The Dwarf Campaign
A full day passes before the dwarven priests feel that Kilak is ready to leave their care. Gathering his possessions, he steps out of the makeshift tent and absorbs the scene around him. Hundreds of Felbarran dwarves fill an empty plot of no more than a few acres. Tents and lean-to’s break up the sea of huddled forms, and everywhere he looks grim misery paints the faces of his kinsmen. Behind him, butting up against this refugee camp, rise grey stone walls nearly twenty feet high, patrolled at the top by human sentries. In front of him, beyond the camp, stretches the human city of Sundabar, peaked roofs rising above a sea of steamy air and bustling activity.
“What have I done?” Kilak whispers to himself, “I have failed myself and my people…”
Kilak feels that now would be a good time for a strong drink. Relieved that he has his coin purse, he makes his way into the human city.
Kilak finds Sundabar rather easy to navigate, although never having been there before. According to the history of the region, the city of Sundabar was once the site of an ancient dwarven stronghold by the same name. Due to reasons unknown, the stronghold was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until some time later that refugees from the human city of Ascalhorn (now Hellgate Keep) moved in and resettled the dwarven stronghold, building their own city above the ancient avenues and boulevards of dwarven design.
As such, wandering the streets feels quite familiar to Kilak. While the buildings themselves are very different from what he is used to, their layout is comforting. In addition, the proximity of this city to his home of Citadel Felbar, as well as the powerful Citadel Adbar to the northeast, makes it a crossroads of human and dwarven culture.
It isn’t long before Kilak finds his way into the aptly named Dwarven District, a section of town with small, stout buildings and great roaring forges. He wanders though these familiar sights, lost in thought. The ring of hammers on anvils chimes through the smokey air, and sets a cadence for dwarven songs that drift in from every doorway and alley, songs filled with deep sadness.
Kilak enters the first tavern he finds, and settles down at a table. The tavern is full of many of his drunken kinsmen, some angry and looking for a fight, some sad and crying into their frothy mugs, others just blank and lost in thought. Behind the bar a tall human with a shaggy red beard cleans mugs while conversing with a pair of dwarven city guard.
A robust dwarven barmaid comes over to Kilak and stands inquisitively in front of him, waiting for his order.
Kilak motions toward the dwarves nearest him. “I’ll take whateva they are havin’.”
Kilak scans the room, trying to see if anyone he knows is alive. Soon, the barmaid returns with a foamy mug of ale and sets it in front of him.
“First round is on the house,” she says and then walks off to tend to the rest of the tables.
Kilak takes a sip of the fine dwarven ale and looks around the tavern’s common room. The majority of patrons appear to be refugees from Citadel Felbar, based on the state of their clothing and their sour expressions. There are also a handful of Sundabarran dwarves, dressed in human styled clothing and acting like regulars, laughing and talking with the barmaids.
The only non-dwarf in the establishment, save for the tavern keeper himself, is a tall, reed-thin human wearing grey robes covered in multicolored patches. He has an entire table to himself and his gangly limbs, far too long for the stout dwarven furniture, stick out at odd angles every which way. He seems to be lost in deep thought as he pours over dozens of maps and scrolls, a glass of untouched red wine acting as paper weight.
As Kilak completes his scan of the tavern he does notice three Felbarran dwarves that he recognizes as part of the outer watch, probably lookouts from one of the many small towers that dot the landscape around Citadel Felbar. They are sitting at a booth toward the back wall, two of them engaged in angry, animated conversation while the third tries to settle them down.
One of them, a black bearded dwarf whose head is wrapped so completely in bandages that from his nose up only his eyes are visible, slams his fist down on the table.
“Bah, to the nine hells with ye! And one more for good measure, ye bearded orc!”
The other dwarf, a blond fellow with both of his arms in hard casts, stands up from his chair and kicks it backwards, sending it flying across the room.
“While I’m there I’ll be sure to visit that Balrog ye call a mother!”
Several patrons stand up and take their drinks to tables further away from the escalating argument.
Kilak’s brow arches at the dwarves’ growing ruckus, and he chuckles. “I could get used to this.”
He resists the urge to join in the drunken festivities, and instead makes his way over to the out of place human, hoping to find information instead of a fight.
“Hello stranger,” he says, stepping forward, “me name is Kilak. Do ye mind if I have a seat with ya?”
The stranger looks up and blinks at Kilak, as if waking up from a daydream. “Ahh yes, greetings to you friend dwarf! Please, please have a seat!” He begins to gather his maps together rather haphazardly. “My apologies for the mess, I am in the midst of planning a grand journey to Silverymoon, and well, you can never be too prepared!”
After scooping the last of the maps into a large sack he extends his hand to you and smiles wide. “Let me introduce myself! My name is Harkel Harpell, of the Longsaddle Harpells. Tell me good dwarf, are you a resident of Sundabar or one of the sad souls displaced by the terrible fate that befell Citadel Felbar?”
Kilak takes a seat at the table with Harkel, and takes a chug of his ale.
“Is it that easy to tell friend?”
Harkel nods sadly at your confirmation of his suspicions. “It is as I feared. By your very dress and dour expression I could tell you were not one of the local Sundabarran dwarves.”
“I am truly sorry to hear of the fate of your home. But rest assured, the good kingdoms will not let this be! I’m sure even now they are planning a counter attack to wrest control back from that scoundrel Obould Many-Arrows! Huzzah!”
From around the tavern a few lackluster “Huzzahs” echo from the seated dwarves, and a handful raise their own glasses in wobbly, half-hearted salute. Kilak nods his approval.
He takes another large swig of his ale, one that finishes off his cup. He turns and faces the barmaid, signaling for one more.
“So, whats in Silverymoon?” he asks.
“What’s in Silverymoon? Ho ho, ‘What ISN’T in Silverymoon?’ would be an easier question to answer, my thirsty dwarf! It is a hub of knowledge for the goodly races, and stands as a pinnacle of beauty and refinement in these rough edged lands!”
The barmaid returns with another pint of ale for Kilak, this time taking payment for it.
“Where was I? Oh yes, Silverymoon! I am on my way to meet Lady Alustriel herself, and there shall I complete my formal training as a wizard!” At this he beams and attempts to hook his fingers in his suspenders, suspenders that do not exist. He tries a couple of times, then looks down and chuckles sheepishly.
Harkel continues as if nothing happened. “Us Harpells have been completing our studies with the good Lady of Silverymoon for as long as— well, as long as I can remember! And best of all, it is traditional that this training culminates in a great quest!” He laughs and slams his palms against the table.
“Oh the stories, my cavern-loving friend!” Harkel continues, “Many of my relatives have gone on these grand adventures themselves under the banner of Silverymoon, and oh their stories! My uncle Bidderdoo battled werewolves in strange pine forests dotted with lonely castles, lands not on any map. My own mother took in with pirate hunters along the Sword Coast, and spent a year blasting scurvy dogs and Sahaguin back into the turquoise waters of the Moonshae.”
His eyes go blank for a moment as his mind transports him to distant times. Finally he shakes himself from his reverie.
“Soon I will have a glorious adventure of my own. Then I shall return to Longsaddle to set up my own studies in the Ivy Mansion, alongside my cousins, aunts and uncles. Oh what a homecoming that will be!”
Kilak takes a hearty draught of his ale and raises the mug. “Aye, I can raise a tankard to that friend.”
Pausing with the mug halfway to his mouth, Kilak’s face takes on a thoughtful expression. “I wonder if Lady Alustriel would be able to discern how Obould could take such a keep? We’ve defended her for many years, against all kinds of invasions. This time it was different. He must have had some kind of help, magical help.”
Harkel looks thoughtful for a moment as well, then his eyes light up. “A splendid idea, splendid I say! I leave for Silverymoon tomorrow at first light, you should accompany me!” With this notion he claps his hands together once and grins delightedly.
Kilaks eyes wander, almost as if in a trance, remembering that night in the caverns, the strange visions that came to him. He can feel his blood boil, his rage washing over him like a warm blanket. This is unusual for Kilak, as he has always kept his emotions in check. Something has changed in him, he can feel it.
Harkel eyes Kilak’s strange mood shift with a little concern.
“I can easily secure a personal audience for you with the Lady Alustriel herself.” he offers, trying to draw Kilak out of his rage-trance. “If there is anyone in these realms capable of helping you discover the source of Obould’s treachery, it is she. Plus, the road to Silverymoon is not without its dangers: bandits, roaming monsters and other hazards. I would feel much safer traveling it with the likes of you by my side, I must say!”
He leans in expectantly. “What say you, my bearded compatriot? Will you accompany me to Silverymoon tomorrow morning?”
Kilak slams his embow on the table holding up his clenched fist, then quickly places his open palm upon his clenched fist.
“What does that mean to you, friend!?”
Smirking, he wipes his beard clean then shouts: “To Silverymoon!”
Harkel laughs uproariously.
“Yes, I do like the look of that! Let me try!” With that, he too slams his elbow to the table and places his open palm over his clenched fist. “We leave tomorrow morning good dwarf. But for now, let us drink to this great new adventure! Barmaid, keep the wine and ale flowing!”
The rest of the night passes in drunken revelry. Even the battered duo of dwarves make peace and find themselves arm in cast-covered arm, singing to the memory of Citadel Felbar. Harkel excuses himself from the festivities relatively early, but Kilak joins in the merriment until the late hours, drinking and singing dwarven songs about orcs and the many ways to dispatch them. Finally, on the verge of passing out, he is ushered upstairs by the tavern keeper and one of the barmaids to a private room with a comfortable bed, all paid for by Harkel.
Kilak falls asleep rather quickly, but finds his dreams troubled. Ghastly images assault his subconscious: silhouettes of dwarves falling before the roaring fires of a forge, giant lizards biting at him, his parents covered in blood and reaching out towards him, and finally eyes— grey eyes like the finest granite, eyes that stare into his soul.
Kilak wakes with a start to a knocking at his door. Sunlight streams in through uncurtained windows and stings his eyes. Fighting back the unsettling memory of those dreams he stumbles out of bed and opens the door. Harkel Harpell stands there before him— eyes bright, pack over one shoulder and a huge smile across his face.
“Good morning, Kilak! Ready to set out?”
Kilak and Harkel leave Sundabar an hour later through the western gate, and make their way northwest toward the Silverymoon Pass. Harkel explains that they’ll be on the road for about five days before reaching the entrance to the pass. There they’ll be able to resupply at the small township of Northbank, before making the ten day journey through the pass itself to Silverymoon on the other side.
The journey is relatively uneventful, and the companions make their way along the aptly named Old River Road— a road that follows the meandering path of the Prin river through cultivated farmlands and rolling plains. Harkel shares information about his home and family, wizards renowned throughout the realms for their unorthodox magic as well as the wonders and curiosities of their eccentric home, the Ivy Mansion. He refrains from asking too much of Kilak’s own home, as it is apparent that Kilak is still deeply troubled by the events that occurred there all to recently.
Finally on their fifth day out, as their shadows grow long in the late afternoon sun, the two travelers arrive at the town of Northbank. Nestled amongst the forested foothills of the Nether Mountains, the village of Northbank is the last tendril of civilization before the wild untamed lands of the Silverymoon Pass. Over the small town rise the imposing blue-grey peaks of the Nether Mountains, their summits dusted in snow.
Harkel and Kilak walk into town just as a light snow begins to fall. To their left the Prin river turns to the south and away from town. Along its banks the duo spy several warehouses and docks, most closed up as the river has already started to ice over, halting all river trade for the season.
They continue ahead along The Old River Road, and soon find themselves in the town square. Several shops line the four corners of this intersection between the road they’re on and The Vaskar Hills Road. The center of the town square is marked by a quaint, moss covered fountain out of which no water flows. Most of the shops seem to be closing up for the night, and you see many of these shopkeepers heading through the light snow toward a large three-story building on the southeast corner of the square. The sound of laughter and music comes from within, marking it as an inn and tavern.
Harkel nods towards the inn. “Let’s get ourselves a couple of rooms there and put up for the night. I could use a hot meal and a nice glass of wine before stocking up and heading out tomorrow.”
They make their way into the inn, and find it quite busy, with townsfolk and merchants alike eating, drinking and sharing tales. A halfling bard lounges in a plush chair on a small stage and strums on a curious stringed instrument while crooning about lost love. Several female patrons, mostly human, lean in close and sigh dreamily.
Harkel raises an eyebrow at Kilak before weaving his way to the innkeeper to secure rooms for them. Kilak finds an open table near the bar and settles in. By the time Harkel returns with news that they now have two of the finest accomodations available at the Northbank Inn, a feast awaits. Two roast rabbits, carrots, potatoes, gravy, a carafe of wine and a pitcher of ale laden the sturdy table. The two dig in with abandon, eating, drinking and listening to the music and the bubbling conversation around them.
Outside, the night sets in and the snow falls heavily on the town of Northbank.