As Exelar and the others went forth to investigate the White Tower I asked to remain at the Precipice Keep to watch over Trask, our most valued prisoner, along with Lazarus Kain and Lance corporal Wallace of the Iron Clad. While we waited I searched the slain dwarves of clan Oirthuir Muir for clues regarding their dealings with the Bowmen. Initially I went about the chore with bitter resolve, explaining firstly that none other than myself had the right to lay hands on them. The human expression ‘To the victor go the spoils’ needs not apply in clan matters.
This was a personal obligation of my own, between one prince to another, which to my thanks Exelar and Hershel both accepted and acknowledged. This intermingling of clan duty within the conflict of the Bowmen and the Watchmen is admittedly, an added complication none of us asked for, but I’ll be damned if I let myself slack on matters of honor and protocol.
Nevertheless, the necessity that it be my hands who searched the fellow dwarves didn’t make the task any easier. I was still troubled by the means of their unfortunate demise. There was no sense of pride or entitlement in me while I was pilfering their pockets, though what I searched for initially was anything related to written terms with the Bowmen; scrolls and the like.
I suspected the cleric accompanying the crown prince was something of an important agent for the crown, a role that is not unusual for the clergy amongst my kind. My presumption was proven sound by the scrolls he bore, as were the worst of my fears. Writs of correspondence between the Thane of the Oirthuir Muir and Iris Khan of the Bommen outlined a treaty of mutual aggression towards my clan, the Wyrkadrin of Shadenhome, and the Watchmen of Temple Rise in exchange for our lands and treasures.
The signature and royal seal of the Thane at its conclusion ensured its validity and conception as an underhanded declaration of war! The Oirthuir Muir’s reputation for cutthroat dishonesty and greed were made axiomatic by this scroll… and indeed by my own flashback to how they behaved and how quickly they wanted to leave without being questioned. My only regret now is that I didn’t relish the act of slaughtering them as much as I should have! Moradin protect us! The Guile! The Gall!
As I put the damning scrolls away for safekeeping on my person as evidence, I already felt myself breathing easier with renewed purpose. The killing of the crown prince of the Oirtuir Muir and his entourage were proven completely justified. My conscience no longer pained me and the truth was I owed Hershel in particular an apology for ever doubting it.
At that point I continued searching the bodies of the enemy dwarves more resolutely and thoroughly. Everything they owned now belonged to the rest of us as enemy spoils. Admittedly I was quite annoyed to see how prosperous and well outfitted they were compared to myself and the rest of my clansman. Clearly all the centuries since my own clan last had any dealings with them hadn’t made them any poorer. The kleptocracy was evidently doing well!
The heir was armored in mithril battleplate with his royal circlet, also crafted of mithril around his forehead inset with a huge diamond. Both his battleaxe and personal signet ring were made of adamantine, the ring inset with another impressive diamond while the axe pommel carried an even more breathtaking, brilliant purple Thyatian soul gem! In truth the battle axe is a piece of singular beauty in both design and craftsmanship. Given the detail of dwarven runes etched upon it, I fully expect It must be a prized clan heirloom with deservedly powerful magical enchantments.
His other weapon, a Thyatian Steel dagger sheathed in Blue Dragon Hide, is similarly remarkable, though perhaps not dwarven at all in workmanship besides the bits of Mithril used for its pommel and cross-guard? This blade is etched in foreign runes, with an ivory-capped hilt and a sparkling red ruby within the pommel. I suspect the dagger has a very old, and likely sinister, history behind it.
The clerics holy symbol is also highly disconcerting, crafted from a rare volcanic stone veined with minerals from the deep underdark. I haven’t seen its like before, it does not resemble any other dwarven holy symbol I am familiar with. I’ve also tucked this away for safekeeping and further examination, along with their valuables, a few magical items, their magical weapons, jewelry and coinage, some of which is quite ancient and valuable.
I will share everything with Exelar and the others, though I must see the scrolls safely back to my great grandfather, Chief Gruenchdok immediately. The sooner the Wyrkadrin see this the sooner we can rally ourselves to prepare for war. I already have a battle plan in mind, though much depends on how quickly we can sort out the rest of this business with the Bowmen here in the Cascades.
No sooner had I finished searching the bodies of the fallen Oirthuir Muir that I found myself pacing around the courtyard anxiously… suddenly all too aware of the fact that Exelar, Hershel, Sorcha, and the rest of the Watchmen and our would-be Bowmen allies were still out there engaged in battles throughout these cursed half-flooded ruins of an ancient city.
Every scream and shout and distant explosion filled with me rising anxiety and concern. So much depended on victory here, and yet so little was under control or even understood. Trask himself, now displaced from the possessing demon who ruled his mind through the soul gem, was still reeling and muttering in a half-dazed state, but evidently regaining his wits minute by minute. Yes he was likely no longer a threat, but how much of his crimes should be blamed on that demon? How valuable was he now as a witness to his own atrocities? Would he beg and plead for forgiveness?
Were it up to me, demon-or-no-demon, Trask deserves to be executed, no question. He is beyond redemption as much as those dwarves were. I won’t trust anything he says, and would prefer to knock him unconscious again before he starts to speak at all. That may sound a little unfair given how willing I was to parley with the dwarves before they tried to walk away, and I can live with that. I am clearly more trusting of those of my own kind, and that is one thing I feel I should be proud of.
Strangely, right about now I started hearing things… monstrous voices over the egde of the precipice? I can hardly believe my ears, given how much the roar of the waterfalls and the not-so-distant battles drowns it out, but suddenly it occurs to me that Trasks’ seeming innane mutterings might not be so mindless afterall? Is he speaking with someone or something? More voices inside his head? Or is it the same voices I think I am hearing from within the crevasse?
Suddenly a group of ten Bowman rush into the courtyard, four chased by six… both yelling that they are with Kroenen. I assume there should be some way to distinguish those who are actually loyal to Kroenen, yet with all the stresses on my thoughts I fail to realize what it could be and hesitated to act. In that moment, Trask murmured… “The six are my men, not Kroenen’s…”
I could only wonder at the curious outburst from Trask, seemingly attempting to aid us as Lazarus Kain, an original member of the watchmen, fired his bow from above targeting the smaller group of four, dropping one with two large arrows.
Immediately I raised my first and shouted: “CEASE FIRE!” Before I addressed the approaching bowmen. “DECIST AND MOVE AWAY OR YOU WILL BE FIRED UPON!” …Not knowing whom to trust, it seemed best to trust none of them, regardless of what Trask would want me to believe. Of course, being the mad-dogs that most humans are, they refused to heed me. The three that remained of the group targeted by Lazarus ran for cover instead of leaving. The leader of the other six approached me, likely assuming I was on his side because Lazarus fired on the other group.
I decided to correct his error in judgement with my heavy repeating crossbow, aiming for a crippling shot instead of a kill shot, just in case he ended up being one of Kroenens men after all. My bolt struck him through the knee, but still did not send the rest on their heals. At that point I fired three more bolts at the rest of them, wounding two more, while Lazarus seemingly killed everyone he aimed for. The power and brutality of his large bow is truly a terror, I am glad he is on our side.
The commander himself threw a dagger at me, finding a chink in my armor but doing little harm. I dropped the commanders other man with my dwarven war pike after he charged me. Now the three bowmen chased into the courtyard by the other six helped us finish the rest off and proved they were Kroenens men after all by the particular insignia they carried on their uniform.
Now that I had a moment to investigate the voices at the edge of the precipice, I did so with some trepidation. Nothing about that yawning chasm into the underdark bode well for anyone. Stepping over the rubble close to the edge, I spotted dozens of glowing eyes across the chasm in the treeline. I cast Speak with Animals, trying to ascertain what manner of creature or animal they were… which is when the strange chitterings from the chasm finally started to make any sense. I heard the phrases… “UP AND ATTACK! BRING ME THE ITEMS OF THE DWARVES!” As a long-clawed metal spider limb suddenly rose up over the ledge!
I stood alone, gazing in horror at the mechanical spider that rose forth bearing a single female Drow rider. The dark elf wore a helm or mask of sorts in the fashion of an insects face complete with dark jewel-like eyes and metal mandibles. Her voice was altered by the item allowing her to speak commands directly to her spiderling minions who appeared beside her.
The largest of which was the Chwidencha, a large horrid mass of flexible, clawed spider legs that prompted great fear for many dwarves. I knew many first-hand accounts of how easily those thorny appendages could impale a victim before it drags it away to be devoured.
Besides the Chwidencha, but no less revolting, was the Shunned, a spider with the pale-face of an elf twisted in terrible pain. This abomination retained the elves heightened senses and innate magical abilities, along with the ability to spawn swarms of tiny spiders that act by its will.
I didn’t stand to stare a moment longer, running immediately back into the courtyard where I found Trask to be lucid asking me to “Free him and give him a blade or else we would never escape.” Of course as I already said, I had no intention of believing anything he said so instead I turned to corporal Wallace and explained. “WE NEED TO FLEE! Better we kill Trask now!” …I stated as I raised my dwarven War Pike ready to execute him right then and there.
Killing Trask obviously went against my honorable instincts, perhaps especially so with his further attempt to aid me in the courtyard, but cutting him free of his bonds and trying to push him out with us as we were being chased by killer spiders didn’t seem like a better option. The chances for him to escape or otherwise aid the enemy somehow was a risk that didn’t seem worth taking.