silly poor Roderick’s mortal wound. What wound? The same wound that one would expect to incur after a mechanical scythe comes screaming out of the wall beside them and lops off the very top of their person. It seems the dog-men are capable tricksters and trap-makers. We’ll not forget that stairway’s peril… Roderick’s head was intact, short the top inch of it anyhow. He bled out rather quickly. We sent him off with a burial befitting a brave brute, but more on that to come.

Steel clashed, dogs yelped and then…Victory! We had bested all of our canine-type foes nary an injury, save the farmers…and a few others.

It was at this time that a peculiar sight appeared at the top of the dreaded stairway: a dog-man riding on the back of what we could only guess was the enraged mother of the demon-dogs we had dispatched. Yes, indeed they were but pups. The rider called out his demands of us, the beast made hers. After failing to find a diplomatic solution to this situation (no, dog-man, we’ll not leave someone behind for you and your pet to munch on), the gargantuan monster lost her heads in anger and charged down the stairs. The dog-man also lost his head (Ha!) as the same scythe that sheared Roderick’s life from atop his self made an encore appearance.

Our group quickly divided as the wiser fled and the…bolder stood their ground.

Moments later we could hear the valiant screams of our comrades echoing all the way to the dismantled portcullis outside. We honored their decisions and memories as best we could by remaining outdoors, leaving their fate in their own surely-capable hands. Five brave men were taken from us in that dreadful gatehouse. Oh! Not to mention poor Tobyn, our porter. Unable to bear the silence after the screams of his new friends ceased, the boy ran inside in an attempt to drag them out and dishonor their final decision to stay and fight. We desperately tried to dissuade him but…alas, the vigor of youth…

I must be honest, I will miss John Turnip and his hen. Having a fresh egg breakfast whilst adventuring certainly is the only way to do it.

Come morning, our camp was greeted by a pair of dwarven brothers, Brogen and Krogen, and their mighty steeds…two goats that would’ve made a lovely first breakfast. This stout duo quickly joined our cause upon learning of our intent to crawl around in their Dwimordelve. They were eager to find some other stone-man that they seemed fond of. After introducing us to their cave home and gifting myself and Perv with two shiny sets of dreadfully heavy armor, we were off into the dark.

Our new friends knew their way around those tunnels quite well, and agreed to lead us in the direction of Kobold Korners. After an unfortunate affair with a snake and a rather large pile of refuse, we encountered an odd looking room: a walkway around the perimeter, a pit in the middle. Brogen took the lead as he revealed a deadly mechanism involving fire and pain, directed at the pit.

It was at this same moment that a small troop of orcs discovered us.

There were three or four of them. They were surely outnumbered, but this was no place for heroics. That sour fellow, Jackknife, wasted no time in revealing the shiny ball of a treasure that he and his friend recovered from our first visit to this underworld. “LOOK AWAY FROM THE PIT!” he screamed as he hurled the thing into that same pit. I can’t tell you what happened after that with all certainty, but I have a reasonable idea. We listened as they discovered their most wonderful desires down in that pit. Orc after orc met a very loud and painful death. Too loud in fact.

More orcs poured in. Bigger ones. We remained blissfully ignorant to the awful trap we had laid. The second murder of orcs lost one of their lot immediately to the pit. My ears told me the rest promptly fled, so we foolishly pursued. Only a moment later, we met them again, but this time with our backs to an unexplored hall. Our rogueish magic-man, Goatboot, began whispering mutterings of evil in the halls behind us, so we resolved to press forward into the spears of those herculean orcs.

Incredible feats were performed that day as we successfully pushed back the orcs, owing in no small part to the might of our dwarven friends, Brogen and Krogen, and yours truly. It was during this encounter that I first noticed the fireballs pouring forth from Goatboot’s hands…they looked strangely like steel daggers. I’m beginning to wonder about our friend’s mystical abilities.

Regardless, the orcs were turning to run, their leader dismayed, when that same Goatboot began mocking their fallen warriors. To arms! Again. No matter. The now broken party of orcs was quickly on its heels again after another round of thrashings.

We’d now grown accustomed to the taste left in one’s mouth from licking one’s own wounds. The outcome of this battle revealed many fallen orcs, two dreadfully wounded humans (a rice farmer and a jeweler) and one very dead Lartek of the Baneful Moon. The odds of death in this adventure were growing by the day, it would seem. After wandering through those horrible halls for hours, we returned to the cave home of the stone-men.

A fire was built, meals were eaten and a decision was made; I’ve chosen to risk my life no more on these foolish adventures. Ensuring Pervince’s safety and sharing in his profits is more than enough risk-taking. I’ll continue on these undertakings, but I’ll let Pervince do all the killing; a gentleman’s hands should not be stained with blood.

The Rabble is Roused, pt.1

It was a cold night in Skara Brae, where the nine of us sat in The Cudgel talking to a man named Zorrel Gnast. He was offering a job, an adventure into the ruins of Stonehell. Our reward? A fortune.

In the remains of a Dwarven prison to the north, there was said to be a Manifest Stone of great power, an artifact that contained the divine essence of 1/8th of all the love in the world… or so he said. I usually have no use for such folly, but this man was willing to pay handsomely for it.

Normally, a group of only nine normal men wouldn’t dare adventure for such a frivolous treasure, but these are hard times. Many of us had no source of income. The wild game I am used to hunting this season have all migrated somewhere else, leaving me no choice but to go on this fool’s errand in search of fortune.

So the nine of us set out to earn our reward; Pimpernel and Pervince Bangbottom (two half-men), Jackknife the Bootwhip, Mumbles (a mute), Lartek of the Bainful Moon, an urchin affectionately labeled Urchin, Blick Shammerhall, John Turnip, and I. An excitable young lad named Tobin led the way, a porter on loan from The Cudgel.

Along the way, we saw a few figures in standing outside, even guarding, the entrance to Stonehell…the very maw we meant to venture into. They did not appear hostile, but in the name of prudence, only three of our group were sent to greet them.

At this time I thought it a sound idea to provide arrow-fire from a nearby thicket of trees, just in case this encounter went awry. To my surprise, after entering the thicket and finding a suitable perch, I looked down at my feet to find no feet at all, but a massive tree trunk. This was the first time I had ever seen any magic, so I was quite shocked. Not long after, an arrow screamed past my head. I slowly started to back out of the forest when I took an arrow… not to the knee, but right to my face! I thought this first day was the end of my adventuring days for sure. Luckily, after falling to the ground in agony, I somehow managed to escape that cursed forest, barely clinging to life.

Upon crawling out of the thicket, my cohorts dragged me to safety and tended to the arrow protruding from my cheek. Though not in the greatest of dispositions after my rather painful encounter, I was quickly introduced to three Dwarves, the same guardians I spied prior. They were apparently comfortable enough with my friends by now to speak openly of the perils to be discovered in the depths of “The Dwimordelve”, what we know to be Stonehell.

They rambled for a time about a prince of theirs that had gone missing within the depths of this prison. One of them even agreed to guide us through the dark hell after we promised to find their lost stone-man.

And so, we entered the well fashioned mouth of the cavern…and descended.

One of the first rooms we entered was filled with a long table piled high with food, and a roaring fire behind a rather busy looking bugbear who was seated at the far end of the table. As the beast gorged himself on the delights before us, we were requested to enter and dine. Poor Poor Mumbles was the first to succumb to this accursed invitation. He was immediately ensnared by the smell of the feast and embarked on a crusade of consumption.

John Turnip and Blick quickly came to Mumbles’ rescue…or so they thought. Feeling compelled into the same business as our silent friend, John Turnip claimed his seat at the table and began to feed. Blick, however, overcame his urges. He called attention to a gilded looking-ball of sorts resting on the table. Even from the entrance of the room where I stood, I could clearly see the swirling shapes of two smokey-serpents EATING each other over and over again inside this sphere. Assuming this…thing was responsible for the obvious magic at work, Blick leapt at the device. Our host, the bugbear, snatched up his magical treasure with no hesitation and produced a wooden club of a rather intimidating stature. Meanwhile, we stood dumbstruck as we watched an entire entourage crawl out from under the table: a goblin, a kobold, and two orcs were now pawing at various articles of cutlery found on the great oaken table.

This was the first time most of us ever met the occasion to be stabbed.

After the dust had settled, the ancient and skeletal remains of our foes lay on the floor, to say nothing of the tapestries on the walls. Everything just sort of…fell apart after Blick Shammerhall seized the orb of swirly-serpents and stuffed it in a sturdy sack on loan from Jackknife the Bootwhip. The feast, the great and ornate hall dining hall, even our foes themselves all proved to be much…much older than they initially appeared. The facade had fallen. Bones turned to dust as we pilfered the silver cutlery gripped by the now-skeletal remains of our enemies. One of the half-men even had the nerve to make claim to a breadknife the very moment Urchin was removing it from his kidney!

Nursing many cuts and punctures from our encounter, we hastily returned to Skara Brae, not a copper richer, and sought lodging at The Cudgel. We decided to lick our wounds and save our luck for another day.



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