To Professor Jake Omar,
My good friend, I hope you are safe. We heard of you had gotten entangled in the conflict among the Hill Dwarfs and War. We searched the dungeons for you at Trollbane Keep, but saw no trace of you.
We are currently travelling back to Khan Hall. If we do not see you there, I am hoping that this letter will give you some insight into what has transpired in the Beinnhall Hills. I know that this information will be of your scholarly interests, but given your latest involvement perhaps also your personal interest.
When you write these annals of history, be sure to mention the names of Fin and Ferris, the true heroes of this story.
As you know, we have been dealing with the corruption brought on by War, avatar of The Morrigan, on the Hill Dwarfs. His rune has been spreading once more amongst our people, and the avatar has shown himself. He escaped his prison following the disappearance of the Morrigan and has been corrupting the Dwarfs since. But we had been unaware of how bad the situation had gotten recently.
We had travelled to Matt Sadom following our previous quest in Arcarost, when Fierna received an invitation for her sister's wedding in Woodsong. While we eager to follow some new leads that we had uncovered, we wouldn’t want to have missed the wedding for the world. We did some last minute shopping where I bought some souvenirs and wedding presents, before departing back to the Arcarost Valley.
Fierna now has the capacity to teleport us over great distances to so-called teleportation circles, and she brought us back through the one in Arcarost. We were surprised to find Arcarost a changed city in our absence. Everywhere buildings were being repaired by strange mechanical creatures. The curse of undeath that hung over the city like a ragged cloak, seemed to have also disappeared. We encountered no extraplanar creatures or any wild magics as we made our way out.
On the trek back to Woodsong, we saw the friendly Behir hunting in the distance and Nissa awoke a tree. She called it Leafert and it seemed an agreeable travelling companion. When we arrived in Woodsong we saw that the wedding preparations were well under way in the main square. It was promising to be a wedding to remember, as could be expected of Faera. Welby’s band had also returned for the wedding and their metal tower was once more in Woodsong. When we returned to the Broken Tower Inn, we saw several familiar faces. Our sister Lyn, our brother Barin, our great-great-grandfather Tukas and the sisters Fin and Thora, were all present. But Fin and Thora seemed hesitant to talk to us and left soon after we arrived. We did manage to get caught up with our family, who had travelled here for the wedding. Tukas had also made the journey, despite his age, as he wanted to see us about an urgent matter. But we only spoke of it the next day as Tukas was tired and there was a lot of activity that first night.
Soon thereafter, we were joined by Orson and Faera and we were brought up to speed on the latest events. Most importantly, Faera is pregnant! In a bit of sadder news, we learned that Fierna’s father had been killed by his advisor and that Fierna’s mother had gotten remarried with the Magelord of Aurion. We also heard that the clansmen who have settled the Arcarost Valley are getting along well with the local inhabitants.
We drank until late that night, celebrating the upcoming nuptials and our return to Woodsong. The next day at breakfast, we finally spoke to Tukas and learned of the spreading corruption among our people. He told us that the Rune of War was back and had started changing the dwarfs. In particular Trollbane, one of our greatest fighters and father to Fin and Thora, had succumbed to the temptation of War. Trollbane had apparently set up his Keep as the site for a new Dwarven clan based on the philosophy of War. He planned to expand the Hill Dwarf influence and tax the clans for protection. His daughters had been seen travelling all over the Beinnhall Hills, but Tukas knew not what they were doing. He asked us to help as Trollbane might listen to us as fellow warriors.
So we went to seek out Fin and Thora to talk to them. But they walked into the tavern just after Nissa’s spell to find them was complete. We sat down with them and the conversation was awkward at first. There had been tensions between us after we broke the seal of Sevalaxos. But as we spoke, it became clear that we were on the same side. Fin and Thora did not agree with their father and were working to make sure he saw reason again. They trying to reassemble Peacebringer in the hopes that it would break the influence of War. They had found the tools to reforge the great weapon and hoped to learn of its making. They told us that you had helped them but had yourself been captured by Trollbane. Trollbane himself was apparently also looking into Peacebringer and what it could mean for his new empire. Fin and Thora were currently in Woodsong to find the anvil needed to forge Peacebringer. There were legends that it remained in the very first settlement of the Hill Dwarfs when they came to the Arcarost Valley, before they even built the First Hall or were scattered in the different clans. Miri knew of some old ruins that matched the description. We agreed that we would aid each other in remaking Peacebringer and put a stop to war once and for all. At the time, we did not know how high the cost would be.
Luckily we waited until after the wedding, so that those among us could experience a final celebration. It was a grand wedding and the entire town seemed to have been invited. The town square had been decorated with lights and ribbons. Only the best Khan’s Finest was served of course. Fierna gave a moving speech. My brother and I danced with Fin and Thora, the past seemingly put behind us and the future so far away. Nissa won a drinking contest against Thorin and she decorated Leafert with lights. It was an evening of beauty.
The next day, we left on our quest to retrieve the anvil. Before we did leave, I gave a Sending Stone to Tukas so we could remain in contact. We then walked to the location in the forest with the ruins. Miri and Nissa flew around to scout and we soon found a set of stones that matched the right age. However nearby was a fresh grave that contained a clansmen with puncture marks. This made us hesitant to travel into an old hatch that we had found. We simply secured it and set up camp to wait for daylight.
During the night a Dwarf approached our group. He called himself Imir and said that he was imprisoned there. He pleaded to be released. My brother, the kind soul, that he is, consented and removed the curse that bound him here. But Varis released Imir had succumb to corruption and sent a barrage of magical bolts after Imir as he left. Imir revealed himself to be a dreaded vampire and summoned his wolves upon us. Nissa turned into an air elemental and pursued Imir down a well. Fierna made quick work of the wolves and Thorin and I jumped down the well ourselves. But the vampire overpowered me and started draining my blood. Varis saved me by teleporting me a short distance away out of the vampire’s reach. My life force no longer sustained Imir and we managed to take him out shortly after.
Deep in the well, we found a cave that connected to the hatch we found. Inside we found the legendary anvil that was used to forge Peacebringer. The anvil in hand, we decided on our next plan of action. We only needed the knowledge to forge the weapon to complete our quest. Thorin beseeched Dianecht for advice and we learned that the knowledge resided within the first layer of Hell or far away in the Mountain Dwarf’s Mason's Hall. We decided on the later as the safer option. Thora and Fin joined us as we wished to assemble Peacebringer as soon as possible.
Fierna teleported us to Laef, the closest location that we could reach. We arrived in a circular room with a talking pillar. We asked it for an exit and the wall melted away to reveal one. We found ourselves in a keep and ran into a confused servant who pointed us in the right direction. We quickly exited the city and set out towards Mason’s Hall. We asked for directions from a Dwarven caravan heading there. We were in a rush so we did not join the caravan but we were referred to Rangrim’s Quarry for our purchases. Nissa summoned a set of horses and we took off.
When we arrived at Mason’s Hall, I explained our story to the guards in the hopes they could point us quickly in the right direction. However as Hill Dwarfs were still banished, they imprisoned us as the considered our request. We were met by three Dwarfs, one a solider called Orif. We repeated our quest and explained how the fate of our people was dependent on it. Orif relayed our discussion to the ruler of the Mountain Dwarfs and returned with a proposition. We were to be allowed access to the old quarter where the Hill Dwarfs used to reside. If we found the secrets of Peacebringer, we were to turn it over to the Mountain Dwarfs after we were done with our quest. Furthermore the King would be willing to forgive the Hill Dwarfs for their sins if they agreed to serve for two generations. We agreed to the terms regarding Peacebringer and would be escorted the next day. In the meanwhile, the non-Hill Dwarfs were free to travel Mason’s Hall. Nissa brought back some Mountain Dwarf beer for us to taste. While it was a solid Dwarven brew, it lacked the intensity of Khan’s Finest. Varis ran several mysterious errands and Fierna bought several lots of ore. Then we spent our last evening as two sets of Dwarven twins.
In the morning, we were brought to a central elevator that took us deeper into the mountain. The old quarter of the First Hammer, the old name for the Hill Dwarfs, had since been abandoned and retaken by Ogrols. The Ogrols continued some of the mining and traded their finds for food and coal with the Mountain Dwarfs. We soon encountered the Ogrols who seemed to be a simple peaceful folk. One Ogrol in a patchwork robe came up to us and checked a tattered book with drawings to identify our species. We were then brought to the Ogrol chief. The chief allowed us to traverse the caverns but only if we gave him a golden wand. Varis agreed to his request, isolated himself for a bit and then presented a gold-plated crowbar as a gift from the gods themselves. The chief accepted and we were allowed to travel their domain.
We sound found a cave with forges and a statue of Gobnu. Several names lined the walls near the entrance. One forge bore the symbol of War. We searched the cave and soon found a hidden room with a statue to the Morrigan. While this was definitely the place to forge Peacebringer, we saw no instructions on how to accomplish this feat. So we searched the remainder of the First Hammer area. We found a seal to a stairs that led back to the main Mountain Dwarf area. We found the old living quarters that had been mostly plundered. Eventually we made our way all the way around to the first cavern. Exhausted we set ourselves near one of the forges. We were startled as the statue of Gobnu started talking to us. Apparently the act of attempting to forge something awakens the magical enchantment hidden in the statues, it then provides the necessary guidance for the forging process. We repeated this with the statue of the Morrigan and indeed we received the instructions to forge Peacebringer!
But there was a catch. Peacebringer could only be forged by a Dwarven twin and one of them must use up their soul in the forging process. Whomever of the Dwarfs completed the forging process would pay the ultimate price. We took a moment to contemplate and discuss. All four of us were willing to lay down our lives to complete Peacebringer and save our people. So we decided to place our lives in the hands of the gods. We would all complete the last step and let the divine decide who was worthy to create the weapon.
We started on the forging process, which consisted of several steps. But as soon as we did, we were surrounded by mystical gates. From the gates appeared various horrors and fiends intent on disrupting the creation of Peacebringer. But with our combined strength we were able to drive the creatures back long enough to finalize the process. The weapon near completely, Fin, Thora, Thorin and myself grasped the forging hammer for the final blow. But Thorin disappeared as he was cast away to another plane by Fierna who did not want him to die. So it came down to myself, Thora and Fin. Each of us had accepted our fate and placed our lives in the hands of the gods. The hammer hit and a bright light spread through the room. The light immediately banished the creatures that had been attacking us with a screech. It all happened so fast. I immediately knew I hadn’t been chosen and turned to see Fin smiling. With a last look of acceptance, she fell back and her soul was drawn from her body into the weapon.
In silence, Thora picked up Peacebringer and we made Fin’s body ready for transport. We walked back to the central elevator and told the Mountain Dwarfs that we had gotten what we had come for. We told them we would be back to complete our agreement and Thora used Peacebringer to transport us to Khan Hall. When we arrived, we found it emptier than usual. More and more youths had been drawn away by the rune and were joining up with Trollbane. We agreed to take an evening’s rest before heading for Trollbane Keep in the morning. Thorin and I saw our father working in the brewery and he asked for our help as he was short-handed. And so we spent the first few hours of our return brewing beer and lugging barrels. It was a familiar process and a welcome change of pace. It brought me back to a simpler time before we were fighting for the very sake of our world. And for the first time in a long while, I felt like a normal dwarf again.
We then planned a small ceremony for Fin for the morning. We placed her body in the temple and I called upon the soil to surround the temple with lily flowers, Fin’s favorite. That night however Miri summoned her mount who told her that there was something else wrong in the Valley. There was a distinct smell of blossoms coming from where Woodsong was. Furthermore Tukas was no longer replying to sending, but we had no time to investigate. The next morning my mother and Thorin oversaw Fin’s funeral. It was a small ceremony but I’m sure she would have liked it. Thora did not participate as she did not accept that Fin was dead. Thora could still sense her sister in the weapon that she now wielded.
After the ceremony, we did not waste any more time and teleported to Trollbane Keep with Peacebringer. However some magic was protecting the Keep and we were separated from Thora. She ended up inside of the Keep and we were placed outside. We immediately approached the guards, a pair of hobgoblins, and asked for an audience with Trollbane. A dwarf eventually came outside and escorted us in. But Fierna’s magical sense revealed that this was not an ordinary dwarf, but one that had been corrupted by fiendish influence. We were brought through the central square where we witnessed dwarfs training in their use of the War rune. The dwarf then led us inside to a planning room where we were confronted with Trollbane himself.
We tried to reason with Trollbane, but he refused all sense. The corruption had festered inside of him for too long. We tried to reach out to Thora through magical means, but they had isolated her away from us. All our hope to save him vanished when we noticed that he was already dead and that his body was solely driven as an undead. We tried his patience for too long and he attacked with his fiendish allies. We were soon caught in a fight for our lives without Thora or Peacebringer. Fierna acted quick and banished one of the fiends as Varis pulled up a wall of force around us. Meanwhile my brother, Nissa and I focused on Trollbane. It was an intense battle and he got several hits in on us, which came down hard. But eventually we wore him down and Trollbane was no more. We dispatched his fiendish allies soon thereafter with the help of a cloud of sickness cast by Fierna.
But we were still stuck in the middle of the keep surrounded by the corrupted forces of War who had captured Thora and Peacebringer. We also did not feel it right to leave Trollbane behind. Although he had been corrupted near the end, he was still one of the greatest Hill Dwarf warriors in recent memory and we owed him a great depth. However this is where we made a small mistake. We wished to move him in a portable hole but had overlooked that he himself had a bag of holding. As my friends with far more magical knowledge than me pointed out later, the two do not mix well. As a wizard yourself, I am sure you understand the arcane forces involved far better than I do. In any case, there was a flash and Thorin, Varis and I found ourselves on the Astral Plane.
At first we were free floating between astral space. But then we were drawn into a larger astral body. The location where we landed was covered with ancient stones and seemed to denote some sort of graveyard. We saw a giant in the distance placing flowers near a grave. But at that point Nissa called me back to Ourborros with her magical means and my brother followed. Varis stayed behind to talk to the giant. He described her later as a being a great beauty with long silver hair and black eyes. She wore a dress that kept changing colors and she seemed very solemn. She called the place where we were Telamon and knew that Varis did not belong. She asked if he wished to return and Varis said yes. Before he knew what happened, Varis had rejoined us in Trollbane Keep.
We were however still deep within Trollbane Keep and tried making our way out of the chamber. It did not take long before we ran into guards. Varis tried to talk our way passed them but to no avail. He unleashed a mental trap upon them, capturing some but not all. Thus we fought our way through the corridors of the keep, beset on all sides by corrupted Dwarfs. It was a bloody battle. Thorin and I kept the guards engaged while Nissa and Varis ran heavily wounded. Fierna kept up a sickening aura causing attrition both on us and on the guards alike. It was a close call but in the end we prevailed. We limped injured into the courtyard where Nissa and Varis had fled, only to be confronted with the avatar War himself in his complete form.
War was huge and his shadow covered the entire courtyard. He held a new weapon that seemed every bit as dangerous as he was. And War remembered us. I quickly left the area, trusting in Fierna, Varis and Nissa to find a way out. Luckily Fierna still had magic left and managed to temporarily banish Varis to another plan so that he could escape. We fled back into the keep and split up. Thorin and I donned helmets from the guards and searched for Thora. We eventually found her deep in the dungeons. We convinced the guards to let us in and took them out. Thora was unconscious but Thorin managed to bring her back to her wits. She armed herself with Peacebringer once more and we set out into the Keep to regroup with the others. Eventually we all reunited in an old supply closet. Nissa had managed to avoid capture by hiding in cupboards and releasing wild animals to cause chaos in the keep. Fierna had turned herself invisible and Varis was meanwhile tracking War. We were all exhausted and couldn’t keep up fighting. So we travelled to the Fey Realm to rest and recover.
Varis stayed behind and followed War back to his lair. He saw War summon powerful demons to hunt us down, but luckily we were no longer on the same plane. We had an uneasy sleep in the Fey Realm as we kept getting the feeling that we were being watched. During my watch, I took it upon myself to explain who we were and why we were camping there. It seemed to set the guardian spirit at ease and we had a comforting feeling the remainder of the night. When we woke the next morning, we prepared ourselves to confront War. Our primary goal was to keep Thora alive so that she could use Peacebringer on him. We gave her as many magical artefacts as we could spare and my brother warded her against death blows. Hoping that it would be enough, we teleported back to Ourborros directly into the cave where War resided.
A magical defense shunted us outside again but Varis was already in position. He used magic to levitate the sword outside of War’s reach. War immediately countered by summoning a ring of blades around him. We took the chance to take out his dwarf guards. Nissa transformed into an earth elemental and charged deeper into the cave, right up to the ring of blades. War started casting another spell but Varis was ready for him. With quick action, Varis wove counter spell upon counter spell and disrupted all of War’s attempts. Frustrated and with his guards defeated, War dropped the blade barrier and engaged us himself. His sword was still up in the air, so he used his shield to bash. He mostly targeted Thorin and Thora and inflicted great wounds with each strike. Soon the magic that protected Thora started to fade and she was knocked out. Luckily Fierna sped to her side and gave her a potion. Meanwhile the levitation spell on War’s weapon had dropped and the sword returned. But Nissa was too fast and dragged the blade away. War attempted another spell but was countered by Varis once more. In his anger, War sent a final spell towards Varis. Varis tried to counter but was too late. With a single hit, Varis was turned to ash. We renewed our efforts to bring War down. I put every last bit of divine energy I had in each strike. Thora struck out with Peacebringer and with each hit War visibly weakened as runes would disappear. Eventually War succumbed to our battery but still refused to go down. The avatar would not be defeated unless the last blow came from Peacebringer. So with a final heave, Thora struck the legendary war hammer right at War’s helmet and War shattered into thousands of pieces.
War was thus defeated but at a high cost. Varis is no more and his body is gone so he can't be brought back through normal means anymore. But we will not give up so easily. When all is said and done, I will bring our friend back. But for now, know that his real name was Ferris and that he has saved us all more times than I can count. He was also a pretty good bagpipes player.
After the fight, we were all battered and exhausted. In the cave, we took a breather surrounded by the remains of our enemy now vanquished. We toppled the statues of war and destroyed his throne. We left the shrine to the Morrigan as it was. Thora vowed to stay behind and attempt to free the remaining corrupted dwarfs in the Keep with Peacebringer. She refused our help in this task as she wanted to reclaim the place that she had once called home only with herself and the fragment of her sister. I gave her one of my sending stones for if she ever needed our help. We simply set out on the long trek back to Khan Hall. As we rested and our magic came back, Nissa summoned great eagles for us to fly on.
As I write this, I can see the familiar hills that house Khan Hall in the distance. We are almost home once again. So much was sacrificed to defeat War hopefully for the final time. I hope my people can now know peace. But so much danger still looms ahead. The Morrigan is still missing, the reason that War managed to escape. The Elder Fey Dullahan still wishes to take over our world and has already corrupted at least one of the Jewels. The great dragon Sevalaxos still possess a threat. I fear that the very nature of our world may be at risk and we do not know what has happened back in Woodsong.
In any case, I shall send this letter from Khan Hall. I hope it will find you as the chaos of our confrontation with War calms down.