The Dwarf Campaign
General Background Information for Players
Both Kit and Kilak are refugees from a devastating orc invasion of their home, Citadel Felbarr. Led by a cunning and powerful orc king named Obould Many-Arrows, tens of thousands of howling goblinoids swept down from the mountains as the first snows fell in the year 1357 D.R. Within a couple of hours their horde engulfed the citadel. The coordination and sheer size of the invading force was unlike anything the Dwarven defenders had ever experienced. Even so, their fellow Felbarran Dwarves moved quickly into action, setting up a sturdy dwarven defense, and stopped the assault at the gates. The plan was to keep the orcs at bay long enough so that the winter cold and their own predictable infighting would lead to their self destruction. What their Citadel didn’t anticipate was a second force of shock troops that attacked from within. Nearly a thousand powerful subterranean orcs, along with hundreds of Dueregar, Drow Elves and other more exotic underdark creatures burst into the dwarven mining caverns through magical gateways. With the dwarven forces split, and chaos erupting in the streets, the larger orc force led by Obould Many-Arrows was able to push through their outer defenses. Kit and Kilak’s people were left with enemies on both sides, and no escape.
The Dwarves put up a brave fight, but for each orc they killed (and they killed many) 10 more were there to take their place. The fighting eventually made its way to the royal throne room. There, King Thorgrym Frostshield, along with 50 of his Royal Guard, made their final stand. It is said that this small group was able to hold off the orcs for nearly a day before finally succumbing to the horde.
Of the 5000 Dwarves that called Citadel Felbarr home, only 1500 made it out with their lives. Most of those fled to the city of Sundabar to the south, where they set up a temporary camp just within the city gates. To add insult to injury, King Obould has sent out messages far and wide declaring that Citadel Felbarr shall now be called The Citadel of Many-Arrows, and will be the seat of a new orc empire.
Two tendays have passed since Citadel Felbarr fell, and the winter is just setting in.
Additional Background Information for Kilak Felaxe
Dwarven custom in Citadel Felbarr decreed that it was every young dwarf’s duty to serve their citadel in a military fashion for a period of time as soon as they came of age. This service might be in the form of escorting mining expeditions, securing the citadel’s outer defenses or even representing their citadel in other cities with which they maintain diplomatic ties. The decision of where a particular dwarf would serve was generally made by the military council. Kilak, however, came from a highly influential family with strong ties to the ruling caste. As such, his father pulled some strings and secured his admittance into the prestigious, and highly safe, Hearth Guard.
In the 2000 year history of Citadel Felbarr, not once had the citadel’s Hearth Temple come under attack in any way. Because of this, the position of Hearth Guardian became largely ceremonial. The safe nature of this position, and the fact that it was fed by many of the noble houses, meant the training of the Hearth Guard tended to be a little more lax than the other dwarven military schools. The Hearth Guard school emphasized proper military dress over weapon skills, ceremonial routines (such as changing of the guard) over defensive tactics, and social events such as military balls and parades over battle strategies.
Kilak completed his Hearth Guard training just two weeks before the invasion of Obould Many-Arrows.
Attacks of these kind weren’t a rare occurrence, of course. Just the previous year a laughably bad attempt by a gnoll chieftan named Howler Bloodtooth was halted and routed by Dwarven catapults and crossbowmen before a single gnoll even made it to the walls of the citadel . Because of the frequency of these assaults, many of Kilak’s fellow Guardians treated the attack lightly. Several placed bets on how long the attack would last before being turned away, and others postured and bragged about how they wished they had a chance to be out there on the front line, taking it to those smelly orcs. It wasn’t until news came of the size of the force that the chattering and joking died down. And later, when word came that a second force of orcs and underdark creatures were attacking from within the mines themselves, the talking stopped altogether and the Hearth Guard went into grim action.
Defensive runes were triggered, positions were taken and final communications with the Ember Keepers within the Temple were made before all entrances were magically sealed. Then they waited.
The sounds of battle grew louder and louder, and Kilak steeled himself against what was coming. The cacophony of metal on metal and the screams of dying dwarves echoed from the corridor ahead. Just as it seemed that his enemies would turn the corner and battle would be met, his vision went dark. From the confused shouts around him, it seemed that his fellow Guardians were experiencing the same thing. Within seconds of this strange darkness came the sound of dozens of clicks. Grunts and curses erupted around Kilak, followed quickly by the sound of slumping bodies.
Another set of clicks echoed from ahead of him, and Kilak felt a sharp sting on his cheek. He reached up to his face and found small dart embedded there. He pulled it out and quickly felt a creeping numbness climb up his body, from his feet to his hands. The dart dropped from Kilak’s useless fingers, and he vaguely realized he was falling to the ground before his world went black.
The images Kilak remembers from that point on are scattered and confusing. He recalls waking up in a groggy state for a moment to find himself tied, bruised and beaten, to a huge subterranean lizard as it made its way through a luminescent cavern. He lifted his head and saw other giant lizards in some sort of caravan, being guided by lithe, shadowy forms. Similar dwarf-shaped lumps were tied to these lizards. That memory is cut short as something solid struck his temple, sending him back into sweet, sweet darkness. Kilak’s next memory is of a cool, damp cloth being pressed against his forehead. He opened his eyes to see a feminine dwarven face looking down on him with concern. But something was strange about her face. Her skin seemed too grey, and her eyes too dark. This image too fades into darkness. His next memory is of his cheek pressing against wooden planks while his body bounced around. With one blurry eye open, Kilak stared between the cracks in the wood and watched the wheel of a wagon slowly rolling in the rut of a sunlit dirt road. The overwhelming smell of hot garbage filled his nose and mouth, and sunlight filtered in dimly from above him. With the stench of refuse in Kilak’s lungs, he again felt consciousness slip away.
Kilak finally awakens to find himself laying on a cot in a makeshift hospital and being tended to by dwarven clerics. They inform him that he is in the city of Sundabar, and two tendays have passed since the fall of Citadel Felbarr. The town guards found him a few days ago, near death under a pile of garbage in the dump outside the city walls. It took almost constant tending by the clerics to bring him back to consciousness. They have no idea how he got there or where he has been. Strangely they found him fully armed and armored.
Kilak also learns about the fate of his home, including the loss of his king, his family and his fellow Hearth Guard. The clerics are uncertain about the fate of the Ember, although they are almost certain that the Hearth has fallen. The news saddens Kilak greatly, and with a heavy heart he sets out to find where his future lay.
Additional Background Information for Kit Goldhammer
Unlike the Hearth Guard, the Ember Keepers of Citadel Felbarr were not chosen from the ranks of nobles, or selected by a military council. Only first born daughters, born in the month of Nightal, had the choice to become an Ember Keeper. As they came of age, these prospects entered into priestly service for the Hearth Temple. They would then spend ten years within the Hearth Temple, completely removed from the rest of Dwarven society, to learn the ways of their god Dumathoin, The Keeper of Secrets Under the Mountain. After completing their years of study and training, the prospects had two options available to them. They could leave the Temple and take their knowledge and wisdom abroad, a choice which was not looked down upon at all. In fact, being trained as a cleric in the Hearth Temple was considered a great honor, and many of those who left to pursue their priestly ways elsewhere found themselves in prominent positions within the clergy. Then there was the second option: they could remain at the Hearth Temple and attune themselves to the Ember, forever becoming Ember Keepers and living the rest of their days out within the Temple. The attunement process gave these Ember Keepers a stronger tie with Dumathoin and a greater degree of power, but also limited them so that they must remain close to the Ember to use their gifted powers.
Most prospects, after ten years of being cooped up within the Temple, essentially against their will, selected the first option. Very few ever chose the rigorous, lonely existence of an Ember Keeper.
Kit Goldhammer, however, did.
The ceremony lasted several hours, and was attended only by the other Ember Keepers and the Hearth Mother herself. During the final stage of the ceremony Kit was required to reach within the Great Hearth itself and pick the burning Ember up in her hand. She reached in carefully, trying to ignore the intense heat within, and grasped the Ember. The searing pain she felt was like nothing she had experienced before. It felt as if her hand burned completely away, then her arm, then the rest of her body. Somewhere in that blinding, white pain Kit lost her vision, and then herself. The pain subsided and was replaced with an overwhelming feeling of calm. She was sure that she had died, somehow having failed that final test.
Slowly however, Kit’s vision returned, and then her other senses as well. She was standing in front of the Great Hearth, holding the Ember within her palm. The light from the Ember burned so brightly that not a shadow was cast by anyone or anything within the Temple. No pain coursed through her body, instead she felt only a sense of complete calm. With a nod from the Hearth Mother, Kit placed the Ember back within the Great Hearth. The ceremony was complete.
It was a month after her ceremony that Obould attacked.
During that first hour, Kit received limited information about the attack from the Hearth Guardians outside the Temple. However, when the clerics began activating the protective wards, and the Guardians sealed the entrance and cut off communication, she knew it was bad.
The thick stone walls prevented any noise from seeping into the Temple, so it was impossible to know what transpired outside. At a one point during the maddening silence the Hearth Mother gasped audibly, as if she saw something no one else did, and quickly set the priests in a defensive formation around the Great Hearth itself. A strange, purple light began to glow through the seams of the stone doorway leading out from the Hearth Temple, coupled with a thrumming noise that made Kit’s teeth hurt. During these last desperate moments, while Kit prepared herself to defend the Ember with her life, she was approached by the Hearth Mother. She hobbled up to Kit and placed a small leather pouch in her hand before leading her around the Great Hearth toward the stone wall behind it. The Hearth Mother pulled a small silver hammer from her belt and rapped it once lightly on the wall. A thunderous crash resounded from the delicate strike and a huge crack began to form in the stone, widening considerably and with alarming speed. All of Kit’s concerns were caught in her throat as she stared at the scene on the other side of the crack.
Beyond was a forest of maple, oak and birch, cast in the orange light of late afternoon, the ground covered in a thick layer of dead leaves and a light dusting of snow. The snow was just starting to fall, and even as Kit stared, a fat snowflake drifted in through the crack to land right on her nose.
“Keep it safe” the Hearth Mother whispered in her ear, just before pushing her through the crack to land face first in a pile of leaves. Kit rolled over and stared through the crack, which now seemed to hover in mid air, but the Hearth Mother was nowhere to be seen. The sound of shouts, cries and devastating spells going off reverberated from the chamber beyond, and echoed strangely off the trees around her. Several crows took flight from a nearby tree, their angry cawing adding to the cacophony.
From within Kit heard a voice in broken Dwarvish.
“Where is it? Where is the ember?” it demanded.
The crack began closing slowly.
Just as it was nearly closed, a face appeared in the hole. So utterly evil was this face that Kit fell flat on her back at its sudden appearance. It possessed obsidian black skin, red eyes, white crazed hair and a look of such malevolence that she felt her blood run cold. It stared into Kit’s eyes for a split second before the crack closed completely.
After spending a few minutes calming down, Kit slowly sat up and looked at the pouch in your hand. It was leather, but covered in intricate Dwarven runes. With slight hesitation she opened the pouch and looked within. Her face was immediately flooded with a warm, firey glow and she understood immediately what was inside, and the full weight of her responsibility. She didn’t know what happened to the other Ember Keepers, the Hearth Mother or Citadel Felbarr itself, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was protecting what she held in her hands.
Closing the pouch, Kit stood up and looked around. The forest appeared the same in all directions, just trees and leaves and snow. Trusting in her luck, she chose a random direction and started walking.
Over the next two tendays Kit wandered through uninhabited forests, meeting no one except for the occasional woodland creature. She prayed to Dumathoin for food and water when she needed it, and used the Ember for warmth during the frigid nights.
Now, just as she starts in on her third tenday in the wilderness, she spies a couple of lines of smoke rising in the distance. The sign of a settlement. She doesn’t know whether the settlement is friendly or not, but her choices are limited. With grim determination she grasps the pouch protectively and stares ahead, weighing her options.