The Stone-Hearted

53 - 55 Oontrom, Pass of 3820: The Scorched Earth

Down the Black Steps to the Sea of Fire.

So this is what we have become; savages eating raw meat off the ground, too afraid cooking will attract unwanted attention, too scared to carry it with us in case it attracts predators.

After filling our bellies, staving off starvation for another day we glumly plod onward. The Duergar army ahead of us takes little care of covering their passing. Their arrogance is unsettling. Despite our cowardice, the little food we dared to carry with us attracts an under-dark denizen anyway. We stoically defend our lives once more before dragging ourselves further down toward our short-term goal, the Sea of Fire.

The descent is mostly easy going, this thoroughfare has steps and well worn lava-tubes, pre-set climbing ropes and permanent pitons aid our journey. Eventually the steps become more treacherous; smooth, glassy mineral growths cover the walls and our groups’ climbers are required to exhibit their skill.

At the base of the steps we encounter a paralysed duergar, lying motionless where he undoubtedly fell. Our paranoia again comes to the fore as we cautiously approach the possible trap. Initial assessments prove to be accurate however as the pathetic creature proves to be unable to move and mostly harmless. Our interrogations prove mostly fruitless although we are able to glean a more accurate count of the duergar forces. Once you are outnumbered more than 5 to 1, does it really make a difference if you’re outnumbered 10 or 20 to 1?

We continue on and just as we begin to feel comfortable with our slow, careful climb down we are accosted by a swarm of giant bats. Relentlessly they attack us on our precarious perches. They almost cause us to fall but in the end, teamwork saves the day and we prevent anyone from falling. Luckily the bats succumb to the sleeping sands of Dumathoin and plummet to their deaths. A fittingly ironic way for them to die.

We take a moment to rest, the next opportunity we have. Our group harrowed and bloody, don’t dare take more time than we need however and we quickly move on. The passage eventually opens up into a large chamber and we find ourselves on a ledge overlooking a baggage lizard and his handlers struggling to repair a broken load. They appear to have been left behind by their army and are in a good position for us to ambush them. Perhaps we have a chance against this army, if only we can whittle them down a few at a time.

Little planning or preparation is needed, this is a textbook manoeuvre, and we execute the ambush with the military precision of long-known allies. A quick reconnoitre reveals 9 grey dwarves and their beast. We set upon them with the ferocity of pent up desperation and frustration and quickly take the advantage in the battle.

The duergar rallied however and after the initial surprise proved to be a tough and worthy foe. An epic battle worthy of hundreds of years of retelling ensued; Dumathoin’s spiritual Mattocks zip around the battlefield and precision bolts burst through bewildered, blinking eyes. Duergar and Dwarf tactically shift in desperate attempts to flank and counter flank and epic leaps of faith become missiles of dwarven flesh and sharpened steel.

As the final duergar impales himself on hidden spiked stones, we loot the battle and claim the lizard for our own before continuing on to find the fiery sea.

It in almost indescribable; lava stretches out beyond the horizon, enormous land masses host underground cities and giants sail the bubbling ocean like fishermen trawling for tuna. The heat is immense. How will we survive it?

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mepeterson

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