The Dwarf Campaign
Kit stands ankle deep in the icy snow, staring ahead through a tangled maze of birch trees. A mile or so ahead two distinct lines of smoke rise lazily into the white-grey sky. She hears the distant sound of a dog barking.
The frosty air biting her cheeks, Kit reaches into her leather pouch and withdraws the Ember. It is hot in her hands and makes her fingers tingle as feeling returns with the warmth. Carefully, she places the Ember into her lantern, then pulls the shutter closed before securing the lantern loop to her belt.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Kit shoulders her smithing maul, engraved with the sacred runes of the Hearth, and begins tramping through the icy muck, wishing dearly she was back near the warmth of the forge. She keeps heading as straight as possible in the direction of the smoke, unsure of whether it’s from a settlement or more orc ruination.
As Kit makes her way toward the smoke, the sound of the dog barking becomes louder, and mixes with other noises: hens squabbling, chopping wood, and murmured speech. After a few hundred more yards the trees part and before her lies a small human farmstead in a clearing. The dog she heard earlier is tied up and barking in her direction, however upon seeing Kit stops immediately and begins wagging its tail happily. Two humans, a man with greying hair and a younger man, perhaps in his teenage years, are standing about forty feet from her to the side of the cottage chopping firewood. The younger of the two points in Kit’s direction and the older man stops mid chop and turns around to regard her.
After a brief moment of hesitation he lowers his axe and raises his hand in greeting. From one of the few cottage windows several faces appear, comically squished together to get a look. Kit sees the friendly, plump face of an old woman and several inquisitive children, all pressing their faces up against the thick, foggy glass.
Kit stops and lets her maul drop to the ground with a heavy thunk. She raises a gloved hand and calls out in Dwarven-accented Common, her breath coming out in puffs.
“Hail and well met, strange folk! Could you tell me where it is I wander?”
“Hail good Dwarf!” The man calls back. “You have arrived at the home of Aldwald Clootin, and this is my simple farm. Please come forward, that I and my family might welcome you into our home and share a meal and the warmth of our fire. We don’t get many visitors, and certainly none as distinct as yourself!”
With that he sets down his axe and motions toward his home. The front door opens and a kind faced woman in an apron steps out, two small children clutching to her dress.
“Dunothoin’s blessings be upon you, good sir,” she says as she heads towards the cottage. “Tell me, to which clan do you belong?”
Aldwald smiles as he welcomes Kit into his home.
“Well, I would hardly say I belong to a clan,” he states with a chuckle as they both settle down at a simple wooden table, “but I swear fealty to the good king Helm Dwarf-Friend, ruler of Sundabar to the East. And I pay tithes as well to Oswald, known in these parts as Oswald the Kind, mayor of Northbank which lies a mile to the South.”
Kit and Aldwald spend the rest of the afternoon speaking of the local area and recent events. Aldwald’s wife brings out a pair of wooden bowls for them both, and fills them with a hearty venison stew. They eat and talk and soon the whole family is huddled around the small dining area, listening with rapt attention. Aldwald explains to Kit what he knows of the fall of Citadel Felbarr, which isn’t much, but enough to make her heart drop.
“My secluded farm doesn’t get many visitors,” he admits, “and so my knowledge of events in the greater world are limited. However, the town of Northbank that I mentioned earlier rests on the The Old River Road. This is the main trade route between Sundabar in the east and Silverymoon in the west.”
Kit listens intently to Aldwald’s talk, her brow furrowed as she attempts to make sense of the lay of the land.
He takes a final spoonful of stew, and then pushes the bowl aside. “Northbank is the last bit of civilization on this side of the wild Silverymoon pass, and many a merchant and adventurer use it to stock up before making the journey through. If there is more information to be had, you’ll find it there.”
Aldwald looks out the window and notices that the sky has darkened, and the falling snow has picked up in intensity. He turns back to Kit, “You are welcome to spend the night here if you like, I can have cot set up near the fire. Or if you wish to make haste instead, leaving now should bring you to the outskirts of Northbank before the sun goes down.”
As the farmer finishes his talk, with her belly full of nourishing stew and fatigue beginning to steal over her, Kit is tempted to take the farmer up on his offer of hospitality. Instead, she pushes her chair back and begins gathering her things together – the lantern with the Ember, of course, never having left her side.
“I thank you for the food and the information, good farmer. I will leave for Northbank immediately if it’s all the same to you. The fate of my kin vexes me greatly, and I thirst for more information.”
Aldwald nods his understanding and sees Kit to the door. As he nears the front door he takes a deerskin cloak from the small wall peg it was hanging on and hands it to her.
“Here, take this. Was my boy’s, but he outgrew it this last summer and we’ll be needing to make him a new one anyway. It’s too cold for you to be out without proper winter clothes.”
Kit gratefully wraps herself in the deerskin cloak, and prepares herself for the frigid temperatures outside.
As she reaches the door, she pauses.
“Tell me, do you know how far Citadel Felbarr lies from this farm and in which direction?”
“I cannot say for certain," Aswald replies, "but I know it lay many miles north of Sundabar. Sundabar herself is about a five day journey east along The Old River Road.”
He raises his hand once more in parting.
“Farewell Kit Goldhammer, I wish you the best of luck in your journeys and the search for your kin.”
Kit raises her hand in response. “May Dumathoin keep your hearth ever warm, kind Aldwald.”
She bids one last farewell to Aldwald and his family, and trudges off into the thickening snowstorm.
Kit slogs on through the deepening snow for about three hours as the storm grows in intensity.
Just as the last remnants of daylight leave the forest, and the flurry of snow all but blinds the way in front of her, she spies the warm lights of the village up ahead.
The forest thins out considerably as she covers these last few hundred yards. The dark shapes of buildings, seemingly abandoned, take shape from the snowy landscape around her. These lifeless, black husks do little to comfort her, instead filling her with a chill that is not wholly from the cold. After a quick skirt around a frozen graveyard, Kit finds herself at a crossroads between The Old River Road and the Vaskar Hills Road, and what appears to be the center of town.
Here the buildings appear to be in much better repair, and the glow of candle light comes from several of the windows. Just across from her stands a large three story building. Warm light shines from all the lower floor windows, and a chorus of voices, clinking glasses and soft music emanates from within.
A large, wooden sign hanging over this door bears the letters “N.B.” along with the painting of a winding river.