Thick wrists chained up to a wall, Grimhammer wakes to yet another day in the dripping prison cell. The smell of must and feces assail his nose constantly, and he no longer notices them.
As he comes awake Garrick looks around his dismal cell for the thousandth rime. “What in the name of Earth are you holding me for? I havent done ANYTHING!!!” But no one answers him this time, nor any of the previous times. He slumps into a semi-conscious state as the time passes until the guards come to his cell door.
After some time passes, the sounds of iron scraping against iron echoes down the corridor outside, and guards approach, unlock the iron door to his cell, and place Grimhammer in hewn stone stocks, transporting him out of his cell and down the corridor.
“I’m finally being releases from this hellhole? it took you long enough to realize you had an innocent man locked up!” he snarls as they come into the cell, but as they put the stocks on him instead of letting him walk free he comes to the realization that perhaps this isn’t what he thought.
Upon reaching their destination, Grimhammer recognizes he is in the halls of the Institute of Study of the World above Earth, and all of the board of directors are present, except one.
One of the directors, you recognize him to be Head Director Fagen, stands up to speak.
Fagen: Grimhammer, latest son of the bloodline Wurmslayer, you are hereby accused of the crimes as follows: breaking and entering into the ISWE laboratory, gaining entry without proper clearance, theft of research materials such as the forbidden Magestone, assault and battery against the person of Assistant Head Director Ksalinbourg resulting in his hospitalization and loss of consciousness, and the death of no less than three guards. How do you plea? (he waits for your response before continuing)
Grimhammer’s head swims a little, trying to remember when he could have done this. You remember getting particularly drunk one evening, passing out, only to wake up in the wet prison cell. Had you done these things?
Fagen: When you were arrested, purple Magestone were found hidden on your person, and we have witnesses who say that it was you who attacked those guards. This court finds you guilty of your crimes and you are hereby sentenced to death by beheading.
After a few moment’s pause, a peculiar grin tickles the corners of Director Fagen’s mouth.
Fagen: However… we will grant you a stay of execution on the following conditions. First, you will be exiled under arrest to the surface world above. There, you will travel as an ambassador of Motanheim, our city, to the world above, opening friendly relations with the cultures and peoples there so that we may study them more openly. Additionally, you will be permitted to return to Motanheim on parole provided you return with three items for the ISWE to study from the world above. We seek a Magic Hammer, a Magic Shield, and a Magic Compass. Find these three things, and we may permit you to re-enter the city. You are to begin by opening relations with the reptile people who dwell in the mountain above Motanheim.
Finally, you are to travel with an official from the Marshall’s office, if you do not return with him, you will not be permitted to enter the city. He will be keeping tabs on your progress and helping with the peaceful negotiations.
So, what is your answer, Grimhammer?
Stunned at a full conclave of judgment before him Garrick stares wide-eyed at the charges leveled at him, as soon as Fagan finishes the charges Grimhammer bellows,“What do I say? I say this while thing is a load of dung! I was never near the ISWE, much less inside of it! Bring forth these witnesses that they may accuse me to my face! This is a sham, where is my father? As clan head he has a right to be here, and as for your ridiculous charges! My clan had more money than any two of yours combined if we wanted Magerock why steal it? We could buy all we needed.” As for you Fagan, you’re just jealous of my father’s influence! You probably incited this whole thing you gutless wonder!!"
_The peculiar grin wavers but for a second on the face of the Head Director. Another man in the court room bellows indignity that Grimhammer would question the integrity of the council. _
Fagen: Bring forth the three witnesses!
Three thoroughly bruised guards step forward. The first one speaks up.
Guard 1: I was the first to see Grimhammer inside the facility. It was terrible, he was laughing as he knocked my comrade here to the ground.
Guard 2: I didn’t even see him hit me, but i sure felt it when i woke up. As i came to, i saw him clamber through a window as he made his escape.
Guard 3: I was with the second patrol to come across him. He killed all three of my patrol men, including our patrol leader.
Fagen turns from the three witnesses to face Grimhammer, that self satisfied smirk even more apparent than before.
Fagen: You asked before why you would steal Magestone from the institute. I don’t know why you would do it, but perhaps you’ve forgotten that they are illegal to possess outside the ISWE? And I wouldn’t count on your father’s influence saving the day. We’ve had enough of your drunken outbursts to satisfy all three cities in Deepenheim. It is fortunate for Motanheim the the other two cities have not heard of you, else they would likely think we’d all gone mad. Your family, strong supporter it is in time of war, has always been a thorn in the side of the scientific community in time of peace, and now we will set an example with you. So give us your decision, will you take our most generous offer and redeem yourself and your bloodline? Or will you face the beheading block?
Scowling ferociously at being moved into a position he knows is impossible to win Garrick spits,“Fine damn you to a cold hell, I’ll take your misbegotten offer you son of a goblin loving troll!”
As the court room empties out, you notice Fagen walk to one side of the room to converse with two Dwarrow, one dressed in an officer’s garb, and the other in official robes, but not those of Motanheim. You suspect he may be from one of the other cities of Deepenheim.
After their conversation is complete, the officer walks over to you, keys in hand. He unshackles you from your stone stocks and introduces himself.
“I am Vark Treadstone, Under Marshal.”
Vark: Head Director Fagen has ordered me to accompany you during your exile. Come along then, our first stop is the ISWE stores. We’re to be outfitted with enough provisions to get us started.
The two of you leave the courtroom and progress to the storeroom. There you find a Puni (Vark’s pack animal) waiting. The two of you load up the Puni with three days’ food and water, two thick cloaks for cold or unfavorable weather.
Vark: Is there anything else you’d like to take? We’ll see if they have it.
Grimhammer: “Yeah, I want my axe and my armor from home. And do you have any healing poultices? because I hear the goblinoids are getting frisky this year.”, Garrick replies as he stretches his massive shoulders,“So what did you do to deserve getting sent with a convicted man on a death sentence?”
_Vark: Do? I am simply the most qualified. As for the matter of your weapons and armor, you may equip them as soon as we’ve left the city. We’ve had reports of Sloggots in the old tunnels outside town. _
You find 6 Healing Poultices (restores 1d10 Health when used)
Vark: C’mon then, let’s be off.
As you leave town, faces in the crowd that you recognize turn their gazes away, or cast disapproving gazes upon you. Voices you don’t recognize jeer and spit at you for the fun of it. The families of the slain guards weep and shout bitterly as you pass.
Garrick doesn’t respond to the crowd at all, keeping a stone face despite the reactions.
Upon reaching the outskirts of the city, Vark hands you a bag with your personal items in it.
Vark: Here, put these on, you’ll need them…
Vark looks grimly at you, and leads the way into the newly dug tunnel.
At the tunnel he puts on his gear and gives his huge axe a few practice swings before slinging it over his back in it’s carry sling. He then follows Vark into the tunnel resolutely.
The dark tunnel winds gently along an upward angle. Occasionally loose earth crumbles down from the ceiling, but the floor remains still, indication that there are no tremors threatening the collapse of the tunnel, or of burrowing creatures.
Ahead of you is the leathery rump of the Puni, not a pleasant sight, and the broad shape of Vark Treadstone. Aside from his traveling clothes and a dagger thrust into his belt, he does not appear to be wearing any other armor or weapons, yet his grim expressions and hardened lines on his face tell you he is indeed a well experienced fighter.
Eventually, the tunnel opens up at an intersection with another tunnel, this one appears have been made a long time ago, older than the earthen tunnel you were just in. At this point Vark stops and turns to you.
Vark: Our sonoscopes picked up a hollow vein in the bedrock, so we dug that tunnel to meet up with this one. (he looks to the right) That way leads down, we’re not sure how far, but we’re bound for the surface so… (he looks to the left) we’re going that way.
The tunnel is laid with a cobblestone floor, and the ceiling is supported with stone post and lintel, carved in the shape of some kind of serpent with arms and legs, their necks stretching across the ceiling and meeting in the center.
You continue your journey through the darkness, the way lit only by Vark’s lantern. Every now and then he glances back over his shoulder, but you’re not sure if it’s you he’s looking at, or if he’s looking for something else.
Garrick rides along quietly for the most past his only question,“What do you know about the magic items im supposed to find?”
Vark: you mean the hammer, shield, and compass? For some reason the ISWE has decided to announce the existence of Deepenheim, and the Dwarrow to the world above the earth. They have also become more curious about the items the overlanders use, those imbued with magic. I guess they’ve learned all they can from those blasted Magestones.
Other than that I’m as ignorant as you on the issue. However, i have some information that may be related. Our sonoscopes in Motanheim have been observing the reptile people that dwell in the mountain above us for years. We’ve observed their use of magic for some time now and, since it is the closest to our point of origin, it is the obvious place to start our search. I doubt we’ll find all of the items in one place, if even at all. I can’t imagine anyone foolish enough to just give away a magical item to a couple of complete strangers.
Our sonoscopes in Kreigenheim are situated under a fortified city of some kind. We can’t tell what race of people it belongs to, we’ve noted several kinds coming and going. They seem to have some kind of school of magic there, and we’ve found a network of hollow passages and rooms under the school.
Our sonoscopes in Soppenheim have also found a strange disturbance. Whenever our scientists there aim the sonoscopes to the northeastern surface, they can’t quite get a clear picture, it keeps changing. We think there may be great magic at work there, obscuring that area from view. We should try there as well, i suppose.
Grimhammer gives the other dwarf a slightly disgusted look," So this is a case of the deaf leading the blind then…phaw…what a mess the damn councils gotten us in." He looks up at the ceiling of the tunnel as if asking for divine help and then asks,“So let me make sure I understand this, we are going to a city of lizardmen to steal a magical item, then a citadel of unknown ownership to do the same and finally to a place that’s assumed to have powerful magic and about which we know next to nothing for the coup de grace?”
Vark chuckles quietly.
Vark: That about sums it up. Except we are also on a diplomatic mission as well, so stealing outright might not be wise.
Garrick replies,“I don’t know how else we’re going to get them unless you’re carrying alot more gold on you than it looks like or have the ability to mortgage half the city in payment.” The red bearded dwarf chuckles at this last idea.
The two of you continue on in silence for a while, the only sounds you hear are the plodding of footsteps and the occasional breaking of wind from the Puni in front of you. You also begin to notice soft dripping of water from the ceiling, apparently caused by condensation. It is also getting hotter in the tunnel.
After what seems like hours the tunnel comes to a dead end. Vark walks up to the wall at the end of the tunnel, staring at it pensively, and places his hand on it, thinking.
The Puni begins to act strange, staring wide eyed at the tunnel wall to your left, its skinny tail twitching agitatedly.
Garrick idles away the time humming and checking his gear to make sure everything is in proper place. As they pull up at the dead end he asks Vark,“I take it this isn’t supposed to be there?” But on notice of the Puni’s odd behavior he pulls his axe out and dismounts and quietly tells the warden," I think this might be a trap, the Puni’s are acting odd." Keeping his eyes on the wall he Puni is staring at.
As you stare at the wall, the floor begins to shake. Small stones jump and dance along the floor, and Vark turns wide eyed, looking over his shoulder at the wall.
Suddenly the wall bursts apart, sending a shower of stones flying. Out from the hole a creature rushes the Puni, striking the pack animal with full force, snapping its neck. The Puni falls limp to the ground, lifeless.
The large creature turns its crustacean body and faces Vark, and strikes at him with massive digging claw. Vark narrowly dodges the blow, which instead smashes through the wall at the dead end.
As the wall crumbles, a room is revealed, well lit with lamps, stocked full with jars of liquid and shelves of food.
Vark rolls out of the way, landing behind the creature and drawing his short blade. He shouts over his shoulder at you: “Attack the Sloggot from behind! That is its weak spot!”
As the crustacean charges Grimhammer let’s loose a warcry and charges in behind the monster and whips his greataxe around in a mighty blow.
Your mighty blow tears a cleft in the Sloggot’s backside, causing the creature to bellow and hiss in pain. Its blood dashes the floor and its flesh is torn wide. Tearing a leg off the dead Puni, the Sloggot limps backwards into the hole it came from, menacing its digging claws at you as it retreats munching on the leg.
Dust settles from the collapsed walls, blood flows across the floor, and the sound of many heavy footsteps reach your ears.
“Vark are you wounded?”,Grimhammer asks as the giant crustacean scuttles away. As the footsteps sound he looks warily around to pinpoint their direction,“well it looks like we have more company.” he grumbles