Norundra

Assault on the Duergar (part 1)

Athao, Rael, Sinj, Mump, Carreg

The embers burned a noxious red in Carreg’s pipe as he puffed away at it. “Duergar? Aye, we met some of those mud borne olc troich, and put most of them in the ground. Well, deeper in the ground, in any case. More than just Duergar, much more. What’s that? A story? Do I look like a story teller? I don’t have time for… a beer? For me? Ok, fine, fine, sit down there.”

“You’ll recall that we learned that there was the possibility of a nearby Duergar encampment in the final days before winter set in. So all winter I was left to stew, thinking that those miserable sons of crap were infesting perfectly good mountains just to the West. Whatever else has been going on in these lands, those Duergar needed killing. Fortunately Rael, like any true Dwarf, took up the cause as soon as it was mentioned. That Kill-Sinj fellow seemed hot under the apron to see if there was anything unnatural down below, and he seems competent enough when it comes to… killing… so he was welcome as well. Mump also wanted to come along, and I couldn’t fault that, he’s a good healer to have in a pinch, although why he wanted to take that bird thing deep underground was a mystery to me. And then there was Athao, who I was hesitant to bring along, to be sure, but for a forest elf he hadn’t gone crazy yet, so I thought I’d at least watch how he worked under pressure. There would be another dwarf at my back, so I risked it.”

“So as soon as the weather broke we set out, determined to check out just how bad the Duergar blight was.”

“I’ll say one thing for that elf, the miles pass quickly with him in tow. Before we knew it we were at Red Teeth’s forest and looking for the river. While looking for the river we stumbled across a mound of stinking offal just lying on the ground. The kill sword crept up to it while the rest of us were warry, and sure enough something, probably some servant of Red Teeth’s, burst out of the ground and started to gnaw on Sinj with tentacles and whatnot. Rael charged in to help, and the rest of us kept our distance and applied ranged support, but I have to tell you, there’s something that comes over Sinj when he’s facing something that clearly just shouldn’t be. It’s like he sprouts more arms with more swords, and yells with more lungs.” Carreg takes a drag from his pipe and looks across the long house at where Sinj is sitting at the bar drinking; “Good in a fight, but, there’s something about that lad. In any case, Sinj chopped its head off before it could do much damage to him.”

“Fearing the commotion would draw Red Teeth to us we pushed on through the night to cross the river before camping. Sure enough, just like last time, Evan showed up while we were camping and decided to shoot the shit. He’s a nice enough fellow, for someone who lives right in the middle of a damnable forest, but why the hell does he always show up in the middle of the night?”

“Another days travel got us to the entrance into the mountain and down to the crossroads.  It was at this point that Athao realized that the previous unknown hieroglyph above the fourth door meant ‘mushroom’ or ‘fungus’.  Although he’d mostly seen it associated with mushroom farms, he said it also might be associated with a race of walking fungus. We decided to stick to the original plan and go down the Duergar path, rather than the fungus path. Once again the architecture seemed to be of dwarven design, when present, although there were several large caves and caverns unworked by tool or hand.”

“The miles crept on deep within the earth, but eventually we came out into a large cavern with a thin rocky ledge that went completely around a thirty foot drop to the bottom which was covered in bones of various shapes and sizes. We decided that inching along the ledge was a ticket for an ambush, so we climbed down to the ossuary floor and started exploring. Twice we were ambushed by a large leathery creature that dropped onto us from the ceiling. We called them bite blankets, but despite their unusual appearance they were dispatched without much worry. I believe we brought the remains of one back.” Carreg waves over to the bar with his pipe stem. “You should give it a look. When the bite blankets are hiding along the ceiling, they’re nearly indistinguishable from rock. But now that you’re forewarned I should expect none of you to be ambushed by their ilk.”

“After a half days travel we came across an odd cavern with a single large white geode set into the floor and three other exits. I attempted to break off a piece with my hammer, but my strongest blow resulted in a single loud gong and no loosening of even a single facet. Mump started to study the crystal mystically, while the rest of us stood guard, but within minutes a red glow started to emanate from the center of the crystal. The glow expanded, and soon was overtaken by a yellow pulse from the center, and then an orange one. The stroboscopic colors continued to fill the room, faster and faster, until our fascination was interrupted by the sound of scrabbling and clawing coming from one of the hallways into the crystal chamber.”

“We braced for an attack, and sure enough the same stinking lizard creatures we’d encountered in our last adventures down below swarmed over us once again. And as quickly as we dispatched their ilk last time, we put them down again. Oddly, as soon as the last of them died the crystal went dim. We quickly moved out of that cavern, as the stench was something incredible, down one of the remaining two paths.”

“A little further down the cave was when we finally encountered the shittiest of the dwarven races, the Duergar. While most of us were asleep the Duergar set up an ambush, having eight of their number sneak into our camp while invisible, and then two more of their number who stayed visible astride leanabh ag ithe spiders commanded us to throw down our weapons and chain ourselves for slavery. We told them where they could affix their rotten chains and at that moment four of the invisible stalkers appeared around us and struck out. The battle was joined in earnest, but when it started going against them, despite the advantage of their cowardly ambush, the rest of their forces appeared as reinforcement. Throughout the battle they deigned to condescend to us, rife with haughty hubris, and yet when their reinforcements also started to fall they scattered like the wet trousered filth they are. We managed to cull eight of the ten, but two of their number did elude us.”

“We then decided that it was prudent to back up to the crystal room in case they came after us with a larger force. We discovered that in our absence the corpses of the lizards had been cleared away, so we wisely camped a little farther up one of the passages away from the crystal room. While camping the crystal once again decided to light up so we backed up into the shadows a bit more and spied a large force of those stinking lizard folk coming into the crystal room, wounded but victorious from a raid up one of the unexplored other passages. Their raid retreated back down the cavern that we’d seen them attack from previously.”

“We decided now that the crystal was a warning device used to alert the approach of the lizard men, and we supposed that our slaying of the lizard people previously might have sparked a retaliatory raid. We ventured up the path that the lizard people had raided and found only dead Gnolls. So we returned to the crystal cave and then turned into the stinking caverns of the lizard people, thinking them probably too wounded to defend themselves well.”

Carreg glances down at his now dry ale mug, “And what came next was truly a harrowing tale, but it’s not something to be told with a dry tongue.”

(continued in part 2)

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