To the sisters Thora and Fin Trollsbane,
I hope you are well.
I know you don’t want to hear from us. But we have recently discovered some information that is critical to every Dwarf in the Beinnhall Hills. I have sent similar letters to every Dwarven hall and Vosark Untgart who should be around in Woodsong as well. Read carefully, your lives may depend on it.
We returned home to Khan Hall several days ago with our companions, Nissa, Miri, Fierna and Faera, but found things changed in our absence. Our leader, Tukas Khan had become more erratic as of late and my of the clan’s responsibilities had been assumed by our father, Bain Khan. The earthquake that followed the High Peak collapse had mostly spared Khan hall, yet there was some visible damage to be found and as we learned later most of the true damage was hidden.
We received a warm welcome by our family, even as we are ever penitent for our deeds and mistakes. Thorin especially, who has grown contemplative and remains ever humble. We asked to be judged but our father, who is strict but fair, joined with the earlier judgement of Vosark that our misdeeds balanced out against the good that we had accomplished.
We gave our travelling companions the grand tour of Khan Hall, showing them the renowned Khan Forge and the world-famous Khan Brewery. We then set them up in the local inn. There we encountered Elder Azmag Balderk and his advisor Fastian Torunn, who had travelled to Khan Hall in the hopes of arranging a Dwarven Moot to elect a King for all the clans. That evening, we had a gathering of the Khan family members where we told our tales and sang the Dwarven songs of old. Meeting our family and talking to our father, we learned that an ancient Dwarven rune has been resurfacing lately. It is a rune my companions and I have encountered before. It was worn on the armor of a mysterious black knight who declared himself the enemy of all Dwarfs. The rune translates simply to “War” and all Dwarfs used to become sick just at the sight of it. However now that it is appearing more and more often, we have become accustomed to it.
The next morning, we went to see Tukas Khan, our clan elder. His room was a mess of books and scrolls. His speech was erratic and disjoined. Yet he was hard to ignore, even if he seemed confused. Tukas requested to see all of our travelling companions. So I sent my sister, Lyn to rouse Fierna from her sleep and went to get Nissa and Miri who had journeyed outside the walls. In the meantime, Thorin gave Tukas a quick check-up to see if there were any obvious medical reasons for his behavior. Indeed, Thorin is a very able doctor and he is more than capable of taking care of his family. After Thorin declared Tukas sound, we continued our discussion.
What Tukas told us then, as hard as it might be to believe, was the true history of how the Dwarfs came to the Beinnhall Hills. It is a history that we have deliberately forgotten and one that we have keeping a secret from the people of Woodsong and the Arcarost Valley. I will leave it up to the judgement of every Dwarf what they will do with this information, but it has become essential that we regain this knowledge. Tukas told us, and we now have evidence that he was right, that we all originated as Mountain Dwarfs in the Wyld Peaks, a mountain range far to west of Arcarost Valley.
Long ago we were part of a grand Dwarven Empire that spanned the entire Wyld Peaks. The Dwarves ruled these mountains with magic and metal, fighting against the uncivilized giants, kobolds and dragons. One day these Dwarves encountered the human empire Crownhold, which used to contain the Jewels and much more. Our ancestors could not stand the presence of the Humans at their doorstep. They hated them for aspiring to be greater than them and were jealous of their magic. The Dwarves declared war and turned against the human villages and towns closest to the Wyld Peaks. Crownhold seemed like it was bound to lose and be pushed away, until the ascension of Math Mattonwy caused the tides of war to turn. With an man-made god on their side, the humans pushed the Dwarves back deep within the Wyld Peaks. In the end it was still Crownhold that collapsed for reasons that my historic knowledge evades me. My brother Thorin is the scholar warrior. The Dwarves were then left with a choice, make peace with the fractured humans or continue the war and finally eliminate the threat. This caused a rift in Dwarven society. Some followed the path of peace, others the path of war. Our ancestors were the latter and to this end they made a deal with Morrigan, the goddess of Battle. She sent an avatar, known only as “War”, to fight the humans. War was an enormous black knight with a black sword and shield. The humans, now weakened and divided after the fall of Crownhold never stood a chance. War killed numerous humans, wiping out entire villages. Not only the fighters, but the elderly, women and children were slain. Mass atrocities were committed by War and they were all done in the name of the Dwarfs. Our ancestors, seeing the pain and slaughter they caused, lived to regret it. So they betrayed War. They forged the magical weapon Peacebringer, lured War into a trap, slew him and imprisoned him. From then on the name of the avatar, War, became a symbol of disgust amongst our kin. Those clans that had first called on War, were exiled from the Wyld Peaks and they began centuries of aimless wandering. They found themselves hated and rejected from all places, for everyone had heard of their misdeeds. Our ancestors then heard of the fall of Arcarost and travelled to this region, hoping to start anew. Here they encountered the peoples of Woodsong, who lived so isolated that they were unaware of the war between the Dwarves and Humans. So they settled here, burying their vile past in the First Hall near the Moot circle. The stories never told to the children, never spoken aloud, never shared with outsiders, until they were only remembered by the oldest in our clans. The symbol of War, the avatar, was gone but has now returned. There are even some Dwarves who have started exploring the usage of the War rune in their craft.
The only Dwarf who still knew about the dangers of War was Tukas and everyone thought his ramblings were the first signs of his senility. Thus he tasked us to travel to the First Hall and recover the lost records so that he can warn the clans about the dangers that are approaching. Although our father had warned us not to indulge Tukas, but what he was saying matched too close to our experiences. Thorin, as our valiant leader, decided that it was critical that we discover if there was truth behind this myth. And so we set out to the Moot Circle.
After a quick trek fueled by Dwarven travel songs, we arrived in the late afternoon. The old stones of the Moot Circle welcomed us. As we had been told, several of the stones had been knocked over in the recent earthquake. One of these revealed a cavern that would hopefully lead us to the First Hall of the Beinnhall Hill Dwarfs.
The cave was clearly natural but had been reinforced in many places. Some parts had been partially collapsed but it was on the whole still easily traversable. The cave reeked of moss and fungi. Tree roots had overgrown many of the reinforcements and small spiders and rodents scuttled about. Fifteen minutes into the cave, the reinforcements turned to stone and it widened into a chamber. Torches had been fixed to the walls and were recently lit. Our companions Miri and Nissa noticed the tracks of a single Dwarf.
As we continued on, we stumbled upon a small tent encampment with a goat pen. Unsure of who could be staying here, we did a quick search and found a backpack that featured the inscriptions of the Torunn Clan. The cave went on and grew smaller again. The cave was much narrower but alcoves had been worked into the walls. Thorin in his wisdom immediately knew that we had entered Dwarven catacombs and so we continued with the proper respect for the dead. Half an hour later we exited the cave and entered a narrow canyon.
There it was, as Tukas has said, the First Hall. The construction was ancient but still looked sturdy as can be expected from Dwarven make. We carefully entered and found the ancient hall to be filled to the brim with books and scrolls. It also had an occupant, a stout Dwarf with monk’s clothing. He had darkened skin, a short grey beard and a white right eye. He called himself Urzo Torunn and Thorin was immediately suspicious. Urzo claimed to have been at the First Hall for a year now and was researching the Dwarven history. He said he had found an old diary that had described the location of the First Hall and that he had climbed down from the hills into the canyon. Our divine magic could not make sense of him as he seemed to be both Fiend and Dwarf at the same time. Urzo did not impede our own search of the First Hall and so we looked around. All books were written in Dwarvish, save one in celestial that is now in the possession of Nissa. Miri started displacing books and antagonizing Urzo until he could no longer take it. He revealed himself as a bone devil, a result of the fiend pact that some members of the Torunn clan had made recently. He was therefore the same Urzo Torunn who made the original deal.
In his bone devil form Urzo crashed into Miri and with his claws and tail drew blood. Nissa immediately used her connection with the surrounding nature to summon a pack of wolves upon the bone devil. Fierna used her magic to blind the creature. But it was Thorin that was the true hero of the battle. He stepped forward and cast forward divine light. He summoned a radiant hand axe whose make and markings would be familiar to you, Fin. And without any fear engaged the bone devil. Hoping to escape this dwarf that seemed to embody the living soul of Dianecht, the bone devil threw his full onslaught unto me. I could not hold the creature at bay and went down. My brother, using his divine magic brought me right back into the fray. The bone devil sensed he had no chance to win against Thorin and threw himself down at his feet and begged for mercy. Thorin in his wisdom, granted the vile creature a reprieve. Urzo revealed that he had been ordered to find Morrigan, who has apparently been missing for several months now. He had hoped to find information about the other-worldly location where the deal between Morrigan, the Dwarves and the Humans was struck so many years ago when War was betrayed. Thorin pitied the creature Urzo, who claimed to be working on his ascension. And so because of his kind heart, Thorin cast out the creature from the Beinnhall Hills, vowing the slay him should he ever return. Urzo agreed and made a hasty escape.
We could then inspect the First Hall unimpeded and discovered several books and scrolls related to War and his rune. All of them confirmed the story told by Tukas. We also retrieved a book on ancient Dwarven Law, one on arcane enchantments and one on our clan’s genealogy. We rested and then returned back to Khan Hall. We were unable to fix the toppled stones of the Moot Circle and reseal the entrance to the valley so I tasked the First Noble Goat Guard to watch it and keep it safe.
We then returned to Khan Hall just in time to see a portion of the outer wall collapse. We rushed over to investigate the damage. At first no one knew what happened, an old storage room had simply just disappeared into the ground. But we soon realized that there was an old tunnel that ran under the collapsed section. We delivered the needed proof on War and the cursed rune to both elder Tukas and our father Bain. The question quickly settled, we went back to investigate the collapse. Myself, my brother and our companions volunteered to scout the old tunnel.
After speaking to Dagnyn, our great-aunt who built much of Khan Hall, we learned that the tunnel that had collapsed led to an old quarry. We headed into the tunnel and found it to be passable despite the debris. As we continued, we noticed a large crack in the wall, likely caused by the earthquake before. However the damage was insufficient to explain the collapse. As we walked along the dark tunnel, I heard some ghostly whispers, seemingly calling my name. I still do not know what caused it. My companions seemed unperturbed by them. I am likely not as resilient as my brother Thorin in such circumstances. When we finally arrived in the quarry we found the culprit of the collapse. An old storage shed containing black powder had detonated. It seemed like the recent earthquake had loosened a rock in the ceiling of the quarry, which had only recently dropped down and exploded the shed. Nothing remained anymore of either the shed or the rock that fell upon it, but the blast seemed more than sufficient to cause the collapse.
Interestingly, the crater where the shed once stood now revealed a cavern below. Thorin leaped in without a moment’s hesitation, the brave soul that he is. At first the cavern remained dark and quiet, but without warning six crab people jumped at Thorin. None of us had ever seen anything like these beings. They were huge, with the bodies of crabs with huge pincers and the torso’s of men. The creatures were vicious and ruthless but no match for Thorin the Brave. With ease Thorin deflected blow after blow from the crab people. With his divine might he pushed back against his foes. By the time the rest of us arrived to help, the crab people were almost in full retreat out of fear. We closed off the entrance to the cave and headed back to Khan Hall.
We reported our findings to our elder Tukas and just when we were about to call it a day and a victory, we learned the most dire of news. Our youngest sister Lyn was missing! No one had seen her since shortly after the collapse. Our mother Ilde had already searched the entirety of Khan Hall and could no longer find her. Lyn has always had a rebellious streak but she had never disappeared like this before. We searched outside of Khan Hall for tracks but could not find any. We eventually resorted to magic to find Lyn. We got our mother Ilde to cast a druidic spell that would point in the direction of where Lyn’s armband was. We hoped that Lyn was still wearing it as she hasn’t separated from since our father gave it to her six years ago after a lucrative trade deal. Ilde formed the necessary symbols in the soft underground with a small root-knot staff and focused.
As we feared, the spell indicated that Lyn was deep underground in the direction of the old quarry. Furthermore she was deep within the cavern structure that housed the crab people. We stopped our kinsmen who were sealing up the cavern with a large stone slab and journeyed inwards once more. We followed the passage unto a large cavern with a bright pool at the center. Hiding in a corner was another one of the creatures, this one was much larger than the previous ones. Far less human and much more crustaceous. Yet it stayed back, likely it had already heard from its kin about the battle prowess of Thorin. This allowed us to try diplomacy for a change with the new creatures.
We learned that the creatures speak under common and called themselves Brachura. They had indeed captured our sister and were interrogating her, believing her to be a forward scout. We negotiated a deal, we would allow us to be taken without our weapons, even the feared Thorin, in exchange for the release of our sister Lyn. They agreed to these terms and they soon brought out our sister. Lyn then headed back to Khan Hall with Ilde, as we were taken in the Brachura village.
They live underwater so we were given water breathing potions. We then held on to a rope as we were pulled forward by the larger Brachura that we had spoken to. Their city was entirely submerged in a large cavern and their architecture was very unlike any I have ever seen. We were brought in front of the Queen Brachura inside of a large underwater fortress. She explained that the explosion of the quarry shed had been assumed to be a preemptive strike on their civilization. Dwarfs were seen as the culprit and that is why they attacked us on sight and imprisoned our sister. After some discussion, we managed to clear up the misconception and indicated that we wanted to learn more about their people and culture. The Brachura seemed to be an isolated people, with little interaction with the above ground world. They worship Mannan Mac Lir, the god of oceans and water. And they had only settled this particular cave twenty years ago as an off-shoot from a much older colony far further down.
We agreed to stay for a feast and were also introduced to their servants, the Wanderers. These wanderers are blue humanoid creatures, bipedal in nature with an aquatic appearance. The Brachura explained that they were dim-witted creatures who are unable to take care of themselves outside of captivity. The dinner itself consisted mostly of raw fish and seaweeds. The flavor was interesting to say the least. We even offered the Brachura Queen some Khan’s Finest in exchange for their hospitality.
After the meal, we were let go. It was made clear that they would not tolerate any other uninvited excursions into their territory but for now there would be peace between our people. We were also given a parting gift, an object that Brachura had found, which they assumed came from the surface people. It was another black armor also emblazoned with the War rune. While the armor was empty, the inside feels cold and strangely resists manipulation. A strange dark shroud of black smoke seems to bellow out of the armor forming a cloak. Given what we had now learned about the avatar War, we didn’t trust it and didn’t want to bring it back to Khan Hall. Instead we made plans with our clansmen to fashion a tomb for it under the abandoned quarry. We would need to post guards to watch the Brachura, so they could also keep an eye on the armor.
We then returned to Khan Hall after all of our adventures hoping for a moment’s rest. The first order of business is of course organizing a large celebration in honor of Lyn’s safe return and the valiant deeds of my brother Thorin.
So that is what we have learned so far. The ancient avatar War who has held a great grudge against our ancestors seems to be resurfacing, or at least part of him is. Whether it is the avatar himself that is breaking its bounds or a third party that is perhaps even unwittingly bringing him back, we do not know yet. All we do know is that he is very dangerous as it took a deal with a god last time to bring him down. His rune cannot be trusted and we must endeavor to not be tempted by its promises of power.