The Scribbet on the Stone

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Five

Thomas Kelly

Bagbag returned to Bennoth Tine, troubled in spirit. He told Kristryd much of what had transpired in Dengar but not all things. Then he retired to the tower chamber he had designated for himself. Kristryd found him there at work, surrounded by candles, open books, charts and symbols, and all sorts of paraphernalia she shuddered to guess at. The old dwarf knelt on the floor at the center of the room with a scribbet of charcoal, chalking out a summoner’s circle and scribing it with runes, glyphs, and signs which he carefully copied from the brass-bound book.

Bagbag’s Tale

“I wonder how you freed my sons and set them over Dengar,” Kristryd mused as Bagbag scribbled on the floor.

“I made a bargain,” the old wizard said without looking up. His tone became urgent, “Now is the time to take the anvil back to your father’s kingdom. I would hear the Anvil of the Mountains ringing among the bells of Hammer Hill in the Gyrax! I would see it blessed in Havenhill, in the Temple of the Blue Mines!”

“How is it, wise teacher,” Kristryd pried, “That you have orchestrated all these things?”

Bagbag looked up from inside the summoner’s circle. “Have you been spying on me with your silver-framed mirror?” he snirtled, a twinkle in his eye.

“Often have I tried. Well-warded are your secrets.”

“I’m no fonkin!” Bagbag chuckled. “Of a truth! I have only ever served you and your father before you, and the king of Balnorhak before him.”

“Not so,” Kristryd’s tone hardened. “Who did you serve when you plotted the fall of Grot-Ugrat? From where did you obtain that Suel spell? What role did you play in the theft of the anvil from Dengar? If you would have me trust you, O trueheaded Bagbag, tell me your tale.”

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Dengar’s Treason

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Four

Thomas Kelly

“No more will the blood of dwarves be shed to slake the thirst of a witch!” declared Thane Evrast, the undermountain king of Dengar. He recalled all his soldiers and formally withdrew from the alliance. Kristryd’s sons, Grallsonn, Dwalyn, and Pegli, denounced their grandfather for speaking slander against their mother, but the undermountain king showed a letter sealed with the impress of Dame Thresstone of Gilmorack. The king’s scribe read the letter aloud in their hearing:

Be it known that Urgush, the shaman-king of the Red Medusa orcs, colluded with Kristryd and with the warlock Bagbag to loot the treasuries of Dengar and steal away the Anvil of the Lortmil Mountains.

“Lies and forgeries!” Kristryd’s sons said. “Who is this Dame Thresstone and where is she? Let her come and testify about these matters.”

Thane Evrast clapped his hands. Dame Thresstone stepped into his audience hall, adorned in all the finery and wealth of an undermountain queen. “I will testify before you by Moradin’s beard and by all the gods. Moreover, Kristryd has sent her demons to torment me. She has made my life a terror and a nightmare. Had it not been for the mercy of Hedvyg and the power of her wards and sigils, I should already be pulled alive down into the Abyss!” 

Kristryd’s sons reasoned with all who would hear them, “How is it that our mother is called a witch in league with witches when she leads the fight against the witches? How is it that our mother is a friend of goblins when she leads the fight against the goblins?”

Thane Evrast gave ear to the counsel of Dame Thresstone. Said she, “Why chase the rabbit if the rabbit will come to us.” The undermountain king put his grandsons in chains and imprisoned them in the dungeons beneath Dengar.

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Hedvyg’s Reflection

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Two

Thomas Kelly

“Where are your demon lovers now? Where is your Witch Queen?” the yellow-eyed hobgoblin snarled at the half-orc.

“Trust the plan,” Urgush insisted.

Hroth slapped the half-orc a staggering blow across the face as if to waken him from enchantment. Urgush fell backwards, landing hard on his butt. The silver crown fell from his head and rolled along the narrow cliff’s edge. Hroth crushed it under his booted foot. “Time for a new plan half-blood,” he barked.

Urgush pulled himself back up to his feet and thrust a long clawed finger at the menacing hobgoblin, “You’ll pay for that you swollen one-eared sack!” He lifted his shield with the face of the red medusa toward the hulking hobgoblin, intending to petrify him where he stood. The painted serpents on the face of the shield writhed eagerly. Hroth roared, tore the shield free, and tossed it over the side of the cliff. It sailed through the air like a saucer, disappearing into the vale far below. Urgush nearly leapt after it, cursing and spluttering.

“I’m going home,” Hroth announced. He took with him his hobgoblins and a fair number those once loyal to Urgush. Treacherous was the journey. By secret ways and hidden paths, they found their way to their brothers who still made war in the valleys, caverns, tunnels, and hilltops around the forsaken Vale of Grot-Ugrat. Hroth found the goblins there broken and wandering, like kine without herdsmen.

He dispatched ravens to the mountain tribes and clans. He summoned them to hear his words, “Urgush is yesterday’s fart gas! That one led us to the edge of disaster! Hroth is your salvation.”

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Hammer and the Anvil

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty

Thomas Kelly

“The vermin move beneath these mountains like rats in a sewer!” Prince Olinstaad Corond complained. He sent teams of workers to close unused tunnels, underground passages, and abandoned mines. Goblin raiders harassed the stoneworkers and the hardhewers as they labored to wall off their roadways, seal their exit holes, and cut off their access to water. The laborers carried a pickaxe in one hand and wore a shield on the other. The work progressed slowly. By Fireseek CY 502, the workmen secured the crumbled halls of ancient Balnorhak, purged forgotten mines, closed off rat holes, and pressed on to the tunnels between the Lortmil Mountains proper.

The Sweeps

The ways into the Lortmil tunnels were less easily sealed, for the Low Road is not a straight narrow path through the mountain’s roots. It makes its way through a maze of passages, now following natural caverns, now cutting through fissures in the rock, now descending by steep steps cut into the granite, now following along underground riverways for winding miles, now exiting by cave mouth and crossing overland, now descending back into the undermountain by hidden door set in the mountain side, now narrowing to tunnel through solid stone for miles … and so it went. In the spring, after winter rains and snowmelt, lower caverns flooded and became passable only by barge and boat. Underground rivers turned to impassable torrents and plunging waterfalls. The battles raged regardless of the season or the dangers. The blood of dwarves and goblins mixed together and pooled in the deep places.

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The Caging of Gretyll

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Six

Thomas Kelly

In haste Thane Redmod Buddoken led the party of strange guests through the winding halls and broad streets of Gilmorack, a naked broadsword in his hands. No longer did the spell of disguise cloak the elves or the halfling priest; they had no such need, for all who saw the king prostrated themselves before him. Fury burned on his face; his subjects shrank back before his flashing gaze. As sentries, soldiers, and guards saluted their king, he commanded them, “Fall in behind me.”

The Holy Anvil

The undermountain king’s growing procession followed after him into the lower halls. They descended by the great central stairs into the Wide Ways and then to the Armor Smithy where the furnaces burned hot and hammers fell in ceaseless rhythms on a hundred anvils. All the air smelled of coal fires and the acrid taste of molten metals. The king came to a certain furnace that seemed stoked to full heat, the metal door glowing red, but the king laid bare hands on the metal casting, swung open the grated iron door, stepped into the flames and commanded, “Follow me!” Kristryd thought the flames should surely consume him, but he stepped through untouched. Bamadar plunged after the king, calling back to the others over his shoulder, “Not but an eye-biting illusion!”

The rest of the axes and worthy dwarves-at-arms followed after, as did the remainder of Kristryd’s party. They stepped into a Grand Smithy, the king’s own secret chamber, and there before them they beheld two muscled and shirtless dwarven smiths laboring with hammers over a wondrous anvil. All about the room stood precariously placed stacks of arms and armor, piles of spears, axes, swords, hammers, and maces. Here too were cruel jagged scimitars and curving blades such as the orcs preferred and such as the six-armed tenar’ri had been wielding—and no wonder about that, for overseeing all the work stood a towering, glowering beast with the torso of an ape, the legs of a boar, and a fang-laden face. Small feathered wings extended from behind his hunching back, fanning the air.

Continue reading “The Caging of Gretyll”