The companions, having rested for the night, get an early start. Their next stop is south in search of a secret entrance into the dwarven kingdom, Thorbardin. Gilthanas, Laurana, and Blaize volunteer to watch over the human refugees as they begin to break their encampment in the Hopeful Vale. The human refugees should begin heading south in a few days. The group decides to ride out ahead of the large throng to locate the entrance to the dwarven kingdom and seek permission from the dwarven thanes to shelter the refugees. Fizban the Fabulous, Elistan, Sestun, and Eben Shatterstone volunteer to join the companions.
The group is wary of allowing Eben Shatterstone to join, but between him and Elistan they control the majority of leadership authority over the human refugees. The group decides that leaving Eben Shatterstone with the refugees would be more of a problem as he could sway even more followers to his banner.
The group sets out and travels south between the river and western foothills. That evening, the party awakes to the strangled cries of Elistan.
Elistan is sweaty, disoriented, and out of breath. He keeps repeating, “He was there…” Finally, he begins to breathe more easily.
" I saw him. Verminaard . He had lost sight of us while we were in the Vale, and he demanded to know where we were. I refused to tell him." It seems clear that the details of the dream are beginning to get lost as he awakens fully.
He daubs his mouth with his sleeve, and the cloth comes away bloody. “You should have seen the other guy,” he says with a wry grin.
" I think he now knows that just as he does not travel alone, but bears the power of his Dark Queen with him, so we do not travel alone either."
The party is stunned at the revelation of the power struggle, but Mora is first to respond to the immediate concern of his bloody lip. As she dabs at the corners of his mouth, she notices his holy medallion glowing in the light of the moons. Almaia notices that her medallion is glowing as well. Suddenly, the silence is interrupted by Fizban who interject, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I seem to have misplaced my
The steepled cone of a wizard’s hat sits squarely on his head. The befuddled wizard blinks when they tell him the hat is on his head. He tears off the hat and walks away scolding the mouse-colored garment ferociously for hiding when it was clearly not the hats turn to hide.
The party traveled another day and made camp on the north bank of a river separating them from the southern mountain ranges. Their night was surprisingly uneventful considering their proximity to the Plains of Dergoth.
The next morning, the party is spending its last hour of camp either in prayer, study, or adjusting gear when they notice a stooped-old dwarf standing in the middle of camp. Donegin notices the man first and jumps to his feet. The dwarf stranger looks directly at Donegin and speaks. Although its lips move, the sound emanates from Donegin’s axe:
" Members of the Stonefist clan, I am Oldfather Stonefist, you’re progenitor. Hundreds of years ago, our clan was exploring the surface lands when Thorbardin sealed its mountain gates. The Dwarfgate War pitted hill and mountain dwarves against each other. The Council of Thanes saw fit to label any dwarf on the surface as Neidar. When our people returned to the mountain, we were denied entry. Cut off from our kinsmen, we had no choice but to live on the surface.
One by one I witnessed my Stonefist clansmen embrace life on the surface world. I never gave up. We are mountain dwarves! What is a mountain dwarf without a mountain?
I made numerous attempts to reenter Thorbardin, but none were successful. In my twilight years, when I felt the shadow of death approaching, I set out one last adventure – a fleeting hope. I sought our ancient dwarven ancestors, the Calnar, and the lost dwarven city of Thoradin.
I am sad to say that I found the city. The ruins and devastation brought upon it during the Cataclysm was enough to push me toward my final fate.
What you see before you is the last living vestiges of my life, my soul. My magical axe, which you now bear, grew in power over my many years and countless adventures. It merged with part of my essence, my drive to return to my beloved mountain kingdom. I appear to you now because I sense the proximity of Thorbardin. I implore you to carry on into the underground city so I may rest.
Do you swear to bring me to the Valley of Thanes in Thorbardin?"
Donegin nods and the old man asks each member of the Stonefist clan in turn as well. The party agrees.
" I thank you. Donegin , present me boldly and my powers will be yours to wield. Know that these powers are limited and originate from my soul. When I am at rest, these powers will fade. Fear not, for as you continue to wield the axe, it will gain new powers and may one day help you find rest."
The old dwarf vanishes. In the moments that follow, Grim explains that what they witnessed was a spell called Major Image . Yelfis also shares that the Helm of Grallen, which contains the soul of the famous dwarf prince, validated what the image told them. The axe is much like the helm in this respect, they are both vessels for souls. It was common during that time for dwarven roylaty to carry such such items so that, in the event of an untimely death, their souls could be put to rest with their ancestors in the Valley of Thanes.
The party collects itself and fords the shallow river before hiking into the mountains. Around mid-afternoon, the group finds itself walking through a steep defile – a five-foot wide valley between cliffs. They come upon a section where the defile walls widen for another 30 feet to the right. Unfortunately, the path remains five-feet wide and a 25-foot chasm stretches along the right-side of the path for 100 feet. The path and chasm end in a cliff face as they have reached a dead end.
The party confers with their map and the Helm of Grallen. Although the Cataclysm wreaked major changes to make most topographical maps inaccurate, these were post-cataclysm maps. Surely, they were in the correct spot.
Donegin considers the possibility of a magical entrance. With his command words of, “Detecto Magicko” , he begins to seek out any magical auras. Meanwhile, the red-wizard – Grim, casts a spell and flies down into the chasm to seek the entrance below. Almaia and Mora begin searching for secret entrances along the cliffs to the left.
Almaia and Mora discover a small stone panel which slides away after being depressed. As Donegin and Grim return, Almaia spies a small silver hand inside the opening. Not spotting any traps, she reaches in and shakes the hand vigorously. It moves smoothly, but nothing seems to happen.
Suddenly, they hear a deep rumbling sound coming from the mountain itself. The ledge and cliff begin to shake as pebbles fall away from the mountain and bounce down into the chasm beside them. With a tremendously loud crack that sounds like a thousand sheets of linen being torn by giants, the mountain itself splits open. A huge, round section of stone, possibly the largest thing any of them had ever seen moving in their lives, rotates out of the rock face like a giant cork. With a great groaning of metal and grinding of stone, it breaks free and falls into the chasm.
Grim flies out of the path of the falling boulder, but the rest of the party struggles to maintain balance on the narrow path.
Fizban’s hat gets blown off his head and floats down toward the chasm. The old wizard grasps at it wildly, losing his balance. “Oh, bother!” he exclaims in his squeaky voice as he plummets into the gaping mountain maw.
Grim flies into the chasm to save him, does not find the wizard. Although the chasm floor is scattered with the ivory remains of wild animals unfortunate enough to fall in, there is no sign of Fizban. Despite their sorrow at the possible death of the doddering mage, this is not the first time he has appeared or disappeared under mysterious circumstance. The party decides to press on and enters the secret entrance into the mountain.
As the last glimmers of daylight fade from the tunnels to their rear, Elistan cries out and collapses. He appears to have entered another dream-state, but this time he cannot be revived
through any means. Sestun tends to his fallen leader, when he tells the group, " Elistan fights his battle with Paladine’s strength. Now you go fight yours in the mountain."
The party begins to dismiss the whims of the gully dwarf when Sestun emphatically tells them: “You trusted Sestun in the past. Trust him again as he trusts you. Now go!”
The party understands that more than 800 human refugees are likely moving south this very day and begrudgingly agrees to press on without the cleric and his gully dwarf follower.
The tunnels empty into a massive courtyard. To the north is a massive pile of rubble encapsulating the site where a massive gate once stood. The scars of fierce battle streak the walls. The floor is littered with broken shards of pottery and rusted metal. Ancient wagons, their axles broken, litter the major corridors. The skeletons of dwarves and men lie where they died so long ago, clothed in rusted armor and rags, silent witnesses to the terrible conflict that once raged in these halls. Dwarfgate is deserted and everything is in ruins.
Walking through the remains of the ancient battle, the party is reminded of the battle plains of Dergoth they crossed on their way to Skullcap mountain.
To the south, they follow improved passage that enter into a massive city. Unfortunately, the city is completely empty. Buildings and roads all stand unused for what must have been a long time based on the age of the remains by the gate, and yet the city is clean and intact.
They walk down the city streets past shops, homes, forges, and even a great temple to Reorx. All of it is silent and abandoned. The continue to travel south until they come up a massive dwarven-made bridge. The bridge spans a mile-long pit that the city id built around. A few hundred feet below, the party can make out a lower level of the city which surrounds the same pit and likely drops another few hundred feet. Above, they spy murder holes over the bridge where defenders could protect themselves against the uninvited. Having received no invitation, the part decides to walk around the great pit. However, they discuss a desire to find stairs or an elevator to explore the other levels for inhabitants.
As they travel the empty city, they spot numerous shop signs referring to “Northgate” – “The First Bank of Northgate,” “Northgate Hammer and Supply,” and “Northgate Tavern.” The party realizes that this is not Thorbardin, but another abandoned dwarven city called Northgate. The city must have been abandoned like the one they found in the steam caverns north of the hopeful vale, but the city is in better condition with not apparent signs of gully dwarf settlement.
As they pass through an intersection, Almaia spies a bunch of cloaks hanging next to the entrance of a building to the left. Upon inspection, the cloaks flap as if on a breeze before flying into the air! Four Cloakers glide toward them shrilling their high-pitched screams over rows of pointed teeth. Almaia is promptly enveloped by one of the Cloakers, but she is able to activate her Anklet of Translocation and break the grapple attack. The remaining party members are affected by the moans of the Cloakers. Everyone is unnerved by the moans, Grim becomes nauseated , and Almaia and Mora flee in panic . Despite the powers of the Cloaker moans, the party rallies its strength and experience to cut down the chaotic aberrations.
A short while after the battle, the party stops as a dozen dwarves stand in their path – crossbows pointed at them. Their leader steps forward; strength and confidence show in his every move. The large hammer at his side is held loosely but ready. “ What business have you strangers among the halls of the Hylar ?" he rumbles.
Recognizing the Hylar as of one of the Thorbardin clans, the party explains that they are clan of mountain dwarves who have been trapped on the surface for generations. They realize that their claim may be questioned, but they have brought back the souls of two royal ancestors – one of the Hylar and the other, Stonefist.
Their story eases the leader who introduces himself as Arman Kharas, prince of the Hylar and son of the Hylar Thane, Glade Hornfel Kytil. Arman explains that his presence in Northgate is not to patrol for invader, but to recover his kidnapped brother, Pick. The party volunteers to aid in the rescue of a brother mountain dwarf. The unconditional offer touches the heart of the dwarven prince and he offers them an opportunity to appear before the Council of Thanes upon the successful completion of their task.
The large group heads west along the south edge of the pit. Arman explains that the pit is called the Anvil’s Echo. Any anvil struck in the pit will echo on the walls for eternity. During this time, the group tells Arman of their adventure to Xak Tsaroth and the recovery of divine magic and the old gods. Arman scoffs at the notion, but does so tactfully without impugning their word. The dwarven prince will require evidence of such claims beyond the scope of a parlor trick. At the southern end of the bridge over the Anvil’s Echo, the group discovers a platform attached to a great chain.
Stepping on the platform causes it to lower and a stone control switch on a pedestal in the middle of the platform does nothing to stop it. The group decides to ride the platform down to the next level, where they hope to find the dungeons containing Pick. Arman explains that Pick was kidnapped by a rival clan of dwarves called the Theiwar .
Notoriously evil and known practitioners of sorcery, the Theiwar have been seeking to overthrow the Hylar clan as the most powerful clan in Thorbardin. The Theiwar are supported by the Daergar clan, evil warriors with no sense of honor. The Hylar help keep a decaying alliance between the clans. They are supported by the Daewar clan, benevolent merchants and host to what was once the Stonefist clan. The two other clans are the Klar, a servant class of dwarves comprised of Neidar who were trapped in the mountain when Dwarfgate was sealed, and the Aghar, dirty yet innocent simpletons who survive on the refuse of the other clans. A thane from each clan is represented on the Council of Thanes. However, the Theiwar and Daergar have been locked in a constant cold war for control of the council for hundred of years. From time to time, they’ll kidnap and ransom prominent Hylar royalty to further diminish the Hylar coffers. Arman’s brother, Pick, is one of these unfortunate royal ransoms; however, Arman has no intention of letting the Theiwar prey upon the grace and patience of his father.
Arman cuts off his story as they hear a humming sound:
They slowly enter a large antechamber where the song is coming from. In the far corner they can make out a helmed dwarf sitting against a wall. The pause to see if he reacts, but he keeps humming to himself. Mora throws a few stones at his breastplate, but he still does not move. They begin to move in closer, and begin hearing another sound – the sound of wet tearing and the popping of bone. Yelfis notices something odd about the helm. The helm appears to be made of stone,crowned in nodules. One of the nodules opens like an eyelid revealing the pink sightless eyeball of a subterranean creature. The remaining nodules open as well and the humming stops. Yelfis looks down and realizes that the dwarf’s hand lay lifeless at its side. Tentacles unwind from around the dead dwarf’s neck and the Darkmantle on his head gives a hideous screech!
A dozen more Darkmantles amongst the stalactites of the cave ceiling drop on the party. The Darkmantles attempt to engulf and constrict their pray, but even their ability to conjure magical darkness does not hold up against the might of nearly 20 dwarves and a red-robed wizard.
Shaking off the adrenaline of battle, one of the dwarf warriors points out the Theiwar crest on the dead dwarf’s breastplate. Arman nods and tells everyone that they are close to the dungeons. He insists on absolute silence in the coming moments.
The group slowly lurks through the remaining cavern tunnels until they come upon a T-intersection. Arman glances down both sides of the adjacent tunnel and uses hand gestures to explain that there are ten dwarves to the left and ten more to the right. He motions for his men to take the right, and the Stonefist party to take the left tunnel.
Grim motions to Arman and approaches the left corner. He silently whispers a spell, steps into the hallway and blasts a two-and-a-half-foot wide bolt of lighting down the left hallway. The magical electricity cooks and kills five enemy dwarves in their breastplates and chainmail.
At the release of magical energies, the Hylar and Stonefist dwarves rush into battle.
The unsuspecting Theiwar were standing guard in front multiple prison cells and put up little resistance, but during the melee, Almaia notices that Eben is not fighting anyone. Come to think of it, Almaia realizes that she had not seen him fight anything since he joined the party in the Hopeful Vale. Almaia yells for him to help and Eben runs toward one of the prison cells. Almaia follows his example and begins picking the lock to one of the other cells. Almaia frees two of the prisoners during the battle. Eben spent time at two cell doors before he began searching the bodies of fallen dwarves. After the battle ended, Almaia notices that Eben had not unlocked the two doors he had visited during combat. Almaia and Donegin confront Eben about his activity during the battle, but the dark-haired human explains away his behavior. He claims that he attempted to open both the doors and was searching bodies for the keys. He produces the keys as evidence, but Almaia still finds his lack of participation in combat against monsters and enemies alike very disturbing.
They free the prisoners and locate Pick. Pick reunites with his brother, but his joy is muted. Pick confesses that his mistreatment at the hands of the Theiwar has resulted in a dungeon rot disease. Pick believes his rescue has come only hours before succumbing to the illness. The Stonefist quickly discuss their options on how they can help. Donegin explains that he might be able to use one of the Knowstones they discovered to learn how to remove disease . The dwarven mystic spends an hour in meditation before returning to Pick. Donegin whispers words of power and presses his hands at various points on Pick’s body. Pick convulses for an instant before a yellow mist begins to emanate from the points where Donegin pressed. When the mist dissipates, Arman shakes his brother, pleading for him to awake. The malnourished dwarf slowly blinks his eyes open, stretches, and checks his body for signs of the disease. All signs of the disease are gone.
The Hylar dwarves mutter in amazement and the party can hear words like “miracle,” “blessing,” and " Reorx ." Arman stands and pledges his lifelong friendship to the Stonefist clan for their assistance in freeing his brother and sustaining his life. His mood deflates as he realizes they have lingered too long.
Arman commands everyone to retreat quietly back the way they came. They trace their route back to the platform, but the platform will only go down. Arman explains that there is no level below this one and riding the platform down would likely result in their deaths among the massive stone clockworks that operate the platform mechanism. They search around for a means of rising the platform, but only discover a mechanism for seizing the chain from going up or down. They trip the mechanism to prevent any intrusions from above.
Arman explains that there is another way out of Northgate. To the south lies a service route to the North Hall of Justice, an administration building for the Northgate complex that acts as a fallback position if Northgate was ever invaded. If they can make into the North Hall of Justice on the servant’s level, they could make it to the First Road. Arman had taken the Second Road through Theiwar territory into Northgate, but the First Road travels directly through Hylar controlled territory. Arman had thought the route to be too dangerous for an incursion, but they are breaking out, not in. The group agrees and begins to head south.
At the southern edge of Northgate, the large group is stunned as dozen of dwarven along the rooftops to the left and right appear. They point their crossbows at them and a voice demands their surrender.
“Run!” Arman bellows as he charges forward. The rest of the group follows as a storm cloud of crossbow bolts releases overhead. The charge was entirely unexpected and the Theiwar attempt a few potshots before receiving the official word to fire. The delay allows the majority of the group to bypass the crossfire unscathed. The group runs out of the city and onto the servant’s road. Sounds of formation and alert horns can be heard behind them.
The servant’s road is only a mile, but at a dead sprint, it feels like ten miles. Soon the stone arches marking the servant entrances into the North Hall of Justice are overhead. They cannot afford to stop so Arman insists they stay as quiet as possible in the Hall. The Hylar abandon their metallic armor, cutting straps and string to free themselves quickly. Yelfis decides to press forward with his armor and the ‘clank’ of his armor echoes throughout the Hall. Grim offers to escort Yelfis through the remainder of the Hall. A whisper of magic, and the two men step through a dimensional door to the far end of the Hall. Without Yelfis, the remainder of the party is able to sneak undetected through the Hall.
As they exit the hall, they begin to hear alert horns again. Two miles of the First Road lie before them. They press themselves to run as fast as they can. Days seem to pass as the warriors’ frantic sprint slows to a forced march. The horns grown closer as the group steps into a massive cavern.
“These are the West Warrens!” cries an exasperated Arman “We are nearly there!”
The group runs through fields of corn, wheat, and mushroom. The cavern is lit from above by massive quartz formations that refracts light from the surface into the cavern. Suddenly, four large mushroom-shaped fungi begin to shriek in alarm. The group collapses into a formation and prepares to fight.
40 dwarves march forward and demand identification from the large group. Recognizing the Hylar banner they bear, Arman steps forward. He explains that they have narrowly escaped Northgate after liberating a half-dozen ransomed Hylar. He commands the group to provide them safe escort to the docks via the Sixth Road. The commander, recognizing his prince, agrees. The unit commander commandeers a few wagons from a local Klar farmer to assist the lame, injured, and weary in their part. Great Urkhan worms drag the carts forward instead of horses.
The large group safely traverse the West Warrens and the Sixth Road. The prince releases the unit commander with his gratitude and the promise of a feast in his honor. The unit commander bows and resumes his patrol of the West Warrens.
The docks give access to the Urkhan Sea. Looking out at the sea, the groups attention is drawn to an amazing sight: the Life-Tree of the Hylar. Arman describes the structure:
“The Life-Tree is truly one of the wonders of the world. It is an immense stalactite, half a mile high and as wide at the top, inside which an entire city, consisting of 28 levels, has been carved. These levels range from nearly half a mile wide at the top to the bare diameter of the transport shafts and their surrounding wharves at
the very bottom.
The highest level of the Life-Tree contains a complex of buildings and passages which serve as the home of the Hylar thane, my father, Glade Hornfel, and the seat of Hylar government. Water flows throughout this level, irrigating numerous gardens here and below. The water spills through a series of ornately carved waterfalls during the course of its decent to the lake below.
The lower levels include many residential districts, most of which are surrounded by streams and gardens. The lower levels also include many smithies and foundries, as well as numerous smaller shops where gemcutters, armorers, and other artisans of the Hylar work on their crafts. The city can be reached only by cable-boat.”
The cable-boats are forty foot wooden vessels with a mast that does not carry a sail; rather, it is attached to cables suspended thirty feet above the waterline that keep the boat on course. The boats are crewed by four dwarves, one of which handles the boat’s propulsion — a huge catfish harnessed to the boat and trained to respond to the driver’s orders. The fish are over fifteen feet long, but they are quite gentle; they move slowly and deliberately, posing no danger to anyone, even if someone should fall into the water.
Other boats can be seen crossing the sea, carrying cargo from place to place which would be too heavy or bulky to carry through the tunnels; some are driven by oars, others pulled by fish.
As the group boards a cable-boat, they hear one of the crew mutter something in dwarven as he tosses a mushroom over the side. Arman explains that this is an old superstitious ritual to
appease a creature the Hylar call Lylya, a dragon turtle who is rumored to live in the sea. Arman is obviously dismissive of the legend, but the crew of the boat seems to take it seriously.
The voyage is uneventful and the party docks at the wharves below the massive stone city. They ride up one of the transport shafts to one of the highest levels. Arman puts them up at a very prestigious upper-class inn. The caretakers of the inn offer luxurious accommodations. When the party asks about the cost, the caretakers scoff at the notion of payment, and insist that service to Prince Arman is payment enough. The group accepts the hospitality; they clean themselves and rest for their interview with the Council of Thanes on the morrow.
Early the next morning, Arman arrives to escort them before the Council. They sit through the minutes of the previous meeting and the finalization of old business before the Council asks if there is any new business. Arman steps forward, bows, and speaks formally:
“My beloved lord father, my lords the great and noble Thanes of Thorbardin, I thank you for receiving me and allowing me to speak before you. I present to you my friends who provided invaluable assistance in the rescue of my brother Pick and fought bravely at our sides against many foes.”
Almaia spots the intense fire in the eyes of Raelgar, Thane of the Thiewar, at the mention of Pick’s rescue. Raelgar is first to respond:
“My lords, Arman is a wanted criminal in my Kingdom. I object to him being allowed to speak here, and I certainly object to the mere presence of these… creatures
in our hall!”
Gneiss, Thane of the Daewar, responds to Raelgar:
“We’re all well aware of your standing disagreement with Arman, son of Hornfel, my lord Raelgar. I, for one, would like to hear what these people have to say. Agreed?”
The Council of Thanes nod their heads and quickly raise their hands in support of Gneiss. Raelgar and the Thane of the Daergar, Rance, vote ‘nay’. With the majority voting to hear the plea of the party, they are permitted to make their case.
The party explains that the surface world has become overrun with dragons and armies of dragonmen. The expanse of these forces is sure to come to the dwarven kingdom soon. Despite this great evil, the Stonefist clan has won small victories over these powers. In their adventures, they have uncovered two magical items bearing souls of dwarven royalty. The first is the Helm of Grallen, the Hylar prince, recovered from the ruins of Fistandantilus’ keep. The second is a family heirloom, a magic axe they call Oldfather Stonefist, in honor of the ancestor whose soul lies within. Although they cannot confirm its lineage to dwarven royalty, they are positive that a few days research could provide that information. The party also claims its right to rejoin its fellow clansmen as citizen of Thorbardin – due to their multi-generational exile being accidental in nature. As citizens of Thorbardin, they ask for safe passage for eight hundred human refugees under their charge. The Stonefist clan liberated the humans from slave mines controlled by the dragonarmies and are responsible for seeing them safely beyond the southern mountains.
At the end of their tale, Raelgar slams his fist on the table:
“Was it not men who brought the Cataclysm down upon us and sent the gods away in disgust? Was it not a man, a human, who destroyed so many valiant dwarves when the War between brethren came to such a tragic end? And was it not the Neidar, the hill dwarves, who started that war and brought so much death upon us? No, my friends, my fellow Thanes of Dwarvendom, I believe we should have these creatures put to the axe immediately. We sealed our gates, and it is my people, the Theiwar, who defend them against outsiders in the north. Let us deal with them as we do all intruders!”
The group is increasingly suspicious of Raelgar after this tirade. Not because he is against them, but because his speech seems planned and rehearsed; almost as if he knew they were coming.
Glade Hornfel, Thane of the Hylar, asks for silence and insists they discuss the matter in a closed session. He asks the group to surrender the Helm of Grallen so he may have its authenticity verified. The group is unsure, but a nod from Arman is enough for Yelfis to entrust the Helm to the Hylar Thane.
The party is escorted from the chamber during the closed session. Arman invites them to browse the elites shops of the Hylar during this time. Arman predicts the session will take several hours, but insists his father is wise enough to make the right decision and influential enough to push the decision through. The party shops to replace lost and broken equipment while shopping for new items. Their purchases will be sent to the inn and the cost is placed on an account to be settled when they check out.
Arman retrieves the group as the council reopens. The party enters the council room to hear the decision. Glade Hornfel stands and speaks:
“It is true that humans brought the Cataclysm upon the world, and it is true that the Neidar made war on Thorbardin. But dark times are here again, and ancient grudges must not control our destiny. Here is the decision of the Council: whosoever recovers the Hammer of Kharas, that person will the dwarves of Thorbardin befriend. If you agree to our terms,
and bring the hammer to us, your people may pass. There is one other condition — one of your party remain here as a hostage for your safe return.”
“Him!” spouts Raelgar with his sausage-like finger pointed at Eben.
The party agrees to the terms; including, oddly enough, Eben. Eben shows no sign of unease at the notion of being held hostage. The suspicions of the party increase as they consider the interest of the evil Thane in choosing Eben as the hostage.
Thane Hornfel informs them that the Hammer of Kharas is located in the Valley of Thanes. He insists the group also complete their quests to return Grallen to his rest. Thane Gneiss stands and reports that he has had the lineage of the Stonefist clan traced to a Dukedom considered extinct. Although the lands have been redistributed, the Daewar title passes to the oldest heir. In accordance with this title, Oldfather Stonefist is permitted to be laid at rest in the Valley of Thanes.
Thane Hornfel raises a hand and instructs two dwarven bards to recite the Song of Kharas to assist them on their journey. One bard beats a drum as the other sings:
“Three were the thoughts of those in Thorbardin
In the dark after Dergoth when the ogres danced.
One was the lost light, the limping darkness
In the caves of the kingdom where light crumbles.
One the despair of the Dwarfthane Derkin
Gone to the gloom of the tower of Glory.
One the world, weary and wounded
Down to the deep of the Darkling’s waters.
Under the heart of the highland,
Under the ceiling of stone,
Under the wane of the world’s glory,
Home under home.
Then was Kharas among us, the Keeper of Kings,
The Hand on the Hammer, Arm of the Hylar.
At the gleaming grave site of gold and garnet
Three sons of the thane he buried thereunder.
While Derkin saw dark upon dark in the tunnels,
In the halls of the nation saw nooses and knives,
Killers and kingmakers came to Kharas
With agate and amethyst, asking allegiance.
Under the heart of the highland,
Under the ceiling of stone,
Under the wane of the world’s glory,
Home under home.
But the stalwart in heart is strong as a stone,
And bold and unbending his mind to the better:
The Hammer of Hylar was firm in the halls.
Denying all discord, all doubt and division.
He turned from intrigue, from the wild tunnels,
Out to the open, one oath swearing
That time nor treachery shall ever tarnish
The Hammer’s return in a time of great troubles.
Under the heart of the highland,
Under the ceiling of stone,
Under the wane of the world’s glory,
Home under home."
At the conclusion of the song, Arman stands and requests permission to join this quest. The Council votes to permit the request with the Thanes of the Theiwar and Daergar voting against.