Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)
With the Return of the missing party members from their individual sojourns, it is finally time for the party to set off on the long jouney to visit the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully. After consulting Rayne’s pilfered map, they decide it would be best to follow the route of the Dragonscar Trail, which comes closest to the entrance to the Cutter pass. Daveak seems sure that from the trail they will be able to see the twin standing stones that mark the entrance to the pass.
The weather is overcast, but Daveak and Frank both agree that it will be settled, with no problems to their travel. Everyone seems happy with the ammount of provisions they are carrying, and there is no last minute rush to top up their stores. As the outer gates to Flint-Harrow close behind them, they shoulder their packs and traipse off southwards, with no last looks back at their home…
The trail Daveak leads them along winds south-west, and soon brings them to the banks of the tributary of the Greater Meltwater River, where stands the ‘Old Thenn fishing shack’. This is the dwelling place of Daveak’s mentor, Wilton Deveraux. Wilton is pleased to see his old pupil, and invites the party inside to discuss matters. Daveak explains that the party is off to speak to the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully, and Wilton expresses concern that they are on an impossible mission, as the Dwarves have not been friendly to Townsmen for these last fifteen years. Daveak asks him if he knows the reasons why, but he is as ignorant of the reasons as everyone else. All he can recall is that one day the Dwarves just arrested the Flint-Harrow ambassador, shaved him all over, and turfed out his entire retinue to return to the Township with shouts of; “Never come back, ye shallow Townsmen.” Since then, nobody has been back to the Gully, and no Dwarves have been seen in Flint-Harrow. He remarks that if the party can get to see the Dwarves, it might reopen the trade routes, and bring back some prosperity to Flint-Harrow.
Daveak asks Wilton if he would like to accompany the party on this quest, but he refuses, saying that his days of adventuring are over. Marellian asks him if it is true that he was once a member of the White Riders, and he grins, telling Marellian that he was involved in some of their adventures, but never a full member. He is reluctant to talk of those days, but the party manage to draw some of the story out of him. Daveak then asks him if he has ever heard of a man named Delevan Wakes. It is obvious from his startled reply that he has no idea who Daveak is talking about, so Daveak tells him about the story he heard regarding the Hermit and the stones. After thinking hard, he tells Daveak that this is more likely a StoneShadow Township tale, as the location described could be the area known as ‘The Scree’. He then warns the party to stay clear of StoneShadow, as they were the enemies of Flint-Harrow in the battle of the Sundered Valley.
Taking their leave of Wilton, the party cross the river and head south along the Dragonscar Trail. They walk along the bottom of the ridge, and remember that they previously had climbed the ridge to find the crevasse mentioned by Pawdle Wherrit in The Shadow Road. They do not see any sign of the strange Snowmen they fought on the ridgetop previously, and the journey passes without incident.
As the pass leads away from the Ridge, Daveak smells smoke, drifting to him on the wind from the east. Fearing banditry or maybe an Orc attack, the party head swiftly in that direction. As they get closer to the source of the smoke, Daveak remembers the last time he smelt this particular smell was when he met the charcoal burners. Eagerly, he leads the party onwards, until at last they reach a small campsite, where the charcoal burners are lounging around drinking while waiting for the wood to burn down to charcoal. They are delighted to see Daveak, and greet the rest of the party warmly too. Seats are soon drawn up around their campfire for party members to join them as they drink and talk.
For some strange reason, Marellian is worried about the drinking that is about to start. He tries his hardest to prevent the others from settling down around the campfire, and decides to cast charm person on Daveak to prevent him partaking in the moonshine offered him by the charcoal burners. His priggish attitude, coupled with a few unwise comments from other males around the fire annoys Rayne considerably, and she decides that she will steal an item from Marellian while his attention is set on trying to prevent the party staying at the campsite. She manages to remove the bone flute from his belongings, and hides it from him. Marellian’s cajoling of the others seems to work, as they all decide that it would be best to carry on with their journey, rather than rest with the Charcoal Burners. The Charcoal Burners are upset, but are nice enough fellows to respect their decision. They also give Daveak a bag of charcoal, telling him that they often trade it with the Dwarves. Daveak asks how they are able to trade after the Dwarves threw out the Flint-Harrow representatives, and one winks at him, and tells him they are free spirits, and not considered Townsmen, thus they are able to work around the ban the Dwarves placed on Township traders.
Somewhat reluctantly, Daveak accompanies the others away from the Charcoal Burner’s camp, but he has at least a waterskin full of moonshine to take with him. Marellian wonders how to get him to empty out his waterskin, but Daveak reveals he will offer the moonshine to the Dwarves as a gift, along with the charcoal. As they are talking, Loraella tells them that she has a feeling of being watched, which Elden confirms. Marellian is all for confronting the watchers and blasting them with magic, but Daveak urges restraint, telling him that the watchers may be benevolent, and not to rush into things until they know the details. Elden wonders if Daveak drank some of that moonshine, as he seems to be far more laid back that usual, but Daveak reminds them that they are in his favoured terrain, and there are many things out here that are curious about people without being aggressive.
As the afternoon draws on towards evening, the party finally spy the twin pillars that mark the entrance to the Cutter Pass. approaching them, they realise that one of the pillars is covered in a runic script used by Dwarves, while the other is made up of scenes relating to historic monents in the history of the Gulley. Marellian has knowledge of the Dwarven script through his study of old books, and reads through the script of the pillar. He deduces that this is a historical record of the Gully, from it’s founding by Geldan Axehaft, through to the death of it’s last king, some fifteen years ago. At his mention of fifteen years ago, the others are suddenly interested, as this corresponds with the envoy being thrown out of the Gulley…
With night drawing in, the party decide to make a camp in the entrance to the Cutter Pass. Daveak and Frank busy themselves making an igloo, at Elden’s suggestion. For reasons unknown to the others, Elden decides to create a snow-Dwarf instead of helping the others with the igloo. He seems quite pleased with his creation, and stands back to admire it. The others all mutter that the trip through the snow must have shrunk his brain.
Daveak decides to take the first watch, while the others all rest. He and Darkfang make a vigilant pairing, but the only thing that happens during their watch is an appearance by a curious she-wolf, who tempts the valiant Darkfang to stray from his master’s side. Daveak senses his wolf’s unease, and talks quietly to him, reassuring him of his worth to the party, and Darkfang stays on guard. With their watch over, Daveak decides to wake Rayne. He finds it difficult to wake her, so gathers a handful of snow and makes a snowball, which he throws at her. After glowering at him. Rayne gets up and takes watch.
During Rayne’s watch, a display of falling stars light up the night sky. Delighted by the display, Rayne wakes Loraella to watch it with her. The two girls are quite entranced by the display, until Loraella thinks that maybe there is a reason for the display, and tries to wake her brother to ask his opinion. Sadly, Marellian is a sound sleeper, and not even a handful of snow down the back of his neck wakes him. After a while, the meteor shower finishes, and the two girls sit up together until the end of Rayne’s watch. Rayne wakes Frank to take over, and the girls head back to bed.
A breeze gets up, and Frank realises that the next dy will bring a storm. Unfortunately, the breeze also masks the approach of the creatures who were watching the party during the day, and the first Frank knows of their approach is when a hairy arm reaches for him. He comes face to face with a Snow Troll, whose claws rake him. Frank cries out in alarm, and manages to wake Daveak and Elden. The Troll takes advantage of Frank’s lapse of concentration, and hits him again. Bleeding freely, Frank swipes back with his axe.
Daveak exits the igloo first, and sees the Troll attacking Frank. He steps back, trying to get a shot with his bow, but fails to see a second snow Troll coming around the other side of the igloo. It rakes Daveak with both claws, severly injuring him. Elden dashes out after Daveak, but his eyes are only on the first Troll. He manages to deal it a vicious blow, but to his and Frank’s dismay, the Troll’s wounds begin to heal. Meanwhile, Rayne and Loraella stay inside the Igloo, desperately trying to wake Marellian. Rayne puts on her death mask, and prepares herself to help Daveak. He is holding out against the Troll, with Darkfang trying to trip it up, but the Troll is too large for the wolf to trip. Rayne uses the power of her mask, and it’s necromantic magic sucks all life from it. The other Troll, despite hits from Frank and Elden, refuses to stay down. It’s regeneration prevents them from killing it.
Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Marellian exits the igloo, right into the path of the Troll as it rises yet again. Mouthing the words to his spell, Marellian casts burning hands, and incinerates the Troll instantly. Frank and Elden sigh with relief, but Marellian wonders what all the fuss was about. Daveak hushes them all, and in the distance they can hear the roaring of more Trolls in the distance. They seem to be getting closer. Gathering up all their equipment, the party break camp, and hurry into the Cutter Pass, hoping to gain some distance from the Trolls, and maybe reaching a place of safety. Daveak asks Marellian if he will heal them, but Marellian has recently discovered his flute is missing, and declares that until it is returned he will not be giving them aid. He is fed up with the constant bad manners and bullying that he is on the end of from the other party members, and reminds them they have already lost one party member due to their thievery, and if not careful they will soon lose another. He points out he has been peed on by the wolf, had money stolen (Loraella protests that was only because he gave away all her clothes), had been pushed down a hole and is now wondering if he should continue to adventure with them.
Rayne takes him to one side, and gives him the bone flute, telling him her reason for taking it. She tells him he should treat women with more respect, which confuses him as he didn’t realise he had said anything about women. Grudgingly, he uses his aura to heal the others, and they continue into the pass.
Daveak realises that the steep sides of the pass are topped with overhanging snow, and that the party may find themselves caught in a heavy snowfall at any minute. He advises caution, and silence. However, the wind has now got up, and they are in danger of being caught up in a snowstorm at any minute. They decide to run, hoping that the wind will prevent any large ammounts of snow falling on them.
As they race through the defile, they listen for sounds of pursuit, but the wind is whistling through the pass, making such noises near impossible to hear. What they do hear, however, is a woman’s scream, coming from somewhere up ahead. Slowing, to avoid running into a trap or battle, they reach the source of the noise; A young woman stands in the middle of the pass. She is dressed only in a flimsy silken dress, and wearing high heeled shoes. They realise that she is shivering, and crying. Daveak reaches her first, and warily asks her who she is, and what she is doing here.
The young girl introduces herself as ‘Lady Arissa Stowe’, and claims that she was dancing with the viscount Destarle at the Midsummer ball. She tells that the musicians struck up some tune that they had been reviving from an ancient tome, and there was a blinding flash of light from the stones under her feet. The next thing she knew, she was standing in this strange white stuff. She is very cold, and the party rummage through their gear to find her a winter blanket to keep her warm. Marellian tells the others that she may have been a victim of some rogue teleport spell, but he’d have to look into his books to see if there was a precedent. Arissa is confused by his words, asking what a teleport spell is. He replies it is magic, and she snorts in disbelief. It seems that the land she has come from, which she calls Dwale, does not have such a thing as magic any more, as there was a great crusade to rid the land of such nonsense generations ago. She furthermore does not believe in such things as Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and other ‘faerie tales’. When the others reveal that they are half-elves, a half-Orc and a Tiefling, she clings to Daveak, moaning. It is even worse when Marellian casts endure elements upon her, as she believes she will be ‘Tainted’ by magic. Marellian cancels the spell, telling her if she wants to freeze to death it’s up to her.
After a few more questions, they find out that she comes from the ‘Imperium year 3732’. They have no idea who or what the Imperium is, and Daveak wonders if maybe she is a time traveller from the years before the Great Winter began, some 1,502 years earlier if the archivists are to be believed. They decide to take her with them to the Gully, hoping to find some answer there. After much moaning, she reluctantly allows Frank to carry her. she would prefer to keep closer to Daveak, as he is the only human, but Frank’s stamina allows them to keep moving faster.
Ploughing onwards, they fight their way through the wind and snow, reaching ever closer to the end of the pass. Suddenly, there is a whooshing noise, accompanied by a blast of heat. Fearing attack, they scatter, and draw weapons, as a high pitched squealing comes from the vicinity of the heat.
Daveak is the first to reach the area affected by the heat. He sees a man in red and yellow robes, casting spells at an Ice Linnorm. As he watches, the mage casts acid arrow at the beast, which finally kills it. The mage then strides to the corpse, cuts something from it, and teleports away. The party wonder who this person was, and what he was doing, and Daveak remembers that the Flameguard wear red and yellow, and have a mage cadre. Frank and Daveak work out from the tracks that the mage was walking from the direction of the Gulley when the Linnorm attacked. They have a look at the corpse, but cannot find out what it was the mage took from the corpse, and decide to continue onwards, in case there are more Linnorms about.
They manage to reach the end of the pass without incident, and come at last to an icy slide, as the floor of the pass dips away. Marellian realises there is no way to avoid sliding should he try to descend carefully, so throws himself down the slide with abandon. The others shrug, and follow him down. Again, luck seems to be on their side, as none of them are hurt during their slide
At the bottom of the slide, Marellian comes to rest against a stone wall. Loking up, he sees a high tower, with flags fluttering in the wind. He recognises the standard of the Half-Axe clan, both from heraldric symbols in a book he had read and from the talisman the party were given by the Dwarf they rescued in Orc held lands. A gruff voice calls out to him; “Whadda ye fer?”, and he tries to reply, but the wind carries his words away. Motioning to Frank to come close and hold up the talisman of the Half-Axe gets results; a sally-port opens, and a Dwarf motions for them to enter. They are escorted inside the tower, where they meet with an elderly Dwarf.
The elderly Dwarf reveals that he is the uncle of Thurri, the Dwarf they fred from the Orc gibbet. He asks them why they have travelled to the Gulley, and Marellian clears his throat. He has prepared a speech, but his knowledge of the language comes only from books, so sounds a trifle strange to Dwarf speakers…
Flintharrow smell-nice, axe-foe, Octo-fiend runny danger! Smell-nice glittering cave plenty heart spirit. Fools gold puzzling.
Beard growth mouth cover? Pebbling passage of moon? Know pointy ears?”
Trying not to laugh at the Half-elf’s strange vocal style, the elderly Dwarf raises his eyebrows. He congratulates Marellian on his knowledge of the ancient stone-tongue of the Dwarves, but prefers to speak to them in trade tongue. He tells them to take their ease, while he goes to speak with others who may know the answers to their questions, and that he will return soon.
To be continued….