There was the obligatory box text effect in the beginning because I didn't want to waste time with individual histories and wanted to get to rolling d20's asap. It worked. The action ramps up next week.
Write up follows:
You come from someplace else. Some of you were born to open hills and cool breezes, the stars were your stories and your history proud. Others were born with comforting stone and rock as your cradle and walls, warding you as you grew in the warmth of its halls. And still others were born within the walls of towns where the rich tapestry of many cultures were your canvas to draw upon. Wherever it is you came from, wherever it is you started your journey, it has led you throughout the years to the realization of one simple thing…Life is hard, opportunities are fleeting, and the world doesn’t care.
You started out trying to do things the way that was expected of you. You may have been apprenticed to a local craftsman and tried to toe the line. Maybe you had a minor stake in the family business but were not slated to run it one day. Perhaps you were too gangly or large to blend in properly; your questionable lineage might have held you back. Or maybe you just didn’t fit in.
As the stars above called to you, you always felt you were destined for something else, something more. When the Reetersbeard Caravans would come to town you would listen to the strange dialects of people who had travelled for two months and never saw the same souls twice. Clad in velvets and furs, festooned with jewelry, never worrying where their next meal would come from or what it would cost; they imprinted on you a desire to not only see more than the home and town you’ve lived in, but to reach further and higher than anyone in your family or circle of acquaintances ever did before.
So you repurposed yourself. You hung around the guild halls and did odd jobs for bits and commons. You made yourself available to the journeymen who were on the lookout for raw talent and kept your pride private and small. You sweated with each blow, strained with each study, ached after hours of meditation. The days passed and then weeks and months. When the going got tough, you were enticed by well-meaning family and friends to “give it all up” and “come home and live the normal life”. That only spurred you on to not give in.
Every available coin went either to feed you or pay for your training. There was nothing left over for frivolities. But the day came where you were either accepted, ordained, or given your own journeyman card and set off to make a fortune and name for yourself.
What a fucking farce.
Being a member of the League of Odin’s Warriors did not make you rich. Stepping free from your master after years of study with the ability to warp the fabric of reality did not open doors of opportunity. After your ordination ceremony you found yourself performing miracles for the faithful like a dancing bear but no closer to having a fulfilled life. You had changed for the better, but it was not enough.
Through back alley bars and mead halls, across open tents at the bazaars and trading posts, spoken on line at the impressers near the labor queues for mining work – you had heard, like others before, of Bork Keep and the Terror Dungeon. Never did you speak to anyone who was ever there but always someone who knew someone who had gone in and come out again richer than Midas. The talk of daring Mylfys and her struggles against the Grue, the Ballad of Torridson and the Silver Four, the dark tale of Ulfric the lone survivor of Brightblade and Company. If ever anyone was to make a name for himself and lift themselves out of the doldrums of mediocrity, it would be to plumb the silvery depths of the Terror Dungeon.
But the amulets weren’t cheap, and too many knockoffs were sold on the docks of Ashak for a “great price” only to find they were worthless rock when the wearer tried to pass through the great stone archway. The talk was an amulet would cost upwards of 400 nobles, the amount of money a fair craftsman earns in a given year; assuming he didn’t eat. And that was the rub of it, in order for the opportunity to make money; you needed a kingly sum to begin with.
So maybe your morals grew shadowy, your need and your future took central stage to your desires. You could muck stalls as unskilled labor for 2 commons a day or join a K’Morat hunting troupe for three squares and a full share of the bounty. Private guard for wealthy dwarven businessmen and their wives paid better than planning lumber at the mills. The purse for fighting murderers and rapists in the pits were better salary than shepherding flock along the trails of the Passian Hills.
This allowed you to outfit yourself in better gear and weaponry, to make a local name for yourself, give you an opportunity to do something more than what you’ve been capable so far. The name for you and others like you who sell their services sometimes no questions asked was once derided in your naïve youth, but now it’s who you are. Mercenary. Sword and Spell for Hire. Adventurer. Daredevil. Opportunist.
You have travelled from where you came from; joining up with others like yourself, hoping that their good luck and fortune, their opportunities will enrich you and your chances. In ones and twos, the tentative tendrils of grudging respect have tightened to something akin to camaraderie. And as the circle of trust has expanded, pulling in other like-minded folk from all walks of life, so too have to job opportunities.
West of Thak, in the low mountains of the Sorton Peaks, is some of the most active mining operations outside of Ironcamp. Scores of small operations plumb the stony hearts of the mountains for iron ore to send back to hungry forges. But so far from safety and civilization, they are more like armed camps with wooden palisades and keen eyes with flatbows and spears. Profit margins are tight and they only get paid if they are mining. So they have goods come in every two weeks supplied by wagon by whatever mercantile operation wants their product.
It is here that mercenaries are in demand. The pay is rich: 8 nobles total for two days work, with the promise of a warm bunk and a hot meal upon arrival at the mining camp. Guarding three wagons with 5 or 6 teamsters and merchant representatives was good work and the companies were happier to hire larger groups that already had a history of working together.
It’s been a good 5 weeks. 11 trips out and 11 trips back have allowed you to finish equipping yourself. Glittering swords, fine clothes, doughty shields. It’s enough to not only kit out your gear, but to also make you more attractive for hire down the road. The hope is to do this here for the rest of the spring and summer and then find similar employment in Sorton where a letter of recommendation from the Darbeard Company (who you are currently working for) for your two seasons work will go a long way towards getting you hooked up with one of the major operations of the Jarlborinn Thanedom.
This latest trip, this time to Fingelt’s mine, was put together like any other, no issue no foul. But when it came time to leave Nuggle Darbeard, the company’s rep and cousin of the Darbeard Company boss, was in a foul mood. His second, Sigurd Eindaud, had lost a sizeable stake in betting at the fighting pits and his marker was putting pressure on him to pay up. Nuggle had to promise the bookmaker that Sigurd would repay his losses and gave Darbeard scrip to cover the shortfall for now.
Since this morning’s fiasco, the caravan did not leave until after 9, almost 2 hours later, and the entire group had had the opportunity to listen to Nuggle tear Sigurd a new ass in alternating Common and Dwarven as the three wagons wound their way through the mountain roads. For his part Sigurd has been uncharacteristically argumentative with Nuggle, getting close to screaming at the dwarven merchant about how he’s tired of getting robbed by the Darbeard’s for stealing every merchant deal he sets up.
It’s been embarrassing to say the least.
The guards and teamsters have done their best to ignore the long winded screaming matching between their employers, but it’s obvious from listening that Sigurd’s been in this situation before and recently. Nuggle has flat out called Sigurd a “dangerous liability” for paying off one debt collector by borrowing from some other shady practice. Which Sigurd denied and now the conversation has degenerated to claims of theft and smuggling.
At just after 4, the caravan has come within sight of Fingelt’s Mine. Situated near the top of a rise along one of the many stony outcroppings of the Sorton Peaks, it is a wide plateau of stone that is partially fenced in by a 14’ wooden palisade. Two squat guard towers are near the ponderous gate that is currently closed. The palisade goes around the buildings within and end up butted against the rock wall that rises another 140’ or so at a steep angle. A natural runoff of water is collected above the Mine where it is run through a number of aqueducts and troughs to disappear within the minecamp.
The call is given but no one answers. Nuggle is grumbling and Sigurd is furiously quiet while looking about the desolate landscape. The teamsters dismount and our guards all emerge stretching while the call to open is given again, and again with no answer. The main teamster motions two of the party to join her as she goes to the gate, peers through the wooden slats, and then motions the teams to back the donkeys and carts up. Once room is cleared it takes 4 to open the gates and the call to “hello” is given again. You can see there are a number of simple buildings inside: stables, mess hall, lumber yard, dry goods, latrines, miner’s barracks, foreman’s house, and towards the back the ore house and smithy.
There are some echoing noises from the back of the camp where a second palisade has been set up to protect the entrance of the mine itself. It looks like that gate is open. Korsdottr, the head teamster informs Nuggle that Fingelt and his crew are most likely in the mine itself. The dwarven rep agrees and motions for half the guards to go with Korsdottr to call Fingelt out while he arranges to get the wagons inside. She picks out 6 or 7 of the group, leaving Larry the crossbow wielding Half-elven Sorceror Thief, Conall the Human Monastic from the Order of Sif, The Half-orc Einer druidic follower of Frey and barbaric Warrior of the Firvinr, Negan the indomitable Half-ogre champion Fighter and Templar to Odin, Avulstein the Human Wizard follower of Hel and practitioner of the Necromantic arts, Nuggle, Sigurd, and the last three teamsters at the entrance.
For all the talk, there is something still wrong that is prickling at the party’s spine. If Fingelt and his miners are in the mine, why did they leave no one at either tower? And if so, why did they not bar the main gate. Also, it’s about 4 or so, someone should be preparing a meal at the mess hall but there is no smoke from the chimney and no sound coming from within except for some deep echoes from the mine and the gurgling slosh of the water as it runs across the wall troughs and into the mining camp’s cistern.
A brief exchange with the other has the party on the same wavelength and weapons are drawn, flatbows cocked, and shields taken off the wagons and handed out. Nuggle asks what the problem is and your group gives the dwarf your concern. He thinks swiftly and agrees. The party is then asked to help guide some of the wagons in, keeping their eye out for any threat which may be inside the wall. He asks Negan and Einar to stay close by out here.
As the first wagon is guided in by Avilstein and the second is making its way through the great gates with one of the teamsters and Larry and Conall guiding it, there is a massive explosion coming from the back of the camp and the sound of falling rock. Everyone turns to look, seeing a small section of the rockface above the mine slide away and crash down, covering the mine entrance and possibly killing or wounding the other half of the caravan guard.
And while this has everyone’s attention, Nuggle pitches forward with a scream, two short spears in his back. The dwarf rep is looking behind him at Sigurd who is standing near a FUCKING warband of 18 K’Morat kobolds decked out in fetishes and wearing blue paint smeared on their scaly skin. He chokes out, “Why?” to which Sigurd, taking a bulging leather purse from the K’Morat leader with a nod of thanks, calls back, “Because you and your family were cheap fucks, Nuggle.” He points to the stunned party and open gate, “As promised,” he says to the K’Morat leader, “they’re all yours. Good eating.” He hoists himself onto the back of a mountain pony the K’Morat have brought for him and pats his bulging leather bag.
And in one voice the K’Morat shout their war cry to the heavens and charge the group with shaking spears and sharpened teeth. Three of them are mounted on war ponies and the others are running, spear shaking and some of them prepared with atlatls. Larry took a “Hail Frigga” shot at Sigurd but his bolt went wide and high. The two teamsters ran, leaving the wagons where they were without concern, only hoping to make it inside and find some shelter. We tried to convince them to stay but realized it was a waste of time.
In the face of so many K’Morat, Negan and Einer turn and run for the entrance, shouting for everyone to get inside. The donkeys were unwilling to move, stubbornly holding their ground regardless of the effort Conall or Larry were putting into getting them to enter. So Negan and Einar shouted “MOVE” and charged the back of the 2nd wagon – the combined mass of the Half-ogre and Half-orc slamming into the back to the wagon shoved the two donkeys forward and they ran into the courtyard of the camp.
Hurled spears began flying, striking everywhere and hitting Einar and Negan, one of them passing through a weak place in his scalemail armor and knocking the mighty half-ogre down with a critical blow! The charging K’Morat on horseback were much closer and Einar saw the bobbing point of the spear levelled at him along with the flashing hooves…and tumbled barely out of the way in time! The K’Morat warrior raced past, and Conall did the same, also rolling out of the way! This allowed the trio to funnel into the courtyard with horses and spears. Two of the teamsters were running across the ground looking for cover while a third stood with Avilstein, a truncheon in his hand and murder in his eyes.
Larry was clambering the ladder by the guard tower quickly while Conall threw himself at one of the doors, slamming it closed. Avilstein shouted out some arcanic words and centered it on the galloping kobolds…putting all three to sleep as well as two of the ponies!
Conall was struggling with the other door, Einar had the bracing bar to lock it closed and Larry was on the tower’s top calling out his own spell to distract about half the charging the K’Morat from entering the camp. Three were close. Flying spears flew about, hitting Larry who staggered back hit and hurt. Einar and Conall shoved hard together and shut the door, trapping the K’Morat on the other side for now. They scrambled to put the bracing bar in place while a few more spears were hurled before Larry came back down. We killed the three kobolds in cold blood, cut the tracings from the donkeys on the two carts we had, and Einar called on Frey to heal Negan from his mortal wound, helping the Half-ogre to his feet.
From outside the walls we could hear and glimpse the K’Morat have fallen to eating the two donkeys out there as well as Nuggle Darbeard. They have also torn the tarp off the last wagon and were looking over the lumber and hay that was there.
We regrouped and decided to brace the door with both wagons we had, making a “T” with the two wagons, than we proceeded to tear our own tarps off and see what we had. A few of us went back to the rear of Fingelt’s Camp and the mine to see the damage and find out if our companions were still alive and ok. According to Korsdottr, the Teamster leader inside, everyone was accounted for and seemed to be ok. There was a lot of rock and it was going to take some hours to dig free. They had lanterns, tools, and some water. She suggested the rest of the party watch out for K’Morat attacks, find the foreman’s house and see if there was a map of the mine in it, and raid the damned wagons for any supplies we were going to need as well as food and if the Darbeard’s ever find out or get pissed, “they can fucking damned well bill Sigurd for it!”
A few of us wandered to the buildings inside the camp finding little since the place was waiting for this caravan to resupply it. The Drygoods had some dregs of dry food, a few pieces of worn clothing, material for sacks, and a partial jar of rendered bear fat used as a lotion. The lumberyard was down to a couple 10’ 4x4’s and some other scrap sticks, and the stables had no donkeys in it but did have one of the frightened Teamsters. He was convinced to man up, get the hell out of the corner, and go fucking help. He was sent to the back of the mine camp to gather rocks and bring them up front to load the tower.
Negan and Larry and the one other teamster who had stood with us (now sporting a hurt leg) were going through the wagons filled with tons of foodstuff, supplies, tools, clothes, mining equipment, and mine track. We cannibalized the piles for some equipment to flesh out our stores and Negan began using rods, spikes, and rail sections to make even the most determined attempts at opening the gate prohibitively difficult. Under the main wagon was the caravan safe, an iron box built into the floor, locked. The key was most likely on Nuggle’s belt but there might be something in the mine we could use of possibly be forced to beat the safe open with a hammer. Maybe.
We had also found the Mess Hall had pots and pans, dishes, mugs, bowls, and ironware. The Ore House was mostly empty, some 400# of raw iron ore needed to be processed. Inside the Ore House was a closed off area called Shippable, but the door had been forced open and it looked like whatever had once been inside was gone. Taken. Finally a Einar and Avilstein had gone into the foreman’s house (which looked a little picked over) where they did find a map which they took off the wall, and a few personal belongings. The Half-orc had a hard time not ripping doors and drawers off, but he managed to find some paper, a vial of ink, and a ring with three keys.
It was here that the K’Morat tried to assault the main gate. Five of them ran forward with coils of rope, spurred on by others who were keeping the party down with hurled spears. The kobolds climbed the door where Larry and Negan were waiting with Crossbow, spell, and a 40# length of mine cart track. Bludgeoning and beating the kobolds who managed to climb up top, two of them got a chance to attach ropes but were badly crippled. Even the one that tried to grapple the half-ogre was overmatched and the kobold attack was easily rebuffed. We took their ropes and watched as the K’Morat continued to do something with the caravan wagon that they had moved away from the walls. And through it all, the K’Morat warleader, feathered and covered in woad, continued to watch us with critical eyes.
The combat drew everyone back to the front where we tried one of the keys in the wagon lock box…and eureka. The mine’s payroll (couple of hundred crowns and nobles), as well as 4 bottles of dwarven brandy, a 5# bag of candied meats, and a 20+ count of healing draughts, potions, and similar items. We drank them down now for those of us who needed it, and then parted out what was remaining.
Once everyone had we talked about our next plans. Conall and Larry went to the main barracks to check for the last teamster, while the rest of us were going to centralize the items we wanted to bring from the wagon and bring it towards the back of the mining camp.
The main barracks were dirty and looked like someone had rummaged through here. The last frightened teamster was hiding in here and was not very helpful or consolable. He was given a “make work” mission to go on when Larry caught him in the throat with his knife, dragged it across his neck, and helped the dying…dead man to the ground. The Monk said nothing and Larry wiped his knife clean. The two of them nodded to one another and left the barracks.
The question was now where was the other Teamster? He had been sent back to the rear of the camp and no one had seen him for over 45 minutes.
It was 10 after 5 and we had some hour and half or so of daylight left. The number of K’Morat we estimate to be now over 40 with more coming in dribs and drabs.