What if you needed help to defend yourself against the Githyanki? Hrm…
What if you needed help to defend yourself against the Githyanki? Hrm…
Darian Earthrok, hero of Sing’jar, survivor of the orc invasion, made big news when he registered as an exploration company. He stood on the railing of the mayor’s porch and addressed the gathered people who followed him to the mayor’s mansion, addressing the crowd in a bold voice:
The destruction in the hills has opened the doors to raiders and theives from all directions. The mayors decree to register explorers is fair…her concerns about not letting evil artifacts be freely traded in the city is prudent. But the plundering of the ancient homes of the dwarves is no better than pillaging and defiling the dead!
Dwarves do not break down the doors of your temples and steal your silver…we do not wrench open the coffins of your mothers and fathers to steal their burial gold! Is it this double standard that dwarves must suffer because parts of their homes are unnocupied now? Think! Consider how you want your neightbors to respect your family after you die…act with respect.
I form this exploration company to learn about our fathers below so as we can appreciate our lives above the more! Their works in the name of Moradin and the blessed family of the ancients should be curated, not smelted! Help me set an example of how to learn from the old tunnels of my fathers and treat them with repect and honor.
And Darian hired dozens of explorers, paying them 10 gold a week in hopes that they would not be sneaking treasures out and sell artifacts to other agents in town.
Our new party was eager to work:
They were lead into the North Cavepool tunnels by Craynor Blacklap, an experienced human fighter. This entrance was hidden: covered by a large pile of fallen bolders. An entrance narrow enough that Thardis had to crawl through.
Tunnels lead to very large rooms, very large, with signs of ancient occupation. One room had a statue of a demon whos ruby eyes were clearly attempted to stolen, but the floor was littered with brittle, rusty tools and scrapes around the eye sockets. A deep fissure would blow cold air with a mournfull trumpet sound. A hallway with shriveled corpses spiked to the walls. Giant rats, eager for fresh visitors. A skeletal snake that projected a nest of jems. A pair of zombees that seemed to wander up from below years previously. A torture chamber littered with rusty surgical tools and human bones. Footprints of some human were seen leading to the second level, as well.
This few hours of spooky exploring in the entrance level of the Cavepool North entrance definitely took everyone’s minds off their struggles topside. But they returned, having dutifully mbrought back the gems they magically marked to issue to the controller.
But there was no controller back at camp. There was nearly no camp! A sad looking dwarf, Bluestone, spoke with Craynor about how Darian was evicted by the mayor’s tax collectors for not renewing his company license, and word was out that Darian ran out of cash by paying his explorers so much. Darian went on the move that morning and was no doubt lost below the hills somewhere.
Bluestone and Clark set abou
t discussing how to incorporate their own exploration company, the two of them being experienced at it, having been through many tunnels in the Large Entrance. Bluestone explained how the magic marks from the making scrolls they were issued could be expunged, if necessary, but selling items without company markers could be dangerous if you ended up selling to a sheriff’s agent.
As they settled into dinner, sitting around the fire that evening, Thardis noticed movement and pointed it out. Bluestone started talking overly loud, covering the quiet planning of the other members of the party whilst calmly wrapping his war hammer in a burlap bad and pouring oil on it. Behind a small hill, six humans crouched and popped their heads up occasionally, planning a raid on our party.
Thardis met them boldly and swept his glaive madly, chopping and hacking. Craynor stood before the Vazas, who unleashed a thunder wave, crippling most of the bandits. Cador rushed to Thardis’ aide before long, having been felled early in battle. From behind, came Bluestone with his flaming war hammer and beat the remaining bandits to their deaths.
As they recovered from the attack, they all agreed that they fought well together, and they would probably survive better in the tunnels than constantly surrounded by theives on all sides above ground. Craynor and Bluestone agreed to travel to the mayor’s office and register as an exploration company the next morning.
If you dig up treasures from the deep tunnels, how much time do you spend going into town and finding a buyer? Do you spend money on a booth in the market, or do you work with jewlers? Is finding other agents good to protect your time so you can focus on finding more treasures? Liam and I discussed this for a while.
Up and down the Sing’jar shore and out to the Faroth islands, trade is growing. New weath–the neauveau riche–are sprouting, buying land and building mansions around the bay. There would be plent of opportunities for successful traders and bankers to want to invest in a bit of splendor.
And banks. Yes…you can’t really have a large community without banks. Just one bank is not enought. There are banks on each of the Faroth islands. There are multiple banks in Sing’jar. The wealth of the elves is obscure, as is the wealth of the Octran islands. But the high elves in the mountians and the sea elves in the Octrans have a wealth of cultural knowledge and would be the destination for apraisers to visit when they found something out of the ordinary.
Do you keep your coppers and silvers under your bedroll? If you found a set of silver cutlery and gold candle sticks, would you rather melt it into an ingot of electrum? Maybe you need a an agent to buy your winnings at a predictable price.
Thardis Hornhelm is a minotaur fighter. Thardis comes to the caverns in the hope of finding ancient wonders. he also hopes to end the evil of the cult of Ulexnil. Thardis doesn’t hate life above ground but he would rather be underground away from the darkness that plagues his race and hunting the evil dwarves he despises. Thardis fears that a beholder may be influencing the cult of Ulexnil…he would prefer it if it didn’t exist…but if it does, he would be happy to put an end to its vile monstrosity of a life.
Snilla is a greedy hafling rogue, on this expedition so she can pay back her debts. Maybe find some valuable ancient artifact. Sell it to the highest bidder, then leave. Works below ground so she can hide from adverseries.
The beholder is a myth.
To found an exploration company in Sing’jar costs 100 gold pieces, and a contract that states your camp location and three officers of the company: chairman, treasurer, secretary. You agree to be visited without notice from the sherriff and the wizarding council, who will check that everything is sanitary, people are fed…and you’re not summoning evil with found artifacts.
Addessa Stonblud is an avaricious dwarf that claims to be retired from the Jamnut foundaries beneath Faroth. She is camped near Large Entrance. She employs humans and dwarves.
Bilo Sudderlaf, a sorcerer gnome, employs the fewest explorers, and they go in at night, and never stay more than a dozen hours below. They bring back the least treasure, but the most arcane items. They are camped near Cavepool North.
Gerrard Tickbone, human rogue, survivor of the orc attack, came back across the mountains claiming to have escaped from orc imprisonment near Glantaspar. He is cross, smells of booze, and carries a handlens everywhere. He employs only humans, and runs his camp abusively, hiring young refugees and orphans. His camp is near Large Entrance.
Zach Millstone, half-orc fighter, is the youngest chairman. He hires anyone strong that has a sword. Their crew is afraid of him because he acts like he has a death wish, scoffs at looking for traps, and constantly places his crew near rockfall areas and enemies. They have the most injuries, the most adventure stories, and are surprisingly successful as raiders. Stories have it that dwarves hate them for so rudely wrecking the places they explore. He is camped near Ludhold South.
Samuel is a human wizard. He adventures in the caverns to find something. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but he knows there has to be something…more to magic. He is also trying to save up money to travel to the ruined cities far to the north.
Working above ground doesn’t suck. In fact, were ancient secrets buried in the forest or on top of a nearby mountain, he would be there instead.
Sure. But he secretly hopes that it’s something far scarier. He’s not a thrill seeker, but has read books on beholders at school, and has determined that he already knows all he can learn from them. While a beholder is certainly a worthy foe, to Samuel, it’s just another monster with some well-documented dream powers.
The founders of great monuments are never entirely noble. When it comes to dwarves, nobility…is for humans and their play acting of power and heritage. Respect among families of dwarves expands indo millenia–multiples of human “nobilities.” After the orcs and hobgoblins occupied Sing’jar–and just as suddenly disappeared–the heavily traveled roads to the eastern foothills revealed new tunnels in the long ignored silver mines in the foothills. Where there was a rockfall at the end of the tunnel, two older tunnels were uncovered heading north and south. Other tunnel openings were uncovered to the north and south over the years, revealing evidence of centuries of dwarven civilization previously unknown.
Vinja Zanja, historian of the city of Sing’jar, wrote upon the known knowledge of ancient dwarven society:
Funtur Lodroth, as we well know, is the founder of the ancient Hall Ludhold, now fallen and known as Galentaspar. Before Funtur occupied the rich crater of Galentaspar, he formed a family under the Sing’jar mountains. Addits on the eastern slopes are still present, complete with stone archways enscribed with glyphs of a dagger, suggesting homage to Abbathor, which contrasts to previous glyphs in the south suggesting homage to Marthammor Duin, the symbol of wanderers.
Dwarves are known to leave communities far beneath any mountains if there are qualities of the mountain to cherish. Funtur left, founded Ludhold in one of the rents on the way to the vast eastern crater where the dragon Rodorax resides. There are no histories of the family that Funtur left that millenia ago below the mountains. We only have the stories left to us of the refugess of the Ludhold that fled the devastation of Ludhold hundreds of years after Rodorax sacked it.
The Tallbeard family was well known for marching through the small community of Injarness (the nacent coastal Sing’jar community) lead by Redfist Tallbeard. Redfist was notorious for his callous and selfish nature. In contrast, the following refugee family, the Ironrungs, passed to the south of Injarness to Faroth. The Ironruns allied with the forge gnomes below Faroth peak, and were protected by the stone giant, Thromcron. Ultimately, the Ironrungs formed a trading company, Jamnnut Fenderworks, with the gnomes, and sold weapons to the Tallbeards, much to Redbeard’s chagrin.
Business did not go well for the Tallbeards after the minotars arrived and were favored by Thromcron, and their family dispersed and diminished into a gang in the newly founded city of Sing’jar. They were only notable for attracting the most criminal of the minotaur immagrant refugess from the far south. When Sing’jar formed a police force, the Tallbeard clan was forced to Darthil island, mysteriously afraid to burrow into the Sing’jar mountains. The few Tallbear bolt-holes in the western Sing’jar mountains are surprisingly shallow and rather undeveloped.
That the Sing’jar mountains were only occupied by elves is entirely false. The decendant Ludroth family had burrowed into the deeps of the mountains and had become known only as the “rare wizarding dwarves.” The elves have scrolls describing trade negotiations with the wizarding dwarves–the first evidence of ruklaf. Unfortunately, this economic monopoly emboldened the greediest of the remaining Ludroth clan who were known as the Cult of Ulexnil. Roughly a thousand reports for hundreds of year–both to the mayors of Sing’jar and the high elves of Sing’jar describe disappearances of people for years: anyone who prospected the southern mountains for ruklaf went missing.
Dragon Rodorax and the fire giant Crimskill invaded, terrorizing the mountains and city of Sing’jar. Fleeing before Crimskill were many of the decendants of Ludroth. One of the few surving families was the Cavepools. They broke open the stone doors on the eastern slopes of the mountains and quickly encountered the Cult of Ulexnil deep in the tunnels of the Sing’jar mountains. Before the Cavepools were able to relize the tactical benefits of ruklaf, the decendents of the Ludroths attacked–the Cavepools eventually walled off the Ludroth to the earth-south side and tunneled to the earth-north.
Unfortunately after all their losses, the Cavepools discovered why the cultists never occupied the earth-north Sing’jar range: purple worms. The harder igneous and metamorphic rocks were in the south side. Many softer species of rocks were in the north side where vast communities of purple worms created healthy caverns, but deadly to occupy. After a generation, the Cavepool clan tunneled down to the tougher bones of the mountains. Their numbers were scant, but their tactics were solid, and their ability to repair armor and forge from the thinnest ores was well respected. They are hale and tactical–much the opposite of the Cult of Ulexnil to the south.
The final battle of Crimskill and Thromcron on Faroth burned the new city of Sing’jar, and wrecked the pavilions in the western foothills. The Cavepool clan sealed themselves off, anxious as to the cause, and bitter and resentful at their lack of ruklaf to help defend themselves. There are few reports over the following years of tunnels to the Cavepool clan that describe an underground world crafted of the segments of purple worm, lush with giant fruiting mushroom stalks, and iradescent minerals lighting the paths.
Likewise, historians of local giants recount stories of purple worm caves to the north of Sing’jar opened from rock slides where hill giants used to form small enclaves. The high elves quickly learned of these spots and spent many years attempting to exterminate the hill giants. Elves of Sing’jar tend not to speak of the century of battles, often failed, against the communities of giants that were both desparately avoiding recruitment of Crimskill from above and mealtime from the purple worms below.
Xiahou is a human figher who adventures in the caverns to earn money…nothing else. Not one to banter. Many have met him–few remember him. Working under ground is calming: fewer of the many unforseen encounters one might experience in a city or on a ship.
Beholders? He might believe in the beholder. Heck, he might be the beholder, for all any of your crew knows.